Dear MacKenzie Scott,
Your extraordinary commitment to help high-impact organizations that have been historically underfunded and overlooked is inspiring. The need for such investments cannot be overstated, and the impact cannot be understated.
I recognize that you have been doing your own research to identify such organizations, and I respect your process. I hope it is not too bold, but I really wanted to bring Coker University to your attention, as we are committed to so many of the goals and objectives you have laid out.
You’ve likely never heard of Coker. The best way to describe us is that we are small, with the potential to be mighty. We are a 100-year-old institution of higher education, originally founded as a women’s college with an unwavering commitment to gender equity, that is now making hard, yet necessary, changes to meet the evolving needs of our learners. We are a college that is making bold moves to both fulfill our mission and ensure our very survival.
Coker University is based in Hartsville, South Carolina. We have approximately 1,000 undergraduate and graduate students who represent 33 states and 16 countries. Six in 10 of our students are female, reflecting our history of a women’s college for the majority of our existence. Half of our students are students of color, with almost a third of our total students African American. A growing number of our students are first-generation college goers.
I took over as president of Coker a year ago, knowing that we had a number of challenges ahead of us. After a year on campus, I can say I’m astounded by the spirit and commitment of the Coker family to do all it can to reimagine our college and overcome the challenges that have closed down far too many colleges like us. Earlier this year, we adopted a new strategic plan focused on student success, work environment and culture, vibrant communities, and financial health. This plan was developed by our faculty and staff, from the bottom up. It is a reflection of our aspirations as an organization, not what leadership is imposing on its employees. As a result, I am confident we will achieve all we have laid out for the next five years.
We are committed to developing an institution that ensures the success of our growing first-generation student population, doing more to make college more affordable, offering supports to students throughout their college experience, AND providing internships and job preparation services through our soon-to-be-launched career success center.
Coker is developing new degree programs and pathways to provide new opportunities to traditional and non-traditional students, providing opportunities for economic mobility for all learners. The diversity of our approach is reflected in our recent work to partner with industry to offer new degree pathways for those seeking to work in the pharmacy industry and our commitment to grow our School of Visual and Performing Arts and opportunities in the arts for undergraduates throughout the Southeast.
We are preparing to launch a new center to focus on women in leadership, a topic that is largely ignored at colleges in our part of the country, reflecting our roots as a women’s college and our efforts to support all learners at Coker. Our commitment to all students can be found in our unwavering commitment to DEI and to a diverse, respected student community.
Yes, we are undertaking many initiatives, perhaps too many for an institution of our size and with our budget challenges. But the entire Coker family is committed to doing whatever is necessary to ensure our long-term success and the success of each and every learner who arrives on our campus. Some of these efforts may fail, but many of them will work, making us a stronger institution with a stronger impact on the lives of those in need.
We like to talk about our Coker pride and being Coker strong. These are more than hashtags to those of us that call Coker home. They are part of our mantra. I would love nothing more than to have the opportunity to share with you why I believe in Coker University’s future, and why we can be a successful part of the incredible network you are assembling.
Take a chance on Coker University. We will make you proud by having an even larger societal impact on the South and the learners it should be serving.
Dr. Natalie J. Harder, President