Sean McGinley (email@example.com)
Kate Horan (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Over this past winter break, many Ursinus students were surprised to receive an email directly sent from Ursinus itself. Even more surprising than this was the information contained within the email. It detailed the elimination of two vice-president positions as well as the admission that, in the email’s own words, “Ursinus is facing a structural deficit that, if not addressed, could inhibit our ability to reach our strategic goals.” Based on the large-scale nature of these developments as well as the surprised reaction from some of the student body, The Grizzly reached out to President Hannigan in order to learn more about what these changes entailed and why they were being made.
For starters, President Hannigan described how many of these new developments occurred at the administration-level. She explained how the college’s many student-facing resources – such as Academics, Student Affairs, and Athletics – now fall under the combined division entitled “Academic and Campus Life.” Furthermore, the college’s external-facing resources – like Communications, Marketing, and alumni engagement – have been combined into one division that President Hannigan referred to as “External Relations.” Aside from these administration-level reorganizations, though, several alterations have also been made to staffing within the administration and the college as a whole as well as to Ursinus’s budget planning. When explaining her justification for these large-scale changes, Hannigan stressed not only financial considerations, but also the desire to gain increased efficiency “to really improve the student experience.”
These administration-level changes have resulted in both new and familiar faces taking on recently developed roles and responsibilities. President Hannigan shared that the “Academic and Campus Life” division mentioned prior will be largely overseen by Senior Vice President and Provost Gundulf Graml, while the non-academic wing of this division will be overseen by Vice President for Campus Life and former Director of Athletics Laura Moliken. In addition to taking over things like Student Affairs and Athletics, Moliken’s new role will also result in her helping to manage Ursinus Dining, a job that includes overseeing the much-anticipated restructuring of both the design and menu of Lower Wismer. Other new changes include Vice President for Inclusion Heather Lobban-Viravong stepping into the newly-created role of Chief Inclusion Officer, which Hannigan described as not only giving her more oversight over student diversity, but also “more authority…[over]…personnel actions [and the] curriculum.” Not only that, but President Hannigan also created the “President’s Office,” where herself as well as the Vice President for Enrollment Management and the Vice President for Inclusion as well as the Chief of Staff and the General Counsel can consistently meet in one, consolidated location. President Hannigan notes that these alterations to the college’s leadership have been in the works “at least since last spring.” In her own words, she emphasizes that the goal of this reorganization was to come up with “the best operation structure to get the most efficiency to really improve the student experience, sort of from the time you’re recruited all the way to the time that you graduate and well beyond.” Unfortunately, many of these changes resulted in not just the reorganization of staffing, but the reduction of it, as well.
Amongst these many changes, President Hannigan executed a “Reduction of Force,” which she described as the “reduction of additional positions beyond those two vice presidents…[including] 3% of our total workforce.” While describing how this did not constitute a huge portion of Ursinus’s total workforce, Hannigan admitted that it is undoubtedly significant, particularly “to the people that were directly impacted by it.” These losses were felt amongst many of Ursinus’s professors, faculty, and staff. For example, Media and Communications Professor Jennifer Fleeger lost colleagues that she worked next to in the library. When asked about the impact of these changes, she shared that, “I think many of us share a sense of loss. As a Myrin Library resident, I certainly feel that way.”
In terms of budgeting, President Hannigan described how, under her leadership, Ursinus is starting a transition to a “zero-based budget,” which she hopes will better account for the money being spent on the college’s many individual projects. In describing this budgeting philosophy, she shared how it requires approaching every group on campus that utilizes a budget and asking them, “Build[ing] up from the ground up, what do you need? What is the absolute that you must have? And then what strategic investments would you like to make and what would be the positive revenue outcome if you were able to do that?” As a result of this new budgeting philosophy, Hannigan hopes that the college can better account for the timing of upcoming projects in order to “have more space to be able to invest into the things that we know we need to.” Not only that, but Hannigan also hopes that by fiscal years 2026 and 2027, these changes will produce an Ursinus that is at “financial equilibrium, [where] the revenues equal the expenses.”
Despite all of these alterations, though, President Hannigan stressed that she would still like to keep many familiar aspects of the college around, particularly when it comes to the student experience. Students may remember “Mondays with Missy,” in which former Vice President Missy Bryant would set aside an hour of her day to connect with students. Bryant worked to foster connections and open communication with students, making efforts to stay accessible to them and remain actively involved with the student experience. Due to Hannigan’s decision to merge the divisions of Student Affairs and Health and Wellness into a new division of campus life, now being overseen by Vice President Laura Moliken, Bryant’s position was eliminated. As a result, this does mean the end of “Mondays with Missy,” but does this mean the end of a personal connection with those overseeing Student Affairs for Ursinus students? Hannigan says, “No.” With Vice President Moliken overseeing the non-academic portion of Campus and Student Life, there are now three leads of the division. These include Lauren Finnegan-Martin, who is the lead for Health and Wellness, Erin Stroble, who is the lead for Athletics, and Ellie Ash-Balá, who is the lead for Student Affairs. According to Hannigan, “You will have access to them as you always did and then you’ll have Laura. I’d imagine that Laura will roll out some sort of connector, but Ellie will probably do the ‘Lunch with Ellie’ kind of thing.” Although the names of the events may not have the same ring to them as “Mondays with Missy,” Hannigan claims that the students will not be at a loss when it comes to forging personal connections with administrators, even with these many changes.
Admittedly, some Ursinus students may not care too much about administration-level changes at their college. To that, President Hannigan responds, “I think you should always be watching because this is your college. You’re getting a degree from here and you’re going to leave here, and you want to know that the administration is good stewards because the reputation of your degree hinges on the stewardship of the leadership.” She asserts that it is important to understand why things are happening in the specific way that they are happening in order to have confidence that nothing negative is happening to Ursinus students’ alma mater. Additionally, Hannigan believes that it might be a learning moment for students. She emphasizes that, “You’re going to be leaders someday and now you know someone who has done some stuff, if you needed advice you could call me!”
President Hannigan went on to mention, “I find that there’s nothing that we’re doing that should be secret and the more transparent I can be about what’s happening the easier it is to understand when a decision gets made.” Although she recognizes that the students attending Ursinus and any other college are inherently transient, she emphasizes, “They’re here now with me, and so I always want to keep the students as partners in that communication.” She emphasizes the importance of participation in student government. One of Hannigan’s passions is “working with student government to really elevate the role of student government in governance,” and she wants students to know that their involvement can actually affect change. Hannigan asserts that “this president wants to work with students to get things done.”
All in all, the email addressed to students over this past winter break indicated large-scale, future changes to Ursinus that go beyond even the elimination of two vice presidents. They included not only the creation and shuffling of new faculty positions and divisions, but a wholesale alteration to the college’s budget planning for both the present and the future. Hopefully, for faculty, staff, and students alike, these changes will bring on their desired results in order to enhance the Ursinus experience moving forward.