Skip to main content

The President's Plan

Moving Dartmouth Forward

Office Hours

Student Office Hours:

Tuesdays, 4-5pm

Faculty and Staff Office Hours:

Fridays, 3-4pm

Please check the office hours page for details.

Address to the Arts & Sciences Faculty

June 1, 2015

I want to bookend Dean Mike Mastanduno’s comments by talking about trajectory and change.

As several people have alluded to, 18 months ago, I laid out a vision for the future of Dartmouth. That was November 2013, and I asked you to envision a campus 10 years from now—a campus that’s a magnet for talent, that draws the best students because of our distinctive, innovative learning experiences, and the chance to work directly with our outstanding faculty.

A university that’s a destination for leading faculty and staff because of the exciting, path-breaking scholarship on campus, and the opportunity to work with our amazing students.

Ours is a campus that’s academically energized, a place of big ideas, bold efforts, and intellectual risk-taking. A school that sends students and faculty out into the world, and invites the world to our campus.

A university where student life outside the classroom is dominated by efforts to make a difference in the world through creative work and academic research, and by students taking ideas into action through social ventures and business start-ups.

And finally, collecting all this, I spoke of Dartmouth making an impact. Through our research, through our preparation of graduates who will lead, Dartmouth makes a big difference in the world. And the whole world takes note of Dartmouth.  

So why does this future matter? After all, we do some of this already. Why push for change? Mike talked about change – why push for this change?

I give you two reasons. First, because we, uniquely, can.

And ask yourself, “What are the unique qualities of Dartmouth? The timeless features of this institution that set us apart?” I’m going to offer four today:

  • First, community. An academic community unlike any other, woven tightly around intellectual engagement. And that begins with you, the faculty, true teacher-scholars. Thought leaders in your field, seriously engaged in research, but also passionately committed to student learning.
  • Number two is a university with the Liberal Arts at its core – anchored in the belief that broad knowledge of the world and generally applicable intellectual skills provide the foundation necessary for our graduates to lead with creativity and confidence in an increasingly complex and volatile world.
  • Number three: an institution with a very deep sense of place—the beauty and the challenge of these North woods, they shape the Dartmouth experience profoundly.
  • And lastly, the Dartmouth people – a people with an adventuresome and rugged spirit—ready to engage the foremost challenges that the world has to offer.

These four differentiators, the heart and soul of Dartmouth, they provide a singular footing to aim for the vision I described. That vision is true to our core.

Second, we push for change because we must.

In March, I addressed this group about the universe in which we operate, the elite sector of higher education – highly competitive and undergoing massive disruption. And I reminded you at the time of the Red Queen Hypothesis – to stand still is to fall behind, to be complacent is to lose ground.

As the landscape of higher education continues to shift beneath our feet, those institutions that stay true to their heart and soul, while adapting to this new environment, they will lead. And Dartmouth must be one of those that leads.

Two winters, a spring, a summer, and fall have passed since I first asked you to imagine Dartmouth’s future.

As you may recall on that November afternoon, I also outlined not just a vision, but a set of initial strategies to launch us energetically towards that vision. And these are strategies not that just popped out of my head, but actually emerged from the strategic planning process that the faculty had engaged in the years before I arrived:

  • We would emphasize experiential learning;
  • We would tap into the power of learning technologies;
  • We would grow our faculty in clusters around areas of academic or world challenge;
  • We would increase the presence of young scholars through a Society of Fellows and a Graduate School;
  • We would even more effectively leverage Dartmouth’s outstanding professional schools.

Today, I see green shoots of this vision emerging in many places. I stand here today, able to talk about these because of your bold imagination. Because of the work of the people in this room, your willingness to bring this vision to life.

We build on a long and storied tradition of experiential learning at Dartmouth – from the Dartmouth Humanitarian Engineers that take engineering and technology solutions to problems around the globe, to the Dartmouth Music Hub which explores the arts as an agent for change, to the Dartmouth Outing Club which makes this spectacular environment available to the community. Those are just three of many, many instances of experiential learning, peppered throughout our curricular, co-curricular, and extra-curricular enterprises.

And we are doubling down on experiential learning. The new DEN innovation center had an energetic first year, it served over 1100 students in the fall and winter terms.

And at the March meeting of this group you heard Lisa Baldez talk about the substantial investments we’re making to enable DCAL to powerfully advance the quality and quantity of experiential learning opportunities on our campus.

Our initiative to expand the faculty through clusters is gaining momentum. You may have seen the announcement last week of the Byrne cluster in the Science of Decision and Risk that crosses between mathematics and Tuck.

Today, I’m pleased to announce the Dick and Susan Levy cluster in Health Care Delivery Science, funded by a $10M gift from Dick and Susan Levy. Dick is a generous alum who is committed to accelerating Dartmouth’s traditional excellence in the delivery of Health Care. This gift of $10M will be matched by $5 million from the $100 million gift, making the total investment in this cluster $15M. This cluster is in fact relevant to Arts and Sciences because I expect it will include faculty with appointments in either Sociology or Economics or both.

Last year, the Provost and deans identified six cluster proposals that we’ve been taking to our donor community and right now the deans and Provost are close to finalizing another cohort.

Next fall, we welcome to campus the inaugural class of Dartmouth’s Society of Fellows, as we were just hearing about. These five scholars are diverse in interests and backgrounds, but have in common outstanding academic records and a thirst to do exceptional work when they join us. My thanks to Provost Carolyn Dever, and Vice Provost Denise Anthony and the whole committee for their incredible work.

Last November at this meeting Provost Dever spoke to this group of the urgent need for Dartmouth to build a more diverse faculty. Mike reiterated that earlier today. During that presentation last November, Carolyn outlined 11 strategies that Dartmouth can use and she set a target of 25% as the fraction of faculty that are either international or from underrepresented minorities.

Provost Dever, Vice Provost Anthony and the deans are leading this initiative that includes an investment of $1M in recurring funds, some of which, I’m happy to say, have been used already at this point this year to support six faculty hires. But, as Mike and Carolyn have said, much work remains and this needs to be a focus and priority for all of us.

As we work to advance the intellectual engagement outside the classroom, the new House communities system will launch next fall. This system will also create greater options for community building and social interaction amongst our students.

Key to the success of this initiative will be faculty leadership. I want to thank the many faculty who applied to be House professors, because your interest speaks volumes about the kind of community that we want to be. And I want to especially thank the six professors – Ryan Calsbeek, Ryan Hickox, Jane Hill, Kathryn Lively, Craig Sutton, and Dennis Washburn – who together with Sergi Elizade have taken on this work and will collaborate with students, faculty, and staff in envisioning the House communities system that works best for Dartmouth.

My hope in laying out the broad strokes of a vision was to inspire new ideas, as well, and creative approaches that enable Dartmouth students to learn about important issues. We see this in the emergence this last term of the #BlackLivesMatter class. Through an innovative staffing and curricular model, this course examines a single issue through the lens of Sociology and History, Government and Religion, Art History and Geography, Women’s and Gender Studies, Anthropology, Spanish and English – an amazing array of subjects. An example of how the liberal arts core can be directly applied to promote understanding of the country’s complex challenges.

These are just a few that I mention of the really exciting new initiatives that are emerging on campus. I think it’s a really incredible time for Dartmouth right now. I would say, to use a metaphor, we’re riding a rocket that’s being built in real time. You might say, what about the rocket fuel? All these initiatives, all these new, great things we’re trying to do, they require resources.

So, you may remember on that day in November of 2013, I also made a prediction – I guess it was a promise: That we would see an historic investment in the academic enterprise at Dartmouth over the next 10 years. And so I’m pleased to report that that’s taking shape, as well.

I’m going to show you a five-year look at the flow of new gifts and commitments to Dartmouth. I’m putting up the first line, which shows the average of the three years prior to my arrival, it’s the flow of new gifts and commitments over the fiscal year. You can see that, over these three years on average, the total was $117M. So I’m going to layer on last year, and of course last year you’ll see the $100M gift. That made last year an exceptional, phenomenal year. Let’s look at this year. So remarkably, happily, we are actually ahead of last year, even with the $100M gift. Our goal for the year is to top $300M in new gifts and commitments, which would really be a stretch since last year’s $257M smashed the prior record. So this would go well beyond that, as well.

So how has this happened, that we’ve had this growth in fundraising, this jump in performance? Compared to our peers, Dartmouth has always been slow, historically, to realize larger gifts. We’ve relied a lot on the annual fund. Let’s look at the dollar total of new gifts received that are at the level of $5M and above. I’m going to put the prior three years on first. That’s dollar total of gifts at $5M or above. Last year, of course, we took a big jump – part of that’s the $100M gift. This year, we’re even higher. What’s even better about this year is the number of donors we’re attracting in this larger gift range.

The Dartmouth College Fund, that’s always been one of our breads and butter, something we do remarkably better than other places. It’s actually important, not just as a source of unrestricted giving, but it’s also important because a lot of donors who give a lot eventually get their start with the Dartmouth College Fund. It gets people going on fundraising. Here’s the Dartmouth College Fund over the last 10 years: a growth of 112%. Really quite remarkable.

So, really a successful picture on the fundraising side. Of course, it hasn’t happened by accident! It’s required skill, it’s required hard work, teamwork by many individuals, including the Provost, the deans and their development teams, plus the entire Advancement organization. But I especially want to single out Bob Lasher who has done more than anyone to envision and execute this terrific surge in fundraising, and his mantra, I will tell you, is “We are just getting started!”

One last thing about fundraising – in well-deserved recognition for what’s been accomplished, and in Bob’s only second year in this position, Dartmouth has received the CASE award for Outstanding Fundraising in the category of private universities with endowments of $1B or more. And to make this even sweeter, the runner-up was Harvard! So let’s give everyone connected with this a big round of applause.

So, let’s look at the future. The vision is clear, the set of initial strategies are underway that are going to move us closer to that vision. But what comes next?

After the faculty clusters are funded and filled, after we’ve elevated experiential learning, after the House communities are established and the Society of Fellows hits steady state. Then what?  Where do we go from there?

In my mind, one of the most important things after that is that we’re going to be poised for a really big play - to pursue a really grand effort to help address one, two, three select great issues that the world faces. These are efforts, as I see them, that bring the campus together across disciplines, across academic generations – they have to build on a foundation of faculty interest and expertise, student passion, and committed alumni. I’m thinking about efforts that are fueled not by investments measured in the tens of millions, but by investments measured in the hundreds of millions.

What might that look like?

What might be an example of an area where Dartmouth has the foundation, given the right investment, to make a really big play? Imagine with me for a moment…

When we speak of mankind’s most compelling opportunities, one of the most significant is how we foster the developing world.

By 2050, a quarter of the world’s working age population will live in Africa. How the nations and regions of Africa develop between now and 2050 – economically, in terms of access to health care and education, in establishing ethical leadership, effective governance and the rule of law – all these things will have a huge implication not just on how that continent develops, but how they’re productive for the whole globe.

Already Dartmouth has a strong foundation of expertise and interest in questions of development. For instance, Tuck School of Business Professor Emily Blanchard is studying how globalization influences educational decisions in poor countries.

Geography Professor Susanne Freidberg is researching how global supply chains affect producer livelihoods. Music Professor Ted Levin is working on cultural development and the protection of intangible cultural heritage assets. While Geisel Professor Lisa Adams leads global health activities in a number of developing countries.

So, I’m delighted today to announce that Dartmouth faculty working in this area will be enriched by the launch of another faculty cluster, the Globalization Cluster, funded by another $10M gift from an anonymous donor, which will also be matched by $5M from the $100M gift. This cluster is on the topic of understanding the processes by which emerging nations develop – why some succeed, whereas others do not. It’ll be joined by Social Sciences departments and Tuck.

Looking beyond faculty, many Dartmouth students and staff work in the developing world through programs at Dickey and Tucker and really across the whole institution.

Recently, you may have read that Bob and Dottie King made a generous $21M gift to expand the King’s Scholars Program, which brings their total investment in the program to $35M, while other generous alumni continue to support the Young African Leaders Initiative. Both of these I mention because they’re innovative programs aimed at building leadership capacity in the developing world.

So the study of Development of Emerging Nations, in that area, the ingredients are all here at Dartmouth – a compelling opportunity for the world, a strong base of faculty expertise and interest, student passion and alumni commitment. Could that be an area where Dartmouth makes a big play?

Indulge me with one other example, this time a challenge more than an opportunity. The challenge of energy. Few challenges are more consequential to the future of mankind than how we will meet the energy needs of a growing population in a way that sustains the world as we know it and want it.

On September 4, 1882, when Thomas Edison flipped the switch on the Pearl Street Station, the world’s first electric power plant generated 600 kilowatts and served 85 customers. Today, 7 billion citizens across the world demand more than 20 trillion kilowatts. By 2050, that demand is expected to double.

Already, as you know, decisions around energy impact all human systems: financial, geopolitical, environmental, societal, and they’re closely tied to urgent issues of environmental sustainability and social justice.

Again, this is an area where Dartmouth has a strong base of current faculty expertise and interest, ranging across the Arts and Sciences, Tuck, and Thayer. These scholars offer a sweeping set of disciplinary perspectives: technology and science; business and economics; geopolitics; society and the environment.

And our students, of course, as you know, are passionate about energy and its related issues, for good reason. They see so much at stake as they imagine their future.

Could energy also be an area where, with the right investment, Dartmouth could really transform the understanding and effectiveness of the global systems through which we meet the energy needs of our planet? Could that be where we make a big play?

If there’s a central theme to what I’ve talked to you about today, beyond just our vision and the path we’re following to achieve it, it’s the notion of Dartmouth looking outward, of Dartmouth making a visible, global impact.

This is hardly a new theme for us: “The world's troubles are your troubles,” said one of my predecessors, President John Sloan Dickey in 1946, and he added, “There is nothing wrong with the world that better human beings cannot fix.” But today, I’m calling on us to rise to this challenge with renewed vigor, commitment, and resources. 

The world’s challenges are our challenges to solve. The world’s great leaders are ours to form. I truly believe anything is possible for Dartmouth when we pursue those ends with energy and enthusiasm. Thank you all for the great work over the last year - I could not ask for a faculty of colleagues better suited to help Dartmouth pursue the amazing opportunities ahead. 

Thank you.

Last Updated: 7/10/15