COPLAC Winter Meeting at AAC&U

What makes a public liberal arts college truly distinct?

The COPLAC Governing Board discussed this question at their winter meeting as part of the Annual Conference of AAC&U in San Francisco on January 25th. Katherine Foster, President of the University of Maine Farmington and chair of COPLAC’s Strategic Plan Committee, presented the results of a comprehensive survey of campus CEOs completed during fall semester 2016. A final draft of the new strategic plan will be presented to the Board for approval at COPLAC’s Annual Meeting at Mansfield University of Pennsylvania in June 2017.

Additionally, COPLAC is in the midst of a search for a new director to succeed Bill Spellman, who will step back in June 2017 after almost nine years as director and 15 years as a campus representative to COPLAC. The search committee is being chaired by Mary Grant, Chancellor of University of North Carolina Asheville and includes Elsa Núñez, President of Eastern Connecticut State University; Troy Paino, President of the University of Mary Washington; Glen Jones, President of Henderson State University; and Allen Berger, Dean and Chief Executive Officer of the University of Alberta’s Augustana Campus.

President Peter Mercer (left), President Anne Huot, Chancellor Donna Price Henry, Chancellor Renée Wachter, and President Suzanne Shipley presented “Non-Traditional Students at Public Liberal Arts Colleges: The Equity Imperative.”

AAC&U’s 2017 theme was “Building Public Trust in the Promise of Liberal Education and Inclusive Excellence.” In line with this theme, COPLAC hosted a presidents’ panel on Thursday, January 26 open to all AAC&U attendees. Moderated by President Suzanne Shipley of Midwestern State University , Chancellor Renée Wachter (University of Wisconsin-Superior), Chancellor Donna Price Henry ( University of Virginia’s College at Wise), President Anne Huot (Keene State College), and President Peter Mercer (Ramapo College of New Jersey) presented “Non-Traditional Students at Public Liberal Arts Colleges: The Equity Imperative.”

Chancellor Wachter focused on serving military and veteran students, stressing the importance of supporting these students before they set foot on campus. First generation students and women in STEM-H (science, technology, engineering, mathematics, health) fields were the focus of Chancellor Henry’s remarks. The value of a good mentor is essential to keeping these students on track to graduate, according to Henry. President Huot discussed serving LGBT+ students and the steps her institution has taken to create a campus culture welcoming to all. A recent development along these lines at Keene State College is the addition of a residence hall that allows students to choose housing in line with their gender identity, regardless of legal status. President Mercer wrapped up the presentations with a focus on diversity as an institutional core value. As a public institution, Ramapo College embraces its mandate to serve, educate, and represent the entire State of New Jersey, and a diverse campus is central to achieving this goal.

Slides from the full presidents’ panel presentation can be viewed here:

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The 2018 AAC&U conference is scheduled for January 24-28th in Washington D.C.

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