Leadership Profile

President | Bates College

Lewiston, Maine

Since 1855, Bates College has been dedicated to the emancipating potential of the liberal arts. Bates educates the whole person through creative and rigorous scholarship in a collaborative residential community. With ardor and devotion—Amore ac Studio—we engage the transformative power of our differences, cultivating intellectual discovery and informed civic action. Preparing leaders sustained by a love of learning and a commitment to responsible stewardship of the wider world, Bates is a college for coming times.
– Bates College Mission Statement

The Search

Bates College, a historic, selective, residential liberal arts college, seeks its ninth president. Bates’ next president will be charged with leading the College through a critical moment in higher education, serving as an advocate for the value of a modern liberal arts education, ensuring the fiscal health and sustainability of the institution, and leveraging Bates’ strong foundation and passionate community to forge a bold vision for its future. The next president of Bates will inherit an ambitious and innovative institution poised for its next chapter, ever committed to its founding mission and ready to push itself in new ways to meet the challenges and opportunities of the present and future.

Founded in 1855 by abolitionist Freewill Baptists, Bates has been coeducational from its founding, and it has always welcomed students regardless of race and ethnicity. The College’s commitment to academic excellence, intellectual exploration, and engaged citizenship defines its character. Today, Bates is known for its rigorous and engaged liberal arts education that centers on deep and sustained interactions among students, faculty, and community; a commitment to opportunity and excellence that grows directly out of its history and mission and responds to contemporary geographic, demographic, and economic realities; and Purposeful Work, a program built on the premise that preparing students for lives of meaningful work lies at the heart of the liberal arts mission.

Bates is exceptionally well positioned for its next president following the successful 11-year tenure of Clayton Spencer, who has strengthened Bates’ reputation as one of the leading liberal arts colleges. Under Spencer’s leadership, Bates has strengthened its academic program, advanced its work in equity and inclusion, created an innovative program to prepare students for lives of meaning and purpose, improved its physical infrastructure, nearly doubled its endowment, and successfully completed the largest fundraising campaign in Bates history.

Bates seeks a president who will embrace its values and, in close collaboration with the College community, imagine and realize a future of even greater impact. The president must possess the qualities necessary to lead a close-knit community with a global reach. With broad intellectual curiosity, demonstrated commitment to diversity in all its forms, financial and fundraising acumen, and genuine interest in engaging directly with all of the College’s many constituencies (on campus and off), the successful candidate will be a skillful administrator capable of collaborative and decisive action and an authentic leader with the ability to build consensus.

A Presidential Search Committee composed of Bates faculty, staff, students, and trustees—nearly all  of whom are alumni or parents of Bates students—is working with Isaacson, Miller, a national executive search firm, to assist with recruitment. Confidential inquiries, nominations, and applications may be directed to the firm as indicated at the end of this document.

Bates College

Bates was built by people who put their ideals into action and made the liberal arts a dynamic force for the public good. With their progressive call in 1855 to admit African Americans and to educate men and women together, the founders of Bates affirmed that all human potential deserves to be developed. This radical founding moment manifested a durable instinct for the fellowship of learning that continues to guide Bates’ commitment to intensive and unfettered humanistic inquiry.

Bates continues to be guided today by the principles of its founders as it embraces the intellectual, economic, social, and technological challenges facing higher education in the 21st century. The values of rigorous thinking, inclusion and diversity, environmental and civic responsibility, and egalitarianism are reflected in the academic, co-curricular, and social lives of Bates students. They are affirmed by a faculty that supports initiative and original thinking across a demanding, varied, and innovative curriculum. The College is distinguished by a strong sense of community, shared purpose, institutional loyalty, and close student-faculty engagement.

The College’s mission statement, provided at the beginning of this document, served as the launching point for a comprehensive strategic planning process that unfolded through 2015 and 2016.  The Bates College Institutional Plan, which was approved by the faculty and the Board of Trustees in the fall of 2016, subsequently informed the priorities of the recently completed Bates Campaign: Constituting Community, Enhancing the Academic Experience, Educating the Whole Person, and Strengthening Financial Sustainability.


Bates offers a liberal arts education that fosters intellectual inquiry and reflection, personal growth, and a commitment to the world beyond oneself. Bates offers students a rigorous academic experience in a collaborative and supportive environment. The College strives to ensure that all its programs reflect diversity in its many dimensions.

The philosophy of “Amore ac Studio”—ardor and devotion—articulated in the Bates mission statement is fully realized in the work of its faculty and students. Bates faculty have an exceptional degree of engagement with students, even by liberal arts college standards. Faculty-student mentoring, senior thesis, and collaboration on research and course design are Bates’ distinctive academic signatures and rely on the College’s culture, commitment to innovative research, and creative work across disciplines. Nearly all Bates students complete a thesis (89 percent) and/or capstone experience (11 percent); and 40 percent complete advanced research in close collaboration with faculty.

The College offers 36 majors and 26 minors and maintains a student/faculty ratio of 10:1. Over the past five years, the most popular majors have been Economics, Politics, Psychology, Environmental Studies, and Biology. Approximately 20 percent of Bates students are double majors.

The academic calendar features two semesters and one Short Term that takes place in May and has increasingly become a platform for innovation in teaching and learning. During Short Term, students may undertake a variety of educational programs, in some cases off campus. In addition to traditional courses, sample activities during Short Term include Practitioner-Taught Courses, which expose students to practical and applied areas of study; course design and redesign projects; undergraduate research projects across the state of Maine and beyond; internships associated with academic departments and programs; community-engaged learning; and study abroad on faculty-led trips.

Faculty & Staff

The College’s approximately 200 faculty members provide the foundation for a Bates education. The faculty of Bates is a community of engaged teachers, respected scholars, and innovative artists. They also play a vital role in the governance of the College. Full faculty meetings are held monthly, and the agenda is set by the Committee on Faculty Governance. Faculty and curriculum are organized in four divisions, 22 departments, and 10 interdisciplinary programs.

All tenured or tenure-track faculty hold the doctorate or terminal degree in their field, and they comprise 62 percent of the faculty. Lecturers or instructors make up 18 percent of the faculty, and 20 percent are visiting faculty in any given year, typically replacing courses for faculty on leave. Close to 60 percent of faculty are women and 24 percent are from underrepresented groups.

Bates’ approximately 600 staff members are integral to the work of the College. As one of the top employers in the state, Bates recruits its staff nationally, regionally, and locally. The Bates staff consists of individuals with a broad range of professional and personal experiences, and the College continues to work to recruit and retain a staff that is diverse across multiple dimensions. The members of the Bates staff are essential to the delivery of the Bates experience and play central roles in student learning and development.

As is true at many small residential colleges, Bates employees are feeling stretched to keep up with the demands of providing a residential educational experience to students, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the fall of 2021, the College was notified of a petition to organize a bargaining unit on campus that would include non-tenured and non-tenure-track faculty and non-managerial staff. Bates is currently awaiting a decision from the National Labor Relations Board on the structure of the bargaining unit at Bates, should it be created. The bargaining unit would join the Maine Service Employees Association, which is affiliated with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Regardless of the outcome, Bates is committed to continuing to engage with employees to maximize their satisfaction with their work at the College.


Bates students are engaged, invested in their studies, collaborative, and supportive of one another. The student body consists of about 2,000 students, with approximately 1,800 on campus each semester. They bring strong academic credentials from a wide variety of backgrounds and represent 48 states and 81 countries. About 26 percent are domestic students of color, 7 percent are international, and 12 percent are first generation to attend college.

Bates is a residential college, with 93 percent of its students living on campus. Students take part in curricular and co-curricular activities across a wide array of artistic, athletic, cultural, political, and social interests. Community engagement is a historic institutional strength and a passion for many Bates students, who take advantage of approximately 50 community-engaged learning courses each year and a wide range of co-curricular civic learning and leadership opportunities. More than 65 percent of students spend some portion of their undergraduate time abroad.

One of Bates’ signature initiatives is Purposeful Work, launched in 2014. Built on the premise that preparing students for lives of meaningful work has always been a central purpose of the liberal arts, Purposeful Work represents a radical departure from traditional approaches to preparing students for careers. It is grounded in Bates’ mission, has curricular and co-curricular aspects, and takes a four-year, developmental approach to working with students. Through funded internships, practitioner-taught courses, a speaker series, and other opportunities, Purposeful Work promotes greater agency in students’ approach to their college years and a stronger bridge to life after college. In 2018, Bates unified the Purposeful Work program and the Bates Career Development Center as the Center for Purposeful Work.

Ninety-seven percent of the Class of 2022 engaged with the Center over the course of their four years at Bates. The Purposeful Work program was included in the “Stanford 2025 Guide to Reimagining Higher Education” as one of 13 featured case studies, and for the past two years Bates has also been ranked high (6th last year and 12th this year) among “the most innovative” national liberal arts colleges, based on a U.S. News peer survey.

Bates students compete successfully for a range of graduate fellowships and other national and international merit awards. For eight of the past nine years, Bates has been designated as a top producer of Fulbright scholars, ranking in the top 10 undergraduate institutions nationally and as the number one liberal arts college in the country in 2020. Bates students also apply for and receive Watson fellowships, Goldwater scholarships, and research awards from the National Science Foundation, among others.

Student Life

Campus life plays an integral role in Bates’ attention to the education of the whole person, a process through which students become aware of their interests, community, and purpose in the world. Bates has never had fraternities or sororities, and a lens of equity and inclusion is foundational to the College’s approach to campus life. Indeed, campus life programming aims to foster an active sense of belonging and to promote experiences that encourage self-discovery as well as community connection both within Bates and greater Lewiston-Auburn. With over 100 student clubs and organizations, Bates deepens the student experience by providing resources and opportunities to explore interests through social events and programs, skill building workshops, and employment opportunities.


Athletics is a central part of the Bates experience for many students, with almost 60 percent participating in varsity, club, or intramural sports. Bates hosts NCAA Division III athletics as part of the highly competitive New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC), whose members believe that athletics should operate in harmony with the educational mission of their institutions. For so many student-athletes, their experience at Bates is tied to their identity as members of their respective athletic teams, which play a significant role in promoting respect and inclusion while working to build community amongst students.

Bates sponsors 31 varsity athletics teams, and the Bobcats have been nationally competitive in a number of sports. The Women’s Rowing team has won the NCAA Division III Championship in five of the past seven years, and in 2022 the Women’s Basketball team won its first NESCAC tournament championship in program history, advancing to the second round of the NCAA tournament. Other Bates teams aspire to achieve a comparable level of success, and a renewed effort to secure more resources for Athletics will better position all teams to be competitive and enhance the student-athlete experience.

This experience is closely tied to the classroom and community. Just last spring, 154 Bates varsity athletes received NESCAC All-Academic honors for the spring season alone, and this fall, five varsity athletes were named Dana Scholars, one of the highest honors Bates bestows on members of the first-year class.

The Arts

The arts serve as a core element of the liberal arts experience at Bates. Through curricular, co-curricular, and extracurricular activities, the characteristically egalitarian spirit of the College invites all members of the Bates community to participate in theater, dance, music, and other arts activities. The arts are also a locus of community engagement with the College. The Bates College Museum of Art and the annual Bates Dance Festival, in particular, are well regarded both locally and nationally and draw visitors to campus throughout the year (in the case of the museum) and in the summer (in the case of the dance festival).

Community Engagement

Another integral piece of the Bates community is the Harward Center for Community Partnerships. The Harward Center advances the College’s commitment to informed civic action and responsible stewardship of the wider world through reciprocal and sustained partnerships that simultaneously meet community needs, enhance curricular and co-curricular work, and develop leaders who are empowered to enact social and environmental change. The Center fosters sensitivity and confidence to engage cross-culturally and encourage collaborative inquiry into issues of local and global significance. The Harward Center is nationally recognized and coordinates 15,000 hours of co-curricular community volunteer work by Bates students every year.

Enrollment and Financial Aid

For the newest incoming class, the Class of 2026, the College has welcomed 518 students, with 29 percent identifying as domestic students of color, 12 percent being the first in their families to attend college, and 9 percent coming from outside the U.S. The class has an admit rate of 14 percent and the yield was 45 percent.

The College provided more than $36 million in need-based institutional grant aid in fiscal year 2022 and meets 100 percent of a student’s demonstrated financial need. Typically, between 40 and 45 percent of enrolled students receive financial aid. The average institutional grant award for the Class of 2026 was $54,539, and 12 percent of the incoming class was Pell eligible.

In September 2021, Bates was awarded a $50 million challenge grant from the Chicago-based Schuler Education Foundation to expand the number of Pell-eligible, low-income, and DACA or undocumented students attending Bates. Bates is one of five colleges in the country chosen for the inaugural year of the Schuler Access Initiative, which will fuel an unprecedented $100 million commitment to financial aid to transform Bates’ capacity to recruit, admit, and support students from an increasingly diverse and highly qualified population.


Worldwide, there are more than 24,000 “Batesies” pursuing lives of meaning and purpose and making a difference in their communities. Bates alumni are united across generations by the time they spent in Lewiston, and by the education that prepared them for remarkable careers and full lives. Approximately three quarters of Bates alumni pursue advanced study. Recent alumni are most commonly employed or are continuing their education in the fields of education, finance/banking, healthcare, technology, and sports and recreation. Bates alumni have been critical to the success of Purposeful Work, with hundreds of alumni offering internship and job shadowing opportunities for Bates students each year and connecting through Bates Bridge, an online platform to foster student-to-alumni and alumni-to-alumni connections.

In 2015, MOSAIC was developed through a collaboration between the Office of College Advancement and the Office of Equity and Inclusion. Bates alumni sought to build community among underrepresented racial, ethnic, LGBTQIA+, first-generation college, and international alumni, and a new leadership position focused on alumni and family equity and inclusion programs was established within the Office of College Advancement in 2020.


In May 2017, the College launched the $300 million Bates Campaign, the most ambitious fundraising effort in the College’s history. The Bates Campaign had sweeping and broad goals: to strengthen the College’s endowment by $160 million through endowed funds for professorships, financial aid and academic innovations; to improve facilities, including new and modernized science facilities; to increase funding for programs focused on student success, including Purposeful Work; and to sustain a strong Bates Fund. The campaign closed in summer 2022 with $345.7 million in gifts and pledges, surpassing its original goal and tripling the size of previous campaigns.

As of June 30, 2022, Bates’ endowment was at $419 million, up 27 percent from June 30, 2019, and up nearly 100 percent from June 30, 2012. This growth has been further augmented by increased annual giving totals, which have grown more than 180% since 2013. By growing the endowment, Bates continues to secure in perpetuity financial support for the College’s strategic priorities and ongoing operations. Bates’ endowment is robust compared to most American colleges, but modest relative to its peers and aspirant peers. The institution currently operates with an approximate yearly budget of $130 million. Net tuition revenue remains the greatest source of operating income, at approximately three-fourths of total revenue.

Under the guidance and leadership of the recently appointed Vice President for College Advancement, Bates is positioned to generate new philanthropic support for financial aid endowment, through the Schuler Access Initiative, as well as a range of college programs, including Bobcat First, which supports first-generation Bates students; the Center for Purposeful Work; and facilities improvements for Bates Athletics.

Leadership and Governance

The current search for the president comes as Clayton Spencer, president since 2012, has announced her decision to conclude her service at the end of the 2022–23 academic year. Institutionally, Bates has become measurably stronger and more financially resilient in the past decade and the pride felt under Spencer’s successful leadership has led to a more active alumni engagement. The endowment has nearly doubled during Spencer’s tenure and the most successful fundraising campaign in Bates history has strengthened academic, financial aid, student life, and fiscal priorities. Throughout Spencer’s presidency, the number of admission applications has increased by 54 percent and 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 42 percent. President Spencer has been an accessible and engaged champion of the Bates community, and her wise and decisive leadership in steering the College through the COVID-19 pandemic has left the College on stronger footing today.

As the chief executive officer of the College, the president reports to the Board of Trustees and works closely with the chair of the board. Bates is governed by a board of up to 40 members, including the president. The trustees come from a broad range of professional backgrounds, locations, and constituencies. John Gillespie ’80 currently serves as chair of the board and Jean P. Wilson ’81 serves as vice-chair. In July 2023, Gregory Ehret ‘91 will succeed Gillespie as board chair. The board engages in collegial, transparent dialogue, through regular meetings, board retreats, and a number of ad hoc and standing committees.

The faculty is governed through 27 standing committees and its governance structure is currently being reexamined through a multi-year governance review process. Many of the board’s and faculty’s committees include members of both constituencies as well as staff and students.

Campus and Location

Bates is located on a beautiful, 133-acre, traditional New England campus in Lewiston, Maine. The College has invested in the physical infrastructure of the campus with numerous buildings constructed or renovated in the past fifteen years. New buildings include Commons—the heart of student life and home to the single dining hall that fosters a sense of community across all classes—as well as new dormitories and the 65,000 square foot Bonney Science Center, which was opened last year thanks to a $50 million gift. Key recent renovations include Dana Hall, part of the overall rejuvenation of science facilities at Bates, and the current Chase Hall project, which will create a new hub for student programs and services in the center of the Bates campus. In 2017, Bates became one of seven colleges in the country to achieve carbon neutrality, and the College recently announced a goal to become climate positive by 2030.

Together, Lewiston and Auburn, Maine form a demographically diverse urban center of about 65,000 people that offers opportunities for cultural enrichment and entertainment as well as meaningful community-engaged learning and leadership. With a rich industrial past, Lewiston/Auburn has seen great transition in the last 30 years and is in an ongoing process of redefining its economic, social, and cultural landscape. Thousands of French-Canadian immigrants came to work in textile mills powered by the Androscoggin River in the mid-19th century. More recently, Lewiston has welcomed new residents, including vibrant Somali, Somali Bantu, and Djibouti populations.

With an engaged citizenry, growing arts scene, and historic downtown, this walkable city is 35 miles north of Portland, 140 miles north of Boston, and 340 miles north of New York City. The location also provides easy access to recreational pursuits in the nearby mountains and ocean coastline.

The Role

The president is the chief executive officer of the College and is charged with setting a vision and strategy to lead the institution forward, enhancing academic excellence, supervising and managing all institutional affairs, developing and maintaining relationships with a wide array of constituents in the College community and beyond, and representing the institution externally—all in support of Bates’ core mission. Across the country, the role of college president has become all-consuming and more complex. Particularly at Bates, the president must be the chief ambassador and fundraiser, externally positioned, and, at the same time, an accessible, reliable, inspiring champion and leader for the campus community.

The president will be supported in this work by the College’s senior staff, which includes the Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculty, Vice President for Campus Life, Vice President for College Advancement, Vice President for Communications and Marketing, Vice President for Enrollment and Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid, Vice President for Equity and Inclusion (currently vacant), Vice President for Finance and Administration and Treasurer, Vice President for Information and Library Services and College Librarian, and Vice President for Institutional Affairs and Secretary to the Board of Trustees.

Building upon an already solid foundation, the president will address the following challenges and strive to use them as opportunities to further strengthen the College:

In partnership with the Bates community, develop and implement a strategic vision for the future of the College

The next president will work with faculty, staff, students, alumni, and the board to craft and articulate a vision for advancing Bates into the future. The president must be an inspiring advocate for the power and possibility of a liberal arts education at Bates, clearly articulating the ways in which the vibrancy and rigor of the College’s academic program encourages intellectual exploration, while simultaneously preparing students to navigate life after graduation. The strategic vision must be responsive to the changing higher education landscape while remaining faithful to Bates’ liberal arts tradition and values. To be successful in this effort, the next president must be an intellectual leader who appreciates the deeply transformative potential of the liberal arts and is prepared to be a strong voice nationally on the topic.

Judiciously steward and increase Bates’ resource base to ensure financial sustainability

Bates is consistently ranked among the top liberal arts colleges despite an endowment that is smaller than those of many of its peers. While Bates’ impressive ability to compete with better-resourced colleges is a source of pride for many, the College is continually working to secure funding commensurate with its ambitions. The next president will be entrusted to manage current financial resources effectively and provide leadership in the face of competing financial priorities. The president will collaborate with the Board of Trustees and senior leaders to ensure that Bates is effectively resourced into the future, ensuring both near- and long-term fiscal health.

The president will have the opportunity to shape and launch the College’s next capital campaign. The College will need additional resources to grow the endowment and fund additional capital projects. Endowment growth is critical for long-term financial sustainability and key priorities. Early in the president’s tenure, the board and other senior leaders will look to the president to lead an effort to define the overarching vision for the campaign, the specific contours of these priorities, and the strategic initiatives and programs that will aid Bates and appeal to donors.

Champion the values of equity, inclusion, and antiracism

Since its founding, Bates has welcomed students from diverse racial, ethnic, religious, and economic backgrounds. The next president must provide leadership on these commitments in its intellectual and community life. Significant and meaningful work has been started, including programs for prospective and admitted students, Howard Hughes Medical Institute– and Andrew W. Mellon Foundation-funded initiatives to transform curricula and pedagogy in the sciences and humanities (respectively); expanded programming in the Office of Intercultural Education; and invited speakers—more of whom come to campus to address issues of social justice than any other topic. However, there is much more work to be done, and the expectation is that a new Vice President for Equity and Inclusion will provide vision and coordination for these efforts (a search to identify the next VPEI is underway now). During the 2021–22 academic year, a team led by President Spencer undertook a structured consultation process across the campus to understand experiences with equity and inclusion at Bates and inform approaches to improve consistency and effectiveness in that work. The president will serve as an institutional leader in both word and action, by promoting the values of equity and inclusion in all institutional areas and will welcome difficult conversations that examine College practices, policies, and culture, especially as student demographics continue to change. Particularly on a campus whose size and geography can create a deeply personal and intense experience, a clearly demonstrated track record and commitment to inclusion and equity from the president is essential.

Sustain and lead an active and engaged campus community

Bates has a flourishing campus life where the president is an active part of the community. While the president has a significant external role, they must also recognize the importance of Bates’ on-campus community, one that has seen a lot of change throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The president will be a visible and engaged presence on campus, interacting openly and genuinely with faculty, staff, and students. The president must attend carefully to the student sense of community, working to promote ever-greater campus inclusion and authentic conversation to broaden and deepen student life. The president will actively support and foster the faculty’s work in the classroom and as scholars, and support the development of staff and their overall engagement in the intellectual life of the College. As Bates grows increasingly diverse, and as society grows increasingly polarized, issues of free speech and how to engage across differences on campus and across the country will be of critical importance. The next president must lead through the turbulent times ahead with knowledge, nuance, courage, and grace.


Bates seeks an engaged and galvanizing president whose intellect and experience will inspire confidence in the community. The search committee seeks candidates with many of the following ideal qualities and characteristics:

  • A deep commitment to the liberal arts and the Bates mission;
  • An ability to cultivate trust and build relationships to bring campus constituencies to actionable consensus and the ability to energize and inspire students, faculty, staff, alumni, board members, and external stakeholders around a collective vision;
  • Commitment to high academic quality, rigor, and excellence;
  • A personal commitment to, and professional record of, success in advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion, including the recruitment and retention of a diverse and representative population of students, faculty, and staff;
  • Knowledge of current and emerging issues, trends, and strategies in higher education; a keen understanding of enrollment; experience developing strategies to address demographic shifts, including internal and external marketing and communications;
  • Experience designing, managing, executing, and communicating a collaborative strategic planning process with demonstrable outcomes;
  • Successful experience as a strategic, inclusive, transparent, respectful, and visible leader; the ability to build strong management teams, delegate responsibility and authority, and execute plans with fiscal responsibility;
  • A track record in crisis management—knowing how to quickly and empathetically plan for, respond to, and manage through a changing risk environment; 
  • A natural preference for collaboration and comfort with cross-cultural communication and interactions with people of different backgrounds;
  • Experience and demonstrated skills to fundraise successfully and an ability to connect with potential donors individually and in a group;
  • A clear understanding of financial accounting, including budgeting and the role of enrollment and retention in the budget process, and measurement of operating performance for small, independent institutions of higher education;
  • Experience building and sustaining relationships with government, business, community partners, and other educational leaders;
  • Unquestioned integrity, trustworthiness, sound judgment, and ethics.

To Apply

Bates College has retained the national executive search firm Isaacson, Miller to assist in this search. All inquiries, nominations, referrals, and applications should be sent electronically and in confidence to:

Kate Barry, Partner
Karen McPhedran, Managing Associate
Miguel Santiago, Senior Associate
Isaacson, Miller
Boston, Massachusetts