Report on the October 2013 Board of Trustees Meeting

November 6, 2013

Dear Members of the Mount Holyoke Community:

We write to report on the meetings of the Board of Trustees held on campus on October 24, 25 and 26. The Trustees join us in thanking the many members of the Mount Holyoke community who contributed to an informative and energizing meeting. We especially appreciated the broad participation of College officers; particularly those who have just recently begun their work at Mount Holyoke; and the many faculty committee members, staff and students who enriched our conversations. As is customary, the Board heard from the President regarding her goals and those of the Senior Staff and Officers. There was a clear sense of positive momentum toward achieving the strategic goals. The Board is in alignment with the President’s priorities and with those of the Faculty Conference Committee and the Joint Leadership Committee. Progress toward achieving those goals will be measured over the course of the year.

Prior to the start of the meeting six new Board members, including Catherine Burke ’78, Katherine Collins ’74, Helen Drinan ’69, Ellen Flannery ’73, Kaitlyn Szydlowski ’09 and Sara Xefos ’06, participated in a full day of orientation activities. The regular Board meeting schedule included three major plenary sessions. During the Friday afternoon plenary, Strengthening our Profile; Enhancing our Reputation, officers and staff presented information on enrollment and admissions, student retention, institutional risk and compliance, and the academic core mission, as a way of enhancing our collective understanding of the US News and World Report Rankings and what they mean to Mount Holyoke. The second session on Friday evening engaged the Board in a discussion of Jeffrey Silingo’s book,College Unbound: The Future of Higher Education and What it Means for Students. President Pasquerella facilitated a panel discussion that included Mary Davis, Board Chair; Liz Markowits, Chair of the Faculty Conference Committee; Jonathan Lipman, President of the AAUP; and Sonya Stephens, Dean of Faculty. This conversation about the future of higher education, and of liberal education in particular, raised important points to guide future conversations about the re-shaping of teaching and learning in higher education classrooms; the ways in which new technologies may or may not inform instruction; and the ways in which colleges and universities must be both prudent and nimble in shaping curriculum and identifying student learning goals that will serve students well into the future. On Saturday morning, new officers Jodi Devine, Executive Director of Mount Holyoke Extension/CPD Shannon Gurek, Vice President for Finance and Administration; Lori Hendricks, Director of Athletics and Chair of Physical Education and Athletics; Sonya Stephens, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculty; and Alex Wirth-Cauchon, Interim Chief Information Officer and Director of Library Information and Technology Services;  shared their goals and key initiatives that are shaping their collaborative work toward meeting the overarching strategic goals of the College. This plenary was attended by several Trustee Fellows who were on campus to meet and to celebrate the close of a successful $305 million campaign achieved under the leadership of Trustee Fellows Barbara Baumann ’77 and Leslie Miller ’73. 

Board committees addressed a range of issues linked to their fiduciary responsibilities. The Advancement and Alumnae Engagement Committee discussed strategic advancement initiatives. The College Enrollment and Marketing Committee reviewed the profile of the class of 2017 and goals for the coming admissions cycle. The Conference Committee discussed the achievements of faculty and college rankings with members of the Faculty Conference Committee and Joint Leadership Committee. The Education Committee discussed the future shape and size of the faculty, curriculum-to-career initiatives, and innovations in the uses of technology. The Finance Committee reviewed the College’s financial position; received an update from the Investment Committee; and reviewed capital projects, the pension plan, facilities master planning, and insurance coverage. The Five College and Collaborations committee discussed its vision and scope of work for the future. Title IX, legal fees, and institutional reputation occupied the Institutional Risk Committee. The Nominating and Governing Committee reviewed and revised its list of priorities for future Board membership. The Student Affairs Committee discussed Title IX compliance work, student retention, rankings and student social life on campus. The CPD Advisory Committee reviewed current operations and plans for short-term and long-term growth.

The Board met in a formal session on Saturday morning to review and discuss actions recommended by committees. The many points of intersection among the goals of various committees were highlighted. The need to keep priorities clear and to regularly evaluate progress toward addressing strategic goals was echoed. The Board was pleased to hear that there are extensive conversations taking place to help the College move ahead with its focus on “Save, Simplify and Redirect” initiatives and encouraged everyone to continue to work in a focused and expedient manner toward “Innovation and Integration.”

We thank the faculty, staff, students and alumnae for their continued work on behalf of Mount Holyoke as we move into a period of exciting evolution and opportunity embracing the enjoinder to never fear/change.

Mary Graham Davis, Chair of the Board
Lynn Pasquerella, President of the College