Franklin College sits just a few blocks from downtown, but in earlier decades it operated as isolated community.
President James “Jay” Moseley has worked to break down that invisible wall and form partnerships between the campus and the city. That work has been a main focus of his time leading the college as the 15th president.
“He’s done a tremendous job of kicking the door open and saying we want to be part of the city,” said Franklin Mayor Joe McGuinness, who is a Franklin College graduate.
To Moseley, the continuing efforts to work closely with students and connect them to real-world experiences, such as getting education students into classrooms with teachers or physical therapists into local hospitals, has been his greatest accomplishment.
But that success has run alongside increasing and stabilizing the student enrollment, raising money to grow the college during a national recession and evolving the curriculum to meet the changing job market.
“All of the pieces of the puzzle were on the table; and if we could help them fit together and help people see the whole picture, it could be even more effective,” Moseley said. “We have known all our lives and seen how powerful education can be when it’s small.”
About 94 percent of first-year students participated in activities such as service learning, undergraduate research or group learning in their courses, according to a 2013 survey by the National Survey of Student Engagement. More than 97 percent of students had completed at least one internship before graduation, as well. Examples include student journalists reporting news from the Indiana General Assembly and student teachers spending time in local classrooms.
The best learning doesn’t occur in the classroom, but in situations where students connect with others, Moseley said. Those situations include a student helping a nonprofit group organize a new program or getting tips from an experienced physical therapist on how to treat a particular injury.
When McGuinness was a student, he always sensed a gulf between the college and city. But now you’ll find students relaxing downtown or see attorneys or business owners grabbing lunch at the college, McGuinness said.
“We have a product here that actually works. Franklin College combines liberal arts education with professional development,” Moseley said.
“Another hallmark of Dr. Moseley’s tenure has been connectivity, developing relationships with businesses, communities and organizations throughout the region,” said Christine Fields, chairwoman of the college board of trustees. “Our relationship with Indianapolis is stronger than ever.
“In addition to Franklin College’s connections through internship placements, Dr. Moseley’s involvement with the Economic Club of Indiana (board member and past president), WFYI (board) and NCAA (presidents council) has been invaluable to the institution,” she said.
One goal Moseley still wants to complete before retirement is to increase the college’s science offerings, by starting new classes and building a new science center. He has been pursuing the project for years with natural sciences department chairman Steve Browder and has talked with companies across the state about what kind of students they want to hire.
“We sat down and looked at very carefully how we wanted to teach in the future. And that was all a precursor to talking about building a science building,” Browder said. “You don’t start designing a building until you know what you’re going to teach in it and how.”
Part of Moseley’s legacy at the college will be as a builder, overseeing multiple projects that nearly doubled the size of the campus.
Franklin College purchased 78 acres of farmland and built Grizzly Park, a $5.8 million project including a track and field complex, softball and baseball fields, tennis courts and soccer and lacrosse fields. The campus added the Von Boll Welcome Center for prospective students, redesigned and expanded the Napolitan Student Center, renovated a historic home into the Napolitan Alumni House, remodeled the Richardson Chapel and received 32 acres of woodland that are being used for natural science study.
Those improvements have helped make the college more attractive to students in an increasingly competitive battle among colleges and universities, board of trustees member Steve Huddleston said. For example, Franklin’s athletic facilities continually attract people even though the school doesn’t offer any scholarships for sports, he said.
“While this project included many improvements for our fitness and athletic programs, we also added amenities to create a wonderful space for the Franklin community,” Moseley said.
Moseley has worked to get donations from alumni and other people who believe in small, liberal arts colleges, and that allowed the college to weather the recession. Maintaining a steady enrollment of about 1,000 students also has been key, and high school students from around Indiana continue to seek out Franklin College, he said.
Those two parts of the job have become increasingly difficult as colleges compete for every student, Huddleston said.
“In the old days you might send out a brochure or communicate with high school counselors, but now, how can you be up to date? The second-biggest thing is we don’t get any state money. Where we get our money is the student or their parents write a check and from the people who believe in what we do,” Huddleston said.
The board of trustees likely will look for a successor who can keep the college financially steady and continue the service learning that Moseley has promoted, Huddleston said. The presidential search committee of 12 people will consider how the college wants to grow in the next five to 10 years, then look for a candidate who fits those guidelines, Fields said.
Moseley hopes the college will find someone who follows his lead on connecting students to the community but also wants to continue having a place in discussing the overall future of Franklin, not just the college.