Letter Home for Parents
Q&A with Vice President Victoria Mora
Victoria Mora reflects on first six months as vice president.
You have been traveling to meet donors and friends of the College. What has this been like?
Wonderful! There is something special about people who read books and care enough to talk about them. They are alive to the deeper questions and meanings that make life interesting, and to what is important and worth supporting. Donors have been sensitive to the cost of higher education and the challenges this presents for families, but it has been important to explain challenges specific to St. John’s, given its long, principled commitment to access and affordability. The need picture has changed, both in the immediate term and long-term.
How has this picture changed?
Given the current economic climate, federal-based assessment of need just doesn’t cover what families require. It is more expensive for the college to meet need. Our endowment per student is not yet commensurate with the excellence of the education a student receives. There is a great deal of pressure on tuition dollars to support financial aid, keep classes small, develop our faculty, provide for student opportunities outside the classroom and beyond the college. That pressure hasn't diminished the excellence of our education. The dedication of our donors, faculty, and staff, giving generously to the college and its efforts, has ensured that. But to sustain the college well into the future, we'll need to address the challenges of access and affordability through careful planning and a long-term commitment to endowment building--in addition, of course, to annual fundraising that helps us provide this education each year.
Can you speak about the relevance of a St. John’s education?
This is an extraordinary education. Its importance to individuals may only be exceeded by its importance now, when a pervasive short-sightedness confuses education with training. What St. John's offers goes well beyond career training, although I'd argue that no education creates the conditions to fulfill that end more effectively. It goes to the deepest development of the individual's intellect and imagination and, therefore, to the posture of the individual in every aspect of human life: familial, civic, and, career.
Do you miss the classroom?
I began my love affair with St. John's as a tutor, so I miss working with students. I fully intend to start a study group, but, for now, the teaching I'm doing in Executive Seminars, in Summer Classics, and in Classics Weekends is nourishing the tutor in me.
You are still available to students?
Yes. Some come for contacts from my Asia trip, looking for internship and job opportunities through connections I may have made, while others are planning projects that require thought about China’s educational, social, and political realities. Some come to say "hi" and we end up talking about their senior essays, and then, of course, there are the small requests that matter to our communal life. For example, I recently participated in the Sophistry Contest at the Symposium Party organized by the freshmen. We waxed philosophic in a setting where every bad pun on Plato was both understood and groaned at. It was fun and gave me a chance to meet more freshmen.
What is on the horizon?
The Santa Fe campus will celebrate its 50th Anniversary, from fall 2014 through summer 2015. This is a wonderful opportunity for our community to reflect on the campus’s founding, to take stock, look ahead, and articulate to ourselves and the larger world why this education, focused as it is on timeless works, truly prepares students to step up in an ever-changing world. It is a chance to reinvigorate our focus on fundraising, especially endowment building--something institutions should be thinking about as they approach milestones! We will be planning through that forward-looking lens that the 50th invites.