By Jeff Abernathy
Alma College President
When I think of the recent history at Alma College, our state and our nation as a whole, many varied emotions surface.
There is a sense of excitement and happiness that comes from the widespread availability of the COVID-19 vaccines, and the subsequent reconnections with old friends and family members after many months spent taking precautions. There is a sense of mourning that comes from all that we have lost during the pandemic — the many lives that have been taken before their time and those that have been changed for the worse during this unprecedented, unfortunate era in history.
There is also a sense of optimism about our future, especially here on campus. Discussion and speculation in the media and elsewhere about “the new normal” following the pandemic and all that might look like generally seems to carry a sense of pessimism. But I have ample reason to believe that our “new normal” at Alma College will have plentiful opportunities for our campus to grow and prosper, thanks in large part to work that has been done during and especially before the pandemic.
You’ll read about some of those new opportunities in this edition of The Tartan. One of them is a positively historic event in the 135-year history of Alma College — our very first graduate program, which launched this past summer as the inaugural class of the Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program had its first residency on campus.
As you’ll read soon, director Sophfronia Scott has done tremendous work: recruiting an excellent group of faculty mentors, devising a rigorous and inspiring curriculum and of course, assisting students as they explore the program. This MFA program will help students find their voices and develop their work as artists. They’ll read deeply, participate in energetic discussions and learn to see their work in the context of current issues and events. We’re proud to welcome them to Alma and thrilled for the potential of this, as well as other graduate programs, moving forward.
You’ll also read about the new Center for College and Community Engagement, which launched this past spring. The CCCE ties well into our mission of supporting students as they become leaders who think critically, serve generously, lead purposefully and live responsibly. Through this new program, we’ll develop pipelines to internships, civic engagement, leadership and volunteer opportunities for students, as well as facilitate opportunities for growth among staff and faculty. The CCCE will help us become leaders in Gratiot County and beyond, even moreso than we are today, which is a vital need in our ever-changing world.
What helps support this new work is the resounding success of “Our Time is Now: The Campaign for Alma College.” The campaign, which you’ll read about in this edition of The Tartan, recently concluded after having raised the incredible sum of $125.2 million — a total that is more than three times the amount raised by our previous campaign, “Open Windows.” This financial support will absolutely transform our college, setting us up for success in several different areas, for many years to come. We have the incredible generosity of our donors and volunteers to thank for this.
The success of this campaign has come as a mild surprise to all of us. Prior to its beginning, we hired a well-respected consulting company to assess the college and its ability to raise funds, in order to help us set a goal. They came back and told us, “Your previous campaign raised about $37 million, so, we think you should set a goal of $40 million.” We have obviously exceeded that goal by a wide margin, which is both humbling and inspiring to see.
As you’ll read later in this issue, the final phase of “Our Time is Now” was geared toward two very important projects: the refurbishment of the preeminent Alma College icon, Dunning Memorial Chapel, and the crown jewel of our decade-long “Vision 2020” master plan, the modernization of Alma College’s library into the Learning Commons. But this campaign has not just been about beautiful buildings — it has been about the students of today and tomorrow, as well as the needs of faculty and staff. This work has been about Alma College.
The future is bright at Alma College. Despite the ups and downs of the past year, our country continues to see that higher education is the key to a great life. Investing in our campus today is investing in future generations of Scots. The success of our investment effort is good reason to feel optimism rise to the surface during a time of varied emotions.