Bates Community Letter: Fall 2018

Dear Members of the Bates Community,

As we settle into the rhythms of the new academic year, I write to share with you goals and aspirations for the year ahead and to provide some context on priorities and progress in a variety of areas.

Welcoming the Class of 2022

This year, we saw an increase of 45 percent in applications for admission to the Bates Class of 2022. Our yield was also very strong, resulting in our welcoming an incoming class of 543 students. Of these, 11 percent are first generation to college, 23 percent are from historically underrepresented groups, and 8 percent are non-U.S. citizens. Forty percent are receiving need-based financial aid, with an average grant of $43,555.

In short, we have a strong entering class — and a very full campus. I am grateful for the work, from every corner of the college, aimed at ensuring that all aspects of the Bates experience will remain robust for all students. Among other things, we have added class sections, brought extra housing online, and increased seating in Commons to accommodate our current student body.

The Year Ahead

The Academic Program. I am thrilled to welcome Malcolm Hill as our new Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculty. And I am very grateful to the search committee, chaired by Jane Costlow, Clark A. Griffith Professor of Environmental Studies, for identifying Malcolm among a very competitive pool of candidates. A distinguished biologist, Malcolm comes to Bates from the University of Richmond, where he was Clarence E. Denoon Jr. Professor of Science and served as chair of his department as well as Associate Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences.   

Malcolm and his family arrived in Lewiston in July, and he immediately set about getting to know the college, the academic program, structures of governance, and faculty, staff, and students. With the start of the fall semester, the pace has only intensified. As I am sure you will see when you spend time with him, Malcolm approaches his role with diligence and insight, matched by energy and optimism. I am confident that this year will be one of progress on many issues of central concern to the faculty.

Also joining us this fall are 21 exceptional new members of the faculty across all four divisions, including Mellon Fellows, lecturers, visiting professors, and tenure-track faculty. Included in this number are two new professors in Digital and Computational Studies, completing the staffing of the program.

HHMI Grant. We learned in early summer that Bates is one of a handful of liberal arts colleges awarded a $1 million grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute as part of its Inclusive Excellence initiative. This grant will fund a transformation of our STEM culture to fully support all students in the sciences throughout their undergraduate years. Strategies will be aimed at strengthening the ways we work with students, expanding existing programs for student mentoring and leadership, and redefining the first-year science curriculum to introduce research experiences.

Equity and Inclusion. A critical focus for this year will be completing a successful search for a Vice President for Equity and Inclusion (VPEI), as the search this past spring ended without a hire. As the position prospectus makes clear, this person will be a key member of the senior staff and will be expected to play a pivotal role in ensuring that the ideals of equity, inclusion, and justice are inherent in the relationships, practices, and activities of Bates’ students, staff, and faculty. Among other priorities, the Vice President for Equity and Inclusion will be expected to work with faculty across disciplines to achieve inclusive excellence from a curricular, pedagogical, and recruitment perspective.

The search committee comprises faculty, staff, and students, and Professor of Politics Stephen Engel has generously agreed to continue his role as chair. We will also be assisted by the firm of Isaacson, Miller, which has worked with Bates over the past several years on a number of successful senior searches. The search committee has already met this fall to re-launch the search, and we hope to bring finalists to campus before or shortly after the winter holidays. In the meantime, if you have information you would like to convey to the committee, please feel free to write to the search email account at

Pending the hiring of a Vice President for Equity and Inclusion, I am deeply grateful for Gwen Lexow’s willingness to continue to oversee the Office of Equity and Diversity in addition to managing her duties as Director of Title IX and Civil Rights Compliance. I also want to thank Julisa De Los Santos, Associate Dean of Intercultural Education, for her outstanding leadership of the Office of Intercultural Education.

STEM Facility. Our goal is to open a new STEM facility in the fall of 2021. To meet this schedule, we continue to work closely with our architects and engineers to fine-tune the details of the new building and generate the design and construction documents that will allow us to commence work on the site and the building. This includes making sure that the programming work that engaged so many of our faculty and staff over the past academic year is captured in the design of the structure and appropriately supported with systems in all the right places. This fall, we are working through the approval process with the City of Lewiston, and we expect to start to show activity on the site in the winter months of 2019. While we haven’t specified the precise timing, it is likely that by March we will be taking down the buildings that currently house the Bates Communications Office and starting to dig a foundation for the new STEM building on Campus Avenue between Nichols and Bardwell streets. I am deeply grateful for the leadership of Ryan Bavis, Geoff Swift, Pam Wichroski, and Chris Streifel in advancing this work, and for the many hours contributed by faculty and staff on the STEM Facilities Building Committee and beyond to optimize the programming of the building.

Purposeful Work. With the arrival of Allen Delong as Senior Associate Dean for Purposeful Work, we were able to move forward with creating the Bates Center for Purposeful Work. The new center allows us to bring together in one place, under one philosophy, a set of programs and functions that have until now been divided between the Purposeful Work program and the Bates Career Development Center. The new structure will be much easier and more straightforward for students to navigate, and it also creates a clear organizational home for staff working with faculty and other colleagues across campus on curricular and co-curricular dimensions of Purposeful Work programming.

Athletics and Recreation. Bates runs a large athletics operation with many facets and broad impact. For students, we support varsity athletics, intramural and club sports, and a wide range of fitness and outdoor activities. Additionally, we offer programs that promote health and wellness for all members of our community, as well as many partners from the local community. Under the leadership of Director of Athletics Jason Fein, who arrived in the summer of 2017, we have worked to strengthen the staffing and organization of the Department of Athletics to, among other things: better support the overall student athlete experience, provide stronger on-boarding and professional development for coaches, establish sports medicine programs and services that reflect best practices in the field, provide better management and stewardship of our facilities, and expand services to club sports. Assisting with these efforts are a number of new staff members, who joined the department over the summer.  

Sustainability. Members of the Bates community are increasingly engaged with environmental issues, both academically and as part of the daily life of the college. Environmental Studies is one of the top five most popular majors among the last five graduating classes, the student EcoReps program continues to expand, and students have recently developed a thriving Bates garden, known as the Plot. Given this degree of interest and the acceleration of climate change, it is critical that Bates continue to make meaningful progress on the sustainability front. We have reduced the college’s overall carbon footprint by over 89 percent since 2001 and will continue to work toward carbon neutrality. We have also converted our steam plant from burning fossil fuels to a wood-based, renewable fuel oil (RFO), and we plan to extend the use of this fuel. Additionally, with the systematic efforts of our dining and events team, Bates took first place among NESCAC institutions in the recent nationwide RecycleMania Challenge in the waste minimization category. Our efforts on sustainability have also been recognized with a gold rating by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. Sustainability will continue to be a key institutional priority.

Veterans’ Recognition Project. We have appointed a project committee comprising faculty, staff, students, and a local alumnus to work on the creation of a public space on campus to recognize the service and sacrifice of members of the Bates community who are military veterans and to invite reflection on the broader implications of war. A request for proposals was issued this summer to landscape architecture firms. The committee has selected Maine-based firm MBLA, of Freeport, Maine, to work with the college on the design and installation of the project. We expect that design work will be completed over the fall and winter, and installation will happen over the summer of 2019. As members of the college community, you will be invited to share thoughts in structured sessions at key points throughout the process. Insights and observations may also be sent at any time to

Institutional Plan. The Bates College Institutional Plan was completed over two academic years, beginning in the fall of 2014 and extending through October 2016 when the final plan was considered and endorsed by the faculty and Board of Trustees. The work of planning was carried out by four working groups and a steering committee, comprising a total of 79 faculty, staff, and students, together with multiple opportunities for engagement by members of the Bates community. This academic year, we will develop a comprehensive inventory of the progress made on specific priorities identified in the plan and highlight, as well, areas that require more work. We will report the results to the college community later this academic year.

The Bates Campaign. As of June 30, 2018, we had raised $190 million toward the campaign goal of $300 million. A key goal of the campaign is to increase the overall financial strength of the college by adding new funds to the endowment. To date we have raised $71 million toward the endowment goal of $160 million. As we enter the second public year of the Campaign, we will keep our strategic priorities in view: support for the faculty and academic programs, financial aid, student life, Purposeful Work, athletics, and the Bates Fund. With the leadership of the campaign co-chairs Michael Bonney ’80, Geraldine FitzGerald ’75, and John Gillespie ’80, and the support of Sarah Pearson ’75 and the Advancement staff, we will continue to focus the Campaign effort on engaging all of our alumni, parents, and friends in this important effort.

Moving Forward Together

We clearly have our work cut out for us, and none of it is possible without the creativity and collaboration of the entire Bates community. At a moment when our public discourse is polarized, when issues requiring discernment and debate are unduly fraught, and when joy and optimism can seem in short supply, how we do our work together is every bit as important as what we do. Under the circumstances, I am thankful every day for the earnest good faith and commitment to mission that bind us together as a campus and community.



13 Responses to “Bates Community Letter: Fall 2018”

  1. Philip Stathos says:

    As parents of a freshman, we are new to the Bates Community. I truly appreciate the last paragraph of your letter and hope the Bates will continue to deliver on its promise to encourage active debate from all perspectives and that Bates students gain a true appreciation of American History and Government so that their opinions can be formed by what binds us together as Americans, even if we live in an bifurcated and divided country.

  2. Tynan Daly says:

    What are you guys doing to introduce more comp sci?

  3. Carol Ode says:

    Wonderful letter and great progress on many solid goals. Thanks so much!

  4. Terry Byrnes says:

    Fabulous update on so many important initiatives. Thanks for sharing with us.

  5. Denis E Fortier says:

    As usual, for you as well as your predecessors, you have outlined the typical over-reaching and ambitious Bates plan. I am particularly interested in the Purposeful Work initiative. This is crucial for the survival of liberal arts institutions such as Bates. This will address the question that all first year students must ask upon their first steps on campus and continue to ask throughout their four years here, and that question is “What will you be?”

  6. Kirstin Boehm says:

    What a fantastic letter that distills and shares Bates’ deep commitment to aggressively looking forward while committing to reflection and purposeful decision-making. I applaud President Spencer in her relentless pursuit of a better Bates, each year.

  7. Brian McBride says:

    How about a explicit cost containment goal, metrics, and staff? If cost control is not a leadership prioritization, Bates will continue to cause suffering for students, families and taxpayers.

  8. Carol Hollingworth Collins '52 says:

    It is fascinating to realize that there are now more entering freshmen now than the entire student body when I was a Bates student.

    It ain´t “little” Bates any more!!

  9. Norman!(1943) & Priscilla(1942) Boyan says:

    President Spencer’s Community Letter made us feel prouder than ever about our Alma Mater. She has come a long way and looks poised to go even further!

  10. Judith Robinson Cox says:

    As a first generation student, I just remember completing 3 years and then being over-whelmed. My parents had no idea how to help me. I sincerely hope you have better counseling facilities available now. Bipolar disorder need not disable a student if it is recognized in time. You should be aware that first generation students do not have college-aware parents at home and that your curriculum can cause students to go beyond what they can handle very easily. I hope you have a better track record now that you are admitting more students in this category. In my opinion I suffered needlessly.