On the heels of announcing the largest enrollment in Lander University’s history, President Richard Cosentino opened his annual State of the University address with a broad smile as he said, “Welcome to the fourth year of great news.”
Lander students, trustees, faculty and staff filled the Josephine B. Abney Cultural Center Auditorium on Monday, Sept. 9, as Cosentino reeled off one achievement after another while updating the audience on the health of the university.
From the largest freshman class, largest overall enrollment, and highest student housing occupancy in the school’s history; to a dramatic increase in Honors College enrollment, the state’s top number of professors awarded for leading textbook-free courses, a banner fundraising year, and a university-wide embraced commitment to safety and security, the address focused on managing and maintaining a trajectory of momentum.
“What other college is experiencing this type of growth…especially with the caliber of students we have?” Cosentino asked rhetorically. “Students want to come to Greenwood, and they want to attend Lander,”
Shifting from the listings, Cosentino outlined plans to manage and build upon the success.
A commitment to keeping the campus population safe was the top priority of the Lander administration, according to Cosentino. “The safety our students is more important to me than anything else,” he said. “I would rather close than for any of our students to be harmed.”
To that end, Lander has a fully-staffed police department and is continually investing in equipment, including hundreds of cameras placed throughout campus.
With a freshman class of nearly 1,000 students, Cosentino hinted that fewer students would be added next year so that enrollment would remain near its current level. Speaking directly to students in attendance, Cosentino said, “We’ll never outgrow our identity. Our faculty know all of your names, and we’re never going to grow where that isn’t the case.”
In addition to four new parking lots, plans are underway for new food venues and strengthening an already robust student life experience. While there were 116 student events last year, Lander is on pace to top 130 during 2019-20 academic year. Additionally, 20 new clubs have been added to a roster that already totals over 80.
A gaming lounge for Esports enthusiasts will also open soon, and comes just months after Lander served as the host site for the Peach Belt Conference League of Legends Esports Championship.
More online and graduate degree offerings; satellite campus in Greenville
As the Greenwood campus nears capacity, Cosentino said Lander is on pace to begin offering degree programs at the university’s satellite location at the University Center of Greenville.
A commitment to expanding online offerings includes the training and certification of 97 professors to teach on the medium. “We didn’t just say we were going to offer online programs; we took the commitment very seriously and invested in it to ensure the quality is there,” said Cosentino.
This fall, Lander launched its online Master of Science in Management degree program, which focuses on quality control and quality improvement, supply chain management, quality policy, process management and quality planning.
In May, Lander graduated its largest cohort from the completely online Clinical Nurse Leadership program, and they are employed at nearby hospitals. “They have master’s degrees, and it’s affecting their careers,” said Cosentino.
Additionally, several academic programs are awaiting approval from the S.C. Commission on Higher Education and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
Not one penny, according to Cosentino, of the investments to improve the overall Lander student experience has been passed on to the students themselves or their families. Instead, strategic steps have been made to make a Lander degree affordable.
In addition to holding firm on a decision by Lander’s Board of Trustees to lower and freeze tuition, general fees and housing costs, 30 Lander instructors have been awarded with the Professor for Affordable Learning (PAL) award for leading classes with either no textbooks or materials freely available online or in library resources.