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On the eve of the 2010-2011 academic year, Provost Mary Marcy presented her annual State of the College address to faculty and staff. Bard College at Simon’s Rock had just earned the top spot in Washington Monthly’s college rankings when Marcy took the stage in the Daniel Arts Center’s McConnell Theater to update the audience on key initiatives and outline the work that will define the coming year.

“Bard College at Simon’s Rock is a healthy institution. We are guided by a mission which recognizes that higher education is still the greatest avenue to individual and social transformation in the world,” Marcy stated. “We do our work extraordinarily well, and we do it for a group of students that would not otherwise be adequately served.”

Marcy described how the admissions team worked to shape an entering class that shows exceptional talent and promise—a class that brings with it diversity of experience; of economic, racial, ethnic, national and geographic background; and of academic, artistic, and personal interests.

Key Initiatives Update
Student retention from the first year to the sophomore year and to the Upper College has increased. More students are on-leave to study abroad than at any other time in the institution’s historya reflection of the success and appeal of the college’s growing signature program initiatives.

“Five years ago we made a number of changes in admissions,” Marcy stated, “These changes have resulted in 25-33% increases in all major categories—the number of applicants, the number of students choosing to enroll, and the size of the entering class. Once these students arrive at the College, we empower them with resources like the Win Commons to ensure they’re successful here. We’ve demonstrated that if we focus our efforts on retention we can achieve what we’ve set out to do.”

The Coming Year
The College continues to build on that momentum as it develops new initiatives and establishes new signature programs through partnerships with the International Center of Photography in New York City, Bogazici and Izmir Universities in Turkey, and the Longy School of Music, in Cambridge, MA.

Civic engagement and student leadership will also be a focus for the new academic year. “We need to engage our brightest, most highly motivated students through civic leadership programs that integrate with the classroom experience,” Marcy continued, “It is a significant and necessary compliment to the strong core liberal arts work of the college.”

Realizing the Vision
Marcy also spoke about the campus master plan “We have developed a programmatic vision based on our mission and core values, and we continue to create the facilities and the technology that will help us realize that vision.” The next phase of planning includes projects such as the new Liebowitz International Center and an addition to the Fisher Science and Academic Center. Both projects will be designed to also increase the campus’s energy efficiency and improve environmental impact.

Commenting on the effects of the recession, Marcy noted that Annual Fund gifts to the college were extraordinary in the last year, resulting in the strongest annual appeal in the college’s history -- a remarkable achievement in a difficult economic climate.

“Like all colleges and universities in this country, we have been affected by the challenging financial climate. But we are blessed with an exceptionally generous Board, alumni, and supporters who believe in our model of education. And we are driven by a distinctive and important mission. Financial realities ensure that we do not have the luxury of being merely adequate. We must be exceptional. And we are.”

Marcy illustrated the point by sharing a letter from the parent of a new student, a parent who was already grateful and enthralled by the education her daughter was receiving at the college. This, Marcy, said, is important not because it is unusual, but because it typical.

"This is the work that we do every day—transforming individual lives through a rigorous liberal arts education,” Marcy said. That work continues as Bard College at Simon’s Rock launches a new academic year.