President’s Official Presentation
Town Hall Meeting
June 5, 2014
1. Ryan Haylock, COO
2. Mark Dunaway, VP of HR
3. Kris Brandenburger, Interim Dean of Faculty & Chair of the Undergraduate
4. Maria Perry, CFO
5. Liz Li, President of Sofia University FPC
Presentation from Liz Li (see attachment Sofia Presentation June 2014)
Questions & Comments
Q1. Why are we in the red right now with all of the money that was brought in?
Liz: We are currently spending more than our income. It is a matter of how long
we can be in deficit with the money brought in by the investors.
Q2. What is the plan to keep the programs afloat?
Liz: We are planning to bring in two new programs, engineering and
management which will be integrated with Transpersonal Studies. We hope to
increase enrollment. The income from these new programs can support the
Q3. How many students are currently enrolled?
Liz: We have about 400 students. This will drop to about 250 after graduation.
At one point, we had about 600 students so we have the capability to do this
again. It depends on how we plan and work together.
Your word is the most trusted and you are the best ambassadors for Sofia.
Enrollment is very low for Summer. We have the cash to cover that but Fall is a
critical time. We need 500 students enrolled to break even.
With the addition of the new programs, it will be a wonderful opportunity to
work and interact with students in the engineering and management programs.
These students will go out and spread the Transpersonal and transformative
Q4. Who are the investors and what is their objective?
• Maggie Tsai has had successful PR companies in China and Australia. Liz
and Maggie have known each other for about 30 years.
• Victor Dong has experience in engineering and real estate. Victor and Liz
are great supporters of the Transpersonal values of Sofia and worked
together to find investors.
• Robert Hu is a staff engineer at Apple. Robert sold his Apple shares to
support Liz and her vision for Sofia.
Q5. What happens if we do not get the 500 students needed?
Liz: I have spoken to the investors and we realize that things might not turn out
like we planned. As long as we have a positive uptrend and cooperation from
the community, the investors are willing to put in more money.
Q6. Student morale is very low. Students need to trust and have faith and
have an idea of what the community will look like. How can we trust?
Liz: How can I show you trust? What kind of process is needed?
Q6.2: This kind of dialogue needs to happen on a larger scale. What
happened in the library was disheartening.
Liz: Technology is my background and I wanted to empower people to use
those tools. To use online resources and other outlets. But when I came here, I
realized I was wrong. I make mistakes. I need feedback. But I also need you to
be open to what is out there. How can we integrate technology to what we do?
Q7. Many decisions being made impact student’s happiness. We feel like an afterthought.
Liz: We will be working with students as we continue the strategic planning
Q8. We are very small and when information isn’t provided in an open concrete way, rumors happen. Will faculty be laid off?
Liz: At this time, there will be no further layoffs for faculty. This is dependent
on our community working together. Our student to faculty ratio is 14, Palo
Alto University is 28 and CIIS is 21. This number is hard to sustain. Bringing in
more students is very critical.
Comment: Part of the reason I came here was because of that ratio. I came
here because of the small class sizes. More students will change that.
Q9. Why is finalizing the deal being postponed?
Maria: It impacts administrative activities, costs, and audits we have to do. The
postponement helps us to line up to our fiscal year.
Q10. You are talking about management, Silicon Valley, and engineering but that is not what this school is about. Are we going to be marginalized? Are you going to cater to a culture that does not serve the existing student body?
Liz: It is because of the Transpersonal and Transformative values that I came
here. We can integrate these values in different ways. My belief is that it can be
passed on to anyone. Transformative and transpersonal education can benefit
and serve anyone, especially in the engineering world. We have faculty who
work at Google to provide counseling services.
Q11. What resources can be provided to Global students to help them succeed?
Kris: We are working on video-based conferencing so we can reach out and
have ongoing conversations. If you have ideas, please come see me. When we
know the issues, we can address them.
Q12. Who will have decision making powers?
Liz: I am fully empowered by the investors. The investors are not looking for a
short-term return. They want to build a solid university, a university we would
want to send our kids to.
Q13. You asked for suggestions on rebuilding trust between students. I would like to see Robert Frager brought back as soon as possible.
Liz: I was very sad about what happened at the university. I am confident we can rebuild our future with Bob and Jim’s help.
Q14. I am more interested in actions than any words. With so many people fired, it’s a very difficult statement to believe.
Liz: It was very hard to make those decisions. In my heart, I wanted to keep
everyone. With all of the money we are losing, how can we ensure the
community survives? What can we do when we don’t have the money to cover
the spending? It was a choice. But it was harder to see the community die.
Q15. Process is important. Even if decisions made are necessary for survival, in the future, I hope we can consider the way things happen. It was a great shock to the community and to the people who were fired. We’re in a state where we’re recovering and it’s shaky.
Liz: As we kick off the strategic planning process together, we will improve our
process to make this university successful.
Q16. What is the 2-year and 5-year plan?
Kris: As long as we’re accepting students, we have a 2 and 5 year plan. We are
not planning to harm the programs. Chairs are being asked to think about how
to provide the best education possible and what is at the heart of their program
that matters so we can start having deepening conversations. For example, Liz
has asked repeatedly how we can rebuild the MACP program. I assure people,
there is very good will and intention to support this school because these
programs offer more beyond the economic.
Comment: I see great promise here with the idea of being sustainable and
transformative. I’m excited to think Sofia might become a shining light of
transpersonal transformative education.
Q17. What will the new organizational chart look like?
Ryan: One of our major goals is to be less top-heavy. At one point, we had
many administrators. Now we want fewer VPs and C-levels. We’ll be working
a little more across teams and breaking down silos. We’ll work on putting
something out in next Friday’s community newsletter.
Q18. This meeting feels different, more cordial. But things have to be
addressed like how we got here. One issue is the wounding of how people
were treated, goes back to the previous firings. A lot of those people carried
the voice of who ITP was. It couldn’t have been done worse,
disenfranchising the community. That process needs to be done differently.
What does the strategic planning process look like? The vision and identity
has become so diluted. Alumni feel disenfranchised.
Ryan: Addressing the alumni piece, I recognize that outreach to alumni came to
a halt and communication has become fractured. In the next issue of
Connections, we will reach out more to alumni. There is a commitment to
communicate at least 2 times a month. We’re also working on other ideas, such
as an alumni association.
To Jim and Bob, I look forward to being able to work together.
Liz: I appreciate the faculty and department chair’s help in providing context
and research into what they are doing. Tia and Shannon are working on getting
this information out to show people what we are about and the work we are
Ryan: Regarding the strategic plan, I’d like to get groups of stakeholders
together to come up with a more immediate tactical plan. Start with looking at
what we are going to do over the next 12 months to stabilize. One thing we
have to work together on is matching the resources we have with the vision. It’s
a lot of work and it takes all of us working together.
Comment: We need to remember to trust and forgive. Trust in the new
transition. When Frank was president, I saw the worst in Sofia. I saw people
attack Frank. I saw racism. Seeing all of those things made me question
whether this was a place where I wanted to continue working. In meeting Liz,
it’s been easier. I feel more connected and supported. We need to give trust to
get trust back. We have taken on a load of negativity from students, negativity
made from someone else. You need to take a look at yourself and forgive.
For those who have questions, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.