As I approach the mid-point of my fifth year as Whitman's president, I hope it has become clear to all of you that I am a passionate advocate for the liberal arts mode of education that has always been at the core of what we do at Whitman. Today, we find the liberal arts under attack from a multitude of directions, and I believe it is incumbent upon people in roles like mine to speak out - loudly and often - about the value of what we do here. What could be more important than educating the next generation of informed citizens in thinking critically; speaking and writing in an articulate fashion; discerning truth from lies and half-truths; working in teams across difference and engaging in difficult dialogues? That's what we do in the liberal arts at Whitman, regardless of what major a student chooses to pursue.

Whitman College president Kathy Murray

Thankfully, the M. J. Murdock Charitable Trust, a Vancouver, Washington-based foundation that funds nonprofit projects and programs across Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington, shares this belief and earlier this year brought together leadership groups from colleges and universities they fund for a two-day conference talking about "Leading Through Change." It was a rare opportunity to have focused, data-driven conversations over an extended period with the president, provost, chief financial officer, chair of the faculty, chair of the board and vice-chair of one of our board committees all deeply engaged. It was a huge investment of time and absolutely well worth it.

The consultants for the conference pulled together an amazing collection of data about each of our institutions and created charts showing how we are doing compared to peer colleges on hundreds of measures of financial and programmatic health. The good news, which I hope won't surprise any of you, is that we compare very well with our peers. Our programs are strong, our faculty and staff are open to and willing to embrace change, and our finances have been extraordinarily well-managed for decades.

The data also helped us to understand the challenges we face, especially when it comes to the declining percentage of admitted students who accept our offers of admission and ultimately matriculate at Whitman. This is a national issue, but we recognize that we cannot simply blame the national landscape. We believe we have to do a much better job of connecting the fabulous liberal arts education our students receive in our classrooms to "life after Whitman," to the lives of meaning and purpose our students will pursue after graduation.

Research shows that employers value all of what our students learn; in fact, they value the broad skills they develop more than any particular major. But our students need to know how to share the story of what they have learned and how that experience makes them ideal candidates for jobs or graduate school. That is the goal of our Life After Whitman strategic priority. We seek to be able to guarantee every student funding for a paid internship or a paid collaborative research opportunity with a faculty member during their time at Whitman. And we will require each student to qualify for that funding by participating in co-curricular programming related to the world of work, financial literacy, and resume writing and interviewing skills. We believe this is the next critical component in demonstrating to all of our prospective students and their parents the value of a Whitman education.

Signature of Whitman College's President Kathleen Murray