Westminster College's fall semester is in full swing, with this year's semester offering expanded programs and a new stadium.
Steve Tyrell, senior vice president, chief financial officer and chief operating officer, said the fall semester is off to a "great start." The fall semester for Westminster began Aug. 23.
He said this school year continues the college's trend of having over 200 new students and transfer students.
Tyrell said Westminster continues to put "quality above quantity" when it comes to students.
The college completed a strategic plan in August of 2021, which Tyrell said was completed with "lots of involvement by our faculty, staff, students, alumni, employers of our graduates, board members."
Since the completion of the strategic plan, he said the college has continued to execute the initiatives and plans outlined in the plan.
After the strategic plan was completed, Westminster launched new online degree programs and added additional online degree offerings.
Westminster first offered online courses in 2022. Tyrell said the amount of online students has increased from last year.
A lot of the students in online classes are within 60 miles of the college, Tyrell said.
In 2022 the college launched the museum studies program, which aims to train students for a career in a museum or public history environment.
Tyrell said there has been lots of interest in the program since it launched last year, adding student feedback to the program has been very positive.
Another recent addition to Westminster is the Degree in Three program, which Tyrell said allows students to acquire a degree in a little over three years.
"It's accelerated, so you're taking classes in the summer here and then during the regular year you're also here," Tyrell said. "And so people want to do that, in many cases because they'd like to get out into the workforce or they'd like to just move it along quicker."
The Degree in Three program launched this summer, with the fall semester being the first full semester it is offered.
Undergraduate students can enter into the program at any time.
During the implementation of any new initiative, Tyrell said there are always unexpected challenges. One such challenge is the non-consumption market, which Tyrell said is a group of recent high school graduates who decided not to go to college.
He said this market results in a smaller pool of potential students.
A big construction project on the horizon is renovations to America's National Churchill Museum.
In January, Westminster received a $1.9 million grant from the Economic Development Authority. The college will match this grant, utilizing three million in funds set aside to work on the museum.
With these funds, the plaza area above the museum that surrounds the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Aldermanbury will be replaced.
Tyrell said the project will go out to bid in November, with work expected to begin in early spring. He added it will be approximately a 12-14 month construction process.
The project will also reface three sides of the church.
"Now we're trying to figure out what else we can do following that. We know some of the projects we have to start tackling there," Tyrell said.
The museum will remain open during construction, but events that take place in the church will be postponed.
Westminster has a new stadium for the fall semester, the Kent and Judith Mueller Stadium.
Derek Zander, vice president of intercollegiate athletics, athletics advancement and strategic programs, said construction is completed on the stadium and it is open for games.
Construction is finishing up on the Vicky Miller Plaza next to the stadium. Zander said it will be completed by the stadium dedication on Oct. 28, which is part of Westminster's homecoming and fall family weekend.
Construction began in the fall of 2022. He said construction went "relatively smooth" overall, with only minor delays and issues during the process.
The new stadium features expanded seating in the stands, a press box, a concession stand and a ticket stand.
Zander said feedback on the stadium has been great.
"I think a lot of student athletes have been anxiously waiting," he said. "For me, it signifies maybe a first step for where we want the athletics department to go moving forward."
Stands have been packed at Westminster home games, Zander said.
The community is invited to attend games. Attendance to home games is free.
"I think that's important because we're trying to bring people in. Athletics brings people together," Zander said.
All athletic programs use the stadium for conditioning in the morning or night. Intramural sports will also take place on the field throughout the year.
Football and soccer both host games at the stadium.
The stadium features a turf field, which Zander said gives the college "more opportunity to get more programs on the space then grass does."
"Because when you get rain or snow that shuts down the facility for the day," he said. "But with artificial turf, we can get our baseball program or softball or intramural program out here, it's just much better."
All students have access to the stadium, not just student athletes, Zander said.