White Paper #6: Joining Wofford College's mission and why that's important

Over Homecoming Weekend, Wofford College announced the public phase of a $300 million comprehensive campaign. "For Wofford: The Campaign for Wofford" is the most ambitious in the history of the college. The announcement was exciting in and of itself, but even more so when combined with the fact that the college already has secured $262 million in gifts and pledges toward our goal. That means before 2022, Wofford College leaders and advancement officers must raise an additional $38 million to fund vital needs that will ensure Wofford’s place as a national liberal arts college committed to fulfilling its mission for generations to come.

This campaign builds on the college’s strategic vision and is a reaffirmation of the pillars of the Wofford liberal arts experience. Fundraising efforts during the For Wofford campaign will focus on:

STUDENT OPPORTUNITY IN AN INCLUSIVE COMMUNITY: This pillar supports the recruitment and retention of outstanding students and provides access to a superior liberal arts education through endowed scholarship funding. Also included are student success initiatives, wellness programming and signature opportunities in the areas of study abroad, internships, entrepreneurial training and student-faculty research.

EXCELLENCE IN ACADEMICS: As teachers, mentors, researchers and innovators, Wofford’s faculty is at the heart of the educational experience, and this pillar supports opportunities for faculty development, recruitment and retention. Included within this pillar are endowed professorships, endowed programmatic support, curriculum enhancements and new course development funding.

DISTINCTIVE STUDENT EXPERIENCES: Providing distinctive student experiences means supporting hands-on, experiential learning across fields, disciplines and programs designed to prepare Wofford’s superior students for meaningful lives as citizens, leaders and scholars. Funding secured in support of this pillar will support community-based learning, including Wofford's Bonner Scholars program; the college's residential living and learning experience; our Division I athletics program and the student-athlete model; and endowment for high-impact academic and co-curricular programming.

OUR HISTORIC CAMPUS: Wofford’s campus is distinctive, and this pillar focuses on improving the physical campus to create dynamic learning and living spaces that encourage discovery and collaboration. In addition to the recent major enhancements to the campus in the Stewart H. Johnson Greek Village, the Rosalind Sallenger Richardson Center for the Arts and the Jerry Richardson Indoor Stadium, the college plans to increase endowment in the areas of facility sustainability and intends to renovate the Sandor Teszler Library, replace Black Science Annex and renovate the Campus Life Building.

Leading into the campaign, I offered a series of white papers to elucidate the value of the liberal arts educational experience with specific emphasis on Wofford College and its mission. The Wofford community is built around a shared commitment to excellence that has, over the past 164 years, cultivated Wofford's national reputation for rigorous academics, outstanding faculty, study abroad participation and successful graduates, graduates who get far more from Wofford College than an academic major or career path, graduates who have honed the skills and cultivated a sense of ethics to become valued citizens and leaders as well as scholars.

Dr. James H. Carlisle, who served the college as president for 27 years from 1875 until his death in 1902, was on the college's first faculty. A great orator and considered one of the finest citizens of the day, Carlisle wrote: "The student ought to be educated not simply or chiefly because he intends to become a farmer, lawyer or statesman, but because he is a human being — with inlets of joy, with possibilities of effort and action that no trade or calling can satisfy or exhaust. ... Scholarship and character are too close together for young people to build up the one and at the same time tear down the other."

Wofford has evolved over the years with the needs and changes in society, but Carlisle's words ring just as true today as they did 150 years ago. By focusing on fostering a commitment to excellence in character, performance, leadership, service to others and lifelong learning, Wofford, indeed, is fulfilling its mission of providing superior liberal arts education that prepares students for extraordinary and positive contributions to society.

For Wofford: Our Historic Campus

(Referenced in White Paper #2)

Because Wofford is a residential college — with 94 percent of students living on campus all four years — students live, study, travel and explore their interests outside of the classroom together. This close-knit community lends itself to positive interpersonal relationships, support and encouragement and is central to creating the community ethos that remains a hallmark of the Wofford experience. Place, however, plays a vital role in making these interactions possible, and Wofford intentionally maximizes the impact of the physical campus to do just that.

According to Wofford's strategic vision, "Extraordinary citizens and lifelong learners emerge organically — and a great college provides the right conditions for that organic process to occur. Students must have room to create and explore in creative physical, intellectual and virtual spaces." In those spaces they will engage with faculty, debate each other and challenge ideas.

On Wofford’s 180-acre campus, students have natural spaces, equipment-filled labs, technology-enhanced classrooms, intimate seminar rooms, art studios, music practice rooms, coffee shops, dining facilities, laundry rooms, residence halls and group gathering spaces, spaces to promote health and well-being, spaces to cheer, spaces to have fun, spaces to study and spaces to rehearse presentations. There are computer labs and art galleries and performance halls and arenas — spaces that are vital for student growth and transformation. At Wofford they also are aesthetically pleasing.

Wofford’s well-maintained buildings and grounds are often a first impression when prospective students and their families visit, and so it is easy to contend that our facilities and grounds team are integral to recruiting the next class of Terriers! Creating and maintaining our beautiful campus, however, is certainly not just about appealing to prospective students and their families; it is fundamentally about the safety and wellness of current students, the respect we have for this place where so many have lived and made lasting friendships, and the nurturing of a deep and lifelong love of learning and reflection. Supporting our historic campus and its development over time is essential to preserving a Wofford experience that has touched the lives of students on this very ground since 1854.

For Wofford: Distinctive Student Experiences

(Referenced in White Paper #1 and #4)

The baseline knowledge and competencies that students develop in college are necessary, but no longer enough. That's why it's essential to provide opportunities for co-curricular experiences to complement Wofford's rigorous academic program in ways that are practical and future-focused.

Among the co-curricular offerings open to students at Wofford are opportunities for undergraduate research, internships, global study and travel, entrepreneurial training, work on a student publications staff, participation in pre-professional organizations and community-based learning. All give students opportunities to make a difference, find purpose and understand what it means to engage civically as well as academically.  And by applying knowledge gained in the classroom to real situations and challenges, the space of the “classroom” itself extends to wherever our students may be. Often these co-curricular experiences don't add credit hours to a student's transcript, but they complement Wofford's liberal arts curriculum in ways that are essential.

Achieving intentional, meaningful and individualized co-curricular programming is labor-intensive work. It requires trained professionals who are creative, experienced and dedicated to student success, people who foster in students a commitment to excellence, intellectual curiosity, lifelong learning, global awareness and social consciousness. Steven Mintz of the University of Texas and Michael Patrick Rutter of MIT call intentional emphasis on a robust co-curricular program "meeting students where they are." They contend that distinctive student experiences define the institution.1

Employers and graduate school admission committees want college graduates who can work with people who have different views, who understand democratic issues and values, who have the capacity to contribute to the greater good, who have a breadth of knowledge and can make connections across disciplines, and who have the intercultural skills to live and work in the global community.2 We all want neighbors and friends with these same social competencies.

Nationally recognized liberal arts colleges such as Wofford know how to seamlessly blend the co-curricular with the curricular and why it is important to the transformational experience of each and every student. We must remain committed to expanding these opportunities for students across all disciplines and fields of activity.

For Wofford: Excellence in Academics

(Referenced in White Paper #5)

Wofford College is a community with places to live, play, explore and prepare for the future, but most importantly and most fundamentally it is a place to learn. This means Wofford must have an abundance of people who teach, mentor, advise and support students both inside and outside the classroom. Wofford faculty guides the classroom experience and helps build a community of scholars on campus, certainly, but faculty members also further elevate the student experience by engaging through their disciplines in the larger academic commons. Research, travel, conference attendance and presentations, study and writing fuel our faculty intellectually, which, in turn, enhances classroom experiences and creates further opportunities for our students.

This summer two Wofford College students approached a professor about doing summer research with supercomputers. Wofford does not have a $200 million supercomputer, but that didn't stop Dr. Beau Christ, assistant professor of computer science; Kevin Shin ’19 and Diego Losada Rubio ’21 from figuring it out. Christ contacted Dr. Bob Panoff, Wofford's scientist-in-residence, who also is executive director of the Shodor Foundation. Through the Shodor Foundation, the college secured a LittleFe supercomputing appliance and developed a partnership with the National Center for Supercomputing Applications and the Blue Waters Petascale Computing Project at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The students became learners in the XSEDE EMPOWER program, funded through the National Science Foundation. They met their learning goals, attended national workshops and conferences, made contacts in the greater computer science community and already are encouraging other Wofford students to take advantage of new opportunities in high-performance computing.

At the same time a group of Wofford faculty was part of a larger conversation in the Spartanburg community about healthy living and community resilience. Dr. Laura Barbas Rhoden, professor of modern languages, literatures and cultures, and Dr. Christine Dinkins, William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of philosophy, decided to take advantage of opportunities through Wofford for collaborative faculty-student research to engage four students in phenomenological research and observation centered on the ideas of inclusive place, community and health, with a focus on the growing Latinx community.

The Wofford community nurtures a culture in which high-impact activities bring students and faculty together in various ways, in which students and faculty work with community partners to generate insights into real and complex issues, and in which students engage in challenging intellectual opportunities on campus and off, all as a means to help students prepare themselves for lives of personal fulfillment and societal responsibility.

Inside the classroom our faculty defines the curriculum and exposes students both to the essential foundational or classical knowledge that sustains us as human beings and the knowledge that prepares us for the future. Faculty fosters in students an affinity for civic engagement, global citizenship and moral responsibility. Faculty members bring ideas from the larger academic realm to the Wofford community and share Wofford innovations through their professional networks.

Because our faculty invests so much in Wofford students, it is important that the college invest in the faculty. As a college we must raise support for their endeavors — for advancing faculty development opportunities, for endowed professorships and chairs, and for endowments to support faculty-student collaborative research to promote innovation and experimentation in the classroom. Your support affirms our commitment to excellence and the centrality of the faculty-student relationship that is the essence of the Wofford experience.

For Wofford: Student Opportunity in an Inclusive Community

(Referenced in White Paper #1 and #3)

The quest for the American Dream is as real today as it was generations ago, and, while higher education can be the path to that dream, the cost of higher education can seem like an obstacle; all of us in higher education understand this challenge and do not take it lightly. A 2017 report from College Board explains that considering affordability means considering a variety of factors: economic inequality, average family income, the prices of other goods and services, savings rates, personal preferences and priorities, and even future expected income.3 Also, I think it is important to consider an institution’s quality, focus on student success and commitment to timely completion.

To make the Wofford experience more accessible for all, the college recently joined the American Talent Initiative, a nationwide effort to substantially increase the number of talented low- and moderate-income students at the nation's top-performing undergraduate institutions with the highest graduation rates. Research shows that when high-achieving, lower-income students attend institutions such as Wofford, they graduate at higher rates and are more likely to hold leadership positions and enjoy the connections and opportunities for advancement that will carry them beyond college into the workforce or graduate school.4

Each semester that a student extends college beyond four years means extra costs, even additional loans. In addition to the compounded cost of tuition, students who do not graduate in four years incur lost opportunity costs, the price associated with lost wages or time that could be spent earning an advanced degree. An ABC financial fitness special in 2016 estimated the cost of delaying graduation by even one year at $155,244 considering tuition and interest on loans, missed income and lost compounded retirement savings.5 Wofford’s most recent four-year graduation rate of 81 percent (2013 first-year cohort) is higher than the national four-year average of 40 percent and even the six-year national average of 59 percent6. In addition, every year Wofford College runs more than $50 million in student aid through its budget; 93 percent of Wofford students receive some form of financial aid.

Simply stated, the ability to offer financial aid means the ability to offer access. It also means the ability to recruit students who continue Wofford’s tradition of excellence and who strengthen student learning by bringing and sharing their life experiences in the classroom and out. The act of giving to create or support a scholarship is the single most significant thing friends of the college can do, for it will touch the lives of students for as long as Wofford College educates young women and men on this historic ground.


Our nation’s best colleges and universities provide academic rigor; opportunities for students to create, innovate and explore the world; an environment in which they can build lifelong relationships with mentors and friends; an ethos of civic engagement and preparation for life after graduation. By each of these standards, Wofford is among the best of the best. Wofford is ranked by The New York Times among "Top Colleges Doing the Most for the American Dream," by Princeton Review in "Colleges That Pay You Back: The 200 Schools that Give You the Best Bang for Your Tuition Buck," by Forbes among "American Best Value Colleges" and on the U.S. News & World Report's Best Value list.

Gifts to the college, through The Wofford Fund and the Terrier Club and in support of innovative programs, the endowment, capital projects and other funding priorities make all the difference in the world to the students who come here today and for generations to come. The four years at Wofford College are designed to equip students for an extraordinary but unknown future, and nothing could be more important, more inspiring and more humbling than the charge we have as educators to help students do this. We, however, could not do our work without a community of generosity.

Thank you for your past support of Wofford College, and for the many bright futures your gifts will realize.

[1] Rutter, M.P., & Mintz, S. (2016, October 20). The Curricular and the Co-Curricular, Insider Higher Ed. Retrieved from https://insiderhighered.com/blogs/higher-ed-gamma/curricular-and-co-curricular.
[2] Humphreys, D., & Carnevale, A. (2016). The Economic Value of Liberal Education. Association of American Colleges and Universities. Retrieved from www.aacu.org/sites/default/files/files/LEAP/EconomicCase2016.pdf.
[3] Trends in College Pricing. (n.d.). Retrieved Aug. 11, 2017, from https://trends.collegeboard.org/college-pricing
[4] "Expanding Access and Opportunity in Higher Ed." American Talent Initiative. N.p.n.d. Web. 18 July 2017.
[5]  N. (2016, June 21). Not graduating from college in 4 years could cost students $300,000. Retired Aug. 17, 2017, from https://www.absactionnews.com/financial-fitness/not-graduating-from-college-in-4-years-could-cost-students-300000
[6] The Condition of Education 2017 (NCES 2017-144). (n.d.). Retrieved Aug. 11, 2017, from https://nces.ed.gove/programs/coe/indicator_ctr.asp