August 1, 2018
Dear Members of the Hobart and William Smith Community:
With the fall semester just a month away, I write with an update on the work of the summer and news on some exciting initiatives underway. The beginning of the academic year is a time of anticipation and celebration, and with the presidential search, new programs, major anniversaries and historic milestones before us, this year promises to be particularly special.
Among our top priorities is the Presidential Search. As you know from communications from Trustees Cynthia Gelsthorpe Fish ’82 and Andrew McMaster, Jr. ’74, P’09, a Presidential Search Committee has been named and, after a thorough review of several national firms, Isaacson, Miller has been selected to assist the Colleges in managing the search process and recruiting our next president. Isaacson, Miller was on campus last week conducting a series of facilitated listening sessions with faculty, staff and students that will inform the position profile. They return to Geneva in September to ensure that all members of our campus have an opportunity to participate. If you were unable to attend one of the July sessions and would like to share your views in advance of September, you are encouraged to email Isaacson, Miller at HWSpresident@imsearch.com.
Brian Miller has agreed to remain as interim director of Hobart athletics for the next year, allowing a new president the opportunity to lead a national search. Brian has done an excellent job since he was appointed interim athletic director in January, working with our coaches to provide outstanding athletic experiences that support and complement our students’ academic endeavors. I look forward to working with him in the coming year.
With the departure of Bob Murphy from the Colleges and with John Young taking over as Dean of Admissions and Vice President for Enrollment Management, the Salisbury Center for Career, Professional and Experiential Education will now report to the Office of Advancement. Brandi Ferrara will remain as the Center’s director reporting to Bob O’Connor, the Vice President for Advancement. This move will allow the Colleges to integrate our alumni, alumnae and parents more fully into the work of Career Services.
With the position currently vacant, one search we must undertake immediately is that of the chief diversity officer. Over the past several weeks, I have met with members of the Strategic Diversity Planning Group to create a job description for the Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion. Serving on the Senior Staff and reporting to the President, the incumbent will act as the Colleges’ diversity strategist, providing vision and leadership to develop and implement campus efforts that advance a culture of respect and that embrace and support diversity and inclusion. A committee of faculty, staff and students will conduct a national search led by Vice President for Human Resources Sonya Williams. More on the search process will be announced in August. During the transition period, the members of the Strategic Diversity Planning Group and the Committee on Diversity, Equity and Social Justice will be invited to meet regularly with me so that we do not lose momentum on key components of the strategic diversity plan; Sydney Gomez ’16, presidential fellow in my office, will provide support to the group.
I am pleased to announce that the Hobart and the William Smith Deans Offices now each contain three deans who are preparing for the arrival of students. The Dean of William Smith College Lisa Kaenzig P’22 is joined by Assistant Dean Lisa Salter who served as Interim Assistant Dean for William Smith during the Spring 2018 semester, and Kelly Payne, who is new to William Smith but comes to us with more than 10 years of experience advising students. Associate Professor of Education Khuram Hussain has agreed to serve as interim dean of Hobart College. An expert on education policy, the history of education and black press history, Dean Hussain teaches courses that explore culturally responsive, community-oriented and democratic education, a background that will no doubt be invaluable in his new role. Joining Dean Hussain are Assistant Deans David Mapstone ’93, P’21 and Joseph Mink, who, given his years of successful work with students, will move from the Department of Political Science into a one-year appointment in the Dean’s Office while we search for an assistant dean. I’d like to thank the members of the search committee for their diligence and hard work in filling these positions.
Paramount among the responsibilities of our deans is ensuring that every student has strong advising and mentorship that allows them to take advantage of the many opportunities at the Colleges. To understand the reasons why some students persist at the Colleges and to ensure that the Colleges are funneling our resources into those programs and projects that best support retention efforts, for the past year Associate Professor Emerita of Economics Jo Beth Mertens, Special Assistant to the President on Student Success and Retention, has been working to consolidate retention data. Under her leadership, the Colleges are contracting with KJT Group, Inc. out of Rochester, N.Y. KJT will work to cleanse and merge several HWS data sets created by Professor Mertens and consult with our staff to create a unified master data set for use in student retention modeling and analysis. Sara Clendenning ’15 continues to work on the retention issue as a research assistant to Professor Mertens.
With the Offices of Advancement, Business and Communications located on Seneca Street and the successful establishment of the Bozzuto Center for Entrepreneurship on Castle Street, we continue to investigate the possibility of further expanding our footprint into downtown Geneva. In partnership with the City of Geneva, we have entered into conversations with a national developer who specializes in student housing and retail development near college campuses. Our decision to investigate this option is driven by the need to provide our upper-class students with safe, reliable, off-campus housing. As these conversations continue, it’s important to note that should this possibility come to fruition, it would be funded entirely by the third-party developer, would have little to no impact on our credit or bond rating, and is not expected to impede other on-campus construction projects currently being planned. I hope to share more details on this possibility in the coming months.
Among the many successful programs that took place on campus this summer, the 2018 HWS Summer Academy graduation was celebrated on Thursday, July 26. This three-week program for Geneva High School students originated by Professor of Chemistry Walter Bowyer, introduced students to the college experience with course work, readings, group travel (e.g., trip to Ithaca College), interview experiences and presentations. This year’s class had 14 students who graduated in front of their parents and family. The program was organized by the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning with leadership from staff member Shayne Feinberg and Molly Gorelick ’19. This year was the 12th time the program was offered. Student presentations were a delight and the program a great success!
As the final weeks of summer continue, we look forward to welcoming the Classes of 2022 in August. Among the most diverse classes in the Colleges’ history, our newest students hail from 33 states and 11 countries, with nearly 25% identifying as students of color. This group of 620 impressive Herons and Statesmen enters the HWS community with a strong academic record and abundant enthusiasm about the Colleges, with more than 40% of the classes enrolled through the Early Decision program. The Classes of 2022 will arrive on campus a day earlier compared to previous Orientation Weekends (August 23, 2018). The additional day is intended to allow students the time to familiarize themselves with our campus and Geneva, meet their peers, better acclimate to the academic mission of the Colleges, and, very importantly, confer with their academic advisers in depth before the first day of classes. The final orientation schedule should be available shortly.
For the first-year classes we will introduce a pilot program of community mentors for each member of the classes. Each mentor, an HWS community member who has volunteered their time, will offer non-academic advice and counsel to our first-year students. This volunteer program was the result of ongoing conversations among Admissions, Student Affairs and the President’s Office. Further details of the program and its structure will be available over the next few weeks as we refine our preparation for the Classes of 2022.
In annual fashion, the academic year will open officially with the Convocation ceremony, held this year on Monday, August 27, when we welcome keynote speaker Margarita Ramos ’85. The global head of human resource compliance for Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Ms. Ramos will share her reflections on a successful career as a labor and employment attorney, a first-generation college graduate, a member of the William Smith Council and a former trustee. We cordially invite all faculty, staff and students to attend Convocation. As usual for this occasion, the faculty will wear their academic attire and those faculty who need to order academic robes can do so by contacting Bill Ellison in the Registrar’s Office.
Convocation, the annual calling together of our community, is the first of many festivities the Colleges will host throughout the 2018-19 academic year, each in its own way highlighting our shared history. For example, this year marks the 20th anniversary of the Fisher Center, recently renamed the Fisher Center for the Study of Gender and Justice, which has led the campus and community dialogue on pressing issues around gender and social equity. Under the direction of Professor of Political Science Jodi Dean, celebrations will begin during Homecoming and Family Weekend 2018 and continue throughout the year, anchored by a keynote address on Thursday, October 18 from internationally renowned activist, professor and author Angela Davis.
Professor Davis’ visit to campus coincides with the inaugural William Smith @ Work Conference, as well as the celebration of the 10th anniversary of the Centennial Center. Beginning Friday, October 19, the conference will offer a variety of panels, a broad range of speakers and ample networking opportunities for students to engage with alumnae. Meanwhile, the Colleges will celebrate the success of the Centennial Center and honor the alums, staff, faculty and students whose vision and hard work have driven the innovation and success of our leadership programming.
As demonstrated by these major milestones and many others — including the 200th anniversary of the charter to establish Hobart College, the 80th anniversary of the first co-ed class at the Colleges and the 50th anniversary of Geneva Scholarship Associates — we enjoy a rich and enduring history of intellectual innovation, civic engagement and community pride. I look forward to celebrating these historic moments with you throughout the year and sharing the reflections, conversations and new ideas that such moments stimulate.
Before we kick off the academic year, we will gather as a community on August 10, from 1:30 – 4 p.m. for an employee appreciation gathering to recognize the efforts and the commitment of many who make this campus special. Faculty and staff will have the opportunity to relax and socialize together while participating in a trivia contest, lawn games and an HWS inspired scavenger hunt. Please save the date. I hope you will join us.
I end with my gratitude. During the past few weeks, I have met with a number of faculty and staff members to ensure that the work of the Colleges continues unabated during this transition period. I remain impressed with the level of dedication and professionalism of everyone on campus.
Patrick A. McGuire L.H.D. ‘12