College Update Following Board of Trustees Meeting

May 31, 2016

Dear Members of the Trinity Community,

A little more than a week ago, we gathered on the Main Quad to celebrate the Class of 2016 and our master’s recipients at the College’s 190th Commencement.  Alongside proud families, members of the campus community joyously cheered on our Bantam graduates as they claimed their right to walk on the Luther-Roosevelt stone and touched Bishop Brownell’s book.  Speakers reminded graduates of the importance of listening to mentors, how creativity and innovation are in Trinity’s DNA, and that they should go forth with confidence that their Trinity education will serve them as well decades from now as it will in the immediate future.

This year, we made a special tribute to honorary degree recipients in the form of brief videos profiling each individual.  These video tributes, which debuted during Commencement Weekend, are living histories; view the videos and be impressed not only by our multitalented honorands but also by the film studies faculty and students who collaborated to bring these histories to life.     

Our trustees shared in the excitement of Commencement, arriving on campus a few days early for the Board of Trustees meeting on May 20 and 21.  As I have done before, I’d like to update you on highlights of that meeting: 

  • Welcoming the Class of 2020. Vice President for Enrollment and Student Success Angel Pérez reported to the board on the incoming Class of 2020, which is one of Trinity’s most selective in recent history and is distinguished in its geographic diversity and myriad accomplishments.  In building the class, the admissions team employed new approaches that looked closely at personal characteristics that are most predictive of success in college.  Traits such as grit, persistence, creativity, curiosity, and the ability to overcome adversity were weighed along with academic and extracurricular accomplishments and a genuine interest in attending Trinity.  This approach has yielded a robust and energetic class that is emblematic of Trinity’s bright future as we spiral upward.
  • Financial Planning and Sustainability.  As reported in March, for Trinity to thrive in the 21st century, its financial model must be stable and sustainable.  At the May meeting, the trustees engaged in a thoughtful process of reviewing Trinity’s financial health and the investments that the College is undertaking to ensure a sustainable financial future.  Toward that end, the trustees are continuing to discuss a realistic multiyear planning model for the College and will meet during the first half of June to further evaluate budget considerations. 
  • Facilities Supporting Innovation in Liberal Arts.  The trustees approved plans for the Crescent Street building that will embody cross-disciplinary liberal arts: a neuroscience wing that will include new labs and classrooms, an arts creativity corridor with a student gallery, and areas for student common space — all designed to facilitate interdisciplinary connections and creativity.  The Crescent Street Project, which is scheduled to be completed in summer 2017, is supported by three multi-constituency committees.  Here, we are introducing a website to keep the campus community updated on our progress on Crescent Street.  The trustees also received an update on the Mather Cave area.  During spring 2016, administrators and students developed ideas to enhance the food options in the Cave to make lower Mather a unique place on campus for study, as a community gathering space, and for late-night programming.  A renovated Cave will open in fall 2016.  Plans for Constitution Plaza and the athletics fields are proceeding, with more details expected in the fall.
  • New Senior Leadership.   As announced in recent weeks, we have filled two of our senior leadership searches.  Tim Cresswell will join us as Trinity’s dean of the faculty and vice president for academic affairs, and Dan Hitchell has been appointed Trinity’s vice president of finance and chief financial officer. The trustees were pleased to meet both Tim and Dan, who will begin their duties on July 1.  Our search for a new vice president for communications and marketing remains active, and I am hopeful that an appointment will be made early in the 2016-2017 academic year.
  • Focus on Mission and Strategic Planning.  We updated board members on the campus focus groups to discuss the College’s mission.  These important discussions have helped us shape the foundation of our strategic planning work, which will guide Trinity into its third century.  The steering committee of our strategic planning effort, called the Bicentennial Strategic Planning Commission, will meet early next month to define the planning process for the fall.  Faculty, staff, and students are invited to help steer Trinity boldly into the future and to sign up by June 3.  We will invite participation from other Trinity constituencies in early fall.
On May 4, I was pleased to host our second annual town hall meeting for the campus community, a discussion that touched on many of the same topics listed above.  I encourage you to view the video of the town hall meeting here if you were unable to attend in person.

Please accept my best wishes for a creative and innovative summer.  We had an incredibly productive academic year, and I am optimistic for the future of this revered and dynamic College.  As a community, we will continue to build an exciting future ’neath the elms.


Joanne Berger-Sweeney
President and Trinity College Professor of Neuroscience