January 20, 2015

Dear Trinity Students, Faculty, and Staff,

Welcome back to campus!  I know you join me in looking forward to the start of the spring semester and all that it brings—new classes, great presentations and performances, fascinating research and projects, and for our seniors, the culminating event of Commencement.  I think of spring term as the semester that begins in the depths of winter but ends in the warmth of spring and the beauty it will bring to this campus.

As I look back on the fall, I am reminded that we have accomplished a great deal together.  Already, we have successfully begun to act on the four College-wide goals (Strengthening Campus Culture; Ensuring Academic Excellence; Fostering Institutional Pride; and Reaching Financial Equilibrium) that we established last fall to guide us over the next 12 months laying the groundwork for broader strategic planning.  I want to update you on some of the new initiatives that support these four goals – initiatives that both strengthen the College and raise our profile.

At the end of December we completed our purchase of 200 Constitution Plaza, giving Trinity a more visible footprint in downtown Hartford and providing us with space for programs that are a good fit for that location.  In February, I will share with you a process for planning this new space and let you know how you can get involved.  This purchase has garnered a good deal of attention for Trinity as evidence of our commitment to our home city and to liberal arts learning in an urban environment.  The accomplishments of our faculty and students also are providing our Communications Office with great content with which to raise the College’s visibility, as evidenced by a marked increase in news media hits and in engagement and audience on the College’s primary social media channels of YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.  Regarding two other important audiences, I have made it a priority to speak with as many of our alumni and parents as I can, sharing news of Trinity and listening to their views.  I have met many wonderful alumni and parents at receptions last month in New York, Philadelphia, and Hartford, and will travel this month and next to Florida and California.  These are but a few of the examples of ways we’re supporting our goal of “fostering institutional pride by strengthening collaborative partnerships and community relations, and sharing our successes.”

Yesterday 60 students kicked off the creative process for defining the new mentoring networks that will support incoming students in fall 2015.  Divided into five teams as part of the Design Team Challenge, these students returned to campus early for the first day of an intensive process that will culminate in the selection in March of a final model for the new mentoring program.  I can attest that this was an enthusiastic group who dove in on Monday.  This is but one example that supports another of our four campus-wide goals: “strengthening campus culture by promoting and facilitating a healthy and inclusive campus life throughout the College community.”   Fraternities and sororities are an important component of campus culture, and I can report that all of them met the collective 3.0 GPA requirement  for fall 2014, the first semester in which it took effect.  Also related to on-campus life is the work of the Title IX Task Force, the group I announced last fall that is charged with assuring that Trinity meets the letter and the spirit of new laws and guidelines related to sexual misconduct on college campuses.  Combined with the solid efforts already in place at Trinity, including the work of the Women & Gender Resource Action Center, the task force will help assure that ours is a campus where sexual assault and misconduct of any kind is not tolerated.

On the financial front, we are also making solid progress. Buoyed by strong endowment returns of 17 percent for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2014, our endowment stood at $543 million as of November 30, 2014.  This 17 percent return significantly outpaced our budget endowment model return of 7%.  With these strong returns, we are able to propose a tight but balanced budget to the Trustees this winter for fiscal year 2016.  There is still considerable work to do to support our goal: “reaching financial equilibrium by aligning our financial resources with our strategic priorities.”

Academic life is at the heart of everything we do here, hence our goal of “ensuring academic excellence by conducting self-studies and peer reviews of our academic programs and valuing innovation and creativity in the development of new initiatives.”  With the Office of the Dean of the Faculty, the faculty will continue the academic planning begun last year—an important planning process for our future.  Our faculty members continue to distinguish themselves with outstanding research, new publications and creative projects, and prestigious grant and fellowship awards—all in addition to their primary roles as teachers.  This month the College also offered a selection of innovative courses to an increased number of students enrolled in J-Term during the second year of our three-year pilot for this program.  Finally, I am excited about Trinity’s new partnership with edX, which will offer online courses taught by Trinity faculty—an opportunity we can share with alumni, high school guidance counselors, and others.  This is yet another bold new program that Trinity is undertaking.

I look forward to collaborating with you on these and other initiatives in 2015, and to seeing you on campus.  I continue to be optimistic about all that we will accomplish together for Trinity this year.


Joanne Berger-Sweeney
President and Trinity College
Professor of Neuroscience