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Address to the Arts & Sciences Faculty

May 5, 2014 - Remarks as prepared

Good afternoon everyone. Welcome to the first of two May meetings of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

Let me begin by noting, since the last time we met, much of the cycle of work that keeps our academic community strong and vibrant has culminated. The work goes on all year. This is a period when things like tenure promotion, recruitment of faculty and students, advising, recommending students as they pass on to graduate schools and jobs, putting together budgets at all level culminate. All of this requires service, time, effort, and wisdom from those in an administrative position as well as the faculty. It is not always the most uplifting and exciting work, but it is necessary. I want to thank you all for your service to this institution.

You have all been highly productive in your academic work. This is not meant to be inclusive of everything, but let me point out a few things. I was delighted to open up the New York Times and read about the work of Meredith Kelly and Mary Lou Guerinot. I've been impressed by the recognition and awards that you have received, for example Ryan Hickox with the Sloan Fellowship, Peter Tse with the Guggenheim Fellowship, Ada Cohen with the National Endowment of the Humanities Fellowship, Christopher MacEvitt, was awarded the Burkhardt Fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies, and George Edmondson and Klaus Mladek were awarded an American Council of Learned Societies Collaborative Research Fellowship; Andrew Campbell and Xia Zhou received a Google faculty research award for their work on "Cutting Wi-Fi scan tax for smart devices." These are just a few examples, but clearly you are being highly productive in your academic work.

Our students continue to be recognized for the academic achievements as well. This year we had two Rhodes scholars and a Truman scholar. Our students continue to be highly sought after by professional schools and for-profit and non-profit employment. It is all a testament to the work you do in the classroom. Congratulations.

We are coming to the end of the academic year, and I know that the next meeting is jam-packed with reports, so this is my opportunity to do a retrospective of the year. It has been 11 months since I came here, and I would like to say a little bit about what has happened this year and what we can look forward to next year in the academic realm.

There are a couple of foundational things that stick out to me as I look back on this year and one has been outreach. I have had the opportunity and the privilege to reach out, meet, discuss and listen to many students, faculty, staff, and alumni. At this point I have met with 500 faculty and 3100 students. One aside I would bring up is that my open office hours are better attended by professional school faculty than A&S faculty. You don't need a topic and I would love to have you there. There were even more alumni to meet so I have been traveling around a lot with Gail attending many one-on-one meetings and 13 major events in different cities around the world. There is a lot of passion for Dartmouth right now. We have had record attendance at all but one or two of those major events. A second foundational achievement was building up the senior team this past year. Rick Mills is our new EVP/CFO and comes from Harvard, Bob Lasher is our SVP of Advancement and comes from the MOMA in San Francisco, Tommy Bruce is our SVP for Public Affairs and comes from Cornell, Carolyn Dever is our incoming Provost and will be joining us in mid-June, and Laura Hercod is a senior administrator in the President's office. This work never ends and I'd like the chance to congratulate Charlotte Johnson on her new opportunity at Scripps College. In addition, Paul Danos is also stepping down after twenty years as the Dean of the Business School and he will be a tough act to follow. Those are two foundational things that come to mind: outreach and building our senior team.

Let's talk about academic vision and ramping up strategies. You may remember that during the November faculty meeting, I talked about my academic vision and some of the strategies I wanted to launch right away. In terms of the vision, I talked about Dartmouth being a real magnet for talent, attracting the very best students because of the learning opportunities and outstanding faculty. Dartmouth also is attracting some of the finest faculty because of the incredible scholarship being done and the chance to work with these great students. I talked about the campus being academically energized, a place of innovation, and a place of intellectual risk-taking. It is a place of big ideas and bold efforts with the courage to take on some of the world's most daunting and compelling problems. This is a place where student life is characterized, not by the social scene, but by efforts to make a difference in the world through academic research, artistic and creative works, and taking ideas into action through social ventures and business start-ups. This is a vision where Dartmouth's footprint on the world has never been larger. I composed some strategies to follow and to lead us in that direction. These strategies will help keep us best in class in teaching and learning and take experiential learning to the next level. In terms of experiential learning, our new entrepreneurship center will be opened in three months' time, supported by $3.5 million in gifts. Next year, one of the questions is whether there is a curricular piece to this entrepreneurship. There are some undergrads who have designed their own entrepreneurship major within Arts and Sciences and the question is where we can we learn something from that. In addition, the inventory of experiential learning being done by Gail Gentes is almost complete. Within a few months after Carolyn gets here, we are going to be convening the faculty and we will all look at this inventory and decide what our aspirations are. I personally believe foreign study is a good place to look and there are some interesting things we can do there, but there will be other opportunities too.

In November, I talked about unleashing the power of learning technologies. Josh Kim has been hired by DCAL to support the use of learning technologies. We have joined the edX consortium and we are pursuing other partnerships, particularly Khan Academy. Alumni have been forthcoming with gifts to support us in this. We got $1.5 million to support and build the foundation of the pioneers who have moved forward in learning technologies. I look forward to significant growth and activity over the next year.

In terms of our scholarship, I talked about filling the middle in November. We have fantastic talent with undergraduates and faculty, but relative to our peers we are thin in the middle in terms of grad students and post-docs. The Society of Fellows will be starting in the fall of 2014 with a class of seven or eight fellows on a three year rotation. I talked about setting up a free-standing graduate school to house our PhD programs and interdisciplinary graduate programs and that is on hold until the new provost comes. I think this graduate school will be one of her top three priorities coming in the door. I talked about cluster hiring in areas of impact. There was a call for proposals from the provost and we received a really interesting set of proposals—thank you for those of you who participated in that. Our deans are looking at this set of proposals to find areas that overlap or umbrellas that many of them fit under. We secured a wonderful $100 million dollar gift and half of the gift - $50 million - will provide a two to one match to support building interdisciplinary faculty strength around global challenges, so if we can execute that we will in fact be bringing in $150 million dollars to the table for these faculty clusters.  We will also fund some of these clusters internally. Right now, Bob Lasher , the deans, and I are taking this set of cluster proposals, evaluating them, and will then introduce selected proposals to donors who have the right kind of interest and who can give between $10-20 million. Bill Neukom generously offered to fund a cluster in computational science. This does not mean there will be more computational science. We are not trying to pick out favorites; rather we are identifying great departments and look at the donor community to see who can help add to them. The last pillar in terms of strategies to advance toward our academic vision was the significant expansion of the Thayer School. Planning is underway and we are beginning to talk to the donor community about that.

Let me turn now to fundraising. We are going to have a record year for sure. The final tally is not complete because we have two more months before the close of the fiscal year. If you do not count the $100 million gift, we are on track for our target of $150 million. If we achieve that, it will be one of the top three years ever. If you add the $100 million gift, then we will have the first year ever of over $100 million cash at the door. Hopefully it will be closer to $250 or $255 million. It is the beginning of tapping the enthusiasm of our alumni and we will be bringing a historic level of resources to the academic enterprise over the next seven to ten years. It is really terrific about the $100 million gift. It is an amazing act of generosity, incredibly unrestricted and will be used to advance academic excellence. Looking ahead to next year, we will be in full campaign planning mode and we are really building out the plans for the next year.

Let's talk about admissions for which it has been a roller-coaster year. Early decision applicants went up 6%. Then our regular applicants went down 14%. This was very concerning fact which brought us to do a study and try to understand why. The end of the story is fantastic. Over the last three to four weeks our yield (the fraction of admitted students who actually agreed to come) has surged. Last year's yield was 48.6% and this year's was 54.6%. We have 1210 students who have said they are going to come to Dartmouth at this point. This is not a final number. As some other places go through their waitlist and as some decide they would like a gap year, that number is likely to go down to 50%, but we will have the happy problem of being over-enrolled. The yield is the highest ever since we have tracked yield. It is a very high quality academic class and it is a highly diverse class. Kudos to Maria and her team for all of their work.

Next year I know we are going to get some expert outside help in marketing and branding and better understand what happened this year. We would like a smoother ride than what we experienced this year.

Faculty diversity will be the second major initiative for Carolyn Dever when she comes in June. There will be a campaign on diversity and inclusion, especially for faculty. We set aside one million dollars to support hiring faculty who are underrepresented in their field or bring diverse perspectives to the faculty. The Society of Fellows has turned to be a useful tool for diversifying the faculty. The pool is richer at the post-doc level. I ask that as we begin to fill all the Society of Fellows, that you all do hard work and try to generate a pool for that program. The clusters can be a great tool to identify clusters where you are likely to have a diverse pool. I have reached out personally to try and generate similar proposals, but I'm not satisfied. I would like all of you to think about whether there are areas where we can hire faculty and get a diverse pool.

Budget is the last thing on my list. We have made progress in various ways. The first thing we did is to set budget objectives for the next five years. There were five of these. The first was to maintain investments in innovation and excellence on campus. Through the funds available through reallocation and the terrific year we are having in development, we certainly achieved that. The second was to hold down growth in the cost of attendance. We made good progress there with the lowest tuition increase since 1977 at 2.9% and the financial aid budget by 5.9%. The third was to show rigorous discipline budget practices. We put in place a new budget process requiring all of the major units of the College to identify the 1.5% that they would reallocate to new initiatives. The fourth was to prepare for the next economic downturn. We have begun building a contingency fund. In this case we have been building both a one-time pot and a recurring pot. Extra funding we get through investment returns we have not spent this entire year and, instead, put them in this contingency fund. When the next economic downturn comes, which it will, we have something to fall back on. We are making progress here. The fifth was to maintain the power of the endowment in a future where investment returns are not going to be as robust as they have been in the past. Here we will have some work to do. We have been returning a little over 5%. I taught a budget class with Rick Mills and Mike Wagner to provide transparency and feedback on the budget. We had a terrific class that was very engaged. We did not get through our slides one time because we were held up by questions! We had enough interest that we will do it again next year and thinking about having six classes. The last thing to say is that we are looking forward to the third major endeavor of Carolyn Dever which is a college-wide budget model. This is a good thing to do for institutions to do periodically.

Thank you for everything you have done. I will end where I began my remarks last fall—Gail and I are just thrilled to join this academic community.

Last Updated: 7/17/14