Looking Back at 2015

Dr. Richard L Pattenaude

Here we are at the end of another year. Naturally, it’s a time to pause and reflect on the past twelve months and look forward to what lies ahead. It’s a time to celebrate our successes and think about the lessons learned from the obstacles we faced. And when I think about Ashford University in 2015, two words immediately spring to mind: challenging and rewarding.

First, let’s deal with the challenges. This year, Ashford had to make the difficult decision to close our campus in Clinton, Iowa. This decision was the kind that no institution ever wants to confront. It impacts many people, both staff and students, and the campus has been an important part of Ashford’s heritage. Unfortunately, it became clear that it was no longer economically viable to maintain the campus.

Significant changes like that – even difficult changes – can often clarify a university’s future. With the impending closure of the campus in spring, it was apparent that Ashford would focus its attention on our core mission of serving students through innovative online higher education. With a renewed focus, Ashford enjoyed many successes throughout the year. Chief among them was the affirmation we received from WASC, our accrediting agency. When I first came to Ashford, the University was in the midst of attempting to move our accreditation to WASC, the accrediting body that oversees the western region where Ashford is headquartered. After a long, thorough process, Ashford was granted accreditation from WASC two years ago. This spring, WASC conducted its two-year review of Ashford. They asked a lot of questions, and probed every corner of the University. It delights me to relate that WASC appeared to be quite pleased with what they saw at Ashford. The WASC review was a positive experience, and it made me feel great about the direction in which Ashford is headed.

Ashford’s road ahead has been solidified in a long-term strategic plan that was approved by our Board of Trustees during their December board meeting. At the heart of that plan is a strategy to add more than a dozen new degree programs over the next two years. We already rolled out a few new programs in 2015 – including our Master of Arts in Psychology, Master of Science in Criminal Justice, and Master of Accountancy degrees – and we have a sizable investment fund committed to supporting all of our new programs moving forward. This development is very exciting for all of us at Ashford because it means we will be able to help even more students pursue their educational goals in 2016, and beyond.

2015 saw many other successes for Ashford. We hosted our first ever Teaching and Learning Conference for faculty that brought together more than 3,000 individuals to discuss how we can continue to help students succeed. Ashford received several commendations for our continued work in creating a supportive educational environment for military students, earning a spot on Military Times’ “Best for Vets” list. Most rewarding of all, Ashford celebrated two commencement weekends where we were able to honor thousands of graduates as they reached personal milestones.

So as I look back on 2015, I will remember it as a rewarding year despite our challenges. I don’t want to minimize the obstacles we confronted this year, but I think it’s important to recognize everything we were able to accomplish. Ultimately, I believe those accomplishments have positioned Ashford for a successful year in 2016.

Dr. Richard L. Pattenaude is the President and CEO of Ashford University.

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