Murphy authorizes five full-time faculty replacements, announces $1 million bequest

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Murphy authorizes five full-time faculty replacements, announces $1 million bequest

Barbara Murphy

Barbara Murphy

Kayla Friedrich

Barbara Murphy

Kayla Friedrich

Kayla Friedrich

Barbara Murphy

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The [5-year strategic] plan is very ambitious, and it is boldly called a plan for access, engagement, and success.”


During her annual State of the College conversation on Nov. 4, JSC President Barbara Murphy discussed the continuing decline in enrollment, presented an overview of the college’s progress in developing the current strategic plan and announced she had authorized searches for five new full-time faculty.

With enrollment down about 55 students, many of whom are out-of-state undergraduates, the budget for this year is falling short of expectations. Even so, with requests from department chairs for 14 new full-time faculty, Dean of Academic Affairs Dan Regan authorized five department chairs to begin their full-time faculty searches.

“The first step is for departments to draft their position description,” said Murphy. “Then we’ll think a little more about the responsibilities of that person, what they’ll teach, what courses they’ll cover, and then launch the search.”

After the dean and the president met with department chairs who presented ideas, they had to decide which to approve based on where there was a perspective missing or where there was a whole credit demand, and where they were absolutely sure the hire would have a full teaching load.

Deciding to hire five is pushing the limits of what Murphy thought they could support on their budget. It is also the highest number of hires that she believes could be justified.

“We have projected out to year two [of the hiring plan] at this point,” said Murphy in a subsequent email interview. “We very much hope to add full-time faculty positions in biology, composition, psychology, music, and, perhaps, business.”

In terms of new hires for the first year of the plan, JSC is looking at a fiction writer in the BFA program, a sculptor, a business and economics professor, a position in education, and a position in psychology. With the number of retirees this year, however, the new hires will amount to a net gain of one faculty member.

The administration is also reviewing funds and curricula to see if it’s possible to add one more position to the current round of searches on a one-year visiting basis in one of the above-mentioned areas, according to Murphy.

Anywhere that Murphy and Regan believed they could save money in part-time or overload pay by hiring a full-time faculty member, they chose to accept the request to begin the search. “It’s such a good faculty and I really want to be responsive to their need to replenish their ranks,” said Murphy. “We just can’t do it all in one or two years.”

During her address, Murphy also announced that the college has been named beneficiary of a $1 million trust by a longtime donor who recently passed away.

Prescott Stearns had been a donor to the college for a long time,  having set up a trust in his wife’s name as well as one in his mother’s name. At the time he established them, he told JSC’s then development officer, Sally Laughlin, that when he died he’d leave Johnson State College with a trust.

Stearns passed away on Fri., July 27, 2012. All of the legal documents are in order, and have just been signed by college officials.

It isn’t known yet how the money will be used, but the college would like to continue to offer scholarships in Stearns’ family’s name, though the college was not restricted to using this trust for scholarships.

Much of Murphy’s address was focused on progress thus far regarding the 5-year strategic plan, now its fourth year.

The plan outlines six key goals that the administration has been working toward, the first goal being access, engagement and success.

The key aspects are to increase academic challenge, create academic programs that will streamline pathways to student success, and commit all academic programs to continuous improvement.

What this has led to is a way for undergraduate students to work on research projects with faculty members, the building of a new general education program to be implemented in 2014, and the START program.

The second priority is to foster early and ongoing student success. This goal can be broken down to the implementation of a first-year experience and residence life collaboration, improved dining experience for students with a greater responsiveness to student input about dietary needs, and the implementation of 20 Questions, which came out of the Office of First-Year Experience in an effort to apply lessons learned with first-year students to the greater student population.

The third priority is for the administration to identify and enroll students they feel are most likely to thrive at JSC. In the last year, they have hosted a number of major-specific recruiting events, including JSC’s first Performing Arts Festival and a Vermont/Montreal concert tour by the JSC Chorale. They have also involved alumni in recruiting by having them call potential students to answer their questions.

The fourth priority is to strengthen JSC’s contributions to and relationship with Lamoille County and Vermont. Its recent accomplishments include reaching out to veterans in the community with a new center that is open on Fridays, expanding student/faculty research projects, and hosting kindergarten through 12th grade students on campus to teach them about higher education.

The fifth goal, to align college and technology upgrades with academic priorities, led the administration to hire Robert Gervais in the IT department this year. They have also upgraded McClelland Hall by renovating the dance studio, adding a practice studio, new part-time faculty office, and a new student lounge.

The sixth and final goal is to strengthen JSC’s future through gifts, grants, and investments. Murphy said the college administration has increased the number of donors to the college by 58 percent, the number of gifts by 7 percent and the value of gifts by 48 percent in the last year.

“The [5-year strategic] plan is very ambitious, and it is boldly called a plan for access, engagement, and success,” said Murphy. “We want to be welcoming and open to students, we want to engage students in academic and student life initiatives, and we want you [students] to succeed.”

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