State of the College 2018

Hello everyone, I’m Angel Salcedo, class
of 2021. I’m a Sports Communications major from Canton, Massachusetts. I’m
Giuliana Bruno, class of 2019. I’m a Broadcast Journalism major from Albany,
New York. We’re here with President Lee Pelton to talk about his annual State of
the College message. President Pelton, thank you so much for being here. Well,
thank you for inviting me. It’s a real pleasure. So President Pelton, we
understand that Emerson has the largest freshman class in history of the college.
What have we done as a college to make Emerson not only an option for high school students, but a destination? Well, it’s clear that our
brand – if I may call it that – our awareness recognition, has grown
significantly in the last several years but obviously the demand
for an Emerson education has increased. When I arrived here seven years ago, we
were getting about 7500 applicants per year now we are at 13,000. This is for
first-year, first-time students, and if you add in transfer students and second
semester first-year students that number exceeds 14,000. So what does accepting
more students mean for the College? Well it means that there’s broader…there’s more diversity in that it’s a broader net and we thrive on
diversity. Diversity sits at the center of what we do.
Excellence and diversity go hand in hand. You cannot have academic excellence
without diversity and so I’m very pleased that we’ve been able to increase
our diversity in that period of time as well. So this is the most diverse
freshman class in the college’s history, is that correct?
It is. About 27% of the entering class are students of color, and another 16% are
international students. So 43% of entering students represent some kind of
diversity both domestic and international, and we’re very very happy
about that. So as a college, Emerson is very
selective and inexpensive for a lot of families, and I understand that
increasing scholarships is a priority of yours. What does it mean to be able to
offer the opportunity for families who who wouldn’t be able to afford Emerson the opportunity to attend? Right…Well, that’s the number one priority for me and for the College right now is to
increase financial aid. Our financial aid relative to some of our peers is on the
low end of the side of that…but…and we have to find ways to fund the financial
aid. Obviously, we still have some important work to do and we’re going to
move forward on that. We cannot do everything we like to be able to do in a
single year, but over a period of time I think we will get there. So President
Pelton, Emerson offers unique opportunities to study around the world.
Can you tell us about a few of those? Well of course we have the best
undergraduate study abroad abroad program in the in the world at our famed
Kasteel Well in the Netherlands. We also believe that as we enter a global world
in the 21st century, that our students ought to be engaged globally – not just
nationally – and so we’re setting up degree programs in Paris and Switzerland
within the next two years and then after that we hope to set up degree programs
in Sydney, Australia and in Hong Kong. Right now, our students and our faculty
are present on six of the seven continents. The only continent where we
don’t have a program is in Antarctica, and who knows maybe someday we’ll be
there as well. And how does that, from a student’s perspective, how does that
broaden the students view of the world, and going out into the real world, being
able to take different experiences from different parts of the world? Well, first
of all, I believe that intercultural competence is so important in the world
in which we live today. We live in a global world. We’re interconnected in a
way that we weren’t, you know, fifty years ago, even thirty years
ago. Many students will live and work and study outside of the US for some period
of their lives and so we believe that exposure to different cultures and
people and cities is really important for a Emerson student to be
fully educated. Shifting back to the Boston campus… As a former Little
Building resident, it’s kind of weird to see the building empty and under
construction. Emerson has been buying and renovating property, and students want to
know why. So what is your vision for the College? Well, let me speak about the Little Building a little bit because I think
it’s not well known, but when I arrived at Emerson they was scaffolding
around the Little Building, so it’s been up there for at least a decade, I think. The issue is that the facade was falling off and the scaffolding was
there to prevent the facade from caulking someone in the head was walking
up and down Tremont or Boylston Street. It cost us about two million dollars a
year just to mitigate the risks associated with the facade falling off,
and so structural engineers said, you know you’ve got to replace this at some
time, at some point, and that’s what we’re doing right now. It is enormously
expensive…just enormously expensive…and so our view was rather than just
replacing the exterior, but still having the same facility that we should go in
to that Little Building, restructure it so that feels like a new building, and
add two hundred and eighty beds. So that’s what we’re doing in a Little
Building. I think you will also recall that the dining hall used to be in the
Little Building, so we had to move it out for two years and we looked around to
see what it would cost to move it temporarily for two years, and that cost
was almost the same as building a new dining hall altogether. So that’s what we
did. And then Two Boylston Place was to offset the 750 beds that are in the
Little Building somewhat. So that facility is 380 beds. So when we’re done, we will have 660 new beds on campus, and the
revenue from that will help to pay for the Little Building, and help to pay for
Two Boylston Street. President Pelton, moving on to inclusive excellence at
Emerson, which we spoke earlier about Emerson being so diverse,
especially this year in the upcoming years… What does that mean in the
classroom for students? What kind of view are they getting with such a diverse
student body? Well, you know, I think to be really honest, while our students are
diverse in a variety of ways, they’re probably not that diverse politically.
We are pretty monolithic place, but we want to ensure that, you know, that
all points of view, political points of view, ways of seeing the world, or express
or acknowledged in the classroom. This is really tricky for our faculty, and
so our faculty go through cultural training in order to be
prepared for managing the classroom, if I can if I can call it that…but it’s very important. The College recently held its third annual Teach In
On Race… Rachel Crow was the keynote speaker, and she was incredible. Why is important to bring those voices to Emerson every year? Well, I think it’s
important for our students and even the larger community to engage with some of
the signals, significant issues, of the day. Race is one of those issues, but
embedded in that is also class…must be embedded in that. And so having our
students and faculty engaged in serious thoughtful conversations around race,
around class, and the implications of both, is really paramount for us.
Innovation is one of our core values at Emerson. How is Emerson continuing to
advance innovation in our community? Well, you know the wonderful thing
is innovation with students – with respect to innovation for students – we don’t have
to do much because the ever since students are wonderfully innovative and creative
and oftentimes we’re just trying to keep pace with their creative and innovative
impulses. On the other hand, innovation is one of the five pillars of
excellence, and so we’ve made investments in innovative programs. The engagement
lab – which is really a wonderful program that goes into communities and engages
communities around issues, we created the Launch program, which will allow students
to start their own businesses before they leave Emerson. The E3 program – the
entrepreneur enterprise program – is also very innovative… So we have a lot of programs like that. In fact, Forbes Magazine said that we were one of the
most innovative colleges in the nation. I think we ranked in the top 13, or
something like that. I’m not surprised! On a completely different note, I follow you
on Instagram, and I’ve noticed that you had students over for
dinner at your place. How do I get invited? Well, anybody can
come. There’s a notice that goes out through various social media channels, and you just have to sign up very quickly because it gets full very
quickly. You know, those are some of the…I love those. I love sitting around the
table with students, with young people, who are so energetic and bright and
innovative as you said. Winston Churchill said that civilization begins at the
dining table, and that’s where it begins for us in those settings. So last last
thoughts here… the College has grown so much in the last years since I’ve been
here. It feels like a completely different place. Where do you see the
ceiling for Emerson? Well, we are going stay about the same
size at the undergraduate level…don’t want to get larger because
I think the intimacy – the scale of students to faculty – is about right. We
don’t want to be NYU, we don’t want to be Northwestern, we don’t want to be
Syracuse – great places, but they’re very large places. That’s not who we are.
We’re growing our graduate programs and growing our online programs and so
that’s bringing in revenue and so on, so I think the scale is about
right and what we want to do is to make sure that the experiences that students
have are richer, they’re exciting, they’re innovative, they’re creative
and as I said earlier, we want to provide all of our students with more resources
so that they can attend here without all the anxiety of a lot of student debt and
having to work you know, not one, but two jobs, and I know some students in fact do
that. Well, President Pelton, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us
today. Thank you. Thank you. To learn more, take a look at President Lee
Pelton’s full State of the College message.

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