June 17, 2015

Dear Members of the Trinity Community,

As many of you know, I’m a fan of musicals.  So you shouldn’t be surprised that my reflections on this, my first year at Trinity College, bring to mind a song from a musical.  In the lyrical Rodgers and Hammerstein song “Getting to Know You” from The King and I, Anna remarks to the children of the King of Siam how delighted she is to get to know them. I have spent this year “getting to know all about you,” the Trinity community.  This letter will highlight some of our collective accomplishments of the year and summarize a few decisions from the last Board of Trustees meeting in May.

Our Committed Alumni
During the course of the year, I have met with more than 40 groups of alumni from across the country and in Europe and Asia, and have had more than 100 individual meetings.  To a one, I have found Trinity alumni to be remarkable individuals, and most are wonderful ambassadors for our College and for the transformative education that students receive here.  As a standout example of their connection to Trinity, alumni response to the Presidential Financial Aid Leaders initiative, a two-year, $10 million fundraising campaign for scholarship support, was immediate and forceful. We met and surpassed the $10 million goal this spring after only nine months.  This was on the heels of our very successful Giving Day on April 29, in which we raised more than $2 million. Thank you to all of the alums and friends of the College who have made this remarkable achievement possible in my first year!  Additionally, the College hosted Reunion Weekend earlier this month.  More than 1,000 alumni, parents, and friends returned to campus this year, 200 more than last year.  Alumni are part of the very fabric of Trinity College, and I am heartened by their enthusiastic response to our efforts to re-engage with them.

Our Vibrant Academic Program
In order to get to know and understand life on campus, I have met with faculty, staff, and students in multiple venues.  Through meetings with virtually every academic department and program, I have discovered a vibrant and ambitious faculty who care deeply about student learning. In meetings with non-exempt, exempt, and union staff members, I witnessed a commitment to education that runs deep throughout this organization.

The quality of our academic programs is strong.  Trinity has been named a top-producing Fulbright Program institution three times since 2009.  This year, we had two U.S. Student Fulbright Scholars in the graduating Class of 2015:  Yanique Anderson and Will Schreiber-Stainthorp.  And Ambar Paulino was named an alternate.  Another student, Bhumika Choudhary, in her first year at Trinity, joined with a group of students to bring TEDxTrinColl to campus in April, Trinity’s first TEDx conference. Our outstanding faculty members are teacher-scholars whose scholarly work informs their teaching and brings visibility to Trinity.  I’ll name just a few here, although there are many others: David Rosen, Kevin McMahon, and Chris Hager each won prestigious prizes for their books. And Zayde Antrim and Seth Sanders each were awarded grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, with Sanders also being named a Guggenheim Fellow.

Also in support of our academic programs is the exciting news that the trustees have approved, and we have just broken ground for, the construction of a new space dedicated to the teaching, practice, and performance of music.  The Trinity College Music Rehearsal and Performance Center, scheduled for completion by January 2016 and located adjacent to the Austin Arts Center, is a new facility that will strengthen our music program, support the work of the Department of Music, and create connections between student-musicians and the campus.

Trinity in Hartford
It has been a pleasure getting to know this small capital city that we call our home.  Trinity always has had strong connections with our home city of Hartford, and we aim to strengthen these ties even more.  Our Career Development and Student Life offices are expanding opportunities for students to link with Hartford employers, organizations, and individuals and are raising the visibility of the opportunities we already have.  Faculty members continue to incorporate Hartford organizations in their teaching through Community Learning Initiative and other courses, and Admissions is highlighting our Hartford-based opportunities in student recruitment.  Our purchase of 200 Constitution Plaza downtown is the most visible manifestation of our commitment to Hartford.  By 2016, we expect to occupy some of the space for Trinity programs, as well as lease space to others, and we already have received considerable interest.  The results of our information-gathering about Trinity’s best possible uses for this building can be found here.

Exciting Hartford-related news includes this month’s announcement that Hartford.Health.Works (HHW) took the top prize in the federally funded Strong Cities, Strong Communities competition. Trinity is the lead educational partner for this Hartford-based project that was awarded a $500,000 prize.  The winning HHW team was founded by BEACON (Biomedical Engineering Alliance & Consortium), which was founded by Joseph Bronzino, Vernon D. Roosa Professor of Applied Science, Emeritus; Rising-Tide Health Care; and Movia Robotics. The project will build on Hartford’s existing strengths in health care technology to make Hartford a hub of entrepreneurism and medical-device manufacturing.  Trinity, an integral part of the BEACON consortium, sees the opportunities for students in the College’s ABET-accredited engineering program, as well as the pivotal role HHW can play in the renaissance of Hartford.

Institutional Pride, Campus Culture
As I have gotten to know many members of the Trinity community, I have also provided opportunities for you to get to know me and the work of the Trinity community.  Through letters, open meetings, videos, news venues, and social media, we have been sharing information about this remarkable community.  Our new website emphasizes our new look and feel.   Many of our alumni have told me they feel better informed about what’s going on at Trinity, and this helps to foster institutional pride.  More communication helps to strengthen the culture right here on campus as well.  At Commencement, Trinity’s meaningful traditions were on full and wonderful display, as was the sense of accomplishment and camaraderie among the members of the graduating class (a video of Commencement highlights can be seen here).  And since Commencement, we have been able to celebrate the success of our women’s rowing varsity-eight crew that won the Division III National Championship.  What a remarkable year for our teams with three national championships in rowing, ice hockey, and squash!

Trinity’s participation in edX, one of the world’s leading online course platforms, is now in full swing, with courses by faculty members Ralph Morelli and Henry DePhillips to be offered in mid-October, to be followed by courses taught by other Trinity faculty.  EdX courses are offered to students around the world under the name TrinityX.  Ralph Morelli’s Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), with an open enrollment available to any interested participant, has already enrolled more than 1,600 students in two months.  It seems clear that edX will extend Trinity’s academic reach and visibility far beyond our campus borders.

This year we planted the seeds of several initiatives that will come to fruition in the fall — initiatives that will enhance academic and social growth for our students. One I am most excited about is the new Bantam Network, which will provide incoming students with academic, social, personal, and extracurricular support from their first days on campus through teams of students, faculty, staff, and recent graduates. Read more here.  Over the summer, we are constructing new kitchens and communal spaces in the first-year residence halls to support the network.  The Campaign for Community at Trinity will be led this fall by groups of students who will facilitate campus conversations to raise awareness related to social, intellectual, and sexual conduct – all with the goal of ensuring we are a campus that holds itself to the highest standards of mutual respect and responsibility.  Also significant this year was the creation of the Task Force on the Prevention of Sexual Misconduct. This group was created to ensure that we at Trinity do all we can to eliminate sexual misconduct, as well as to comply with new federal and state regulations that recently have taken effect.   The task force expects to complete its report by the end of June, with recommendations on ways we can move forward.

The Exciting Work Ahead
We will be busy over the summer, moving these and other initiatives forward and preparing for the arrival of the Class of 2019. The trustees also approved in the May meeting renovations of some of our athletics fields, to begin over the summer and into the fall, in support of our outstanding scholar-athletes.  Also joining Trinity during the summer are two key members of the senior team who bring outstanding credentials and will be integral to our important work ahead:  Angel Perez, who arrived at Trinity on June 1 as our new Vice President of Enrollment and Student Success, and Joe DiChristina, who arrives in late July as the new Dean of Campus Life and Vice President.  Also assuming important roles at Trinity on July 1 are 11 newly elected members of the Board of Trustees:  Thomas Chappell ’66, H’06, P’89, ’92, ’97, ’06; James Cuminale ’75, P’09; Nancy Davis ’79; Peter Espy ’00; Michael Huebsch ’80; Ling Kwok ’94; Kathleen Foye MacLennan P’17; Daniel Meyer ’80; James Murren ’83; Lee Pelton; and David Wagner ’84, P’14, ‘16. Additionally, Jean Walshe ’83 moves from Alumni Trustee to Vice Chair of the Board. Let me take this opportunity to once again express my gratitude to the Board members who are concluding their terms:  Alexander Lynch P’03, ’04, ’07; William Marimow ’69; Thomas Savage ’72; Karen Kelsey Thomas ’78, P’13; Timothy Walsh ’85, P’15; and Ronald Waters III ’74, P’06.  In addition, we thank and bid farewell to former trustee and long-standing chair of the investment committee Peter Kraus ’74.

Over the course of this year, it has been a privilege to serve you and to learn so much about this remarkable Trinity community. There is a great deal of enthusiasm and optimism here at Trinity, and there is so much more for me to learn in the years ahead.   In The King and I, Anna shares with the king’s children her happiness “because of all the beautiful and new things I’m learning about you, day by day.”  I have loved learning about this complex and wonderful institution that is Trinity College and imagining its marvelous future.

Please accept my best wishes for a relaxing and productive summer.  And I look forward to welcoming many of you back to campus next academic year.


Joanne Berger-Sweeney
President and Trinity College
Professor of Neuroscience