Bates Community Letter: Fall 2017

Dear Members of the Bates Community,

Now that we have settled into the 2017–18 academic year, I write to share with you some of the plans and priorities that I hope will guide our work together. As I mentioned at Convocation earlier this month, we begin this year in a moment when the project of the liberal arts has never been more important—nor more challenged. With the help and support of the entire Bates community, I enter this year more inspired than ever about the distinctive education we offer: one that prepares our graduates to live and lead in a complex and interdependent world.

Building on Strengths

All of us who know and love Bates cherish the qualities of our culture and community that make a Bates education transformative. These intangibles, which animate all that we do, are matched by powerful evidence of achievement and progress across the college. Here are a few examples:

  • This fall we welcome 28 outstanding new colleagues to our faculty across all four divisions.
  • Our faculty leader of Digital and Computational Studies, Matt Jadud, has arrived and is teaching the first course in the new program.
  • This past academic year, Bates faculty won $1.96 million in external grant support for their research and scholarship, often involving Bates students.
  • On June 9, the Museum of Art opened the exhibition Kate Gilmore: In Your Way by artist and alumna Kate Gilmore ’97, which will run through October 7.
  • For the Class of 2021 we had our third-largest applicant pool in Bates history, as well as our largest-ever applicant pool for Early Decision I.
  • We won a record-breaking 25 Fulbright awards, which were offered to 17 Bates seniors and eight young alumni in the current awards cycle. Bates has been a top producer of Fulbrights nationally for eight of the past nine years.
  • This past academic year, members of the Brooks Quimby Debate Council won the North American Women’s Debating Championship and made it to the final four of the World Universities Debating Championship.
  • Last year, 52 academic courses from across the college incorporated significant community-engaged projects that enhanced student learning while helping to address community-identified needs.
  • In athletics, we had our best-ever showing in the Directors’ Cup, placing 20th out of 451 Division III institutions.
  • For the second time in three years, women’s rowing won the NCAA Division III championship.
  • We recently received a gold rating for sustainability from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.
  • In fundraising, total yearly giving has more than doubled since 2013, and by the launch of The Bates Campaign last spring we had already raised $168.5 million toward our $300 million goal.

Academics

At the heart of Bates is our academic program, and we have a number of critical efforts under way.

Dean of the Faculty. One of our key areas of focus for 2017–18 will be finding the next Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculty. This month, the search committee, chaired by Clark A. Griffith Professor of Environmental Studies Jane Costlow, is hosting a series of outreach sessions to gain further insight into what the community seeks in its next dean of the faculty, and we expect to begin interviewing candidates in the weeks ahead.

While we search for the next permanent dean, we are very fortunate to have Professor of Psychology Kathy Low serving as interim dean. She is assisted in her role by Associate Professor of Classical and Medieval Studies Margaret Imber, who is associate dean of the faculty for humanities and interdisciplinary studies, and Professor of Politics Áslaug Ásgeirsdóttir, who is associate dean for the sciences and social sciences. At the year’s first faculty meeting, on Sept. 11, Dean Low presented an ambitious agenda to be carried forward in collaboration with the Academic Affairs Council. One important area of emphasis is the ongoing work to revise our General Education program and requirements.

Vice President for Information and Library Services and College Librarian. We are also in the midst of a search for our next Vice President for Information and Library Services and College Librarian. Nathan Tefft, associate professor of economics, is chairing the search, and the committee plans to welcome candidates to campus this fall. In the meantime, Interim Vice President Andrew White continues to lead ILS.

Science at Bates. We are making significant progress on two fronts related to our programs in STEM fields. As we announced at the launch of The Bates Campaign in May, we received a wonderfully generous commitment of $50 million from Mike and Alison Bonney, both Class of 1980, through their family foundation, to fund new and modernized STEM facilities. A STEM Facilities Review Committee, co-chaired by Professor of Geology Dyk Eusden ’80 and Vice President for Finance and Administration Geoffrey Swift, was formed in October 2016 to work with Payette, a Boston architecture firm, to review and assess our existing facilities, develop options to meet the needs of current STEM programs and anticipated program growth, and provide a set of recommendations for Bates STEM facilities as a whole to support current and proposed programming. This committee completed its work in May 2017.

In June 2017, we formed a new committee, the STEM Facilities Building Committee, chaired by Helen A. Papaioanou Professor of Biological Sciences Ryan Bavis and Vice President Swift, to guide the next phase of planning. The committee is working with Payette and colleagues across the Division of Natural Sciences and Mathematics on a detailed programming exercise for both a new building and a renovated Dana Chemistry Hall, along with improvements to Carnegie Science Hall.

As we plan improvements to our science facilities, we are also focusing on an initiative to strengthen teaching and curricular approaches in STEM to foster greater success among students from underrepresented groups. This work, chaired by Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry Paula Schlax and led by 16 faculty from the Natural Sciences and Mathematics division and science-oriented programs like Environmental Studies and Neuroscience, emphasizes deliberate culture change, including deep research experiences, engaging curricula, inclusive pedagogy, and intentional mentoring. Our goal is to ensure that every student who enters Bates with an interest in taking courses or majoring in a STEM field is supported for success from their first introductory class through advanced research opportunities and application for postgraduate study.

Equity and Inclusion

As I mentioned in my Convocation remarks, Bates was founded on the principle that education is meant to develop the full potential of every human being. An offer of admission to Bates is a validation of talent and ambition and a vote of confidence in the ability of every student to engage the full promise of a Bates education and to contribute to the community as a whole. As we have learned repeatedly, and painfully, over the past several years, however, there remains a gap at Bates between our ideals of equality and our success in meeting these ideals.

We thus have vitally important work to do in our curriculum and teaching, together with the formal and informal structures that define student life, to change institutional structures, assumptions, or practices that exclude groups of students or diminish their experience. As a learning community, this work begins with educating ourselves about the barriers certain students face, on our campus and in society at large; best practices for eliminating these barriers across all dimensions of the Bates experience; and ways that we can most effectively prepare all of our students for life in a pluralistic society.

Learning about Race and Inclusion. With these goals in mind, Christopher Petrella ’06, associate director of programs in the Office of Equity and Diversity and lecturer in the humanities, is once again leading the Justice and Equity Reading Group, open to all members of the Bates community, which launched on Sept. 13 and will meet twice monthly throughout the academic year. Further, over the course of the academic year, Bates will host a speaker series centered on the themes of democracy, deliberation, and divisiveness. The series begins this week with a visit from Martín Carcasson, professor of communication studies at Colorado State University and the founding director of the CSU Center for Public Deliberation.

On Monday, Oct. 23, Ibram Kendi, professor of history and international relations and founding director of the Anti-Racist Research and Policy Center at American University, will deliver a talk titled “How to Be an Anti-Racist.” Kendi is the author of Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, which won the National Book Award for nonfiction in 2016.

Taking Action. On the operational level, we have a number of efforts under way, and we are in continuous conversation with students, faculty, and staff to make further progress.

We continue to expand and deepen programming for students and the broader Bates community in and through our Office of Intercultural Education, which is being led this year by Julisa De Los Santos as interim director. Additionally, in response to concerns raised over the past several years, we are working with students to consider potential modifications to the physical spaces within the Office of Intercultural Education to better facilitate student use of the area.

We have actively engaged students of color in our search for a new Director of Security and Campus Safety and in a working group focused on how Security officers interact with students and others on campus. We have also engaged experts to help us strengthen training with respect to inclusive practices and procedures in security. This training will extend throughout the academic year.

On the academic side, we recently launched a Diversity Advocate Team that comprises four faculty, one from each division. This team will work with faculty to bolster inclusive strategies in curriculum, teaching, and faculty hiring practices. The DAT faculty members are Kristen Barnett (Social Sciences), Rachel Boggia (Humanities), Stephen Engel (Interdisciplinary Studies), and Adriana Salerno (Natural Sciences and Mathematics), who is chair.

This year, we also have a more expansive Bobcat First! program to provide ongoing support for students who are first in their families to attend college. Building on the pre-orientation program for incoming students, we have developed new programming to be delivered throughout the year for both the first-year and sophomore cohorts. In addition, opportunities to network with and be mentored by alumni will be woven into the program. Next year we will add programming for juniors, and the next for seniors—ensuring that support for first-generation-to-college students is sustained throughout their time at Bates.

Chief Diversity Officer. We will soon begin a search for a new chief diversity officer to replace Crystal Williams, and we will be seeking student and faculty input and participation in that effort. In the meantime, Gwen Lexow, our director of Title IX and civil rights compliance, is overseeing the work of both the Office of Equity and Diversity and the Office of Intercultural Education.

Educating the Whole Person

We continue to make steady progress, year to year, in transforming our approach to student affairs and providing more effective services and support for students across the board. Following are several areas of focus for this year:

Student Social Life, and Security and Campus Safety. Every residential college campus strives to balance supporting a vibrant social life for students with ensuring that we protect both their safety and our collective obligations to honor laws and community standards. Currently, we are in the final stages of our search for a new Director of Security and Campus Safety, and this moment of leadership change provides us with an opportunity to engage with our students on important questions regarding social options at the college.

In recent years, we have heard from students that they do not feel that we are striking the right balance with our policies and practices on campus. We have also been hearing increasing frustration from Lewiston residents whose quality of life in neighborhoods near campus is too often disrupted by large student parties. Local residents have taken their concerns to the Lewiston Police Department and the city council, which have responded with increased police presence on weekend nights and a move to adopt local ordinances against noise and parties. We are working to maintain open channels of communication with all involved and sustain collaborative working relationships with neighbors, Lewiston police, and city officials.

We are also taking particular care to work with students to understand their concerns about social life at Bates and listen to their suggestions about how we can enhance this important aspect of the Bates experience. Students have also been involved as full participants on the search committee for the next Director of Security and Campus Safety. Additionally, over the course of the summer, a working group composed of faculty, staff, and students met regularly to begin to identify and address concerns. Currently, Paul Menice, the interim director of security and campus safety, is partnering with Student Government to form a Security Advisory Committee to provide ongoing input and feedback to the department.

Athletics. In July we welcomed our new director of athletics, Jason Fein, who has already immersed himself in all things Bobcat. Working with athletes, coaches, and athletics staff, Jason is focused on improving internal organization and practice in the athletics department and strengthening collaboration with other departments across campus.

Health Services. Last year we established a relationship with Central Maine Medical Center to improve the quality and accessibility of health services for all Bates students. This year we will continue to refine the model. Beginning this fall, we have implemented insurance billing for care, which enables us to continue to improve our level of service. To make sure that our services remain fully accessible to students, the college now covers co-pays and co-insurance up to $45 for each student visit to Health Services.

Counseling and Psychological Services. In August we welcomed a new Director of Counseling and Psychological Services, Dr. Aileen Park, who joins us from the University of Washington. She will spend this year assessing the needs of our students and developing a staffing and service plan to meet those needs. In addition, she will create and implement outreach and education programs, with a particular focus on addressing the needs of our underrepresented students.

Purposeful Work

Over the past several years, we have dramatically increased opportunities and funding for summer experiences for Bates students across a range of programs. This summer, 239 Bates students benefited from Bates-funded opportunities in Purposeful Work, research fellowships, environmental internships, and civic engagement internships, in addition to the many jobs and internships students secured through the Bates Career Development Center.

In addition, we continue to build out other elements of the Purposeful Work program. We have offered 19 Practitioner-Taught Courses in the past four Short Terms on a range of topics, including digital marketing, graphic design, entrepreneurship, healthcare administration, social change advocacy and organizing, and music production. More than three quarters of our students have taken part in Purposeful Work, many of them through Purposeful Work Infusion Courses. We are currently in the process of hiring a Senior Associate Dean for Purposeful Work who will oversee the further development of the program and the integration of our purposeful work philosophy with career services.

Campaign/Fundraising

In May we launched The Bates Campaign, with a goal of raising $300 million to secure what is best and most distinctive about Bates and to shape new strategies for a new age. The Bates Campaign is the largest in our history, and the launch events in three different cities attracted record-breaking crowds. Thanks to the generosity and support of so many alumni, parents, and friends, we announced $168.5 million contributed toward our goal at the time of the launch and outlined our fundraising priorities—including increasing our endowment by $160 million. In the months since, we have also celebrated the highest-ever yearly total in the Bates Fund.

We are in the process of activating volunteer leadership groups in a number of cities to capitalize on the energy of our campaign launch events. These volunteers will offer new networking opportunities, events, and programs for Bates alumni and parents, and will assist with fundraising. This fall, The Bates Campaign will travel to Washington, D.C., on Oct. 19, and to Portland, Maine, on Nov. 8.

The Year Ahead

We have much to be proud of, and, as always, much work ahead. With your help and support, I look forward to a year full of learning and progress.

Warmly,

Clayton

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