Plan calls for a global honors emphasis in a coeducational environment
8/10/2006 1:31:23 PM
LYNCHBURG – The Randolph-Macon Woman’s College Board of Trustees will vote Sept. 9 on a strategic plan that outlines a plan to take the 115-year-old liberal arts college coed and emphasize and expand the college’s global honors programs, college officials said this week.
The move comes after more than 2 years of study, research, discussion and deliberation involving all aspects of the college community, including faculty, staff, students and alumnae.
“We believe women’s colleges offer an important choice for young women,” said Ginger Worden, a 1969 alumna who is serving as interim president this year. “The College has focused much time and effort into examining different options that would allow the institution to remain single sex.
“Given R-MWC’s circumstances, we are firmly convinced that we cannot continue as both a college exclusively for women and a college of excellence,” she added. “We have chosen to go forward and flourish as a college of excellence.”
The College began its strategic planning process in 2003 with the intention of identifying key strategies that would best position the College for the future. Throughout the strategic planning process, the College has affirmed its commitment to providing an excellent academic program while maintaining its sense of community. The College has evaluated its strengths, analyzed its financial position, researched its markets, solicited input from students, faculty, alumnae, and friends, and studied the experiences of other all-women's colleges. This summer, those inquiries have been completed, and the findings will be the basis of a plan to be presented for a vote at a special meeting of the Board of Trustees on Sept. 8-9.
As part of the process, the College hired a national firm specializing in market research for higher education.
Initial research showed that curricular changes alone would not produce sufficient enrollment increases. A second study was then commissioned to test the impact of adding coeducation to the mix. This research included interviews with alumnae, prospective students, admitted students who did not enroll and currently enrolled students. Further study involved analysis of the experiences of five single sex institutions that went coed and five single sex colleges that remained single gender.
"The programs that tested the best during this research happened to be the programs that are our strengths and draw on the College’s long-held core values and academic distinctions,” Worden said. “Part of what makes this college special is its international diversity and its academic rigor. We see a curriculum that focuses on this institution as a global honors college as a natural extension of our traditionally strong studies in the liberal arts and the sciences – and an exciting opportunity to occupy a distinctive position in our markets.”
If the decision to go coed with a global honors focus is approved by the Board of Trustees in September, the College plans to open its doors to men in the fall of 2007.
“We all feel a sense of sadness,” Worden said. “This isn’t a decision that is easy to make, nor is it one the Board has taken lightly. They have put an extraordinary amount of time, energy, emotion and effort into this process in order to provide the College with the best foundation possible for the future.
“The opportunities that are before us are exciting, and we see this as a way to make this great College a college that is known nationally and internationally for its innovative, rigorous programs as well as for how well its alums are prepared and poised to enter the world after graduation."