Jennifer Braaten, President of Ferrum College, to Retire Summer 2016

Braaten was the College's 10th president and the first woman to serve in that capacity.

Dr. Jennifer BraatenFERRUM, VA (January 26, 2016) – Jennifer Braaten, the 10th president of Ferrum College and Ferrum’s first woman president, announced today her decision to retire in the summer of 2016.   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.

The Ferrum Mercantile has been an exciting and visible addition to the Village of Ferrum, serving both students and the community. The presence of College Police on Rt. 40, adjacent to the Mercantile, as well as the relocation of Ferrum Outdoors across from the campus, where offerings such as biking, climbing and equestrian clubs are being explored, has heightened Ferrum’s community visibility. The Ferrum Forum on Critical Thinking held annually at the Hotel Roanoke and Conference Center, raised Ferrum’s profile throughout the state and sparked in depth dialogue on topics of national interest with participants and experts in politics, business, the environment and education.

During the 2013-14 celebration of Ferrum’s centennial the focus remained on Ferrum’s historic mission of accessibility and affordability. The majority of the monies raised during the Centennial Campaign went to support scholarships and an endowed chaplaincy to strengthen the ongoing ties of Ferrum to The United Methodist Church and to honor the visionary United Methodist women who founded Ferrum Training School.

Along with the creation of new comprehensive branding and marketing campaigns, Braaten focused on encouraging students of promise, expanding diversity and opportunity for students with learning differences, as well as increasing career, internship, co-curricular, and academic support services to help all students become successful. Many of the initiatives in these areas were supported by the Jessie Ball duPont Fund, the Hearst Foundation, and the Lettie Pate Whitehead Foundation, as well as other prestigious foundations and hundreds of loyal donors. Ferrum is a founding member of the Yes We Must coalition of colleges and universities who serve a large number of Pell Grant students.

Braaten was particularly interested in expanding partnerships with the local and regional business community, increasing articulation agreements with area community colleges for student transfer opportunities and creating more services for citizens of Franklin County and the surrounding areas. The Tri-Area Clinic and YMCA, both on campus, resulted from this vision. The Beatty Building in Rocky Mount, housing the Franklin County Free Clinic, was made possible through a gift obtained by Braaten from the late Guy Beatty, a Northern Virginia entrepreneur.

Regionally and nationally, Braaten has served in multiple leadership roles in higher education organizations. She chaired the 28 member Council of Independent Colleges in Virginia (CICV), the 35 member, 5 state Appalachian College Association (ACA), and the 120 member National Association of Schools and Colleges of the United Methodist Church (NASCUMC). She currently chairs the Audit Committee of the 1,000 member National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU) and is past chair of the Student Aid Committee and the Tax Committee of that organization. She is currently on the board of the 600-plus member national Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) and serves as chair of the New President’s Advisory Committee for the CIC. She was also on the Board of Trustees of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS/COC) which serves as the accreditation body for colleges and universities in 11 states. She continues to chair the EIIA, the Methodist-related non-profit educational insurance association that provides insurance to The United Methodist, Lutheran, American Baptist and Presbyterian colleges and universities.

Always seeking ways to strengthen Ferrum’s relationship with the global United Methodist Church, she currently serves as vice chair of the International Association of Methodist Schools, Colleges and Universities (IAMSCU). In this capacity, she has created summer cultural exchange programs with member colleges in Japan, and is working on additional international options for study and exchange by faculty and students.

Braaten’s husband, Conrad, retired several years ago from his position as senior pastor of the historic Lutheran Church of the Reformation on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Their daughter, Kirsten, is COO of a company in South Florida and President of the Junior League of Boca Raton. Their son, Conrad, attended the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine in Blacksburg and is currently serving in an internal medicine residency in Arkansas.

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