Research Process Timeline

This post is related to the process, timeline and activities undertaken concerning the study of this issue leading up to the Board of Trustees vote and the campus announcement on Tuesday, February 18th. As this has been an issue of discussion at many times over the past 26 years at Chatham, some historical information is shared as well.

Chatham College for Women (CCW) enrollment has been a subject of study for the Board of Trustees since at least the late 1980’s. Key historical dates on the last major study of this issue include:

  • 1988: Board forms “Committee of the Future” to study options for undergraduate education.
  • 1990: Board considers proposal to admit men “because of the difficulties of selling a women’s college.”
  • 1992: Board pledges to periodically and regularly re-evaluate coeducation in light of disappointing undergraduate enrollment numbers.

In 1992, Chatham College for Women had an enrollment of 518 FTE (stands for ‘full-time equivalent’) students. At this time, the efforts to expand into graduate programs and other areas in order to strengthen and diversify the institution and save the women’s college were begun.

The Board commissioned a study group in early 2013 to research and inform the Board of Trustees regarding the current status of CCW and to report on the possible implications of future trends and projections. The study’s mission was to prepare the Board for future policy discussions and set the context for future decisions and recommendations that flow from the Study Group process. The CCW Study Group was the first, and will be followed by other Study Groups to examine other components within the university.

Key dates on this most recent process include:

  • February 2013: Board creates Chatham College for Women Study Group consisting of Board Members (of which three are alumnae) and select Chatham staff from key departments.
  • February 2013 – May 2013: CCW Study Group research conducted over a series of months.
  • June 2013: Preliminary report from CCW Study Group presented at Board Meeting.
  • October 2013: CCW Study Group impanels an Undergraduate Steering Committee, consisting of Chatham faculty and administrators, to recommend ways to increase undergraduate enrollment across the University.
  • October 2013-February 2014:  Undergraduate Steering Committee and a Faculty Reading Group meet multiple times each to discuss the issues, topics and consider options.
  • February 2014: Undergraduate Steering Committee issues report and recommendation to the Board.
  • February 2014: Board adopts resolution.


  1. Kelly McKown says:

    Thank you for providing the timeline of events that went into the decision, but I, and I believe others, still lack understanding of the numbers and the criteria the women’s college was being judged against in terms of the decision to go co-ed.

    Some lingering questions:
    Are we up against enrollment numbers from other women’s colleges? Is that where the comparison of our “lackluster” enrollments come from? Because it doesn’t seem that we’re that far off from where we have been in the past, particularly given a recent recession?

    Where does that elusive 2% statistic come from? I’d like to see a citation. What study was that from? What periodical first published it? What was the last date of research into that statistic?

    What were the recommended ways to increase student enrollment as studied by the Undergraduate Steering Committee in October 2013?

    Who are the members of the Undergraduate Steering Committee?

    What key departments were included in the Study Group created in February 2013? Who were the Board members?

    Shouldn’t a decision of this magnitude have the utmost transparency?

    Until all of this can be put out into the open, i don’t believe that you can expect the alumnae community to embrace this decision. Perhaps going co-ed is the only option that will save Chatham, but we can’t understand that unless you give us the tools.


  2. April Mills says:

    What has admissions done in this timeframe and can we create a plan that involves alumni and marketing dollars be spent reaching out to middle school women? Believe the study would show that all colleges are going to have a hard time recruiting and from everything I attend around economic development, employers can’t find qualified candidates. High School drop our rates are increasing and it does not help that the population growth of Pittsburgh or PA is elderly. If a clear plan is created targeting middle school women – can we change this study? Has this been considered? Knowing that you caught alumni attention – can’t we put a game plan in place to remain for women and true milestones to test this?

  3. Nicole Hagan says:

    Will the information used by the steering committees be made available to the public? The administration is not being transparent with their decision-making process and has been unresponsive to multiple requests for supporting documents and evidence. If the goal is to make Chatham College more enticing for students in order to increase enrollment, whether as a single-sex or coeducation institution, how can we be sure that the proposed actions will achieve that? It is difficult to understand the evidentiary basis for the recommendations when the report has not been made available for those with an interest.

    Moreover, I find it appalling that throughout this process, the administration thinks it is acceptable that out of the thousands of women across the country, only three alumnae were invited to take part in this process. These women were likely only invited as Board Members, and had they not been on the Board would have likely not been invited. I ask of the administration why in such a critical decision-making process only three alumnae are asked for support, when you have no trouble reaching out to and asking thousands of alumnae for financial support?

  4. Tricia Chicka says:

    +1 on transparency.

    Specifically, I’m wondering if we could possibly see some budget numbers that coincide with these time frames… particularly in regards to maintaining the undergraduate programs/facilities/faculty/staff, as well as particularly for marketing and admissions for undergrads.

    Running a university is complex and there are many possible factors as to why enrollment is low, and I would not insult the administration to assume you don’t know that already. It would just bring much more trust and understanding amongst the alumnae if you would be willing to release your budget. It is my understanding that most private schools (such as CMU) do a voluntary posting of that sort of information, why can’t we? Perhaps you do post it, but it is unknown as to where to find it. We would really appreciate that information!

  5. Tricia Chicka says:

    And might I add…We have very creative women amongst our alumnae! Perhaps they might spot a little area where just a little more budgetary love can make all the difference in the enrollment? Believe me, I would be one of the first to donate towards an alternative initiative that can preserve our all-women undergraduate environment.

  6. Liana Dragoman says:

    In addition to the other questions, I am curious to know if any external-to-Chatham and neutral third-party strategic consultants were included in the 2013 study? It is my understanding that other women’s colleges have used external consultants to help them think through the co-ed solution (e.g., Wilson College). What ideas were generated from the study? What insight was gained? What research methods were used? Was there an open call for committee selection, or were members of the committees chosen by senior administration? Did committee members have appropriate time to dedicate themselves to the large task at hand?

    Generally speaking, what does Chatham know about its potential audience of students aside from the 2% stat that is being discussed? As Chatham knows, in a competitive environment, not knowing the needs, motivations, and wants of your audience makes it quite difficult to differentiate yourself and reach your audience effectively. What does Chatham know about its potential audience? How is the admissions and communications staff using their audience knowledge to successfully communicate with and recruit students through the proper channels? What strategy drives recruitment efforts? Were previous studies conducted that shaped recruitment to ensure that Chatham was targeting potential students in effective ways? If the landscape of higher education has shifted since the 2008 recession, has Chatham updated their knowledge of their audience and their recruitment efforts to align with that change?

    I hope that Chatham will present all of their insights to alumnae during the town halls. Thank you very much for continuing the conversation.

  7. Sandra Bradley says:

    These are excellent comments requesting more information and transparency on a decision that the Board seems to feel is a foregone conclusion.
    Chatham undergraduate college is a small, womens, liberal arts college and always has been. I understand that it faces quite severe challenges in offering something unique to potential students that they can’t get online or with the flexibility of going to a larger university. So, Chatham needs to play on its strengths – the campus, the better student/teacher ratios, networks and clinical placements, the number of graduates employed in the first year post-graduation. It also needs to highlight the social events it offers; sports, arts, festivals. Finally, it needs to highlight that it provides a community for women of all types to thrive in, has unique semester break opportunities and encourages women to explore who they are and what they can contribute to the world.
    I, too, would like to know the minimum number of FTE students the undergraduate college requires in order to be a viable entity.
    I would also like to know how Chatham is advertising for students and the cost of the advertisements for the last 5 years. Have you conducted research on why potential students would not choose Chatham or have left it without completing their degree?
    As a researcher, I know recruitment can be difficult, but it doesn’t mean it can’t be done.
    We need to see what enrollment figures the college is aiming for over the next 5 – 10 years and then perhaps as alumnae we can provide mechanisms and ways for reaching those targets.

  8. Nadine Banks says:

    Select staff from “key” departments were part of the Study Group? How many staff participated? Which departments are considered “key?”

  9. Suzette says:

    I read the recent email regarding a co-ed Chatham. My decision on the matter was immediate and absolute. But let me not get ahead of myself. Allow me to share a parallel experience. I own a small business that was built 20 years ago; we contributed primarily to heavy highway construction. We always worked on the professional side (with the engineer) and never considered working for the contractor. Then the great recession presented itself. We were pummeled and lost 50% of our work. It was a frightening time for everyone; banks were collapsing, housing values were plummeting, people were being laid off in throngs. Stability was gone. We entered a world that was quite different than the one we always knew. The rules of the game had changed, and no one knew what the new rules were. We came to this crossroad: either we change our business model and go after work on the contractor side in heavy highway maintenance or go under. The decision was a no-brainer. Certainly we would change our business model and try to make it work. Certainly there were no guarantees of survival, even if we chose to take this different path. The only thing I knew for sure was that if we chose to stay on the same path and not adapt to our new reality, the business would not survive. Many companies like mine did go under, they were either unwilling to adapt or unable to (financially) weather the storm.

    And just as no one can change the events caused by the great recession, no one can change the dwindling numbers of undergraduate applicants to Chatham. What we can (and must) do is adapt to our new circumstances: change our business model (women only) and begin to build a new path. This co-ed decision for Chatham is a no-brainer, unless survival is not your ultimate goal.

  10. Sheila Confer '94 says:

    I respectfully disagree that going co-ed is a “no brainer.” Given the current realities and the general lack of 18 year olds (particularly males) attending college, I would think this move would be the absolute last consideration. Unfortunately, undergraduate college has been left to wither and die while the administration has focused its efforts and money on graduate programs and the Eden Hall campus.

  11. Heather says:

    In reply to Suzette,

    Is going co-ed a no-brainer? Personally, I like to make financial decisions based on facts and statistics. Other than the 2% figure and the stagnation in enrollment, no one is sharing statistics that will be important in making a financial decision. For a moment, let’s put aside our feelings about the legacy of our college and simply look at the money.

    The board and President Barrazone need to show us the projected cost of going co-ed — from the marketing campaign, re-branding, renovating/building new facilities, providing sports for men (necessary until Title IX), even down to the minutia of buying new beds large enough to sleep a man of tall stature. There are financial needs to be considered. Until those numbers are presented, how can one make an intelligent decision about the viability of co-education at Chatham College?

  12. Heather says:

    necessary *under* Title IX

  13. Liana Dragoman says:

    I work with government and non-profit organizations as well as private sector businesses to help them innovate in a variety of human-centered ways. One thing that I have noticed is that each type of organization carries with it a different set of circumstances and nuances, which directly impact their ability to innovate, shift, and change. Often times, people ask why government isn’t run like a private sector business. It can’t be run like a private sector business because its reach, impact, commitment to society, and ethical frameworks are different from private sector businesses.

    I applaud you for your successes with your small business, especially during some very hard times. However, I would like to point out that the challenges an institution like Chatham faces are quite different from a small business construction company, which I’m sure you are aware of. Because the challenges are different, the solutions and the approach to those solutions must also be different. There is definitely a lot to learn from the private sector; however, your analogy is apples to oranges.

    It is a time like now that Chatham should be differentiating itself from all of the other prestigious co-ed liberal arts institutions in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and the surrounding areas. For instance, what happened to Chatham Abroad? Will the tutorial be terminated? Those are differentiators, like being a solid women’s college. Being all things to all people has never been a good plan of action. Also, there is the issue of outreach. Is Chatham communicating in a way that resonates with young women? As Sheila mentioned above, there are systemic issues at play that need to be addressed. I don’t think going co-ed with solve those systemic issues; going co-ed might amplify them.

    Regardless of the decision, everyone would feel more comfortable with: 1) having a better sense of the research that went into the co-ed study; 2) knowing what the future vision looks like; 3) and seeing how that strategic plan addresses Chatham’s systemic challenges in real ways.

    We all hope that Chatham continues for years to come.

  14. Mary Sue says:

    Going co-ed will accomplish an important goal in this changing world — opening the doors to the transgender students seeking a good education in a small college. Our society has begun to realize that gender is not binary. There are more genetic combinations than strict male or female. Gender is an arbitrary distinction that leaves many having to hide or pass as someone they are not. College educations could be open to anyone willing to learn, if we stopped requiring a “peek in the pants” designation.

    Chatham should be for students willing and eager to learn. What has gender to do with that?

  15. Sarah says:

    I’d like to see more information about what steps have been taken. This is a very basic outline with a lot of general information. If ever there was a time for an abundance of detail this is it. Who was on the steering committee? Were they selected by the administration like the University steering committee of yesteryear? Or were students on campus given the option to elect a representative to be their voice. Were the students undergraduates? Or were they graduates? Which members of the faculty and staff were involved? Were they people who have been at Chatham long enough to have a concept of why the women’s college matters? I’ve read that Chatham has spent more money advertising for the women’s college than any of the other colleges but I honestly can’t remember the last time I saw any kind of advertisement that specifically dealt with the women’s college. We’re being asked to give ideas but we’re only given part of the picture. It’s like you’ve given us one piece of the puzzle and asked us to figure it out. I’m sure my Chatham sisters are more than capable of coming up with creative ways to save Chatham but we can’t fly blind.

    Have we studied other women’s colleges to see how they are sustaining themselves? Perhaps a good example would be to look at Moore College. Moore is of a comparable size to Chatham and fills an even smaller niche market than Chatham, as it is the only women’s art college in the United States.

    I can’t believe we’re being asked to problem solve with so little information from the administration. How can we solve anything it we don’t know what has already been done?

  16. Tricia Chicka says:

    You raise a good and important issue Mary. And forgive me if I’m ignorant about this (perhaps some of my other Chatham sisters would be better addressing this), but I don’t think that Chatham (one of the few women’s institutions left) remaining single-sex would be a detriment to access of transgender people as a whole to higher education. I’m willing to bet many transgenders who identify as women would do very well in an environment like Chatham as opposed to a coed environment that may be less understanding. Are there ways that we can accommodate transgender students and visitors on our campus without going coed? I still think an all-women’s environment is a valuable choice for many women and shouldn’t be dismissed. What do other people think about this?

  17. Amy says:

    I actually think Chatham’s currently existing inclusivity toward the LGBT will be harmed by becoming co-ed. I have several trans and gender-queer friends who are fellow Chatham alums from the last 15 years who felt that Chatham was a safe space to make and explore their transitions, nor has Chatham been caught up in the bigotry of some women’s colleges who require a “female” gender presentation or preference to attend. Chatham can (and in my opinion should) maintain its welcoming status to people outside the binary gender system while also maintaining its heritage which includes (and as far I know, always has included) those of non-binary presentation.

    I cannot imagine that a safe environment (which now includes gender neutral restrooms- yay!) will be helped by having to divide the resources further into a two-sex binary (and I imagine the money-first people involved will be converting those gender neutral restrooms into men’s rooms pretty quickly to save money).

    As a queer alum myself, I’d hate to see Chatham, a place can support its LGBT students due to its history of encouraging people who don’t control the power in the world, become another place where money and traditional ideas of power (straight, white, WASP cis-males) decides its priorities.

  18. Amy says:

    Would it be possible to get a timeline of staff and leadership turnover covering the 2008 – 2014 period which has resulted in a decline in students? It seems like we frequently receive notice of new/ departing deans, admissions staff, etc. and I wonder if this lack of stability is impacting the success of recruitment efforts with a new marketing message having to be implemented every time a new staff or leader joins the team. Ideally, I would love to see these leadership turnover rates for the women’s college compared to those of the other “more successful” departments in the same period.

  19. Asia '08 says:

    First, I am in full support of Chatham College for Women, not a coeducational undergraduate Chatham.

    Second, I’d like to know the following:
    1. What is your cost for obtaining an undergraduate student? And what is the ratio of this cost to the income received from tuition and fees?
    2. What is your cost for obtaining a graduate student? And what is the ratio of this cost to the income received from tuition and fees?
    3. What has been the trend in these ratios for the last 10 years?
    4. What is the projected ratio (acquisition vs profit, per student) needed to keep the undergraduate college open for 10 years? And for 25 years? And for 50 years?
    5. Considering acquisition vs profit costs, how can we reduce this ratio without increasing tuition?
    6. It’s been said previously that the graduate programs subsidize and carry the undergraduate college. Currently, how many graduate students are needed to afford one undergraduate? What is the ideal ratio here?

    Third, I would like to suggest the following:
    1. Marketing costs may be able to be reduced by employing more creative and “viral” like marketing campaigns. Current Chatham students and alumnae can help.

    2. Why must the initial thought be to increase enrollment by enrolling men? Why not work to increase enrollment in under-served demographics at Chatham – some ideas..
    – Women with children
    – Women with full-time employment (encourage employee tuition assistance programs to subsidize costs)
    – First-years over the age of 25
    – Women who are transferring from 2-year and community colleges
    – International students
    – Women who are interested in STEM programs and come from underserved backgrounds (racial, ethnic, or socio-economic) – there are many government training grant opportunities to fund recruitment and increase diversity in this area – THIS WOULD BE A GREAT GROUP TO MARKET THE TUTORIAL REQUIREMENT!

    Men are not the only option. Let’s get creative. Let the alumnae help!

  20. Sharon Semones says:

    I didn’t choose Chatham because it was all women, but as a female scientist now in a business role, the fact that I went to a women’s college helps differentiate me every day. Not only was I more prepared academically for graduate school, I had already learned to speak up and was able to compete in a graduate chemistry class dominated by males. In my current role, I am often the only women in meetings, decision making or presentations. Let’s face it, if you can deal with living and interacting with all types of women for 4 years, you can deal with ANY issues that men or even teams bring forward. My experience at being at a single sex college has enabled me to be an effective leader, listener and most of all, a well respected scientists and person.

    I will say that when I moved out of state Chatham chose to be out of touch with me…there are ways to recruit more women and women will go out of state to a same sex college if they have another woman that encourages them. The personal touch I experienced at Chatham as an undergraduate is not the same personal touch I get as an alumni. Perhaps more people would commit to the cause if it was clear what the cause was. I would encourage Chatham departments to follow up with their alumni and make them aware of how things are different…I personally have no clue about Science at Chatham and it’s not very well showcased in events.

    If Chatham goes co-ed, I think you’ll find that your alumni contributions will plummet. Hopefully you’ll have the enrollment to make up the difference.

  21. Jessica McMeyer says:

    I, like many of my fellow alumna, am strongly against the dissolution of Chatham College for women. And I am surprised that Dr. Barazzone would support it, given her outspoken support of not only women’s colleges, but Chatham as a women’s college when I was attending (1996-2000). Obviously something changed her mind. What the world needs to see is what information led Dr. Barazzone and the board away from their former support of Chatham as a women’s college. There will never be acceptance of a change in Chatham’s status without a feeling of transparency and openness from the administration. We were taught at Chatham to think critically, let us do what we were taught. And if the request for other options is sincere, give us the information we need to come up with alternate solutions.

  22. Florence Schwartz DeWalt says:

    I support the decision to admit men to the undergraduate college. One of my granddaughters is interested in possibly attending Chatham University, and she would very much prefer it to be co-ed. In ten or twenty years, I want Chatham to be an alive-and-growing institution, not a long-gone place that is only a pleasant memory to those of us who are alumnae.

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