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Address to the Arts & Sciences Faculty

May 9, 2016

In keeping with tradition, I will, of course, give a full report to the General Faculty on the state of the College in November. So I won’t try to do that today. But, still I didn’t want my third year to end without offering some reflections on this moment at Dartmouth and institutional trajectory.

I’m going to start out, however, with some thanks and some kudos. There are many noteworthy achievements by Arts and Sciences faculty over this past year. I want to highlight a few, by no means a comprehensive list.

I remain deeply proud at the commitment of the Arts and Sciences faculty to teaching and mentoring and I’m actually honored to be a member of the teaching faculty of Arts and Sciences. Most of the awards and recognitions around teaching and mentoring actually don’t come out until June, but there are at least a couple I can recognize, and I want to recognize Julie Hruby from Classics and Deb Nichols from Anthropology as recipients of the inaugural Apgar Award for innovation in teaching for their new course entitled “Who Owns the Past?” Congratulations to both of you.

Turning to the research front, where more is known at this point – very exciting, we have two new Arts and Sciences faculty members elected to the National Academies this year: Doug Staiger, the John French Professor in Economics, was named to the National Academy of Medicine last fall, and Mary Lou Guerinot from our Department of Biological Sciences, was just last week elected to the National Academy of Sciences. Great job, congratulations!

Also of note: Mark McPeek, the David T. McLaughlin Distinguished Professor of Biological Sciences, is our newest elected Fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences – Mark, congratulations! You probably saw that two Arts and Sciences faculty members were awarded Guggenheim Fellowships, which are very prestigious: Cynthia Huntington from the English department, and Darrin McMahon, the Mary Brinsmead Wheelock Professor in History – congratulations to them! Last but not least, Enrico Riley from our Studio Art department was awarded the Rome Prize from the American Academy in Rome. Yet another great distinction!

Again, this is not intended to be a comprehensive list, just some of the highlights. I’m proud of the excellence and productivity of Arts and Sciences faculty in the realms of scholarship, creative work, and also teaching and mentoring. It’s really terrific.

It is also very important, as this time of the year as the academic year comes to a close, to recognize the efforts of all members of the Arts and Sciences faculty in the difficult work of governing and administering this great institution. Your work on committees, task forces, working groups, and as chairs, associate chairs, and associate deans, it’s often overlooked – we don’t say thank you enough - but it’s incredibly valuable to the success of our institution.

That brings me to an update on a particular committee, the search committee for the new Dean of the Faculty. It’s probably a little early to begin the drumroll of congratulations to Mike and thanks to Mike, but maybe he’s okay if we start now. We’ll miss him. Much more to come, Mike. I hope you had a chance to read my e-mail from earlier today. Six of our faculty colleagues have agreed to serve on the Search Committee for the next Dean of the Faculty. They are Bob Bonner in History, Graziela Parati in French and Italian and Comparative Literature, Steve Swayne in Music, Peter Winkler in Mathematics and Computer Science, Kathy Cottingham in Biology and Mona Domosh in Geography. Kathy and Mona will serve as as co-chairs. Thank you for your willingness to do this work.

The search committee for the Dean will conduct a national search, and let me be clear: that does not mean an external search, that means a national search. Both internal and external candidates will be given full consideration in this search. The sole objective is finding the most qualified leader to fill the position of the Dean of the Faculty. My history in dean searches is probably relevant here. In my day, I have conducted nine dean searches. All have been national searches. In every case, I insisted that the search process generate a deep, talented, diverse pool of internal and external candidates from which to choose. In five of those cases, I hired an internal candidate and in four of them I hired an external candidate. Of the nine, only two of the Deans I hired were white males. Four of them were people of color. That sort of tells you what I’m looking for in this search, but again – national does not mean external, it means internal and external equally.

You can help with this. I encourage all of you to nominate anyone you feel would provide excellent leadership in this role, including both internal and external candidates. And I want to thank again the Search Committee for agreeing to undertake this incredibly important work, and I look forward to seeing the results of their efforts, as they peruse, as they generate and select from a deep, rich and diverse pool of qualified candidates for this position. 

One other committee role I’d like to highlight are our three working groups on Inclusive Excellence. For those of you involved, you know that we’ve asked a lot of you in a short period of time, and I want to personally thank you for your energy, efforts, and input into the recommendations that were submitted just last week to the Executive Committee – the Executive Committee being myself, Provost Dever, Evelyn Ellis, and Rick Mills.

The next step in the process is for us – the Executive Committee – to review all the recommendations from the three working groups, look at the input that’s coming in over the next month, and develop an action plan, which we will release by the end of this term.

All of us in this room have ongoing responsibilities here when it comes to this topic. I encourage every one of you to look at the three working group reports, and share your thoughts, your comments, your ideas, which of the recommendations should be highest priorities, which should go first. You can share them, via e-mail, through the address diversity@dartmouth.edu.

There will also be several open forums that will provide another opportunity to share your thoughts, both on the Inclusive Excellence work to date and on the results of the recent Community Study, a separate, but equally important and related initiative. You’ll be hearing about that next from Denise Anthony.

As I’ve said many times before, it is imperative that we strive for academic excellence within a diverse and inclusive campus. There is much to be done still and our work is ongoing here.

But, speaking of academic excellence and diversity, I’d like to mention a little bit about our incoming class of students– the Class of 2020. Fantastic class. Our yield this year was 53%, three percentage points higher than last year. Fifty one percent of the enrolled class are women, and 14% percent are the first in their families to attend college. The Class of 2020 has the highest percentage of students of color in Dartmouth’s history at 40%. Academic indicators remain very strong – in fact by some academic metrics, the Class of 2020 is the most accomplished in Dartmouth’s history.

Even as we welcome our new Dean of Enrollment Management, Lee Coffin, to campus and challenge him to take admissions to an even higher level, I do want to take a moment to recognize and congratulate Paul Sunde for leading admissions during this interim year and achieving such outstanding results!

One last topic that I want to touch on – this will come up in much greater detail in my remarks next November -- namely, we are riding together an amazing amount of forward momentum at this institution at this moment. It’s aimed towards a singular vision: a campus that is a magnet for talent – recruiting and retaining the most talented students, faculty and staff. A place rich with ideas, a place of bold thinking, motivated by some of the most pressing issues facing humankind. And, in true Dartmouth fashion, a campus that is not just dedicated to teaching and mentoring but one where students are included and challenged as full partners in the work that we as faculty do in making a difference in the world.

A number of initiatives have been launched in the last two and a half years towards this end:

  • $150M raised to fund ten faculty clusters with the first recruitments underway (Treb Allen in Econ is our latest addition and Rahul Sarpeshkar in Physics and Engineering was hired last year). These clusters require us to collaborate across schools and departments in new ways, so they’re not easy things, I recognize, but I think incredibly important to our campus.
  • An expansion of our elite post-doc programs – the Society of Fellows being formed and the International Relations Post-docs expanding.
  • A significant investment in Experiential Learning (approximately $1.5M annually) through the creation of the DEN and the new experiential learning initiative in DCAL. I would note that DCAL’s RFP process this year netted 43 extremely creative proposals generated by 21 academic departments and 7 co-curricular centers.
  • The Thayer Expansion – planning and fund-raising is underway, along with the plans to co-locate Computer Science with Thayer.
  • Establishment, as you know, you were one of the key steps, of the School of Graduate and Advanced Studies
  • The House Communities System with the ambitious agenda to connect faculty with students in residential life in unprecedented ways.
  • The Inclusive Excellence effort to promote diversity and inclusion on our campus.
  • Advanced planning for two or three “big plays” – possibly a major institute to study the global energy system or possibly an institute on brain and behavior, or the arts and innovation district with focus on the creative mind or some few, big investments like that.

Eight initiatives – each of them exciting and ambitious in their own right. But many of you may be saying, enough already, enough with all these new ideas!

For those of you who wonder that, I want to point you back to my very first remarks to the General Faculty in November of 2013 in which I laid out the vision I just talked about, and proposed a set of core strategies to move Dartmouth towards that vision. (I know most of you have those remarks right by your bedside and look at them every night…)

If you do look back at them, you’ll find that those eight initiatives I just named were all outlined as the set of core initiatives promised when I first set out that vision in November of 2013. So in fact they aren’t coming at us willy-nilly, they were part of the plan right from the get-go. What is kind of striking and surprising to me is that we’ve been blessed to get early resources in the door, as we’ve moved our fundraising sights to new historic levels – which will continue – so we’ve been able to a launch these eight much sooner than I had anticipated. Launch is one thing but each initiative is complex and our journey together on these initiatives needs to focus at this point on implementation. There’s a lot of implementation work that needs to be done on all of them.

That brings me to my last topic, which is the capital campaign. There’s a capital campaign that’s in the planning stages. It will move well beyond the initiatives I just named and include ideas being proposed from across the campus. Right now, Provost Dever and the Deans are in the process of identifying campaign priorities from amongst the many (over 160) creative proposals generated recently through an RFP process to deans and divisional leaders. The goal of the provost and deans is to organize academic priorities that both reflect Dartmouth’s core institutional values, and also set a powerful direction for the institution’s future.

So what it probably feels like is a moment of great opportunity, dizzying forward motion and change, and that’s because it is. That’s the kind of moment it is right now at Dartmouth. And this forward motion, let me say very clearly, is no way a statement that we are not good enough right where we are. Rather, it’s a recognition of the Red Queen Hypothesis – that in a competitive environment, to remain in place is to fall behind.

Every day, I am reminded that Dartmouth is filled with great people, all of whom are committed to making us the best we can be, all of you in this room amongst them. For that, I am extremely and eternally grateful. I’m excited about how far we’ve come, about the work still to do, and – most of all – about working alongside all of you, in your infinite wisdom and talent, to realize the full scope of our ambitions.

Thank you all for your incredible hard work over the last year, your continued commitment and engagement in all that we do.

 

Last Updated: 8/24/16