August 26, 2019

Dear Members of the Connecticut College Community,

Today marks the official opening of the academic year. I invite you to join me at 4:30 p.m. on Tempel Green for the College’s 105th Convocation, when we will welcome the newest members of the Connecticut College community: the 30 faculty members; 17 staff members; and 529 students who make up one of the largest, most diverse, and most academically gifted incoming classes in our history. Virginia Anderson, associate professor of theater, will deliver the keynote address, “Of Giraffes and Mission Statements /” An all-campus picnic will follow on Chapel Green.

This year begins with some exciting visible changes to campus as well as projects and partnerships to advance the College’s strategic priorities. I offer here an overview of a few developments and of the work that lies ahead.

Capital Projects
Summer is always a time for renewing facilities and grounds, and this year was no exception. While you were away, we advanced several important initiatives, chief among them, a renovation of the first floor of Fanning Hall. This will not only bring three new seminar rooms online for the first day of classes but also, importantly, bring our career center to central campus. Important features include a new slate roof and a new elevator, making all four floors of the building accessible for the first time in its almost 90-year history. We expect both the career center and the elevator to be complete during the first two weeks of September. An open house is scheduled for Fall Weekend and a formal dedication for October, when the Board of Trustees will be on campus. I want to thank not only Rich Madonna and Trina Learned for their leadership but also all the inhabitants of Fanning Hall for their forbearance and support.

Another vital project launched this summer involved the renovation of heating and cooling systems in the Plex. Significant progress was made over the summer, with upgrades to Harris, Wright, and Park now substantially complete. Upgrades to other buildings in the complex will continue through the fall semester. In a similar vein, we took important steps to improve air handling in the vivarium in Bill Hall, and, earlier this month, began installation of a new fuel cell to reduce our reliance on externally purchased power. We expect the cell to be fully operational by October.

A few smaller projects are worth mentioning. In the College Center at Crozier-Williams, for example, you will see that the Post Office space has been redesigned to incorporate the Print Shop. We have also launched a new e-package receipt system and self-serve lockers to enhance campus access to mail. Students can expect to hear from Dean Arcelus in the coming days on these and other exciting innovations in the area of both dining and laundry services.

New Partnerships
This summer has also been a time for rethinking partnerships on campus and beyond. On that subject, I am very pleased to announce that, after many years of close collaboration, the Holleran Center for Community Action and Public Policy and the Office of Community Partnerships have begun the process of merging their operations to become a single entity. The enriched and expanded Holleran Center will administer the certificate Program in Community Action, offer curricular and co-curricular community engagement opportunities for all students, and provide enhanced support for faculty and staff in community learning and engaged scholarship. We believe this long-anticipated merger will foster even greater opportunities for public service and civic engagement for the campus.

With the arrival of a new superintendent at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in June, the College took steps to form a new, joint working group to explore untapped areas of collaboration between our institutions. The new group is charged with developing a revised Memorandum of Understanding that will allow us to leverage key educational and facilities assets to our mutual benefit. Recommendations are expected in the coming weeks.

Beyond campus, we were thrilled to learn, in June, that the Thomas J. Watson Foundation would reestablish its partnership with Connecticut College, making our students once again eligible for the prestigious Watson Fellowship. The Fellowship is a one-year, $30,000 post-baccalaureate opportunity supporting purposeful, independent exploration outside the United States for graduating seniors at over 40 partner institutions. Staff from the Watson Foundation will be on campus in October to hold information sessions for students and faculty.

Finally, I want to mention, with pride, that in July Connecticut College hosted the first annual gathering of scholars in exile on the first anniversary of the New University in Exile Consortium, of which we are a founding member. The event provided an opportunity for scholars in the consortium to reflect on their first year, discuss next steps, and design future programming. The consortium is the brainchild of Arian Mack ’51, a long-serving professor of psychology at the New School. Connecticut College is fortunate to be able to support our scholars-in-exile through an endowment made possible by trustee emerita Ann Johnson ’68.

Campus Safety
The safety and security of our campus is of the highest priority and this summer we were able to take a number of important steps to enhance our efforts. This week, for example, we launched the Rave Guardian App, which provides direct access to services and critical safety information for all students. We have also begun installing security cameras at the entrances and exits of select residence halls. Other safety measures include a new blue light phone and new signage at the River Ridge apartments.

Supporting our Title IX office, the College this month welcomed Carrie-Jo (CJ) McGuffey, who will serve as a full-time internal investigator for the campus. And I recently appointed a Connecticut College Resource Team of students, faculty, staff, local law enforcement, and community partners to review and refine our policies, procedures, and communications about issues related to sexual misconduct. This fall, the Title IX Office will begin a new practice of publishing an end-of-year report on CamelWeb to keep the campus community informed about the College’s response to reports of sexual misconduct.

Plans are underway, as well, to administer the Sexual Assault Campus Climate survey to all students in spring 2020. Participation in this survey will allow the College to receive comparative data about peer institutions and take relevant steps to improve our services. We will be working with the Student Government Association to develop questions for the survey in the coming weeks.

Faculty Recognition
Faculty awards continued to come in over the summer, and I want to take a moment, in conclusion, to recognize those faculty members who received significant accolades in both research and teaching after the close of the academic year:

  • Sandy Grande, professor of education and director of the Center for the Critical Study of Race and Ethnicity, was one of just two individuals in the nation to receive a 2019 Ford Foundation Senior Fellowship, through which she will complete her book on Indigenous elders and aging.
  • One of our newest faculty members, Assistant Professor of Psychology Jeff Moher, was awarded $350,000 from the National Institutes of Health in June to advance his research with colleagues at Brown University on the neuroscience of distraction.
  • Ross Morin, associate professor of Film Studies, was honored in August by the University Film and Video Association, the largest organization devoted to the teaching of film in the world, with its senior award for teaching excellence.

We are so proud of these faculty achievements and grateful for the honor and distinction they bring to the College.

Future events
Sept. 11. Please be reminded that the first joint faculty-staff meeting will take place at 4:15 p,m, in the 1962 Room with a reception for all participants following at my home at 772 Williams Street.

Sept. 17. Jarrett Krosoczka, author of Hey, Kiddo, this year’s first-year reading and selection for the One Book One Region program, will visit campus and deliver a lecture at 7 p.m. in Palmer Auditorium.

I look forward to seeing you at Convocation.

With best wishes on the start of the new semester, Katherine Bergeron President

Katherine Bergeron