Seventy-nine people attended the town hall meeting on March 8 in Stewart Hall to discuss the state of education at Malvern Prep.
Of the 79 attendees, 28 were faculty and staff and 11 were Board Members. Topics discussed included the state of Malvern’s strategic plan and where the school is headed in terms of facilities and enrollment. Alumnus Ryan Murphy ’11 was a guest speaker.
Malvern Prep is nearing the end of a strategic plan that began in 2009. The plan will run until June 2016. Board Chairman Mr. Steve Cloetingh cited that strategic plan as producing the “best results seen in 50 years.”
As part of the plan, Malvern Prep has implemented a block schedule to offer students more time for collaboration, discussion, and group learning.
According to Head of School Mr. Christian Talbot, reactions to the block schedule have been both positive and negative. He said the schedule allows for more time to dive deeper into knowledgeable discussions and projects, and the reduced classes per day reduces the work burden on students every night. However, the imbalance of time due to the new schedule makes it difficult for teachers to be consistent with each class, he said.
In addition, the plan called for a stronger college counseling process, better Human Resources for the faculty (Malvern did not have an HR department until last year), and an increased endowment and decreased debt.
For the future, Malvern Prep plans to focus its efforts on community, academic innovation, and financial sustainability, according to the Town Hall presentation by Cloetingh and Talbot.
In order to improve the aspect of community, Cloetingh said Malvern plans to “align our values to our increased academic rigor.”
Another part of community that demands focus is diversity inclusion. This includes training and professional development for faculty and board members. The main goal for a strengthened community is to create an environment that feels “inclusive and unified,” Cloetingh said.
The second goal of improvement in the strategic plan is Malvern Prep’s academic innovation. Malvern wants to ensure that its academically rigorous approach is both explorative and experimental. Talbot cited the new Social Entrepreneurship class an example of this.
A key aspect of academic innovation is establishing strong relationships with colleges and corporations for feedback and partnerships. Some colleges that Malvern has established relationships with include the University of Notre Dame, Villanova University, and the University of Delaware. Through the new college counseling department additions, Malvern aims to establish more partnerships and key relationships with colleges.
The third facet of the strategic plan is financial sustainability. An area that Malvern especially wanted to address was its affordability. According to Cloetingh, this school year, Malvern only increased the tuition slightly. The main point of the tuition increase is to provide more resources for faculty, staff salaries and financial aid.
Cloetingh said that Malvern is also focusing on enlarging its endowment. Increasing the endowment will allow for the institution to funnel its money into more operations. The greater the endowment is, the less pressure there will be on tuition increases. Going forward, tuition will still receive attention in the next strategic plan.
Head of School Christian Talbot is very proud of where Malvern is, in terms of operations and academics. He said education needs a global perspective, and cited that 167 current students have participated in the Global Exchange Program. However, the current and future state of learning, according to Talbot, revolves around problem solving.
Much of problem solving is addressed through the STEM/STEAM programs. These programs place special emphasis on science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics. In order to progress in these areas, Malvern Prep has brought in Siemens to discuss the future of STEM learning and what that looks like.
Ryan Murphy ’11 spoke more on the importance of the STEM program. Murphy, who was a lifer at Malvern, attended the Rhode Island School of Design for college. During college, Murphy worked with IBM and Microsoft on design and traveled to India to work on design projects. He has also worked with the World Economic Forum to rethink the whole basis behind personal data.
To advocate STEM, Murphy was able to speak in front of Congress and former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi about the STEM program.
Currently, Murphy is working with the firm SYPartners in New York City to work on the XQ Super School Program to rethink and redesign the American high school.
“Malvern will be a model for what it means to be Augustinians and leaders,” said Murphy in conclusion. “If I have faith at the center, then everything else will be driven from that.”