From his office windows, Buena Vista University President Fred Moore has a view of the sun glittering down on the Storm Lake campus, and this week, it almost seems there wasn't a cloud in the sky - literally and figuratively.
Enrollment is high and stable at 1,200 full-time students, in-transfers are up, and student retention could be the best in BVU history. The new on-line programs have had an encouraging response, and the initial program was completed on-budget, and on time.
Fresh rankings by U.S. News & World Report and the Princeton Review laud the school as among the best in the midwest.
A community campaign kicks off Sept. 24, and the university's investments are expected to top $120 million in value soon, the highest endowment in four years.
A new strategic planning process is underway, and the new Science Center has helped to create growing interest in that field.
Indeed, the sun shines, and the view is decidedly upbeat.
Moore smiles as he ticks of the news in an informal beginning-of-the-school-year press conference. "A banner year," is a term he uses more than once. Some highlights:
* Moving In - "One thing that was tremendously gratifying is that this year, lots of people from town came to help students move into the residence halls. We have had groups or churches provide some help in past years, but this year, volunteers just started showing up, on their own. It was hot and hard work, and I want to issue a public thanks," Moore said.
* Major Moment - BVU hosts former Prime Minister of Great Britain John Major on Friday, September 23, for the William W. Siebens American Heritage Lecture. Having played a role in fighting terrorism on the world stage, his message should be timely, Moore suggests.
* Deep Partnership - The university is excited about a new partnership with the city that will open the BVU Natatorium to the Storm Lake public next season, using the university pool to replace the city pool, which will soon be demolished. A new city aquatic center in 2007 as part of Project AWAYSIS.
"We see AWAYSIS as a good thing, and we are happy to be involved with it," Moore said, noting that several university staff and faculty members have served in planning, organizing or fundraising for the community development.
* Big Students, Little Students - Moore said he is especially pleased to learn that BVU students have volunteered at all four public elementaries plus St. Mary's, Alta and Storm Lake Middle School. About 166 provided service to the schools last year. "We are very, very proud of what students are doing," Moore said.
* Planning for the Future - Moore revealed that a new strategic planning process is well underway that will guide the university into the future. Initial research has been well received, and is now being used to craft the plan. Included will be a new identity branding effort for BVU.
* Social Science & Art - When the new science center opened a year ago, the former science center was freed up with 30,000 square feet to become a Social Science & Art Hall. Several hundred thousand dollars has been spent on the conversion and renovation, and at least that much will be spent this year, Moore said. The new quarters are expected to be a big boost to the art, philosophy, social science and religion programs.
* New Student Center - The largest new building project on the horizon, a new Student Center is currently on hold until the outcomes of the strategic planning process can be seen. Moore said the university still plans to go ahead with constructing a building, but no timeline is in place.
Once data gathering is done, BVU will be in a position to launch a campaign for the funding. The plan is for the new building to be in a "high traffic, easily accessible site." Moore said that site has been discussed, but declined to name a potential location publically at this time.
* Teacher Factory - The single most popular career path for BVU students continues to be elementary education, Moore said. Despite a reputation as a business school and the high-profile developments in science, BVU produces more teachers than any private college in Iowa, according to the president. Forty percent of centers students are also in education programs. The school of business is, however, the largest on campus.
* Science Ramps Up - Science and math enrollment increased 33 percent last year with the opening of the Science Center. "The level of excitement has been very high. The faculty can do many new and different things with the resources we now have. They tell me that more students are even coming back to the building at night to do their studying in that environment," Moore said.
* Iowa Tuition Grant - The state funded the program after some worries last year, and Moore hopes for the same result this year. Private colleges depend on the funding to make it possible more many students to attend - an investment that Moore said serves the taxpayers well.
The BVU president also warned that more and more tax dollars are going to the trend of for-profit universities. "I hope the citizens of Iowa understand that with a for-profit university, you have owners. The funds end up in the hands of shareholders. On the other hand, the funds we generate as a not-for-profit university are all reinvested in education. Four-and-a-half million in Iowa Tuition Grant money has gone to the shareholders of these for-profits. Is that how we want to invest our money?"
* Did Someone Say Money? - Like the nation in general, BVU's investments have climbed out of the cellar after a challenging period in the markets. The endowment stands with market value of $118 million and rising, the highest in a few years. The investment committee of the board of trustees has helped BVU's investments recover and become more diversified, Moore said.