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Georgian Court President Examines “State of the University”

Change Has Been a Constant Force, Shaping the Past, Present, and Future of GCU

MEDIA NOTE: President Jeffries’ 2010 State of the University address is available in PDF format in the GCU Press Room.

Lakewood, N.J., Oct. 21, 2010—Georgian Court University has fully embraced change over the course of its history, giving the school a unique ability to quickly address evolving student and community needs, marketplace demands, and shifts in the financial landscape.

Such responsiveness to change is a GCU trademark, one that has helped the university weather one of the most difficult economic environments ever and continues to drive new academic offerings and new strategies for reaching students and raising revenues, GCU President Rosemary E. Jeffries, RSM, Ph.D., said recently in her 2010 State of the University address.

“We find ourselves with new internal needs and goals that require change, so the cycle of renewal continues,” she told more than 300 students, faculty, and staff at the October 14 gathering that included roundtable discussions about the future of the university. “This dynamic is not new to Georgian Court, as we have come a long way from our early beginnings as a liberal arts college to becoming a more comprehensive university,” she said.

The president highlighted several of last year’s achievements, including: belt-tightening across every department that led to a balanced budget and small surplus; the preservation of the state’s Tuition Aid Grant for students; freshman retention growth to 78 percent, up from 70 percent in 2009; CACC Championship wins in lacrosse and volleyball; the new Saturday-only M.B.A.; and new market-driven programs in P–3 education, homeland security, applied behavior analysis, and pre-dance movement therapy, among others.

President Jeffries also examined GCU’s challenges and goals for the near future. The university, which saw enrollment decrease by 44 students this fall, wants to extend its reach across the region and attract more students from parts of Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, and Connecticut. It also aims to raise revenues enough to yield a surplus while offering modest enhancements to employee retirement and salary packages, and there is a need to increase alumni engagement, she said.

And while the university reported more than $4.1 million in private donations and federal/state grants in 2010, she said advancement officials are working to bolster Annual Fund contributions and secure more major gifts—gifts that will support the endowment and help fund capital construction and renovation funds for future expansion, renovation, and renewal of academic space on campus.

All of this will be accomplished as GCU enhances its reputation as a Catholic, comprehensive university in the Mercy tradition, she said.

The Long View
President Jeffries set the tone for the 2010 State of the University address by offering the long view of change at Georgian Court. She traced GCU’s growth from a small, liberal arts college that awarded only bachelor’s degrees to women from across the United States and a few other countries to its current status as a university offering 31 undergraduate majors and 10 graduate degrees to women (88%) and men (12%), most of them from New Jersey, who represent traditional college-age students, transfers, and adult learners.

More than one-third of the school’s 2,885 students are earning advanced degrees, she added, and the university has expanded from offering classes only at its historic Lakewood campus to also delivering courses in Woodbridge and Wall.

In addition to academic growth, GCU has seen significant changes in the way it reaches out to the community through educational and cultural programming. Last year, more than 21,000 guests came to campus for conferences, lectures, theatrical performances, exhibits, and other special events, President Jeffries said.

And that’s in addition to hosting the newest students on campus—members of GCU’s new McAuley Institute for Lifelong Learning (MILL), which offers college-level classes for those 50 and older. The program offers 11 classes, up from two pilot courses last fall.

President Jeffries also used the 2010 State of the University event to get feedback from the GCU family. In roundtable discussions immediately following her speech, participants weighed in ways to attract more students, and discussed at length the changing needs—and wants—of those enrolled in GCU’s Women’s College and University College.

Groups also discussed GCU’s identity as a Catholic university in the Mercy tradition, and explored topics like college access, academic expectations, innovative partnerships, program growth, fund-raising, and the harsh economic reality facing higher education.

Shared ideas are important, she said, because the university’s success will take collective effort.

“Through the gifts and talents we hold, each of us is part of the solution,” she told listeners. “Georgian Court is unique in the nation—a Mercy university in the Catholic tradition, offering a values-based, 21st-century education to a diverse student body, with a particular emphasis on women, nontraditional students, and rising students of promise.”

“We will succeed,” she said, “if we remain true to our mission and have the courage to make the changes, small and large.”

Founded in 1908 and sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy, Georgian Court University is a comprehensive university with a strong liberal arts core and a special concern for women. A forward-thinking university that supports diversity and academic excellence, Georgian Court serves over 3,000 students of all faiths and backgrounds in a residential Women's College and a coeducational University College with undergraduate and graduate programs. Georgian Court's main campus is located at 900 Lakewood Avenue, Lakewood, N.J., on the picturesque former George Jay Gould estate, now named a National Historic Landmark. Georgian Court also offers classes at its site at One Woodbridge Center in Woodbridge, at Coastal Communiversity in Wall, and at Cumberland County College in Vineland.

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