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Shared responsibility, shared strength

Wright delivers eighth state of the College speech to Faculty of Arts and Sciences

In his eighth "state of the College" address (view the full text), President James Wright presented a broad overview of Dartmouth's strengths and updated the community on the progress of several strategic initiatives.

"There have been few times in Dartmouth's history when the school has been so competitive, when the learning experience for our students has been so strong, when the faculty have been so accomplished, and when our financial situation has been better," he said at the General Meeting of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences on Oct. 31.

Pointing specifically to new buildings nearing completion or in the planning stages Wright said, "...we can confidently say that there has never been as much construction at any one time in our history. These projects are part of a comprehensive effort to renovate and renew our physical plant and they will substantively add to the quality of the Dartmouth experience." Including all administrative and housing projects, he noted, "we are in the midst of almost $1 billion in construction of new and renovated facilities."

He reported that the $1.3 billion Campaign for the Dartmouth Experience has raised more than $610 million, making possible the facilities projects and new professorships, academic program support and financial aid growth.

He described a "diverse and dynamic" student body and an engaged and productive faculty, and said the College's size fosters collegiality and a culture of interdisciplinary collaboration.

Growth at Dartmouth is strategically targeted to the faculty, said Wright. "While we have no interest in expanding the number of undergraduates, while we need to limit and focus strategically any graduate student growth, and while we seek to control the size of the administration, we do need to increase the size of the faculty," he noted. Describing a goal set five years ago to increase the Arts and Sciences faculty by 10 percent, he reported that "We are now close to meeting this goal and, indeed I expect to exceed it by some margin."

He reported on a number of other significant faculty milestones, including the addition of senior faculty fellowships and an expansion of the mortgage assistance program. These build on goals already achieved or nearing completion in the areas of, the Faculty Research and Professional Development Fund, support for grant management, junior faculty fellowships, and faculty compensation. Compared with peer institutions, Dartmouth's faculty salaries have risen to 98.5 percent of the median for full professors, 101 percent for associate professors, and 97 percent for assistant professors. He also said a recent analysis of gender equity in salaries showed no evidence of a statistically significant pay disparity between male and female faculty.

Reiterating his commitment to the College's need-blind admissions policy, Wright said that it remains a top priority for his administration. "Our financial aid program continues to adapt to families' needs," he said, noting that over the past seven years, Dartmouth has added $4.4 million to the annual scholarship program. "We are even now considering what more we can do to keep Dartmouth accessible to the widest range of students possible."

Pointing to measures that consistently place Dartmouth undergraduate programs in the top 10 and to rankings that put the Tuck school at the top of the list of the world's best business schools, Wright also cited innovative work at the Dartmouth Medical School and Thayer School of Engineering. He stressed that Dartmouth's excellence depends on qualitative and quantitative measures, and that its strength derives from shared responsibility and purpose. "A great institution is defined by a strong, productive faculty and talented, curious and energetic students," he said. "The strength of each-faculty and students-enhances our ability to compete for the strongest of the other."

He drew connections between faculty productivity, as measured by commitment to teaching, publications, research and interdisciplinary collaboration, and the learning experience. "Student satisfaction data suggest that undergraduates are extremely satisfied with their Dartmouth education and are particularly satisfied with the accessibility of faculty....The relationships students form with [professors]-their first-year seminar teacher, their major advisor, their thesis director, or just that particular professor who inspires them to do their best-remain powerful long after they leave Dartmouth," Wright said.

Referring to the learning that takes place outside the classroom setting as an integral part of the Dartmouth experience, Wright described the importance of residential life, focusing on intercollegiate and recreational athletics, residence halls, activities, the arts, informal conversations and service work that takes students into the surrounding environment. "Dartmouth is a residential college because so much of learning takes place outside of the classroom," he said. "Our students have multiple interests that energize our community."

The President also addressed challenges that drastic increases in energy costs will pose during the winter months. "We are seeing a 45 percent increase in our fuel costs for the months ahead, which will likely be in excess of $2.5 million," he said. Fuel-savings proposals will be forthcoming from several quarters, led by the Resources Working Group.

Wright said that he intends to donate a portion of the savings from energy conservation to local service agencies and to offer financial support to some of Dartmouth's lower-paid employees. "As we maintain our position as a preeminent institution of higher education, we also need to be a good neighbor and a good place to work." 

"Dartmouth is extremely fortunate in its staff," he added. "Their dedication and hard work, their professionalism and commitment to our mission and goals, are critical to the quality of the Dartmouth experience."

"Dartmouth is what it is today because of the generations of people-faculty, students, alumni, friends and staff-who have taken responsibility for it," he said. "We have a shared responsibility to ensure that we meet our goals, sustain our values, and provide the kind of comprehensive educational experience that our students expect and that our society needs. Thank you for the essential part you play in doing this."

By LAUREL STAVIS

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Last Updated: 12/17/08