Looking Ahead: The Next 50 Years
NOTE: This article originally appeared in the 50th anniversary issue of Coastal Magazine, published in 2004.
"Our challenge will be to enhance the level of academic quality while keeping the focus on what we originally set out to do." - Pete Barr (Provost, 2000-06)
By Mona Prufer
Anniversaries naturally engage the memory, and the occasion of Coastal's 50th has kindled its appropriate portion of reminiscence and retrospection. But, as President Ronald R. Ingle made clear in its planning stages, this anniversary celebration would be as much about looking forward as about looking back—planning for the future as we commemorate our past achievements.
Which makes you wonder: if Coastal travels as far in its second half century as it did in its first, what will it look like in 2054? From nightly sessions in a Conway High School classroom with a handful of students, Coastal Carolina University has emerged an energetic, thriving institution of higher learning with more than 7,000 students from all over the world, a 283-plus acre campus (now spreading across U.S. 501), 38 majors and a growing number of master's programs. If this is Coastal at 50, what might the institution look like at 100?
Here's how some of the people responsible for planning Coastal's future envision its centennial.
David DeCenzo, dean of the E. Craig Wall Sr. College of Business Administration, foresees momentous changes, and fast. He predicts that the resort tourism management major will morph into a college of its own that will include not only the golf management program but real estate and aviation. This may occur within the next decade.
The Wall College's international programs also will expand rapidly, says DeCenzo, as Coastal's reputation abroad becomes stronger (the university already has established programs in Spain, Germany, India, Russia and Japan). "We have the opportunity to become the European Union center of international programs, with an international trade center at the Wall College," he says.
A new major in economics begins this spring, and a Master of Business Administration (MBA) program is in the works for 2006. The Wall Fellows program will also continue to grow and improve.
Teaching itself will change over the next 50 years, DeCenzo says, moving away from traditional classroom settings into distance learning and other delivery methods driven by technology. One thing that won't change is the high quality of the Wall College faculty, which DeCenzo describes as "very student-oriented and devoted to teaching."
When Gilbert Hunt came to Coastal to interview for a faculty position in 1975, he stayed at St. John's Inn in Myrtle Beach. He asked for directions to the college, but no one there had ever heard of it.
Hunt, now dean of the Spadoni College of Education, believes that the phenomenal growth and recognition Coastal had experienced during his tenure is indicative of what is ahead for the institution. In the next five years, he expects the college to add three more master's programs—educational leadership to train school principals; special education; and sports and health management.
Hunt believes enrollment at Coastal will grow to 12,000 easily in the next 10 years. Weekend classes, online instruction and videoconferencing—the whole concept of teaching and learning will continue to change, along with the traditional setup of when a semester starts and ends. "People will get college credit without ever stepping foot on this campus", he says, pointing out that there's a professor on staff who lives in Cary, N.C., and teaches online for Coastal.
"The campus in 20 years will look much different," he predicts. "But Coastal will still do a quality job of teaching and serving the community. Our philosophy won't change, but our practices will have to."
Lynn Franken, dean of the Thomas W. and Robin W. Edwards College of Humanities and Fine Arts, envisions a prestigious university ranked among the best in the country. In 2054, the campus and surrounding environs will feature monorails, golf trolleys, bike paths and sidewalk bistros. After three years of study, successful students would receive a bachelor's degree, then go on to select an area of focus within the four colleges. One semester would be an internship financed by the sponsoring entity.
"The campus will be saturated with art—paintings, graphics, sculpture, textiles," she says.
The Edwards College of Humanities, she believes, will grow to the point that it will need to be divided into four distinct divisions—humanities, communications, visual arts and performing arts.
Having been at Coastal for more than half of its 50 years, Dean Doug Nelson has a unique vantage point from which to predict the future of the university and the College of Natural and Applied Sciences.
Nelson and his colleagues in the sciences are most excited about plans for the Burroughs & Chapin research center on Waites Island. Not only will the facility be used for Coastal courses and research, but other (particularly landlocked) universities, as well as K-12 students and community groups from near and far, will be invited to partner with Coastal students and professors on projects at the center.
Another aspect that will distinguish Coastal in the years to come is its active participation in the community, applying faculty expertise to local issues to help the community. Nelson points to marine science professor Susan Libes, whose work with the watershed program has sparked action on the quality of the water in the Waccamaw River.
"We're not going to be a research institution but we can be one of the best regional comprehensive universities," says Nelson. "The best, well-rounded liberal arts education is delivered person-to-person, not from books or online. Nothing will replace the hands-on laboratory. For a career in geology, there's no way you can identify minerals without touching and hefting and smelling them."
Athletic Director Warren "Moose" Koegel believes Coastal's athletic program will continue to grow while maintaining its high quality and integrity. "We have a great location, a beautiful campus. We want to keep our green space and not bulldoze everything. I don’t think we'll get much bigger than 12,000 students. Coastal is really a community school with a lot of support, and football has had a lot to do with that."
The coming years will bring demands for better facilities for all sports as the programs grow, says Koegel. "I see a 7,000-seat arena that would serve our basketball and volleyball teams. We will move forward in our football program, maybe even move into another conference. We'll have a national program on a smaller scale than your larger schools, yet we'll compare against the North Carolinas, Notre Dames, Clemsons, and Seton Halls."
While technological advances will continue to improve athletics, it will remain, in its heart and soul, a matter of individual performance. "It always comes down to the human element, how much hard work he or she puts into it. That will never change."
Provost Peter Barr acknowledges that the university's growth potential is unlimited but cautions that responsibilities come with expansion. "Our challenge will be to enhance the level of academic quality while keeping the focus on what we originally set out to do."
Barr points to Coastal's innovative Public Engagement Program, which has established a valuable university-communication interface involving professors working each semester in area agencies and firms. Partnerships that benefit both Coastal and the greater community – like the one with Long Bay Symphony that allows Charles Evans to be a music professor in residence – will also continue.
"We'll add academic programs as needed," he says. "we'll also continue to foster the faculty-student interaction that makes Coastal so special. I don’t think we will find a cure for cancer, but we will produce quality, top-notch teachers and help protect our coastal environment for future generations," says Barr. "If we can continue to be interactive with our community and serve students, we are doing our job."