In Washington, D.C., last month, I had the privilege of representing Whitman College at the annual meeting of NAICU (National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities). I have attended this meeting numerous times, but this was my inaugural visit as a member of the association’s Board of Directors.
NAICU serves as the unified national voice of independent higher education. At the heart of its mission is representing and advocating on behalf of private colleges and universities across the country on matters such as student aid, taxation and government regulation. The association endeavors to broaden the public’s access to independent education and convey the unique missions and capacities of our schools to leaders of government agencies, foundations and corporations.
Whitman remains a stellar example of a private school dedicated to serving the public good. More than 75 percent of Whitman students receive financial assistance directly from the college, made possible in part by the generosity of individual and foundation donors. As testament to this commitment, both The Princeton Review and Kiplinger’s Personal Finance recently ranked Whitman in their Top-50 “Best Value” institutions — the only college in the Northwest to be ranked by both publications. This external recognition validates what we know to be true: Whitman’s strength rests in its academic rigor, talented faculty and students, high graduation rates and support for students through financial aid.
Even as the downturn in the U.S. economy takes a toll, we remain steadfastly committed to sustaining and advancing Whitman’s academic curriculum and the experiences we offer our students. Although we have trimmed the budget, we are continuing our initiative to support innovation in teaching and learning, thanks to the involvement and philanthropy of several generous and visionary alumni. The gifts provide faculty and staff with resources to develop new approaches to instruction and encourage collaborative projects across divisions, departments and programs. We also are moving forward with plans to revise and strengthen our first-year Core program, a Whitman hallmark that immerses new students into close reading of original texts along with analytical thinking and writing that define their education here. Finally, the view from my office — literally — reveals the ongoing transformation of Sherwood Athletic Center, with a new red brick façade, magnificent climbing wall and a massive skylight that will pour sunshine into the building’s interior. It is spectacular to watch the progress. We are confident that the renovation project, expected to be completed in fall 2009, will enhance the Whitman athletics and sport studies experience.
Thank you for supporting Whitman and for your many inspiring messages over the past few months. With each passing day I am reminded how fortunate we are to have alumni, families and friends as dedicated and loyal as you.
George S. Bridges