President's Message: "It is an exciting time to be at Silver Lake College"


Sept. 1, 2015

By Dr. Chris Domes / President of Silver Lake College

Dr_Domes_HeadshotAs we begin this new academic year, Silver Lake College of the Holy Family celebrates its 80th anniversary. This is a significant milestone for the College, and as I begin my third year as President I am keenly aware of the importance of this moment for this very special place.

The Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity set in motion decades ago a dream to begin a college to educate the women from their community to serve the Church and the world. Today at Silver Lake College, students and families discover an institution of higher education committed to the founding mission of educating the whole person — mind, body and spirit. 

The education a student receives today is solidly rooted in the Catholic tradition and framed by those enduring Franciscan values. The liberal arts and practical career preparation are the hallmarks of our academic enterprise. At the heart of our work is a commitment to solid academics, professional and leadership development, and providing our students the opportunity to grow spiritually, culturally and personally. We are preparing students for successful lives in the 21st century. Our students are armed as life-long learners to adapt to an ever-changing professional landscape. Finally, our students are prepared to serve the world through participation in their church and community as servant leaders.

It is an exciting time for me to be at Silver Lake College. During my Presidency, I have remained focused on three guiding principles of leading the college: remain diligent to the College’s core values and mission, stay ever focused on the people we serve – our students, and finally, always be keenly aware of how to respond and adapt to constant change.

I would like to examine these principles in my message to you.

Diligent to core values and mission

A history map of the College was completed this summer to honor the people, the mission and the positive impact Silver Lake has had on so many. This historical display, located in the Endries Heritage Room, was created by Sister Mariella Erdman and tells the story of this wonderful place in a very simple and creative way. 

This past year Patrick Gagnon, Sister Camilla Wolfgram, Julie Kautzer, Sister Helen Marie Paul and Sister Mariella served as the project's coordinators. The history map, the physical improvements in the Heritage Room, and future renovation of the adjacent patio are due to the generosity of Bob and Pat Endries. The College will be dedicating the Bob and Pat Endries Heritage Room in September. There will be an adjacent patio completed next year to enhance the indoor space. 

The history map expresses the commitment past generations had to the college’s mission but it also conveys to today’s students, employees, parents and alumni how central our Franciscan Catholic Mission is to our future. 

The Heritage Room helps to tell the story of the College’s history while our students, faculty and staff carry out the mission today. One of the ways people experience our mission in action is through volunteer service in the community.

This year, students volunteered thousands of hours to support those in need. The College sponsored Days of Service during the academic year. Student organizations and athletic teams worked on specific projects and assisted with long-term volunteer programs. Our Student organizations such as Silver Lake Student United Way and Look Ahead Lakers made a difference in the lives of dozens of children throughout the region. The women’s volleyball team assisted in making a home more accessible for a disabled local resident by building a handicap ramp.

Silver Lake College’s Backpack Book Club was recognized this spring as Manitowoc’s Volunteer Organization of the Year. Tara Wachowski, Coordinator of Community Outreach, and Mary Domes worked with eight dedicated Silver Lake College students during the school year. They volunteered two mornings a week to read with second- and third-graders at Jefferson Elementary School in Manitowoc. 

Students, faculty and staff volunteered in Manitowoc’s Day of Caring by helping to build a community garden this spring. And 15 students accompanied by faculty and staff traveled to help people in Memphis for the College’s annual Alternative Spring Break.

Finally, the Silver Lake Chorale traveled east to perform concerts in Ohio, New York, Virginia and Washington, D.C. They performed in several Catholic Churches and one Catholic College – Marymount University. St. Bonaventure University hosted our students after their performance in Allegany, N.Y., at the St. Bonaventure Parish Church. 

Through these activities and programs, Silver Lake College is making a difference in the lives of so many by diligently living out our core Franciscan values and Catholic mission.

Focusing on the people we serve — our students

Enhancing the College’s learning and living environment in response to the needs of our students has been a priority over the past 24 months. To ensure we are meeting our commitments to the intellectual, spiritual, health, social and emotional needs of our students, the College has made several key improvements and changes:

* Completed a renovation to the dining facility.

* Opened the new Ariens Family Welcome Center to create a central location for enrollment and student services. Admissions, Financial Aid,  
   Registrar and Student Accounts are in this central location at the main entrance of the College.

Opened a new fitness center to meet the health and wellness needs of our students.

Opened a prayer space, added daily Masses and expanded weekly prayer services

* Opened Mimi’s Café to provide a social space and additional dining options for students.

* Opened the Donald Taylor Art Gallery to provide additional exhibit space for students to experience culture through the visual arts.

* Enhanced the campus grounds by adding flowers and plantings. 

* Planted a vegetable garden and refurbished eight benches providing places to rest and enjoy the surroundings.

* Added counseling and academic support services for all our students.

Students and their families have many choices when they are selecting a college or university to attend.  It is incumbent on Silver Lake College to deliver on Our Vision, which states: Silver Lake College of the Holy Family will be known as a Franciscan Catholic college dedicated to developing students to serve, lead, and transform the world. Our future will be centered on educating the whole person in an environment that celebrates teaching and learning, integrates our Franciscan Values in all that we do, and delivers on the promise of quality liberal arts education and professional preparation.

By focusing our attention on the needs of our current and prospective students we are fulfilling this vision and living our mission. The investments and changes we have made and will continue to make provide a positive impact on the lives of our students.

Adapting and responding to change

Through a process of listening and collaboration the College community, with the endorsement of the Board of Directors, launched a plan entitled “Foundations for the Future.” This plan is intended to guide the direction of the College over the next three to five years. The plan has six key strategic pillars:

* Academic Excellence

* Enrollment and Financial Stability

* Mission Integration

* Community Outreach

* Quality Student Services & Business Opertations

* Enhance Campus Environment

Embedded in the “Foundations for the Future” plan are 30 goals designed to help the College respond and adapt to an ever-changing landscape in American higher education. The pillars and the goals keep our efforts focused on our mission and on our students.

I would like to highlight from the plan three strategic directions the College will be taking during the coming months and years — the Work College Model, athletics and new academic programs:

Work College Model: Silver Lake College will be the first Catholic College in the United States to adopt the Work College Model. The College will be the eighth college in the country to officially move in this direction and the only one in Wisconsin. This approach requires all of our full-time residential students to work in a professional role on the campus or in the community as a condition of enrollment. Beginning in fall 2016 each full-time student living on campus will be awarded a credit to offset a portion of tuition.

Today, each graduate of Silver Lake receives a solid Liberal Arts education ensuring their ability to write, think critically and express themselves clearly. Today, students also experience an education rooted in our Catholic tradition and Franciscan values. Values, ethics and moral principles are embedded in the student experience in and outside the classroom. The Work College Model adds an essential dimension to this Franciscan education. By providing each student a professional pathway guided by a set of work competencies a student will truly receive a multi-dimensional, authentic education. This education develops a student intellectually, professionally and spiritually. Silver Lake College is truly educating the whole person.

Athletics: Silver Lake College is exploring membership in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). During the next academic year the College will be applying for membership with this Kansas City-based college athletic association. The NAIA provides a platform for Silver Lake College to expand athletic programs and offerings to students in the future. The mission of NAIA aligns with the College’s Catholic Franciscan mission.

New academic programs: Silver Lake College currently offers a Bachelor of Science in Nursing for students who have already completed an Associate Degree in Nursing and hold a license as a Registered Nurse. Based on a high level of interest and market demand, the College is beginning the early steps to expand our current program to a four-year traditional Bachelor of Nursing program. The College will announce an implementation plan in the spring of 2016 based on approvals from the accrediting agencies.

The Foundations for the Future Plan, highlighted by these three strategic initiatives, are the path to a bright future for the college. These strategic decisions lay the ground work to give Silver Lake College a distinctive place among institutions of higher education in the region, throughout the state of Wisconsin, and across the country. The plan is the College’s response to a changing world. The Silver Lake College community must continue to be flexible and adaptable responding to the needs of our students. 

We must ensure that each graduate of Silver Lake College is a life-long learner ready to take on the unique challenges of the 21st century. We must ensure that the graduates of Silver Lake College are ready to be servant leaders in their homes, places of work and in their communities. Finally, we must ensure our graduates are prepared to be ethical decisions-makers and value-centered professionals. 

It is an exciting time to be at Silver Lake College. At 80 years, Silver Lake College remains on a journey guided by mission and heritage and propelled by a spirit of optimism and hope. Your support and encouragement is so appreciated as we serve our students and advance the mission of Silver Lake College of the Holy Family together.