February 13, 2020
Dear Trinity College Community,
The Board of Trustees meeting that wrapped up on Saturday included important actions by the board and terrific conversations connecting with students, faculty, and staff on a number of shared priorities. It also was an opportunity to share great news of our continued progress toward our goals and to celebrate a momentous occasion connected to the 50th anniversary of coeducation at Trinity. I’m pleased to provide here a thorough (OK, long!) recap of the board meeting.
As always, the board’s work is done in the context of Summit, our strategic plan, and its three overarching goals: positioning Trinity increasingly as a first-choice destination for students, faculty, and staff; connecting Trinity more deeply to the Hartford region and the world beyond; and building on Trinity’s historic past to ensure a vibrant, sustainable future.
At this meeting, the board approved the promotion to the position of associate professor with tenure of Reo Matsuzaki in political science, and it recognized the promotion to full professor of Shafqat Hussain in anthropology and Todd Ryan in philosophy. Great faculty is at the heart of a first-choice college, and these are great faculty members, indeed. As a part of good governance, the board approved a revised conflict-of-interest policy for trustees and senior management.
The board approved the capital budget for the coming fiscal year and authorized the refinancing of some existing debt to create space for new debt to finance future capital projects. Trustees also authorized the college to proceed with the first phase of upgrades to Jessee/Miller Field and Robin L. Sheppard Field, a project that will be funded through the ongoing athletics fundraising effort.
The capital budget for fiscal year 2021 (FY21) allocates $5.6 million for an important set of infrastructure improvements across campus, including $1.5 million for residence hall enhancements and accessibility projects, $1.6 million for classroom upgrades and information technology cyclical replacements, and $2.5 million for several projects addressing health and safety and code-compliance needs. The full list of approved capital projects for FY21 can be found here. The board also reviewed updated year-end forecasts for FY20 and projections for revenue and spending over the next five years. At the April meeting, trustees will focus on the operating budget for FY21.
As I reported after the October board meeting, we have been considering the college’s current debt structure and exploring refinancing to allow for new debt, which will be used primarily to address deferred maintenance needs on campus. The board voted at this meeting to take advantage of historically low interest rates to refinance a large portion (more than $90 million) of our current debt and smooth out our future debt repayments. This refinancing will provide us flexibility into the future to access capital for the college’s infrastructure needs, such as those associated with our heating and cooling systems. In other words, we need debt capacity to finance large infrastructure projects that are unlikely to be supported by fundraising.
The board’s approval of the first phase of the stadium project allows for the construction of new stands and a three-story support building and press box for Jessee/Miller Field and Robin L. Sheppard Field. Construction will begin this spring, with the intention that the new seating—which will add capacity and address accessibility and safety needs—would be in place for the fall field hockey and football seasons. The project will serve athletes and spectators for field hockey, football, men’s and women’s lacrosse, and track and field. The second phase of the project would include new entrances to the fields, additional restrooms, and reconfigured visitor seating on the west side of Jessee/Miller Field.
The board’s meetings included conversations on student life and on student housing between the Student Life Subcommittee and the corresponding committee of the Student Government Association. With members of the Dean of Students Office and Randy Lee, director of the Counseling and Wellness Center, the board also discussed the national issue of student mental health, as well as Trinity-specific issues related to mental health and well-being.
Faculty led important discussions on first-generation and low-income student experiences, considering how best to ensure that all students have access to the educational opportunities that Trinity provides. Faculty, staff, and students shared with trustees some of the myriad ways they and the college are engaged with the city of Hartford (through urban studies, Community Learning courses, civic activity, research, Liberal Arts Action Lab projects, and more). Trustees were impressed, for example, with the Trinity course that trains our students to be tax preparers for local residents. These are transformative experiences for our students and the Hartford neighbors they serve!
The board also heard from the students, faculty, and staff who served on the Task Force on the Status of Women at Trinity and discussed proposed recommendations that have emerged from its work through the fall. The task force is in the process of finalizing its report, which we anticipate sharing in the coming weeks. I am pleased that the task force will continue its work to address issues of gender equity and inclusion in the Trinity community.
Following last fall’s shared governance session on findings from the employee engagement survey, we provided the board with an update of our ongoing efforts. You can learn more about those efforts, which include a series of focus groups happening this month, on our new Trinity Engage website.
Sharing Good News and Celebrating Our Community
The board received new data from Trinity’s Center for Student Success and Career Development that further demonstrate the extraordinary value of a Trinity education—as evidenced in the results of a just-completed survey of the Class of 2019. Of the 87 percent of the class that responded to the survey (up from 84 percent two years ago), 96.6 percent reported positive outcomes since graduation (i.e., full- or part-time employment, graduate school, military or other service, or pursuing fellowships/other opportunities).
Many of those graduates landed jobs with the help of other Trinity alumni, a testament to the power of the Bantam network. Our students are accessing that network in greater-than-ever numbers; nearly three-quarters are engaged on Handshake, a national online career community, and more than 2,000 students, alumni, and parents have joined the Bantam Career Network.
As the board was convening, we received the good news from the Fulbright Program that Trinity is a Top Fulbright Producer for both student and scholar programs. This is exceptional recognition for the college. With two faculty members and four recent graduates selected for Fulbrights for 2019–20, this is the fifth time since 2008 that Trinity has been named a Top Producer for the Fulbright Program.
We also shared the exciting news of Monday’s Demo Day for the inaugural digital health accelerator cohort. Trinity is working with Hartford HealthCare and the UConn School of Business to spark innovation and accelerate start-up companies focused on digital health technologies, thus deepening the relevance of our liberal arts education and spurring an entrepreneurial ecosystem in our Connecticut home. At the same time, we are marking the one-year anniversary of our innovative business analysis training program with Infosys. More than 150 Infosys employees have trained at Trinity, and next week, the program will move to our newly renovated Innovation Center in Hartford’s Central Business District. We are excited for the continued evolution of this partnership and the many ways it will benefit Trinity students.
Last, but certainly not least, on Friday evening the board and I were thrilled to connect with 300 members of the Trinity community in a joyful celebration of the “50 for the Next 50.” It was a special night, indeed, in which we honored 50 women who will help shape the next 50 years. This event gave us all an opportunity to look with great excitement toward Trinity’s bright future, including with this uplifting video. We’re not yet done marking the 50th anniversary of coeducation. Please join our ongoing celebrations.
My thanks to our trustees for their dedicated service to the college and to all who are engaged with them in our shared mission. The progress at Trinity is palpable. I invite you stay connected to your home here in Hartford and to be part of our momentum.
President and Trinity College Professor of Neuroscience