FERRUM – Ferrum's first woman president Jennifer Braaten, will be retiring this summer, she announced Tuesday.
Sam Lionberger, chair of Ferrum’s Board of Trustees, had high praise for Braaten’s extraordinary accomplishments during her presidency. He noted that Dr. Braaten's family was experiencing serious health issues and that she felt her obligation was to now be with family. “The College has grown in stature and reputation from her strong leadership during her tenure as President and our prayers of love and support are with her as she now enters a new phase of her life”, said Lionberger. A Search Committee is being formed at this time to seek a successor.
Braaten expressed gratitude to Lionberger and the entire Board for their strong partnership with her in sustaining the mission as well as creating a vision of vitality and viability for Ferrum. Braaten credited the success for implementation of this vision to the Ferrum team which included talented administrators, faculty, staff, coaches, and students with whom she worked closely. “It has been an honor and privilege to be part of the Ferrum Community for the past 14 years. We have experienced positive growth in all areas, while maintaining stability and continuity. Our mission ’to serve the underserved’ remains as compelling today as it was 100 years ago.”
Braaten arrived at Ferrum College in 2002 from her previous position as the first woman president of Midland Lutheran College in Nebraska, having served prior to that appointment as provost, vice president for academic affairs and professor of history at Lynn University in Florida. During her Ferrum tenure, enrollment increased dramatically and academic programs were enhanced, including the implementation of the May “e- (experiential) term”, as well as the initiation of the College’s first ever online program in Criminal Justice.
Braaten referred to Ferrum’s “applied liberal arts” as a descriptor for the dual emphasis of providing a solid liberal arts core curriculum as a foundation and basis for all programs, while also strengthening such “career oriented” majors as Business, Criminal Justice, Health Sciences/Pre-professional sciences programs. The coordination and integration of academics with co-curricular service learning activities and experiences that would highlight the college’s motto of “Not Self, but Others” was a particular priority. The long standing prominence of the Environmental Studies program was supplemented with additional emphasis on campus-wide sustainability. The outstanding Ferrum faculty continued to receive accolades in many areas, and have received grants from NEH, NSF, and other internationally recognized agencies.
During her tenure, two capital campaigns, approximately $45 million in total, were successfully completed, with both exceeding their original goals. During this time, the endowment grew to approximately $50 million. New construction and renovation brought $30 million in much needed facilities upgrades to the 702 acre Ferrum campus. These improvements included the FerrumPLUS! addition and refurbishments to Franklin Hall as well as new residence halls to accommodate enrollment growth, a dozen new classrooms and science/health and human performance labs through the auspices of grants from the Arthur Vining Davis Foundation, Cargill Foundation and the Virginia Tobacco and Indemnification Commission, and expansion of the Blue Ridge Institute and Museum, to name a few.
Most recently, completion of the Hank Norton Center (HNC), named after legendary coach Hank Norton, whose football teams brought national championship fame to Ferrum, provided increased athletic opportunities. The HNC, along with renovated existing athletic facilities, and the addition of a new turf field, allowed for the addition of men’s lacrosse, men’s and women’s wrestling and men’s and women’s swimming programs.