Welcome to November

Welcome to November already, coming from a very busy October. What with the Board of Trustees and Regents, President's Club dinner, visits of the Provost Candidates, continuing work on the Building on Strengths tasks, a WASC return visit, and most important, teaching our students, there was more than enough activity to keep all of us busy. I cannot imagine that November can top this. Still, I would like to report to you on some important items of interest.

This year the number of faculty applying for sabbaticals significantly increased over recent years. I have now had the opportunity to review all of the proposals and am impressed with both their breadth and quality. Not only do these projects and proposals include research in a variety of areas, from local to global locations and issues, they also demonstrate a significant level of engagement in issues of cultural sensitivity, social justice, and other topics in line with the mission of the College. These proposals also demonstrate clear benefits to the College, its students, and in particular to the professional growth of the faculty members themselves. Though the number of sabbatical proposals is larger than we anticipated, I am committed to find a way to fund all of these in next year's budget.

At its October meeting, the Board of Trustees heard an initial report on the feasibility of a capital campaign, in anticipation of our 150th anniversary, and in light of the needs for endowment and support for financial aid, academics and facilities.

Thanks to the Provost Search Committee and all who participated in the interviews during the visits of the four candidates to campus. I have met with the committee and reviewed the input from the various parties and look forward to concluding the search process in a timely manner.

Construction work continues at a good pace on the Filippi Academic Hall, the largest of our construction and renovation projects under way. We expect to begin moving into the building in early December, immediately following the conclusion of the semester. This should be an exciting addition to our campus facilities and a positive step forward for the College. The Advancement Office and the School of Education, soon to be christened the Paul and Lydia Kalmanovitz School of Education, are planning a series of events in late January to celebrate the opening of the building. Pete Michell will be reporting to you shortly about progress on other projects currently under way.

The latest National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) report, being made public today, again shows Saint Mary's in a very positive light in a number of significant issues of learning. This year for the first time NSSE has partnered with USA Today and will make our scores available on their web site. These organizations are working together to "underscore the idea that educational quality is more complex than typically reported elsewhere, such as in rankings." Mark Figueroa, Director of Institutional Research, has developed a summary of our NSSE data which is posted along with the entire report at http://www.stmarys-ca.edu/about-smc/institutional-research/nsse-2007.html. The NSSE Report is the kind of national survey that gives a better picture of our strengths and distinctiveness as an institution. Please take the time to read this report.

Concerning advising and retention: we are all looking attentively at our current numbers and drilling down to find out why we dropped in the retention rate for last year's freshmen. There is not one single or obvious reason. I do know that this is a growing phenomenon in four year institutions, as students are moving about in increasing numbers. I have asked Michael Beseda and Frances Sweeney to poll all of last year's freshman advisors about their level of contact with the students who left to find some answers and to develop strategies for addressing the issue.

Thanks to Provost Sally Stampp for reporting out last Friday about the recent WASC follow-up visit. We will be discussing the initial report and follow-up strategies this week in the President's Cabinet.

We are also coming to a change of seasons in athletic competition. Please join me in thanking and congratulating our student athletes and coaches for their competitive efforts on the fields, courses, courts, trails and waterways. It is notable that every one of our teams (Men's and Women's soccer, Men's and Women's tennis, Golf, Cross Country and Crew) has improved their performances from last year. Basketball is around the corner, and we have equally high expectations for these teams.

Our forensic teams have done equally well in their Fall season.

Thanks to all for your continuing commitment to our mission.

In St. La Salle,

Brother Ronald Gallagher, FSC