In politics, campaigns help elect leaders. In higher
education, campaigns help institutions become leaders. Through A Commitment to
National Leadership, the largest campaign in the history of the College, alumni,
friends, faculty, staff, the United Methodist Church, and philanthropic foundations
invested $101.3 million in a bold vision for Hendrix established by the Board of
Trustees in 2003: To become a national leader in engaged liberal arts and sciences
The first step in this journey was both remarkable
and reflective. Faculty members were challenged to create an innovative academic
program that distinguished Hendrix among the country’s leading liberal arts colleges.
To do this, they examined essential elements that have consistently defined the
Hendrix experience for generations of students – namely the opportunity for students
to work closely with faculty who are dedicated to teaching undergraduate students
in the classroom and mentoring students in research, internships, international
study, and other hands-on learning activities.
The Hendrix faculty answered this challenge. They identified
something that makes Hendrix unique in the landscape of liberal arts education –
an atmosphere that encourages active learning or engaged liberal arts. And they
gave it a name. Your Hendrix Odyssey: Engaging in Active Learning was announced
in 2004 and formally launched in 2005.
Through Odyssey, faculty broadened the horizon of what
has historically made Hendrix an incredible institution. Encouraging undergraduate
research and other hands-on activities has long been a hallmark of the Hendrix experience
and is increasingly more common on the campuses of national liberal arts colleges.
What made Odyssey distinct was that it was universal, not elective. Through Your
Hendrix Odyssey, students were now required to complete – not simply encouraged
to pursue – a minimum of three engaged learning experiences. They could choose these
experiences from six broad categories, including Artistic Creativity, Global Awareness,
Professional and Leadership Development, Service to the World, Special Projects,
and Undergraduate Research.
Not only was Your Hendrix Odyssey to be universal
for all students, it was to be embedded – not ancillary – to the academic program.
Students graduating from Hendrix would not only receive a transcript noting their
performance in academic courses but also an Odyssey transcript detailing their engaged
learning experiences. The Odyssey transcript would show not just what or how well
they had learned but what they could do.
To encourage students to undertake the most ambitious
engaged learning experiences, Hendrix needed substantial resources to endow the
program and create a means for students to apply – on a competitive grants basis
– for project support.
So with the introduction of Your Hendrix Odyssey:
Engaging in Active Learning, the College announced the campaign to fund Odyssey
and other critical needs that would make Hendrix a national leader in engaged liberal
arts and sciences education.
It wasn’t enough for Hendrix to simply excite students
with the unique opportunities inherent in Odyssey and the enterprise of engaged
liberal arts. The reality of a fiercely competitive marketplace, even more acute
in the wake of post-9/11 economic uncertainty, meant that Hendrix would have to
commit substantial resources to access and affordability just as it had committed
to making sweeping curricular change.
Just as the inception of Your Hendrix Odyssey
required a dual focus – affirming tradition and imagining the future – Hendrix had
to look honestly at its position in the marketplace of leading liberal arts colleges.
Research showed that the current generation of college-bound students was more sensitive
to the level of institutional financial assistance (both merit- and need-based awards)
offered than they were to the price of tuition they saw printed in the viewbooks
they received from college admissions offices. Surveys of students who had considered
but did not ultimately select Hendrix showed that – based on the printed cost of
tuition – students did not perceive Hendrix to be as competitive with its peers.
To address this curious perception, Hendrix adjusted
its tuition structure, concurrently raising the printed cost but increasing the
level of institutional financial assistance. The latter required an added emphasis
in the campaign on raising annual and endowed gifts to support student aid. Following
the precedent established by Your Hendrix Odyssey, the College devised the
Odyssey Distinction Awards, a new program to award institutional financial assistance
based on the students’ gifts, talents, and passions.
Along with an entrepreneurial re-imagining of the academic
program and price positioning, the Board of Trustees addressed the critical need
for new facilities on campus. A decade earlier, Hendrix had completed a major campaign
that revitalized the teaching and undergraduate research infrastructure for the
sciences. The result was a quantum leap forward in the College’s capacity to deliver
on its historic strength of preparing future leaders in health, medicine and science.
A similar leap forward was now needed for Hendrix to fulfill its promise as a national
leader. So in preparation for A Commitment to National Leadership, the Board
of Trustees identified the need for two new facilities, one to include recreational
health and wellness and intercollegiate athletic programs and another to offer enhanced
student life opportunities and weave the most advanced academic and social technology
into the fabric of campus life. Through A Commitment to National Leadership,
the College would seek philanthropic support to complete a new Wellness and Athletics
Center and new Student Life and Technology Center.
The precincts are closed. The votes are counted. Hendrix
College is a national leader in engaged liberal arts and sciences education. Through
A Commitment to National Leadership, Hendrix significantly increased the
level of financial assistance and scholarships offered to students, providing access
and affordability for all qualified students. Our faculty collaborated to create
innovative programs that blend intellectual inquiry and hands-on learning, programs
that have quickly become national models and are now being emulated at other institutions.
State-of-the-art facilities that enrich academic and student life every day now
stand on campus as a monument to a courageous course chartered by the College at
the beginning of this campaign.