You remember Bennington? Great legacy of independent thought and creativity, almost broke, still funky and fantastic but nearly bottoming out, dropping programs and professors?
Well, things have changed in a hurry, thanks to a powerhouse president and a series of reforms that have put Bennington back in the black and energized a college contending with a dramatic decline both in the number of applicants and the retention of admitted students. Even a brief summary of the resume Bennington’s President, Mariko Silver, brought to Bennington indicates a remarkable shift in college leadership. A graduate of Yale and Oxford, President Silver developed research and technology initiatives for Columbia University, initiatives that brought more than a billion dollars in royalties to the university, as reported in the August 23rd edition of Forbes Magazine. As a director of strategic projects at Arizona State, Silver established connections between the university and the business community, and drafted by the Governor of Arizona, became a trusted policy advisor, moving with her to become undersecretary and strategist for the Department of Homeland Security.
It is no surprise, then, that within months of her appointment at Bennington, important changes began to be made. Trimming administrative costs and attracting a larger pool of applicants, dropping the acceptance rate below 60%, pumping the retention rate to a new high, at the end of that year, Bennington had a surplus of more than 2,000,000.00. Shifting investment strategies, Silver also saw the endowment grow steadily, to the point at which the college is most certainly viable and a great college choice again for the candidate who appreciates the many opportunities Bennington offers independent minded thinkers and artists who like the idea of creating their own learning plan. Silver suggests that the initiative helps students to become strategic in thinking about their own education, a necessary step in the formulation of their goals following a stimulating four years at Bennington.