Fall is always an energizing time at Alverno College. Student laughter fills the halls, and classrooms are brimming with new ideas. As the number of traditional-aged students grows at Alverno, I’ve been thinking about our new first-year students and how Alverno can best serve the next generation of strong women.
The class of 2019 is an interesting one. Most of them were born into a world where technology has always been at the forefront. These students rely on Google, texting, social media and Wi-Fi, and they view email – not letter writing – as a formal form of communication.
Many of them aren’t impressed by someone being named the “first woman” to hold a position or to reach a certain level of achievement. They expect women to be leaders.
For the class of 2019, female firsts are old news – thanks in part to women like those who have walked through Alverno’s doors. I’m proud to say Alverno has been empowering women for 128 years, and many of our alumnae have “firsts” among their achievements.
So for this generation, unimpressed by firsts, what does Alverno have to offer?
The answer is a great deal – and much of it is what has always attracted students to Alverno.
Take Hayley Aspenson, an incoming first-year from Cedarburg, Wis., who is working toward a nursing career. She chose Alverno because she thinks our ability-based curriculum will be the best way for her to grow and succeed. The idea of competing with herself rather than other students appeals to her. Hayley told us: “I am most looking forward to building strong relationships with friends and faculty so I can succeed, and also to building a stronger relationship with my best self. I think Alverno will bring out the best in me, and I’m very excited about that.”
I know Alverno has a way of bringing out the best in our students, and I look forward to seeing what Hayley will accomplish during her time with us.
Many of our students are like Hayley. They are looking for a college environment where they can discover their strengths. They want small class sizes and a high level of faculty interaction. At Alverno, they receive individual attention that challenges them to reach their fullest potential.
As in years past, most members of our incoming class are local: 91 percent are from Wisconsin. Nursing remains the top major chosen by students in the incoming class, but other fields are growing in prominence, including psychology, pre-med and biology. More than 40 percent of our incoming class declared a science major.
New nursing student Kathryn Hoban chose Alverno for its exceptional reputation in the medical field. She says: “It was very important to me that the school I attended was well respected by seasoned professionals who understood the challenges faced in practice.”
Remaining relevant to the next generation of students requires an openness to new ways of thinking. I’m proud that Alverno’s community is adaptable and innovative.
One innovation we launched this fall is the Center for Academic Excellence. Our faculty identified that a large percentage of our student body can be characterized as highly academically prepared by traditional measures, such as testing. These are the students taking Advanced Placement courses in high school, and they want assurance that college will continue to challenge them.
The Center for Academic Excellence will ensure Alverno identifies opportunities that require even more academic rigor than our already challenging programs. The creation of this center is just one example of how Alverno continues to evolve to meet the needs of its students.
Alverno has been developing strong women for years, and the key to our success is our focus on continuous improvement – for faculty and staff as well as students. I’m so very proud to see their work recognized in the U.S. News & World Report’s 2016 America’s Best Colleges Guidebook.
For the sixth straight year, Alverno is the only Wisconsin college to rank in the top five Midwest Regional Universities for Strong Commitment to Teaching. This year, we also ranked number one on the list of Most Innovative Schools among Regional Universities, a new category that recognizes “innovative improvements in terms of curriculum, faculty, students, campus life, technology or facilities.”
Each generation of students is different from the last. By focusing on innovation, we can and must continue to the meet their changing needs.
The number of female firsts is dwindling, but the fact remains that the world still needs more strong women. As long as it does, Alverno is here to help women discover their strengths.
Mary J. Meehan, Ph.D.