State of the College Address: President Webster’s Three-Year Plan to Make the Institution ‘Stronger’

On Wednesday, Wayne Webster, the current president of Albion College, spoke with students about renovation plans. In partnership with Student Senate, Webster held a State of the College address to let students know about plans spanning from spring to summer and open the floor up to dialogue with students (Photo by Seiji McSwain).

On Wednesday, Albion College Student Senate and the Office of the President hosted the first State of the College address since the COVID-19 pandemic. The event was open to all students; it included a presentation by President Wayne Webster and a two-part Q&A session. Student Senate President Sheridan Leinbach, Lansing senior, opened the event by addressing attendees.

“The State of the College address is something that Senate has hosted with the President’s Office historically,” Leinbach said. “It’s one of the many things lost during COVID, but we’re hoping to bring it back now.” 

Before giving the floor to Webster, Leinbach added the event was an opportunity to ask about any rumors students may have heard.

Webster began the address by sharing a “simplified budget explanation” of how much the college receives in revenue compared to its operating expenses.

Webster discusses the Albion College budget with students as two pie charts are displayed. The left chart displays operating costs and the right shows operating expenses (Photo by Seiji McSwain).

According to Webster, the college is bringing in $45,575,000 annually; however, operating costs come in at $58,528,000. The difference in funds has caused a deficit, something Webster said his “three-year plan” will help to take down. The three-year plan is focused on curricular innovation, enhancing experiential learning and investing in student-facing spaces. 

Webster said the plan approaches curriculum changes by asking questions like “What don’t we offer that we should?” and “What do we offer that we shouldn’t?” 

Webster said suggestions are currently being made to change the curriculum, adding that the process is long and the curriculum changes won’t be implemented until 2025. Webster also said that current students will not be affected by curriculum changes; these changes will only impact future incoming students. 

Webster said that two weeks before the State of the College address, faculty voted to change the graduation requirement from 32 to 30 units.

“There have been a lot of students who have left the institution being one or two units short from graduating,” Webster said.

According to Webster’s presentation slides, in terms of experiential learning, Albion College is working to enhance its offerings by “reimagining” hands-on opportunities to better prepare students for careers, graduate schools and service.  As for opportunities in graduate school, Webster said Albion College currently partners with other colleges and universities in the pre-medical and physics departments at Central Michigan, Western Michigan, the University of Michigan and Columbia University.

“In a lot of ways it’s been clear to me that we’ve kind of lost track of those pathways that we already have,” Webster said. “One of the things I think Provost Lewis has worked on is kind of rebirthing those and making sure those are obvious to everybody.” 

Near the end of his speech, Webster said he is looking into investing in student-facing spaces. Currently, there are plans to renovate the lounges in Mitchell Towers, Seaton Hall, Wesley Hall, Whitehouse Hall, a multicultural lounge in the Kellogg Center (KC) and are developing plans for grab-and-go kiosks around campus, Webster said. He added that other building renovations would start this spring and continue into summer, including Goodrich Chapel, the Dow training room, the Mitchell Towers parking lot and related infrastructure, the Kinesiology motion lab and the KC’s Eat Shop.

After his presentation, Webster offered students the chance to ask questions. 

When asked about any changes coming to campus that deal with the accessibility issues on campus and the former plan that the College had under former President Matthew Johnson, Webster said that the campus does have safety and accessibility issues that cannot be ignored.

“There are accessibility focuses of it,” Webster said. “The reality is, probably doing all the things we need to do to this campus will take $100 million easily. I am not one to make plans and not have the dollars.” 

Other members of the Pleiad who attended the event asked questions regarding the Equestrian Center and staff cuts. One staff member asked about the rumors surrounding the Equestrian Center being on the list of potential buildings to be sold.

“What I will say to you is for sure the programs will continue,” Webster said. “The question will be, how do we operate and in what cost-effective way?” 

Another Pleiad staff member asked about the staffing cuts made this semester; what went into the decision and if there was potential for more cuts in the future.

“It (was) not an easy decision, we spent two months really wrestling with it,” Webster said. “Seven were filled, four were vacant.”

Webster added that the staffing cut saved the college $1 million. 

“We are trying to minimize student impact as much as possible,” Webster said, regarding letting go of staff and budget cuts. 

Other students at the address asked questions regarding their concerns about the shrinking student-faculty ratio and low retention. One student said the reason they chose Albion College was its size and the faculty relationships that are formed on a smaller campus. The student said they were concerned about the decline of departments; and what the future of a department looked like with a lack of students or faculty.  

Webster said Albion College currently has a 9-10:1 student-faculty ratio, adding that he has worked to increase recruitment and student retention to increase the student-faculty ratio while keeping that small-college and intimate feel with faculty and students.

“Which frankly is a pretty rich ratio, we should be at 12:13:1. Still, your experience will be very meaningful,” Webster said.

After students finished asking questions, Webster had questions of his own, including why students stay at Albion College. Students’ answers included staying for peers and staff, and the close relationships they are able to create with professors in the classroom. 

Webster said that he wants to contribute to student and institutional success and take “what’s already a strong institution and make it even stronger.” 

“If you’re not having a great experience then things will be done differently,” Webster said. “We’re going to make sure that you’re having the best experience you could possibly have.”

Rhiannon Slotnick and Bella Bakeman also contributed reporting to this story.

About Seiji McSwain 8 Articles
Seiji McSwain is a first-year student from Las Vegas, Nevada and is a Sport Communication major at Albion College. He writes about any sports topics relating to the NFL, NBA, NCAA, Albion College sports and news about sports journalism. He enjoys watching sports, listening to music and video editing. Contact Seiji via email at sdm13@albion.edu

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