Administrators answered students’ questions about the University’s strategic plan, Harvest Our Treasures, at a virtual community forum on Feb 10, with the recently announced renovation of the University Center dominating much of the conversation.
The meeting was hosted by Matthew Borowick, vice president of the division of university relations, and included comments from University President Dr. Joseph Nyre, who spoke at the beginning of the forum and addressed how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the Strategic Planning Process.
“In Creating Harvest our treasures we have turned shared planning into shared action,” Nyre said. “While it would have been easier to pause all planning activities to manage the day to day crisis of the pandemic, we employed a balanced approach and relied on the strategic planning process to guide our reopening plans and we avoided pandemic paralysis.”
According to Dr. Michele Nelson, vice president for board affairs and university strategy, this was one of three information sessions regarding the strategic plan. She said this forum, which was held through Microsoft Teams, was “dedicated solely to students.”
“The creation of Harvest Our Treasures was a University-wide initiative,” Nelson said. “Its development came about through the collaboration of faculty, staff, administrators, clergy and students. Given the entire community’s extensive involvement in the planning process, these information sessions provide an opportunity to learn more about the plan’s next phase: its implementation.”
Administrators outlined the five main goals of the Strategic Plan and went into further detail of how they will be implementing them before the question and answer session began.
Students were able to anonymously ask questions throughout the presentation. One of the most commonly brought up topics during the Question and Answer Section of the meeting was about the renovation to the University Center.
Some of the questions asked by students were about why the University Center was chosen to be renovated, the financial aspects of the renovation and the exact timeline.
Dr. Shawna Cooper-Gibson, the University’s vice president of student services, was one of the administrators who addressed these questions about the University Center.
“We believe that the University Center is going to have the biggest impact on our student’s lives and that’s why it’s named as such,” Cooper-Gibson said. “Our current center is 59 years old and it needs an update. This renovation will help create a vibrant hub of campus life and enhance amenities making it more accessible to all on campus.”
Cooper-Gibson also said that the new University Center will be more accessible, including more elevators and more accessible seating in the theater.
Borowick answered students’ questions about the timeline of the renovation.
“The timeline runs approximately 18 months to 24 months and that is from the start of the project,” Borowick said. “The plan is to start the project sometime early this summer, obviously minimizing the impact on the comings and going of everybody on campus. We’d focus on getting as much done as possible during the summer months.”
Students also asked about the relationship between tuition prices and the strategic plans. In his answer, University Chief Financial Officer Stephen Graham addressed the tuition increase announced last summer and said this increase was due in part to provide more scholarship opportunities to students.
“There’s two factors to the price of education,” Graham said. “There’s the gross tuition price, but then there’s scholarships. We made a significant investment in addition scholarships both funded through our operating budget and also through fundraising.”
Dr. Alyssa McCloud, vice president for enrollment management, also talked about scholarships and said that they are trying to find ways to give further financial support to upperclassmen students.
“We do have an affordability agenda focused specifically on trying to provide more need-based aid to our neediest students at the university,” McCloud said. “Also trying to find some additional aid and support for upper-class students to help ensure that they can complete their degrees if they have emergencies or have financial impediments.”
Prior to the meeting, Nelson talked about her hopes for the forum and the strategic plans
“I earnestly hope that students participate in the session to hear how their feedback throughout the planning process helped shape the plan,” Nelson said. “Seton Hall is committed to providing all students with a premier student experience, including among other things: a welcoming, supportive, and inclusive campus community, a top-tier academy that will only enhance the value of a Seton Hall degree, and a beautifully renovated student center serving as the heart of students’ co-curricular engagement and vibrant hub of campus life.”
Genevieve Krupcheck can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.