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University of Hartford President Walter Harrison greeted faculty, staff, and some students at the University’s annual Kickoff event on Wednesday, Aug. 27, with a sense of optimism about the upcoming academic year and the overall environment for higher education. He also took time to acquaint those just returning to campus with the significant physical improvements that were made to the campus over the summer.
While noting that the past few years have been difficult due to economic and demographic conditions, Harrison said there are signs that the environment is starting to change.
“I see real opportunities for us, and I believe those opportunities are based on our traditional strengths as an educational institution,” he said, as he focused the crowd’s attention on the set of five strategic directions outlined in the “University of Hartford Strategic Plan, 2014–2019.”. (Click here to see the full plan)
Harrison said, “Goal one focuses on defining what lies at the base of a University of Hartford education, goal two encourages us to develop partnerships that will enable our graduates to move smoothly into the world of work, of fulfilling careers and personal lives. And goal three focuses on transforming our core educational values, especially our sense of connectedness, into on-line education.
“We will do this in a focused and deliberative manner, but with all due speed. The future will not wait for us,” he said.
Harrison noted that each of the five goals in the Strategic Plan has an implementation team of faculty staff and those teams will be holding open sessions in the weeks to come. He urged members of the University to attend those sessions to learn more and to offer their input.
Harrison added that he and Provost Sharon Vasquez will be attending faculty meetings at each of the University’s seven schools and colleges to discuss the importance of the Strategic Plan and how each school and college fits into it.
The president also highlighted the University’s branding and marketing campaign. The visual results of the campaign can be seen in the banners around campus, in the new design in the interior of Bates House, in the redesign of the University’s view books, alumni website and fundraising materials. “Our goal is simple: to take the essential value of the University and use it to differentiate us from our competition in order to increase our enrollment and broaden our alumni and donor support,” Harrison said as he showed off T-shirts that are being given to the incoming first-year students. The shirts are emblazoned with the message “UHart: What’s Inside Sets Us Apart.”
He spoke with great pride in the physical improvements made to the campus and its facilities this summer. “I’m sure you’ll agree with me that the campus has never looked better. These improvements are an essential part of our efforts to make our campus more attractive to visiting prospective students and faculty,” he said. “But what our grounds crew has done so far exceeded my expectations that I simply can’t describe it.”
Harrison said he believes the campus community will be very impressed with the new look of the University Commons dining facility. “What a brilliant makeover of this 40-year old building. I am certain this will transform University life,” he said.
In January, the University will add a Subway to the Konover Campus Center to add a healthy late-night alternative for students, and next summer, the Dorothy Goodwin Café will be transformed into a full-fledged Starbucks, while keeping the Goodwin name and visual identity.
Harrison also highlighted the completely redesigned and renovated Campus Store, which also yielded new academic space for the University’s architecture program and bringing the graduate architecture program back onto campus.
President Harrison also outlined some activities that are beginning this fall, including the implementation of the second phase of the strategic faculty compensation increase plan. Also this fall, the University will begin a similar review of its staff salary structure with an eye towards where increased resources for supporting staff should be devoted.
He noted that this past year was the University’s most successful for fundraising since 2008, as more than $7.25 million was raised. The University is beginning work on a new, targeted fundraising campaign aimed at increased support for student financial aid. So far, the University has cash or commitments of about $4 million for this purpose.
He also reminded those in attendance that beginning this fall, a number of members of the Department of Public Safety will begin carrying firearms. Those officers went through more than 70 hours of training before being selected, he said, adding that the goal is to create a more immediate response to an emergency situation in this current environment.
Also this fall, Ellucian, the nation’s leading provider of technology services to higher education, will take over the management of the University’s Information Technology Services department. “Our intention here is not to save money—this is a budget neutral decision—but to enhance the resources available to us in providing support for our academic and administrative programs,” Harrison said.
The full text of President Harrison’s remarks can be found by clicking the link below.