New presidential cabinet members looking at problems with fresh eyes

Guilford College, led by President Jane Fernandes, continues to see new faces on campus, and they are not just students, staff and faculty, they are also administrators.

There are four new members in the president’s cabinet: Vice President for Academic Affairs and Academic Dean Beth Rushing, Vice President for Enrollment Management Arlene Cash, Vice President of Marketing Roger Degerman and William R. Rogers Director of Friends Center & Quaker Studies Wess Daniels.

“Having new senior staff members has been very exciting for me, because the new team is wide open to rethinking many things,” said Fernandes. “That energy is really important to move Guilford forward.”

Fernandes has worked intensively on leading since her arrival. She has been able to manage low enrollment, a deficit, departure of key senior staff and has worked on a new vision for Guilford while fundraising thousands of dollars for the school.

“The beautiful thing about Quakers is that we do not have a pope, we do not have an expert,” said Daniels.

Daniels is impressed with Fernandes’ grass-root work and motivated to help bring the Guilford community together as part of the president’s cabinet. Daniels wants the community to learn from each other and find solutions to the many challenges the school faces as we embrace the Quaker’s principals.

Daniels is not the only one excited about collaboration and involvement. Beth Rushing is too.

“One of the things I love about Guilford is the commitment of community involvement,” Rushing said. “The Bonner Center (for Community Service, and Learning), the Center for Principled Problem Solving, Career Development, Study Abroad are good examples. I do not think we necessarily coordinate those efforts as well as we could and should, so I am excited about being able to connect them more.

“I know how important they are… we call them high impact practices.”

Rushing is also working with faculty in the development of new majors.

“Several are already in the works, such as sustainable food systems,” she said.

Although the school is working on a variety of projects for the greater good, it must also differentiate itself from other schools.

“We have so many colleges and universities that walk alike, talk alike, sound alike in how they present themselves,” said Degerman.  “This is a college that changes lives.”

Degerman is working on ways to differentiate Guilford’s message so prospective students and families better understand the value of education the college provides. A unique message will serve Guilford well, but it is also key to consider when and how to deliver the message.

“We should not start when they are seniors,” said Arlene Cash. “We want to have been in their minds when they were high school sophomores.

“The more Guilford students we have in the world doing what Guilford does, promoting social justice, talking about integrity, and equality and wearing Guilford’s shirts, the more students we will see. Parents, teachers, and community members will see this is the place where they should send their best students.”

In the case of adult students, it is not just about the message. It is also about accessibility according to Rushing.

“Adult students can’t invest the time on campus that other students can,” said Rushing.

Rushing is working on developing hybrid and online classes that require less face-to-face time.

There is also the possibility of a master’s degree to provide students with a greater return on their investments. Rushing believes this will help increase enrollment of adult students.

There is a lot of work ahead for Fernandes’ new team. This fall, the president will be putting together a committee to create the new strategic plan for the college. The team will make many of the initiatives mentioned concrete, and change the school in the process.