Tuesday, September 23, 2014
Latest News from October 2013    

Dear faculty, staff, and students,

There's been lots of good news these past few weeks.

Retention increases across the board

Our fall-to-fall retention rate for first-time undergraduate students — that is, students who are new to college who enrolled here last fall and returned this fall semester — rose from 77.3% last year to 79.4% this year. 

This is the highest retention rate we have had in the last nine years and represents the fifth straight year this number has increased. This is the figure we report to the Federal government.

Retention also increased among all new undergraduates (that is, transfer students as well as new-to-college students) and among all undergraduates taken together.

Retention is an overall measure of the student experience, both in the classroom and out. These numbers reflect the great work of everyone who comes into contact with our students, from the Admissions Office in the initial stages to the Student Life department to everyone in the University — and especially the faculty.

Congratulations to everyone who has contributed to this achievement. We intend to continue doing everything we can to further increase these numbers.

MUM helps form the new Iowa College Sustainability Alliance

Professor Lonnie Gamble and Steve Langerud have inspired faculty at Grinnell College and Luther College — two of Iowa’s leading private colleges — to form the Iowa College Sustainability Alliance.

The purpose of the Alliance is to organize exchanges and collaborative projects among students and faculty at colleges across Iowa. They are planning to start with a summer sustainability institute for students — with the first one hosted at MUM next summer, and then rotating among institutions. Other collaborations could include sharing guests speakers. We are already planning an exchange with Grinnell when the former Minister of Education for Bhutan visits here later this year.

Here's what Steve Langerud says about this:

What I have heard from faculty at other colleges while I have been on the road is this: MUM students are head and shoulders above students at other colleges in terms of their understanding of deep sustainability, their practical application of these principles, and, finally, their post graduate activities that bring these ideas to life as social and business entrepreneurs and activists.

When Lonnie mentioned that he would like to learn what they are doing in their curriculum, the faculty member said, "Your students should be teaching us what to teach!"

Clearly, in the area of sustainability, MUM is admired for its innovative curriculum and outcomes. From what I hear, we are the not just the leading edge, but the bleeding edge of this scholarly area.  (I would argue for the development of a scholarly, peer reviewed journal housed at MUM!)

One student who I met and shared information about our study abroad programs went to a computer and looked up MUM. He came back to me and said, "I am so jealous of those students. I wish I had known about MUM when I was picking a college."

Six students from DePauw will join Lonnie on the Hawaii J-Term program. And many are interested in joining MUM students in Bhutan this summer. Another student plans to study at MUM next fall.

I have learned so much going out and sharing our programs. We should continue to push our faculty and students into public positions as thought leaders in deep sustainability and preparation for satisfying careers.  

Congratulations and thank you to Lonnie and Steve, on helping place MUM in this leadership role in Iowa, and to David Fisher and everyone in the Sustainable Living department for creating such a high-quality learning experience for our students.

Check out Steve Langerud's new "Career Coach" blog
Steve has created a blog for students entitled "Career Coach: Strategies and Tactics for Career Success." 

This is just one of many things Steve is doing, along with Jan Sickler, to strengthen our Career Center for students — and also for alumni. In a future blog post, I'll lay out all the exciting initiatives.

Answering your phone – campus-wide protocol

I’d like to clarify our protocol for handling phone calls. This may be slightly different from what was sent out earlier.

1 – Always answer your phone when it rings in your office — Do not let it go onto voicemail. We are here to serve the people who need us, and this is one of the most important ways to do it. If you’re in a meeting and cannot talk at length, take the call and quietly tell the person when to call back or when you will return the call.

2 – Switch on voicemail when you leave your desk — People expect to be able to leave a message if you are away from your phone. We don’t want to frustrate people by having them place calls to phones that just ring and ring. Keep your voicemail message short: "This is Hugh Jackman, please leave me a message," or "This is Katy Perry, please leave a message or call back later."

3 – If you need to be reached when you’re away from your office, make sure people can reach you on your cell — Forward your office phone to your cell phone as necessary.

4 – Return all calls promptly — We are a service organization — and few things say “excellent customer service” than getting back to people right away

How are we doing? Comment from a member of the Fairfield community

We must be doing pretty well with this. I received this unsolicited comment from a Fairfield resident, who had worked to help plan an event on campus:

I would like to share with you a positive experience I had in the run-up to the event, which is how delightful it was to work with people (mostly over the phone) who I do not know, but who impressed me as having an extraordinary combination of friendliness, intelligence, competency, and professionalism along with overflowing bliss. Just interacting with the MUM staff over the phone felt almost like a number one experience in the Dome!

It made me think how wonderful it would be if lots and lots of people could have an experience similar to my own. The contrast between the usual "customer service" interaction over the phone or in person at almost every company or institution these days with my uplifting experience with MUM staff was really striking. It seemed to me that many non-meditators could become very receptive to learning TM and/or attending MUM just by getting a chance to be "served" by the wonderful staff that are so ably helping you accomplish Maharishi's CBE goals.

Thank you to everyone for making one of our “customers” so satisfied that he took the time to write me this note.

Campus master planning takes another step forward

Picture Wallace Drive transformed into a beautiful pedestrian mall, perfectly straight, paved with brick, lined with trees and flags. . . . Now picture it extending across Highway 1, with a 12-story Maharishi Tower of Invincibility at its western end. . . . Picture a broad set of stairs leading up to the mall on the east, with a water feature running down the middle. . . . Envision a beautiful outdoor amphitheater sculpted into the hill in front of the Argiro Student Center, with a water feature there as well — a place for outdoor concerts and festivals and just enjoying the space. . . . Picture bike and pedestrian walkways connecting all parts of campus.

These are just a few of the features we will see on our campus as the Campus Master Plan gets implemented in the years to come. The process has been guided by a landscape architecture firm, Confluence, based in Iowa City.

But these are just broad brushstrokes. To actually implement the plan, many small design decisions are necessary. Looking at architects’ drawings can take you only so far. Creating a pedestrian mall, for example, will require dozens of finer-level decisions.

What’s the best way to do this?

Go and visit other pedestrian malls — and outdoor amphitheaters, etc. — and see how others have done it.

This is what Dr. Jeffrey Abramson, Chair of our Board of Trustees, proposed. Dr. Abramson should know. He’s a partner in The Tower Companies, the award-winning and sustainability-oriented Washington DC-based real estate development and building firm. 

Dr. Abramson proposed that a group of University leaders join him in visiting some sites in Iowa (he even generously funded the expense of this trip). Besides Dr. Abramson, the group included Dr. Bevan Morris, Trustees Toby Lieb and Doug Greenfield, Dr. David Streid, Michael and Rosemary Spivak, architect Jon Lipman, and Kathy Brooks. They were joined by representatives from Confluence.

They looked at campus streets that had been converted to pedestrian malls. They examined amphitheaters, walkways, bioswales, and water features. In particular, they visited the amphitheater with water feature and native plantings at the Leed-certified Aviva Campus in West Des Moines; the pedestrian mall at Central College with overhanging trees, a fire pit, and personal-sized spaces; the unique horse-tail bio-swale at Drake University; and the terraced native gardens at the Capitol Building in Des Moines. 

This was a preliminary step to the next phase of the Master Plan, which will now focus on detailed planning for the central campus area.

Thank you to Dr. Jeffrey Abramson, for inspiring, funding, and participating in this trip. And thanks to Dr. Dave Streid, who has poured so much time into our campus master planning process.

Click here to page through the beautiful booklet that lays out the master plan, with drawings of what the Wallace pedestrian mall and the outdoor amphitheater and 
other features will look like.

This vision for our campus need not be some distant dream. Any day we could wake up to the news that someone has decided to provide the funds to make this vision a reality. Let’s do everything we can to deserve that support of natural law.

Highlights of Pella to Des Moines Campus Landscaping Tour

September 25-26, 2013

Fire pit, seating, Central College

Pedestrian Mall, Central College; former city street; variety of elements projecting in and out on sides.

Amphitheater, Grinnell College

Bioswale, Aviva Campus

Water course, amphitheater, Aviva campus

Water course, amphitheater, Aviva campus

Bike racks, multiple campuses, from Signage, Aviva campus

Landscapeforms, Kalamazoo, Michigan

Horsetail bioswales lining pedestrian walk & former road that slopes. Walk is periodically interrupted with strip of pavers (bottom left in photo). When rainwater sheeting down walk hits a paver strip it soaks between the pavers where it is taken to the bioswales.

Allee—walk lined with over-arching trees both sides, Drake University

Separating two bioswales a walk lined with large limestone blocks, Des Moines University

Campus lighting: light bulb shines up; the light hits horizontal reflector and is reflected down onto the ground, with no visible bright point of light or light pollution. Two examples, River Walk, Des Moines.

Hybrid varieties of native plants, State Capitol Plaza, Des Moines

Don’t forget about the online suggestion box

If you have a suggestion for improving anything at the University — to save time or money or improve service — please send it to suggestions@mum.edu. You can win a $40 gift certificate at the Store or Golden Dome Market if your suggestion is chosen as the best that month.

Speaking of making things even better . . . 

I want to make sure everyone knows about the free online Lean training course that we all now have full access to. I encourage everyone to spend an hour or two looking through this. It’s full of systematic tools for how to do less and accomplish more in any organization.

Lean has been a great success in the University so far, and we have only scratched the surface. We will be applying Lean tools to every area in the University. The more familiar we all are with this, the better.Also see mum.edu/lean

We will have a staff meeting where we walk everyone through the basics in this course.

* * * * * * *

For a "small" private college, there is such incredible dynamism in this place, almost hard to keep pace with — such amazing creativity, with so many opportunities coming our way. It's a great time to be here.







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