February 8, 2016

Dear Members of the Trinity College Community,

Two weeks ago, we welcomed back students for the start of the spring semester, and the sense of energy and enthusiasm on campus is palpable.  We had been enjoying a mild winter, but this weekend heralded a storm that has blanketed the campus beautifully in white, and I see students out with their cross-country skis on the Long Walk!

My office and many of you were busy during the winter break, as were Trinity’s trustees.  I’d like to update you on where we are and what’s ahead at Trinity in the upcoming semester.  As usual, I will present my updates based on our collective working goals.

Doors Open to the New Music Hall
Excited music students returning to campus were the first to attend classes in the new Music Hall that opened its doors two weeks ago.  Expanded recording facilities for teaching and recording, new technology, new performance spaces and practice rooms, and a 1,900-square-foot music rehearsal hall with acoustical treatments to accommodate all genres of music teaching, rehearsal, and performance – these are some of the highlights of the new space that connects to Austin Arts Center.  This is the first new academic building that has been completed on campus in several years and signifies the commitment to our core academic mission.  We plan to hold a formal ribbon cutting for this gorgeous new space this semester.

Welcome to the First Members of the Class of 2020 
The Office of Enrollment and Student Success will welcome 199 first-year students in the fall of 2016 as a result of Early Decision 1 (ED1), which was concluded in late December (with the balance of the class to be selected from Early Decision 2 and regular decision applicants).  The 199 ED1 students are 52 percent female and 48 percent male and come from 23 different states and 11 international countries (Canada, China, Egypt, Greece, Lebanon, Malaysia, Russia, Rwanda, South Africa, United Kingdom, and Vietnam).  Within the U.S., students are coming from California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, Montana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Virginia, in addition to the Northeastern states. Our ED1 class was the most selective in recent history!  Early Decision 2 and regular decision committees will take place in February and March to complete what promises to be an excellent class.

Strong Leadership in the Dean of the Faculty’s Office
Sonia Cardenas and Melanie Stein are doing an excellent job as interim deans of the faculty as our national search continues for a new dean of the faculty and vice president for academic affairs.

Expansion of Athletics Fields
Following the final football game in fall 2015 and another winning Bantam season, construction began on updating and renewing the surfaces for football and track.  This work is progressing swiftly, and the fields will be ready for our teams this fall.  The College is now poised to move ahead with new fields for baseball, softball, and soccer following productive conversations with the City of Hartford about field surfaces.  This work will begin this spring and will continue during the summer, with a target completion date of August 2016.  We are excited to move forward with these field projects to support our outstanding athletics teams, both varsity and club, critical members of our vibrant campus community.

Campaign for Community and Inclusion Conversations Move Forward
Following last semester’s excellent work by the student teams involved in the Campaign for Community, Phase 1, this semester we are beginning the implementation of key recommendations.  Many of the students involved in last fall’s work will participate in the Phase 2 work ahead, and they will be joined by new students.  I am excited to see the students’ recommendations come to fruition, and I have pledged monies to support their work.  The invigorated Student Government Association (SGA) also has committed to contributing SGA funds toward the implementation of these important recommendations that support all of our students.

Equally important were the efforts of students who stepped forward last fall to bring attention to assuring that Trinity is a racially inclusive campus. Ensuring that we achieve this goal is a part of the work of the Campaign for Community, and it will prepare our students for the diverse world that they will enter after graduation.

Update on 200 Constitution Plaza
The College’s purchase of 200 Constitution Plaza in downtown Hartford one year ago represents a tremendous opportunity for Trinity to advance our commitment to a physical presence downtown, one that will expand our capacity to deliver graduate and professional programs and internships that strengthen our relationships with other academic institutions and businesses downtown.  As I recently conveyed to the on-campus community, during the time we have been developing plans for 200 Constitution Plaza, the College has received offers to purchase the building.  In considering these offers, the College has insisted that any sale would allow Trinity to lease space for our own use.  We are currently exploring whether Trinity will occupy 200 Constitution Plaza as an owner or as a tenant.  The College remains committed to moving into 200 Constitution Plaza in 2017.  The commitment to downtown Hartford shared by Trinity College, the University of Connecticut, the University of Saint Joseph, and Capital Community College – as well as those institutions yet to come – is moving Hartford closer to becoming a dynamic college ecosystem.

Robust Media Coverage to Build Our Reputation for Excellence
This also was a year in which Trinity has received a lot of media coverage in local, national, and social media, promoting a positive reputation for the College.  Kathy Andrews and Caroline Deveau will serve as interim directors of communications and marketing, respectively, to continue our efforts while we search for a new vice president for communications and marketing.

Budget as an Integral Part of Planning
One of the four working goals that have guided us over the last 14 months has been reaching financial equilibrium.  As I wrote to you earlier, this year we faced a very tight budget and looked for areas where we could realize savings.  We trimmed budgets and are on track for a balanced budget in this fiscal year.  Through careful attention to our budgets, we are identifying new financial resources as well as opportunities for savings to place the College on stable footing.

With a transition and the arrival of our interim CFO, Phil Shapiro, we are changing the timeline for our budget approval to be more in line with peer institutions.  We are delaying bringing a budget to the trustees until April or May, as we allow Phil an opportunity to learn the complexities of our financial endeavors.

On the fundraising side, our annual giving is shaping up strongly this year, up nearly 10 percent from last year, which was our strongest annual giving year in Trinity’s history.  Keep that support coming!

Trustee Retreat Kicks Off Campus Planning in Preparation for Our Bicentennial
There are many signs of institutional renewal at Trinity.  In mid-January, members of the Board of Trustees met for a planning retreat to begin identifying a vision for Trinity’s future.  This plan will look ahead to the College’s bicentennial in 2023, and I anticipate that it will be supported by a comprehensive fundraising campaign to realize our ambitions.  Our planning process on campus will commence in earnest later this spring and will be broadly inclusive, including faculty, students, staff, alumni, parents, and friends. Importantly, this time frame dovetails with our NEASC accreditation self-study process that is going on now.  Stay tuned!

The trustees engaged for two days in January to discuss their vision and aspirations for this remarkable institution.  Support was strong for a broad liberal education, which sustains academic, practical, social, and emotional development that prepares students for lifelong learning.  There also was strong support for scholarly activities and centers of excellence that support our urban location.  We discussed what could and should distinguish Trinity from its peers as we make sure that our reputation and quality support the education that we offer.  Trustees were optimistic about Trinity’s future, with an appreciation of the external pressures that face Trinity and higher education, more broadly, including tuition increases, slowing endowment growths, aging physical plants, and career-oriented pressure from parents and students themselves.

Finally, our searches for dean of the faculty, vice president for finance, and vice president for communications and marketing are progressing well, and we anticipate having these positions filled this summer.  Fortunately, we have extremely strong individuals in interim positions in each of these offices who are committed to ensuring current progress and smooth transitions.

Let Me Hear from You!
One of the great pleasures of my job has been getting to know our students, learning from faculty and staff, and meeting our alumni and parents.  Last month, I attended three alumni events in Florida, and in the coming weeks, I will join alumni and parents in New York, London, Trinidad, Minneapolis, and Las Vegas, and in my home state of California.  If you are an alum or a parent, I encourage you to attend one of these upcoming events, or introduce yourself if you are on campus.  If you are a community member on campus, please feel free to stop me on the Long Walk, introduce yourself at a lecture, or say hello at a sports event.  This tight community that we call Trinity College is a true treasure.


Joanne Berger-Sweeney
President and Trinity College Professor of Neuroscience