Planning for the future was the main agenda at Belmont’s Board of Trustees meeting Thursday afternoon.
The subject of the meeting was to examine student feedback to Vision 2020, the five-year plan for how Belmont will look by the year 2020. President Bob Fisher used a passage from the Gospel of Luke to emphasize the theme of vision.
“Sometimes, our vision is not made clear in a single moment in time. This is a process. It’s ongoing, it won’t be over today,” Fisher said. “Listening, listening, listening is what we are here for today.”
Fisher then used a slideshow to compare Belmont’s current state to its condition when he arrived in 2000. He highlighted how far the university has come since then, and where it could go before getting down to the business of the meeting.
Board member Dr. Paula Gill came forward and informed her colleagues that more than 70 student groups, totaling in more than 1000 students, had participated in the Vision 2020 survey.
The responses to the survey came in the form of themes, which were listed on poster boards around each table. The themes themselves ranged from what students liked about Belmont to what they thought needed improvement or needed to be changed altogether.
In addition to the board members, 11 students were invited to take part in the meeting and personally give their input to the board. The board members and students spent the remaining three hours discussing and responding to the feedback from student groups.
One aspect of Belmont that both board members and students wanted to keep was the small student-to-faculty ratio.
“Every one of my children have had wonderful, transformative experiences due to their interactions with the faculty,” said trustee Steve Hewlett, whose two sons are alumni.
However, some board members did point out that there needed to be some growth in the student-faculty ratio.
Dr. Linda Wofford of the nursing school agreed that while student-to-teacher relationships are part of Belmont’s identity, there are times where the faculty feels “very stretched.”
Another subject that came up was Belmont’s Christian character. The feedback indicated that students wish for Belmont to continue to have a strong Christian community while being more open to non-Christian aspects of our culture.
This idea tied directly into another portion of the feedback, which was a desire to see more diversity on campus. It was established that “diversity” meant more than just racial diversity, but also embracing different ideas and different people.
“You can stand on your principles and still have diversity of thought,” said Keayana Robinson, president of the Black Student Association.
Lougan Bishop, a member of Belmont’s marketing department, agreed with this feedback in particular.
“When people have different political or faith opinions, it causes a collision that creates understanding,” he said. “If Belmont reflects peoples’ opinions in the real world, it will help create more well-rounded students.”
Another major issue brought up during the meeting was Belmont’s technological advancement as a university. Danny Zydel, the current president of SAPB, told the board members at his table that both students and staff believe lots of improvement could be made in the university’s technological advancement.
Zydel used Blackboard as an example, citing how confusing it can be to use at times for both faculty and students. Dr. Todd Lake agreed with Zydel, saying that many students are also technologically ahead of their teachers.
“Technology is the place where everyone has to intersect,” he said.
As the meeting neared its conclusion, the board members read out their responses to the feedback, indicating where they wish to see Belmont go by the year 2020. Overall, the board wishes to see Belmont remain a strong, Christian community, while becoming an even more highly ranked university that is technologically advanced, open to new ideas and new people and where students graduate with high standards of integrity.
Dr. Thomas Burns, provost of the university, felt much was accomplished at the board meeting.
“You come together and it’s reassuring to hear students and faculty talk about the same thing. It’s good for the university because it will benefit the university from a number of perspectives.”