FLC Board of Trustees sharpens its institutional focus with resolution
The Resolution on Culture on Shared Governance, drafted by the FLC Board of Trustees, is the latest milestone for Fort Lewis College in its commitment to fostering campus belonging.
The Resolution on Culture on Shared Governance, drafted by the FLC Board of Trustees, is the latest milestone for Fort Lewis College in its commitment to fostering campus belonging. Effective December 12, 2022, the document provides the board and senior leadership with a focused framework for institutional progress. It “supported the changes and focus brought forth by the current administration” and codified elements that have been crucial to FLC as an institution on the rise.
“We challenged ourselves to look back to look forward,” said Mary Rubadeau, board chair. “We wanted to think about what we accomplished in the past four years because there's been significant change since President Stritikus came on board. There have been big shifts in the College and culture and different styles of working and innovation. We asked ourselves what affirmations we wanted to preserve going forward, and then create a vision from here.”
Rubadeau, who has 40 years of experience in education, was instrumental in the drafting process that took place during a board retreat in August 2022. In the last section of the meeting, Rubadeau worked with the other trustees, President Tom Stritikus, Provost Cheryl Nixon, and Vice President of Finance & Administration Steve Schwartz to draft the document.
“We decided to call them affirmations, or things we believe in. They’re the institution’s governing values and what we hold dear,” Rubadeau said. “It really needed to be codified as a resolution if we were going to take it forward and make it something we could refer back to.”
At the retreat, the drafting team came up with four central affirmations for the institution: fostering a positive culture, integrating diversity, equity, and inclusion, sustaining enrollment growth and retention efforts, and supporting innovation.
"We decided to call them affirmations, or things we believe in. They’re the institution’s governing values and what we hold dear."
Fostering positive culture
The first affirmation, fostering a positive culture, was included because of a culture shift in higher education requiring institutions to create a safe environment for everyone during the pandemic.
“COVID-19 was a big disrupter that helped shift higher ed culture. We needed to give a lot more voice to all the constituents and work in collaborative teams. As a part of that culture shift, we also want to communicate the direction of the board, and that’s how we build trust in our community. Ultimately, we need to ask how we are going to continue to foster and build a culture where we are committed to students at the center.”
Integrating diversity, equity, and inclusion
Further along in the process, the board also recognized the institution needed to integrate diversity, equity, and inclusion at all levels of campus work. This is especially true for FLC, an institution where nearly half of its students are Indigenous and nearly 60% identify as people of color.
“DEI is a part of everything we do here at FLC,” Rubadeau said. “That needed to be expressed in the resolution, and we needed to lean into the difficult work that lies ahead with reconciliation, including the refresh of our land acknowledgment. The board understands that we have to recognize and engage in these complex conversations.”
Sustaining enrollment growth and retention efforts
Sustaining enrollment growth and retention efforts were codified as the resolution's third affirmation. The board realized this was central to the survival of not just FLC but also the broader field of higher education, which saw a 1.1% enrollment downturn in 2022 from the year before.
“If your enrollment declines, then your budget declines and you lose your faculty and staff,” Rubadeau observed. “Everyone on the board is fully cognizant of what it takes to manage and grow the budget. So, it’s vital that we have initiatives in place to try and increase enrollment, but most importantly, retain students. We need to ask what else needs to be done to support students, so when they come to FLC, they have the student experience they are looking for.”
Finally, the board recognized supporting innovation as the fourth component of FLC’s success. Unlike the other affirmations, the board left the definition of “innovation” up to the students. Innovation, according to Rubadeau, could only be understood in the context of student success. To do that, the institution needs to learn from its past and be adaptable.
“We want to plan with students about where the institution is going, where they’re going,” Rubadeau said. “That starts with meeting them, and we’ll be using this resolution as we go forward in our meetings with students this year. That’s the benefit of this resolution, too. It’s a document that helps us work with all the stakeholders involved.”
A path forward
The Resolution on Culture on Shared Governance will serve as FLC’s governing logic. The student-centered resolution also echoes the institution’s recent efforts to become “student-ready,” instead of expecting students to be “college-ready.”
It provides FLC with the focus it needs to continue its progress while remaining aware of its lessons learned.
“There will certainly be changes in the board’s makeup,” Rubadeau acknowledged. “With this resolution, we’re not going to do any backsliding. We want to hold on to what’s helped us become so accomplished.”