Madeline St. John
The newest position at Goucher was created by President Bowen. The new role is Senior Vice President for Strategic Initiatives, and is held by Martin Sweidel, who used to serve as associate dean at Southern Methodist University, the same school where Bowen was a dean. Sweidel’s role is to help Goucher take on initiatives to make it a better, more transformative institution—a college that truly changes lives.
Typically, a vice president has a focus in a particular area. Sweidel does not. His job is to help other vice presidents, as well as faculty and staff, coordinate projects that cut across several sectors. Someone needs to have the “bandwidth,” as Sweidel puts it, to organize a cross-sectional response to important issues. Sweidel also hopes to help people make transitions. “Everyone deals with change differently. Change can make people nervous,” Sweidel said.
As for the “strategic” part of his title, Sweidel emphasized that part of “strategy” is about prioritizing initiatives—which things should come first and how many can be done at the same time. Currently, the administration is currently focusing on an initiative regarding retention and enrollment. Working with a cross-vocational team, they are examining student data, performing exit surveys, and evaluating the services that Goucher provides. They are trying to answer questions like: What are students’ expectations when they come to Goucher? Why are they leaving? Were their expectations met? The team is in the process of hiring someone to analyze student data to help admissions better predict which students are the right fit for Goucher.
Sweidel listed three reasons for choosing to come to Goucher. The first was the chance to continue working with President Bowen. According to Sweidel, President Bowen is “the real deal” and he made “wonderful transformations” at SMU. “Life’s too short to pass up the opportunity [to continue working with President Bowen],” Sweidel said.
The second reason was that Goucher reminded him of the colleges where he spent his years as an undergrad. “It was a liberal arts college, it was a small school, it was formerly a women’s college, and it was located on a heavily wooded campus…” Sweidel said that his time at that college, more so than his graduate school experience, impacted his life.
Sweidel’s third reason was that he and his wife were already looking to move to the East Coast in order to be closer to their son, who works in Washington D.C
Sweidel has two degrees in music. He explained that since both music composition and “strategic initiatives” involve problem-solving, he can relate his degree to the job he has no . Sweidel believes “artists and creative thinkers, along with everyone else, should be at the problem-solving table.” Now it is Sweidel’s job to make sure that everyone who belongs at that “table” gets there.
Having been on campus just over a month, Sweidel feeling a bit like a freshman. He is beginning get a feel for the campus, make himself at home, and see the commitment the faculty and staff have to make Goucher the place it promises to be.