About the Eighth Bates President

As the college’s eighth president, Clayton Spencer identified the forces shaping society and higher education and found opportunities for creative action.  

Under Spencer, Bates strengthened its reputation as one of the nation’s leading liberal arts colleges by making strategic improvements in existing and emerging areas of the Bates enterprise:

  • Centering equity and inclusion as animating values in Bates’ curriculum, teaching, student life, and the daily work of everyone at the college
  • Expanding the faculty and increasing the successful recruitment and support of faculty members from traditionally underrepresented groups 
  • Designing Purposeful Work, a nationally known program rooted in the liberal arts to prepare students for lives of meaning and purpose
  • Adapting and adding to the physical infrastructure at Bates, including two new residence halls and a $75 million investment in STEM facilities
Short Term Curricular Innovation Showcase ?Thursday, May 15, 2014, photographed by Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College 4:15-5:30 pm ?Benjamin Mays Center? On Thu, May 8, 2014 at 10:19 AM, Emily Kane wrote: Dear staff and faculty colleagues, As you know, this short term we've launched two pilot programs: practitioner-taught courses and innovative pedagogy/course (re)design courses. If you'd like to find out what the instructors and nearly 100 students in the 9 courses have been up to, please join us for the showcase event. It will kick off with brief remarks by President Spencer and Dean Auer. Then you'll have a chance to wander around the Mays Center and talk with the students, alumni practitioners and continuing Bates faculty involved in the courses as they show off some of their work-in-progress in an interactive format. Our wonderful colleagues in catering will provide fun refreshments, and we all hope you'll consider coming to check it out! -Emily Kane. Short Term Curricular Innovation Showcase ?Thursday ? May 15 ?,? 4:15-5:30 pm ?Benjamin Mays Center? Innovative Pedagogy/ course (re)design courses for ST 14 ED/SO s51A: Innovations in Teaching and Learning: Community Organizing. Mara Tieken. PSYC s51A: Innovations in Teaching and Learning: Pedagogical Explorations in Statistics. Amy Douglas. PSYC s51B: Innovations in Teaching and Learning: Computational Neuroscience. Jason Castro. RHET s51A: Innovations in Teaching and Learning: Presidential Campaign Rhetoric. Stephanie Kelley-Romano. RUSS s51A: Innovations in Teaching and Learning: Multi-Level Language Instruction. Dennis Browne. Practitioner-taught courses for ST14 EXDS s 15A. Short Term Practicum: Graphic Design. Brandy Gibbs-Riley. EXDS s15B. Short Term Practicum: He
In May 2014, President Spencer hears from Hyo Sun Hong ’16 (left) of Montclair, Calif., who studied graphic design during Short Term under an innovative Bates program that gives students the chance to learn professional skills from visiting practitioners. At center is Professor of Russian Dennis Browne. (Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College)

In teaching, learning, and research, Bates has established itself as a leader in pursuing innovative and equity-driven approaches designed to remove barriers to student learning and improve the academic experience for all students. These efforts are supported in part by major grants from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Bates invested over $75 million to create the new Bonney Science Center, renovate Dana Chemistry Hall, and improve Carnegie Science Hall. In addition to state-of-the-art labs, these facilities also offer modern classroom and collaborative study spaces for all disciplines.

“Her greatest contribution is to instill and entrust to our community the real sense of possibility of Bates as a model for the residential liberal arts in the 21st century.”

Michael Bonney ’80
Bates Trustee Emeritus, Board Chair 2010–2019

Through gifts from Bates trustees, alumni, and parents, the college established seven new endowed professorships. Three positions were designated to support a new Program in Digital and Computational Studies, announced in 2016, and three additional faculty lines were created in economics, neuroscience, and chemistry. In 2018, Bates created a seventh endowed professorship dedicated to equity and inclusion in STEM.

In addition to expanding the faculty, the college has worked hard to increase recruitment and support of faculty members from traditionally underrepresented groups. Over the past five years, the college has hired 34 new tenure-track faculty, half of whom identify as BIPOC.

Since 2015, Bates has completed a comprehensive reorganization of offices under Student Affairs: Advising and Student Support, Accessible Education, Athletics, including sports medicine and recreation, Campus Life, Counseling and Psychological Services, Global Education, Health Services, Purposeful Work, and Residence Life and Health Education.

“Clayton made truly values-driven decisions during the pandemic. What also is incredible is her ability to execute on these decisions. It wasn’t just a well-intended path. She followed through and did the right thing for Bates, for the students, for the community.”

Dr. Stacey Rizza P’20, an infectious disease expert who consulted to Bates during the pandemic

During Spencer’s tenure, the number of admission applications has increased by 67 percent, from 5,362 in 2012 to 8,937 applications for the Class of 2027. Bates has deepened its commitment to financial aid, strengthened programs for first-generation students, and expanded the percentage of enrolled students who identify as Black, Indigenous, or people of color by 56 percent, from 18 to 28 percent of the student body. Thirty-nine percent of the incoming Class of 2027 self-identify as students of color. 

In 2022, Bates was chosen as one of the first five colleges to participate in the Schuler Access Initiative. Funded by the Chicago-based Schuler Education Foundation, this program will generate up to $100 million over the next 10 years — up to $50 million from the foundation to match up to $50 million from Bates donors — to expand the number of talented students at Bates from America’s lowest income families. Bates has raised $34 million from Bates families in the first year of the program to be matched by $34 million from the foundation. 

Director of Dining Services Cheryl Lacey (left) andAsst. Vice Pres. for Dining, Conferences and Campus Events Christine Schwartz, in Schwartz's first-floor office in Commons.

“The word is sometimes overused, but she’s genuinely authentic. Who she is is who she is, and I find that incredibly grounding. She’s also served as a mentor to me to find my own groundedness. So if I had to describe Clayton, that would be it: Authentic, genuine, and caring.”

Christine Schwartz, Associate Vice President for Dining, Conferences, and Campus Events

One feature of Bates’ approach to student development that has drawn national recognition is the Purposeful Work program. It is rooted in the core principles of the liberal arts, has curricular and co-curricular aspects, and takes a four-year, developmental approach to working with students.

The concept of purposeful work is based on the premise that meaningful work, however each individual defines it, is fundamental to shaping a life; the Bates program helps students determine how to navigate the evolving worlds of work based on developing their own sense of identity, agency, and purpose. 

Admission intern Omar Sarr ’23 of Dakar, Senegal poses outside of his favorite space on campus. “Alumni Gym is my home on campus. It’s where I have my family, which is my basketball team.  This is where I give a lot of love to my teammates and to my friends who come and watch the games. It’s also where I receive the most love, from my coaches, my teammates, and also from the people who come here all the time. It’s a space where I really push myself to be better all the time.”

“She cares. When you lead with passion and care, you usually get some great outcomes. And that’s what we’ve seen with President Clayton Spencer.”

Omar Sarr ’23, Economics and French and Francophone Studies Double Major

Over the past decade, Bates has undertaken a strategic program of infrastructure improvements, highlighted by major facilities projects that extend the college’s identity and resources along Campus Avenue, including Bonney Science Center, as well as Chu and Kalperis residence halls, the latter a mixed-use facility incorporating the Bates College Store and the college’s Post & Print operation.

The ongoing renovation of historic Chase Hall, to be completed in fall 2023, is designed to create a nexus for student programs and services. Bates also completed an award-winning renovation of the landmark Peter J. Gomes Chapel in 2021.