January 23, 2017

Dear Members of the Trinity College Community:

Welcome to the start of the spring semester! I hope you all enjoyed the winter break and found some time to relax and recharge after the busy fall semester. My travel took me to some fantastic alumni events in Florida in early January, where I was delighted by multigenerational gatherings of our amazing Bantam network, and to the Council of Independent Colleges Presidents Governance Academy, where I met with fellow presidents from around the country and gained insights on issues affecting our campuses. I did find time to unwind with my family, too, and to do some reading.

Over the break, I read two National Book Award winners: Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me and Colson Whitehead’s historical novel, The Underground Railroad. And now I’m about halfway through the enthralling (but long!) Cathedral of the Sea by Ildefonso Falcones. It’s a great privilege to dive into these books, to be moved by their writing and provoked by their voices and to learn something of different experiences and perspectives.

This felt especially valuable after a challenging and complicated fall on campus and throughout our country. Toward the end of the semester, I met with students advocating for inclusion and equity on numerous fronts. As you’ll recall, the group, Action Coalition of Trinity (ACT), outlined its priorities in a set of demands in early December. We haven’t forgotten those demands or the students’ sincere desire to improve the Trinity community. I’ll be responding soon with a letter I hope to publish in The Tripod, and we look forward to engaging with ACT students and others in a series of constructive discussions this semester.  Stay tuned.

Indeed, there’s much to come this spring and lots of work ahead. After inviting public input on our draft self-study for accreditation, we’ve submitted the final version to the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC), and we’ll host a team from NEASC for a comprehensive evaluation visit in March. Meanwhile, we’re deeply engaged in our Bicentennial Strategic Planning process, which gave us a newly defined mission statement last fall. Later this year — after considerable input from the broad Trinity community — the process will culminate in an articulation of what we value, where we’re headed, and how we’ll get there, together. Last week, our steering committee and five subcommittees met for an energizing strategic planning retreat. We’ll soon share with the entire Trinity community the fruits of our collaboration, and we hope to engage you all further in this critical conversation about the future of the College.

Key to that future is our relationship to and engagement with Hartford, and our plans for Constitution Plaza are an important component. The project’s planning committee wrapped up initial design work at the end of December, emphasizing the need for flexibility to allow changing needs and programmatic evolution. I look forward to keeping you apprised of the details of this project.

We’re doing much to see to the sustainability of our future, too.  In case you’ve missed them, solar panels have been installed​ on several campus buildings, generating clean energy and helping us realize savings on electricity costs.

In so many ways, the future of the College is now, whether we’re planning for a new downtown presence for Trinity, investing in environmental sustainability, welcoming new members of the community, or engaging donors in providing philanthropy that will help secure our future. On that last point, I’m thrilled to report that at the end of the calendar year our fundraising was ahead on all fronts, having reached 85 percent of last year’s overall giving total in just six months, with especially enthusiastic support for our Bantam Bold Fund and for athletics. Thank you!

Meanwhile, this month on campus we welcomed to their new roles Anne Lambright, the Charles A. Dana Research Professor of Language and Culture Studies who is now Dean of Academic Affairs, and Angela Paik Schaeffer, our new Vice President for Communications and Marketing.

Finally, our exceptional admissions team is in the midst of shaping a big part of the Class of 2021, having finished the first round of Early Decision. Academically, it’s the strongest ED 1 class we’ve seen in recent history, and it’s an incredibly diverse group as well, with more than half coming from outside of New England, 11 percent first-generation college students, and 23 percent domestic students of color.

For our graduating seniors, relish this last semester ’neath the elms.  And to all, best wishes for a wonderful start to the semester.


Joanne Berger-Sweeney
President and Trinity College Professor of Neuroscience