August 31, 2018
Following a very successful Orientation, earlier this week we began the academic year with the traditional Convocation ceremony. Accompanied by all the pomp and circumstance one expects from Convocation, this year’s keynote was masterfully delivered by Margarita Ramos ’85 who spoke passionately about finding one’s voice, using it to make a difference, and leading a life of consequence. Delivering the faculty address was the recipient of the 2018 faculty prize for teaching, Associate Professor of Media & Society Leah Shafer, whose lively speech on individuality, community and the pleasures of learning encouraged all in attendance to use the time at Hobart and William Smith to become a “just and intelligent person.”
In many ways, their two messages are inexorably linked – to be a just and intelligent person, you must develop and use your voice. It occurred to me during the Convocation ceremony, sitting with people I have known for many decades and others I met just days before, that one of the things we do well at HWS is help students find and use their voices, giving them the resources to become scholars, activists, artists and scientists, and ultimately, as we say at HWS, to lead lives of consequence.
I write today in the spirit of community I felt during Convocation to express to you my heartfelt optimism for the future and to share updates on some of the projects underway this year.
My confidence is fueled in part by the fantastic news we’ve received in recent weeks that the Colleges have earned national recognition from The Princeton Review for study abroad (#1 in the nation for the second year in a row), best student-rated professors (#7 in the nation), and most politically active students (#10 in the nation). In the newly released 2018 edition of Forbes’ “America’s Top Colleges” list, HWS rose 10 spots from last year among liberal arts colleges, ranking 60th in the nation and, once again, numbering among institutions with the best return-on-investment. On Monday, Washington Monthly ranked HWS #42 among liberal arts colleges, up 15 spots from last year. Consistent with the publication’s emphasis on community and national service, HWS ranked #1 among all liberal arts colleges for service. This is outstanding, external validation of the hard work of so many in our community who strive daily to strengthen our academic and co-curricular programs.
These new rankings provide a favorable backdrop as we recruit a new president and chief diversity officer, begin building the Classes of 2023, educate and mentor the exceptional students already on our campus, and increase engagement among alumni, alumnae and parents. They also remind me, as they should all of us, that this is a remarkable place. As I look to the year ahead, I am convinced that we have the capacity to advance the Colleges even further. In addition to a number of tasks before us, some of which are outlined later in this message, I intend to focus on two broad issues in the coming months – increasing retention and evolving the budget model.
As communicated in past messages to the campus community, we have an aggressive retention campaign underway that addresses everything from the collection and assessment of data to providing new avenues of support and resources to students. I am grateful this effort has broad sponsorship from all sectors of campus. For example, more than 50 members of the HWS staff are volunteering to mentor small cohorts of incoming students as they navigate their first semester at HWS. It’s a terrific program, one of many underway, and I look forward to updating the community on our progress later this semester.
Although the Colleges are in an enviable position with a steady enrollment and the strong support of our alums and parents, like most private colleges and universities in America, we face national demographic changes and a resulting increased demand for financial aid. We are proud that we continue to prioritize our students’ financial aid needs, doing everything possible to ensure that our students graduate from college without the kind of burdensome debt that can influence their life and career decisions. This has meant, however, that we have had to economize in other areas, moving funding from administrative and academic areas into financial aid. This is a model we cannot maintain long term.
We have a budget that is largely grounded in fixed costs – infrastructure, salaries and benefits, yet the need for new opportunities and innovation continues unabated, driven in large part by the ambitions of our faculty and staff, the promise of our students, and the aspirations of our alums. Through the support of dedicated donors like Board Chair Thomas S. Bozzuto ’68, L.H.D. ’18 and Trustee Katherine D. Elliott ’66, L.H.D. ’08, we are fortunate to have initiatives like the new Bozzuto Center for Entrepreneurship and the Faculty Innovation Grant, which jumpstart curricular and co-curricular discovery. Nevertheless, I believe, as does the Senior Staff and the Board, that there is more we can do to ensure that we are meeting the financial needs of our students as we also advance the Colleges. I expect to spend as much time as I can exploring new and revisited opportunities to expand and enhance our academic programs to provide additional resources to meet the financial and, more importantly, the educational goals of our students and faculty.
In addition, under the direction of Vice President for Finance and Administration Carolee White, the Colleges are undertaking an assessment of our budget structure to ensure that we are funneling resources to those programs and priorities that most closely support the Colleges’ aspirations. The Office of Academic and Faculty Affairs is working with department and program chairs to better align and reallocate their operating budgets, and identify prospective funding sources. I have also asked Dean of Admissions John Young to evaluate our financial aid strategy with the goal of creating aid packages that better align with institutions in our peer group while ensuring that a Hobart and William Smith education is within reach for students of promise and merit. He will work closely with the faculty Committee on Retention and Admissions and with the Board of Trustees on this project.
Office of Diversity and Inclusion
The members of the Strategic Diversity Planning Group have met several times over the summer to develop a plan to carry out the national search for the Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion. You will recall from my past emails to campus that the incumbent will serve on the senior staff and report to the president, acting as the Colleges’ diversity strategist. Together, we determined that the search committee would be comprised of two faculty members, two staff members, four students and one trustee. To volunteer to participate or recommend a colleague or student to serve, please send an email by September 7 to Presidential Fellow Sydney Gomez ’17 who will collect the recommendations for my review. Each nomination must include a written rationale or evidence of one’s commitment and experience related to diversity and inclusion. As the search committee forms and the national search proceeds, we have established a small group of community members drawn from the Strategic Diversity Planning Group that will function as the Office for Diversity and Inclusion, coordinating programming currently on hold and exploring initiatives from the Strategic Diversity Plan for implementation this fall. The group is comprised of Professor of Dance Donna Davenport, Presidential Fellow Sydney Gomez ’17, Assistant Professor of Economics Keoka Grayson, Director of the Intercultural Affairs Center Alejandra Molina, Associate Professor of Anthropology Jason Rodriguez and student Josh Walker ’20.
Office of Title IX Programs and Compliance
I am pleased to report that we open the academic year with a fully staffed Title IX Office. Title IX Coordinator Susan Lee is joined by Katie Stiffler who will serve as Deputy Title IX Coordinator and Regina Gesicki who will serve as Title IX Fellow. Stiffler, who joined the Colleges in 2016 as the Title IX Prevention and Education Coordinator, has a degree in gender and sexuality studies from William and Mary and a master’s in reproductive and sexual health research from University of London. We are grateful to Stiffler for her dedication to this work and our students. New to the office, Gesicki comes to HWS from the University of Notre Dame where she worked in several positions including assistant director of the Gender Relations Center. She served on the University’s Committee for Sexual Assault Prevention and played a strong role in sexual violence prevention, including the Green Dot bystander intervention program. Additionally she served as a process advisor (resource coordinator) during the Title IX formal complaint process, providing information and support resources for either the complainant or the respondent. Please join me in welcoming her to the Colleges.
Capital Campaign Preparedness
With the campaign on hold during the presidential search, this interim period provides a chance for the Office of Advancement to develop greater internal and external alignment with key constituencies. Expanding awareness and opportunities around anticipated priorities such as a science facility, increased financial aid, academic and co-curricular enhancements, and student internship and research grants are just a few of the major areas. As this year gets underway, the campus engagement in the refinement of our aspirations will be essential to the success of our next major fundraising endeavor.
Indoor Turf Field
As you no doubt noticed, construction on the new indoor turf field adjacent to Bristol Field House has begun. Emerging out of the recommendations of the Culture of Respect and Campus Master Plan reports, the new field will increase opportunities for students to participate in recreation activities, club sports and intramural leagues while providing practice space for our major field sports. The project is funded entirely through designated gifts and is scheduled to open in January. On Saturday, September 29, the stadium at Boswell Field will be officially dedicated in honor of legendary coach of Hobart lacrosse Dave Urick. The facility will formally be known as Boswell Field at David J Urick Stadium.
As has been communicated to campus, effective January 2019, Transamerica will become the Colleges’ single service provider for its retirement plans. This is a change from the current structure where the Colleges used multiple providers, specifically TIAA, Fidelity, T. Rowe Price and Vanguard. Over the course of the next four months, representatives from Transamerica will be on campus to meet individually with employees and answer questions about the transition. The Office of Human Resources will send details and more information in the next few weeks.
In order to address issues of personal, student and institutional safety and security, in the coming year we will be asking all members of our community to complete mandatory training related to Title IX, Sexual Harassment Prevention and Cyber Security Awareness. More on these trainings will be communicated in the coming weeks and months by the offices that are leading these efforts, and I ask for your support as they are rolled out.
As we begin this fall semester, we do so with pride in all that we have accomplished. We have work ahead of us but it is work at which I am confident we will excel. As we continue our efforts, I hope you will take advantage of all that the Colleges offer by participating in the many events happening on campus in the coming days and weeks. Cheer for our students and coaches this weekend as they compete in soccer, field hockey, football, golf and cross country. Drop by the Davis Gallery to see the Department of Art and Architecture’s Faculty Exhibition. Stop in at the Intercultural Affairs Open House. Attend the Philosophy and Climate Change Colloquium and a Trias Writer-in-Residence reading. As Professor Shafer advised us on Monday evening: “Make every day that you spend here a Convocation, an opportunity for exploration, a transformative threshold for possibility.”
Finally, I again want to thank the entire HWS community of faculty, staff and students for their support and encouragement over the past few months. Your help and participation have made these weeks a productive and, dare I say, enjoyable re-introduction to the life of these Colleges.
Patrick A. McGuire L.H.D. ’12