January 25, 2023

Dear Faculty and Staff,

At the core of any great institution is sound planning that both supports current needs and ensures long-term financial success. As you know, Conn has been developing a Five-Year Plan for Financial Strength to help the College adapt to and thrive in an increasingly challenging future for higher education, the United States, and the global economy.

I am writing today to provide you with an overview of the work so far, to discuss our next steps, and to announce three open forums where you can be involved. Dates and times are listed at the end of this letter.

The senior administration began working together on the Plan in earnest this past summer, resuming efforts that had started just before the COVID-19 pandemic struck. Our work so far this year has involved productive conversations with many stakeholders, including the PPBC; student, faculty and staff leadership groups; and the executive committee of the Board of Trustees. These conversations will continue into the coming weeks.

At the December Staff-Faculty meeting, I introduced the outline of the Five-Year Plan, noting that just as we have created action plans for equity and inclusion, sustainability, and athletics as an extension of our strategic goals in Building on Strength, we are now creating an action plan for financial resiliency to be better prepared for the future. This plan will ensure that the College continues to have the financial resources necessary to support our students and to support you in your work, in order to be a vibrant and creative force for change.

It’s no secret that higher education is facing challenging times that are likely to continue. Conn faces the same challenges and pressures experienced by many colleges and universities across the country. We have withstood the worst of it—especially in the past two years—by reducing costs to deal with reduced revenues brought on by having a smaller number of students. This approach has helped us remain in a relatively stable financial position, which is important in the short term. But it’s not how we want to operate in the long term.

The Five-Year Plan for financial strength focuses not just on controlling costs but also on how the College can expand resources through three main revenue drivers: enrollment and retention; endowment growth; and new programs. As always, bringing in these additional revenues will require everyone’s collaboration and goodwill, but it will also have a transformative impact, a proverbial rising tide lifting all boats. Expanded revenues will position us to:

  • better invest in our faculty and staff, ensure competitive compensation, and promote full participation
  • maintain the distinctiveness of our curriculum and our residential programs
  • improve technology resources supporting education and operations
  • reinvest in campus infrastructure and in our goals for sustainability
  • improve our national reputation
  • fully realize the goals of our strategic plan

Next steps
As I announced in December, faculty and staff are invited to attend a forthcoming series of campus forums with the senior administrative team to delve more deeply into the key areas of the Plan. Each forum will begin with brief remarks to frame the topics(s) under discussion, followed by Q&A. We encourage you to use the links below to submit your questions and comments in advance. The topics and dates are as follows:

1. Enrollment Matters: Feb. 2, Thursday, 3 p.m.-4:15 p.m., 1941 Room in Crozier Williams
This forum will focus on why enrollment growth matters and the steps we must take to meet enrollment targets, improve retention and persistence rates, and ensure success in supporting the overall student experience, from residential life to essential campus services, academics, and athletics. Dean of Admission Andy Stricker, Dean of the College Erika Smith, and Dean of Student Victor Arcelus will lead this forum. Click here to submit questions or comments.

2. Supporting Staff and Faculty Well-being: Feb. 8, Wednesday, 4:15 p.m.-5:30 p.m., 1941 Room in Crozier Williams
This forum will focus on the new vision for human resources, from compensation/benefits to professional development, new systems for recruiting, hiring and performance development, and initiatives to bolster staff and faculty retention and improve campus climate. Vice President of Human Resources Reginald White, Dean of Institutional Equity and Inclusion Rodmon King, and the Dean of Faculty Danielle Egan will lead this forum. Click here to submit questions or comments.

3. Improving Campus Infrastructure: Feb. 14, Tuesday, 11:50 a.m.-1:05 p.m., 1941 Room in Crozier Williams
This forum will focus on ongoing efforts to upgrade our physical plant and technology systems, the integration of sustainability goals into campus master plan, and the role of Advancement in pursuing the major capital projects in our Long-Term Plan. Justin Wolfadt, executive director of Facilities Management, Vice President of Information Services Lee Hisle, and Vice President of Advancement Kim Verstandig will lead this forum. Click here to submit questions or comments.

This is an exciting and important time for Conn, and I hope you can attend these forums to offer your ideas and questions on our collaborative effort to ensure our collective future.

Katherine Bergeron