Dear Faculty and Staff Colleagues,
I hope you enjoyed your summers and had some rest and relaxation during the past few months; as always, it seems that summer has passed us by so quickly. The campus is once again alive with activity, and I am pleased to report that our New Student Orientation program earned high praise from students and parents alike. Move-in day ran smoothly, the weekend activities were engaging, and Convocation concluded with another beautiful Candlelighting Ceremony on the Academic Quad. Thank you to everyone who worked to make these past few days a wonderful, memorable and meaningful experience.
During my Convocation address to students, which you may read here, I challenged our students to embrace authenticity. We as an institution must do the same. I believe we have arrived at a seminal moment in this University's history in which we, the current stewards of Bucknell, have the potential to elevate the standing of this University well beyond where we are today and to ensure its prosperity for generations to come. Later this semester you will receive a document reflecting my strong beliefs on the challenges we face and the type of decisions we must make in order to be both successful and sustainable. This statement will reflect and amplify the thoughts I shared with you during two separate plenary sessions for faculty and staff last semester and will include a significant appendix of financial data that provides important context. I look forward to continue working with each of you as we enter a period of strategic reflection, and as we strive to answer this pivotal question: Who are we becoming?
Below, please find my annual summer update, which summarizes University developments and initiatives.I wish you well and thank you heartily as we start the new academic year.
Senior Leadership Transitions
With Mick Smyer stepping down as Provost at the conclusion of this academic year, we will soon begin a search to fill what I believe is among the most important and difficult positions at any institution of higher learning. Identifying our next provost will be my most important duty this upcoming year, and to assist in this critical endeavor we have partnered with Storbeck/Pimentel & Associates, one of the country's foremost recruiting firms specializing in higher education. In the weeks ahead we will be sharing in greater detail the process moving forward.
As I stated in my note over the summer and many times prior, I credit Mick's wise counsel and guidance in helping me transition to Bucknell, and for many of the successes we have achieved since. Mick has been a great colleague and friend to me, and I look forward to celebrating him and his many accomplishments as his term draws to a close this spring.
As we look forward to the important work of finding Mick's successor, we are nearing the end of our search for a new Vice President for Communications. I expect to be able to share with you a decision within the next two weeks. Thank you to those who spent time with the candidates during their visits to campus, and for providing your feedback on each candidate. I'd like to offer a special thanks to the members of the search committee for their efforts in helping to fill this very important position.
In thinking about how best to serve our educational mission it's essential that we tightly coordinate our academic and operational efforts and that we maintain unfettered communication across the institution. To that end, the Operations & Management Group (OMG) will continue its periodic meetings with Faculty Council. Furthermore, we have expanded OMG to include our two College Deans, George Shields from Arts & Sciences and Keith Buffinton from Engineering. Also, and reflective of our highly "people-centric" nature, we've added to OMG our Associate Vice President of Human Resources, Pierre Joanis. Many will recall that Pierre joined us last year, from Princeton. Information on the OMG may be found here.
Though our students come to Bucknell for a variety of reasons, none is more important than the academic strength of our faculty. This fall, following national searches, we welcome 15 new tenure-line faculty members to the University:
- Kelly Bickel, assistant professor of mathematics
- Claire Campbell, associate professor of history
- Lisa Caravan, assistant professor of music
- Chun-Miin "Jimmy" Chen, assistant professor of management
- Lara Dick, assistant professor of mathematics
- Rebecca L. Fagan, assistant professor of chemistry
- Regina Gazes, assistant professor of psychology, with a joint appointment in animal behavior
- Amal Kabalan, assistant professor of electrical & computer engineering
- Michael Krout, assistant professor of chemistry
- Ryan Malone, assistant professor of music
- Mark John Meyer, assistant professor of mathematics
- Evan M. Peck, assistant professor of computer science
- Jennifer Silva, assistant professor of sociology & anthropology
- Hiram L. Smith, assistant professor of Spanish
- Tian Xi, assistant professor of East Asian studies
We are proud to welcome to Bucknell the 941 students in the Class of 2018, along with 30 transfer students, 18 of whom are Bucknell Community College Scholars. These newest members of the Bucknell community have impressive records of achievement and leadership, and interests that span the disciplines. Bucknell continues to compete exceptionally well against the country's top colleges and universities. As has been the trend recently, the academic strength of the Class of 2018 continues to match or exceed that of previous classes. The incoming first-year students also represent more than 30 states and more than 30 countries.
Revised Student Handbook
For the first time in a decade, our Student Handbook has undergone extensive revisions. In consultation with General Counsel Amy Foerster, Dean of Students Susan Lantz and her staff spent many months analyzing the policies and procedures set forth by our Student Handbook while also investigating best practices in this important area.
One area within the Handbook that received significant attention is our Student Code of Conduct. The new Code is more educational in tone with a focus on social responsibility. Its flexibility will allow students who are inclined to do so to recover from a poor decision and continue on a successful path at Bucknell. We have created and shared with all of our students a 'Know the Code' website to help answer the questions they are sure to have as a result of this transition.
New Residence Halls
Over the past several months, steady progress has been made on our new residence halls and commons building. The four residence halls will feature 151,000 square feet of apartment-style housing and include spaces to promote student interaction and living-learning opportunities. The commons building will have a large multi-purpose space and several meeting rooms, as well as a small dining facility and convenience store. This construction project furthers our commitment to a residential learning experience. All five buildings are scheduled to be completed by July 2015. I encourage you to drive by or check in on the action via webcam.
You may have also noticed that several flood-prone student rental properties along Sixth Street in downtown Lewisburg have been razed. This is a borough project made possible through funding from the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Nine houses have been removed to date. The borough continues its negotiations with the owner of a tenth property that may also be razed.
Bucknell University Intelligence (BUI) Project Update
For those of you who are unfamiliar with BUI, it is our broad, cross-university program aimed at defining, aggregating and enabling more efficient and strategic use of our data. As of this summer, and thanks to partnerships with the Registrar's Office, Library & Information Technology and Enrollment Management, most student data has been through the BUI program processes and is being widely used across those offices. In addition, BUI projects from earlier phases are being actively used to track and benchmark withdrawal and retention metrics. While other offices on campus continue to broaden the available data beyond students, new ways of visualizing existing data are also underway in the form of executive and public dashboards designed to illuminate key metrics of the University.
President's Sustainability Council
The sustainability of an institution depends on myriad factors comprising interwoven social, economic and environmental issues. It is a simple notion, but one freighted with complex realities that must be confronted by each generation as we steward and advance the University. The sustainability of Bucknell must be part of nearly everyone's work, in much the same way that I described our diversity efforts when we created the President's Diversity Council in 2012. To that end, and recognizing that much good work in this area is already occurring, I announced last spring the formation of a President's Sustainability Council. The Council will variously define, support and/or coordinate sustainability programs and activities across the University; partner with faculty governance and academic leaders to promote sustainability curricula; and oversee the development and implementation of a sustainability plan for Bucknell. The charter and membership for the Council will be announced during this term.
Middle States Update
As I shared with you in July, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education acted, "To reaffirm accreditation and to commend the institution for the quality of its self-study report and process." There is no better outcome for an institution, and we all owe a debt of gratitude to those of you who worked so hard to make it possible.
We will now turn our attention to forming a subset of the Middle States steering committee, which will be charged with bringing to Provost's Council, the OMG and appropriate governance committees the next steps in responding to the recommendations and suggestions made by the Middle States Visiting Team.
The WE DO Campaign
This October marks two years since we launched the public phase of the WE DO Campaign, and the generosity shown to us by Bucknellians continues to grow. To date, the campaign has raised more than $323 million. For the second consecutive year, Bucknell has achieved a new fiscal year fundraising record with $53.8 million in new gifts and pledges, compared to $52.9 million in FY13. FY14 marks just the third time the Annual Fund exceeded $12 million and the first in which parent giving exceeded $2 million. Alumni participation held steady at 34 percent and the overall number of donors rose.
The WE DO Tour continues to provide opportunities for alumni to interact with faculty and current students in magnificent settings around the country. This academic year we are excited to host events in Chicago; Washington, D.C.; and at CBS Television City in Los Angeles. My sincere thanks goes to all those who make these events truly remarkable, memorable and impactful for our guests.
To reflect the expansion of the Bucknell University Environmental Center's mission and scope of programming to formally include sustainability, it has been renamed the Center for Sustainability & the Environment (BCSE). The BCSE will actively contribute to a growing emphasis on sustainability across the University while maintaining a strong commitment to environmental scholarship and learning. The changes are the result of an extended period of strategic planning that further consolidates Bucknell's position as an emerging leader in multiple fields of study related to sustainability and the environment.
After careful consideration and to better reflect the educational and developmental work that occurs on campus, the Office for Psychological Services has been renamed the Counseling & Student Development Center. Through a review of other institutions and best practices, "Counseling" was identified as a more approachable, commonly used and understandable term. "Student Development" emphasizes the growth and proactive aspects of the center's services.
Our Office of Disability Services has also changed its name; it is now the Office of Accessibility Resources. This change reflects more commonly used nomenclature in the field and more closely aligns with best practices at other institutions.
Many of you are aware that Princeton Review has ranked Bucknell No. 9 on its annual list of "Top 10 Party Schools." We all know this and similar rankings lack credibility and are meant mostly to sell magazines and garner pageviews for the various websites on which they appear. In this case, the Review apparently derived its list from an agglomeration of student opinions gathered over the period 2011-13. The Review won't say how many students at Bucknell it surveyed, but I know it has published descriptions of other schools based on as few as a dozen students' opinions.
Despite the list's questionable integrity, I am dismayed by our inclusion. This ranking not only threatens to tarnish the Bucknell name that so many dedicated people have worked so hard to attain, but it also belies our many efforts made to reduce high-risk drinking. Though what follows is not an exhaustive list, our work in that area includes new alcohol-free social offerings and new wellness programs, new investments in our Counseling & Student Development Center, new communications efforts reaching students and parents alike, our founding of the Bucknell Collaborative on High-risk Drinking, and the revised Student Code of Conduct I mentioned earlier in this note, which removes purely punitive sanctions in favor of approaches that research shows meaningfully change behavior. And yes, our decisions include ending House Party Weekend.
I am deeply troubled by the hold that the drinking culture has on many college students across the country, including here. We will continue doing everything we can to educate students about healthy social habits and to provide programs that support them. We will continue applying best practices for reducing binge drinking, and asking parents to help their children make good choices about how they spend their time on campus. And we will continue to evaluate our efforts to see if we are doing enough. But we will not be defined by this ranking. It is not who Bucknell is, and it is not who we are becoming.
With the start of classes today, the 2014-15 academic year has commenced, my fifth since you welcomed my family and me to Bucknell. I cannot overstate my appreciation for the support you have given me and, more importantly, for your tireless efforts in helping our students grow into the next best versions of themselves.