October 2022 Board of Trustees Meeting Summary
Updates from the fall meeting, including strategic planning, key goals and creation of the Department of Critical Race and Political Economy.
Dear members of the Mount Holyoke College community,
The Board of Trustees held its fall meeting October 6–8, 2022. New trustees Kira H. Banks ’00, Adam F. Falk, Farah Khan ’98, Lourdes Melgar ’85 and Shelley Weiner Sheinkopf ’68 were joined at their first official meeting by Roberta Cordano, president of Gallaudet University, who was elected to the board last summer. During the meeting, Interim President Tatum shared with the Board some key goals for the academic year and strategies to attain them. Her goals include rebuilding our employee base, reestablishing our sense of community and morale in the wake of the pandemic, helping to raise the College’s profile by spotlighting the ways in which our alums make a difference in the world (through, by example, her Launching Leadership series) and fundraising.
The Board meeting focused in large part on the College’s future. The trustees made an important first step toward a carbon neutral future for Mount Holyoke by unanimously approving implementation of the first phase of the College’s Energy Master Plan, as well as planning for the next phases. When completed, this project will reduce the College's carbon footprint by an estimated 80 percent, potentially accelerating our goal of reaching carbon neutrality. More details will be forthcoming in the spring when the full project comes before the Board. We will also offer educational sessions for our community that will explain how geothermal heating and cooling works, why it is important to take action on our energy source now and –– assuming Board approval –– what the impact of the project will be on the College in the coming years.
The trustees ratified the creation of the Department of Critical Race and Political Economy (CRPE), which brings together Africana Studies, Critical Social Thought and Latina/o Studies. The trustees wish to recognize the faculty and staff who have worked for several years to turn the vision for such a program into reality. CRPE will officially launch in January. Professor Iyko Day will serve as interim chair.
Strategic planning was another key topic for the Board. Trustees received a summary of the accomplishments resulting from the College’s current plan, “The Plan for Mount Holyoke 2023.” Over the last five years — more than half of which were pandemic years — our faculty and staff, with the benefit of generous donor support, made remarkable strides. The community initiated and stewarded dozens of initiatives to completion, resulting in enhanced academic programs; support for new pedagogies, programs and research opportunities; a more diverse, global and inclusive community; and a College that is stronger and more sustainable. The trustees are grateful for our community’s hard work and for the support of our alums and friends.
Board members also heard from Art & Science, the research firm retained last year to survey prospective students about their hopes and priorities for the college experience. Art & Science presented data they had previously shared with the Strategic Planning Committee (SPC), which comprises students, faculty, staff and trustees, suggesting how Mount Holyoke’s strengths and opportunities might align with the needs and interests of tomorrow’s students. The SPC will meet with Art & Science again this month to hear more about what directions the next strategic plan might take. Concrete decisions about some of the plan’s areas of focus may need to wait until a permanent president is on board. Areas that make sense to launch this fiscal year will be undertaken. The Art & Science research and its potential implications will be shared with the campus community in late fall or early spring.
Finally, the Board considered Mount Holyoke’s current mission statement. A mission statement provides a “true north” for an organization, guiding the institution's path forward and allowing a vision for the future to be set in keeping with our values. Mount Holyoke’s mission statement is longer and less trenchant than most institutions’ statements. Trustees began the work of brainstorming how it might be revised. The SPC and other members of the campus community will also review the mission statement in the coming months. Our objective will be a clear statement that encapsulates what makes the Mount Holyoke experience uniquely valuable.
In its formal actions, the Board was delighted to approve the fall conferral of degrees for those undergraduate (8) and graduate students (23) recommended by the faculty. Trustees also approved a slate of honorary degree candidates whom Interim President Tatum and future presidents can choose to invite to Commencement. After review by the faculty, a second round of nominations, to be due January 27, will be considered at the Board’s February meeting. (Details about the second nomination process will follow.)
Thank you for caring about and contributing to the Mount Holyoke community. Your support allows the College to take bold action and provide our students with an intellectually adventurous education.
Karena Strella ’90, Chair of the Board of Trustees
Beverly Daniel Tatum, Interim President