The Council of Independent Colleges' - Consortium for Online Humanities Instruction
July 24, 2018
It was 2001, I was an assistant professor at Centenary College and I was teaching class on Shakespeare. We had just been trained on Frontpage and learned how to create threaded discussions. I had decided to move a common face-to-face assignment, “Leads”, to an online version through the discussion boards. “Leads” are simple assignments where I ask two or three students in the class to focus on the primary work, drawing out a few lines of text and then asking an open-ended question related to their interpretation of that passage to spark class discussion. In the new online environment students would put their leads onto the discussion board three days before our next class meeting and the rest of the class was required to respond at least two times before our class meeting. I monitored and entered the conversations as I felt necessary as I would a face-to-face class.
In order to understand this example more fully, I should provide a bit more personal context. I am notoriously 5 minutes late to almost everything. It was a regular joke with my students that you are only late if you are behind me. So, the first class day after assigning the online leads, I arrived 5 minutes late and I can still remember standing outside the closed classroom door. Inside, I could hear a vibrant and enthusiastic discussion going on about the play Macbeth. I stood perplexed. Class had begun and I was not in the classroom...the teacher was not there. I remember being acutely aware that something was really different--that there was something revolutionary going on in this new form of teaching, but I was unsure of what this new classroom-less classroom would be.
About a month later, I had to attend a conference and I decided that I would use asynchronous technology to run class while I was gone. Each student had to do two to three leads over the course of the week and respond to four or five discussions. When I got back, the students reported that they felt they knew the play Othello better through this technique than through traditional face-to-face. I immediately disagreed with them. How could they possibly know the subject matter better when I did not have my time to impart my wisdom about Othello onto them? It was preposterous. So, I asked them to take out a sheet of paper and I quickly quizzed them on Othello. To my surprise, they did better on this pop quiz than any other quiz, and I was humbled.
It was at this moment that I realized there was a paradigm shift going on in higher education and I needed to both embrace it and figure out how to use it for the mutual benefit of both students AND faculty. Although my students reported that they did not want to have class this way permanently, they also reported that they learned the information more effectively through the threaded discussions. I quickly realized that the technology created a kind of access that we had not had before. It enabled the ten-second thinkers in the class to be able to get into the conversation on a threaded discussion where previously they had been silenced by the two-second thinkers, who dominate a face-to-face class. It made for a richer discussion and a deeper understanding of the text from 100% of the class members.
Fast forward more than fifteen years, and we are still having many of the same types of discussions. Where does online learning fit in liberal arts colleges? Can or should it replace face-to-face learning? Does it enhance face-to-face learning? And can it reduce costs or increase revenues? The answer, I think, to all these questions is: maybe. I don’t think it needs to be an either/or, but to get it be an “and” requires a lot of work from both administrators and faculty.
I believe the major difference between 2001 and 2018 for our type of learning in the liberal arts is broadband. Broadband (“a high-capacity transmission technique using a wide range of frequencies, which enables a large number of messages to be communicated simultaneously”) and the ability to video conference with cell phones, iPads, and laptops seamlessly has opened the door to the possibility of replicating the liberal arts college experience through distance learning. My story about my online threaded discussion class worked at a liberal arts college because it was in blended format and allowed for vibrant face-to-face debate and discussion in addition to online opportunities . The current, common, asynchronous online classroom, let’s be honest, is similar to a public school education where students often hear a lecture, read an assignment and answer questions based on the lecture and the reading. You really can’t do anything more when you are faced with enrollment in the hundreds of students in a tiered classroom. But broadband changes that and makes our type of learning possible in very manageable, scalable ways. It makes possible rich, challenging discussions and debates; it makes possible authentic group assignments; and it makes possible knowing one another and knowing the professor.
Now this is not to say that asynchronous learning does not have its place in small liberal arts colleges. We offer education to adults and graduate students too. And these students often need and want the flexibility of fully online classes. And blended learning we know is a highly effective means of engaging different learning styles, and continued developments in technology has dramatically increased access for all people. Still if we can’t come together to discuss and debate, to wrestle with each other about difficult ideas, to learn to navigate difference, to work in a group as both a team member and as a leader, to use multiple sources of information to develop a point, then we cannot do what it is the liberal arts does so well. This is where synchronic broadband makes it possible for us meet our liberal arts missions.
With the advent of broadband and with a host of new tools we are able to just now begin to tap what it is that we know we do well in liberal arts colleges through synchronous digital learning. We are on the verge of being incredibly valuable to this country and to the future of education. Imagine if we can make synchronic online learning scalable? Imagine if we could bring in the intimate discussion and debate that occurs at all residential liberal arts colleges to everyone, regardless of most geography? Imagine what our reach could be?
The Internet and, now Broadband, has changed the geographic reach of colleges. Colleges and Universities were first constructed related to the distance it took to travel. Once another institution was founded, it was pretty easy to identify that you needed faculty members with specific credentials. For instance, I need so many faculty who have terminal degrees in biology, English, history, etc. Because of their training in their graduate programs, these faculty were qualified to teach on their specific topics and were required to stay current in their fields through research and publications. In many cases, most faculty could “wing” a lecture or two because of their training and their continued scholarship.
But in online learning, one can’t just “wing it.” Moreover, the faculty member was not trained in this type of learning environment. For the education to be highly valuable for the students, the institution has to invest in a host of experts to assist the faculty member. While the faculty member brings in their content expertise, the institution needs to provide instructional designers, assessment coordinators, and media and technology specialists. The investment in the course product is immense and the institution is both going to want to protect its investment and have a sizable return on this investment. Both of these issues--ownership and ROI--are highly problematic to the current model of training for faculty.
I believe the greatest divide between administrators and faculty is over the cost of training and ownership of courses. Administrators need to realize there is no simple or universal solution and enhancing online learning will be costly but is very much needed for our continued futures. It is important to remember the faculty; you need them and you need to invest in their skills. At Moravian, the first thing we did was to unify the “Adult and Graduate Programs” with the traditional faculty. I have never been a fan of the “skunk works” model for adult and online programs. It’s an attempt to work around the faculty. The positive aspect of the model is that it can produce significant revenue quickly because, in theory, it adverts the bureaucracy of the faculty. However, it also makes the entire pedagogy suspect by the full-time faculty. I believe that a better method is to bring the full-time faculty along with the institution in new ways of delivering education. It is a much slower, more costly model, but I believe it will win in the long run as it uses the current culture to move the institution ahead. Remember culture eats strategy.
After we unified the adult and graduate programs into the traditional structures at Moravian, we then began to look at how we would launch a much better online program. We started thinking we could do it from a homegrown framework. The bottom line for administrators is that this project will be costly to do well—by costly, I mean in the millions of dollars. The return on this investment can be significant in new dollars for the institution, and it is ultimately an investment in professional development of the faculty. Through an investment in online pedagogy, you are enhancing and developing the faculty that will enrich all of their teaching, both online and on ground. But think about the cost of the additional staff that will be needed to do it well: curriculum designers, assessment coordinators, graphic designers, and new faculty members. Also consider that many, many people are looking for these types of people so it is not easy to hire them at cost effective salary. Additionally, think about the cost of new marketing and new highly trained enrollment staff. At Moravian, we quickly learned that the cost to do online learning well is significant, and with other strategic initiatives on the forefront, we looked for a partner.
There are a dizzying number of providers for both outsourced and blended frameworks. After a complete investigation of partners, we considered Learning House as a possible partner. My greatest hesitation became the revenue share that is common with these types of businesses and the length of the contract so that they can recoup their investment. While I have no problem outsourcing food service or bookstores to third parties, I have real problems outsourcing our primary enterprise--education--to other organizations.
Eventually, we felt the best partner for us was Extension Engine. I believe this gave us the best of all worlds. It allows us to develop our own faculty and staff and hire for maintenance rather than development. In other words, we need more staff when we are developing new programs, but less when we are maintaining developed programs. It is not a revenue share; instead we pay for a series of services. They come in and develop a business plan for the institution that demonstrates the investment the college will have to make to do the project well. But in all candor, even this number was significant enough to give the CFO heart palpitations, but it was less than building it ourselves and it got us out of a hiring frenzy as this organization already has these people on staff. Lastly, all the revenue was ours, there was no long term contract, and I felt that I was working to professional develop the faculty rather than outsource our major enterprise to someone else.
In order for administrators to invest this amount of institutional resources into faculty development, faculty are also being asked to change in their relationship to the ownership of courses. With an institutional commitment to help faculty develop in online pedagogy and course development areas, administrators are going to want to be able recoup their investment. Administrators frequently focus on programs that the market wants and they will want some ownership stake in it. The idea of a college owning courses is a paradigm shift for most faculty; however, it is not really different from patent grants that research universities hold for faculty work done at the institution.
A course is now a team effort and it requires professional development. The faculty member is only one of four or five members providing and exploring pedagogical expertise. So why does the faculty member have any more or less ownership of it than any other member of the team? Moreover, the institution has put in hundreds of thousands of dollars in staff hours to develop, market, support, and enroll students in this course. The professional development of the faculty’s teaching is far different from the investment the institution makes in hiring a faculty member and letting him or her teach in a brick-and-mortar, face-to-face classroom. The college is going to want to invest in courses and programs it sees as profitable and have the greatest return on investment, which will cause disruption to those programs seen as less profitable.
A final disruption occurs when we realize we now have access to the best content people in the world. It is now possible to get the best lecture on any topic done by the finest faculty at the finest institutions. When colleges were created to meet the geographical needs of students, it wasn’t possible to always get the finest research faculty members at every college. Now that broadband continues to reduce geographical concerns, we can have the finest faculty lectures brought into any classroom. But teaching faculty are still needed to translate that knowledge into action.
When MOOCs were the rage, I was walking into a Rotary meeting with a colleague of mine. A fellow Rotarian came up and said, “Well you guys are out of a job!” After asking what he meant by that, he said, “These MOOCs--your just giving all your knowledge away for free.” Without missing a beat, my colleague fired back: “We always have--its called a Library!” While it is a funny story, I would argue both sides are right. We can now have the best research faculty in the world come and present through the computer. Students can be in our classrooms or at their homes or offices. But a great series of lectures does not make an educated person. We still need teaching faculty who can bridge the divide between the research scholar and our students. The content experts who is able to translate what that research expert is saying into the behavioral changes of our students. In essence, this technology shift is that we become actually what we have always said we were--great teachers. Isn’t that truly what our students are paying tuition for? Aren’t they paying to have their current and future skills and expertise evaluated by an expert in that field? Don’t we believe that we prepare students better than any other educational delivery system? When will we start embracing that we can bring in the finest lecturers from outstanding universities, that we can make our courses richer with the inclusion of apps, pictures, videos, that instructional designers and assessment coordinators know a lot about teaching and can help more of our students succeed than ever before, and that we as faculty have a place and role in translating all of this new information and helping our students use it to develop new knowledge?
We are living in an amazing educational time--probably one rivaled only by the advent of the printing press, which by the way the faculty at Oxford believed would never take hold. At Moravian, we chose to level the playing field for all students and faculty by providing them with a MacBook and iPad. This was a huge investment, but it fit the mission to level the economic playing field for all students. This way every student and faculty has the latest technology and is able to use it both in and out of class honing their technology skills. Placing this technology in our student’s and faculty’s hands has truly changed how one thinks about preparing one for a successful life and career. How much richer is a textbook when it is constructed by a faculty member and brings in rich video and images from experts around the world, integrate apps so that students can manipulate data in real time, or allows students to visit the world’s museums without leaving their desk? How much better will the learning and completion rates be when we use artificial intelligence to learn how a student learns and then scaffold the concept until the student is doing it on his or her own? Since most courses hold time constant, i.e. 50 minutes, 3 times a week, for 15 weeks, we find outcomes are variable because people learn at different rates. But through online which may not have to be place and time bound, time may be able to become variable and thereby we could hold outcomes constant. How would that change student competency as they move through a learning path? Online learning can play a part in making education richer and more successful for more students.
I can imagine a future where we abandon the belief that liberal arts colleges serve 18-22 year olds only. I can imagine a future where we choose to prepare students truly for the world they will be entering and where we will remain by their side throughout their lives. Can we generally agree that most of our students, after graduation, will use distance learning methods to further upgrade their skills or content? Since one of our tenets is that we help students learn how to learn, shouldn’t we be assured that they can learn in this medium before we graduate them? Should we be assured that they can learn in this online medium while we still have access to them face-to-face. I believe we owe it to our students to prepare them for the world they will see after they graduate and that world will be one of constant upgrading of skills and content mostly through online means.
In the very near future, I can see liberal arts colleges requiring students to take online and hybrid courses, while living in the residences simply to insure that they can learn through this medium. Not only will such an approach prepare students for their future workplaces, it will also allow colleges to run more courses without the additional overhead of more classrooms. Imagine, for example, how many more courses an institution might run if the class only meets one day a week every other week.
I believe innovative colleges will extend this idea even further and will make a pact with their students that the college will be there for them with future learning opportunities in whatever delivery fashion they need it. A student would no longer leave undergraduate and, upon needing skills or content training, go to another university or college. Instead, they will return to their alma mater—their nourishing mother, for additional educational nourishment. Wouldn't it be wonderful if the small residential liberal arts colleges simply took care of the training and educational needs of their entire alumni population in perpetuity? That population of alumni will need countless forms of retraining. But more importantly, they already know the culture and the teaching methods and their comfortable and loyal to the brand. We simply have to be able to deliver our type of teaching across greater distances and broadband enables us to do that—to deliver our way of teaching to larger and larger populations. We can commit to providing each and every one of our students a greater value than they would ever find at another type of institution, ultimately because we help them learn how to learn. We have to move to a mindset where we invite our students to join us in educational community, an educational community that will show the world the true meaning of lifelong learning and the value of the liberal arts.
2017 Winter Commencement - Northampton Community College
Thank you President Erickson, members of the Board of Trustees, faculty and staff, family and friends, and most importantly, all the graduates of the class of 2017. It is an honor to be with you today--to celebrate your accomplishments and to celebrate Northampton Community College’s 50th anniversary. This year we are also celebrating the 275th anniversary of Moravian College--a College whose mission and founding are very similar to that of that NCC. Both were founded to serve the local community by providing a high quality, affordable education. So it is an honor to be here today on this anniversary--the same year that both President Erickson, or as I hear he likes to be referred to as “Twinkle-toes Erickson” and myself are contestants on Dancing with the Stars. But more about that later.
Today we celebrate your commencement. Commencement is not an ending--in fact, it means beginning, it is the start of something not the end. So what are we starting?
I am a medievalist by training and so much of what you see up here on the dais and out in the audience--the pomp and circumstance and the way we are dressed comes from the Middle Ages. In fact, the commencement ceremony itself is the second longest continuous Western tradition. The only continuous tradition older than the graduation ceremony is the breaking of the host. So one could say we value education, next only to the value we place on celebrating God.
The dress you see us all wearing comes from the 12th century. At one time all faculty were clerics, and we wore clerical robes. Sometime after that period, a group of clerics thought it would be a good idea to modernize their dress and make it more fashionable for the times. Clerics involved with the Universities said they would not change and so today we still wear 12th-century regalia.
Those faculty who are wearing masters robes in the audience are actually wearing what was considered our teaching robes, or our work clothes. There was not a costume malfunction in the design of the master’s robes in that it appears that the arm comes out of the elbow. In fact, the little pocket that is created and hangs down from the arm is actually very useful as it provided faculty a place keep pieces of cheese and bread as snacks as they lectured during the 12th-century. It also provided a way of funding the faculty as students would put coins into the faculty’s sleeve if they thought the lecture was worthy of payment. Finally, the robes that you see before you have colorful hoods around their necks. These hoods were originally the monk’s cowl, the actual hood that cover their heads and kept them warm. Over the years, these cowls became colored and represent both the degree the individual attained and the school from which that degree was earned.
Another aspect from the Middle Ages that I think bears weight on our commencement ceremony here today is the concept of the quest. As you may already know, the stories of King Arthur and his Knights of the roundtable focus on the idea of the quest. Now the quest is often for a material object, more often than not, it is for the holy grail, the cup that caught the blood of Christ. The material object is simply the reason the Knights go out on the quest. But the material object is actually a fool’s quest. The true quest is what one learns about oneself, one’s self actualization, that can eventually improve the individual and be brought back to the society thus improving society. For example in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the quest is that Gawain will receive a blow from the Green Knight that may strike off his head. Over the course of the year-long quest to receive this blow, he learns that he loves life too much and is not willing to lay his life on the line for his king. He returns to the kingdom with this self realization and thereby renews his society.
Each one of you has just completed a quest. You started this quest when you enrolled at Northampton Community College. I am sure that many of you entered the world of college unsure, unconfident, and just a little bit scared, just like the Knights of the Roundtable enter the forest where they begin their year-long quest. Also like the Knights of the Roundtable, the fool’s quest is a material object--in this case a piece of paper called a diploma. The real quest was what you learned about yourself over the course of time. Sometimes that self-knowledge is not always positive, like it is in Gawain’s case. You may have learned that you were not good at a certain subject, or you may have learned that your dream career wasn't right for you. You may have had to switch majors multiple times, or you may have learned that a friend wasn’t really a friend. But hopefully, you have also learned what you are good at, and what makes a great friend. Hopefully you grew and you have greater understanding of who you are and what you believe in. Hopefully, you developed grit--an ability to bear down and get the job done to the best of your abilities and strengths. Self actualization is the real quest--to know who you are.
Here’s the bad news...quests never end. Whether Northampton Community College is the end of your formal education, or you are continuing on to a four-year college like Moravian, your quests will continue. Your next quest may be that first job which again is not about the material object of a paycheck or a big office. It is about your continued growth as a human being, about further understanding who you are. If you are continuing on for further education, you enter a new quest to see what skills you have. Through these continued quests, you are able to improve society by improving who you are. Then you each one of you will be able to leave your mark on society. What will your mark be? This is we call it a commencement, a beginning.
So that brings me back to dancing with the stars and twinkle toes Erickson and our shared quest to hold the mirror ball. Now you know from what I've talked about that the mirror ball is simply the fool’s quest for it is a material object. The true individual quest is what President Erickson and I will learn about ourselves. We may learn that we are even worse dancers than we currently believe. We may discover a new love for dancing. No matter what we learn the ultimate goal is to make our community stronger, and that is where we leave our mark on society. The ultimate quest is to provide valuable funding for the state theatre and the arts, and we hope that you all will come out and see us through this quest so that the Freddy awards can be funded. Just so you know, my name is spelled Grigsby and you write that in the best dancer category line.
A quest forces us to grow as individuals and get out of our comfort zones. Life would be pretty dull without quest--without a reason to stretch and see what we can really do. A quest helps us realize that which we are good at and that which we are not so good at, and we are able to return to our society and make it stronger by first making ourselves stronger.
Congratulations on completing this quest. Remember that the material object is always the fool’s quest and that the true quest is self actualization. Good luck and may God bless you and your future quests with great success. Thank you.
Dear Members of the Moravian University Community,
Last Thursday, a Moravian student organization joined other student groups across the country in a demonstration calling for peace in the Middle East, a cease-fire of the war between Israel and Hamas, and an increase in humanitarian aid. This demonstration began at Moravian and then moved to Lehigh University.
During the Lehigh and Moravian demonstrations advocating support for Palestine and peace, the phrase “from the river to the sea” was used as part of the chants. This phrase has a long history of conflicting interpretations, and it remains a highly volatile statement that has been used by Hamas as antisemitic rhetoric explicitly encouraging the genocide of the Israeli people.
As a follow-up to the demonstration, I connected with leaders of our Muslim Student Association (MSA) to discuss the impact of their event and specifically to ensure they understood the antisemitic interpretations of that phrase and how some of our community felt harmed by its use. Our conversation led to several learning moments. I believe them when they say it was not their intent for the phrase to convey antisemitic intentions, and the students expressed a passionate desire to work with our Jewish community to find opportunities for further dialogue and education. They hope that together both Muslim and Jewish students might engage in events that help them better understand the current situation in the Middle East amid the historically complex reality that encapsulates the Palestinian and Israeli conflict.
Today, I expressly write to the Moravian community to reaffirm our unwavering commitment to humanitarian principles. As a community, we must categorically condemn all forms of violence and hatred, including genocide, antisemitism, Islamophobia, and terrorism in any form. Chants, slogans, and symbols that express hate or make genocidal claims in any context have no place on this campus. The actions of groups like Hamas, which has been recognized as a terrorist organization by several nations, including the United States, are antithetical to everything Moravian University stands for. These acts of violence and their underlying ideologies are a direct affront to our values of fostering peace and human dignity.
I have been in regular contact with President Joseph Helble of Lehigh before and after the demonstrations. President Helble has issued a letter to his community on this issue. Today, I join him in reminding our community that education is a powerful tool against ignorance and intolerance. To build the community we all want to share, Moravian University will continue to be a place where diverse ideas and perspectives are welcomed and where respectful, informed discussion is encouraged. This will mean creating opportunities to engage our whole community in this discussion in meaningful ways.
Please remember we have resources for care and learning on campus through the Office of Spirituality & Inclusion and the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. We also have staff in the Counseling Center ready to support our students (610-861-1510).
President, Moravian University
Dear Moravian Faculty and Staff,
I am very happy to inform you that the Northern Province of the Moravian Church in a Special Synod voted overwhelmingly in support of the combination of Moravian Theological Seminary and Lancaster Theological Seminary. This act follows the unanimous approval by the Seminary, University, and Joint Boards and makes the combination final.
The LTS campus will become Moravian University's first satellite campus and this decision helps us continue to grow both as a Seminary and a University. Over the next few months and years, we will integrate the Moravian and Lancaster Seminaries and grow Graduate and Adult Degree Completion programs in the Lancaster area. Lots of work will need to be done and the opportunities will be very exciting for both the University and Seminary.
I am incredibly grateful for the work of key board members, including Brian Oswald and Ray Bishop, who provided financial leadership and due diligence; Betsy Miller and Dave Bennett, who provided church leadership, and Hank Barnett, who provided governance and legal advice throughout the past six months. I am also especially grateful to the cabinet, including Mark Reed and Elaine Deitch, who spent countless hours organizing and reviewing documents; Heather Vacek, our new VP and Dean of the Seminary, who provided the vision for the integrated Seminary and helped to put people at ease at both Moravian and Lancaster; and to the rest of the cabinet who reviewed countless documents and interviewed numerous people to help inform our final decision. I am so grateful for the incredible work this institution does everyday.
This is a very big day for Moravian University. Moving forth with its first merger and acquisition and creating its first satellite campus demonstrates the continued growth, strength, and success of Moravian University--a success that is a testament to all the hard work each one of you does everyday to make this a special place for our students.
Thank you for all you do everyday! I am humbled to be able to work with you.
With deep gratitude,
April 21, 2021
Dear Moravian Community,
George Floyd’s brother, Philonise, said about his family, “Today, we can breathe again.” Yesterday in Minnesota, a jury found former police officer Derek Chauvin guilty on all three counts in the murder of George Floyd. The decision provided considerable relief for many people, especially Black people and other people of color. This is a critically important moment of accountability; as Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison explains, the verdict is not justice, but accountability, which is the first step toward justice. We still have a long way to go to achieve “justice for all.” The verdict in the Chauvin case is so noteworthy precisely because it is so rare; the names of African American men and women who have died in police violence are too numerous to be listed here. We are not celebrating this moment, which is the culmination of a process that began with a truly tragic loss of life. Indeed, the amount of senseless violence against so many people this past year should cause us all to reflect on the ways we can be and do better. Even yesterday, literally minutes before the reading of the verdict in the Chauvin trial, police officers in Columbus, Ohio killed 16-year old Ma’Khia Bryant.
Moravian College police and administration continue to investigate smaller but significant acts of hateful conduct with regard to the anti-Black, anti-gay and anti-semitic defacement of property that occurred on campus this semester. We recommit ourselves to the on-going work of anti-Black racism and social justice with the newly adopted strategic plan; we recall the words of African revolutionaries during the liberation struggle, “the struggle continues; victory is certain!”
As we reflect on the verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd, the Office for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) will be providing an opportunity for members of the campus community to talk about their responses and reactions to the case and the ongoing struggle for racial justice:
On Thursday, April 22 from 2:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., DEI will host an Open Forum for all members of the campus community.
Zoom link: http://moravian.zoom.us/j/91389911312?pwd=bEQxV0ZwSTJnaTdJbU0zMHZMc3p5dz09
In addition, the following on-campus resources are available to members of our community.
On-campus resources include:
- The Office for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (http://www.cgratuit.net/diversity)
- The Counseling Center (http://www.cgratuit.net/counseling/staff)
- The Office of Spirituality and Inclusion (http://www.cgratuit.net/religious-life/staff)
Provost and Dean of Faculty
Vice President and Dean of Students
Associate Provost of Academic Inclusion and Innovation
Associate Provost of Community, Equity, and Engagement
Associate Dean of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Dear Campus Community,
My heart breaks for this country today, and I remain deeply shocked by what is occurring in and around the U.S. Capitol. Chaos continues in Washington, D.C. and at this hour, we know at least one person has been killed. Please join me in praying for peace and safety for everyone. This kind of violence has no place in our democracy.
As an institution of higher education, we celebrate and respect different voices and perspectives, and encourage respectful debate, discussion, and discourse. Our campus community is committed to finding ways to talk to each other and to understand differences; I endorse those sentiments again today. Last year, we adopted the Braver Angels’ mission for political engagement and dialogue in order to “reduce the vitriol that poisons our civic culture.”
The mayor of Washington imposed a curfew that started at 6:00 p.m. Let us hope that this enforced pause will provide space for rethinking and refraining from further violence.
We grieve for what we are witnessing at the Capitol and what it means for democracy. Let us hope that our leaders in Washington and throughout the country will find a peaceful way for us to move forward as a nation. I remain grateful for this community, united in our efforts to work with, and learn from, one another.
Dear Moravian Community,
I know that the upcoming election has added a new level of stress and worry to everyone’s lives. No matter what the outcome of the election, Moravian College is committed to supporting all of our students. We join together with other colleges and universities as a place of open dialogue and discussion.
I believe we can strengthen our democracy by working together and thus we have committed to the following tenets from www.braverangels.com:
- We try to understand the other’s point of view, even if we don’t agree with it.
- We engage those that we disagree with, looking for common ground and ways to work together.
- We support principles that bring us together rather than divide us.
As we all continue to navigate these stresses in our local, national and global communities, I want to make you aware of the following resources and programs that are centered around tomorrow’s presidential election. These resources and programs will be available for our students, faculty, and staff, no matter the outcome. We also commit to providing a space for people to discuss and process what this means to them if their candidate of choice was not elected.
Tuesday & Thursday, 12:15 - 12:30 pm, Meditation Circle with John Black. Take a few minutes to carve out a bit of quiet space amid the hectic days! Newcomer? Curious? Experienced? All are welcome! No experience necessary. Brief introduction provided. Casual, informal, and welcoming. Try it out. Join us! http://moravian.zoom.us/j/265506254.
Wednesday, from 9 am to 7 pm The Offices of Spirituality and Inclusion and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion will host an all-day brave-space meeting so that community members can process the election. All students, faculty, and staff are welcome to pop in to connect with other members of the College community.
Topic: Election Brave Space
Time: Nov 4, 2020 9:00 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
Join Zoom Meeting
Thursday from 10 am to 12 pm, DEI will host a safe space meeting simultaneously at the Diversity House and on Zoom (link below). This event is specifically for minoritized students, staff and faculty.
Topic: DEI Post Election Drop-In Hours
Time: Nov 5, 2020 10:00 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
Join Zoom Meeting
Friday from 12 to 1 pm, DEI will host a Friday Forum on the election to provide an opportunity for open discussion via Zoom.
Topic: Friday Forum on the Election
Time: Nov 6 2020 12:00 PN Eastern Time (US and Canada)
Join Zoom Meeting
Following these office instagram accounts is also a great way to get information:
- DEI: @moraviandei
- Chaplain’s Office: @mocochaplain
- Counseling Center: @moraviancounseling
In closing, please continue to take care of each other. Continue to wear masks, wash your hands and practice physical distancing. As Greyhounds, we have lots to be proud of this year. Be supportive and kind to each other as we continue to navigate these difficult times.
July 4, 2019
Dear Campus Community,
Happy Fourth of July. I write to you on this revolutionary day with some great news about Moravian College.
Since my arrival as President in 2013, we have been working on becoming a New American College -- one that combines liberal arts and professional programs, as well as undergraduate and graduate programs. Many private institutions with comprehensive goals aimed at helping students excel in scholarship, research and civic engagement embraced this model. This type of higher education model has a long and rich history in Germany, and our Moravian educational heritage, likewise, focused on preparing students for a lifetime of learning and contribution to their community. In the United States, there is a national organization that embraces all of what we are trying to do at Moravian. It is the New American Colleges and Universities (NAC&U).
As you peruse the NAC&U website, you will discover that the organization was founded in 1995 to provide an identity to colleges and universities that embrace Ernest Boyer’s call for the purposeful integration of teaching and learning, professional and liberal arts, and civic engagement. Colleges in the organization are between 2000 and 7500 students and focus on undergraduate and graduate education, integration of technology into the curriculum, and global and civic experiences. Membership is currently closed, and has been limited to 25 members by invitation only.
Because many of the tenets of NAC&U matched Moravian’s, one of our faculty members contacted NAC&U seeking help with a project. Soon thereafter, recognizing the caliber of our educational experience and similarities in mission and vision, the president of NAC&U offered membership to Moravian College, which we happily accepted.
On July 15, Moravian will officially become the oldest college in the New American Colleges and Universities -- something I believe all of us should be proud of accomplishing.
Thus, it is with great excitement that I announce our membership to this organization. Their national recognition of our outstanding liberal arts, professional, and graduate programs as well as our leadership role in technology and civic engagement is a testament to our entire college community’s hard work.
Thanks to all of you.
The Moravian Book Shop
May 4, 2018
Dear campus community,
In the spirit of open communication and in an effort to keep our college community apprised of items directly impacting students, faculty, and staff; I'd like to provide some additional clarity around the purchase of the Moravian Book Shop to address any questions that may have arisen over the past week. Per the press release and announcement we shared with the media and campus last week, earlier this year the Moravian Church Northern Province approached Moravian College and asked if we would purchase the Moravian Book Shop.
Why? The Northern Province wanted to get out of the retail business, and the Book Shop has not performed well financially over the past couple of years due to increased competition from online retailers, among other issues impacting traditional brick and mortar stores. In addition, if the Book Shop was not sold to the college, it would have been sold to another party outside of the Moravian community. Of course, this buyer would have no obligation to keep the Book Shop open, and could use the building for any number of businesses.
What does this mean for the Book Shop? The Northern Province approached the college because they knew we would work to continue the legacy of the Book Shop, not make sweeping changes to the store and continue to maintain this community treasure. The employees of the Book Shop will have the opportunity to apply for jobs once the college takes over. This is a very common practice when a business changes hands. The book section will remain the same, and there will be some improvements to the floor plan; you will see more Moravian College gear, food and beverage offerings and possibly an area for music performers, poetry slams, etc. These plans have yet to be finalized.
Will it be a Barnes and Noble book store? The short, direct answer is no. The store will continue as the Moravian Book Shop and be managed by a team from Barnes and Noble College, a completely separate entity that specializes in the management of college and university book stores around the country. If they do not manage the bookstore to our standards, we will find another manager.
What does this mean for Moravian College students? Although this will present a change in the way you purchase text books, it will also provide a downtown location for you to gather with classmates, shop and enjoy the historic building that houses the Book Shop. We plan to add a shuttle stop in front of the building on Main Street to make it convenient for students living on the Main Street campus. Pop-up book stores will be on the Main Street campus during key times when books are purchased and returned, as well as during events like Senior Select Day, Summer FAIR and Accepted Students Days.
Future plans also include student housing above the Book Shop. The leases of the current tenants will not be terminated once we take over in June, and no one is being asked to leave their homes with the change of ownership.
To summarize, please know that the Moravian Church Northern Province did not make this decision lightly, it has been a topic of discussion for many, many years. We're happy that we are in a position to help the Moravian Church and ensure that the Moravian Book Shop stays open and thrives for years to come.
Have a great weekend.
All the best,
September 6, 2017
Dear campus community,
It is with great concern that I write you about the recent decision by the Trump administration to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. We have publicly supported the program by joining with 600 other colleges in signing the “Statement in Support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program and Our Undocumented Students” http://www.pomona.edu/news/20
Since the President has given Congress a six-month deadline to find a solution for DACA, I encourage all of you to write your legislators to express your opinion. I have already met with Senator Casey and Representative Dent to encourage them to find a solution for the nearly 800,000 people currently protected by the DACA legislation.
The students protected by DACA were brought to this country by their parents. Under the Obama administration, they were asked to identify themselves with the understanding that they would not be punished or deported. Colleges and employers were then allowed to enroll them in colleges and hire them in businesses. Now that they have identified themselves, overcome incredible obstacles, and become part of the only country they know, our government is going to change the rules. I believe this is unfair and that we need to make our representatives know that we are stronger with the diversity of the DACA dreamers, and we urge them to find a reasonable resolution that allows them to stay in the country, complete their education, and ultimately become U.S. citizens.
We currently have a number of DACA students at Moravian, so this is a situation that affects our campus directly. We encourage those students to contact Liliana Madrid, director of intercultural advancement, so that we can work on ways to navigate the citizenship options that are currently available or that might be created quickly by Congress. Muhlenberg College just recently announced a meeting with immigration attorneys and concerned students should contact Liliana about getting to that meeting. Lastly, we recommend that DACA students do not travel abroad at this current time.
While we will comply with all federal laws, subpoenas, and warrants, we are not required to act as a facilitator/agent for the federal government; consequently, we will not be actively reporting immigration status unless directly requested by the federal government or its agents.
We will continue to protect FERPA information for all students, and we will actively help DACA students find legal status as soon as the path is clearly identified by Congress. We will also continue to work with our government officials to advocate for DACA students to help them find security in our shared country.
I want to remind everyone that we have confidential spaces on our campus for students and others who need to process this recent decision. Our staff in the counseling center and in the office of religious and spiritual life stand ready to support all members of our community. Please call 610-861-1510 to make an appointment with Chaplain Borger or one of our counselors.
Moravian College traces its founding to a group of immigrants who fled to Pennsylvania in 1741. An important component of that new way of life established here in Bethlehem was education, not just for the rich and powerful, but for all! We will continue to support all our students as they work to achieve their dreams, and we remain committed to grow our diversity because it makes us stronger.
Bryon Grigsby '90
College Opening and Charlottesville
August 17, 2017
Dear Moravian Community,
As we begin the new academic year, I want to welcome you most warmly. There will be new faces and new learning experiences for us all.
I also want to address the events that happened in Charlottesville recently. I struggle with the senseless violence I see growing in our country, and it pains me to watch events such as those which recently erupted on the University of Virginia campus. It is times like these that I am reminded of the rich history we have at Moravian and the values that we hold most dear.
Moravian College is affiliated with the Moravian Church, a peace church whose foundational doctrinal position is “...in all things love.” Our college subscribes to this foundational principle and thus we denounce all organizations that foster hate. Hate, discrimination, and prejudice have no place here, or anywhere, and will not be tolerated on Moravian’s campus. We echo the words of South African president Nelson Mandela, who wrote in his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, “I always knew that deep down in every human heart, there is mercy and generosity. No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
The historical Moravians taught us the value of education. Education will be the key to our country’s future success, its health, and prosperity. We must foster critical thinking so that one fully understands, and is able to analyze, evidence as well as a variety of viewpoints. We must inculcate civil discourse and teach people to respond without personal attacks. We all need to remember how to listen to others with a genuine sense of inquiry and openness and self reflection in an attempt to understand another’s point of view.
Previous generations taught us that we must be brave and confront oppression and hatred. As many have noted in recent days, to be silent is to be guilty. Our own colleague, Dana Dunn asked in his blog for Psychology Today (August 14, 2017) “What to do? How do we deal with hate and extremism post-Charlottesville? Prejudice, racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, homophobia, the list is long—any and all hate aimed broadly at various diverse and minority groups in American society—must be confronted. Doing so in the classroom requires thought and care. Students must be educated about the difference between free speech rights and hate speech (and actions) designed to harm others. The signs and signals associated with Nazism (both in WWII Germany and the contemporary United States) need to be unpacked and explained.” With the same ferocity which our parents and grandparents fought tyranny and oppression of Nazi Germany in the twentieth century, in the coming years, we may be called upon to once again fight the hatred aimed at tearing down the fabric of our diverse nation, and it will be our mission to educate around these issues and others.
It is evident to me that many of the values we hold dear at Moravian were missing in Virginia over the weekend. We must be openly proud of our diversity and our educational mission. Colleges should be places of deep learning, respectful debate and dialogue, not places of violence, hatred and discrimination. It is my hope that as you return to campus you can join me in working on peaceful ways to solve our country’s divisions using the skills and values we hold so dear at Moravian College.
Response to U.S. position on Paris Agreement
June 7, 2017
Dear fellow ‘hounds,
As many of you have read in the news recently, the United States has announced it is withdrawing from the Paris Agreement.
From the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change: “The Paris Agreement’s central aim is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.”
Leaders from cities, states, businesses, and colleges and universities across the country, including Moravian College, have signed the We Are All In pledge to state their intent to continue to ensure the U.S. remains a global leader in reducing carbon emissions.
This joint statement can be seen in the open letter to the international community here: We Are All In
It asserts that:
- In the absence of Federal support, states, cities, colleges and universities and businesses will pursue ambitious climate goals, to ensure that the U.S. remains a global leader in reducing emissions.
- In the U.S., the actors that will provide the leadership necessary to meet our Paris commitment are found in city halls, state capitals, colleges and universities and businesses.
- We will remain actively engaged with the international community as part of the global effort to hold warming to under 2°C and to accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy that will benefit our security, prosperity, and health.
Bryon Grigsby ‘90
Response to Flag Issue
February 3, 2017
Dear Moravian Community,
I appreciate the passionate concern expressed for our international students, faculty, and community in light of the recent presidential executive order temporarily barring entry into the United States from seven specific countries. I believe deeply that our strength as a college community and society increases as we embrace diversity. We are a stronger country because of our immigrant roots, and we are a stronger college because of our international students.
I have given the petition to fly the flag at half-staff a great deal of consideration, and while I recognize the interest in a visual institutional response, I do not believe this action is the correct response for Moravian College, nor do I believe it will result in the desired message. I think doing so would continue to further divide us as a college and a nation by favoring one ideology over another and requiring us to explain what we mean by the action. It would continue to distract us from the main issues facing our college, and this country, and pit individual against individual. Finally, it is often a misunderstanding that the flag can be flown at half- staff at the will of a college president or other local official, which is not the case. For clarification regarding the Flag Code, and issuance of an order to lower the flag to half-staff as a memorial salute, please see http://www.usflag.org/nffhalfstaff.html
I will continue to advocate for the rights of international students, scholars, and staff to study and travel freely in the United States.
We are also exploring an initiative where we place banners of celebration in the hands of the Comenius statue. These banners would praise our educational history, mission and values.
I encourage all of you to seek out your elected representatives and let them know how you feel about the issues before our country. I also encourage you to support those within our community who are made to feel uncomfortable by these policy changes, and those that advocate a different position. Please show them what an inclusive, caring community looks and feels like-- one where they can openly debate diverse issues and opinions and still remain collegial. We have done this since 1742. May we remain true to that sentiment now and in the future.
Executive Order on Immigration
January 29, 2017
Dear Moravian Family,
I am writing to you concerning President Trump’s executive order this past Friday that may affect many of our international students.
I want to reassure you that we value individuals from diverse backgrounds, countries, religions, and ethnicities and how these differences enhance our College. Remember that the original Moravian settlers who founded our great institution were refugees escaping persecution, eventually finding refuge first at Zinzendorf’s estate, Herrnhut, and then in Bethlehem, PA. We understood then the importance of being open to many ways of thinking and we continue to value deeply the roles that the members of our community, whether or not they are immigrants or refugees, play on our campus and in our society.
While I know everyone is concerned, we do not know enough about the order or the more recent stay from a federal judge to react effectively. What we do know is that our international students are not at risk at this moment because they are not traveling. Those that are on campus and in classes are fine. We are encouraging them not to travel, if at all possible, until we know more and to carry their international documents with them at all time.
I am currently in Washington, D.C. for the annual president’s meeting with our representatives in the federal government. I am sure this will be one of the major topics, and by the end of our meetings, I expect to have a better understanding what the executive order means for Moravian and for international students studying on our campus. I have personal meetings scheduled with Congressman Charles Dent and Senator Pat Toomey’s staff.
While we will need to comply with the law, we join the Association of American Universities statement calling for an end to this travel ban that affects so many legal citizens, including students and faculty. You can read the AAU’s statement at http://www.aau.edu/news/
I ask all of you to give us time to understand the implications of this act and how best to respond as a community. Please rest assured that the safety of all of our students, staff and faculty is at the forefront of our efforts and concern.
LVB.com: President Grigsby Serves on "Future of Higher Education" Panel
On Wednesday, April 5, 2017 Lehigh Valley Business held The Future of Higher Education Symposium, which featured a panel of local college presidents as they addressed affordability, enrollment challenges and opportunities, the increasing role that technology plays in education and more.
Click here to read the article from Lehigh Valley Business.
Moravian College president discusses what DACA ruling means for students going forward
Hosted by WLVR FM
June 23, 2020
The Supreme Court’s ruling last week stating the administration improperly ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in 2017 sent ripples across the Lehigh Valley. Advocates for DACA called the move a “win.”
Moravian College was part of the case, and filed an amicus brief in support of “Dreamers” alongside hundreds of other colleges.
WLVR News Director, Jen Rehill, discussed the ruling with college President Bryon Grigsby and what it means for students going forward.
The Collegiate Empowerment Show for Higher Education Professionals
Hosted by Tony D'Angelo
August 30, 2018
In this University Executive Interview your host, Tony D'Angelo, interviews the President of Moravian College, Dr. Bryon Grigsby
WDIY/88.1: Spotlighting Three Lehigh Valley Leaders on LV Discourse
By Shamus McGrogran | May 25, 2017
Host Sally Handlon focuses her program on three Lehigh Valley leaders. Sally welcomes guests Pamela Varkony, recent recipient of the Pearl S. Buck Foundation's 2017 Woman of Influence, Dr. Mark Erikson, president of Northampton Community College, and Dr. Bryon Grigsby, president of Moravian College.
Dr. Erikson and Dr. Grisby recently shed their roles and challenged themselves beyond their comfort levels to participate in the Lehigh Valley's Dancing with the Stars.
(Original air-date: 5/18/17)
To learn more and listen to the interview from WDIY/88.1, please click here.
LVB.com: Behind the List with Bryon Grigsby of Moravian College
By Christopher Holland, March 13, 2017
"The Greater Lehigh Valley is blessed with many colleges and universities that help students prepare for careers across all industries. From arts to health care to management and beyond, the options for earning a valuable education seemingly are endless.
Here to answer this week's “Behind the List” questions is Bryon Grigsby, president of Moravian College in Bethlehem."
WDIY/88.1: Moravian College President Dr. Bryon Grigsby on LV Discourse
Moravian College's 16th President, Dr. Bryon Grigsby, joins host Sally Handlon on this Lehigh Valley Discourse.
Handlon and Dr. Grigsby talked on WDIY shortly after his inauguration in April 2014; now it's time to revisit and learn what's new, expanding, and changing for Bethlehem's oldest college.
(Original air-date: 9/15/2016)
The Value of the Liberal Arts
By Bryon L. Grigsby '90
The value of the liberal arts has been under question for over a century in this country. However, new data demonstrates that the liberal arts degree may be more valuable than ever before.
According to the Association of American Colleges & Universities (AAC&U), the liberal arts helps students to think critically and communicate effectively, to present ideas from multiple perspectives and viewpoints, and to solve complex problems. While liberal arts colleges only graduate 3% of college graduates, one-third of Fortune 500 CEO’s have liberal arts degrees. The myth still persists, however, those students who graduate with humanities and social science degrees will only find work serving fast food.
The AAC&U has recently completed a long-term study titled, How Liberal Arts and Science Majors Fare in Employment, found that humanity or social science majors make on average more money in their career than those who majored in professional or pre-professional programs. Also the unemployment rate was only 1% higher for liberal arts majors versus professional programs and only 0.4% for people over the age of 41.
The liberal arts student has become more valuable because the needs of the workforce have changed. College faculty are trying to prepare students for jobs that currently do not exist, but will exist in 5 years. They are also trying to prepare students with information that changes or may become irrelevant in less than 18 months. Lastly, they are preparing young people for 3-5 different careers over their lifetimes. It is a daunting task for any college professors, but the liberal arts professor is not educating them for a specific job, but imbuing them with skills that are transferable across many jobs and careers. Furthermore, they are teaching students how to learn for themselves and develop new skills as society changes.
While the myth persists about the value of a liberal arts degree, the data demonstrates something very different. The skills developed through the liberal arts—problem solving, critical thinking, and communication—are all skills sought after by employers regardless of the student’s major.
Liberal Arts Colleges are responding to the need to put theory into practice, and many colleges now have externships, paid internships and even co-ops where students can see how well their soft skills work in the real world settings. Moravian is committed to providing a solid liberal arts and professional background for all of its students.
Bryon L. Grigsby is president of Moravian College, a private liberal arts college in Bethlehem, PA.