Olivet College Gets Student "Buy-In" for Personal Responsibility
Strategic Planning Approach Described to High School Students, Rotary Club
March 13, 2003
By: Dave Rogers
Dr. Donald Tuski, president of Olivet College, speaks at "Vocational Days"
There was a full house on hand for the Rotary presentation
Colleges and universities across the nation are struggling with student drinking, drugs, sex and other social issues. How one college is addressing these massive problems by urging individual and social responsibility was the subject of a Bay City RotaryClub program at the first of two Vocational Days on March 11.
The speaker, Donald L. Tuski, Ph.D., president of Olivet College, was invited by Brenda Rowley, executive with Rowley Wholesale, who heads local fundraising for the Michigan College Foundation, an association of 14 independent colleges.
For a college president it was a terrific opportunity to speak to more than 60 high school students from all area high schools who are college bound and motivated to seek information about potential careers. The highly successful Vocational Days program is headed by Ralph Knop, retired engineer, and veterinarian Griffith Acker.
The Rotary Vocational Days program involves about 160 students who are matched with employers in vocational areas in which they have an interest. The students spend the day with the employers and have lunch at Rotary in a group. The program has grown so much that two days are now required to involve all the students who want to attend. Bay Medical Center and Delta College are two of the most popular employers, each visited by several dozen students.
"The positive response we get out of kids is unbelievable," says Knop. Acker notes that dozens of students who visited his office over the years are now practicing veterinarians, attesting to the power of the program in guiding students to careers.
For Rotarians, Dr. Tuski's speech was a window into the administrative challenges regarding student issues on a contemporary college campus.
A small liberal arts college of about 900 students in south central Michigan, Olivet has a heritage of serving students of limited financial means as well as minorities. Founded in 1844 in the mold of Oberlin College of Ohio and other abolitionist schools which ploughed new ground on social frontiers.
Olivet recently facilitated a program of engaging students in controlling their own behavior by adopting the "Olivet College Compact." The compact, which was adopted using a strategic planningformat over several weeks campuswide, includes seven points of responsibility.
College administrators gathered the entire student body, faculty and staff in the gymnasium and took a strategic planning approach to identifying problems and goals. Then sheets were posted outside for two weeks so the college could receive more input from students.
"Are you trying to control us?" was the obvious student response to the effort, Dr. Tuski noted. That was when the faculty, staff, administrationand board were joined in the compact, he said, diffusing the question.
"It was a great historical moment," said Dr. Tuski. "We got a tremendous amount of buy-in from the students. This became a very important document for Olivet College."
The seven points are: 1-We have responsibility for our own learning and personal development.
2-We are responsible for contributing to the learning of others.
3-We are responsible for service to Olivet College and the larger community.
4-We are responsible for contributing to the quality of the physical environment.
5-We are responsible for treating all people with respect.
6-We are responsible for behaving and communicating with honesty and integrity.
7-We are responsible for the development and growth of Olivet College.
"Students sit on committees and help us develop policy," said Dr. Tuski. "They set the bar higher."
Colleges served by the Michigan College Foundation are: Adrian, Albion, Alma, Andrews, Aquinas, Calvin, Hillsdale, Hope, Kalamazoo, Madonna, Marygrove, Olivet, Siena Heights and Spring Arbor. For information about the MCF, contact Brenda Rowley, 686-1170.