A compendium of messages from President Blomberg to the community during his presidency.
September 7, 2018
Announcing Inclusive Community Grants and Fellowships
Dear Ursinus community,
We are very pleased to announce the creation of two new funding opportunities for faculty, staff and students. The new programs are designed to support the college’s efforts to create an even more diverse and inclusive campus environment.
Inclusive community fellowships
Open to all faculty members, this semester-long fellowship will include a course release and $4,000 in funding to allow an Ursinus faculty member to pursue a project that advances the work of diversity and inclusion on campus. The successful proposal will focus on a theme and include curricular and pedagogical elements that are framed within the context of the four open questions: What should matter to me? How should we live together? How can we understand the world? What will I do?
Proposals will be reviewed by the college’s diversity committee, with the final decisions made jointly by the president’s office, dean’s office and the Institute for Inclusion and Equity. Proposals should be sent to Heather Lobban-Viravong by Friday, Sept. 28.
Inclusive community grants
Open to all faculty, staff and students and will provide $250 to $2,500 in funding for a special project during the 2018-19 academic year. These projects should address a campus climate concern and promote dialogue among members of the campus community on topics such as race, socioeconomic status, age, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, national origin, religion and disability. Teams of faculty, staff and students representing various departments or organizations on campus are encouraged to work in partnership with one another to design a project that considers those topics.
Multiple projects will be chosen for funding and proposals will be accepted on a rolling basis, but must be submitted by these decision dates: Sept. 28, Oct. 26 and Feb. 1. Proposals should be sent to Heather Lobban-Viravong.
Faculty, staff and students who apply for either of these opportunities may be invited to give a brief presentation of their proposal to the campus community during a special event during the spring semester. More information on the grants and the fellowship, including guidelines for proposals, can be found on the president’s office website.
These new opportunities further our commitment to fostering conversations on issues of equity, diversity and social justice. We look forward to seeing your proposals.
Brock Blomberg, president
Heather Lobban-Viravong, special assistant to the president
August 7, 2018
The Passing of H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest
Dear Ursinus community,
It is with great sadness that I announce to you the passing of H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest, a visionary leader, philanthropist and friend of the college and the Berman Museum of Art who, along with his wife, Marguerite, selflessly supported Ursinus as one of its most faithful donors for many years. He died Sunday at age 88.
If you’re familiar with Ursinus, you’re familiar with the Lenfest name. Gerry and Marguerite’s generosity to Ursinus spans more than two decades. They have given approximately $8 million to Ursinus since 1995, and their contributions have included support of the Kaleidoscope Performing Arts Center (the Lenfest Theater bears their name), as well as extensive support for Berman Museum exhibitions and a significant contribution to the Berman Museum expansion project.
In 2011, the Lenfests funded the Lenfest-Strassburger Scholars Program, in memory of John Strassburger, Ursinus’s president from 1995 to 2010. The program continues to support students enrolled at Ursinus.
Mr. Lenfest became one of Philadelphia’s most dynamic civic leaders of the last century and was one of the area’s leading philanthropists for nearly two decades, contributing more than $1.3 billion to 1,100 organizations. I encourage you to read more about him, his legacy and his contributions to society in his obituary in the Philadelphia Inquirer.
The Ursinus community is forever grateful for the support he and Marguerite provided to our institution. I offer my deepest condolences to Marguerite and the Lenfest family. He will be greatly missed.
July 19, 2018
Announcing Members of the New Core Values Initiative
During a late semester BLT session, I was very pleased that we engaged in a productive conversation about a new policy relating to racist and other discriminatory acts and some of the broader challenges we face as an institution. I want to extend my sincere thanks to those of you who attended the BLT for your thoughtful and constructive insights.
Our commitment to inclusion and equity is integral to who we are as a college, and continuing to have conversations about this institutional priority is essential. In pursuit of that goal, we will spend time over the next few months revisiting, clarifying and codifying the core values of Ursinus College. At this time when we are engaging our students in ethical thinking through the framework of the new core’s four open questions, it is only fitting that we engage in similar reflection on our own institutional values.
I invited interested members of the Ursinus community to participate in an active team of faculty, staff, students and administrators who will work to identify our core values, along with effective means of ensuring that our community understands and completely commits to these values.
Mark Schneider, vice president of academic affairs and dean of the college, and Heather Lobban-Viravong, special assistant to the president, will lead the new core values team, which includes:
- Meghan Brodie, assistant professor of theater
- Missy Bryant, assistant dean of students and co-director of the Institute for Student Success
- Monique Kelly, manager of campus engagement
- Nathan Rein, assistant dean of the college and co-director of the Institute for Student Success
- Domenick Scudera, professor of theater
- Lauren Shanahan, senior major gifts officer
- Barb Shilowich, people and culture strategist
- James Tiggett, telecommunications technology administrator
If you are interested in joining the core values team, please contact Mark or Heather.
The meaningful actions we take as a result of these discussions will lay the foundation for Ursinus at 150 years and beyond. Ensuring that members of our community understand our core values and are empowered to embody these principles will bring us closer together and position Ursinus for the bright future to which we aspire.
The core values team will work together to lead a discussion on core values during the annual community conference on Wednesday, Aug. 22. More information about the conference will be shared with you later this summer.
Thank you for your continued dedication to Ursinus College and the students we serve.
June 25, 2018
Campus master planning update
This summer, the process begins in earnest, as our partners, along with members of the master planning task force, will engage with members of the campus community to get feedback about ideas, goals, and concerns for the future facility needs of the campus.
A comprehensive master plan relies on gathering this information from a number of targeted user groups—including, but not limited to, representation from senior leadership, the board of trustees, residence life, academic affairs, facilities, campus safety, students, alumni and community partners. By incorporating input from these groups and more, a broad perspective is incorporated into the campus master plan and the specific needs of Ursinus.
It’s important to note that this is indeed a process, and we are in the very beginning stages of creating a plan that focuses on aligning our facilities with the academic mission and vision set forth in the Ursinus strategic plan, while ensuring that those facilities will support our academic, residential and athletic programs in fulfilling the college’s mission.
The master planning process begins this summer with Dober Lidsky Mathey, well-known and highly respected among the higher education community and our colleagues at other institutions. Dober Lidsky Mathey will provide programmatic planning and analysis surrounding the effective use of space. The firm has been provided significant inventory data on campus spaces, scheduling and usage.
The firm will meet on Tuesday, June 26, and Wednesday, June 27, with Mark Schneider, vice president for academic affairs and dean of the college; Debbie Nolan, vice president of student affairs and dean of students; Annette Parker, vice president for finance and administration; Dave Tobias, vice president and dean of enrollment management; Barbara Boris, registrar; and Maureen Cawley and Taylor Manferdini from the Office of Conferences and Special Events.
Dober Lidsky Mathey will also engage with numerous groups throughout the fall and then provide its analysis on current and proposed space utilization to Hord Caplan Macht, the architectural firm that will develop a framework and a phased action plan for implementation of the envisioned projects.
Parallel to the space usage analysis, Hord Caplan Macht will also conduct a series of open forums and workshops throughout the fall with members of the campus community that includes interview sessions, walking tours and concept development. The firm is responsible for generating a realistic portrait of the college regarding housing, athletics facilities, transportation, landscape and building character, as well as ongoing planning studies of utilities and capital projects with an expectation that a final plan will be presented to the board at its May 2019 meeting.
More information about workshops and open forums will be shared with you throughout the fall. I encourage you to check the master planning website for updates and frequently asked questions.
Campus master planning is a process that requires ideas to evolve and mature before final recommendations can be made. It must accommodate the realities of ongoing planning, design and construction projects, new initiatives and the strategic vision of the college. Thank you for your patience and your invaluable input as we move forward with a bold master plan that will serve us years into the future.
May 29, 2018
Announcing a new director of religious and spiritual life
I am pleased to announce that Reverend Terri Ofori will be joining Ursinus College as director of religious and spiritual life/chaplain next semester.
As director, she will join the student affairs team, providing religious and spiritual leadership and guidance for students and campus religious organizations, facilitating interfaith conversations within a campus context that celebrates religious diversity, and guiding vocational discernment. Reverend Ofori will also provide pastoral support as chaplain.
Reverend Ofori received her master’s degree in theology in education and spiritual formation from Princeton Theological Seminary. In addition, she earned a master of divinity degree from Harvard University along with an undergraduate degree in history from the Mississippi University for Women. She also holds a master of arts in cross cultural theology. Reverend Ofori is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in theology at Fordham University.
She has served as chaplain at Harvard University, Brown University, Wellesley College, Emerson College and Simmons College and currently is the chaplain and director of spiritual life at Bloomfield College in New Jersey. An ordained minister of word and sacrament with the Presbyterian Church (USA), she also serves on the regional and national level as chaplain to the Synod Commission of the Northeast and clergywoman representative for the Presbyterian Women of the Northeast and the Presbyterian Church (USA).
I look forward to Reverend Ofori’s arrival in August. I hope you will join me in welcoming her to the Ursinus community.
May 25, 2018
Spring 2018 Board of Trustees Meeting Summary
The board of trustees held its spring meeting here on campus on May 10-11, and I am writing today to update you on the culminating business meeting that was held on May 11. In addition to trustees and members of the cabinet, we were joined by Karen Clemente, professor of theatre and member of the faculty meetings committee; Reese McKnight, president of staff assembly and assistant director for residence life; and Liz Iobst ’19, president of student government.
Prior to the business meeting, during our plenary discussion, the trustees participated in an engaging brand presentation given by Chief Communications Officer Tom Yencho, who will provide similar updates on our marketing communications efforts to both faculty and staff beginning this June. Tom spoke about how our students, with the support of faculty, are actively involved in crafting their educational experience here at Ursinus, and how our upcoming marketing campaigns will personalize that message with highly-tailored strategies spanning both print and digital communications. He also spoke about the importance of developing enthusiastic brand ambassadors for the college, while also equipping all faculty, staff and trustees with a brand “toolkit” that will help everyone share the Ursinus story in a compelling manner.
During their two days, trustees also had several opportunities to interact with faculty and students, joining for dinner the families and friends of the nearly 60 students inducted into Phi Beta Kappa. Additionally, Athletic Director Laura Moliken led the trustees on a tour of the indoor athletic facilities in Floy Lewis Bakes Center, including sports medicine, classroom space and team locker rooms.
In a sentimental and moving ceremony on Thursday afternoon, trustee Carl Buck III ’84 joined Ursinus Archivist Carolyn Weigel and members of the college community in a commemoration of the “Tenth Soldier.” Thanks to the financial support of Carl, a new plaque honoring Merrill Yost, Class of 1915, was officially installed next to an engraving of nine other Ursinus students and alumni who died as a result of World War I. Please read more about that memorable event on our website.
At the business meeting on that Friday morning, the trustees approved two faculty for promotion to full professor: Thomas Carroll, professor of physics who also serves as a chair of the Common Intellectual Experience course, and Kelly Sorenson, professor of philosophy and religion, and associate dean of the college. Please extend a congratulatory note to Tom and Kelly for these accomplishments.
The trusteeship committee put forth, for approval, its panel of board officers. The trustees unanimously elected Rob Wonderling P’16 as chair, Nina Stryker ’78 as vice-chair, Will Abele ’61 as treasurer and Jef Corson P’04, H’12 as secretary. Bob Brant was granted emeriti status, while four trustees were granted new terms: Graham C. Mackenzie ’74, Aakash Shah ’10, Carl Buck and Rob Wonderling.
President Blomberg provided an update on Ursinus 150, the college’s strategic plan. Outlining each of the plan’s seven objectives, Brock reported progress yearly on a series of initiatives, among them the Innovation and Discovery Center, the Keep the Promise Campaign and the approval of the new core curriculum. He highlighted a four-fold increase in new diversity-related programming at the Institute for Inclusion and Equity, also spoke of the need to continue increasing campus diversity among students and faculty and staff, as well as to further engage the community in our enrollment efforts and strategies.
The trustees then approved a resolution to construct the Commons for an amount up to $7 million, and granted an additional $1.5 million to address related planning costs and necessary infrastructure upgrades related to the Commons. The trustees also approved the re-financing of $10 million of the 2016 bond issue that becomes callable this November. It is expected to significantly lower the current interest, allowing the college to keep the college’s annual debt service payments flat, while providing an additional $1 million towards future safety and priority capital projects.
The finance and facilities committee also updated the trustees on the status of Ursinus’s campus master plan. A task force of trustees, faculty and staff received 24 proposals and ultimately selected two firms to partner with the college in the development of the plan. One of these firms has expertise in the academic area, while the other will provide broader institutional insight and guidance. A planner with athletic expertise will also be added to the team. More information will be shared with the campus throughout the summer on the campus master plan webpage.
The board also recognized the progress made towards the $100 million Keep the Promise campaign. The college has reached $74 million of that goal. The reunion classes reported a 50 percent participation rate. The 1869 Society also had a tremendous year, responsible for nearly 73 percent of all contributions to the annual fund.
The advisory board of the Berman Museum of Art shared a new policy concerning the “deaccession” of museum artwork. Museum Direct Charlie Stainback was recently quoted in the Philadelphia Inquirer about this topic. Ursinus’s new policy unequivocally states the college is “fully committed” to supporting the Berman Museum and that “having an accredited museum is a testament to our liberal arts mission.” The policy states that Ursinus will not “de-access” any of its art collection to raise funds for non-museum needs, arguing that the guidelines put forth by its accrediting association are “sacrosanct.”
The trustees also discussed the findings of the Denison culture study and how those results will inform ongoing conversations with members of the campus community throughout the summer. Among those results was a desire to better define and articulate our core values, which is a process we are beginning in earnest this summer. (If you are interested in volunteering for this effort, please contact me.) Lastly, trustees were given a progress report on a Human Resources Strategic and Operating Plan that has been in development over the past several months. More information about this plan will be shared with faculty and staff this summer.
As I near the end of my third year at Ursinus, I want to again thank all faculty and staff for the tremendous amount of effort you continue to dedicate to our college and, particularly, our students. Please enjoy your summer!
President Brock Blomberg
May 17, 2018
The campus master planning process
Through a visionary strategy that sets in motion clear goals for the future, Ursinus College is embarking on an ambitious campus master plan that will serve as a road map for years to come.
The campus master planning process focuses on aligning facilities with the academic mission and vision set forth in the Ursinus strategic plan, and ensuring that those facilities will support our academic, residential and athletic programs in fulfilling the college’s mission.
In order to achieve this, the campus master planning task force—comprised of a team of college faculty, staff, students, board members and alumni—have confirmed that two firms will work in unison to help plan and execute this bold and innovative strategy. The firms are Hord Coplan Macht and Dober Lidsky Mathey.
These two firms were selected from 27 firms that responded to a request for qualifications (RFQ), 11 of which responded to a request for proposals (RFP) from the college. A selection committee then interviewed five firms and chose two of them to partner on this important master planning process. A third firm will soon be chosen to specifically work on athletics facilities planning.
Together, they are tasked with creating a comprehensive, broad-based, and creative plan that aligns with the college’s mission through the lens of the four questions (What should matter to me? How should we live together? How can we understand the world? What will I do?), and the three pillars of the strategic plan (learning, living together and building lifelong connections). The partnership capitalizes on many years of experience and will ensure that the plan will unify the physical and visual experience of the campus in light of these priorities.
The campus master planning task force is working in coordination with The Stone House Group of Bethlehem, Pa., which is serving Ursinus as a strategic partner to help prepare for campus master planning and other facility projects.
In the coming months, the firms, in collaboration with the master planning task force, will hold workshops with the greater campus community to discuss, prioritize and reach consensus regarding potential future capital projects. The process will conclude with a development framework and a phased action plan for implementation of the envisioned projects.
As the college approaches its 150th anniversary, we are committed to developing a physical environment that reinforces a collaborative, reflective and unified experience for all students both today and tomorrow.
More information about the master planning process will soon be shared with the campus community. Please visit ursinus.edu/masterplan for updates.
I extend my deepest gratitude to the campus master planning task force and The Stone House Group for their leadership throughout this process.
February 26, 2018
Board of Trustees Meeting Update
The board of trustees held its winter meeting here on February 8-10, 2018. This was a particularly interactive three days on campus, as our trustees had the opportunity to engage in conversations with many of our students about career preparation and professional mentorship. And in what become a spirited and inspired gathering, nearly 20 members of the Collegeville and Trappe communities, including members of their borough councils, joined our trustees and senior leadership for a reception that Friday evening.
This level of community outreach and campus engagement has become an important component of our board meetings. While we are working intentionally to continue strengthening our relationship with community neighbors, this level of engagement allows trustees to speak openly with faculty, staff and students about their experiences on campus. An interactive plenary discussion on Friday morning, facilitated by Dean Mark Schneider, led to thoughtful dialogue about diversity on college campuses.
I write this morning to discuss several additional topics stemming from the trustees’ business meeting. In addition to trustees and the cabinet, we were joined by Rebecca Lyczak, professor of biology and chair of the faculty meetings committee; Reese McKnight, president of staff assembly and assistant director of residence life; and Garrett Bullock ’20, president of student government.
On behalf of the trustees, I would first like to extend congratulations on the tenure and promotion of three faculty members: Jeanine McCain, assistant professor of dance; Anthony Nadler, assistant professor of media and communication studies; and Jennifer Stevenson, assistant professor of psychology. The board also extended its deep appreciation and gratitude to two retiring faculty members, Carol Cirka, professor of business and economics, and Ross Doughty, professor of history.
The trustees approved an honorary degree, a Doctor of Humane Letters, for baccalaureate speaker Rev. Shaundra Cunningham. A niece of Rev. Charles Rice, Rev. Cunningham serves as one of three chaplains to Echoing Green fellows, an international cohort of social entrepreneurs, as well as a chaplain to the J.M. Kaplan Fund Social Innovation Prize. She is an ordained Baptist minister who is currently pursuing her doctoral degree in geography at the University of Tennessee. Her scholarship focuses on the geographies of religion and spirituality, with a particular fondness for cultural landscapes of the American South.
In addition to these developments, we also discussed:
- Student engagement. The Student Investment Club joined the trustees’ Investment Committee on Friday to learn more about the college’s investment strategies. And the office of career and professional development co-hosted a lunch session during which trustees and students discussed career planning, internships, mentoring opportunities and the academic experiences. Not only were both events well received by the trustees, but the students were enthusiastic and conversational, making for interesting discussions.
- The investment committee also reported that our investment portfolio performed exceptionally well in calendar year 2017, and we expect to see continued strength, though along the line of more traditional positive returns, through the remaining fiscal year.
- Vice President and Dean of Enrollment Management Dave Tobias spoke of the new predictive modeling measures implemented this admissions cycle, allowing for a more targeted and personalized communications to prospective students. In addition to once again meeting all “five levers,” the college is striving for an increase in overall yield above 16 percent. Dave also spoke of the college’s emphasis on engaging under-represented students, particularly through PROLOGUE and related programming.
- Complementing this admissions approach is the college’s focus on “sustainable, inclusive growth,” in which Ursinus not only seeks a diverse applicant pool, but is also committed to investing in the support and resources that will result in students’ long-term success. Vice President for Finance and Administration Annette Parker spoke with trustees on Friday about this and the college’s “strategic pivot,” providing a revealing case study of the competitive landscape, its implications on financial decision-making and the importance of increased brand awareness for Ursinus.
- The Keep the Promise campaign has exceeded $70 million, with nearly 900 first-time donors this current fiscal year. “Echo” events occurring across the country have been successful, while major gift officers have made more than 500 visits to potential principal donors during the campaign.
On behalf of Chair Rob Wonderling P’16, I would like to thank all those who participated in this winter board of trustees meeting. Your perspective, insight and level of engagement allowed for a truly immersive experience for our trustees.
President Brock Blomberg