Campus Changes – Westminster

By Anthony Baron

What type of change can five years bring? As the university’s Strategic Plan draws to a close at the end of the year, it is a poignant time for reflection and careful analysis of what changes have occurred at Westminster Choir College (WCC). On the surface, it is easy to see obvious changes such as the College of the Arts, but there are some less obvious ones, too.

One of the biggest changes is rooted in the Arts and Sciences Program at Westminster. Until 2005, WCC hired and maintained faculty members within an Arts and Sciences Department. These faculty members would be responsible for delivering the arts and sciences courses at the choir college. Beginning in 2005, Lawrenceville campus faculty began coming to Westminster to deliver courses.

“More Lawrenceville-based faculty teaching here is a positive,” said Dean and Director Robert Annis. “Westminster is no longer isolated.”

Coordinator of the Arts and Sciences Program Diana Crane is a little less certain. She commented, “It was a big shock to shut down the Arts and Sciences Department. The only thing that does not work is the foreign languages, and possibly English. Without full-time faculty, you have no permanent presence that students need.”

At the same time, Crane acknowledges the new system has positives.

“If I want a sociology or political science course, it only will happen every so often. Our juniors and seniors are looking for more of a special topics course.”

Another change to develop on campus was the growth and expansion of the Student Government Association (SGA). While Rider has had a proud tradition of student governance since the 1960s, it was not until December 2004 that Westminster had a ratified SGA Constitution. SGA has recently emerged as a strong part of the community as evidenced this year by the first-ever full Senate at WCC.

“The student of today is more outgoing” than ever, according to Annis.

At the same time, amidst all these changes, many people feel the overall culture of the community has stayed the same. Kate Wadley, WCC ’02, and now associate director of annual giving for WCC, said when talking to alumni of the past and students of the present, “What I’ve found is not only am I seeing similar students on the campus of today, but generationally it is the same. The same types of people, the same experiences.”

Director of External Affairs Anne Sears agrees. “We are living the legacy John Finley Williamson created, giving all people the ability to have a living engagement with the arts through Westminster College of the Arts.”

As 2010 approaches, there is much reason to question the direction of the future, but also much to revel in. Former Associate Dean of WCC Peter Wright is optimistic.

“We are currently in the throes of an academic cultural collision,” he said. “A few skirmishes have been fought and no doubt a few more will be fought before we figure it all out. Having lived through passages along several previous paths leading to uncertain futures, I am inclined to feel positively about our collective abilities — those of both campuses — to emerge successfully. So, five or 10 years from now, we’ll all be saying, ‘We’re still here.’”

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