Transy Aims for Top 50


Lexington, KY – As the recently inaugurated president of Transylvania University, Owen Williams has set his sights on the Top 50. Currently ranked No. 88 among national liberal arts colleges in U.S. News & World Report’s Best Colleges, Williams admitted he is like most other college presidents who think their institution is ranked too low based on the quality of the school.
Williams understands the significance of rankings; highly ranked schools have greater competition and attract a higher level of student. To make the most of this cycle, Williams created a strategic plan that addresses 50 tactical measures to be implemented over the next few years.
“The combination of deploying our development staff, broadening our curriculum and expanding our athletics will help us achieve our goals,” said Williams.
The average endowment for a Top 50 school is $495 million. Transy’s endowment is $135 million.
“We need to double that figure,” said Williams. Within the next two years, Transy will hire up to two development staff members dedicated to raising money from foundations, corporations and alumni. The development staff will increase membership of alumni organizations and improve the types of events offered in areas with concentrations of alumni, such as Ohio, Tennessee, New York and Florida. Fifty percent of Transy’s living alumni are current donors to annual campaigns.
“Our generous alumni support is critical to our academic success and how we are viewed in rankings,” said Williams.
An NCAA Division III school, Transy will bring the total intercollegiate sports programs to 20 this fall by offering both men’s and women’s lacrosse. “Within the next year,” said Williams, “We will also add an equestrian program.” Growth among athletics will lead to a need for expanded and improved facilities.
Considered an academically selective school, Transy must include academics within its expansion plan. The current student-to-faculty ratio at Transy is 12.9 to 1, and Williams wants to reduce that to 11
to 1.
“Attracting high-quality faculty is quite achievable,” said Williams.
Externally, Transy and Lexington have excellent reputations as places to live and work.
“Both communities are large enough to be interesting while being small enough to be welcoming,” said Williams. Internally, Transy offers a supportive, family environment for award-winning faculty, which attracts potential faculty who want to work with renowned peers in their fields. Williams wants to improve the general education component to be more compelling and internationally focused.
With an expanded curriculum, stronger faculty, improved academic facilities, increased athletic programs and the ability to provide more financial aid, Williams believes Transy will attract a more diverse student body. Currently, most of his students are from Kentucky. Williams said a higher ranking will give Transy an opportunity to attract additional high-quality students from out of state and internationally.
“We want to increase our number of international students from 1 percent to 8 percent in the next five to seven years,” said Williams. “It’s for the sake of improving the quality of the educational experience for the best and brightest of Kentucky.”
This aspect of Williams’ vision extends beyond the campus to directly affect Lexington.
“We have one of the most educated labor forces in the nation,” said Robert Quick, president and CEO of Commerce Lexington. “We use Lexington’s education component to lure business – there are 10 higher education institutions in the area with 14,000 graduates each year.”
Together with colleagues in 2010, Kenneth Troske, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER) and William B. Sturgill Professor of Economics in the University of Kentucky’s Gatton College of Business and Economics, conducted a study to measure the economic value of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS). The study looked at KCTCS’s value both directly to its students around the state and indirectly to all residents of Kentucky. The study found that individuals are willing to pay tuition and taxes for the opportunity to take college courses that will raise their productivity, wages and quality of life. In addition, the researchers found that “a more educated worker raises the productivity of others at his or her workplace.”
“The more educated worker is more likely to have a healthy lifestyle, to avoid criminal behavior and to contribute to the civic life of the community,” the study also stated.
This point is detailed by rankings of another nature. In 2010, Lexington was named the second-best city for education and the fifth-best city for families by
Parenting magazine, as well as the third-best place to retire, according to CNNMoney.
Another top-ranked central Kentucky liberal arts institution provides a solid example of how a college and town can work together. Centre College in Danville is ranked No. 47 among national liberal arts colleges by the U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges. Centre College’s Norton Center for the Arts, an internationally recognized performing arts center, attracts visitors throughout the year.
“People don’t just buy a ticket to Norton, and proceeds don’t just benefit Centre,” said Charlie Cox, marketing and communications coordinator for the Danville/Boyle County Economic Development Partnership. “Guests stay in our hotels, eat in our restaurants and shop in our stores.”
Kentucky Department of Tourism figures from 2010 show that Danville/Boyle County had $65 million in expenditures.
When considering the value of educational institutions to the community, it is important to recognize the role of KCTCS as well as UK and Transy, Quick said.
“On one hand, it’s like comparing apples to oranges, but we get positive feedback on the diversity of academic excellence available in Lexington,” Quick said. “It doesn’t have to be one or the other; we are fortunate to have such a balance contributing to our intellectual collection.”
Equally vital to the intellectual collection of Lexington is the role an educated public plays in the social and economic development of our region.

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