Ed Schrader

The Future is not What it Used to Be

When I look back at old newspaper clippings that quoted me, some things bring smiles of personal warmth and satisfaction. Others generate a slight tinge of embarrassment when they reveal today that only a few years ago I may not have been as farsighted as I thought.

Don’t bother Googling. I will own up to statements quoted in earlier editions of this very magazine – “ancient” ideas expressed as we developed direction for the Brenau 2025 Strategic Plan. Here’s one: “Failure [for Brenau] to establish a doctorate in education, an Ed.D., is not an option. We could fill those classes tomorrow.” In that bygone era, I also spoke of needed construction on the historic campus: a new science building and a multipurpose education building/community center.

What happened to those plans? Unforeseen opportunities – and obstacles – showed up. Then we had a recession.

When I predicted in those days what Brenau’s first doctorate would be, teacher education – particularly on the graduate level – was one of the university’s fastest-growing and historically strongest disciplines. The College of Education ranked behind only the College of Business & Mass Communication in overall enrollment.

State and local school systems slashed public school budgets, laid off teachers and eliminated salary incentives for educators who acquired advanced degrees, such as the Ed.D. The number of prospective students dropped significantly. At the same time, demand for higher education and greater expertise in the so-called recession-proof professions – many of them in health care – skyrocketed.

Fortunately – thanks to an enlightened and grounded-in-reality Board of Trustees – Brenau reacts to such dynamics quickly and decisively. We indeed became a doctoral degree-granting institution, three times over, but all three of our current doctoral programs are in health care disciplines: nursing, occupational therapy and physical therapy. Our first terminal degree, an M.F.A. in interior design, ironically built its program on the pedagogical model developed for the nursing doctorate, but the M.F.A. won accreditation before the nursing doctorate.

Thanks to the ForeverGold campaign, we have been able to construct needed facilities on the historic campus: not the built from-scratch academic buildings but four new sorority houses and the soon-to-be-completed Women’s College general residence hall. Still, we rolled our ideas for new science and general/community education buildings on the size-constrained historic campus into what is now the Brenau Downtown Center, a leased city-owned former convention center. That facility houses our physical therapy doctoral program, a community-serving therapy and educational clinic planned to be operational in early 2016, and a huge human anatomy lab that rivals or exceeds the quality in most medical schools. Additionally, we have plenty of room to expand our other health care disciplines. We also have more community access than we envisioned in the once-proposed facility: a 300-seat theater, a ballroom space for large community and professional meetings, and a “living gallery” of more than 150 works selected from the university’s permanent art collection. All that, compared to what we envisioned when we made those bold statements seven or eight years ago, represents twice the space and four times the function at half the cost.

The point is that Brenau remains steadfast in its central focus to provide the highest-quality education to students who need it and want it. The ForeverGold campaign builds on our past by sustaining and strengthening the Brenau Women’s College as it continues its mission of more than 137 years to prepare female leaders for an evolving society. But a critical truth looms: Your financial responses to ForeverGold support the nimbleness of which I spoke earlier, as Brenau University enhances its overriding commitment to produce extraordinary leaders, male and female, for health care and many other professions.

Brenau meets the key academic needs of our students and our society. With your help and the help of others like you, Brenau’s significant social and academic successes will continue for years to come. Specific needs change. Student demographics evolve to match society’s needs. However, that core vision of Brenau never will.

Finally, let’s not write off my earlier prediction. Based on what I am seeing in the news, teacher education appears to be making a strong economic recovery. The time for a Brenau Ed.D. could be just around the corner!

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