In March, the Board of Trustees agreed to a new strategic initiative for the College to become more diverse and competitive over the next six to eight years.
The new strength will come from a tighter embrace of the ideals and devotion to quality that have turned it into a world-class liberal arts school.
Investing in people, says President Alison Byerly, will be the focus of the initiative.
It will “reinforce some traditional strengths of Lafayette, but also place us more firmly in the competitive environment that we aspire to be part of,” she says. “Lafayette is a terrific college and could continue the way it is for many years. [But] we think that focusing on the kind of people who make up the community is what defines the quality of a college.”
Lafayette will attract a more diverse, more highly qualified student body than ever before. It will strengthen its commitment to and bolster its faculty, fostering better, more personalized connections with students. And it will create a more inclusive admissions policy to help.
Byerly and the board are confident a better Lafayette will emerge, one that will stand among the elite colleges in the nation.
Byerly likens the entire plan to the engine of a car. “All of these components have to be humming along in sync with each other,” she says. “You’ve got to get the right students. You’ve got to get the right faculty. You’ve got to have the right environment for them to work in.”
The strategic initiative will create changes you’ll see—new construction, for example—and some behind-the-scenes work.
What: The College will devote greater resources to its financial aid program with a goal of admitting the most qualified students regardless of their ability to pay.
Why: Every year, Lafayette turns away many students it wants to admit because the students lack the wherewithal to cover the costs.
Greg MacDonald, vice president for enrollment management, says helping students with better financial aid opportunities will improve the College.
What you’ll see: The move will deepen the talent pool and diversity of future students.
That will create a better Lafayette, MacDonald says, because candidates from all backgrounds will have the same chance.
“I firmly believe that the highest ability students are attracted to college communities where they can connect with students from different backgrounds and different life experiences,”
What: Lafayette will grow. Expect the student body to become maybe 350 to 400 students bigger.
Why: Larger schools draw more students. Departments benefit from added depth and variety. Experiences become richer.
The College is unusual in combining a full array of liberal arts majors with an engineering program. The Lafayette curriculum covers more ground than most peers of its size.
“Admitting and enrolling students from new and emerging markets will help Lafayette become better known, and make our community a higher priority for future students,” MacDonald says.
What you’ll see: The additions won’t be haphazard. As Lafayette moves forward with its initiative, the population increase will occur gradually, hand-in-hand with enhancements to its infrastructure and facilities to help accommodate its growing family.
Better use of space: Consultants are reviewing the campus to determine how space can be used more effectively.
The first change you might notice will be the construction of a new $70 million integrated science center. Scheduled to break ground in about a year, the facility will operate in concert with Lafayette’s interdisciplinary approach, housing biology, computer science and a host of other programs under one roof.
When it opens, the building at Kunkel Hall, where biology department students learn, will become available open space for additional classrooms and offices, says Roger Demareski, vice president for finance and administration.
As early as this summer, about 65 campus employees from departments such as the Communications Division and Information Technology Services will move to leased office space in downtown Easton, freeing up more housing and office space.
New construction: Lafayette will bring “a developer on board to start the first phase of off-campus housing, which will bring on 150 new beds in the next … 24 months,” Demareski says.
As the new integrated science center gets under way, new construction also will start on a mixed-use building most likely on a Lafayette-owned vacant lot at the corner of Cattell and High streets. This new facility will feature student residences on its top floors.
Plans call for the opening of a new diner and a new book store to replace the shop on the bottom floor of Farinon College Center.
An urgent care medical facility to replace Bailey Health Center is another possibility.
What: Lafayette will hire more professors, offer more competitive salaries and continue to foster a faculty-student ratio that creates a valuable learning experience.
Why: Whether it comes from professors working longer office hours to help someone grasp a concept or tailoring a learning experience to enhance a student’s specific understanding, the faculty-student relationship is one of the cornerstones of Lafayette’s success.
Moving forward, Lafayette will protect it. Enhance it, if possible.
“We have a tremendous opportunity to deepen and broaden our academic strengths,” says Provost Abu Rizvi. “Not only would we be able to hire in places to address current needs, but we face the exciting prospect of identifying disciplinary and interdisciplinary areas in which to invest. In order to guide us as we consider expansion, the faculty during this semester and the next will engage in academic planning to identify these areas of interest. Through this process we will emerge as a stronger academic community.”
What you’ll see: Lafayette will welcome new professors from a diverse pool of applicants. As many as 40 new faculty members could join the ranks over the next eight years, Rizvi says.
Lafayette also is targeting faculty salaries to the middle of a group of 25 outstanding liberal arts colleges, so it can be competitive with the best institutions in faculty recruitment, retention, and satisfaction.