College Updates Following Board of Trustees Meeting

February 15, 2017

Dear Members of the Trinity Community,

We had a productive and energizing meeting with the Board of Trustees last weekend, and I’m pleased to share with you highlights from our meeting. 

Steady Progress 

As we attended to important current business of the College, the board engaged in a series of thoughtful conversations about Trinity’s future, both short- and long-term. We considered the implications of the new federal administration and complex state and local political and economic contexts. All of these require a nimbleness and flexibility in thinking about our future, so that we may anticipate challenges, seize opportunities, and continue to evolve as an institution and a community. 

The accreditation process currently under way has given us the opportunity to examine every aspect of the education we deliver and to think together about who we are, what we do best, and how we need to improve. Thank you to all who submitted suggestions for improving the draft self-study we shared at the end of last semester. Trustees received an update on this process, as well as the final version of the self-study. The next major step is a site visit by a NEASC visiting team March 5-8, during which the team (eight administrators and faculty from peer institutions) will learn more about Trinity through discussion and a review of documentation. You’ll be invited to participate in open meetings for faculty, staff, and students. 

Trustees received much good news on the student recruitment and financial fronts. With our Early Decision period complete (ED2 notifications were released late Friday), it’s clear that the changes we made in our admissions practices and the incredible work of our enrollment staff continue to pay off. We have now enrolled approximately 315 students in the Class of 2021 (up from 263 enrolled at this time last year), and it’s shaping up to be the strongest class in recent history. We saw surges in both the number of ED applications and the academic quality of the applicant pool. 

Speaking of our terrific enrollment team, we’re about to add an important new member. I’m delighted to announce the appointment of Michael William Light as Trinity’s Assistant Vice President and Director of Financial Aid. A student-centered leader and enrollment strategist, Michael currently serves as Assistant Vice President for Enrollment Management and Director of Student Financial Services at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. Prior to his time at University of the Arts, Michael served in various roles in graduate and undergraduate enrollment at the University of Pennsylvania. His most recent role at Penn was Director of Financial Aid at the School of Social Policy & Practice. We’ll welcome him to his new role on May 15.

In terms of budget and fundraising, we’re on track with a balanced budget for this fiscal year and, in partnership with the Planning and Budget Council, are developing now — and will present to the trustees in April — a balanced budget for FY18. We do so with the help of the Bantam Bold Fund — a fundraising initiative that’s separate from the annual fund — that has collected gifts and pledges of $9.5 million in total and $3.4 million in this fiscal year. By the end of January, overall gifts and pledges had reached 88 percent of last year’s total, putting us well on our way to one of the College’s most successful fundraising years. 

On the Horizon

Planning for next year’s budget included a vote by the full board to set the comprehensive fee for 2017-18. The board approved a 3.8 percent increase in the comprehensive fee for next year, down from a 3.94 percent increase last year. The rates for the coming year will be: 

                Tuition and fees          $54,360
                Room                                        9,240
                Board                                        4,960
                SAF                                                 ​410

                Total                                     $68,970

On the facilities and programming front, the Crescent Street Building project continues on schedule and within budget, and we’ve seen significant philanthropic support for the project — $3.6 million in gifts and pledges — which will allow us to reduce the anticipated bond-funded portion from $6.3 million to $5.4 million. 

Our plans for Constitution Plaza have progressed steadily, and on Friday the board toured the spaces at both 10 and One Constitution Plaza, envisioning a flexible co-working concept design and the makerspace being planned for the Liberal Arts Action Lab and other programs that will once more give Trinity an important presence downtown. The board approved an expenditure of up to $1.5 million for renovations to 10 Constitution Plaza and funding to continue with the development of design concepts for One Constitution Plaza. We anticipate that those costs will be more than covered by the terms of our sale agreement for 200 Constitution Plaza. For more on our plans, please see the concept paper we shared with the board last weekend. 

While we’re on the subject of facilities, I’m delighted to announce that Tom Fusciello, a key member of the Constitution Plaza Planning Committee, has been named Assistant Vice President for Construction, Facilities, and Operations. Tom has served as Director of Construction, Design, and Capital Projects since 2008, having joined Trinity in 2006 as a project manager. Over the years he has led important projects such as Gates Quad, the Crescent Street Townhouses, Vernon Social, and the Long Walk restoration. Tom’s new role includes responsibility for purchasing, including managing all outsourced vendors that provide services to Trinity. Both Tom’s role and Michael’s role in enrollment are the result of restructuring existing positions, not newly created ones. 

Setting the Course for Our Future

Finally, the trustees heard from the chairs of our five Bicentennial Strategic Planning Commission (BSPC) committees about their work and resulting reports and recommendations for the future. Together we engaged in meaningful discussion about the purpose and value of the College and the path we’ll take to a Trinity in 2023 and beyond. 

One idea that took root in the strategic planning process and has been discussed in the College’s Planning and Budget Council (PBC) is that of a January Cohort program. Trustees have been deeply interested in this idea, which would provide a distinctive academic experience for highly qualified students seeking to start at Trinity in the spring semester, and they asked us to develop a pilot for 2018. Planning is under way — led by Dean of Academic Affairs Melanie Stein — to recruit a small group for this pilot effort; we anticipate a cohort of 10 students (though we’d be delighted if we had a few more than that). Ultimately, if the program succeeds, it could grow to a maximum of about 50 students a year, with support and programming in place to ensure these students thrive and enjoy a robust Trinity experience. 

As we begin now in significant ways to plan for the future, I invite you to review the BSPC committees’ executive summaries and reports and, importantly, to share your thoughts. For campus community members, we’ll host a Common Hour presentation and discussion on February 28 in the Washington Room, and for those who can’t attend or who are part of our broader off-campus community, we ask you to share your thoughts with us via this online form. With your feedback, we’ll set clear priorities and a shared vision for the future. We’ll post a draft strategic plan later in the spring and present to trustees in June a completed plan for Trinity’s future. 

It was inspiring to see the enthusiasm and thoughtfulness of our incredibly dedicated board of trustees in all of these important conversations. This truly is an exciting time to be a member of the Trinity community, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to lead this historic institution to a more wonderful future. 


Joanne Berger-Sweeney
President and Trinity College Professor of Neuroscience