August 27, 2018

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 our 104th Convocation, when we will welcome the newest members of the Connecticut College community: the eight new faculty members; 24 new staff members; and 542 new students who make up one of the largest, most diverse, and most talented incoming classes in our history. Sunil Bhatia, Professor of Human Development, will deliver the Convocation address, “Finding Magical Doors: Notes on Borders, Race, and Belonging.” An all-campus picnic will follow on Chapel Green.

This new year begins an important period of transition and transformation for the College. After saying farewell to many beloved, long-serving staff members on the occasion of their retirements in June, we spent the better part of the summer rebuilding our workforce, a task that is still very much underway. The great strength of this College has always been the bonds that unite us as a community, and I want to express my gratitude to all of you for your generosity and forbearance during this time, as we welcome colleagues into new roles and find new ways to support the work of the campus. This letter offers information about that work, including key projects, partnerships, and personnel changes we are undertaking to advance the College’s strategic priorities.

Capital Projects
Summer is always a time of campus renewal, and the past months were no exception. Among the most important developments, our athletic facilities saw some welcome upgrades with the long-awaited renovation of the artificial turf at Silfen Field. Together with the regeneration of the grass playing fields on upper and lower Tempel Green, this enhancement will significantly improve competitive conditions for field hockey, men’s and women’s lacrosse, and men’s and women’s soccer in the coming year.

Beyond athletics, the College worked to build on the success of the Hamilton House makeover last year with the transformation of Morrisson House into our second building dedicated entirely to first-year students. With this development, the whole of our first-year class, the Class of 2022, now takes up residence on north and central campus, while south campus has been rededicated to upperclass students, offering even more opportunities for communal living for sophomores, juniors, and seniors.

Additional facilities projects to be completed in the coming year include an architectural program study for the renovation of the College Center at Crozier-Williams, as well as architect selection and a program study for the renovation of Palmer Auditorium. These are two central initiatives in our Campus Master Plan, and we will be seeking input from students, faculty, and staff as we embark on both. A new campus master planning website will launch soon to keep you informed of our progress.

As part of our 10-year reaccreditation by the New England Commission on Higher Education, a visiting committee came to campus for three days last April to conduct a comprehensive evaluation. The committee’s very favorable final report arrived in the middle of the summer. You can read it here. The team members expressed admiration for the outstanding education we offer at the College and the faculty who make it happen. They were impressed by the integrity and vitality of our new curriculum, Connections, as well as by our strategic plan, Building on Strength. They praised the excellence of our Board of Trustees, our student body, and our campus culture more generally, along with the 100-year-old Honor Code that undergirds it. And they took special note of the time and energy that our faculty and staff commit, often with zeal, in service to the long-term future of the College, describing this as a “tremendous asset” in the College’s ongoing development.

The main concerns noted in the report had to do with ensuring the College’s future financial sustainability and accelerating our efforts in the assessment of student learning, two areas on which the senior administration has been actively working. The final step in the reaccreditation process will be our in-person meeting with the Commissioners scheduled for November.

New Partnerships
The College is excited to be collaborating with two organizations in New London to deliver new services to the campus in the areas of printing and dining. With the recent departures of staff members in our campus Print Shop, we looked to the possibility of partnering with a local business to support printing and bulk mail needs for the College, and we are happy to report that Copy Cats in Hodges Square will now be providing these services for us. Kristi Kerr has been promoted to Coordinator of Print Services for the College and she, along with Donna Lloret, will continue supporting the campus’s printing and bulk mail, as they have in the past. Customer service and job pickups will remain at Hillyer Hall until later in the semester, when they will relocate to the first floor of Crozier-Williams.

In the area of dining, we have been introducing innovations in the past year, as you know, in response to student feedback. Building on that momentum, we are pleased to announce that, in the coming year, we will enter into a new partnership with the New London-based group, Brigaid, led by Dan Giusti, former head chef of the renowned Noma restaurant in Copenhagen. Giusti started Brigaid with a mission to transform school lunches in America, and he chose New London as his inaugural city in 2016. In two short years, Brigaid has gained national recognition for its innovations in public school dining. A number of Connecticut College students have already been working with the Brigaid team in New London as part of their own community engagement. With a shared commitment to sustainability, justice, and service, they will be wonderful thought-partners for our dedicated Dining Services team as we work to create an even more distinctive dining experience for our students.

Other Personnel Changes
There are quite a number of new staff members who have joined the College community in the past three months, as well as existing staff members who have been promoted into new roles. It will naturally take time to learn the new names and faces, and we understand that it can be frustrating not to know the people who can help when you are trying to get something done. For this reason, we have created a new page on the Office of Human Resources website that identifies critical staff changes and contact information for every division of the College. The idea is for you to be able to locate the information you need easily and in one place. The webpage can be found at this address. Again, I am grateful for your patience and good humor as you become acquainted with new colleagues in new roles across campus.

There are two personnel changes in the Office of the President that I would like you to be aware of. After 18 wonderful years serving as senior assistant to the President, Wendy Mahon left Connecticut College at the end of May; and Lorraine Gruber, who had been filling in during Wendy’s absence, was promoted to senior assistant to the Vice President for Information Services. These departures provided an occasion for me to rethink the administrative support within the President’s Office in light of new and emerging priorities. For example, following last year’s faculty discussions on developing new revenues for the College, it became clear that a dedicated person would be needed to research, incubate, and mount any new programs for the campus. In order to fulfill this need without increasing staff or expenditures in my office, I have asked Cheryl Miller to take on an expanded role as Vice President for Human Resources and Organizational Development to advance this work in the coming year. Cheryl takes on her new duties full-time this week. Lauren Middleton will also begin this week as the new senior assistant to the president. I know they both look forward to working with you. Bonnie Wells will continue to serve ably as Secretary to the College and Robinette Tucker as assistant to the Secretary.

I want to close with two recent pieces of news. In August, Moody’s Investor Service conducted an evaluation of the financial outlook of the College. I am happy to report that, in light of the cost savings undertaken in 2018, along with increased enrollments and record fundraising, Moody’s reaffirmed the College’s A2 rating with a stable outlook.

Finally, I just became aware of a new college review aggregator called College Consensus that has released its own rankings of the best colleges and universities in the United States. With a methodology that combines various published rankings with student feedback, College Consensus lists Connecticut College as No. 39 among the best colleges in the U.S.; No. 7 among the best waterfront colleges; and No. 3 among the best institutions in Connecticut.

Please note that the following events coming up quickly in September:

  • On Thursday, Sept. 6 and Friday, Sept. 7
    Professor of Dance Lisa Race presents a retrospective of her work, including the world premiere of Mid-Tide, at 7:30 p.m. in the Myers Studio, Third Floor, Crozier Williams
  • On Tuesday, Sept. 11
    Howard Hughes Medical Institute Distinguished Professor David Haussler ’75 presents a talk on his work as a collaborator on the International Human Genome Project at noon in Evans Hall. Followed by panel discussion and live podcast with Trustee Lynn Cooley ’76 and Susan Froshauer ’74.
  • On Wednesday, Sept. 12
    Staff and faculty are invited to attend the first monthly College staff and faculty meeting at 4:15 p.m. in the 1941 room, Crozier-Williams. A reception at the President’s House will immediately follow this inaugural meeting.
  • On Wednesday, Sept. 26 at 7 p.m.
    Public lecture by Mohsin Hamid, author of Exit West. Palmer Auditorium.

My best wishes on the start of the new semester.

Katherine Bergeron