Finlandia talks improvements, world violence

HANCOCK – Philip Johnson gave an update on the operations of Finlandia University Wednesday, but there was more on his mind than what’s happening on campus.

“Right now, it’s not all money, and that’s rare,” said Johnson, Finlandia president.

Before beginning his annual Community Partners update, Johnson said he’s been thinking much lately about all the acts of violence taking place around the country and wondering what can be done at the university to address those issues.

Since students will be coming to campus from all over the country and the world will probably have concerns about the violence, Johnson said it may be a good idea to have dialogues about the violence.

“We will have students on our campus that feel deeply about what’s happening in our country,” he said. “We know the world is coming to us.”

Before giving his report, Johnson introduced some staff members, including new Chief Financial Officer Angela Price, who said she is optimistic about the university’s current situation.

“We have a lot of positive things happening,” she said.

Also introduced was Athletic Director and Head Volleyball Coach Kristin Schuster, who said the university’s athletic programs are getting better.

“I’ve seen steady improvements in all areas,” she said.

Travis Hanson, Finlandia director of admissions, said 305 students are expected for the start of the 2016-17 school year, which is an increase over the 287 incoming students for the 2015-16 school year.

“We’re excited about the incoming class,” he said.

Johnson said there have been improvements to the athletic facilities at the Paavo Nurmi Center and at McAfee Field.

Improvements to the university’s chemistry and biology labs have taken place because of a $435,000 grant from the Portage Health Foundation, Johnson said.

Another $211,000 grant made possible the purchase of adult and juvenile human simulators for the health science programs.

Johnson said it’s expected the university’s health science classrooms in the former Hancock high school and middle school building on Quincy Street will be ready for the 2017-18 school year thanks to a seven-figure donation to the university, which will be received in the spring.

“We’ve been working on these a long time,” he said of the improvements to the health sciences program.

Regarding the increase in enrollment, Johnson said students in the dorms will be tripling up, but there will be an expansion of housing space, soon.

The university’s new Summer Bridge program worked well, Johnson said. Some students were allowed to come to campus six weeks early to get a feel for the campus and to develop a sense of ownership of the university.

It was hoped 15 students would sign up for the Summer Bridge program, but 20 signed up, Johnson said.

“These students are performing very, very well,” he said.

Johnson said 2017 will be a busy year for Finlandia because it will be involved with a celebration of the centennial of Finnish Independence Day and the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s Reformation.

Summing up, Johnson said he hopes people from the community will come to him with any concerns or ideas they may have.

“I continue to need your help,” he said.

Johnson said he does listen to “contrary voices.

“I don’t seek agreement,” he said. “I seek understanding.”