Meeting of the Winthrop University Board of Trustees

Thursday, November 30, 2023 to Friday, December 1, 2023 Gold Room | DiGiorgio Campus Center
Winthrop University | Rock Hill, South Carolina


Board Members Present: Mr. Glenn McCall (Chair), Ms. Kathy Bigham (Vice Chair), Mr. John Brazell, Mr. Ed Driggers, Mr. Joel Hamilton, Dr. Randy Imler, Mr. Rick Lee, Dr. David McDonald, Mr. Isaiah Venning, Dr. Ashlye Wilkerson

Board Members Absent: Mr. Tim Sease, Mr. Robbie Sisco, Ms. Janet Smalley, Ms. Sandra Stroman

Others Present: Dr. Edward A. Serna (President), C. Todd Hagins (Secretary to the Board and General Counsel), Joseph Miller (Vice President for Enrollment Management and Marketing), Chuck Rey (Director of Athletics), Justin Oates (Interim Vice President for Finance and Business Affairs and Chief Financial Officer), and others of the Winthrop Community.

FOIA Compliance Notice

Pursuant to state law, Winthrop University published a notice to the public on its website providing the meeting notice on July 1, 2023, and posted the agenda affixed outside the Office of the President and Board of Trustees in Tillman Hall on November 28, 2023. On the day of the meeting, the Secretary to the Board caused to be affixed to the door of the meeting location the agenda for the Board and all associated committees.

Call to Order

A quorum being present Chairman McCall called the meeting to order at 1:32 p.m.

Presentation on Winthrop’s Strategy to Recruit and Retain Students by Vice President Joseph Miller

Mr. Miller detailed two main frameworks that underpin the university's approach to change management: Lewin's Model and Kotter's Model. He described how Lewin's three-step model (Unfreeze, Change, Refreeze) facilitates the university's transition by preparing the institution for change, implementing new strategies, and solidifying new processes into the university's culture. Meanwhile, Kotter's model, which includes eight steps, provides a more comprehensive roadmap for securing organizational buy-in and fostering a culture of continuous improvement and engagement among stakeholders.

Mr. Miller presented a systematic approach to enrollment management, which involves recognizing challenges, setting strategic goals, and implementing detailed tactics and operations. This approach is grounded in the principles of adaptive and transformational change, aiming to refine ongoing operations while preparing for major shifts that align with long-term university goals.

He emphasized the use of the Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) cycles as a methodological backbone for the enrollment plan. These cycles are critical for testing changes, evaluating their effectiveness, and making necessary adjustments to strategies and processes. Mr. Miller highlighted that this iterative process ensures that the enrollment strategies not only respond to immediate needs but also adapt to future educational landscapes.

Mr. Miller outlined the detailed components of the enrollment plan:

  • Goals and Strategies: The presentation detailed specific goals for different university sectors such as admissions, student affairs, and athletics, focusing on synchronization across departments to optimize enrollment and student success.
  • Market Review: He provided insights into demographic trends and market analyses, including forecasts of high school graduates in South Carolina and their implications for future enrollment strategies.
  • Technology and Partnerships: Discussion of how strategic partnerships and technology deployments, such as collaborations with Encoura and NICHE, support the university's goals. These tools help in data-driven decision-making and enhancing the effectiveness of the enrollment processes.

Progress and Benchmarks for Fall 2024

Updates on the Fall 2024 cycle were shared, with Mr. Miller noting significant trends in application and admission rates. He introduced new initiatives like the University Branding and Marketing Campaign and the Tuition Transparency Initiative, which are designed to enhance transparency and attract a broader applicant pool.

Future Directions and Closing

In concluding, Mr. Miller outlined the strategic shifts toward a Transformational Change Model scheduled for the upcoming years. This model involves a deeper integration of the strategic planning elements with the university's broader strategic objectives, scheduled for a new plan rollout in October 2024.

The board members engaged in a thorough discussion with Mr. Miller, probing into the scalability of the initiatives, the integration of new technologies, and the overall alignment of the enrollment strategies with long-term institutional goals.

Presentation by Chuck Rey on the Athletics Department Strategy Discussion

- “Aligning University and Athletics Department Strategy to Improve Student Athlete Recruitment and Retention”

Mr. Ray began by outlining the department's strategic goals, which focus on improving both recruitment and retention rates of student athletes by better aligning the university's overall strategy with the specific needs and goals of the Athletics Department. He emphasized the importance of integrating academic and athletic excellence to foster a holistic environment for student athletes.

A significant part of the discussion centered on the future of the university's golf course. Mr. Ray informed the Board that the Athletics Department plans to reach out to several parties to request proposals for either redeveloping the area or finding the best utilizations moving forward. This initiative is part of a broader strategy to enhance the facilities and resources available to student athletes and to make better use of the university's assets. Mr. Ray discussed the concept of an athletic village within the golf course redevelopment, aimed at providing better resources for student athletes, including enhanced dining options due to the difficulties many face in accessing campus food services.

Mr. Ray provided an enthusiastic update on the advancements in Winthrop's E-sports program, highlighting its rapid growth since its inception in 2019. He noted the program's success, including two national titles, one regional title, and multiple tournament appearances, underscoring the competitive spirit and excellence achieved by the E-sports teams.

Mr. Ray reported that earlier that day, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held to officially open the new Winthrop Esports Center located in the Lowenstein Building. The event, which marked a significant milestone for the program, was attended by members of Winthrop Athletics and the York County Regional Chamber of Commerce. The new 6,500-square-foot center, which will serve as the home for Winthrop's E-sports until at least June 30, 2028, includes advanced facilities such as five varsity team game room spaces, a large open game room that can seat 56, a conference/team meeting room, and four offices.

Expanding on the facilities, Mr. Ray shared that the new center would allow Winthrop to host more community events, engage local high schools, and involve recreation leagues, thereby increasing the program's outreach and impact. The expansion is not just physical but also includes broadening the scope of the E-sports program to encompass JV and club divisions, with new teams and support roles such as video editing and stream production being introduced. Financial aid assistance is also available to support the diverse needs of the students involved.

Mr. Ray expressed the need for additional resources for both the E-sports and broader athletics programs to remain competitive. He emphasized that to sustain and build on the current momentum, continued investment in facilities, coaching, and student support services is crucial.

Mr. Ray briefly discussed Winthrop's participation in the Big South Conference, noting the opportunities it provides for consistent top-four finishes and the ability to win automatic bids in sports like basketball. He highlighted the strategic importance of the conference in elevating the university's athletic profile and improving the recruitment of top-tier athletes.

In conclusion, Mr. Ray reiterated the Athletics Department's commitment to aligning its strategies with the university’s broader goals to foster an environment that supports the academic and athletic aspirations of its student athletes. The Board expressed its support for the strategic initiatives presented and commended the efforts of the Athletics Department in advancing the university's reputation and competitive standing.


Following the presentation by Mr. Ray, the Board stood in recess for the duration of the evening at 4:40 p.m.


Mr. McCall reconvened the Board out of recess on Friday, December 1, 2023, at 9:18 a.m.

Presentation by Dr. Beth Costner, Dean of the Richard Riley College of Education, Sport, and Human Sciences on Programs Recruit, Retain, and Develop Students

Dr. Costner outlined the "Call Me MISTER" (Mentors Instructing Students Toward Effective Role Models) initiative, aimed at increasing the pool of available teachers from a broader, more diverse background. She emphasized the program's success in preparing males, particularly African-Americans, to become teachers in elementary education through financial assistance, academic support, and professional development opportunities.

Next, she discussed the Floyd College Readiness Program, which is designed to support underrepresented and economically disadvantaged students in their pursuit of careers in teaching. Dr. Costner explained that the program offers workshops, college tours, and scholarship opportunities to facilitate students' successful transition to college.

Dr. Costner highlighted the Teaching Fellows Program, which recruits highly talented students into teaching through scholarship aid and unique academic and extracurricular programming. She noted that this program emphasizes leadership development and community engagement, preparing students to become leaders in the classroom and beyond.

The Winthrop LIFE program was also discussed, which provides a post-secondary educational experience for young adults with intellectual disabilities. Dr. Costner detailed how the program offers participants the opportunity to experience college life and prepares them for independent living and employment through a tailored curriculum that includes internships and social integration.

Dr. Costner presented on the Macfeat Early Childhood Laboratory School, which serves as a training and research facility for students in the College while providing high- quality early childhood education. She shared that children from Macfeat had the opportunity to engage with the Board, presenting handmade gifts and performing songs, which illustrated the practical impact of the program on early childhood learning and development.

Concluding her presentation, Dr. Costner shared testimonials from Winthrop students who spoke to the Board about their experiences. These students highlighted how their participation in these programs, particularly their coursework involving local schools and public groups, had profoundly impacted their studies and professional development.

Chairman McCall expressed appreciation for the informative presentation and the tangible outcomes of the programs within the Riley College of Education, Sport, and Human Sciences. He further commended Dr. Costner for her leadership and the faculty’s commitment to student success and community engagement. Chairman McCall verbalized the Board's enthusiasm for the direct involvement of students and children from the Macfeat School, noting that these interactions exemplify the vibrant community and educational excellence at Winthrop University.

A Presentation by Dr. Noreen Gaubatz and Dr. Zach Abernathy on Administration and Faculty Innovation: A Case Study in Using Analytics to Retain Students

Dr. Noreen Gaubatz and Dr. Zach Abernathy presented the findings of a study on the utilization of the S/U (Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory) grading option by first-time freshmen at Winthrop University. The study was initiated in spring 2023 at the request of the Assistant Dean for Academic Success and aimed to assess the impact of the S/U grading option on student retention of scholarships and avoidance of academic probation.

The following key findings were presented:

  • The study covered the period from Fall 2021 through Spring 2023, examining first-term semester GPAs of freshmen.
  • It was found that 46.6% of the 726 freshmen with GPAs between 2.000 and 2.999 could have achieved a GPA of 3.000 or higher if they had optimally used one or two additional S/U options.
  • Additionally, 30.5% of 591 freshmen with GPAs below 2.000 could have reached a GPA of 2.000 or higher with optimal S/U usage, potentially maintaining their LIFE scholarships or avoiding academic probation.
  • The presentation included data on fall-to-fall retention rates and scholarship retention rates among first-time, full-time freshmen, comparing Winthrop University's performance with other public institutions in South Carolina. The retention rates showed a general decline, highlighting the importance of strategies like the S/U option to support student success.

Drs. Gaubatz and Abernathy introduced new data points to aid S/U decision-making, including the difference between average interim grades and final grades, and a ratio indicating when a course would be the best choice to take as S/U. These data points are included in interim grade reports received by ACAD instructors to help guide students in making informed decisions about using the S/U option.

Results from the study have been shared during faculty conferences and training sessions. Efforts are ongoing to integrate these insights into academic advising and student support services. Future work will include updating the data for interim grade reports on a rolling four-semester basis and tracking the effectiveness of these data points in increasing the adoption of the S/U option among freshmen.

The Board expressed appreciation for the comprehensive analysis and the practical applications of the research to enhance student academic success. They recognized the value of continued monitoring and adaptation of academic policies to meet the needs of the student body effectively.

Presentation on Winthrop’s Strategic Plan

Faisal Amin from BRG and Gary Simrill, Special Assistant to President Serna and Chair of the University's Strategic Planning Group, outlined the comprehensive strategic plan designed to redefine Winthrop University’s mission, vision, and values. The strategic plan, a culmination of rigorous research and extensive community engagement, has been shaped by over 800 survey responses, more than 100 interviews, numerous focus groups, and considerable stakeholder feedback.

The plan consists of five key strategic pillars designed to guide the university's progress: EXCEL, focused on achieving regional and national recognition; EDUCATE, dedicated to upholding academic excellence; ENRICH, aimed at enhancing student support and success; ENGAGE, intended to boost community engagement and communication; and ENHANCE, which targets improvements in operational excellence.

During the meeting, specific strategic implementation pathways were highlighted, including campaigns like "Excellence Defined" in communications and marketing, "Prosperity through Partnership," and "Building Winthrop's Financial Future." These campaigns are expected to play crucial roles in realizing the plan's objectives.

The anticipated outcomes for the next three years were discussed in detail. These include broadening Winthrop’s regional presence, establishing prestigious Institutes of Excellence, and boosting student enrollment, retention, and graduation rates.

Additional goals involve enhancing the student residential experience, re-envisioning the general education curriculum, introducing forward-looking academic programs, strengthening strategic alliances and corporate partnerships, developing robust community engagement, achieving financial resilience, and developing a next-generation campus.

Further discussions centered on priorities for each strategic pillar:

  • EXCEL: The plan will enhance and promote Winthrop’s unique qualities to establish its reputation for academic excellence and community impact. This includes expanding the university’s educational reach and elevating its institutional prominence through strategic partnerships and digital innovation.
  • EDUCATE: Efforts will be made to advance comprehensive student intellectual development, provide high-quality academic advising and mentoring, innovate forward-looking academic programs, and ensure timely degree attainment by updating and revising the general education curriculum.
  • ENRICH: The plan aims to elevate Winthrop’s campus life experience, expand experiential learning opportunities, boost student retention and graduation, and strengthen student well-being services.
  • ENGAGE: The university will cultivate lifelong connections with alumni, foster strategic alliances and corporate partnerships, and position Winthrop as a pivotal contributor to community growth and vitality in Rock Hill and beyond.
  • ENHANCE: The focus will be on ensuring financial resilience, developing a cutting-edge campus environment, fostering collective excellence, and forging strategic public-private partnerships.

Upon the conclusion of the presentation, Mr. Driggers moved for the Board to adopt the pathways as outlined by Mr. Amin and Mr. Simrill with the understanding the Board would consider the strategic plan as a whole soon after reading the additional materials provided by the presenters. The Motion was seconded and passed by unanimous voice vote.

Executive Session

Mr. McCall moved for the Board to move into Executive Session to discuss contracts and contract negotiations with those in the Administration. The Board moved into Executive Session without objection. Mr. McCall invited President Serna, Mr. Hagins, Mr. Oates, and Mr. Miller to remain in the room during the Executive Session.

Mr. McCall moved for the Board to exit Executive Session without objection. Seeing no objection, Mr. McCall gaveled the Board out of Executive Session. The motion to move out of Executive Session was the only vote taken during the Executive Session.


There being no further business before the Board, Chairman McCall ordered the Board to adjourn without objection.
The Committee adjourned at 4:32 p.m

Minutes were formally adopted on April 25, 2024, as a true and accurate record of the events of the Winthrop University Board of Trustees. Pursuant to Board By-Laws and practice such approved minutes are certified by the Secretary of the Board who is responsible for maintaining official copies of all Board-related business.