A record incoming class, alumni engagement gains, new academic offerings and a top 10 national ranking by the men’s basketball team highlighted Alma College news in 2016.
Record highs in enrollment and philanthropy, national recognition for student achievement, the academic study of real-world issues and successes in athletics were among the top Alma College stories in 2016.
Student enrollment achieved significant gains in 2016 as 491 new students enrolled in the fall, the largest entering class in Alma’s 130-year history. The total headcount of 1,451 students is the second highest in college history and represented a 4.7 percent increase over the previous year.
Alma College also achieved records for philanthropy and engagement. The college raised approximately $16 million in gifts and pledges, marking the largest single fundraising year, and registered more than 1,600 alumni, parents, friends, faculty, staff and students in the Alma Ambassador Program.
A philanthropic highlight was the $4 million gift by James Hogan, the largest gift by an individual donor in Alma College history. The gift will fund the Hogan Scholars Program for exceptional students.
Student researchers received recognition for their study of real-world environmental issues during 2016. In collaboration with their faculty sponsors, students monitored water toxicity in Gratiot County rivers and streams, tested for lead in local drinking water, analyzed river sediment for evidence of industrial pollution and swabbed fish for E. coli concentrations.
The Michigan Campus Compact awarded its 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award to Anne Ritz for her contributions to the growth of service learning and civic engagement at Alma College and her contributions to MiCC membership. Prior to her retirement, Ritz worked for 19 years as Alma College’s service-learning coordinator, connecting students to service opportunities on campus, in Gratiot County and beyond.
The final report of the Intergenerational Risk from Environmental Contamination Conference, hosted April 27-28 by Alma College, called for an alliance of communities exposed to contamination to advocate for policy change. The conference, sponsored by the Public Affairs Institute and the Pine River Superfund Citizen Task Force, brought together environmental health experts with public health and environmental officials in order “develop a more transparent and effective environmental-health policy process,” said conference organizer Ed Lorenz.
Academic Discovery, Teaching and Learning
In January, Alma College received a $100,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to explore curricular innovation that leads to more effective learning. The grant provides financial support for faculty — in the form of $3,000 stipends — who wish to revamp their courses in ways that excite and motivate students.
New academic offerings were introduced in 2016. The neuroscience major is taught with a liberal arts focus, while the new pre-sports medicine concentration prepares integrative physiology and health science majors for post-graduate study.
Research by John Davis tested interventions for protecting military special operations forces from the stress of high altitude. His study was funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Defense.
Anthony Collamati’s short film, “Break My Bones,” produced with a crew that included Alma College students and alumni, was screened at several notable film festivals, winning first prizes at the Rhode Island International Film Festival and the Hollyshorts International Festival in Hollywood, Calif.
Faculty political scientist Bill Gorton presented research on the increasing role of microtargeting technology by political candidates. He argued that microtargeting is not necessarily good for democracy.
Faculty biologist John Rowe described his efforts to track sea turtles on the Galapagos Islands using satellite signals to transmit turtle movements. The information from the transmitted signal is fed into the Dow Digital Science Center at Alma College, where students and faculty download the data in various forms for purposes of research and education.
Extraordinary Student Achievement
Mason Molesky was awarded the nationally competitive CyberCorps Scholarship to pursue graduate study and a career in cyber security. A mathematics major with a computer science minor, Molesky is pursuing a master’s degree in cyber security at George Washington University.
Katherine Vaillancourt was the 2016 recipient of the Barlow Trophy. Vaillancourt participated in numerous activities at Alma that demonstrate a passion for working with underserved populations with an emphasis on empowering others.
The Model United Nations team reached a milestone in its national competition efforts. For the 20th consecutive year, Alma College students captured the highest awards at the National Model UN Conference in New York City.
Physical Campus Enhancements
In August, a Starbucks coffee shop opened in the Alma College Bookstore on the corner of Superior and Wright, bringing the national brand to the downtown Alma community. The Starbucks franchise operates independently from Alma College under the auspices of Sodexo, the college’s long-time food-service provider.
In September, Alma student-athletes were greeted to new strength and conditioning space in the 12,000-square-foot addition to the Hogan Center. The Sherman Strength and Conditioning Facility, on the ground level, and the upper-level Hatcher Wrestling Room were dedicated during homecoming weekend.
The James T. McIntyre Scholar House, home to the Delta Gamma Tau fraternity, was dedicated at homecoming. The college also broke ground for a new Zeta Sigma Scholar House on the corner of Superior and Grant.
In March, Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert delivered the 2015-16 keynote address for the Alma College Speaker Series sponsored by the Responsible Leadership Institute. He discussed the predictors of happiness drawn from research in psychology and neuroscience.
In April, the “science evangelist’ Ainissa Ramirez delivered the keynote address for Alma’s 20th annual Honors Day. Ramirez spoke as an award-winning scholar, inventor, author and educator who strives to excite the general public about science.
Also in April, David Provost, a 1976 graduate of Alma College and a leader in the Michigan banking industry, delivered the 2016 commencement address.
Excelling in Athletics
Alma College Athletics revealed a redesigned website and introduced Alma Scots Front Row, a new mobile app that gives fans access to score updates, statistics and game recaps.
The men’s basketball team amassed a school-record 24 wins in 2015-16, winning the MIAA Tournament Championship and advancing to the “Elite Eight” round in the NCAA Division III national tournament. The Scots finished the season ranked 6th in the final post-season national poll. Scott Nikodemski was named the MIAA’s Most Valuable Player and first-team All-American.
The NCAA recognized Academic All-American Kaitlyn Arnold with two Elite 90 Awards in 2016. The award is presented to the student-athlete with the highest cumulative grade-point average participating at the national finals for each of the NCAA’s 90 championships. Kaitlyn finished 12th in the women’s 5,000-meter run at the NCAA National Track and Field Championships and 67th in the national cross-country finals.
softball team finished with a 33-10 record, winning the MIAA championship and advancing to the NCAA Tournament. The National Fastpitch Coaches Association named ace pitcher Morgan Stratton a second-team All-American.The No. 14-ranked Alma College
The baseball team posted its first winning season since 1981 while compiling a school-record 28 wins, topping the 20-win mark for only the third time in program history.
Jeremiah Tobias was promoted to head wrestling coach, replacing Todd Hibbs, who resigned in June after five years at the helm of the program. Tobias, who served as associate head coach under Hibbs, helped mentor three All-American wrestlers during the 2015-16 season.
The cheer and STUNT teams continued to excel in national competition, finishing second and third, respectively, in the nation. A record 13 student-athletes from Alma College were named to the 2016 STUNT All-American Team.