September 8, 2021

Dear Trinity Students, Faculty, and Staff,

The first day of classes at Trinity College always provides us with a fresh start and a feeling of renewal. For me, this day inspires optimism and the anticipation of a new year of learning and growth for our entire community. In these ways, today is no different from any other first day, and I am delighted to celebrate the start of an auspicious academic year 2021–22 (AY2021–22) with all of you.

Last year was profoundly different from any other year for all of our community members—the COVID-19 pandemic and societal calls for racial justice brought a host of challenges and opportunities to commit to change. What I’m happy to share with you here is that despite the enormous challenges of the year, Trinity thrived; we did not simply tread water. And we will continue that positive momentum in this new academic year.

As is the custom in my welcome-to-the-new-year letter, I share with you highlights of the past year in our Year in Review. This is a wonderful opportunity for our continuing community members to relive some of the magic and most memorable moments of the past year.

In addition to this wonderful summary, I want to remind us of some of our successes in AY2020–21 and pride points during a very challenging year. It always should begin and end with our students:

  • In a COFHE survey of student satisfaction, for the Class of 2021, 86.7 percent of students reported being “very” or “generally satisfied” with their Trinity education (as compared with 75.7 percent of students in 2018). This includes 44.5 percent who are “very satisfied” with the level of intellectual excitement on campus (compared with 18.6 percent of students in 2018).
  • We are welcoming, this year, the strongest and most diverse faculty cohort in decades, continuing the college’s commitment to support outstanding, engaged teacher-scholars.
  • Regarding institutional support for diversity and equity, in our most recent climate survey (first survey in 2019 and second survey in 2021), our students and employees, on average, reported increased agreement that Trinity’s senior leadership demonstrates a commitment to diversity and equity (from 47 percent to 56 percent) and that Trinity has set institutional priorities to recruit (49 percent to 59 percent) and retain (42 percent to 45 percent) historically marginalized students, faculty, and staff.
  • Our financial strength is evident in our continued increase in net assets (including a more than 20 percent increase, since 2019, in our endowment value). We also took advantage of historically low interest rates to restructure our debt: we issued new money and lowered our debt payments. The new money will be used to address some of our heating/cooling maintenance and other needs. This summer, the Board of Trustees voted to increase the goal of the comprehensive campaign to $500M, and our fundraising has exceeded $210M to date. We also supported salary increases and increased retirement contributions for faculty and staff members.
  • Results of our campus climate survey showed that a greater percentage of students in 2021 (as compared with 2019) reported an increase in their own support of diversity and equity because of campus activities related to: race and ethnicity (80 percent from 69 percent), gender and/or gender identity (76 percent from 67 percent), sexual orientation (71 percent from 66 percent), socioeconomic status (66 percent from 57 percent), religious diversity (58 percent from 56 percent), disability (56 percent from 47 percent), and immigration (64 percent from 56 percent).

As you can see, the last academic year was one of continued progress toward our strategic goals. To the entire Trinity family, I want to extend my heartfelt thanks for your support, flexibility, care, and commitment in an unprecedented year. We came together during the crises as a community, as only Bantams can.

We are ready for a new academic year—attending to hundreds of details while keeping foremost in our mind Trinity’s mission to engage, connect, and transform, to prepare students to be “bold, independent thinkers who lead transformative lives.” And we have so much to look forward to in the coming year. First and foremost, our students have an opportunity to engage with a new curriculum, emphasizing our core liberal arts education plus experiential learning, career preparedness, and wellness. By the end of the semester, we will begin to see the results of our branding project to raise our visibility as we approach our bicentennial and continue our comprehensive fundraising campaign. And you will see space renovations all around campus, including the transformation of Vernon Social into the Cornelia Center, restrooms in Mather, the football/field hockey stadium project, and “pipes” work to replace some antiquated heating and cooling systems.

And to our newest students—the Class of 2025 and transfer students—you already have endured much and have proven you are resilient. Welcome to Trinity! We are so glad you’ve made the decision to join this tight-knit community, and we will celebrate you in numerous ways throughout this year and your time at the college. And to the Class of 2024, you certainly did not have a typical first year. I look forward to meeting more of you in person and to a more normal academic year for us all.

My best to all of you on the first day of fall classes! Something tells me that this is going to be a GREAT year at Trinity College.


Joanne Berger-Sweeney
President and Trinity College Professor of Neuroscience