July 18, 2012
Dear Members of the Mount Holyoke Community:
I am writing with an update on summer activities. As we were preparing to celebrate the accomplishments of the class of 2012 and our near record-breaking number of alumnae who returned for reunion, we were also welcoming accepted students from the class of 2016 and their families to campus. With more applications than ever before, the Office of Admission increased their selectivity by ten percent and effectively leveraged financial aid to create an extraordinarily talented and diverse incoming class.
Since the end of June is the close of our fiscal year, a good deal of the summer has been spent assessing the current financial status of the College and developing strategies for the future. I am happy to report that the College achieved a balanced budget for the 2011-2012 year and was able to offer raises across the board at 2% and equity adjustments at .5%. Moreover, we have made steady progress toward completing the Capital Campaign, which now stands at $253M toward our goal of $300M. The Mount Holyoke Fund, which supports annually the College’s $115M operating budget, brought in $8.25M. Right now, the endowment hovers at around $592M, and thanks to a very strong Investment Committee, the College’s investment returns have been highly competitive. In the past five years, with inflation averaging 2.2% and with a 3.9% average return on a benchmark portfolio of 80% stocks and 20% bonds, Mount Holyoke’s endowment return has averaged 6.7%. In addition, refinements to the College’s endowment spending policy to incorporate debt service costs into the distribution for annual operations provides further buffering for the investment portfolio. These costs had previously been supported as a separate allocation from endowment funds.
The College’s commitment to providing access for academically talented students, regardless of socioeconomic background, led to a decision to freeze tuition, room and board. Ultimately, this will contribute to the long-term financial strength of the College. Nevertheless, freezing tuition in the face of increasing fixed costs is not, in itself, a solution to the structural challenges that must be confronted. Thus, I have been working closely with the officers of the College and the College Planning Committee to identify priorities and assess the proposed next steps in the blueprint for change, “Save, Simplify, Redirect,” emerging from the planning process. We estimate that the combined impact of these steps, once fully implemented, will produce over $8 million a year in savings or increased revenues. Central to this effort is a plan to lower the cost structure of the College by some $4 million a year.
One of the primary means of achieving this objective is to reduce the cost of administration and operations. Over the past several years, Mount Holyoke has realized $1.1 million in savings on administrative costs, and we are now taking steps to cut another $1.5 million over the next few years. Since 2008, the College has eliminated 16.6 FTE staff positions through attrition or layoffs, and has further trimmed costs by consolidating the Campus Police departments of Mount Holyoke, Smith and Hampshire colleges. We are now investigating joining a purchasing consortium to lower the cost of purchased goods and services through increased controls and coordination, a move that may save hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. The most dramatic step we are exploring is the feasibility of moving from a decentralized and residence hall-based dining program to a single dining facility (which would require start-up investment for a new central dining hall, as existing facilities are not large enough to permit this change). The Faculty Committee on Planning and Budget together with the senior officers of the College will be working this coming year to identify additional ways we can streamline operations. One recent model of creating efficiencies is reflected in the newly signed agreement between the Alumnae Association and the College, which focuses on cost-savings through collaboration around shared values.
In addition to these cost-saving efforts, “Save, Simplify, Redirect” calls for specific measures to increase revenues, including exploring and developing new markets in graduate, professional, international and summer programming; optimizing net tuition revenue by slowing the growth of tuition and fees while strategically managing financial aid; and enhancing our core offerings linking curriculum to career to improve the College’s value proposition to prospective students and their parents. We believe that we cannot simply cut our way to financial sustainability, but must adopt a combination of cost efficiencies and revenue-generating initiatives to keep the College on a sound financial footing while maintaining our historic commitment to excellence, access and opportunity.
Beyond conducting the on-going administrative responsibilities of the office, I have participated in a wide range of events both on and off campus. During the last week in May, within a few days of Reunion II, Mount Holyoke hosted the presidents and athletic directors of the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC). NEWMAC supports the well-being of student-athletes and the educational value of participation in athletics. In addition to engaging in on-going assessment of our conference, the presidents confirmed Emerson College as NEWMAC’s eleventh member and had a substantive discussion of the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s proposal to require sickle-cell testing for all Division III athletes. The concerns raised by this proposal were captured in an editorial I submitted to The Chronicle of Higher Education, which was published in a recent issue.
During that same week, Mount Holyoke launched its new partnership with the Dongfang International Center for Educational Exchange. Higher education administrators from China attended lectures by Mount Holyoke faculty and staff on theories and practices of U.S. higher education administration and financial management. This three-week professional development seminar was one of many programs piloted by Complementary Program Development (CPD) throughout the summer.
The arrival of our guests from China coincided with my preparing for a visit to their country. I began my travel to Asia with a stop in Seattle to meet with alumnae and to congratulate the Seattle Club on its 100th anniversary. I look forward to returning in September for their official celebration, when I am on the West coast delivering a paper at a medical conference and meeting with alumnae in Los Angeles and San Francisco as part of the celebration of Mount Holyoke’s 175th!
From Seattle, I flew to Nanjing to attend and speak at the Women’s Education Worldwide Conference hosted by Ginling College. This was followed by alumnae events in Shanghai, Beijing and Seoul, South Korea. I could not have asked for a more gracious welcome at each of these venues, and I was gratified to have alumnae from seven different decades welcoming our newly accepted and prospective students to the Mount Holyoke community at these events. Beyond gathering with students and alumnae, I had the pleasure of signing a partnership agreement with the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, building upon work initiated by Eva Paus, Director of the McCulloch Center for Global Initiatives, and several of her colleagues. I also engaged in outreach and recruitment for CPD in collaboration with alumna Margaret Chai Maloney ’92.
Another highlight of this trip was the opportunity to be interviewed by Mona Locke, who is a noted journalist and the wife of the current U.S. Ambassador to China and former first lady of Washington state. Her interview with me was live-streamed on the State Department’s website. I was also interviewed with President Kim Sun-Uk of Ewha University for Korean television. In both instances, the focus was on challenges to women’s leadership in the academy and the importance of mentors and role models for creating a pipeline toward leadership development.
Similarly, women’s leadership development was the central theme of The Women and Public Service Project (TWPSP), which was initiated by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last December, and which held its first institute at Wellesley this June, bringing 50 women leaders from 21 countries to Massachusetts for a two-week program. Secretary Clinton and former Secretary Madeline Albright were among the featured speakers. Faculty, staff, students, alumnae and trustees from Mount Holyoke were instrumental in developing the curriculum and implementing the inaugural institute. During the Institute, The Women in Public Service Project announced that it is joining forces with the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, which will become the permanent home of TWPSP. We look forward to the next steps as we work together to ensure that women’s voices are at the forefront of framing political discourse and shaping public policy at the global, national, regional and local levels.
The collaboration with the State Department and our sister institutions has offered an exciting opportunity to develop a public-private partnership around shared objectives regarding women’s leadership. At the same time, Director of Government and Community Relations Kevin McCaffrey and I have been engaged in on-going conversation with members of both the State Department and the White House about the future of higher education. I had the privilege of providing feedback to the White House in June, through Zakiya Smith, senior advisor for education at the White House Domestic Policy Council, on proposed tools for promoting transparency around the true costs of an undergraduate education.
I was in Washington for another reason in June–to receive a Sloan/ACE award on behalf of the College for best practices in retirement programs. Mount Holyoke was one of 15 institutions recognized for innovation in transitioning retiring faculty to the next phase of their professional and personal lives. The night we received the award, I was extremely pleased to learn that the American Council on Education is supporting The Academic Minute through weekday podcasts on Inside Higher Ed. We continue to believe that the program plays an important role in bridging the gap between the public and the academy by introducing listeners to cutting-edge research and scholarship that is taking place in colleges and universities across the country and around the world.
My travel this summer also included returning to Kenya for my fifth year, this time to work on youth leadership development with APHIA PLUS (AIDS Population Health Integrated Assistance), World Vision and “Yes Youth Can.” We were seeking to address the social determinants of health by fostering solutions to food insecurity, poverty and disease burden that are community-centered, sustainable, promote universal access and foster leadership.
As I was returning from Nairobi, I stopped by New York’s Central Park to see several of our recent graduates and a current student perform a piece choreographed by Nina Joly ’11. I was thrilled to be able to celebrate the creative vibrancy of our Mount Holyoke students and the professors who train and inspire them.
I will continue to travel to alumnae events for the remainder of the summer, with my next stops in the Berkshires and the Hamptons. I also travel to Miami for the Triennial Council Meetings of Phi Beta Kappa with Chapter President Stan Rachootin where we will participate in discussions of innovative strategies for articulating and demonstrating the value of liberal learning.
In mid-August, we will submit the College’s fifth-year report to the New England Association of School and Colleges (NEASC). The process of self-evaluation has been valuable, and we are eager to learn from the Commission’s feedback as part of our integrated planning process. In the fall, as we continue to work on strengthening the College academically and financially while fostering a community that supports diversity, inclusion, sustainability and social justice, I have invited the chairs of the Academic Priorities Committee (APC), Planning and Budget (P&B), the Faculty Conference Committee (FCC), the Committee of Admission and Financial Aid, and a faculty representative from the College Planning Committee (CPC) to meet monthly with me and other senior administrators of the College to improve collaboration, communication and transparency as we move on to the next phase of strategic planning. Finally, after consulting with the FCC, we have engaged a search firm, Storbeck Pimentel, to assist us in our search for a Dean of Faculty.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have questions or comments about any of these initiatives. I hope you enjoy the rest of the summer, and I look forward to seeing you in the near future.
Lynn Pasquerella ’80