Interim President-Elect Colette Irwin-Knott sent out an email earlier this month to Valparaiso University Alumni, informing them of some concerns regarding campus administration. This email was then forwarded to faculty, staff and students later in the day.
“In the spirit of transparency, it is important to address some fundamental concerns and to spread truth, not rumors. Therefore, I’d like to address some of the inaccuracies I’m hearing directly from some Valpo alumni,” Irwin-Knott said in the email.
First on the agenda was enrollment. This year, the university had 637 first year students enrolled for the fall semester, compared to the 649 first year students who were enrolled in the fall of 2019.
However, this incoming first year class does fall short of the 800 first year student goal.
One reason for the deficit from fall 2019 to fall 2020 is the decline in international student enrollment. These students had “unique challenges obtaining visas and arranging travel due to the pandemic.”
Another reason, also related to the pandemic, was due to the difficulty of recruiting the high school class of 2020.
“The Board of Directors has approved a significant investment in marketing, which has allowed us to increase advertising through a number of methods. In addition, our Undergraduate Admission team has been hard at work developing new ways to connect with prospective students on campus and virtually, reassuring them that Valpo remains totally committed to their full potential,” read the email.
Next up was the endowment, which has increased 88% since 2011.
“The success of Forever Valpo: The Campaign for Our Future and the commitment to continue the campaign another two years will only further strengthen the University’s endowment,” Irwin-Knott said in the email.
Finally, Irwin-Knott touched on the number of faculty. Over the past few years, the university has added many new majors and minors, which created more than 10 new faculty positions. The addition of these programs comes with a high demand of students wanting to pursue those courses.
Conversely, the university has also seen a shift in the number of students showing interest in other majors. Some majors that the university offers have been placed in a discontinuation review process.
“After current students enrolled in a discontinued major graduate, the program will wind down and related faculty appointments will conclude. Additionally, some lecturer, adjunct faculty, and non-tenured faculty member positions have been reduced in majors,” Irwin-Knott said in the email. “While I have heard speculation that there have been drastic cuts to the number of Valparaiso University faculty, in reality, there has been a steady contraction of the faculty to correspond with the size of the student population. A significant portion of this decrease is related to the Law School’s closure.”
Irwin-Knott makes it a point to emphasize communication and to remain transparent with the Valpo community.
She has been attending various meetings with the Faculty and Student Senate, the University Council and many other groups on campus.
Irwin-Knott said in her email, “I believe it is important to share information when it is available and appropriate to do so and that trust is built through respect and mutual understanding.”