Presidential Update: Building a University for the Future

By Maria Tanner | May 21, 2020

Dear Arcadia Staff and Faculty,

These past two months have been unlike any we’ve experienced and have presented challenges unlike any we’ve seen. But it’s also shown us the strength, ingenuity, and adaptability of the University community, which fills me with a great sense of pride. Our nostalgia will run deep; rather than advancing our vision in this new paradigm, we will be tempted to “go back” to a former state. This is understandable—after all, Arcadia is part of our family; we cherish the memories that helped shape us. 

Although COVID-19 has attacked many of our sacrosanct traditions, in this new paradigm, we must reimagine our academic community by leveraging our great strengths and viewing our traditions in more nuanced ways. Simply put, we must build a University of the future. Our aspiration is clear:  Through this crisis, we will emerge as leaders in higher education, serving as an engine for prosperity  for our local and global communities, and as an accelerant to help the world heal. We will find great joy as we practice community with deeper intentionality, never again taking for granted the power of our faith and love for our community. This fall and beyond, we will do our very best to operate “all-modes ready,” providing access to the opportunity for exemplary teaching, learning, and mentoring in unprecedented ways.  

I hope the following updates and reminders are helpful as you continue your excellent work to help Arcadia realize our aspiration and vision.  

Stages Leading Us to the Fall Semester
In April, I shared a fluid three-stage process to steward a sustainable path forward led by principles for financial decisions in the face of uncertainties caused by the COVID-19 disruption. 

Currently, we are completing Stage One of the process, which takes us through the end of May and necessitates that we close the FY2020 budget gap following our approved budget. Among the measures taken are a 20 percent pay reduction through May for myself and members of the President’s Cabinet; limiting departmental spending to essential costs only; shutting down many campus buildings, resulting in energy savings; and a Vice President administrative review of all hiring.  

With the COVID-19 disruption mandating that we shift business operations remotely, some positions do not have enough fully engaging and warranted work entering the summer months. Human Resources has coordinated the effort to address these challenges, and Arcadia will continue to support and guide our affected employees to maintain health benefits and University-provided retirement contributions throughout the summer to the extent legally possible.

As we approach the second stage, which begins June 1 and extends through August, we will shift Summer 2020 sessions to a fully online academic term to ensure academic continuity and build momentum for an all-modes ready fall. Remote work arrangements for most staff members will continue to align with guidelines from local, state, and federal authorities and health departments, including Gov. Wolf’s recent announcement extending the stay-at-home order in Pennsylvania through at least June 4. Campus events planned for the summer will be moved online wherever possible. Some may be suspended, postponed, or canceled.

Our work in Stage Three will be based on balancing our actual revenues, our revised expenses, and our opportunities for investment in our Adaptive Strategy. Building a University for the future will require realignment of our resources to help us realize our full potential. A great deal of uncertainty remains as we work to bring in the new first-year class, retain our current students, and manage the build out of our all-modes ready strategy. I have no doubt that, while our adaptability and resilience will be tested, our community will rise to the challenge. 

Honoring Our Graduates and Award Recipients
COVID-19 moved many of our time-honored traditions online this spring. The creative action of a student-led committee worked to recognize the scholastic achievements of our students in an online Honors Convocation. Arcadia celebrates the academic excellence and hard work of our students. 

Tomorrow, May 15, the University will celebrate Commencement with our graduates and confer certificates and baccalaureate, master’s, and doctoral degrees to approximately 1,000 students of the Class of 2020. Our graduating class will hear from honorary degree recipient and U.S. Representative Madeleine Dean. A link for the celebration will be shared with the University community and families on the morning of May 15 on the Commencement webpage. We remain committed to an on-campus celebration tentatively scheduled for Sept. 26. 

Recruitment and Enrollment Management
I am grateful to Collene Pernicello for her work as interim vice president of Enrollment Management, steering recruitment during arguably the most turbulent time in recent higher education history. We are pleased to report that as of yesterday, we have reached 400 deposits for our incoming undergraduate class, a promising number with the June 1 deadline extension. 

The vice president of Enrollment Management role is critical in higher education today. At Arcadia, it is especially important, as enrollment is a significant driver of our economic health, student success, and engagement, all of which are vital to our educational experience. Following a national search for this essential role, I am pleased to announce the appointment of Rakin Hall as vice president of Enrollment Management. Rakin’s appointment at Arcadia is effective on June 15 and is the culmination of a search that began at the beginning of this year.

Rakin brings with him a track record of more than 20 years of success and strategic management at institutions such as the University of Utah and the University of Southern California, Los Angeles. A more detailed announcement on Rakin’s appointment will be sent to the University community shortly. 

Board of Trustees Update
This week, we concluded the last Board of Trustees meeting for the 2020 academic year. We are fortunate to have a Board of accomplished, visionary, and caring professionals, and I am grateful for their leadership and collaboration. 

The Board approved the nomination of John Rollins as Chair-Elect. John, who has a background in global management, corporate finance, and investment management, will succeed Alison Aaron Madsen, Esq.’85. John and his wife, Trustee Emerita Dr. Theresa Rollins, have been great supporters of the University for many years; his appointment, especially following the service of Chair Madsen, is another example of how legacy and family connections to Arcadia extend beyond the student and alumni bodies to all levels of the University. John will prepare throughout the remainder of Chair Madsen’s term for a smooth transition to Chair. 

My President’s Report, titled “Bloom in the Darkness,” chronicled our exemplary achievements during this crisis. The Board expressed their deep gratitude for your extraordinary contributions. Following a financial report by Vice President of Finance and Administration Joan Singleton, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Jeff Rutenbeck led a Scenario Planning session with the Board to continue the work of more than 50 University community members over the past few weeks. The session reviewed the key characteristics of low-, medium-, and high-impact scenarios the institution may face during the next academic year due to the COVID-19 disruption. The Board explored opportunities related to our adaptability to better align our University-wide international strategy and operations, and build our reputation and share the stories of Arcadia’s positive impact on our present and future.

Innovate to Thrive 
Last week, I announced a University-wide challenge for COVID-19 ideas and solutions for the 2020-21 academic year. The Innovate to Thrive challenge will demonstrate the Arcadia community’s entrepreneurial spirit as we prepare for all possible scenarios for the upcoming academic year. I hope you will consider sharing your ideas with us so we can harness our community’s collective energy. 

As we embrace the effort to plan for an “all-modes ready” academic year, Provost Rutenbeck and Chief Information Officer Rashmi Radhakrishnan will be scheduling time with each academic and departmental unit, including The College of Global Studies, to share the latest information about preparations and share ideas and questions. This effort will involve the development of a training and implementation plan through the summer to prepare faculty and staff on educational and campus life modalities. Further information on how to apply to be a part of this mission-critical work is  forthcoming.

No matter what this global health crisis brings to us in the fall and beyond, I am confident that we will be ready to deliver on our mission, vision, values, and strategy. With your support and full participation, we will be a reflection of the world that we want to live in.


Ajay Nair, Ph.D.