A compendium of messages from or regarding Interim President Marsteller to the Ursinus community.
Beginning this month, in addition to the thought piece titled, “Bearings,” I will be writing a brief memo to the campus to provide updates and news. I am receiving positive feedback about our ongoing efforts to communicate transparently, often, and in a variety of forms, so I hope this quarterly missive will be received well.
OCTOBER 1 BOARD MEETING
On October 1, the board of trustees met via Zoom. We began with a brief presentation from Vice President Heather Lobban-Viravong, Vice President Bob Clothier, and me before heading into an engaging discussion around diversity, equity, and inclusion. Two questions provided the framework for that board discussion: “What programs or activities have you seen successfully implemented around DEI in the workplace?” and “Can you share any lessons learned—either positive or negative—regarding DEI in the workplace?”
That discussion was followed by two excellent presentations from enrollment and advancement. Vice President Shannon Zottola provided an in-depth look into the “life cycle” of recruiting a class, demographic trends, the strength of our marketing and communications program, and how we might build on recent momentum. Similarly, the trustees spoke enthusiastically about the Enrollment Management Strategic Plan, whose five objectives are all being implemented. For advancement, Vice President Ava Willis-Barksdale and the trustees’ advancement committee chair, Christian Sockel, jointly presented a draft blueprint for the next campaign. The board has agreed to enhance the visibility of the annual fund, our direct line of support for our operating budget; trustees are increasing their own commitments to annual giving for the next three to five years. This will then be used as a challenge grant, to be announced around #Giving2UCDay, to inspire our entire community and enhance philanthropy.
The board received an update on the presidential search committee from its trustee chair, Peg Williams ’80, and I outlined Phase II of our strategic planning process for “Every Student’s Success.” Let me pause here for a moment and share our plans.
As you know, Phase I—what we call the Definitional Stage—has been a work in progress for the past 18 months. Spearheaded by the board, the trustees and our campus community were engaged through three committees: Finance and Philanthropy, Student Experience, and Academics. At this time, this phase is now complete, and I am most grateful for everyone’s service.
Phase II begins very soon and will shift the leadership emphasis from the board to the college community. In the coming weeks, we’ll introduce a new steering committee that will serve as our rudder. The following individuals will join me in that group: Beth Bailey, Meredith Goldsmith, Samantha Harvey ’20, Nick Hanford, Heather Lobban-Viravong, Kelly Sorensen, Ava Willis-Barksdale, and Tom Yencho. Our goal is to recommend ways to engage as many faculty, staff, and students without burdening them with additional committee work; we’re calling this the Intentional Input phase of the planning process.
We will first engage our community in small group dialogue, in a format recommended by the Steering Committee. Simultaneously, a comprehensive survey will also be sent to members of the Ursinus family, both on and off campus.
—In January, the steering committee will synthesize all of that input and work with the cabinet to find common themes, which will be shared with the campus for further suggestions and refinement.
—Finally, the cabinet will suggest short-term priorities and action steps to take over the subsequent 12 to 18 months. These themes, priorities, and actions will become part of what the campus contributes to the presidential search process, affirming our community’s beliefs and previewing where we might want to head in our immediate (short-term) future. This will thereby inform the next president, while also allowing that individual to put their own imprimatur on the phase of the planning process.
Phase III will then involve the creation of our final strategic plan. This will be under the purview of our next leader, while also serving as the final stage of a very comprehensive community process.
BOARD BUSINESS MEETING
In addition to the re-envisioned strategic planning process, the board addressed several other noteworthy matters during its business meeting, including the approval of the FY22 budget, with a significant emphasis on hiring staff to bring us commensurate to pre-Covid levels. The board also recognized and intends to reward our current faculty and staff, who so valiantly and creatively worked to keep the college open and successful this past year. In other developments, the board gave the administration the authority to raise tuition, room, and board, collectively, up to three percent overall for the 2022-2023 academic year. The board is reviewing several recommended changes to the bylaws and is developing a process for the election of new officers by the May 2022 Board meeting. The resignation of Trustee and Board Chair Rob Wonderling P’16 was received.
Aside from the board meeting and updates to our strategic planning process, I’m proud to report on other areas of progress around campus. That begins with the incredibly successful—and safe—Family Day, at which an estimated 1,000 people attended events. I am grateful to all who made it such a memorable time. I especially recognize Associate Director Jordan Scharaga ’17 and the entire college events and signature programs team for going above and beyond, as usual!
In a few weeks, we will be hosting Homecoming, and we expect a robust campus filled with alumni and others who have longed to return to campus for quite some time. Our alumni especially love to run into faculty and staff on this special day, so we encourage and welcome everyone to join us for this celebratory occasion.
And speaking of family… A key priority for my tenure as president has been “Putting People First!” Today I am revealing a new overarching initiative at the college: Under the banner “U-Matter,” we will be bringing you news of our positive plans around compensation, including benefits, staff and faculty recognition, and social gatherings. Our first comprehensive announcement will be shared in a few weeks during our November town hall and in related communications supporting our open-enrollment period for health benefits. As you are aware, we are joining a new consortial group called PAISBOA, the details of which will be part of the good news we will share. Stay tuned.
I will be speaking more fully about the state of the college on many levels at both the faculty meeting on October 27 and at the November town hall. We have also opened new “office hours,” when anyone on campus can sign up to have a private conversation with me. The President’s House will also be ready to open its doors to you in the coming weeks, and I look forward to hosting some additional opportunities for us to learn from each other and communicate more effectively. If you prefer to send your ideas directly, please feel free to email the President’s Office.
Thank you so much for all you have done and continue to do for Ursinus. I know how challenging it has been and can be, but positive relationships are part of the essence of Ursinus and YOU are all key in making memorable moments here. We are enjoying such a positive trajectory because of the commitment of our faculty and staff.
I cannot wait to turn the page on our 152-year-old history book to see what comes next. For now, I just KNOW that “It’s a great day to be a Bear!”
President Jill Marsteller ’78, P’18
August 23, 2021
Dear Students and Ursinus Families,
We are about to embark on a long-standing tradition at Ursinus: “Welcome Week.” It’s the time of year when students arrive on campus ready to begin the new academic year. Our faculty and staff have been hard at work preparing for this semester, and the next few days are particularly special for the community as they give us the opportunity to reflect on our mission as a residential, liberal arts institution that puts the well-being of our students above all else.
While our region continues to confront the uncertainties of the pandemic, Ursinus remains agile. Our task force meets daily to review the environment and monitor the health of our campus. So, as we turn our attention to the fall and the safe return of our students, we wanted to take a moment to clearly outline our updated guidelines and the behaviors we should expect from one another here on campus. Please know that we are committed to communicating with you in a timely manner and will continue to regularly update both our dashboard and the Defend the Den pages with important information.
The new guidelines for the fall semester include:
Every student should have received communications about our upcoming check-in days, August 26 for our first-year students and August 29 for returning students. If you are under 18, please complete and bring with you a testing consent form that can found on our Defend the Den webpages. Every student, including our commuter students, will be required to participate in the check-in process, which includes on-site COVID-19 testing. We ask that you download the NAVICA app for testing results and complete your user profile in advance to help expedite the check-in process. Instructions were sent to you via email last week.
The limitations on gathering sizes that we implemented last year have been lifted, including in residence hall rooms. We are no longer organizing around “family units,” so we ask that all students be especially respectful when discussing expectations with one another within our living communities.
Registered events will be permitted if our weekly positive cases fall under the CDC’s “Low” to “Moderate” transmission levels. The dashboard will be updated weekly to reflect our campus totals. And to make sure we’re creating an environment as safe as possible, participating students should expect to get tested the Thursday before the event. Remember: Our data models indicate that a 95% vaccination level among our students, coupled with regular testing, will likely keep infections below this threshold.
Given the increased transmission of the Delta variant, masks are now generally required for shared indoor settings and indoor academic spaces, regardless of your vaccination status. Please always have a mask available when you are on campus and be mindful of others. Masks do not have to be worn outdoors.
Nothing helps us monitor the health of our community better than testing—it can provide a nearly real-time snapshot of possible transmission among students. Generally, students who received vaccine exemptions will be tested weekly, while fully vaccinated students will be tested every three weeks; student-athletes may have additional testing requirements. Furthermore, students must download the NAVICA app prior to their arrival on campus, which will help quicken the testing process and allow students to confirm their results soon after their tests. Additional information about testing will be provided during check-in later this week, as well as on the college’s Defend the Den webpages.
ISOLATION AND QUARANTINE
Unlike last year, the college has very limited housing options to accommodate those who need to isolate or quarantine. Regardless of their vaccination status, all students should have a personal plan to isolate off campus should they test positive. In a change to our quarantine guidelines, students who are fully vaccinated and are named as contacts will not be required to quarantine but will instead participate in daily testing for five days. More details about these guidelines are outlined on the Defend the Den webpages.
It is important we assess the health of our campus, especially as students become acclimated to their residential communities. For this reason, guests will not be permitted in residence halls for the first two weeks of the semester. That will change beginning Monday, September 13, if our campus maintains its general health. However, with the exception of our residence halls and academic buildings, including Myrin Library, visitors are currently welcome on campus. They can attend athletic events and performances, and enter other social venues, such as the Schellhase Commons, if they remain masked indoors.
We are once again offering full eat-in, self-service dining in Upper Wismer, with no restrictions on venue capacity. Take-out options are available, as is outdoor seating around campus. Please note that masks are required in dining facilities unless you are actively eating or drinking. Alternative options, such as Café 2020, Natural, the C-Store, and the Lower Wismer food court, remain open as well!
As we start the semester, it is our intention to offer as robust a residential experience as possible for our students. The college has created a campus operations webpage that lists regular hours for key dining locations, athletic facilities, the mail room, and other popular offices. We will update that page in real time and communicate those operational changes on our “What’s Up, Ursinus?” Instagram feed. As for our fitness center, we be using our online reservation software again, but with some enhancements that will allow for a greater number of reservation times.
This depends on transmission rates within Montgomery County, Pa., but we begin the semester having lifted all off-campus travel restrictions. Students may travel off campus without requesting permission. We ask that you stay mindful of community health and carefully consider your decision to visit any locations designated as pandemic “hot spots” by the CDC if you plan to return directly to campus.
CODE OF CONDUCT
Finally, but perhaps most importantly: We are a community of learners. Our community values guide how we live and work with one another. An email about the college’s code of conduct will be sent soon but remember: Every student is expected to respect one another, regardless of vaccination status, test results, or personal beliefs.
We’re grateful for your cooperation in helping to keep our campus as healthy and safe as possible. Thank you for familiarizing yourself with these guidelines. On behalf of all faculty and staff, we look forward to your arrival to campus.
It’s a great time to be a Bear!
Jill Marsteller ’78 P’18, Interim President-Elect
Mark Schneider, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Chair of the Virus Task Force
August 20, 2021
Good afternoon, colleagues!
I wanted to take an opportunity to wish you a quiet and relaxing weekend before our annual “Welcome Week” tradition begins on Monday. This is such an exciting time for our students and, on behalf of the entire leadership team, I’m grateful to each and every one of you for helping make this week such a resounding success.
Before most of our students begin making their way back to campus, however, I’d like to welcome you to join me for a special “meet-and-greet” reception from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. next Tuesday, August 24, at the Strassburger Commons, near the Kaleidoscope. Given how busy our schedules are, it’s important that we put time aside to reconnect, exchange some stories and simply check in with one another. I also would like to share a few personal reflections about this wonderful community and my enthusiasm for this upcoming semester.
I hope you enjoy your weekend and I look forward to seeing you again on Tuesday afternoon. It’s a wonderful time to be a Bear!
Jill Leauber Marsteller ’78, P’18
August 16, 2021
Dear Ursinus Family,
We write today to let you know that Annette Parker, vice president for finance and administration, will be returning to her beloved alma mater, Dickinson College, as its interim vice president for finance and administration starting October 1. This will be a special homecoming of sorts for Annette; in addition to four years as an undergraduate, she later spent over 23 years, the heart of her professional career, serving the institution, ultimately rising to become its chief financial officer for 12 years. She now has the wonderful opportunity to close a truly distinguished career serving in that same capacity.
While this is certainly a loss for the college, we are equally proud to announce that Mary Correll has been appointed interim vice president for finance and administration, effective October 1. Additional information about Mary’s appointment, and her role on the college’s senior leadership team, will be shared soon.
In just five short years, Annette has left an indelible mark on Ursinus. She was instrumental in changing the college landscape, overseeing the development of both the Innovation and Discovery Center and the Schellhase Commons. She has been a relentless advocate for Collegeville, partnering with regional leaders and members of our board of trustees to create a Downtown Revitalization Task Force that is re-envisioning Main Street in a bold and inspiring way. The college implemented a new approach to manage its endowment under her leadership, and she successfully led the strategic re-organization of our human resources, finance and facilities operations.
But perhaps Annette’s most profound legacy is communication. There isn’t a member of our community unfamiliar with her legendary “blue diamond.” Her outstanding ability to promote financial stewardship is second only to her willingness to discuss budgetary matters and the broader financial context in a transparent and approachable manner.
Please join us in wishing Annette and her family the very best in Carlisle, as well as offering a much-deserved congratulations to Mary for becoming our interim vice president this fall. We are grateful for the support and vision of these two wonderful professionals.
Brock Blomberg, President
Jill Leauber Marsteller ’78, P’18, Interim President-Elect
August 10, 2021
—A special town hall will be held for students and parents on Monday, August 16, at 7 p.m. Please register and submit questions in advance via the links in this email.
—Because we take seriously the Delta variant and its impact on southeastern Pennsylvania, it is our expectation that masks will be worn indoors beginning immediately and for at least the start of the semester, allowing us to better monitor the health of our campus.
—For their well-being and to ensure we begin the semester as safe as possible, students must take a pre-arrival COVID-19 test prior to their return to campus and submit any positive results. Additionally, there will be a mandatory testing session on campus on move-in days.
Dear Campus Community,
We are rapidly approaching the start of the fall semester and, like you, are excited to return to a fully immersive residential learning experience. As we prepare for the academic year, it is important we look out for one another’s well-being and that we continue to be vigilant about the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the Delta variant.
Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced its recommendation that Montgomery County residents—regardless of vaccination status—should wear masks indoors. You may know that our county—and southeast Pennsylvania in general—has been reporting a high or substantial spread of COVID-19. Because we take this guidance seriously, our expectation is that all individuals will wear masks indoors, effective immediately.
While we will require masking in the classroom, labs, studios, and other shared spaces, we expect students to work together—respectfully and thoughtfully—regarding masking within residence halls and other non-academic settings. While we cannot continually monitor mask usage in all settings, we must rely on each other to adhere to this expectation and maintain as safe and healthy a campus environment as possible. This is a measure for now and for at least the beginning of the semester so that we can better monitor the health of our campus and respond to updated federal and state guidelines as they arise.
The increasing number of infections throughout the region also means that we will not permit off-campus guests to visit residence halls for the first two weeks of the semester, until we can assess and establish the overall health of the campus.
Given these developments, we will also reinstitute some testing measures. Last year, we were able to quickly pivot and adjust as circumstances rapidly changed on campus. Beginning the first week of the semester, we are asking all unvaccinated students, or those granted exemptions, to be tested weekly on campus, while vaccinated students will be also be tested, but less frequently.
As a reminder, students must take a COVID-19 test prior to their return to campus and submit any positive results. At-home tests can be found online at https://ursinus.edu/GetTested. And on-campus testing for all students upon arrival will be held during first-year check-in on Thursday, August 26, and during check-in for all other students on Sunday, August 29. There will be QR codes on fliers at the testing site in the Field House so that students can download consent forms.
We may all have different perspectives on these mitigation measures, so we ask students to adhere to our student code of conduct and to respect one another, regardless of their vaccination status and personal beliefs. This same behavior is expected of faculty and staff. As you know, this situation remains fluid, and we don’t expect that to change. The Virus Task Force will continue to monitor the health of our campus and provide weekly dashboard updates. I encourage your patience as we consider measures that prioritize your health, safety, and ability to have a successful fall semester.
We understand you may have questions for the Task Force that are best answered in real-time, so we invite you to join us for a special town hall for students and parents on Monday, August 16, at 7 p.m. Please register at https://go.ursinus.edu/August16TownHall and submit your questions in advance at https://go.ursinus.edu/Aug16TownHallQuestions.
As a final set of reminders, the Wellness Center continues to reach out to students who have not submitted vaccination documentation. All faculty and staff who are vaccinated should continue to submit documentation at https://ursinus.edu/vaccinations.
Last academic year, amid much uncertainty, Ursinus College continued to thrive. Our goal is to keep that positive momentum going and to build on what we learned and what made us successful. We’re spending considerable time mapping out a plan to monitor the health of campus and we continue to model several testing scenarios for the fall semester.
It takes all of us, and we have the experience and the tools to once again enable an in-person experience. Please continue to be diligent and flexible to protect yourselves and one another as we prepare for a memorable year.
Jill Leauber Marsteller ’78, P’18
Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the College
Virus Task Force chair
August 2, 2021
Dear Campus Community,
For those who are on or near campus, please join me for coffee and some breakfast fare tomorrow morning, from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m., on Zack’s Patio behind Wismer Center near the Love sculpture. I see this as a casual gathering of colleagues—one that gives us a chance to reconnect with one another while sharing experiences from this summer. I’m also happy to discuss my upcoming role as interim president and how I can support you and your colleagues.
While I look forward to sharing some time together tomorrow, I know that a number of individuals may not yet be on campus. So, as we turn our attention to the arrival of the fall semester, I also ask that you mark your calendar for a second meet-and-greet scheduled for the morning of Tuesday, August 24. That time will give us another opportunity to welcome our friends back to Ursinus, ushering in an academic year full of hope and enthusiasm. We will share more information closer to the event and will also provide updates on our faculty/staff webpage and in “Good Morning, Ursinus!”
I know that circumstances continue to change and that Mark Schneider and the Virus Task Force are monitoring developments on a daily basis. I join the entire campus community in thanking all of those involved with that group for their relentless dedication to the college and our safety. With their guidance and support, I hope we can approach the next several weeks informed and aware, while also remaining optimistic about the fall experiences of our faculty and students.
I hope you are enjoying your summer. I look forward to seeing friends from across campus tomorrow morning and throughout this coming year.
It’s a great time to be a Bear!
Jill Marsteller ’78 P’18
July 30, 2021
Dear Ursinus Family,
On behalf of the board of trustees, it is my absolute pleasure to announce the appointment of Jill Leauber Marsteller ’78, P’18, senior vice president for advancement, as Ursinus College’s interim president effective September 1. A proud alumna whose service to the college spans more than 20 years, Jill has long been an outspoken advocate for the liberal arts. Her integrity and experience are highly regarded within higher education and, to a much broader extent, among the nonprofit community across Philadelphia, where she has dedicated so much energy throughout her career.
During a moment of transition such as this one, it is the board’s responsibility to position the college, and its people, for success, creating an environment where Ursinus’s positive trajectory can continue unhindered. As the first woman to lead the college—and Ursinus’s 18th president overall—Jill will oversee a talented and unified leadership team that will guide our campus community as we collectively move forward from an unprecedented year. Perhaps most importantly, having begun her career as an adjunct faculty member at Ursinus, Jill has long been dedicated to the rigorous yet personal and distinctive educational experience that has emerged most recently as Ursinus Quest.
She has had the very rare opportunity to see the college through a variety of lenses and has long-established relationships with the extended Ursinus family, both on and off campus. Her experience has been honed at places such as Lehigh University, Haverford College, Cedar Crest College, and Fox Chase Cancer Center—altogether distinctive institutions in which she was instrumental in building more collaborative and philanthropic cultures. Her ability to lead strong teams, coupled with her dedication to Ursinus’s mission, vision, and community values, were essential ingredients in the recent and successfully completed “Keep the Promise” campaign. And though she’ll serve in a different role, the advancement team will have the opportunity to reflect on those successes during “Promises Kept … and Miles to Go,” a national tour that begins this August that will convey the college’s recent (and numerous) accomplishments.
During the search process, Jill spoke genuinely about the strength of our academic programs, the character of our campus, and the unwavering bonds that have long been the hallmark of faculty-student relationships at the college. We were grateful to hear that her focus for the next year will be on the people of Ursinus. She is fully committed to earnestly listening to faculty, staff, and students—and being transparent in ongoing campus communications. And we are confident in Jill’s ability to support her colleagues’ momentum in areas such as academics, enrollment, financial sustainability, diversity and inclusivity, and community outreach, to name just a few.
I would like to take this opportunity to also express my gratitude to the interim president search task force, chaired by Trustee Catherine Geczik ’84. The Ursinus community—both here on campus and beyond—put forth an incredibly talented pool of candidates. This process was both expeditious and thorough, and I’m thankful for the task force’s leadership. I will share an update about the upcoming presidential search committee and will name our executive search firm partner in a campus communication next week.
Rob Wonderling P’16, Chair of the Board of Trustees