While students have been aware of the academic and calendar changes for the 2018-2019 academic year, Hastings College made the first public announcement on Sept. 21 at 11 a.m. in the Gray Center atrium during their “HC 2.0” press conference. Administrative and faculty members announced the changes, including the new liberal arts format, the study abroad program and the new academic calendar.
Students started becoming aware of potential changes near the end of Feb. 2018 when a town hall forum was held to discuss the rumors of curriculum change. During the town hall, students focused primarily on a new calendar system. At the time, details of the changes were not finalized, leaving ambiguity concerning how things would change. Local news outlets were not present at the town hall.
Another town hall forum was held on April 4, as the news had spread to a larger population on campus. Details of the changes were more clear, but there remained some concern from students. Local news outlets were not permitted at the second town hall.
Now, HC has finalized the changes. The surrounding Hastings community was made aware of the international travel program, the 7-7-2, 7-2-7 calendar, the IDEA minor (interdisciplinary exploration area) and the provision of iPads and Apple Pencils for every student. Travis Feezell, president of Hastings College, Barbara Sunderman, vice president for academic affairs and Patty Kingsley, director of information technology, spoke about these changes.
“We at Hastings College are excited to announce several new initiatives that we are launching in the fall of 2019. These are all designed to improve the student experience on campus and for students to fully participate in career readiness and travel opportunities off campus,” said Susan Meeske, executive vice president of enrollment and student experience, at the beginning of the conference.
Five local news organizations were at the press conference. Following the event, reporters talked to the speakers and participating students individually.
According to Michael Howie, director of marketing, announcing these changes is important to keep alumni aware of updates to the college and to improve the marketability for prospective students. By holding the conference during Homecoming weekend, alumni would be able to participate.
“We need to get that information out there because we’re marketing, and admissions is working with students who are coming next year. So it’s important to share that so they can learn some of that information before they arrive on campus for a visit. Maybe some of the changes we’re making in the new initiatives could even help attract students to campus who maybe weren’t considering Hastings before,” Howie said.
Howie also stated that this press conference clears up some of the rumors in the Hastings community. Community members were aware that HC was going through changes but were unsure of their nature.
“In the absence of truth, rumor becomes fact … I think from that, because there’s lots of change and some people get concerned about change or worry about that, maybe they tend to focus on that a little more negatively than what we’re actually doing. So we knew we needed to do something to kind of help spread the word of what’s actually happening. It made sense to invite media to an event where we can hit everybody, at least all the media, at once,” Howie said.
Howie noted that this also can act as a stepping off point for further discussion of HC’s future. He gave the example of having someone talk on a news station to give more depth than the press conference provided.
“For us, this is a structural change of the college, and it’s innovative. It’s new, it’s different and from a marketing standpoint those are all good things to talk about because we aren’t the same as everyone else in the marketplace. We’re adapting to the 21st century and how students learn and taking advantage by changing the calendar. We can take advantage of lots of things and
offer travel and other powerful learning experiences,” Howie said.
The live-streamed press conference can be found on the HC Facebook page.