A president, a professor and a student talk about Mac's future

By Matthew Stone

Offering administrator, faculty, and student perspectives, President Brian Rosenberg, Biology professor Jan Serie and Blythe Austin ’08 will deliver remarks to the Board of Trustees this afternoon on the “State of the College.”In separate interviews with The Mac Weekly over the past week, the speakers offered previews of their remarks, which they will deliver during the Board’s plenary session this afternoon. The members’ public business meeting, which is open to all Macalester community members, will follow at 3:30 p.m.

President Brian Rosenberg

“I want to be frank about both the good things and the challenges,” Rosenberg said.

Among the most pressing challenges for the college is the rising cost of attending Macalester, he said.

“I think cost is a big one, and the way cost tends to squeeze out the middle class,” Rosenberg said. “Last year, we began to see a dip in the middle.”

The college may have to consider awarding merit scholarships in an effort to maintain an even socioeconomic distribution among Macalester students, he said.

“That is a big challenge for us,” Rosenberg said. “That money has got to come from somewhere.”

The president will also discuss the ongoing construction of the Macalester Athletic and Recreation Center and plans for future construction: a building for the Institute for Global Citizenship and a new Fine Arts Center. Administrators are counting on a $150 million capital campaign to raise the funds needed for construction.

“There’s no guarantee that we’ll be able to do everything we want to,” Rosenberg said.

Professor Jan Serie

After 25 years at Macalester, Serie will enter the college’s phased faculty retirement program at the end of the academic year. Serie has spent the last six years as director of the Center for Scholarship and Teaching, which works with new faculty members, helping them to balance the tasks of teaching and scholarly research.

Serie said she will reflect on what she called a “remarkable transformation” among the faculty during her time at Macalester. The number of women on the faculty has increased markedly in that time. Of 215 total instructors on campus in the fall of 2006, 96 were women and 119 were men, according to Institutional Research data.

“I want to reflect on not only the fact that we have successfully reached parity, but the impact that that’s had on the institutional culture,” Serie said.

With more women professors, Serie said, increasing the diversity of the faculty in terms of race and ethnicity can become easier.

Serie pointed to retaining faculty members as a challenge she foresees for the college.

“I don’t think we do enough to make Macalester so attractive and such a great place to work that they wouldn’t even consider leaving,” Serie said.

Blythe Austin

As the first student liaison to the Board of Trustees, Austin has the challenge of helping trustees better understand what students are thinking. Among the main topics she said she will discuss is financial aid.

“It’s going to be a challenge to keep Macalester accessible,” Austin said. “It already is a challenge.”

Austin said she wants trustees to know that students will be pushing administrators to maintain and enhance efforts to make campus more environmentally friendly.

“It’s important for the Board members to know that’s going to be a major feature in Macalester’s life,” she said.

Austin acknowledged the difficulty in her role of speaking for the entire student body.

“I’m going to be very blatant that this is my speech,” she said. “I can’t speak for the entire student community.