Updating the Belmont University community on his vision for the future, President Greg Jones spoke to campus faculty and staff on Thursday afternoon, weighing in on a variety of topics.
In the hour-long update, the president spoke about ways the university can become less tuition-driven, how the university can combat the decline in 18-year-olds applying for college and how the school can become the “leading Christ-centered university in the world.”
Thursday’s meeting marked the second of Belmont’s “Updates to our Path to 2030” series, and new update sessions are set to continue once each semester moving forward. The first update was held on March 16.
Jones, who’s the former dean of the Duke Divinity School, addressed Belmont’s Christ-centered framework through its convictions, practices and virtues.
“When we think about that role of Jesus being the measure of all things. It has to do with the atoms we study in chemistry. It has to do with the music we compose and sing and perform. It has to do with the businesses we run and start and all the various enterprises that go on across all of our colleges,” Jones said.
The president said he has “God-sized” goals for Belmont, wanting to establish it as the leading Christ-centered university in the world.
“Any smart new president would have said ‘I want to be the leading university east of Vanderbilt and west of Tennessee Tech.’ That would be easier to manage. Part of our practice is to have a God-sized imagination and dreams,” he said.
For Jones, some ways to achieve the goal by 2030 are to “reimagine what higher education can do,” “form people of character, purpose and an entrepreneurial mindset,” “address the wellbeing of both the Belmont community and other communities” and “become a recognized leader in all pathways.”
In November, the university announced it would begin hiring Jewish faculty, leading to some backlash among members of the Belmont community.
But Jones said he sees the decision as doubling down on the Christ-centered meaning.
“They are ones who share our tradition, our scriptures and there’s a lot that we can learn out of those relationships,” Jones said. “The only Jewish faculty we will hire are those who are committed to our aim and are committed to our mission.”
When speaking on potential challenges the university will face, Jones mentioned the decline of 18-year-olds going to college.
“There’s just going to be fewer 18-year-olds, virtually any college enrollment official or president can show you the chart and can recite the statistics,” he said.
With the perception of higher education in young people dropping over the past couple years, Jones said Belmont will continue seeking new ways to increase its revenue streams, describing Belmont’s financial state as “robust, but fragile.”
“We’re fragile because we have a small endowment, which means we’re heavily tuition dependent. We’ve got to diversify our revenue streams so that we don’t remain as tuition dependent as the demographics shift,” Jones said.
Jones also announced The Hope Summit will continue for years to come and next year’s is scheduled for Oct. 2-4.
“The Hope Summit was so successful, we’re making it an every year experience,” he said. “We’ll be focused on storytelling this fall, we want every Hope Summit to focus on human flourishing and how we can do that better at Belmont and bring people together in extraordinary ways.”
The president closed the meeting by saying Belmont must exercise with a “double lung capacity.”
“I want us to be the best Belmont we can be,” Jones said. “Which is to dig deep into our Christ-centered identity to equip students on campus and all of our programs and then to dream dreams about new collaborations and new opportunities.” —
This article was written by A.J. Wuest