Dr. Barbara K. Mistick began her tenure in late July, after the resignation of Dr. Lorna Duphiney Edmundson in June. Her time on campus began with major renovations and the relocation of the John Stewart Memorial Library. In addition, Mistick faces the challenges of a failing economy and declining enrollment in the College for Women.
"Doing things soon is important, but being sustainable is more important. More students are needed every semester. It’s a balancing act of keeping everything vibrant in such a noisy market," says Mistick.
Affordable education a priority
"I think the biggest overall problem is the economy. Making education affordable is so important, but also complicated. Students and families are struggling more than ever to meet the financial requirements of higher education…," adds Mistick, "There’s work on a strategic plan to raise enrollment, but it must be relevant to students. It’s important to continue to have vibrant classes and market them more effectively."
Six different constituencies will contribute to the plan to build enrollment numbers: students, faculty, administration, alumnae, the Board of Trustees, and the community will be able to work with the college in this plan.
Being more open about being a women's college
"We need to be open about the fact that we are a women’s college and make potential students aware of what a college like Wilson can offer them that a larger university cannot," Stephanie Bachman ‘12, WCGA Constitution and By-Laws Chair adds, "I think that personal statements are a very powerful tool to use in recruitment. Students need to know that a college experience at Wilson will help them achieve their goals and have a successful career."
Mistick identifies the reconstruction of the John Stewart Memorial Library as the area of most concern. After mixed feedback on the library’s temporary relocation, Mistick’s goal is to inform the Board of Trustees about the current state of the Library. The last meeting with the Board of Trustees took place in the spring, before renovations began and prior to Mistick’s tenure. Not only does the Board of Trustees need to be involved in the remodeling, but Mistick emphasizes the importance of the Wilson Community becoming involved.
Re-imagining the library on campus
"The first step is to decide how we want to use the library as the center of research. [Library Director] Kathleen Murphy is already holding sessions on remodeling," comments Mistick. With the increasing presence of technology in place of book research, the remodeling of the library should focus on a design that responds to modern technology, information management and cutting edge academia. "Planning is extensive, but it will make the project better," she says.
"It would be great if the college would present a few potential plans or drafts for the new library so that everyone could weigh in on the pros and cons that they see in each plan," says Bachman, "I hope that students will speak up and share their opinions so that the new library not only meets, but exceeds our expectations.
Footbridge gets long-needed attention
Plans to restore other facilities on campus are already underway, including the rebuilding of the pedestrian footbridge. The footbridge connected the barns to the Disert parking lot, but was demolished after its condition deteriorated in 2008. With the cooperation of the weather, the footbridge is scheduled to be completed within the academic year.
"It’s a small victory, but it’s these small projects that makes things easier," says Mistick.
Throughout years of facility restoration and campus projects, combined with declining enrollment and admissions, Wilson began accruing debt. The Leading with Confidence campaign helped install the several million dollar completion of the Harry R. Brooks Complex for Science, Mathematics, and Technology alone. The John Stewart Memorial Library will likely cost over $200,000 according to previous estimates early last spring. "It’s not necessarily a bad thing, it enables us to grow," expresses a confident Mistick. The college takes on debt much like students when they receive student loans, "The zeros are just different," she adds, "It is important to live within our means."
Despite the challenges at hand, Mistick remains enthusiastic for the future of the college. Though only approximately 100 days into her time on campus, Mistick receives letters of gratitude from past students and parents. "The fact is, we do change lives every day," expresses Mistick, "Wilson is very good with showing students the kind of differences they make one act, one person at a time. That’s what makes this place so special."