August 29, 2022
Dear Members of the Connecticut College Community,
Today marks the official opening of the new academic year. Please join me at 4:30 p.m. on Tempel Green for our 108th Convocation, when we will welcome our newest colleagues: 22 new faculty; 75 new staff; and 655 new students who make up the largest and one of the most diverse and academically talented incoming classes in our history. Rodmon King, dean of Institutional Equity and Inclusion, will deliver the keynote address: “The Choice is Yours.” An all-campus picnic will follow in Harris Refectory.
This new academic year comes at a time of both great challenge and great possibility in our nation and the world. The strength of Connecticut College has always been found in the bonds that unite us as a community, and this sense of unity and common purpose, together with a commitment to innovation in every domain, encourages Conn faculty, staff, students, and alumni to make an even bigger difference with their lives by putting their education into action. My letter today outlines the work we are doing to support this mission and to advance our strategic priorities.
Summer is often a time of campus renewal and the past few months have been the busiest in recent memory. We undertook an array of critical projects to enhance teaching, learning, living, and sustainability. These include the revitalization of our Thames River waterfront for greater accessibility; the repurposing of Gallows Lane to support fieldwork in biology, botany, environmental studies and the Arboretum; the improvement of departmental teaching spaces in Bolles House; the creation of the Stark Center for the Moving Image in Hillyer Hall; and the upgrading of more than 30 classrooms across campus.
We also made improvements to Horizon House, home to our Office of Admission; redesigned residence hall bathrooms in Katharine Blunt House for enhanced privacy; refurbished the Natatorium and built new locker rooms for both men’s and women’s ice hockey in Dayton Arena. Most critically, we worked closely with partners in New London to provide new opportunities for apartment-style living in the heart of downtown at the Manwaring Building on State Street—a major milestone for the College.
Finally, addressing our sustainability goals, we began the process of upgrading all LED lighting across campus; installed energy-efficient heat pumps in the Service Building, Nichols House, and Strickland House; invested in new bike racks and water bottle filling stations across campus; and, through the support of Student Government, expanded our partnership with Generation Conscious to provide even more detergent strip dispensers for student use.
Many of these projects are now complete or nearing completion; a number are in progress and expected to be finished by the end of the semester. Still more are now being planned for summer 2023. Among these, most notably, are the renovations of Harris Refectory, the College Center at Crozier-Williams, and the landscape between them.
The year ahead
In addition to improvements to our physical campus, our work for the coming year will focus on assessment, shared governance, and long-term financial sustainability.
The College undergoes reaccreditation every 10 years through the New England Commission on Higher Education. 2023 will mark five years since our last reaccreditation and, as such, we are preparing a mid-cycle report on progress made since 2018 on our strategic plan, on Connections, and on the assessment of student learning. Dean of the Faculty Danielle Egan, Dean of Strategic and Global Initiatives Amy Dooling and Director of Institutional Research John Nugent will be working with faculty, staff, and student leaders to finalize a report by February 2023. A report on the most recent progress on our strategic plan can be found here.
No progress can be made without a strong commitment to shared governance. Last year, the Student Government Association (SGA) undertook a project to review the College’s 20-year-old Principles on Shared Governance to reflect new expectations and practices, a project that culminated in the signing of a revised covenant at a ceremony during the Board of Trustees meeting in April. Today, during our Convocation exercises, the Chair of the Board of Trustees, the new President of SGA, the new Chair of the Faculty Steering and Conference Committee, the new Chair of Staff Council, and myself will sign the covenant again to signal our continued commitment. And during the fall semester, a new commission on shared governance, as outlined in the covenant, will be convened to begin the process of assessing the effectiveness of our current systems and making recommendations for improvement.
Among the most critical of our shared endeavors is the financial wellbeing of the College. This summer, with the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees, the senior leadership advanced its work on developing a more sustainable, nimble and robust business model for the next five years, including strategies to boost revenues and redirect operating expenses toward the most critical priorities. That work will continue this semester with the input of key governing bodies on campus, and the goal of completing the five-year model for Board discussion in February.
On Friday, the Board of Trustees met to review year-end results for fiscal year 2022, and, although the audit is still in progress, a balanced cash-operating budget fully anticipated. The Board also reviewed our budget for the current fiscal year based on updated information about enrollment and expenses, and approved a revised budget for fiscal year 2023 of $101.5 million. This new budget includes the full restoration of the College contribution to the 403b retirement plan to 10 percent by Jan. 1.
Our Defy Boundaries campaign contributes to the College’s financial sustainability through annual giving and endowment. Our strategic plan foresees growing the Connecticut College endowment to $500 million by 2026, and this past summer, our endowment reached $435 million, an increase of 74 percent since the start of the plan. Last October, we launched the public phase of Defy Boundaries with the announcement of its ambitious $300 million goal, and by June 30, we concluded the year with the strongest year of fundraising on record—a total of $56 million in new gifts and commitments. We expect to build on the momentum in the year ahead as the campaign goes on the road with several regional events, taking the message to Camel alumni and parents across the country in our first in-person convenings since the start of the pandemic. In five years’ time, the Defy Boundaries campaign has raised a total of $240 million, and, with $60 million to go, is on track to reach its goal in 2024.
New Senior Leadership
On July 1, we welcomed Danielle Egan, Fuller-Matthai Professor and Chair of Gender, Sexuality, and Intersectionality Studies, to her new role as Dean of the Faculty, succeeding Jeffrey Cole. In August, our vice president for Finance and Administration left the College for a new opportunity and Teresa Smith, an experienced financial leader in higher education, joined us to oversee the division on an interim basis. A search for the permanent vice president has already begun with the expectation of making an appointment by the end of the fall semester. I want to express my gratitude to Kimberly Verstandig, Vice President for Advancement, who will chair the search as well as to all the colleagues who have generously agreed to serve: Priya Kohli, Associate Professor of Statistics and Chair of PPBC; John Linehan, P ’18, ’23, 24, Chair of the Investment Committee of the Board of Trustees; Laurie Schaeffer, Associate Chief Information Officer for Enterprise Systems; Madeline Vanech ’23, Senior Fellow in Admission and Chair of Finance for SGA; Raj Vig,’93, Chair of the Finance Committee of the Board; and Reginald White, Vice President for Human Resources. Lauren Middleton, Secretary of the College, will staff the committee.
As we launch the semester, please mark these important events in September:
- September 14: Our first faculty-staff meeting will take place at 4:15 p.m. outside on Chapel Green, with an outdoor picnic/reception immediately following for all faculty and staff at 772 Williams Street.
- September 15: U.S. Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman (ret.), the former top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, will share his perspective on the Russia-Ukraine war at 7 p.m. in the Athey Center for Performance and Research at Palmer Auditorium. The lecture is hosted by the Sound Lab Foundation and Friends of the Connecticut College Library.
- September 21: A service of remembrance will be held in Harkness Chapel at 4 p.m. to acknowledge those staff and faculty in our community who have lost family members during the past two years.
- September 22: Disability rights activist Judith Heumann will discuss her memoir, “Being Heumann,” at 7 p.m. in the Athey Center for Performance and Research at Palmer Auditorium. The book was chosen for One Book One Region and for the Class of 2026 summer reading.
I look forward to seeing you at Convocation this afternoon and in the coming weeks on campus. In the meantime, I send my best wishes for a healthy and successful start to this new year.