As I prepared this message, I reflected on the words I wrote for my 2020 New Year’s where I discussed our vision for the next ten years for Converse and noted that, “2020 will be a pivotal year for Converse. It will deepen our commitment to developing a vibrant community, expanding our tradition of academic excellence, and working together to ensure a strong and sustainable future for Converse.”
Well, here we are, at the close of one the most unusual years we have ever seen and I can honestly say it has been quite the pivotal year. But, my message for 2020 remains true today.
We were driven to adapt and evolve – from classrooms to residence halls to food service to the very way we provided Converse’s distinctive educational experience to our students. Because of the hard work of our campus community, the College was able to successfully navigate the return to campus during an unprecedented year. It is clear to me that despite the challenges we faced, Converse was able to support a healthy learning and living environment – together.
In addition to successfully operating this fall during a pandemic, Converse celebrated a number of institutional achievements, including:
- We marked the 20th anniversary of the Nisbet Honors Program thanks to the overwhelming generosity of Class of 1962 alumna, Marian McGowan Nisbet ’62;
- We added a new Master of Management in Professional Leadership Program and a degree completion program in Child and Family Studies alongside our degree completion program in business administration;
- We expanded our Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy program to our University Center of Greenville site with the help of a $90,000 grant from the Fullerton Foundation;
- We added 5 new men’s teams to our 12 NCAA Division II women’s teams, including Men’s Basketball, Cross Country, Soccer, Tennis, and Track & Field. We also transitioned our Equestrian program to include men and we hired our new eSports coach to lead a co-ed team;
- We received $145,000 from Bank of America to support the upfitting of Converse’s new data analytics laboratory in support of our new data analytics program;
- We partnered with Spartanburg District Seven to create the Valkyrie Middle College, a new dual enrollment program for highly-qualified high school students who wish to become K-12 educators;
- We received a National Institute of Health grant for $750,000 to support our faculty-led biomedical research and to expand research opportunities for our students;
- We launched the Converse Guarantee, a program guaranteeing that our undergraduate students will graduate in 4 years and gain employment or graduate school acceptance within 6 months after graduation;
- We implemented a tuition freeze, reaffirming our commitment to affordability and accessibility during this difficult time;
- We received a $2 million unrestricted gift to support the educational mission of the College;
- We increased the enrollment in our doctorate degree program to 86;
- We completed a market study and have begun a strong marketing plan. You may have seen our billboards along Interstate 85 and in the Upstate.
And, despite all of the changes, we were thrilled to see that our alumni stepped up and increased their giving this year and helped us to once again break records for Rock the Tower, our annual giving day.
As we look to 2021, we will continue the work we are doing to make Converse a stronger university and one that is a destination of pride nationally and internationally.
The difficult decisions we made in 2020 have made us stronger and more resilient during this pandemic and have placed Converse on the path to be a thriving institution in the decades to come.
Merriam-Webster revealed that their word of the year for 2020 is “pandemic.” But for Converse I believe that our word of the year is “together.” Together we took on the challenge to return to campus during a pandemic and we did so with a positive, can-do attitude. Together, we successfully and safely adapted to meet and learn in this new environment, taking care of each other by following our safety guidelines. Together, we supported each other and grew as a community.
As we plan for the rollout of our name change to Converse University on July 1, 2021, we have begun the introduction of a new brand and marketing campaign for Converse that captures the energy and optimism our campus has for the future as well as Converse’s “can do” attitude.
That is why we chose the battle cry “We Will”. This message highlights that we will be agents of transformation, never standing still and refusing to be complacent. We will foster the future leadership of this country by helping our students find the power of their own voices and then teaching them how to use their voices to make a real difference. We will provide a rich educational experience that is accessible to all qualified students. We will demonstrate to each other and our community that we are born of creativity and ingenuity, as we innovate, problem-solve and mentor the groundbreaking and ceiling-smashing leaders of tomorrow. We will embrace the diversity and perspectives of all while providing a supportive community. And we will do all of these things together – as a student-focused community of scholars.
Together, we will celebrate one another, and we will lift each other up, and by doing so we will drive our institution, our city, and our region forward.
Together we will become nationally recognized as an excellent doctoral university, acclaimed as a center for creative thinking and learning, and will set the bar for how a community can produce engaged citizens who effect positive change. We are who we are at Converse because of our community, and our commitment to each other and our collective success.
I am immensely grateful for each student, faculty and staff member, parent, alumni, and friend. Thank you for your love and support of Converse.