Progress Report: Scripps College Centennial Plan

When Lara Tiedens was appointed president of Scripps, the Board of Trustees charged her with creating and adopting a new strategic plan for the College. She was guided by the question, “Where should Scripps be in 2026, when the College turns 100?” The answer to that is the Scripps College Centennial Plan, which was approved by the Board in October 2018 and serves as a blueprint to ensure that the College’s future is filled with infinite possibility in the 21st century and beyond. Two years after its launch, many of the plan’s initiatives are completed or under way.


Presidential Scholarship Initiative

Because of the talent of the College’s applicant pool, students admitted to Scripps College often have several choices as to which school they will attend. It is imperative that Scripps remain competitive with peer institutions in terms of the financial aid packages it makes available so that it continues to attract and enroll students of the highest caliber who are eager to immerse themselves in a holistic Scrips education. The Presidential Scholarship Initiative aims to deliver on that invitation to success and achievement by enabling all students to fully participate in the Scripps experience regardless of financial resources.


Implemented in the 2019–20 academic year, the Presidential Scholarship Initiative enabled the College to replace loans with grants for students with household incomes under $60,000 per year. “This helps lower- and middle-income students participate more fully in the Scripps experience without the burden of student debt,” says Victoria Romero, vice president for enrollment at Scripps.


The next goal for the initiative is to reduce overall indebtedness for all Scripps students. Traditionally, colleges package financial aid such that loans of $3,500 are offered for the first year, $4,500 for the second and third years, and $5,500 for the fourth. “We want to level that out and package aid so that students only need loans of $3,500 for each of their four years,” continues Romero. “The gap will be funded through the Presidential Scholarship Initiative. This will affect significant numbers of students. We want to package financial aid so that students can leave Scripps with significantly less debt than the nearly $30,000 most students leave college with.”


IDEA 2.0 Initiative

In 2014, as a result of the 2013 Diversity Strategic Plan and driven by the desire to build a stronger and more inclusive community, the College launched the IDEA (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access) Initiative. IDEA has actively examined and evaluated ways in which campus climate issues have impacted the College’s goals in diversity, equity, belonging, and access for students, faculty, and staff. Following recommendations from IDEA’s presidential advisory committee, the Committee on Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity, recent progress has included expanded support for the First-Gen Program, off-campus therapy, affinity housing options, community-building workshops and dialogue groups, ConverActions with national thought leaders, Study Abroad and Global Education grant coverage of application and participation costs, and financial aid workshops.


Now, six years later, the College is building on IDEA with IDEA 2.0, launched in January 2019, which aims to foster a stronger, more inclusive community in which members understand, appreciate, and learn from each other’s differences of identity, experience, and access to resources. IDEA 2.0 will cultivate a greater sense of belonging and enable Scripps students to build more diverse, accessible, equitable communities in their lives after graduation. Next steps include an institutional review of current College programs, activities, and policies that support those goals. The initiative will also leverage the College’s membership in the USC Race and Equity Center’s Liberal Arts College Racial Equity Leadership Alliance, which provides learning opportunities and an array of expertise and tools to access climates of inclusion for people of color and other marginalized groups.


“IDEA 2.0 seeks to move from a model of individual initiative to institutional, campus-wide change,” says Denise Nelson Nash, vice president and secretary for the Board of Trustees and convener of the IDEA Initiative. “Moving to a change model that addresses the systemic issues avoids overtaxing and depending on individuals—often marginalized themselves,” she explains; the new approach will be a distributed leadership model of consultation and action.


Building Computer Science Capacity

Long recognizing that a liberal arts education in the 21st century includes fluency in computation-based disciplines, Scripps has made several moves to increase students’ access to computational training. The College launched a new data science minor this fall and implemented two new courses, Intro to Python and Intro to Data Science, as well as hiring media studies and math faculty whose work involves computer science. Douglas Goodwin, the College’s first Fletcher Jones Foundation Scholar in Computation, began last fall. In 2019, Google came to campus for a 10-week machine-learning summer workshop, and Scripps also partnered with Davidson College on a program that taught computational thinking and software engineering geared toward solving problems within the humanities.


“Foremost in our minds is the question: How do we embed these data and computer science courses into our liberal arts curriculum?” says Jennifer Armstrong, associate dean of faculty. “Professor Goodwin’s courses are housed in media studies, and other CS and data courses are embedded into other disciplines. It’s about teaching new tools to study and solve problems from an interdisciplinary liberal arts perspective while meeting the needs of Scripps students.”


Public Humanities Initiative

Scripps is part of a growing movement in higher education to demonstrate the necessary value of the humanities in developing interdisciplinary, humane solutions to the world’s most complex problems. The Mellon Interdisciplinary Humanities Initiative (MIHI), supported by an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant, provides support for semester-long, full-credit community-engagement courses in which faculty members and students from majors and disciplines within the humanities work in partnership with local organizations. Courses that incorporated this community-based learning over the past academic year include Foreign Language and Culture, in collaboration with Chaparral Elementary School; Artivistas in the Americas, in collaboration with the Alliance for California Traditional Arts and Boyle Heights Arts Conservatory; and Cultural Competence in the Health Professions, in partnership with CLEAR (Pomona Economic Opportunity Center), Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center, Park West High School, and Huerta del Valle. “Humanities interdisciplinary thinking involves integrating knowledge rooted in informed understandings of more than one discipline, producing interdisciplinarity through use of higher-order cognitive skills,” says Hao Huang, faculty co-director of MIHI, professor of music, and the Bessie and Cecil Frankel Endowed Chair in Music. “Ideally, MIHI clinics will integrate theory with praxis through an academic approach to community engagement with local community organization partners.”


In addition, the Mellon Interdisciplinary Humanities Initiative supports a student summer research program and seminars for faculty on topics such as social change, building democratic skills through dialogue, and how to create a civic action plan. “Given the loss of perceived value associated with studying the humanities within our culture, community-engagement courses are a vital way to lay the groundwork for the next generation,” adds David Kawalko Roselli, associate professor of classics and fellow co-director of MIHI. “Many people are hungry for more than what our society offers up—they want to know more about and experience firsthand the study of human culture writ large and the stories that we have used to pass it on.”

Thriving Student Community

Prior to the approval of the Strategic Plan, the Division of Student Affairs had already begun to introduce enhancements to residential life. In addition to a resident coordinator—like a traditional resident advisor, who assists with housing issues—a community coordinator (CC) position was devised, whose sole responsibility is to create programs and events to bring together the students who live in each residence hall. In order to broaden the sense of community being cultivated within the residence halls, the Office of Student Engagement (OSE) also began to implement the Residential Vibrancy Initiative. “We wanted to build on the community engagement that was happening within the residence halls and student clubs and organizations (CLORGs),” says Brenda Ice, assistant dean and director of campus life. “So, we thought about ways to use campus spaces to facilitate greater engagement and community among the whole student body.” With input from students, OSE started hosting Screen on the Green movie nights in Jaqua Quad and encouraged more Saturday and evening programming; they also expanded the Scripps Trips program, hosting off-campus outings to Cirque du Soleil, Cal Poly Pomona’s Pumpkin Festival, and Knott’s Berry Farm. In addition, OSE created Residential Vibrancy Courtyards, areas on campus where students are encouraged to host Scripps events. “Our vibrancy courtyards are designated spaces on campus where students can gather, socialize, and build community,” says Ice. “Just walking by and seeing things happening induces students into greater participation in the campus community.”


Now, with a virtual fall semester, Ice aims to maintain the momentum that these initiatives have created. Twenty community coordinators are offering similar community-building programming, albeit in a virtual environment—from movie viewing parties to bullet journaling sessions, cooking demonstrations, and voting information events. “Because we aren’t tied to a specific residence hall, we created regional assignments based on the time zones where students live,” says Ice. “The other piece is that, normally, we have peer mentors to support first-year or transfer students during the first six weeks of the semester. Since orientation was virtual, those same CCs will also serve as peer mentors for the incoming class, which began in August. This creates continuity of care and resources for new students, since they will have the same person serve as community coordinator and peer mentor from summer through the end of the fall semester.”