School year brought big accomplishments for FLC

Warm congratulations to the 2013 Fort Lewis College graduates! Earning a college degree is a major accomplishment, and I am very proud of you. I also want to thank all of the FLC faculty and staff who have given the personal attention that we are proud to provide. Thanks to you, our graduates leave with good preparation and fond memories.

This semester, Fort Lewis College has come through major changes, tough decisions and historic firsts. It has been filled with challenges and new opportunities. I want to share with you some of what has been going on around campus.

In a historic evolution for Fort Lewis College, the master of arts in education was born in January. The program represents the first graduate degree that FLC has ever offered, and I’m confident it will not be the last. Already, the master’s program is seeing brisk enrollment. I am looking forward to congratulating our first master’s degree graduates in a couple of years. What an incredible step forward!

The Alumni Relations Office saw a transition in leadership this past semester with the hire of David Kerns as alumni director. Dave is an alumnus of FLC and has already hit the ground running in reconnecting and re-energizing the thousands of FLC alumni across the globe. Along with Dave, we have hired Jenifer Perteet to help both Alumni Relations and the Foundation with social-media engagement.

To help in the effort to reconnect with our alumni and build support for the college, I made a trip to visit some of our alumni in the United Arab Emirates. I had the opportunity to meet about half a dozen FLC alumni, from a helicopter instructor to a dentist, at a special reception hosted by another alumnus, Sheikh Adel Aujan. I also met with officials from UAE universities, especially the American University of Sharjah, to strengthen our exchange agreements.

I am committed to connecting with alumni and extending our reputation worldwide. Alumni support, both financial support and as ambassadors for the college, will be vital in the years ahead with so much uncertainty surrounding state and federal support of higher education, so I believe efforts to reach our alumni are worth the investment.

Back on campus, I was pleased to see the variety and quality of the events held this past semester. One example is the good work that Jay Harrison is doing at the Center of Southwest Studies. He launched a series called “Education in the Southwest” that brought together experts from the field of education to discuss the issues facing us today.

Another great success in on-campus events was our Skyhawk Saturdays. Hundreds of prospective students and their families took advantage of these preview events to see firsthand all that Fort Lewis College has to offer. This most recent Skyhawk Saturday was our largest ever – a good sign for next year’s enrollment numbers.

In regard to the arts on campus, it was another wonderful year. I particularly want to congratulate the theater department on its production of “Thoroughly Modern Millie.” The show was remarkably well-produced, directed and acted. I personally enjoyed the experience very much and am looking forward to what the department and its wonderful students have planned next.

So far, 2013 has been a strong year for Skyhawk athletics as well. Our men’s and women’s basketball teams had successful seasons, with both teams making it to the NCAA tournament. Our men’s team, which was ranked in the national top 25 for much of the season, delivered one of the most exciting games in memory when the players defeated the nation’s top team, Metro State, here at home. The gym was packed, our fans were loud, and it was a night that we’ll remember for a long time.

In a surprise to no one, the FLC cycling team continues to be among the top programs, if not the outright winner, in every event in which the team competes. Most recently the team brought home a second place finish at the USA Cycling Cyclo-Cross National Championships. Up next are the road national championships in Ogden, Utah.

I am excited and optimistic about our future. Fort Lewis College is growing, both in enrollment and in reputation, and that indicates that our best days are ahead of us.

Dene Thomas is president of Fort Lewis College. Reach her at thomas_d@fortlewis.edu.

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