October 24, 2018
Dear Members of the Connecticut College Community,
The Connecticut College Board of Trustees convened for its fall meeting last weekend. I am writing with a summary of the major topics discussed and actions taken.
The Board welcomed five new trustees: Betty Brown Bibbins ’73, Dodie Sutro Crawford ’89, John Linehan P’18 ’22, Paolo Sanchez ’18, and Dwayne Stallings ’99. Joining us on Friday were also eleven members of the Council of Former and Emeritus Trustees, who convened for their fourth annual meeting. As always, it was gratifying to welcome back current and past Board members to join in dialogue about the College’s future.
Campaign, Master Plan, and Asset Reinvestment
The main topics of the plenary session were the College’s new comprehensive campaign and the new Campus Master Plan, endorsed by the Board in May 2018. The three co-chairs of our campaign—Pamela Zilly ’75, Bradford Brown P ’12 ’15 ’20, and Robert Hale ’88 P’20—joined Vice President for College Advancement Kimberly Verstandig in laying out the strategic priorities for what will be the most ambitious campaign in the College’s history. Rich Madonna, vice president for finance and administration, then reviewed the key capital projects from the master plan that will define one part of this fundraising: The College Center at Crozier-Williams; Palmer Auditorium and Castle Court; Bill Hall; and the Athletics Center. These projects, which touch campus life from academics to athletics to the residential experience, define what we are calling Phase I of the Master Plan (2018-2025).
The Board also endorsed a new task force on asset reinvestment, charged with developing a plan to invest $4 million to $6 million annually in improvements to residence halls, dining, mechanical systems, and landscape. A new website that includes details about the principal projects on the Campus Master Plan will go live next week. We will be updating the site on a regular basis to keep you informed.
Summer and Sustainability
Chad Jones, associate professor of botany and environmental studies and the Oppenheimer ’56 faculty director of the Office of Sustainability, and Margaret Bounds, assistant director of sustainability, discussed the long-term vision outlined in our new Campus Sustainability Plan, completed over the summer. Cheryl Miller, vice president for human resources and organizational development, presented concepts for enhancing the financial sustainability of the campus, reviewing the revenue-generating initiatives laid out in the report of the 2017-18 Summer Programming Committee. She went on to discuss work now underway to launch two programs in summer 2019, including a potential conference for high school educators focused on integrative education.
The Student Experience
Dean of Students Victor Arcelus, Dean of the College Jefferson Singer, and Dean of Institutional Equity and Inclusion John McKnight led a discussion on the importance of improving campus spaces to benefit the student experience. The Board also heard about changes to New Student Orientation, division reorganizations completed this summer; and strengthened first-to-second year student retention. The trustee-student liaison committee focused attention on issues including new strategies SGA is using to connect with students, the campus residential experience, and questions related to financial aid. Representatives from the Muslim Student Association, Women in STEM, the Women’s Rugby team, and the International Student Association also met with the committee to outline the important role played by their organizations on campus.
Capital Projects and Information Security
The Facilities and Infrastructure Committee reviewed the expenditures for campus facilities projects for fiscal year 2018, discussed current and future initiatives, and received an update on the Palmer Auditorium and Crozier-Williams projects. The Board officially approved the selection of Ennead architects as the firm to oversee the renovation of Palmer and approved the completion of a program study for Crozier-Williams. They also reviewed and endorsed projects that will commence as soon as winter break, including relocating the Office of Career and Professional Development to a renovated space on the first floor of Fanning Hall. They also met the information security team to discuss an enhanced information security awareness training program for new faculty and staff. Enthusiasm was expressed for the successful implementation this summer of a new, modern campus telephone system.
Finances and Fundraising
As is the practice every October, the Board assessed year-end cash results for fiscal year 2018, and once again the College ended with a balanced cash operating budget. The College’s investment portfolio also performed reasonably well, earning 7.3 percent for the year, with our endowment closing the fiscal year at $315 million. Trustees received reports on the next fiscal year budget and long-term projections, as well as enrollment goals and marketing strategies for the current admission cycle. The large number of voluntary staff retirements in June 2018 was also a topic of discussion, including the ongoing work by the senior administration to reorganize and replenish offices and divisions. In general, the Board’s conversations about the Fiscal Year 19 budget acknowledged the need to focus attention on compensation increases, asset reinvestment, and financial aid.
The Trustees accepted several recent awards: a $806,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support Global Islamic Studies; a $306,000 grant from the Substance Abuse Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA) to support student well-being and mental health; $165,000 from the Department of Education’s Undergraduate International Studies and Foreign Language Program to support a two-year project, “Integrating Foreign Language Internships into the Academic Program at Connecticut College;” and a $100,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to support research on the Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard by Bruce Kirmmse, professor emeritus of history.
Finally, after noting the best fundraising year in the College’s history, the Advancement Committee reviewed the current campaign, which has so far raised $85 million in new gifts and commitments, including $6.2 million in new gifts and commitments already this year. The Connecticut College Fund is also off to a solid start with $2.3 million raised so far against a goal of $5.8 million for fiscal year 2019.
The Board voted to confer trustee emeritus status to Pamela Zilly ’75, David Barber ’88, Estella Johnson ’75, and Maria Pellegrini ’69. Joining trustees for lunch on Friday were international, transfer, and first-year student advisers, who talked about the important work they do in supporting new students as they make the transition to Conn. A tour of the newly renovated Morrisson House made a positive impression at the end of the weekend.