McPherson College President Michael Schneider welcomed students to campus in a virtual all-campus convocation Friday, August 28 that highlighted school milestones and reminded students to take care of each other.
“Although there continues to be uncertainty, know one thing – you are right where you need to be,” President Schneider said. “Together we can navigate this challenging year safely and successfully. We have a lot to be proud of as we begin this year.”
The fall semester began on August 17 with more than 300 new students and the largest enrollment in school history, continuing the college’s upward enrollment trend established over the past five years. Students arrived on campus in phases over several weeks to reduce social interaction during the move-in process. With record growth, President Schneider said he recognizes that the campus is outgrowing student common spaces. Last year, the college announced plans for a new campus center.
“We are making progress on our plans for a new campus center and have hired an architect who is finalizing the initial plans for the new building,” President Schneider said. “There will be opportunities this year for the campus to engage in conversations on how to best use the new space.”
More students are also participating in the McPherson College Student Debt Project. In its second full year, the program has more than doubled in size. The project focuses on financial literacy and mentoring, as well as starting financial discipline that lasts a lifetime. In addition, students in the program commit to work during college and the college matches a portion of their earnings. Last year, students in the program reduced their average projected debt by $10,000, President Schneider said.
“Students participating in the debt project have 30 percent less debt than the rest of the student body,” President Schneider said. “When you add the Student Debt Project to our success placing graduates in jobs, McPherson College is offering a solid foundation for student success.”
Focus on career education and experiential learning is throughout the McPherson College curriculum. Outcomes for the class of 2020 are on track with previous years at more than 95 percent in careers within six months of graduation. Two-thirds report having a job or post-graduation outcome before they graduate – three times higher than the national average.
“We maintained our high outcome results last spring during a very uncertain time in the job market,” President Schneider said. “That speaks volumes about the kind of graduates we are preparing and about our focus on career exploration.”
Health Science, a new program added this fall, relies on experiential learning and gives students opportunities through community partnerships to get real-world training in a variety of health care professions. There are 30 students in the program this fall including seven new Health Care Scholars who will participate in signature outreach experiences.
Providing experiences beyond the classroom goes further than academics at McPherson College. Bulldog Adventures, a program introduced last year engages students with the great outdoors of Kansas. Bulldog Adventures has hosted hiking trips, float trips, a fishing derby, disc golf, and many other outdoor related activities. This year in addition to the planned monthly adventures, students will have opportunities to build their own adventures choosing from several options with gear provided by the college. Already this semester, Bulldog Adventures teamed with Student Life to offer several activities during the first 40 days on campus. The program will work with the Natural Science department developing an outdoor adventure education center later this semester.
The college also continues its work to combat racism on campus with small group discussions and a campus-wide conversation facilitated by the Kansas Leadership Center for all employees this fall. A campus task force and student work group meet regularly to discuss actions the college can implement to support and create antiracism activities this year.
A video of the opening convocation is at www.mcpherson.edu/covid/campus-updates.