MARIETTA - With a little more than two months until her 12-year tenure as Marietta College's president draws to a close, Jean Scott is still focused on the school's future.
"I'll find myself getting very excited about an initiative or something we're going to do, and I'll think, 'Yes, that'll be good, but I won't be here,'" she said. "A college president is always dealing with what's happening right now and what we hope will be happening over the next five years."
June 30 will be Scott's last day on the job. She's already purchased a home in Williamsburg, Va., where she lived while working at the College of William & Mary in the early '90s, and said she's feeling both excitement and a sense of nostalgia.
Photo by Evan Bevins
Marietta College President Jean Scott, left, speaks with Gama Perruci, interim provost, as they exit Scott’s office. Scott will retire at the end of June after leading the college for 12 years.
"I'm looking forward to a new phase of life. But I also love what I do," Scott said.
Little Hocking resident Nicole Wires, who graduated from Marietta in 2010 and earned a master's degree in international corporate media in 2011, said Scott has represented the college well.
"I felt like she made really good decisions concerning the entire student body, not just certain organizations," she said.
Scott took the reins at Marietta in 2000, a time when the college's enrollment had stagnated, affecting its finances and the general atmosphere. But Scott said she was optimistic from the start, especially given her experience at her previous job at Bradford College. The board of trustees elected to shutter the Haverhill, Mass., college due to financial issues and competition for students.
"I came from a place where I closed. So I had seen a lot worse," she said.
College Trustee George Fenton, who chaired the search committee that selected Scott, said he felt that experience was an important influence for her.
"I think it gave her an understanding of the challenges and the financial issues that are in a small college (setting)," he said.
Scott said she saw Marietta had the potential to move forward. The college's general plans were educationally sound and it had support from passionate donors.
"There were people (on campus) who were really ready to make a change," Scott said.
Even before she arrived on campus, Scott was involved in the college's new strategic plan, which had been under development prior to her selection. The goal was growth.
The college targeted major improvements in its physical plant and a shifting of resources to programs that attracted more students. The former came to fruition in the form of the Rickey Science Center and the Dyson Baudo Recreation Center, thanks to a pair of $10 million donations announced in 2000. The latter was met with some initial resistance by students.
Scott said increasing enrollment is important because it increases the school's resources. Colleges face a balancing act of providing the services and facilities students want while keeping tuition from going "through the roof," she said.
Scott and other officials were criticized by some students at a recent Speak Out event for seeming to be more concerned about money than students, but the president said money is needed to provide for the students, in many ways.
"One of the biggest items in our budget is financial aid, so when you see the sticker price for Marietta College, that's not what most students pay," she said.
Tuition at Marietta for the current school year is $28,950, not including room and board and other fees, but Scott said the average tuition discount is more than 40 percent.
The science center was needed, Scott said, because when she first toured the college, some faculty members told her incoming students had better lab equipment at their high schools. The recreation center is important to the students' on-campus experience, she said.
"That's not an academic building. But if you're trying to attract and retain students, then opportunities for them to remain physically active and have recreational opportunities is absolutely essential," she said.
The college's physical plant continued to grow during Scott's tenure, with the Legacy Library, the Anderson Hancock Planetarium and the Harrison residence hall currently under construction.
Fenton credited Scott's ability to cultivate relationships with donors with changing the face of the college.
"It's just a whole different place," he said. "I think a lot of that has to do with the leadership she's done personally, but also she's put together a very strong leadership team."
Scott said she expects her successor, Joseph Bruno, may be more focused on building the college's endowment, currently about $55 million, than on capital projects.
"I'm thinking that shift is probably under way," she said.
The college's next five-year plan focused on quality as a way to continue growth. Now, with enrollment having risen from about 1,050 in 2000 to between 1,400 and 1,450 today, the college's most recent plan focuses on distinction, areas in which Marietta can stand out from other institutions.
Toward that end, four strengths of the college were identified, as they relate to major issues of the 21st century - globalization, energy and the environment, health and science and leadership.
"None of this says people should major in one of those areas," Scott said. "But the idea is that it's hard to identify any major that ... wouldn't be related to one of those areas."
One of the goals Scott identified in her inaugural address was expanding the China program, which some people initially questioned. However, as China continues to rise as a global power, that program - including working relationships with Chinese institutions of higher learning, an Asian studies major, about 150 Chinese students on campus and opportunities for American students to study abroad - is an important asset, she said.
The college is the only institution in Ohio that offers a petroleum engineering degree, and interest continues to build as interest in Marcellus and Utica shale development grows. But Scott noted the college also focuses on environmental science and other types of energy as well.
Scott is the college's first female president. Although she said she feels the glass ceilings in higher education have been mostly broken in recent years, she admitted to feeling perhaps a little trepidation to holding that distinction.
"I wanted to have a presidency that was successful enough that they didn't say, 'Well, we'll never do that again,'" she said with a laugh.
Scott gives credit to the college's staff and faculty for the accomplishments over the last 12 years and said the fact that their pay is not on par with national benchmarks is one thing she wishes she could have better addressed.
Another area Scott said she feels she didn't do as much as she might have preferred is community involvement.
"For reasons that I think were the right reasons, I have been so laser-focused on the college that I haven't been as involved in the community as I would have liked," she said.
That's something she hopes to change in Williamsburg, where she also plans to do some writing - both nonfiction and possibly fiction. She also sees some music in her future.
"I think I will return to taking piano lessons," she said.
As she prepare to step down, Scott also emphasized how much she appreciates the students of Marietta College.
"It's who we do it for. It's why we're here," she said.
One of her favorite things about working in college settings is seeing students go from uncertainty when they arrive to confidence in their abilities when they graduate.
"You see how much they grow," Scott said. "That's what keeps people in higher education doing what they're doing."