The University’s Board of Trustees returned to campus October 24-26 for its fall meeting, and I offer this brief summary of its discussions.
We welcomed 38 of the 42 members of the Board, along with several emeriti trustees, attendance that is testament to the trustees’ commitment and dedication to St. Lawrence. They, and we, appreciate ways to connect trustees with campus Laurentians; this past gathering involved hundreds of us who study and work in Canton.
A centerpiece of our time with the Board is the plenary “Strategic Issues” session and this past week, we benefitted from discussions with a number of our faculty colleagues. A panel comprised of Judith Nagel-Meyers (as chair of Faculty Council), Jeff Maynes and Ann Hubert (co-chairs of the Institutional Strategy and Assessment Committee), and Cathy Crosby, Ana Estevez, and David Henderson (in varying past roles such as Board delegate and ISAC Chair (Crosby), Faculty Council Chair and Board delegate (Estevez) and Board delegate (Henderson) about their experience with discussions of a “bold St. Lawrence” within our governance structure of campus committees and at the Faculty Council-Senior Staff Retreat August 2019. Of particular interest was the report from ISAC Chairs Maynes and Hubert, who shared that ISAC is charged with drafting a new Strategic Map, focused on bold ideas to recruit, retain, and educate our students. Those ideas, such as the 'Experience Matters' program to integrate all parts of a student's experience at SLU, have been drawn and developed from the prior work of faculty, staff, and students across campus. ISAC anticipates being able to provide an update on its central idea and recommendations at the February Board meeting, and to be able to present a draft at the May meeting, after extensive campus-wide consultations through the next months.
We heard from Vice President for Admissions and Financial Aid Florence Hines about the effects of admissions demographics and the very recent change in the ground rules of recruiting competition. We also recognize that coupled with enrollment strategies, the institutional priorities of diversity, inclusion, and equity are essential. Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion Kimberly Flint-Hamilton and Director of Institutional Research Christine Zimmerman presented about the campus discussions they have led on the results of the diversity climate survey of 2017-2018.
Our goal for this session was sharing with trustees the spirit and content of campus conversations as the faculty, staff, and trustees align ideas for St. Lawrence’s vital future.
Keeping trustees apprised of our progress with the Campaign for Every Laurentian is an expectation of each meeting. As our Campaign website shares, donors have made gifts or pledges totaling $163 million for the stated priorities of the effort.
We resumed our valued time with faculty colleagues over Friday lunch, with casual conversations in small groups. We invited the faculty who have been meeting to discuss ways to strengthen the campus culture of civic discourse across differences.
And we resumed as well our annual tradition of the popular “Planning Your Future” dinner. Some 250 students in the classes of 2020 and 2021 registered, and they benefited from conversations about internships, careers, and graduate school attendance.
Trustees were engaged with committee work nonstop from Thursday morning to Friday afternoon, with most committees enjoying the participation of faculty and student representatives. I offer a few highlights from five of the dozen committee agendas:
The University Properties Committee reviewed the Residential Needs and Plans recommendation for the phasing of a Dean Eaton replacement solution, in the context of funding within the next five years. Committee members heard more about progress on energy projects and a possible energy performance contract method as well as updates on the Appleton Arena Project.
The Student Life Committee heard Vice President and Dean of Student Life Hagi Bradley’s early appraisal of the current state of and future direction of SLU Student Life.
The Investment Committee welcomed students from Divest SLU to continue discussions which began with their presentation at the May Committee meeting.
The Promotion and Recruitment Committee heard an analysis about the shifting trends in market behavior that have impacted enrollment at St. Lawrence over the last decade, and the opportunities and threats we will face as we look to the future. Staff summarized last year’s enrollment cycle with a look to the changes that are already under way in order to generate positive results for Fall 2020. Much of the meeting focused on the recent challenge to the National Association of College Admission Counseling by the United States Department of Justice and the pending consent decree.
The Academic and Faculty Affairs Committee met with two groups who have been leading conversations about diversity and inclusion on campus in various forms: first, regarding the campus diversity climate survey which has been conducted among students, faculty, and staff; and second, about initiatives to foster engaged listening, civil discourse, and deliberation across political differences. For these conversations the committee welcomed Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion Kimberly Flint-Hamilton, Associate Professor of History Mary Jane Smith, Associate Professor of Communication Allison Rowland, Associate Professor of Education Jeffery Frank, and Director of Institutional Research Christine Zimmerman.
Please watch your emails for announcements from Vice President for Finance and Administration Steve Hietsch, who will schedule budget updates for the campus in a pattern we expect to be usual for the weeks after the fall board meetings.
I welcome your questions and comments.