The Board of Trustees has announced the public launch of the most ambitious campaign in Conn’s history. The $300 million campaign, to be called “Defy Boundaries,” builds on more than $190 million that has been raised since the fundraising initiative began in 2017. It prioritizes dramatic investments in five key College priorities: teaching and learning, student life, athletics, careers, and financial strength. The scale of the campaign, and its bold theme, signal a new era for Connecticut College.
President Katherine Bergeron, joining with the Board to make the campaign announcement at its October meeting, said that the College “is moving beyond the status quo of undergraduate education. Conn is a leader in 21st-century liberal arts, and with the commitment and generosity of donors across the College community, we will invest in the transformative power of a Conn education as never before, preparing the next generation of citizen leaders to put the liberal arts into action in our global society.”
Defy Boundaries builds on the College’s momentum in many strategic areas over the past six years (see feature on page 20). During that time, the College has received gifts from thousands of donors, including students, faculty, staff, alumni, and parents, including its largest gift ever: a total of $50 million from Rob ’88 and Karen Hale P’20.
The Board noted that a core priority of the campaign, and a main driver of Conn’s recent success, is Connections, the College’s 21st-century reinvention of the liberal arts. The initiative has proven essential not only to the experience of Conn students but also to the College’s effectiveness recruiting the best students from across the country and around the world. Ninety-four percent of Conn’s Class of 2025 have said in surveys that the innovative Connections curriculum, which combines a major with a personalized pathway of interdisciplinary study and intensive career preparation, was critical to their decisions to attend Conn.
Defy Boundaries aims to invest in every core aspect of Connections: teaching and learning, interdisciplinary scholarship, STEM research and classroom spaces, student-faculty research, global study and engagement, and creative research and performance. Fundraising goals also focus on student programing, health and wellness, equity and inclusion, environmental sustainability, dining halls and student residencies.
Like Connections itself, the campaign priorities are built around the fact that at Conn learning is not confined to the classroom, but happens in student clubs, through concerts and performances, with visiting speakers, and through the numerous interactions students enjoy across campus every day with peers, faculty and staff. Acknowledging the imperative of nurturing these learning opportunities in every campus setting, Dean of Students Victor Arcelus noted that campaign investments are already transforming campus and will only become more impactful as the campaign progresses. This includes the campaign’s emphasis on raising funds to support major renovations that will turn Crozier-William (Cro) into a vibrant campus center.
“By investing in student life, Conn will continue to graduate students who are flexible and adaptive—sophisticated global citizens, ready to tackle society’s most pressing problems. This campaign will ensure we educate a new generation of leaders to go out and change the world,” said Arcelus.
The campaign also prioritizes fundraising focused on raising the national profile of the Camel athletics program. Conn’s current and former student-athletes already include NESCAC champions, NCAA title holders, Olympic athletes, and Academic All-Americans. Catalyzing this long history of student-athlete success, the campaign seeks dramatic investments in athletic facilities. Priorities include expanding the athletic center, creating new locker rooms and support spaces in the Dayton Arena, and enhancing the waterfront for sports, recreation, and research uses. Other campaign goals highlight athletic programming, coaching excellence, and the Camel Athletics Fund.
“Competitive athletics is a key driver of the student experience,” said Director of Athletics Mo White. “It unites the Conn family and provides students with important leadership opportunities. More than a third of our students play a varsity sport, so making sure that they benefit from the same level of excellence on the field as they do in the classroom is critical.”
The campaign also aims to boost the College’s national profile in multiple areas, including through support for Conn’s career program, which Princeton Review has ranked among the top 20 college career programs in North America and fourth in the nation for internships. In related goals, the campaign targets significant new investments in career preparation, career programming, internships, and expansion of the academic resource center.
Finally, the campaign embraces Conn’s emphasis on full participation—on the reality that Conn is at its best when every Camel thrives. This past year, donors contributed $54 million in new gifts and commitments and Conn’s endowment rose past $400 million for the first time. Defy Boundaries aims to make full participation possible with its focus on new investments in the Connecticut College Fund, scholarships and financial aid, and unrestricted endowment.
“For the sake of our students and the world they will help change, this campaign will ensure that Connecticut College lives up to its promise as one of the top liberal arts institutions in the country,” said Vice President for Advancement Kim Verstandig.
— Pamela D. Zilly ’75, campaign co-chair, trustee, and former chair of the Board of Trustees
— Rob Hale ’88 P’20, campaign co-chair, trustee
— Bradford T. Brown P’12 ’15 ’20, campaign co-chair, trustee emeritus