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April 14, 2008

Lessons Learned

In September 2007, shortly after I began my tenure as Shepherd University's 15th president, I asked for input from the University's stakeholders in the form of a survey that asked five questions:

1. What are Shepherd's most distinctive characteristics, assets, and strengths?
2. What are the most critical issues and challenges that you see facing Shepherd?
3. What special opportunities are before the University?
4. What advice do you have for Dr. Shipley?
5. Is there anything more you would like to share?

Five hundred and eleven of you responded to the survey, offering more than 3,400 comments and opinions to the five questions posed.

Respondents touted Shepherd's beautiful campus, community feel, dedicated faculty and staff, low tuition, proximity to the D.C. metro area, and demanding curriculum.

Challenges noted were parking, not enough full-time faculty, weakening state funding support, aging physical plant, and the need for competitive salaries.

Opportunities cited included expansion of graduate programs, better working relationships with town and county governments, and planned campus growth to retain the small school feel.

My favorite part of the survey was the advice section where you advised me to listen and talk to students (I am!); appreciate hard-working staff and faculty (I do!); and plan and grow the campus wisely (I will!). You also advised me to be out and about constantly, yet take plenty of time to rest (I'll try!).

The wide variety of comments has been distilled to five lessons learned:

1. Shepherd University is what it says it is and should continue being so.
2. There is a shared concern about the impact of Shepherd's growth on the campus and the town with the chief issues being parking and transportation.
3. There is significant interest in Shepherd's graduate studies program and for planned growth of academic programs, including greater flexibility in programming for working adults.
4. There is strong agreement on the value of our highly qualified faculty and dedicated staff who deserve regular gestures of appreciation.
5. Survey results urge Shepherd's leadership to listen, to be open, and to be accessible. The University must be ready and willing to face the challenges ahead as a close-knit community.

The survey results were announced during a public meeting for stakeholders held on campus in December 2007. The results also have been presented to the Shepherd University Board of Governors, the Student Government Association, the Classified Employees Council, and the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission and are now being folded into the existing strategic planning process.

Thanks to all the students, faculty, staff, community members, alumni, public officials, and board members who took the time to send me their comments. I read each and every survey submitted and found the comments enlightening, instructive, warm, generous, and humorous.

Your thoughtful remarks make me glad to be a part of the Shepherd University family. Together we can, as one survey respondent wrote, make Shepherd the most sought after university in the state of West Virginia.


Shepherd University | Office of the President | P.O. Box 3210 | Shepherdstown, West Virginia | 25443-3210
304-876-5107 | 800-344-5231