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At the end of 2017 the writers at University of Venus took time to reflect on the past year and share our dreams for the future.

What was the best thing that happened in education and/or on your campus in 2017 and what do you hope to see happen in 2018?

Yves Salomon-Fernandez, Cumberland County College, Vineland, New Jersey, USA

This year, we graduated our largest class ever in the College’s 51 year history! It was more than a milestone. It was the culmination of years of investment at the county level in students and in higher education that represents the commitment of local freeholders and local benefactors who have created financial pathways to make a college education possible for so many. It also represents the College’s success with increasing access and success rates. It was a great feat for Cumberland county. May we continue on that path!

As we look ahead to 2018, we will be tackling many challenges that are not unique to us in rural south Jersey but are endemic to our higher education sector. With broad support from our community, we have crafted a bold and ambitious strategic plan to help us carry out our mission as a college of the community in ways that challenge the status quo and that will enhance our agility as an institution, our ability to adapt to a rapidly changing economy, changing demographics, and rapid technological evolution while responding more effectively to local needs. Leadership, innovation, agility, and sustainability are at the core of how we are approaching this new year. We welcome 2018 with open arms!

Mary Churchill, Wheelock College, Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Best of 2017:  On a personal level, I am grateful to be working with David Chard, an amazing president who has exhibited bold leadership and stewardship in a time of uncertainty at my institution. I am incredibly grateful to the Wheelock community for their warm and unequivocal embrace at a particularly challenging time in our history.  Nationally, I am inspired by the ground-breaking work on housing and food insecurity on campus being done by my fellow sociologist Sara Goldrick-Rabb and presidents like Pam Eddinger at Bunker Hill Community College and Yves Salomon-Fernandez at Cumberland County College (two of my she-roes!). This was the year that I really discovered MOOCs (so late to this party!) specifically, Barb Oakley’s Learning How to Learn - I love her! Barb and I had a great phone conversation a few weeks back and she got me excited in a whole new way about teaching and learning over the course of a lifetime and, holistically, across all areas of our lives. I am also thrilled that my dear friend and neighbor Kim Janey will be my new city councilor in 2018. Kim comes from a family of education advocates and I have great hopes for the future of education in Boston.

Dreams for 2018: Many of us admit that the current model of higher ed is broken and we don’t quite know what the future holds. The top 50 schools aren’t going away but I see massive (and pretty rapid) consolidation in higher ed’s future. The elite institutions are holding strong so how will they do their parts in addressing the issue of access? As I sit here writing this in Boston, I can’t help but think that each and every elite institution in the metro area needs to develop a plan in conjunction with the local community that addresses the needs of the local community. In conversation with Turahn Dorsey, Boston’s Chief of Education, I stressed that we have to flip our assumptions - we have to assume that all of the city’s children will go to college and then figure out how to help those who don’t end up going. Unfortunately, in this country, we still view college attendance as a privilege rather than a right and that needs to change. I believe that universal P-16 has to become a reality and I know that we have the ability to make it happen. What we lack is the will and vision. My dream for 2018 is that we find a way to come together to harness our collective angst and anger into a collective will and work together to build a vision. I believe that Boston can (and will!) become the model for how universities, communities, city government, nonprofits, and corporations come together to invest in the education of everyone in the city, regardless of age, income, or ability.

Elizabeth Lewis Pardoe, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, USA

Best of 2017: Our campus has rightly celebrated the rapid progress towards our 20/20 goal to have 20% of the class from Pell Eligible families by 2020.  With 19% in this fall’s entering class, we are nearly there.

As we move into 2018, I want elite research universities like ours to consciously blockade the flow of cultural and financial capital to the upper-echelons of the socio-economic spectrum.  Admission is step one.  Fostering knowledge and confidence forms a critical next step, which will only happen when we liberate ourselves from the greek system’s stranglehold on campus culture.

Gwendolyn Beetham, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

Best of 2017: This year there have been a lot of “bests” for me in my personal life, it’s hard to choose just one. I got a new job, moved to a new city, and am expecting a baby (in early 2018!). Although transitional periods always come with their own forms of difficulties, in general, it has been a very exciting year for me.

Dreams for 2018: First and foremost, in my personal life I’m dreaming of a healthy and happy baby. In my worklife, I’m in the middle of a transitional period -- not only am I new, but we also have a new director and, in 2018, we’ll be doing a review of the program and strategizing for the next few years. While this certainly means tackling some of the bigger issues in higher education today (some of which are eloquently set out above), it also offers great opportunity. I’m looking forward to continuing to get to know my colleagues -- who are amazing! -- as we reimagine our program.

Bonnie Stewart, University of Prince Edward Island, Charlottetown PEI, Canada

Best of 2017: This year, I stepped outside higher ed for a while and did more contracts with government and as a freelance consultant than I’ve done previously, before stepping back into a full-time higher ed role. I learned a great deal - including that higher ed *is* indeed more stratified by hierarchies even than other stratified workplaces. At the same time, I learned that I am invested in the IDEA of higher ed as a societal institution, particularly at this current moment where its cultural value is questioned and challenged. I begin 2018 newly committed to the principles of open-minded inquiry, engagement, and equity that I believe an education should provide, protect, and foster.

Dreams for 2018: I want to be part of fostering those concepts of inquiry, engagement, and equity not just within institutional walls, but beyond. From February 12-26, 2018, Dr. Natalie Delia Deckard and I will facilitate a free, two week “pop-up MOOC” on EdX, with Davidson Now. Titled “Engagement in a Time of Polarization,” it will explore participatory engagement models for our current information ecosystem: ways people can navigate new civic understandings in a time of fake news. It will be a conversation as much as a course, with provocations and live hangouts with leaders in information and disinformation. It’ll be a hands-on way to come together, and I invite all @UVenus readers to join us!

Meg Palladino, Yale University, New Haven, CT

Best of 2017:  There are always a ton of fascinating things happening on my campus - it’s hard to choose a best thing.  One of the most fun things I have witnessed is the completion of two new residential colleges on campus.  The residential colleges are the heart of the undergraduate experience, and watching them come to life with students and establish their own cultures within the University has been fascinating.  Having lunch at their bibimbap station was also a treat.

Dreams for 2018:  I am hoping for a good 2018.  I have a goal of becoming more polished, both personally and professionally.  I’d like to be better at self care, to keep myself healthy, happy, and more in-tune with my mind and body, and become better at managing stress.

Readers, what was the best thing that happened on your campus in 2017 and what do you hope to see in 2018?


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