November 15, 2018; Des Moines Register
On Monday, NPQ suggested two responses that could follow the alarm set off by the president of Iowa Wesleyan University that the school could close this year if it does not raise enough in bridge funding:
The president’s statement can be viewed either as a gauntlet thrown or a bell tolling, as the university’s future now lies to some extent in the hands and hearts of stakeholders. Once you let the students, including international scholars, know the state of the school, they either need to mobilize as they did at Sweet Briar College, eventually raising the capital to get the space to restructure the college, or they need to start making other plans.
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So, it was encouraging news yesterday when the board announced that the small, private, liberal arts university in southeast Iowa had received sufficient donations from alumni, community, and others to move ahead, albeit with an eye to innovative restructuring, including new partnerships. Among the stakeholders making gifts are an Iowa Wesleyan professor and alumnus who gave $500,000, and the Mount Pleasant Area Chamber of Alliance, which donated $120,000. Just as encouraging is the fact that a new partnership with USDA Rural Development is also in the mix.
Again, this reminds us to some extent of Sweet Briar College’s quick organizing work among stakeholders when the board voted to close that institution in 2015.
Steve Titus, the university’s president, said in a statement that many people and entities banded together to keep Iowa Wesleyan open. “We have been awed by the extraordinary response at this critical and historic moment,” he said. “Now it is time to get to work to ensure our future.” And, as we know from observing Sweet Briar, that work, done right, is hard and long, but also a deep and inspiring act of collective creativity.—Ruth McCambridge