As we enter the final months of our Gettysburg Great Campaign—and strive to surpass our $150 million goal—many alumni, parents, and friends I’ve encountered have inquired about what’s next for Gettysburg College.
My response to that question focuses on our strategic plan, which was adopted by our Board of Trustees in the fall of 2016. The implementation of this plan is already having positive impact on the Gettysburg student experience. You can find a progress report for the first year at www.gettysburg.edu/plan/fall2017.
Our plan focuses on preparing students for lives of impact in communities and workplaces that are increasingly diverse and in a world that is globally interconnected. The pace of change in that world requires creative thinking and innovative approaches to complex problems. That is why the third theme of our strategic plan focuses on Innovation.
Although some might infer that the traditions of the residential liberal arts college slow down innovation, a look at what’s going on here on campus makes it clear that things are changing fast. Pedagogy has evolved rapidly over the last few years. Our classrooms are equipped with technology that allows our faculty to teach in new ways and to connect the classroom to the world and the world to the classroom. Some of our faculty have flipped their classrooms, providing lectures online for students to view on their own time and using class time for problem-solving, discussion, and group work. Technology has enabled students at Juniata College to join students at Gettysburg for Arabic language classes, and some of our faculty have experimented with summer course offerings that provide both in-person and online opportunities for learning.
Support from our alumni, parents, and friends has enabled us to launch a new Entrepreneurial and Social Innovation Initiative, under the direction of Entrepreneur-in- Residence Drew Murphy ’84, P’20. This initiative will build upon our Summer Entrepreneurial Fellowship program, allowing more students to be exposed to entrepreneurial thinking through the entrepreneurial start-up experience and the opportunity to talk and work with successful entrepreneurs.
In addition, our students are provided with the opportunity to do research supervised by faculty mentors from their first year on campus. Research is no longer an activity reserved just for seniors! Thanks to our generous donors, we have a growing number of students who spend the summer on campus doing high-level research with faculty across all disciplines. In addition, we now have an active cross-disciplinary science program (X-SIG), which encourages the integration of scientific perspectives in the pursuit of solutions to challenging research questions.
This spring students and faculty will have the opportunity to experiment in our new Innovation and Creativity Lab, developed by Vice President of Information Technology Rod Tosten ’85 and his IT team. The lab will feature 3-D printers, a laser cutter, and a virtual reality system. (Just the other day, I had the opportunity to experience a rocket lift-off using this system!)
While we value the rich traditions of a residential liberal arts college, we understand that the way we advance our mission must evolve to meet the needs of today’s students and to prepare them for the future.
In the words of Abraham Lincoln, “As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew.” There’s no doubt our world needs leaders with fresh ideas and innovative approaches to the challenging issues we face—and here at Gettysburg College, we are focused on preparing those leaders.
Wishing you all the best this winter season!
Janet Morgan Riggs ’77