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Ask Anything: 10 questions with Peace College President Laura Carpenter Bingham

Posted February 17, 2009

1

As a Peace College graduate, I value the education I received and would make my educational decisions over again. How does Peace plan on continuing to draw students to a private, all-girls school, with the economy in such turmoil? I know North Carolina State University, UNC-Chapel Hill and East Carolina University are all appealing as far as finances go, but there is something special about Peace that I would love to see carried out for years to come. – Jennifer Stevens, Goldsboro

Thank you for your question, Jennifer. It’s always good to hear from our alums from all over North Carolina and beyond!

Many people who aren’t as familiar with Peace as you are may be surprised to learn that Peace consistently ranks nationally in the top 10 percent in several categories of the National Survey of Student Engagement, a survey that examines college students’ actual experiences at their schools. We’re especially strong in the categories “student-faculty interaction” and “supportive campus environment,” which probably speaks to the strong experience you enjoyed here.

Even decades after they graduate, Peace alumnae report greater satisfaction with their careers and lives, so you, Jennifer, realize the benefits of the very tangible ways Peace strengthened you, in mind, body and spirit. We have a long track record at Peace of being a leader and innovator in providing women with substantial, relevant educations that prepare them for careers, continued education and life in general.

With these uncertain times, students and their families are carefully exploring their options when making college decisions. While Peace and other private liberal arts colleges feature a higher “sticker price” than public universities, we are very experienced at helping our students find aid that fits their financial needs. I would encourage anyone looking at college to not be discouraged by private schools’ tuition costs and explore whether those schools offer programs that speak to them, their needs and aspirations.

Once you’ve found a right fit, then explore the financial assistance available. Through merit scholarships and need-based financial aid, Peace makes it possible for almost all families to afford a chance at “the Peace difference.” Viva la difference as my beloved Peace French professor Emilie deLuca taught me!

2

I’ve heard the college was $1 million in the hole last semester and you laid off part-time folks and then full-time on the day of the Christmas party. What will it take for Peace to make it through this recession/depression? – Patsy King, Nashville

It’s because Peace took prompt and pragmatic steps last semester to reduce expenses that the College should have an operating surplus for the year. The value of our endowment declined precipitously with the meltdown of the financial markets, and colleges (just like families) will have to adapt to working smarter, spending less and innovating more in the coming years.

As I conveyed to our students, parents, and employees, the unprecedented global economic failures culminated very swiftly – in less than one academic semester – and we had to respond quickly to new and uncertain circumstances to affect savings. We enacted an administrative reorganization that reduced six staff positions and a half-time teaching position. These decisions were effective at the natural break between semesters and were conveyed after exams in the interests of students and professors, and two weeks before an extended holiday break given this year for all employees.

Our campus community has rallied to finding new ways to innovate and save, with students leading a Green Team to conserve energy and be better stewards of renewable and nonrenewable resources. Realizing that we serve as contemporary leaders of an institution that has served students with distinction since the mid-1800s – in both good and bad economic times – helps us keep a ‘long-view.’

3

What percentage of your students receives grants or other aid for tuition? As a widowed state employee with two teen daughters the tuition as it is now is prohibitive. – Jim Higgins, Raleigh

You should look beyond our “sticker price.” Fully 98 percent of our students receive some type of financial assistance to make attendance at Peace possible.

With around 700 students, we award more than $5 million in scholarships and financial aid each year through a combination of endowed scholarships, merit awards, need-based aid and federal and state grants, such as a tuition-assistance grant for North Carolina residents.

Your daughters are possibly eligible for considerable assistance that could make going to a stellar private liberal arts college comparable in costs to attending one of our public universities. We have experienced counselors who can examine your particular situation. I encourage you to call them at 1-800-PEACE47.

4

What kinds of new, innovative programs is Peace working on to provide top teachers and administrators for North Carolina's schools? – Seth Effron, Raleigh

Peace has a very strong and innovative Education program, designed to give teachers the experience and grounding they need to have successful careers in today’s classrooms. We partnered with the Wake County Public School System to design the program. At the outset, we asked the question: “What do you need in your new teachers?” Then we shaped our program accordingly.

Our program is the only one in North Carolina that prepares students for dual certification in elementary education (K-6) and special education (K-12). The program is designed to prepare teachers for meeting the needs of all students found in public school classrooms. Our program offers more extensive field experience than is typical in teacher-education programs. It’s also designed to give students greater opportunities to mentor with experienced teachers.

The lead mentor/teacher for Wake County is on the Peace faculty as an advisor to our students, and Peace students benefit from staff development opportunities offered by the Wake Schools.

Here’s a statistic that tells it all: Last year, 100 percent of our Education program graduates had job offers to teach in Wake and surrounding counties three months before they graduated.

5

Do you have any online programs? I have a four year degree in design but want to try something in medicine. Any 2 year programs? I would need some financial aid. My husband is driving a truck in training and not making much money. I am a teacher assistant and do not make much money. Can you help? – Lisa Jones, Raleigh

Our Education program described in the answer to the previous question seems designed just for you, Lisa, and it does include some online learning. You could enter now as a teacher assistant and through the Peace dual-certification track be qualified in two years to earn a higher salary (and perhaps more job satisfaction) as a lead teacher.

Or with your design degree, you might want to consider earning a second degree in the red-hot field of graphic design, where our graduates are first-choice picks of advertising, marketing and web businesses. If medicine is calling you, you’ll probably need to explore Biology tracks that can lead into a variety of careers.

Peace students have a high placement rate into medicine, veterinary, dental and pharmacy schools. Our students have placed No. 1 or No. 2 in for several years running in the biotechnology and molecular biology sections of the Collegiate Academy of the North Carolina Academy of Sciences’s undergraduate research competition. Good luck!

6

Who have been some of your most distinguished or well-known graduates over the years? – Kelly

I like to characterize Peace as a “leadership greenhouse” because from our earliest graduates in the late 1800s right through our recent grads, Peace alumnae have distinguished themselves (and our college) in multiple disciplines.

The South’s first female judge, first woman elected to the N.C. Senate, one of the first women elected to the N.C. House and the first woman to serve as a college trustee in the South were all Peace graduates of the 1880s, 1890s and early 1900s. Mid-20th century graduates include bestselling author Gail Godwin, NBC Today Show producer Susan LaSalla, and opera singer Ruth Siddon Fleishmann.

Graduates of my era include federal judge Anna Mills Scarborough; head of prime-time casting for CBS, Andrea Reeve-Rabb; professional basketball players and Doublemint Gum twins Kaye Young Cowher and Faye Young Miller; retired editor of the Cary News, Jane Page; head of N.C. Tennis, Kelly Gaines; and N.C. Department of Commerce Assistant Secretary for Tourism, Marketing and Global Branding Lynn Minges.

Recent graduates include physicians, lawyers, assistant district attorneys, a current Broadway actress and singer, teachers, ministers and biologists. Several employers in RTP have a cluster of young Peace graduates, including Lulu.com, the Research Triangle Institute and Martin Marietta. Considering that Peace has very small graduating classes, we “grow leaders” at a much higher rate than one might imagine!

7

My question is how do you get enrolled into college, and how do you get started? – Debra Townsend, Hope Mills

Consider colleges that have that interesting mix of belonging and challenge for your aspirations. Visit Web sites first and decide where you want to visit. Pay attention to majors offered but also to the spirit and people of the campus. It’s often the intangibles that seal your decision. Talk to students, visit their classes and dorm rooms. Can you imagine yourself there?

There are many steps that involve “process inputs” – like submitting an application (on Web sites, for Peace at www.peace.edu), high school transcripts and SAT/ACT test scores, and completing the required federal application for student aid at www.fafsa.ed.gov – but don’t underestimate the value of “people outputs” or results, like placement rates to graduate schools and into jobs. Remember that a well-rounded education will serve you well in all the jobs and life circumstances you will encounter.

8

What are the chances of re-establishing the beautiful white gown graduation tradition? – Sonja Puryear, Raleigh

For more than a century, Peace graduates wore white gowns for commencement, as did I. But with the transition of Peace into a national liberal arts college (from a regional junior college), green academic regalia with the personalization of each graduate’s name monogrammed onto the sleeve of her graduation robe is the new Peace tradition.

Honoring our past and our present, Peace keeps some traditions passed down through the years (like annual Stunt Night where students parody faculty and staff, and the president!) and start new ones (like Student Showcase in the spring when the projects, papers, research, productions and successes of our juniors and seniors are showcased in an all-day celebration of scholarship and achievement).

I think Peace has a healthy balance of interweaving continuity and change for a campus that’s been dedicated to educating women within three different centuries!

9

Correct me if I am wrong, but wasn't Peace College originally a Southern Baptist sponsored college? I am almost sure it was not Presbyterian. Could you enlighten me on this? Thanks. – Steve Oakes, Jeju City Jeju-Do South Korea

Peace was chartered by the Orange Presbytery of North Carolina and First Presbyterian Church of Raleigh and named for a founding benefactor William Peace, who gave eight acres and $10,000 in 1857 to establish Peace Institute. We remain affiliated with the Association of Presbyterian Colleges and Universities and have a Presbyterian Chaplain leading campus ministry of many faiths.

Through the decades, Presbyterian missionaries often sent daughters to Peace. We recently graduated Susana Moon, the daughter of a Korean Presbyterian leader. After Peace, Susana chose for dental school the University of Pennsylvania, from which she is about to graduate and begin her residency.

Our Presbyterian ties remain, but you may be surprised to know that Peace students report being largely Baptists and Catholic, then Methodist and Presbyterian and a variety of other denominations and faiths.

10

Hello, I am interested in working in higher education with hopes of becoming a college president. Presently, I have a masters of education degree in counseling and I have plans to enroll in a doctoral program (higher education) in the future. Before I enroll in a doctorate program, I would like to gain employment in the higher education setting. What steps and/or advice would you recommend to an individual interested in becoming a college president? Thank you. – Mrs. Greene, Roanoke Rapids

Be prepared for a life-filling and life-fulfilling journey as a college president! My path was rather atypical (appointed at age 41, a woman, and without a Ph.D.) but a combination of my career experiences and my passion for Peace provided a strong foundation.

You are headed in a good direction with a doctorate program. There are some national programs and fellowships that expose higher education administrators to the duties and demands of presidencies, so explore those avenues.

While traditionally most college presidents traveled an academic pathway, my sense is that more presidents in the future will come from administrative, student life and business backgrounds, as the world of higher education demands a healthy blend of science and art, along with personal resilience. Good wishes on your journey!

ask anything - dmi

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  • Onward Feb 20, 2009

    "Peace's financial condition is a result of the situation in our financial markets and the strain many families may face in sending students to college. I've always been proud of Peace's solid financial position and wise growth strategies." Spoken like someone no doubt on the Peace payroll... Was Peace solidifying their "solid financial position" when they threw a million dollar+ bash 2 years ago to celebrate their 200 year founding? Do you know what the money spent on that event could have done for Peace? Scholarships, improvments, new academic programs to name a few! Or maybe hiring a Dean of Enrollment who actually knows how to drive enrollment instead of the "clearance rack" Dean they currently have who only holds a Bachelor's degree and who hasn't met ONE enrollment goal in his 2 1/2 year tenure. I'm sure he is all Peace can afford right now, but they can certainly do better than someone who ought to be selling used cars.

  • lunarmodule Feb 19, 2009

    I'm also a Peace alum, but I'm proud of the changes the school has made in becoming a four-year college. It was an absolute necessity for the school to survive and thank goodness for the leadership we've had over the past decade or so to make it happen. As far as drinking, many upperclasswomen are of legal drinking age and should be allowed to have a glass of wine at a formal dance. Plus, it's been possible for many successful events and fundraisers to be held right on our beautiful campus. Lastly, Peace's financial condition is a result of the situation in our financial markets and the strain many families may face in sending students to college. I've always been proud of Peace's solid financial position and wise growth strategies. They took the steps necessary to expand a landlocked campus to better position the school for growth.

  • sahello Feb 19, 2009

    I disagree. Change is good in order to compete.
    Unsure about the drinking but smoking is no longer allowed on campus.
    The high dollar apartments/housing was due to on-campus housing shortages, renovation and construction of on-campus housing.

  • skewlteachrmommy Feb 18, 2009

    As a Peace Alum, I can say there are some things I am not pleased about. Why is drinking now allowed on campus? The white dress ceremony is a part of Peace and as the last class that participated, it never should have stopped. Also-Peace would not have been in the financial condition it is in had they not invested in high-dollar apartments and living areas for students. I received a wonderful education from Peace that I cherish but am saddened by the turn of events that have occurred since I graduated!