GREENSBORO, N.C. – On Friday, September 13, the Bennett College Board of Trustees received the final report developed by the Bennett Re-Engineering Committee (BRC), an 18-member committee of national and state strategic leaders charged with developing recommendations to advance a sustainable, successful future for Bennett College.
Over the course of five months, the BRC undertook a rigorous review of documents from Bennett College and other institutions, conducted five focus groups and gathered feedback from more than 500 stakeholders including students, parents, alumnae, faculty, staff and donors.
Four themes dominated the assessment and recommendations in the final report:
- Immediate resolve to stabilize the finances and ensure accreditation and, thereafter, exercise discipline in meeting fundraising goals and adhering to spending restrictions required by the business model.
- Visionary leadership and governance able to deliver on a strategic mission and concurrent set of priorities for change.
- Innovation and tenacity to ensure enrollment growth and the success of students.
- A relentless effort to execute operational efficiencies and build the strength of the workforce at levels that offer students a high-value experience.
“Bennett College deeply appreciates the work and commitment by the Bennett Re-Engineering Committee,” said Gladys Robinson, chair of the Board of Trustees. “We look forward to thoroughly reviewing the recommendations and taking action as needed. I am pleased to say that the Board, President Suzanne Walsh and our leadership team have already made strong progress on a number of initiatives directly related to the critical issues identified early in the process by the BRC.”
Robinson cited several examples of progress that has been made in recent months, including:
- President Walsh’s convening of a finance summit on her second day after officially becoming president. The summit, which brought together national and local experts, has led to further work on the 5-year financial model developed by BRC board member Martin Eakes. Bennett College has also begun reviews of all vendor contracts to identify opportunities for efficiencies and right-sizing.
- Ongoing development of a new enrollment management plan to strengthen recruitment efforts, add more targeted recruitment strategies for spring and minimester and increase focus on transfer students.
- Institutional self-assessments of campus departments, including business and finance, enrollment management, information technology and facilities to develop stabilization plans for each area.
- Strengthening collaborations with peer institutions to increase opportunities for students in areas of academics in high demand, such as STEM fields, where Bennett does not have faculty and staff.
“It was important to everyone on this committee to stretch their thinking to find ways to keep Bennett College alive and thriving, and you could see that by the depth of the work. I could not be happier with the prospect of maintaining Bennett’s long and illustrious history of serving the needs of women of color,” said Yvonne Johnson, co-chair of the BRC and a Bennett alumna. Johnson is executive director of the nonprofit One Step Further and a former mayor of Greensboro.
“The BRC has given the Board, President Walsh and faculty a lot to consider,” said Tom Ross, co-chair of the BRC, president of The Volcker Alliance and president emeritus of the University of North Carolina System. “The College will need time to review the final report, and while it is too soon to know or speculate on which final recommendations will be acted upon, we are very heartened by how dynamically the College embraced the BRC’s early signals for change.”
More information about the BRC can be found at bennettbrc.com.