Dear Faculty and Staff Colleagues,

I write to share with you a summary of the most recent Bucknell Board of Trustees meeting, which was held in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., from Thursday, Jan. 23, through Saturday, Jan. 25. Thank you to Prof. Kim Daubman, chair of the faculty, and Profs. Peter Brooksbank, Jamie Hendry, Jessica Newlin and Roger Rothman, secretary of the faculty, for attending these important discussions.

In consultation with the board, we have structured our 2014 trustee meetings to focus on strategic long-term planning that can strengthen the University's mission of a comprehensive residential liberal arts education. At this year's board meetings in January, April and October, as well as at a new bi-annual summer planning session, we are focusing on identifying key board priorities for 2025, including how to best fulfill the goals of The Plan for Bucknell. The board will be benefitting greatly in this year's deliberations from the questions that the Middle States self-study has highlighted, including topics such as student engagement, general education, and institutional and academic assessment.

To kick-off this year's long-term focus, at the January meeting we engaged the board in intensive dialogue through three plenary sessions. In the first session, I shared with the board some of the major contextual challenges facing Bucknell and all of higher education, including the national debate about higher education's value proposition, the rapid pace of demographic change, the increasing impact of technology, and the growing demands of government regulatory requirements. As part of this discussion, I shared a timeline of 25 seminal moments of change at Bucknell (including the enrollment of the first woman student, the massive growth in enrollment we experienced after World War II and, most recently, the transition to the five-course load). This timeline underscores the fact that though the challenges we face today are significant, Bucknell has always been changing, and often leading, through times of cultural and societal transformation.

In the same session, we asked the board to think about internal and external perceptions of Bucknell. The board broke into small table discussions to probe three questions: What stories do we tell each other about Bucknell? What stories do we tell others about Bucknell? And what stories do others tell us about Bucknell? The groups then reported out, giving everyone present a better understanding of the board's judgment of the University's real or perceived strengths and weaknesses.

In the second plenary session, Vice President for Communications & Community Relations Pete Mackey presented the results of a commissioned spring 2013 survey that explored our students' perceptions of their academic and social experiences on campus. The session featured a comparison of the students' views and the board's of the same set of pivotal questions and prompted a lively discussion about these differences. We will discuss the critical issues covered at these first and second plenary sessions with the faculty at a special meeting in February to be announced soon.

At the third plenary session, Dean of Arts & Sciences George Shields, Dean of Engineering Keith Buffinton and Dean of Students Susan Lantz discussed Bucknell's competitive advantages and needs in providing an integrated academic and residential learning experience. They described the purposes of a college education and defined the kinds of high-impact, transformative experiences that accomplish these purposes, such as undergraduate research, service learning, residential colleges and educational opportunities at the intersection of technology and the liberal arts. They also shared recommendations on student engagement and fraternity and sorority culture that Keeling & Associates made to Bucknell last spring.

At that session and throughout the board meeting, we also directed the board's attention to the new Campus Climate Update that we have now completed. You can read that report here. It provides a summary of the many steps taken since the fall 2011 publication of the Campus Climate Task Force Report to improve our campus climate in four areas -- programs, policies, personnel and facilities. I encourage you to read the report closely.

As part of its regular business, the board addressed the financial matters it does at every January meeting, notably the comprehensive fee and faculty and staff compensation. We want our students and their families to learn first about next year's comprehensive fee increase, and we will be informing them next week.

The board accepted the recommendations of the Finance Committee, which were consistent with the recommendations of the University Planning and Budget Committee, for an increase in faculty and staff compensation in the coming fiscal year. We are pleased that the board has agreed to establish a 3.0% salary increase pool for faculty and staff. The staff pool includes 2.50% for merit plus an additional 0.5% increase in the compensation pool that will be reserved for wage-floor adjustments and promotional or market-driven adjustments throughout the fiscal year.

For staff, as is done every year, the merit portion of the salary pool provides resources to be allocated by different percentages on a merit basis to each staff member by supervisors for implementation July 1, 2014.

The board committees also met during regular business. Click here for brief summaries of the other business conducted in these meetings.

Finally, in Florida we hosted WE DO Campaign events on Thursday in Palm Beach and on Saturday in Naples. They were both a huge success. Nearly 135 guests attended each event. We were pleased to announce at the events that the campaign has reached $307 million toward our $500 million goal. At both events, our faculty delivered superb presentations about their work -- Profs. Mark Haussmann and Shara McCallum in Palm Beach and Profs. Ghislaine McDayter and Joe Tranquillo in Naples. Each event also featured outstanding interactive spaces hosted by our faculty. I am grateful to all of these colleagues for engaging our donor and volunteer community in their work of teaching and exploration at Bucknell.

My best wishes for the spring semester, and keep warm.