August 31, 2005      
 
Survey Review

In February 2005, alumni, faculty, staff and students were invited to complete an on-line survey that had three main purposes:
1. Branding: to gain perspectives on the reputation, strengths and weaknesses of Bishop’s University.
2. Strategic Planning: to elicit opinions and ideas to help shape strategic priorities.
3. Capital Campaign: to identify opportunities and strategies for a next major campaign.

Participation in the survey: Alumni 17%; Faculty 53%; Staff 54%; Students 40%.

As a follow-up to the survey, Principal Poupart and Chancellor Griffin met with groups of alumni in Toronto, Montreal and Lennoxville. Twelve meetings were also held on campus to give faculty and staff an opportunity to hear about the survey results as well as express their views on Bishop’s. Some observations follow:

Size: Small was the adjective chosen most often by participants (88%) and, in discussing reputation, a vast majority affirmed that a small and intimate learning environment characterize Bishop’s. Discussions ensued about the meaning of small, and every group decided the crucial aspects of small are modest class sizes and close interaction with faculty. Any further increase in students must be accompanied by hiring new faculty, preferably full-time professors. Individuals on campus noted that significant growth in numbers will also require additional staff resources and, in all likelihood, physical renovation and expansion on campus as well. Graduates stressed that small is better.

Liberal Education: The word “liberal” ranked 10 of 49 in a list of adjectives associated with Bishop’s reputation, yet there is no consensus on the definition of a “liberal” or, as a term used interchangeably, “liberal arts” education. All agreed that liberal education has not been well-branded or promoted in Canada, but it is highly valued for developing well-educated and well-rounded individuals. As one staff member put it, “a liberal education gives students the foundation for their lives.” Others touted flexible programs and inter-disciplinary opportunities as the basis of a liberal education.

Purpose of an undergraduate degree: the top three choices were the same for faculty, staff and students and confirm their belief in the value of a liberal or liberal arts education (however it’s defined) in that abstract benefits take precedence over practical ones. Preparing for a specific career, for instance, ranked last according to alumni, faculty and staff and second to last for students.

Some suggested we promote Bishop's as offering “a liberal education plus some specialties” to encompass our strong programs such as Business and Education.

The Bishop’s Experience: Our current marketing material uses the term “Bishop’s Experience,” but what does it mean? Many graduates think we need to do a better job of defining the experience. Others commented that it can be hard to define a perception. Many spoke of the changing student values, leading to a more “enlightened” and diverse campus. With change comes the challenge to adapt – for instance, to improve facilities for recreation and athletics, designate space for student lounges, create a learning commons in the Library, and establish locations and events that are non-alcoholic.

Many individuals equate a liberal education/experience with leadership. They believe small universities develop leaders because of the ease with which students can get involved in a variety of activities. Somehow we should link small and intimate to leadership development as a way to promote Bishop’s.

The well-rounded experience is clearly important to stakeholders, and many claim it to be the greatest strength of Bishop’s. Comments during sessions included: “The Bishop’s Experience is 24/7,” “whatever you want to do, you can do it at Bishop’s,” “Bishop’s teaches students about values and relationships,” and “being small contributes to social development.”

Taking the discussion a step further, some observed: “Small is beautiful, but quality has to be priority number one.” “We should be about more than environment; we need to be an incubator for success.” “Place a premium on getting involved to ensure every student gains a well-rounded experience.”

Capital Campaign as a topic came up near the end of the sessions. On campus it was clear there will be no shortage of projects for which departments will submit funding requests. Everyone agreed we need to articulate the direction of Bishop’s in a strategic plan, albeit a fluid one, to ensure all funding requests support and advance our plan.

The five most preferred funding priorities (grouping all respondents) were the Library 57%; Academic programmes 44%; Academic Scholarships 43%; Need-based bursaries 40%; Equipment upgrade 34%.
 
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