Converse friends, Happy New Year!
As we launch into 2022, it brings me great joy to take this moment to share with you the energy and enthusiasm we are experiencing on our Converse campus. 2021 was wildly different than any of us expected, and while we have undergone so much change this past year, our beloved Converse campus is vibrant and alive, being energized by our dynamic student population, the dedication of our talented faculty and staff, and the unwavering support from our alumni, donors, and friends.
We welcomed 352 new students in August – the largest incoming class to Converse in more than three decades! It brings me great joy to witness the energy and enthusiasm on campus as we welcome the class of 2025 to our traditions and strong focus on academic excellence. Our campus is filled with a dynamic student population that includes:
- New students from 30 states and 15 countries with an average GPA of 4.03
- 315 students across the University elected to enroll in the Converse College for Women–175 more participants than we anticipated
- More than 112 emerging artists, performers, and musicians enrolled in the School of the Arts under the leadership of the new Dean, Dr. Chris Vaneman, a dramatic increase over last year
- Over 250 new student-athletes who are competing on our 13 women’s teams, five 5 men’s teams, and two 2 co-ed teams
This fall, we also hosted parents, alumni, prospective students, and friends on campus during our first-ever Family and Friends weekend in September and celebrated the class of 2020, who had missed an in-person ceremony due to the pandemic. We also opened the Center for Academic Excellence in Mickel Library, a renovated space which was funded in part by a Cannon Foundation grant, and which offers expanded tutoring services for students and engagement sessions on best practices for faculty.
The campus experience continues to be enhanced this year with vibrant branding such as outside pole banners, and the spaces inside our Admissions welcome suite and hallway, Gee Dining Hall, and Montgomery Student Center. Our student-athletes benefited from newly-resurfaced basketball and tennis courts. We experienced the addition of a new Market C micro-market in Mickel library, providing another much-needed location for our students, faculty, and staff to grab some food and drink on the go. We also launched a partnership with Blue Duck Scooters to provide our campus community another option to commute across campus and even into our vibrant Spartanburg downtown.
Our commitment to diversity and inclusion and student success includes the establishment of the Multicultural Center in Montgomery – with a beautiful student-designed mural – and is a space dedicated to bolster student inclusion and foster creativity. We are also grateful for generous donations and endowments to support diversity initiatives, including a first-generation student endowment in honor of Krista Newkirk, the Jones Rushing Scholars Program that was established by Emily Jones Rushing Class of 1973 for underrepresented populations in our student body, and the Dr. Kay Woodward Endowment, gifted by Phyllis Perrin Harris Class of 1985, for programmatic support within the Converse College for Women to address leadership and the disparities of Black women who enter the workforce.
Thanks to the generosity of our friends and alumni, we were thrilled to receive several significant financial gifts this year, including a $1 million gift from Agnes Binder Weisger ‘63 and her husband Edward to support Converse athletics to fund the turfing of the College’s soccer and lacrosse field and the installation of a track around the field. We also received a $2 million commitment from the Milliken & Company Charitable Foundation—one of the first multi-million dollar gifts of the newly-formed foundation. Their commitment is the lead gift to help launch phase one of a $7 million renovation project of the Milliken Fine Arts building on Converse’s Spartanburg campus. We also are grateful for the generosity of the George Burwell charitable trust and their $2.5 million gift for a project to be announced at a later date. And the Rock the Tower one day of giving – which celebrated its fifth anniversary this year – raised much-needed funds for departments across campus. We are so very grateful for the generosity of our Converse community and their financial support.
Our athletics teams experienced growth this year as we added men’s teams to our roster. Our student-athletes have demonstrated incredible support and encouragement of each other in this historic year. And they’ve experienced success on the field and courts as well. Our field hockey team was crowned this year’s South Atlantic Conference Carolinas regular season and tournament champion. Our co-ed esports team – housed in a dynamic new space in Drayton Mills Marketplace in Spartanburg – won the Peachbelt Conference tournament in Overwatch and was crowned the National Champion in Rainbow Six Siege. Men’s tennis won their inaugural team match against Limestone. Our men’s soccer team won their inaugural game 5-0 against Columbia College – which was also their inaugural game – and qualified for the Conference Carolinas soccer tournament in their first year of play. And as we enter into the new year, our men’s basketball team is showing strength, winning their inaugural game against Mars Hill. A winning spirit is taking over Valkyries athletics and it is so thrilling to see our students who show up and cheer for each other in matches and competitions.
As we look to 2022, we look forward to the launch of the Call Me MISTER ® initiative at Converse, to increase the number of highly qualified teachers from under-represented groups who plan to work in South Carolina’s elementary and middle schools. We’ll officially dedicate our athletics turf field and track and some of our campus buildings will begin renovation on Cudd residence hall, which will commence in summer 2022. Our search for Converse’s 12th President will continue throughout the early months of 2022 with the goal to have the selected candidate in place by the start of fiscal year 2022-2023.
We have undergone unprecedented transformation along with positive new growth, and Converse remains true to her guiding principles to see clearly, decide wisely, and act justly. Converse is built of the bonds that we share and our goal for this year is to allow those bonds to bring us close and to connect us to that living determination. I am so excited to build our connection with you over the coming year and to get to know more about your Converse story. As we continue to focus on a future set forth by the trailblazers of our past, please know that your voice and vision for our beloved Converse is central to our success. Through the unexpected joys and pain, we will remain forever Converse.
Together, in 2022 and in the years to come, WE WILL.