Centers of Distinction: Origins and Future
Centers evolved from Hiram's 2005 Education that Works Strategic plan and the concurrent work of the Program Prioritization Committee. This group of faculty had been tasked with robust self-analysis of our academic programs in search of our key strengths upon which we could differentiate ourselves in a saturated higher education landscape.
(2005 Strategic Plan)
In the 2005-2006 academic year, faculty were invited by the Vice President and Academic Dean to draft proposals for the creation of Centers of Excellence. These were vetted by Hiram's Academic Program Committee (APC), who were charged with making recommendations to the President. Proposals were evaluated according to their ability to advance our areas of distinctiveness, as well as their power to drive compelling messaging of their relevance and appeal to both prospective students and external organizations and individuals. Our Vice Presidents of Institutional Advancement and Enrollment Management served as consultants to APC to help evaluate the recruitment and advancement potential of proposed entities. In 2006, the administration formally established 6 Centers of Excellence, three of which had prior histories as organizational units on campus, and three which were novel. In 2010, we added a seventh.
Early in the ontogeny of Hiram's Centers, the Board of Trustees established a Centers' Taskforce to monitor their progress as part of its effort to steward the Education that Works strategic Plan. Centers are supported by the efforts of faculty and staff across campus. Each Center was established with a faculty member as its Director, and a College development officer was partnered with each Director to serve as a liaison with institutional advancement efforts. Each Center has created an external Advisory Council (subsequently renamed Center Resource Councils) in order to gain advice and build traction for the program, and establish strategic partnerships aligned with the goals of each. In 2009, the President appointed a Director of Strategic Academic Initiatives to work with the Vice President and Academic Dean and the Vice President of Development to stimulate further development of Centers, as well as to establish benchmarks to allow the College to assess their impact. For example, during their first five years, Centers sponsored more than 70 events per year, and attracted more than $7 million in restricted giving to the College. We also know that they provide a powerful draw for prospective students.
In 2010, the College initiated development of a new strategic plan, Firmly Rooted in the Future, which reaffirmed Hiram's commitment to Centers of Distinction, and challenges us to seek to further integrate them into the educational experiences of our students.
(2011 Strategic Plan)
In addition to our ongoing work, Centers are collaborating with our Resource Councils, Career Services and Alumni Relations to establish new funnels for experiential learning opportunities for students, both on campus and in partnership with external organizations.