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371 Faculty, Staff Respond to Internal Communications Survey

Almost half of faculty and staff say Stetson University “does a good job communicating what is happening at the institution,” and they would like to know more about benefits, policies and training opportunities.

A photo of a desktop with a computer keyboard, eyeglasses, calculator and chartsThat’s according to the Stetson University Internal Communications Survey taken earlier this year by 371 faculty and staff members on the DeLand campus and the Center at Celebration, representing a 38 percent response rate.

Stetson University Marketing conducted the email survey from Feb. 9 to March 9 to gauge the effectiveness of various communication tools, such as daily Announcements delivered by email each morning and stories on Stetson Today, the university’s online news site. Faculty and staff also were asked for their preference for receiving communication and for feedback on ways to improve.

“Internal communication plays a vital role in engaging, understanding and motivating staff to work toward a common goal,” said Janie Graziani, assistant vice president for Marketing Communications, who worked to get the survey in the field. “Engaged employees create the dynamic working and learning environment that attracts new hires and students to Stetson.”

Among the survey findings:

  • 44 percent of faculty and staff agreed or strongly agreed that “the university does a good job of communicating what is happening at the institution,” and another 30 percent somewhat agreed. Ten percent disagreed or strongly disagreed.
  • 66 percent agreed or strongly agreed that “I am able to contact senior management/faculty as needed,” and 5 percent disagreed or strongly disagreed.
  • 37 percent agreed or strongly agreed that “I feel I am kept informed about matters that affect me,” and 15 percent disagreed or strongly disagreed.

The survey asked faculty and staff which topics they were interested in receiving information about and their top five answers were:

  1. Training and development programs;
  2. Human Resources, including benefits, health insurance, retirement, etc.;
  3. University policies and procedures;
  4. Products and services available to staff and faculty;
  5. Stetson University strategies and vision for the future.

The faculty and staff were asked how interested they were in receiving information through the various communication channels at Stetson, and their preference was:

  1. Daily Announcements delivered by email each morning (71 percent);
  2. Stories on Stetson Today (57 percent);
  3. The university’s website, https://www.stetson.edu (56 percent).

The survey also contained three open-ended questions that prompted 282 comments from faculty and staff, including wanting more information about the university’s strategy and vision; more information about Human Resources, including benefits; and suggestions on improving the university’s events/calendar system. For more information, see the survey presentation.

President Wendy B. Libby: “Where this ship is going is to be a fine, small university”

Portrait

President Wendy B. Libby, Ph.D.

After the survey results were presented at the All Campus Staff Meeting in DeLand on Wednesday, May 16, President Wendy B. Libby, Ph.D., took the stage to speak again to staff gathered in Lee Chapel inside Elizabeth Hall. Her remarks follow and where appropriate have been paraphrased or shortened.

“(The internal communications survey indicated) there was a question about financial solvency and I think it’s worth it for you to hear directly from me where Stetson is. This is a place that is financially strong. There is not a shred of doubt about that. You have heard about institutions across the country merging, being bought out, going out of business, slashing faculty and cutting majors. This is not an issue for Stetson. Let me make that clear to you.”

President Libby also discussed the status of fundraising and the endowment, saying the university is in the top quintile in endowment returns, and raised $192 million — $30 million of that for student scholarships.  The strength of Stetson from the rating agencies, which evaluate the university’s credit worthiness, is stable. Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s rate Stetson as an A-3 and A-minus, a strong indicator of the financial stability of the university.

“Now, a lot of that strength has come through growth in enrollment, which was necessary in order for us to fund the carrying costs of the university, having this many employees, and so on. And the growth from roughly 2,100 to 3,000 undergraduate students brought us a tremendous sense of accomplishment because we actually hit 3,000 students a year before we expected,” said Libby.

She said the growth provided the university with the financial strength to afford the academic programming, repair and renovation of facilities, and the new and outstanding faculty and staff who are so important to Stetson’s academic excellence.

Libby also discussed the recent issues with the enrollment model. “(We) over-projected the number of students that we thought would return, so we were under in our total enrollment budget for this campus and that was the bump that we hit. That model has been refashioned and brought up to date,” Libby said. “In terms of the numbers, we have presented to our Board of Trustees a model where our total undergraduate student number is roughly 3,200 to 3,300 for the fall semester.”

That enrollment would allow Stetson to maintain an average enrollment of 3,000 students for the fall and spring semesters, given the number of students who graduate in December and the fall-to-spring attrition.

President Libby discussed the issues with expanding undergraduate enrollment beyond that number on the DeLand campus, saying the costs of building new residence halls and other facilities would be so expensive that the additional growth would not dramatically improve the university’s finances.

“So, what would? Well, it is mostly what you have heard today,” she said. “What will make a difference for Stetson as we move to having 3,200 or 3,300 undergraduates in the fall term is the standout programs — the distinctive programs — that we have in all of our colleges, and the reason is more students will select us as their first-choice university. They will come here more committed to Stetson and will be less financially sensitive.

“Sending our Crew teams to the Dad Vail Regatta, the largest in North America, and coming in second, that makes us distinctive. Having a brand new and outstanding program in the College of Arts and Sciences – called the MFA of the Americas — makes us outstanding. Having a fine music vocal program that is currently on tour from the School of Music is distinctive and, of course, you heard from Dean Neal Mero about the School of Business (Centurion Sales, accounting, entrepreneurship).”

The president said these types of programs have a limited impact on the need for more facilities, although some need better, updated facilities, and Health and Science is one of them. “When we discuss the value of a Stetson education, it’s the distinctive programs that will make families and young people more interested in coming here,” she said.

Some of the newer initiatives include the university’s brand-new, donor-supported Hillel program and a new agreement to start an Air Force ROTC program. This comes as the Army ROTC program continues to grow, with 75 new students projected in the program this fall, up from 15 or 20 just six years ago.

“Well, I think where this ship is going is to be a fine, small university in the 3,200 – 3,300 range of undergraduates and that has an endowment that can support our aspirations; one that puts away enough money every year to take care of not just its facilities but the faculty and staff who work here every day, and that doesn’t overbuild for a future that may not show up,” said Libby.  “And that will be done by raising quality in our academic programs and in all the services that we deliver every single day, in all of our separate ways – in our coaching, in our mentoring, in our care for our facilities, and in the respect we have with one another.”

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