A President's Reflections

2019: An Extraordinary Year for SNHU

Posted on January 9, 2020

2019 was an extraordinary year for Southern New Hampshire University. Throughout the year, we celebrated more than 21,000 graduates, gained new friends and colleagues in Tucson, and supported more than 40 organizations across New Hampshire. As the year comes to a close and the SNHU community continues to grow, I wanted to share some of my highlights from the year:

1. Our Learners

At SNHU, we have some of the most dedicated learners imaginable. They are the everyday heroes that reaffirm for me our mission. They are parents taking care of kids and working full-time, police officers and military students, campus students working many hours and still volunteering in our community, and refugees left behind by much of the world but holding onto hope. Hearing their stories of perseverance and grit is always inspiring and I am still in awe of many I spoke with at Commencement. This year, one of our students walked across the stage after recovering from paralysis, another earned two degrees while battling brain cancer, and many overcame obstacles of their own on the path to a degree. Meet some of our 2019 graduates:

  • Ricardo Scarello, a graduate student who lost his eyesight, walked across the stage in May with his service dog, Puck. Despite all of his obstacles, Ricardo earned his master’s degree with a 4.0 GPA and now works as a senior software developer. 
  • In high school, Sarah Schoenbeck suffered a traumatic brain injury while playing varsity soccer. Although she lost three years of memory and educational experience, she excelled on campus and graduated as a double major. 
  • Emma Lineberger, one of our College for America students, walked at SNHU’s Commencement one month before her high school graduation. Emma had many health challenges along the way, but was able to complete her associate and bachelor’s degrees online with SNHU through a dual enrollment program. 
  • Last May, I helped pull off the sweetest Mother’s Day surprise of all time. One of our online students, Jessie Rogers, knew that her mom Kathleen regretted missing her own Commencement ceremony in 2017 and reached out to SNHU for help. Together, Jessie and I surprised Kathleen with her cap and gown and they had the opportunity to walk across the stage together. Take a look at the surprise moment:

2. Our Employees

There was a lot to celebrate in 2019 and we could not have done any of it without our staff and faculty. We now have more than 10,000 employees across the nation who live SNHU’s mission in service of our students. It’s because of them that we’ve been named a Great College to Work For twelve years in a row, the most innovative university in the north for the fifth consecutive year, a top institution for adult learners, and now one of the best places to work for women. I am honored to have such a great team and community by my side. 

I also wanted to recognize and congratulate the following SNHU community members:

  • Gwen Britton, associate vice president of STEM professions; Mark Gruen, associate dean; and their team who received the 2019 OLC Effective Practice Award for their Pathways to Math Success initiative. You can learn more about the project, here.
  • Jasmeial “Jazz” Jackson, associate dean of FYE, retention, and special programs, who won UPCEA’s Leadership and Service Award. This award recognizes a continuing education professional who has exhibited achievement in the profession and exemplary service to UPCEA.
  • With help from several staff and faculty, SNHU also won the UPCEA’s Excellence in Engagement Award for the Amica Challenge. This award recognizes an outstanding partnership of a member institution with one or more external constituents that resulted in a measurable and sustainable shared impact. Thank you to all who contributed to this project.
  • SNHU was recognized at the ANA Multicultural conference as a Best-In-Culture top performing brand by ANA and the Association for Inclusive and Multicultural Marketing. Our “Get Your Degree” spot was named one of the Ace Metrix Most Empowering Ads of Q3, and SHE Media identified our “Stand Up” campaign as a nominee for the 2019 #Femvertising Award. Congratulations to the marketing team.

3. Tucson

In 2019, we also expanded the SNHU family to Arizona. More than 100 staff members recently joined our team and will be based in our new Tucson office. They will help serve learners in western time zones, and we’re thrilled to welcome them to the growing SNHU community.

As you may know, we hosted two career fairs in the Tucson area to find new talent. Our staff members had the opportunity to speak with scores of candidates, many of whom had inspiring stories. One individual had been in a serious motorcycle accident just days before he attended the career fair. He said he did not want to miss an opportunity to interview with SNHU. We also heard from two service members who celebrated Veterans Day together and found out through conversation that they would soon be co-workers. 

Now with our new “SNHUcson” staff on-hand, we plan to officially mark the opening of our new location with a ribbon cutting ceremony and employee event in February. I can’t wait to meet the whole team! 

4. Student Work & Experiential Learning

At SNHU, our learners truly often learn as much outside the classroom as in it. In celebration of their success, I wanted to share some of this year’s student projects with all of you. 

  • A group of online students recently made the finals of a global data analytics challenge, beating out dozens of teams from around the world. The project was presented at Teradata University’s 2019 Analytics Challenge and addressed chronic hunger and food waste in the United States. The SNHU team was one of 16 selected to present at the finals in Denver from among more than four dozen submissions.
  • A group of on-campus sport management students worked with marketing professionals in Major League Soccer’s New York Red Bulls corporate offices on several projects. Most recently, they proposed ideas to redesign and refresh Red Bulls Stadium’s premium suites, as well as a marketing plan.
  • Earlier this year, students also participated in The HEaRT (Health Education and Real-World Training) Challenge, which paired groups of online healthcare administration students with an employer partner, Watermark Retirement Communities. Each group was challenged to develop strategies for the retirement home network to address recruitment and retention strategies while addressing how the nationwide nursing and healthcare professional shortage impacts public health. Students researched and drafted recruitment and retention plans while working with Watermark executives and developed presentations demonstrating their ideas.
  • In 2019, our campus students, with help from Professor Frost, also published a study on the cognitive effects of smartphone usage. Together, they found that heavy, daily smartphone use affects the ability to extract and analyze information. You can read more about the study here.

More experiential learning projects and examples from 2019 can be seen here

5. Giving Back

At SNHU, we understand the importance of giving back and always strive to be a good neighbor. In 2019, we supported more than 40 local organizations across New Hampshire, including Families in Transition, Manchester Boys & Girls Club, and The Palace Theatre. We also opened our first mini-pitch in the Granite State with our friends at Major League Soccer, and have plans to open a second on the west side of Manchester. In January, the Boston Celtics also helped us open a brand new technology lab for the students of Fairgrounds Elementary in Nashua.

To their great credit, our students often lead our community service activities. On campus this academic year, nearly 1,000 students participated in service projects, including alternative break, service learning, and volunteerism. Through the Chandler Center, more than 5,500 hours were served across 42 local nonprofits. We could not be more proud of our students and the impact they’ve had on the community. 

We also had another record-breaking year for our annual Global Days of Service initiative. In 2019, nearly 1,600 volunteers led 180 projects in 44 states and seven countries. In total, SNHU community members logged 7,800 hours of service throughout the month of April. 

6. Supporting Military-Affiliated Learners

This past summer, we hosted our fourth annual Operation: Back of the Net to raise funds for and honor the men and women who selflessly serve our nation. Through the initiative this year, SNHU donated $124,000 to the USO and also awarded six full scholarships to military-affiliated MLS fans. I encourage you to read more about the scholarship recipients and initiative.

We also teamed up with Operation Homefront to honor military spouses across the country. At each of our four Homefront Celebrations, we surprised a spouse with a full tuition scholarship to study online with SNHU. Heather Jaquay received her scholarship in January, and decided to pursue a degree in healthcare administration. Read her story, here.

I also wanted to share one of my favorite stories from Commencement. We had a military couple – Jessica and Parker Bryant  – who crossed the finish line together this May. Despite an overseas deployment and five young kids at home, they were able to complete their programs online together. They hope to show their kids that they can accomplish anything they set their minds to. 

7. Penmen Athletics

Our student-athletes are a talented group and impress me every year (and fill my ring case). This year, many of our teams qualified for the NE10 postseason and I could not be more proud. Here are some top Penmen highlights from 2019:

  • Our women’s soccer team, which earned an NCAA Championship berth for the third straight season, welcomed 12-year-old Katie Chase to the team through our partnership with Team IMPACT. Katie, who has a rare genetic disorder, signed a letter of intent with the team in August and cheered on the Penmen throughout the season. 
  • Men’s ice hockey captured its second Northeast-10 title. In his second year behind the bench, head coach Sean Walsh was named the NE10 Coach of the Year.
  • Men’s golf captured both the Northeast-10 Championship and NCAA Atlantic/East Championship, earning its second trip to the NCAA National Championship. Senior Matt Paradis became the first All-American in program history.
  • Women’s cross country posted its top season in program history, recording its highest finish at both the NE10 Championship (second) and NCAA Division II East Regional Championship (third), while qualifying for the NCAA National Championship for the first time ever. Sophomore Ashley Corcoran placed 26th and became the program’s first All-American. 
  • The athletic department claimed its highest finish ever in the NE10 Presidents’ Cup standings (fourth) and its second best finish in the Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup standings (61st).
  • Cheerleading captured both the All-Girl Division II crown, as well as the Collegiate Grand Champion title at the New England Cheerleading Association (NECA) Collegiate Championships, before claiming its highest finish ever at the NCA National Championships.
  • Men’s tennis posted its most successful season ever, winning its fourth straight Northeast-10 Regular-Season Championship, fourth consecutive NE10 title and advanced to the NCAA Round of 16 for the first time in program history.

8. Expanding Access

At a time when high-quality higher education is increasingly out of reach for many, we have been working hard to put education in the hands of learners across the globe. Over the past year, we launched several new partnerships to expand access to education and also made some great strides on ongoing initiatives. Here are some highlights: 

  • Through our partnership with Guild Education, SNHU degree programs are now offered to all Walmart and Chipotle employees. Walmart announced in June the expansion of its Live Better U program, a program designed to eliminate barriers to college enrollment and graduation. As part of the expansion, Walmart now offers its 1.4 million U.S. associates the opportunity to earn a degree from SNHU. In October, Chipotle announced the expansion of its Chipotle Cultivate Education benefits program. With the expansion, Chipotle employees can now earn a degree from SNHU. 
  • We teamed up with Salesforce to bring college credit to its free online learning platform, Trailhead. By completing admin and developer badges, more than 1.5 million Trailblazers now have the opportunity to earn college credit from SNHU. 
  • As part of our commitment to make college more accessible, we recently froze tuition through 2021. This marks the 10th consecutive year SNHU has held tuition flat for online programs and 5 consecutive years for campus programs.
  • In 2017, our Global Education Movement (GEM) embarked upon setting and achieving five ambitious proof points. Two years later, GEM has now met each of these target milestones in collaboration with our partners and most important allies, our students. In achieving these breakthroughs, we’ve launched operations in four new countries, expanded our work beyond Africa to the Middle East, created a new degree, and continued to measure strong outcomes in Rwanda. Ultimately, it’s the individual stories of profound life and community transformation that best exemplify the power of our work together. In Kakuma, Kenya’s sprawling desert camp of nearly 200,000 residents, Mayen thought he’d never have the opportunity to earn a bachelor’s degree. He spent time as a teacher and wondered if he should return to his home country, but worried about his safety. Today, Mayen has completed an internship with the College Board, holds his bachelor’s degree in management with a concentration in logistics and operations, and has been offered a job in Nairobi working alongside communities with sanitation challenges. “I’ve not only transformed my own life,” Mayen said, “but I am showing the world what’s possible for refugees. We now have a reason to feel and spread hope.”

9. The Center for New Americans

As many of you know, we opened the SNHU Center for New Americans at YWCA NH in 2017. Since its opening, SNHU staff has provided a safe place for local Manchester youth to learn, play, and grow after school and during the summer months. The Center regularly sees more than 90 elementary through high school-aged students per week.

In 2019, the SNHU Center for New Americans expanded its services by partnering with the YWCA to open the WELL (Wellness, Education, and Learning for Life). The WELL, which opened on the second floor of the YWCA in September, now hosts ESOL, Hi-SET test prep and other academic and enrichment programming in addition to youth and recreation downstairs. The Center was also awarded a $30,000 grant over two years from Granite United Way to join their Youth Enrichment program which connects middle school serving agencies to additional organizations throughout the city. 

I also want to take a moment to recognize and thank Arthur Sullivan, Co-Owner of Brady Sullivan Properties and an SNHU trustee, for his generous shoe donation this fall. Thanks to him, 160 local kids – 80 from the SNHU Center for New Americans – were treated to a shopping trip where they were fitted for a brand new pair of shoes.

10. The SNHU Community

What I love most about the SNHU community is the way we always come together; whether that is to celebrate homecoming, support our community during a government shutdown, or find ways to better serve our learners. Our community and culture is truly unlike any other in higher ed. Thanks to everyone who made 2019 another wonderful year at SNHU!

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