Bates Community Letter: Fall 2019
Dear Members of the Bates Community,
Welcome to the 2019–20 academic year! I write to share news of recent progress and outline institutional plans and priorities for the year ahead.
The Bates Community
First, I want to offer a special welcome to our newest faculty and staff and to the members of the Class of 2023. We are delighted that you have chosen to join us here at Bates.
At opening Convocation, we celebrated the arrival of our newest students: the Class of 2023 and five transfer students. The Class of 2023 is one of the strongest in the college’s history, with 27.5 percent of its members domestic students of color and 11.6 percent first generation to college. The members of this class were chosen from 8,222 applicants, a 55 percent increase in applications over the past two years (and a 70 percent increase since 2012).
We also welcome the 22 new members of the faculty and 39 new members of the staff who have joined us since July 1. Among them is our new Vice President for Equity and Inclusion, Noelle Chaddock. With Noelle’s arrival, we have a renewed opportunity for leadership, creativity, and cohesion in the critical project of creating a Bates experience—for all constituencies—built on our commitment to inclusive excellence. I know that Noelle is looking forward to meeting as many of you as possible—so please do make a point of introducing yourself.
Also, please join me in congratulating those members of the faculty who begin the year with promotions: Travis Gould, physics, and Michael Rocque, sociology, who were promoted from assistant to associate professor and were granted tenure; Krista Aronson, psychology, who was promoted from associate to full professor; and Anita Charles, education, who was promoted from lecturer to senior lecturer. Congratulations to all on achieving these important milestones.
I also want to congratulate the 20 members of the Bates Class of 2019 and 5 recent graduates who received Fulbright awards in 2019. We tied our own record with these 25 awards in a single year, maintaining our status as a top producer of Fulbrights among liberal arts colleges. The success of our students in gaining these opportunities is a testament to the strength and breadth of the education they receive at Bates, the depth of their engagement in ideas and real-world problems, and the power of their relationships with faculty mentors.
Finally, this summer marked a significant leadership transition for Bates, as longtime trustee and Board chair Michael Bonney ’80 retired from the Board of Trustees and John Gillespie ’80 was elected to succeed him. John has spent the summer listening and learning, meeting with a number of faculty members and staff to ensure that he has a broadly-informed perspective on where Bates is today and where its priorities lie. John is an experienced leader, he loves Bates, and he is excited to help us build on our recent momentum.
A Busy Summer
Bates was bustling on a number of fronts during the summer months. In addition to the many visits from prospective students and their families, a number of camps, and the Gordon Research Conferences, we welcomed 1,181 alumni, guests, and children back for Reunion Weekend in early June. The Bates Dance Festival innovated with new one-week intensives and a condensed 10-day performance format, and exceeded its box office goals. And for the first time, we welcomed 1,400 cyclists participating in the Trek Across Maine, a fundraiser for the American Lung Association. Many of the riders spent the night in our dorms after riding from Brunswick and before setting off for Waterville.
Those of you returning to campus after a summer away will notice several significant physical changes. Foundational work continues on Campus Avenue for the new Bonney Science Center, projected to open in Fall 2021. Across the quad, major masonry work is underway at the Gomes Chapel, which means that this space will be offline for the remainder of this academic year. New grass has been installed at the Russell Street Field. And the Lane Hall parking lot has been rebuilt and re-landscaped, with six additional parking spots and an electric car charger. These readily visible changes are complemented by innumerable updates and improvements made across our facilities within many buildings.
This summer also brought news of the largest ever federal grant awarded to Bates, from the National Science Foundation. The four-year, $3.97 million grant will support the creation of a Visual Experience Database to support research in fields that rely on the analysis and recognition of images, such as neuroscience, cognitive science, and artificial intelligence. The principal investigator for the grant—which was developed collaboratively by researchers at Bates, North Dakota State University, and the University of Nevada, Reno—is Bates’ Michelle Green, assistant professor of neuroscience.
We were also awarded $225,000 over three years from the Arthur Vining Davis Foundation to establish an overarching leadership framework to improve the quality and coherence of student leadership development. Currently, Bates hosts more than 20 leadership programs across a range of departments (Athletics, Campus Life, Admission, Harward Center, Intercultural Education, Purposeful Work) that provide discrete paths for students to explore and develop their leadership capacities. These programs involve more than 500 students (more than a quarter of the student body) at any given time. This grant will allow Bates to bring together partners from across campus to articulate a leadership framework and associated tools and curricula to serve all student leaders more effectively.
The Year Ahead
Equity and Inclusion. As I mentioned above, the arrival of Noelle Chaddock as our new Vice President for Equity and Inclusion gives us new leadership and fresh perspective on the commitment to inclusive excellence that is at the heart of all that we do at Bates. Noelle will spend much of the fall continuing the work they began this summer—meeting and listening to members of all Bates constituencies and assessing the areas of greatest need and opportunity.
Noelle will build on the strong progress we have made over the past five years in the realms of program design and hiring, and in revitalizing the student-facing Office of Intercultural Education under the leadership of Julisa De Los Santos.
We are also well poised to make progress on equity and inclusion in the academic program. The HHMI grant gives us the mandate and a start on the resources to build inclusive curricula and practices in the life sciences. We have a similar opportunity in the humanities under a multi-year grant from the Mellon Foundation, focused on the transformation of our curricula and pedagogy in the humanities and the humanistic social sciences.
Governance. Malcolm Hill, our Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculty, has outlined two major initiatives in academic affairs for 2019–20, to be carried out by ad hoc faculty committees. The first is a comprehensive review of faculty governance to be chaired by Associate Dean of the Faculty and Professor of Politics Áslaug Ásgeirsdóttir and Associate Professor of Philosophy Susan Stark and to be conducted over the next two years. The second is a review of tenure and promotion standards, which will be chaired by Malcolm and Professor of French and Francophone Studies Mary Rice-DeFosse and completed in the year ahead.
Re-accreditation. Another major endeavor for the coming months will be completion of the self study for our ten-year accreditation review, which takes place in November 2020. The work is being led by a coordinating group and carried out by nine teams of faculty, staff, and students that correspond to the nine standards under which we will be reviewed. Initial drafts have been prepared by each team for review and revision over the course of the fall semester. A final draft of the full self study will be completed in early 2020 for review by the accrediting organization, the New England Commission of Higher Education.
An accreditation review is a significant undertaking requiring a great deal of work by many people. I want to thank the coordination team, led by accreditation chair and Professor of Biology Don Dearborn and staff lead and Assistant Dean of Strategy and Analysis Matt Duvall, and all who are contributing their energy and insight to drive this important project forward.
Human Resources. This fall, we will conduct a national search for our next Assistant Vice President for Human Resources. Vice President for Finance and Administration and Treasurer Geoff Swift will chair the search committee, and we have retained a search firm that has expertise in the field and worked with us on previous successful searches.
Veterans Project. In late May, I wrote with an update on the planned veterans recognition project, explaining that due to a challenging construction environment and the need for the project committee to engage more fully with the range of viewpoints related to the project, the timeline had been extended. I am pleased to report that the committee made excellent progress this summer, and plans to work with our design partners, MBLA, this fall to create a final design for the project. We will then bid out the project this winter for the spring 2020 construction cycle, with the aim of dedicating the new space in the fall.
Fundraising. Important support for all of this work comes from philanthropy, and 2018–19 was a record-breaking year for Bates fundraising, with 9,490 Bates alumni, parents, and friends contributing $28.848 million to the college. The Bates Fund set an all-time record of $7.249 million, finishing with 43.1 percent alumni participation and 36.5 percent parent participation. Friends of Bates Athletics also hit a high-water mark at $976,527, including a successful crowdfunding campaign.
We continue to make progress on the $300 million Bates Campaign, with $220 million raised to date. We will continue to work on securing the gifts necessary to meet our goal at the same time we maintain our focus on annual giving to ensure the long-term health of the college.
Our Work Together
At opening Convocation, guest speaker and honorary degree recipient Dolores Huerta reminded us that together, “we can change things—but we’ve got to be educated, we’ve got to be organized, and we’ve got to be active.” This collaborative, engaged, creative community is an inspiring place to work and learn, and I am grateful to each of you for making it so. Here’s to a great year to come.