2023 in Review: Carthage’s largest first-year class ever
With a new year upon on, let’s give 2023 one last curtain call! Here are the top stories from an eventful year at Carthage, as selected by the Office of Marketing and Communications.
1. Class of 2027 sets enrollment record
The first-year class totaled 859 students in fall 2023, cementing it as the College’s largest ever and demonstrating Carthage’s strength amid a nationwide enrollment decline.
Based on the final count in October, the newcomers included 778 freshmen in the Class of 2027 and 81 transfers. They came from 24 U.S. states and nine other countries to learn, connect, lead, and grow.
A national comparison illustrates how impressive the recruiting success has been. While freshman enrollment at Carthage increased by 7 percent over the previous fall, preliminary figures show it fell 3.6 percent across all American colleges and universities.
Just as Student Government president Phillip Hunter ’24 explained in his welcome message, “Firebirds are united by our shared values, goals, and dreams, and together we will conquer any challenges that come our way.”
2. $100M campaign lays out radiant vision
To maintain its rising trajectory in a competitive era, in July Carthage launched the public phase of a $100 million fundraising campaign themed “Light That Travels.” The campaign centers on three broad giving priorities:
- access to Carthage through financial aid for tuition, internships, and study abroad
- innovation to quickly develop new programs in high-demand fields
- excellence to sustain time-honored programs by endowing professorships, upgrading facilities, and enhancing athletics and the arts.
By the end of 2023, the campaign had already brought in more than $60 million in gifts and commitments. Board Chair Jeff Hamar ’80 and his wife, Susan, pledged $5 million for program innovation — one of several major, multi-year commitments.
3. Retention gains show major strides toward equity
Among first-year, full-time students in spring 2023, a record 82 percent returned to the College in fall. And the retention rate for students of color climbed to 79 percent, just 4 percentage points behind white students. The Carthage numbers stand well above nationwide averages.
On the heels of strong midyear retention — from fall 2022 to spring 2023 — these latest advances suggest the campus-wide effort to remove barriers and keep students on track to graduate is working. Impactful steps the College has taken include new, proactively awarded Firebird Retention Scholarships and an expanding pre-orientation program for student-athletes of color.
4. Space transformed into Engineering Center
Extensive summer renovations converted a section of Lentz Hall into an inviting Engineering Center, and this fall Carthage’s aspiring engineers settled into their new space.
The first phase of work yielded design studios, a makerspace, and an engineering learning commons. Employer partners and individual donors stocked the new facility with tools, equipment, and storage. In phase two, the College will add teaching labs and faculty offices.
More than 160 students applied for Carthage’s new full-tuition Engineering Scholarship, which required their participation in the first Engineering Scholars Day on Dec. 9. Students can now choose either a Bachelor of Science (aligned with ABET accreditation standards) or Bachelor of Arts track.
5. School of Business and Economics goes live
The grand opening celebration for Carthage’s School of Business and Economics took place on April 5, highlighted by Morningstar CEO Kunal Kapoor as guest speaker.
To complement its graduate track in sports management, the College created an undergraduate minor in sport business and held a weeklong summer camp for high school students. The momentum built up to Carthage’s first Spotlight on Sports conference on Sept. 13, where more than 270 attendees enjoyed rare access to industry leaders.
The conference schedule included a Q&A with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and panels with other top executives like Matt Majka, CEO of the Minnesota Wild; Sandy Burhans, sports and entertainment group leader for accounting firm ORBA; and Carthage alumnus Daniel Diaz ’11, director of World Cup, Olympic, and cross-platform partnerships for NBC Universal.
6. New softball facility opens for play
On Sept. 29, Carthage officially dedicated its new softball venue, Wiers Family Stadium, and playing surface, Barbara Madrigrano Field, at the northwest corner of campus.
Major improvements raised the facility to the championship caliber of all others in the Firebirds’ NCAA Division III athletic program. The softball stadium features newly installed synthetic turf, bullpens, and batting cages, along with upgrades to the dugouts and scoreboard.
The naming rights recognize the lead donors for the project: David C. Wiers ’98 and family, as well as Glenn Sr. and Barbara Madrigrano. Fundraising continues for other potential amenities, such as additional seating, a press box, and a concession stand.
7. Three-generation student story goes viral
The fall 2023 incoming class featured a rarity: three generations of students from the same family all attending Carthage at the same time.
Mia Carter ’27 entered Carthage as a freshman at the same time her mother and grandmother, Amy Malczewski, MSc ’24, and Christy Schwan, MSc ’24, began the master’s program in business design and innovation. Mia rooms with her older sister, Samantha Malczewski ’26.
Milwaukee TV station CBS 58 first picked up the fun story, which quickly went viral. It made CNN, “Good Morning America,” People magazine, and the four women even flew to New York to record a segment for “The Drew Barrymore Show.”
8. Track and field star wins two NCAA titles
After winning his first national track and field championship in 2022, standout thrower Joseph White ’24 tacked on two more titles this past year as a junior.
Joseph won both the weight throw and shot put at the NCAA Division III indoor championships in March, which made him an easy choice as National Field Athlete of the Year. Majoring in nursing, he balanced the busy competition schedule with clinical rotations.
With three individual titles entering the Firebirds’ 2023-24 season, Joseph trails only Shea’na Grigsby ’06 (eight titles) on the all-time Carthage Athletics list.
9. New educational formats meet evolving needs
Identifying a need for new educational formats to meet changing workforce needs, the College launched a pair of programs to serve those who want to further their education but aren’t ready to pursue a four-year degree.
The first, called Carthage Spark, offers customizable options for employers. In February, as part of a pilot partnership, Carthage faculty members began teaching business classes on-site at LMI Packaging. Employees who complete all four courses earn a certificate in Business Foundations.
More recently, the College announced a new Certified Nurse Aide (CNA) program, which can provide the essential skills for an entry-level health care position in less than a month. Thanks to a generous gift, the first cohort will complete the certification at no cost.
10. New director levels up Carthage Athletics
Word has been spreading for a while that the Firebirds are going places, which attracted Ryan Kane to the director of athletics post.
Hired to lead the thriving Carthage Athletics operation into a new era, he draws from more than 25 years of compatible experience as a student-athlete, coach, and senior administrator in NCAA Division III sports.
In an interview shortly after his arrival in April, Mr. Kane said the talent, facilities, and conference are in place for the Firebirds to build on their recent success.
11. Major collection of Soviet-era art unveiled
Hosting a symposium throughout January, Carthage gave the community its first glimpse of a newly acquired collection of professional artwork depicting themes from areas under Soviet rule in the 20th century. The College received a donation of 131 pieces valued at $3.8 million.
Longtime arts patrons Sam and Berry Shoen donated the largest portion, consisting of oil paintings and drawings from Armenia, Byelorussia, Russia, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan. Prominent art dealer Ray Johnson ’60 facilitated the connection with Carthage and cataloged the collection for his alma mater.
12. New policy streamlines transfer process
Carthage simplified the process to transfer here, waiving its general education requirements for any incoming student with an associate degree (A.A. or A.S.) from another accredited institution.
In June, the national honor society Phi Theta Kappa named Carthage to its Transfer Honor Roll. That signifies the College’s place in the top 25% of all participating schools based on “the support and success of transfer students.”