"[Everyone] is very protective of what Rose is... and of what makes Rose Rose." - Kristen Loyd, Assistant Dean of Student Services
Sentiments like Loyd's are pervasive among the committee of faculty, students, and staff that are currently investigating a change in student enrollment at Rose-Hulman. That committee, formed by Jim Goecker, Vice President for Enrollment Management, is investigating what a change in the Hulbert-era 2000 student cap would entail. In particular, the committee is studying the physical, the economical, and the intangible concerns that would be affected by an increase or decrease in the student enrollment at Rose-Hulman.
Whether the current 2000 student enrollment cap is lowered, increased, or stays the same, the committee wants to "lay out clearly for the [Rose] community: here's what would happen and here's what we would need," said Christine Buckley, Associate Professor of Applied Biology and Biomedical Engineering. That outlay will eventually take the form of a final report to the Board of Trustees, which will make the final decision. According to Goecker, the committee is currently attempting to deliver that report by May of this year; however, that date is subject to change if more time is needed.
Rose, like many engineering institutions of similar cailber, saw larger-than-average enrollment for the Class of 2016; at Rose, this has contributed to a degree of overcrowding. Loyd points out that the changes caused by this increased enrollment are not necessarily indicative of the changes that will result from a planned, strategic change in size. Likewise, Buckley notes that some of the most prominent effects of overcrowding are largely physical in nature. With strategy and planning, it is "practical and doable" to change the physical size of Rose-Hulman to accomodate a change in student enrollment. Loyd agreed, saying that "you can always overcome logistics."
"If values come from the top... [and] everyone's purpose is the same; that's what generates the family atmosphere." - Christine Buckley
A more challenging part of the committee's investigation has been the "intangibles" - the family atmosphere and culture that were highlighted by many of the student responses to a survey sent out by Kylie McCollum, Sophomore Class President and committee member. When asked about that survey, Goecker indicated that many of the survey responses heavily emphasized the importance of small class sizes, while relatively few responses directly connected student enrollment with the family atmosphere. However, some students continue to feel that the family atmosphere would be at risk if Rose were to increase enrollment.
Two particular students who felt this way, junior Chemistry major Alex Bledsoe and senior Mechanical and Electrical Engineering major Katy Dimon, decided that a broader student survey was necessary to gauge how Rose's culture would be impacted by a change in the student cap. That survey concluded last Friday with almost 1000 responses. The pair has not yet fully examined the results of the survey, but plans to aggregate and assess the responses and deliver the results of that assessment to the committee.
"I'm pleased to see more students interested in a Rose-Hulman education... but you couldn't give the personal attention that we give if we were much larger." Cary Laxer, longtime faculty member and Head of the Computer Science and Software Engineering Department
The personal attention that Laxer describes has become one of the core issues the committee is discussing, according to Loyd. Some members of the Rose community, including many respondents to the student surveys, strongly believe that Rose will simply not be Rose once it passes a certain number of enrolled students; others feel that Rose has room to grow as long as maintaining the culture is foremost in mind when planning that growth. However, all involved parties seem to agree that Rose-Hulman's culture - what makes Rose Rose - is of the utmost importance to the institute.