Casting a vote to admit men to Peace College – an institution that has served North Carolina women continuously since 1872 – was the most difficult decision I’ve made during the 42 years I’ve been associated with my alma mater. Yet my head and heart told me that if future generations of Peace students were to benefit from the same high-quality education and college experience I received, change at Peace was necessary.
Two years after admitting men to the William Peace University day programs (men were always a part of our evening programs), I’m happy to report that our day enrollments are up about 60 percent. Students are engaged and attending campus events in record numbers. Attendance and participation are particularly high in our new Arts and Events programming, and WPU now has a leadership speakers’ series sponsored by Duke Energy.
Additionally, there have been a number of physical improvements on campus. We have renovated Belk Dining Hall and updated our residence halls, and a new cistern-based irrigation system began beautifying the Peace campus last fall. A new Student Services building will open later this year.
Men have joined our women’s teams in NCAA Division III athletic competition in the USA South Athletic Conference. The Hermann Athletic Center has been renovated to accommodate growing participation and attendance.
Our mission is to prepare students for careers in organizations of tomorrow, and it’s a mission we are fulfilling. More than 90 percent of our graduates get jobs or attend graduate school within a year of graduation (96 percent for 2013 graduates). In October, U.S. News & World Report cited William Peace as one of eight universities whose entire graduating class gained internship experience.
Once again, WPU has been named among the top 10 percent in the nation for student-faculty interaction, higher-order learning and supportive environment as measured by the 2013 National Survey of Student Engagement.
The trustees have insisted that curriculum, academic programs, policies and teaching methodologies be reviewed and continuously improved. As a result, majors in simulation and game design and criminal justice as well as a bachelor’s of fine arts in musical theater have been added to WPU’s academic offerings. We have built a new physics lab and a simulation and game design lab. This fall, we will be enrolling students in an RN to BS in Nursing degree program.
Enrollment in our School of Professional Studies has increased 50 percent during the past three years. We’ve modified the program to offer online, evening and Saturday classes. Among the degree programs offered are a BA in education, psychology or liberal studies or a BS in business administration. We also offer teacher licensure through evening and weekend classes.
President Debra Townsley is shepherding this historic change and was recognized in 2012 for her leadership by the Triangle Business Journal with its “Women in Business Award.” The trustees believe Townsley is the right person to lead William Peace University during this critical time and recently voted unanimously to extend her contract.
The trustees recognize that change is hard, but higher education is operating in an increasingly challenging environment. We believe the decisions we’ve made have strengthened William Peace University and ensured its future.
Beth Chadwick Cherry is chairman of the William Peace University Board of Trustees.