Murphy reflects on the current year in college address

Mariah Howland

JSC President Barbara Murphy

Following Thanksgiving break, college president Barbara Murphy addressed students and faculty on Nov. 26 to give her annual State of the College address, outlining both accomplishments and challenges.

“State of the College address has a pretty fancy ring to it,” said Murphy. “So I like to think of this more as my reflection on our current year so far, a look at the 2012-2013 academic year in context as we come close to the midyear point. I consider myself in the unique and wonderful position of being the storyteller and chief. It is my intention to talk with you about our accomplishments, our triumphs as well as challenges that lay ahead of us.”

For about seven years, JSC has taken part in the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), which compares Johnson State against 15 other similar colleges as well as a national cohort. “Participation in a survey like this is a pretty brave thing to do because it means we are willing to look at ourselves across a pretty large landscape,” noted Murphy. “To participate meaningfully is to see ourselves again in comparison.”

Areas in which JSC ranked higher than the average were students’ perceptions of academic challenge and students’ perceptions of JSC as a supportive community.

First-year student activities also ranked high. Students reported writing more frequently, asking questions and contributing to discussions, giving a class presentation, and rated relationships among faculty and administrative personnel highly. “The findings are useful not only in charting our successes, but they also let us know what we need to do to have a fuller education for the students,” said Murphy.

Areas in which students reported not holding with their peers included: use of an electronic medium to discuss or complete an assignment, discussions with people of a different race or ethnicity, and completion of a foreign language class.

The President’s Council, a group consisting of 15 people Murphy meets with regularly, recently engaged in creating a value proposition.

“The term is not one everyone is at ease with because when used to describe a college’s work it can sound a little too much like a transaction. But we tried to push past the limits of that language and wrestle with the concept of a value proposition the way it is best used. The task was a way for us to ask ourselves, ‘what do we most want for students at JSC?’ recognizing that students’ education is a project that’s relationship-based: What can we commit to in shaping that relationship in an enduring, meaningful way? What can we pledge to carry out? Essentially, why Johnson State College?”

Murphy then read the value proposition. “We invite you wherever you may be to take a journey with us toward your future. In return we will provide you with learning opportunities you may never have imagined, challenges you may never have expected you could meet, and with the support you may need to rise to meet them. Whatever your program of study – a research project, an internship, service learning, performance exhibition, student teaching, or field experience – we’ll give you the opportunity to apply what you learn in the classroom to the world beyond its four walls. We are a Vermont State College, and like the state we are proud to call home, our environment is challenging yet rewarding and welcoming. Opportunities abound for those who seize them. Our inclusive community is committed to supporting your explorations. Together we can harness the power of higher education at Johnson State College to transform your life.”

Murphy noted that many accomplishments have been made at JSC the past few years and along with success have come challenges. They include teaching and learning technologies, monitoring energy use and moving towards reducing reliance on fossil fuels, and most significantly, increasing retention rates. Currently there are steps being taken to overcome each of these challenges. “Who wouldn’t want to be a part of a college where students share talent, cheer each other on, create in the community, take risks, and dazzle us with talent?” Murphy said. “I invite you to continue to help build this college’s story to be alert to and aware of the great work we are doing here and help reach people.” who are not yet lucky enough to be a part of this community.”