October 19, 2022
Dear Members of the Trinity College Community,
The autumn season is one of my favorite times of the year. The return of our students fills the natural beauty of Trinity’s campus with energy and excitement, and our faculty and coaches always return to campus prepared to enrich the Trinity experience through their passion, knowledge, and scholarship. While it’s hard to imagine that we are already at the halfway point in the fall semester and preparing for this weekend’s annual Family Weekend, today I continue my customary practice of sharing updates from the Board of Trustees meeting.
The October meeting, which was held on campus on October 14-15, is always significant in terms of charting our course forward to advance Trinity’s distinctive excellence in the year ahead and beyond. It’s also a chance to express our gratitude to new members of the Board of Trustees for their time and service, and this year, we happily welcomed five new trustees.
To kick off our time together, trustees invited students, faculty, and staff to join them on Friday morning for conversation over coffee and refreshments at Peter B’s before starting the official meeting. Because I know everyone appreciated this informal time to get to know each other better, I encourage campus community members to participate in future opportunities.
At the start of the official meeting, my opening update included the theme of “leading in a time of consequence” both for Trinity College and for higher education more broadly. Our positive momentum is palpable, which is particularly gratifying as we plan to celebrate Trinity’s 200th birthday in 2023. Our work to create sustained progress through Summit, our strategic plan, matters today because it sets the foundation for tomorrow and Trinity’s next century.
I began the update by highlighting our 24 new tenure-track faculty members who have been hired over the past two years –all of whom come with impressive academic credentials and more than half of whom are faculty of color. I also shared the very positive response to our five-year interim report by our accreditors, The New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE). The commission commended Trinity for the tremendous strides enacting our strategic plan. Notably, NECHE highlighted our achievements in reaching enrollment and budget goals; strengthening our financial position; implementing the Trinity Plus curriculum; assessing student learning; improving retention and graduation rates; and implementing a purposeful focus on faculty diversity. The commission’s positive evaluation reflects our momentum and our dynamic community at work. It was exciting to share this news with the board, and now with you.
Throughout the two-day meeting, we focused on the consideration of race in a holistic admissions process and the upcoming cases to be argued at the Supreme Court. Trinity, like most of its peers, practices a holistic review process in admissions in which race is considered among many factors when evaluating the pool of highly qualified candidates. Kevin McMahon, Trinity College John R. Reitemeyer Professor of Political Science, led a discussion on the history of Supreme Court college admissions decisions, and the political environments that have shaped opinions on race-conscious admissions. Our Trinity admissions team pulled back the curtain on a holistic admissions review. We were later joined by William F. Lee, the intellectual property litigator who will argue to the Supreme Court later this month in defense of Harvard’s race-conscious admissions policies, and Lee Coffin ’85, Vice Provost for Enrollment and Dean of Admissions at Dartmouth College. The sessions were enlightening and deeply informative. We were able to reiterate our core value of creating a dynamic learning environment with highly qualified students who are diverse in many characteristics such as geography, socio-economic status, lived experiences, and yes, race and ethnicity. The outcome of these cases could impact how we do our work of creating a diverse student body of bold, independent thinkers who lead transformative lives in the world today. Following the Supreme Court decision, which is expected next year, I will share more information.
As for the rest of the board meeting, I share some highlights below.
Budget and Renovations
The board received a financial update from Vice President of Finance and Chief Financial Officer Dan Hitchell, who reviewed the fiscal year 2022 end-of-year budget and our first fiscal year 2023 forecast. The college closed FY22 with a positive budget surplus of $965,000. For FY23, we will have to keep careful track of expenses to end the year with a balanced budget.
Dan was then joined by Athletic Director and Physical Education Chair Drew Galbraith and Associate Athletic Director and Senior Women Administrator Kristen Noone to discuss proposals for the Ferris Renovation Project. As you may remember, we began discussing renovating the Ferris Athletic Center prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the trustees received an updated plan for how we can make significant improvements to student wellness facilities, athletic competition spaces, athletics administrative offices, and new additions to modernize the building. Afterward, trustees were provided an update on potential improvements to our science facilities. Though still conceptual, it is clear that improved science facilities are a priority with the goal of a science renovation to strengthen and integrate the sciences, and to create a stronger and more visible science identity at Trinity. We are excited to continue to pursue each project.
Fall Enrollment Update
The board received an update from Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Matthew Hyde on enrollment now that our fall student census has been finalized. This year, Trinity welcomed 563 new first-year students and 27 transfer students. With the highest incoming academic rating in the college’s history, the Class of 2026 adds considerable intellectual energy and a range of valuable perspectives to the scholarly mix at the college. The new Bantams come from 38 countries, 34 states, and Washington D.C.— adding cultural, ethnic, socio-economic, talent, and lived diversity to our community.
Dean of the Faculty and Vice President for Academic Affairs Sonia Cardenas introduced Danny Briere, the inaugural director of the Entrepreneurship Center. Danny shared the goals of the center, which are to empower a broad group of students with the mindset to innovate and creatively problem-solve and to provide some students with skills to start their own businesses. The center will be a hub to support coursework, mentoring, seminars, apprenticeships, internships, and personal and professional growth. The launch of the entrepreneurship center is truly exciting for our community, serving not only students but also the interests of faculty and alumni.
Vice President for Strategic Marketing and Communications Hellen Hom-Diamond and Associate Dean for Curriculum Mitch Polin ’96 gave an update on the planning for the college’s bicentennial celebration, set to officially kick off May 5, 2023. The yearlong celebration will encompass on-campus events and off-campus alumni events, digital engagement for the whole community, and much more. More information will be rolled out as the celebration nears.
Additionally, we discussed how to create a process for the thoughtful consideration of names on facilities and commemoratives. In our 200-year-old community, names matter, and how we steward community values matter, too. I will address these issues further in a forthcoming communication.
I’m also pleased to share an update on our comprehensive fundraising effort, which is currently in its leadership phase. Our total raised now stands at $286M towards a goal of $500M. A particular focus this year is seeking matching commitments to the $20M Schuler Foundation grant for financial aid, which we announced earlier this summer. We are also working on several other core campaign priorities that will support the academic program, athletics, the chapel renovation, and student life.
In closing, the October meeting traditionally serves as the setting to recognize those who have shown uncommon support of Trinity. Located in the heart of the Long Walk at the Fuller Arch at Northam Towers, the Wall of Honor celebrates lifetimes of philanthropy. Friday evening, we honored and celebrated those individuals who have made lasting financial contributions to the college. This year’s Wall of Honor inductees and those of the past can be found here.
I know this is a long letter, but I am proud to share the work of the college as we knock on the door of Trinity’s third century – work that is made possible by the community of alumni and friends who care for our proud institution, and the students, faculty, and staff, who continue to elevate our standing as a preeminent liberal arts college.
President and Trinity College Professor of Neuroscience