6) Major highs and lows at Linfield
Linfield College started 2018 with huge boost to its wine studies program and ended with redoubled efforts to increase enrollment and stabilize the budget. In the middle, President Thomas Hellie retired after 12 years and Miles Davis became Linfield’s 20th president in July.
Major developments also include a partnership with a school in France’s Loire Valley offering a combined bachelor’s and master’s degree program, including international experience for students studying the wine industry; and the purchase of a Portland campus for expansion of its nursing school.
Davis moved to Oregon from Shenandoah University in Winchester, Virginia, where he was dean of the Harry F. Byrd Jr. School of Business. Like Linfield, Shenandoah is a private liberal arts institution with multiple campuses and strong town-and-gown ties.
“I have an obligation to represent this college well. That’s very humbling,” said Davis, the first African-American president in Linfield’s 160-year history, soon after arriving. “I have an extreme sense of humility. I know what I know, but I also know I don’t know everything.”
A few weeks later, Davis and other college officials announced the new bachelor’s/master’s degree program in wine studies.
Already the first U.S. college featuring an interdisciplinary wine studies degree, Linfield is also the first U.S. school to team up with the Ecole Supérieure d’Agricultures in Angers, in France’s Loire Valley.
“It’s such a great opportunity for our students,” said Greg Jones, director of the Evenstad Center for Wine Education at Linfield.
The Evenstad Center was created earlier in the year from a $6 million gift from Domaine Serene Winery founders Grace and Ken Evenstad to augment the school’s wine education program.
It’s the largest donation ever in support of wine studies in Oregon, according to then-president Hellie. “It’s a major investment in the future,” he said, noting that the funds also will pay for design and construction of the Evenstad Wine Laboratory, part of a planned new science building on the McMinnville campus. Fundraising for the science building is ongoing.
In addition to raising funds, the new president has been emphasizing at every turn the need for increased enrollment. Linfield’s overall enrollment dropped more than 19 percent over the last five years, leading to budget shortages. Decreasing college enrollment is a national trend that Linfield must find ways to overcome, Davis said.
He is leading a multi-pronged approach that includes increasing services for veterans, more recruitment and better service for first-generation college students, partnering with community colleges to attract transfer students and more. He has spoken to the college community several times about these efforts, saying everyone — from groundskeepers to professors — needs to work together to increase enrollment.
In November, college spokesman Scott Nelson said Linfield’s Board of Trustees approved a resolution saying the school must have a sustainable, balanced budget; must be on a path toward growth; and must maintain its liberal arts core.
Over the last three years, Nelson said, enrollment declines have led to layoffs of 19 staff members, budget reductions in non-academic divisions and other cost-saving measures. This fall, Linfield reduced its contribution to faculty retirement accounts from 16 percent of salary to 12 percent and its contribution to non-faculty retirement from 11.25 percent to 8.45 percent.
As planning for the 2019-20 budget began in the waning weeks of 2018, faculty members worried about potential job cuts. Nelson said there has not been a decision about whether positions will be cut or, if so, how many.
“The goal of restructuring is to focus resources where demand is greatest for current and prospective students,” he said. “In some cases, this will mean shifting resources away from areas without robust demand.”