March 6, 2014

Dear Members of the Campus Community,

I write to you with news of the February meeting of the Board of Trustees, which took place just last weekend. The board engaged in a vigorous series of discussions about the College’s upward trajectory, its distinctive strengths, and its position in the landscape of higher education. They also considered the fiscal year 2015 budget and received reports on current and future capital projects; reVision Week; student activities; a proposed modification to first-year housing; and year-to-date fundraising. The details of these discussions are summarized below.

Academic excellence and the residential experience

The weekend included extensive discussion of the work being done to enhance the intellectual and social experience of Connecticut College students. Representatives of the student government met with trustees to discuss student initiatives on art projects, the Honor Code, transportation issues, and increased demand on the annual student activities budget. Key faculty leaders were present to discuss curricular reform with trustees. Professors Amy Dooling, chair of the Educational Planning Committee, and Jefferson Singer, chair-elect of the Faculty Steering and Conference Committee, offered a report to the Committee on Academics on the very successful reVision Week and outlined plans now underway to review and consolidate the generative discussions into a series of pilot programs to be launched next fall. Members of the committee were impressed with the campuswide involvement in this important initiative, which demonstrates the College’s commitment to progressive liberal education and shared governance.

Another topic that generated great interest had to do with the student experience of our mixed-class housing model. The trustees reviewed a proposal to create more intentional clustering of first-year students, and to encourage continuity of group living into the sophomore year, in order to increase students’ social and intellectual engagement within the residence halls. Overall, the board was enthusiastic about the concept and encouraged by the incremental approach, which will allow the office of student life to gain important feedback on the success of any changes while developing a longer-range plan.

Fiscal Year 2015 budget and capital projects

The trustees were pleased to learn that our endowment had reached a record $250 million, and that Moody’s Investors Service had recently confirmed the College’s long-term debt rating at A2 with a stable outlook—an opinion that appears even more positive in light of Moody’s overall negative outlook on higher education. In that context, the board considered the target parameters for the fiscal year 2015 budget, including fee increases, proposed faculty and staff salary pools, and financial aid. These and other aspects of the budget will be finalized later in the spring and approved by the board in May.

In the area of capital projects, the trustees reviewed the comprehensive design, construction, and transition plan for Shain Library, scheduled to be completed by August 2015, and toured our 80-year-old Power House to gain a deeper insight into this summer’s plans to remove and replace several aged boilers. They also approved a host of other summer upgrades, including the refreshment of academic spaces, the College Center, dormitories, and the Athletic Complex.

Fundraising and New Gifts

The Advancement Committee heard about the current success of this year’s annual fund, which currently sits at $3.6 million, 12 percent ahead of where we were at this time last year. The trustees were pleased to see that their own work on the annual fund, in the form of a $500,000 challenge to raise new and increased gifts, had contributed to this improvement. Our goal for the year is $5.4 million.

The trustees acknowledged the following recent gifts:

  • from Carol J. Feinberg ’49, a leadership gift to provide critical financial assistance for Connecticut College Posse Scholars, established in February 2014;
  • from Susan Eckert Lynch ’62, a leadership gift to support the College’s faculty research programs and to create an internship fund for students over the next two to five years, established in December 2013;
  • from Ann Werner Johnson ’68, a leadership gift to establish a Scholar Rescue Fund for a Visiting Scholar in Residence who is a foreign national and whose academic and intellectual work has put his or her career, liberty, and/or personal safety at hazard in his or her home country, established in December 2013;
  • from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, a grant to support international initiatives and foster integration in global studies over the next three years.

The board also heard a progress report from the parents’ council. Current and alumni parents have provided substantial support in a number of key areas, including admission, athletics, and the annual fund. We remain exceedingly grateful for the generosity, loyalty, and continuing sponsorship of all our alumni, parents, and friends of the College.

Finally, I should mention that the members of the board greatly enjoyed the opportunity to meet with many students and faculty over the course of the weekend. On Friday, seniors involved in our centers for interdisciplinary scholarship joined trustees for lunch, and faculty leaders on our major committees, as well as those involved in the curriculum revision, were present at dinner.

Overall, it was a spirited set of meetings, full of hope for the future. I came away with a feeling of gratitude for the energy and commitment of the board members and an even greater sense of the College’s future development under their able leadership.

Katherine Bergeron