BLOOMINGTON — Students return to class Monday at Illinois Wesleyan University. To Provost Jonathan Green, that is a gift.
“The first day of school is always like Christmas for me. I look forward to it all summer,” said Green, who is also dean of the faculty. “A university doesn’t feel right when the students aren’t here. It’s like an empty house.”
But the “house” won’t be quite as full this year. IWU is expecting 20 fewer students than its target of 2,050.
President Dick Wilson said the decrease is “not a complete surprise given the fragile state of the economy” and ongoing discussion of the cost of college.
“We’re taking a serious look at the issue of affordability and whether we’re using the right model” regarding tuition and financial aid, he said.
The goal is to keep tuition increases as low as possible while maintaining adequate financial resources, Wilson said. The university will be able to adjust its budget this year in response to the expected decrease in enrollment but, Wilson said, “we want to stay in the 2,050 range” because that’s a good match for the size of the campus, faculty and facilities.
At the freshman convocation last week, IWU physics professor Narendra Jaggi, this year’s recipient of the Kemp Foundation Teaching Excellence Award, spoke about the value of a broad-based, liberal arts education.
Among the principles he cited were the need to always question, doubt even yourself, reason with everyone and listen — not just with your ears.
During orientation last week, incoming students participated in small group discussions about ethical and social justice issues raised in the book, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” by Rebecca Skloot.
This summer, all entering students, faculty and staff were given a copy of the book that details the story of a poor woman whose cells were taken, without her knowledge, in 1951 and used in the development of such medical advances as the polio vaccine, cloning and in vitro fertilization.
Skloot will speak at the President’s Convocation at 11 a.m. Sept. 12.
Also this year, IWU is up for its 10-year accreditation. A group from the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges will be on campus Oct. 1-2.
“It’s always good to get an outside perspective on how you’re doing,” said Wilson.
Green added the self-study process that is part of the accreditation is good for the university because it helps identify strengths and weaknesses.
Wilson said the self-study will be used to kick-start an update of IWU’s strategic plan, which hasn’t been done since 2006.