University plans for the future

Published 11:19 pm Sunday, September 28, 2008

Boosting faculty salaries and improving campus buildings are two of the University of Montevallo’s top goals.

The university recently unveiled its five-year plan. It’s a vision that has been in the works since Montevallo President Philip C. Williams arrived on campus in August 2006.

“As a new president, I had no idea where the university wanted to go,” Williams said.

The new plan helps plot that path. The “roadmap” focuses on increasing diversity, raising money and fixing buildings. It also stresses the importance of keeping Montevallo’s liberal arts identity and working with the city and county.

The plan is the result of a year of brainstorming, surveys and focus groups. During Williams’ first few months on campus, he got together students, faculty and staff, alumni and community members for several town hall meetings to discuss what Montevallo does well and what the school could do better.

The university used that input when coming up with the plan.

“My thinking was changed … it helped prioritize ideas,” Williams said. “For instance, it helped move our buildings and grounds to the forefront.”

Williams said one common theme he kept hearing was a need to fix dorms.

In response, Montevallo will break ground next week on a $10-million-dollar residence hall. A women’s hall was renovated this summer, and plans are to do the same for a men’s dorm next year.

Other goals outlined in the plan are:

-Increase faculty and staff salaries. Currently, UM ranks in the bottom 20 percent for schools that offer master’s degrees. Williams would like that ranking to move to at least the bottom 35 percent.

-Start a special class for freshmen called “Becoming.” The program would include research and community service.

-Increase the number of international students to 5 percent of the total enrollment.

-Launch a capital campaign to help pay for salary increases and more scholarships.

-Boost enrollment to 3,000 undergraduate students. Approximately 2,500 students are currently enrolled at Montevallo.

-Improve the freshman retention rate to at least 90 percent. That number today is around 70 percent.

-Continue to develop Montevallo’s new observatory and swamp preserve.

Williams said to be successful the university will have to fully commit to the plan and find ways to fund it.

“It’s a matter of will,” said Williams. “Other things in lean budget years will go unfunded, but these [the plan’s goals] are the biggies, the top priorities.”