By Norm Miller, Louisiana College communications
PINEVILLE – The sense of confidence that buoyed Louisiana College’s employees and stakeholders when Dr. Rick Brewer arrived as president in March of this year remains intact and even thrives with the prospects of recent accomplishment and future goals.
“We have hope again,” said Byron McGee, who recently became vice president for institutional advancement. “What we are hearing from pastors, business leaders and alumni in CenLa and beyond is that Louisiana College’s future looks bright with Dr. Brewer as president. We all have been waiting for a leader who is not only a visionary, but is one who seizes the dream and makes it a reality,” McGee said.
Having arrived only a few months ago, Brewer said he brings “decades of experience and success in growing an academic institution as evidenced by the double-digit and even exponential categorical successes God granted.”
“We are grateful for the 1,109 students now enrolled at Louisiana College,” Brewer continued. “And though our enrollment has trended downward during the last 5 years, we need to remember that an institution the size of Louisiana College can hardly reverse a trend of several years in only a few months.”
Turning the corner
Brewer said he believes the replication of his former efforts will work at Louisiana College as well.
“It may sound trite, but it’s also true: teamwork makes the dream work. Our senior leadership team, our faculty, our staff, they all have applied a variety of gifts and talents that have enabled us to turn into the skid in a corrective way, and I believe Louisiana College is back on track and pointed in the right direction,” Brewer said.
Citing measures already undertaken, Brewer noted: “The dual enrollment agreement we struck with the Rapides Parish School Board, the articulation agreements under discussion between LC and numerous colleges and universities, the addition of several new faculty members, as well as a new dean for our School of Nursing, and campus facilities improvements and beautification — all of these upgrades we believe will help us, and we expect to see an enrollment upswing by the fall 2016 semester if not by spring.”
Brewer applauded the financial foresight of Randall Hargis, LC’s vice president for business affairs. “Through a variety of means, Randall has kept a sharp pencil in this difficult season, and it looks like we will have a balanced budget for this fiscal year.”
Last fall LC reported a budget shortfall in excess of $1 million during an almost identical downturn in enrollment.
“I could not be happier with our team,” Brewer said. “We anticipated a continuation of the enrollment trend. Yet, staff and faculty attrition, strategic planning, donor support, and a healthy dose of frugality constituted an effective cost containment outcome.”
Brewer cited the “past and present efforts of our entire LC family, who have continued to operate with a strong sense of stewardship and accountability regarding the sacrificially given Cooperative Program funds from members of churches within our Louisiana Baptist Convention.”
Teamwork, planning and strategies
Brewer said he is “confident we have the right faculty and staff in place. Our team is dedicated to the vision of preparing graduates and transforming lives, and readily engages with passion the mission of a relevant, relational and rigorous liberal arts education founded upon a Christian worldview.”
“We all take seriously the role God has given us,” Brewer said. “We remain committed to the proper balance of academic excellence and spiritual development on behalf of Louisiana College students.”
Employing new strategies is key to growing Louisiana College, said Brewer, who contracted with an enrollment management consultant — a seasoned veteran of Christian higher education — who has “brought success to every institution he has advised.”
Part of Brewer’s growth plan includes a considerable increase in online education.
Planning to tap into what some may call non-traditional markets, Brewer believes plowing new ground in anticipation of future trends will create an influx of students for the college. This strategy includes hybrid degrees that will equip CenLa residents for employment in CenLa business and industry.
More immediately, within the next few weeks Brewer will unveil what he calls the “Louisiana College Board of Visitors.” Both Brewer and McGee continue to meet with regional and even national business leaders whose participation in the plan will bring exclusive scholarship support for qualified students.
“We are getting significant buy-in to this venture from many friends of the college who are not only expressing verbal hope for our future, but are demonstrating it through prayerful and financial support,” Brewer said.
Reiterating comments made in a press release regarding his upcoming inauguration on Sept. 18, Brewer said he is “deeply grateful toward Louisiana Baptists and our local community for their warm reception. Many have offered encouraging words, and then followed them with tangible and encouraging actions. This assures me not only of their support, but also their friendship. I anticipate the future with the joyful expectation that the best is yet to come.”