Welcome to a New Year

To the Dartmouth community,

Welcome to a new academic year. As sure as summer ends, the start of every fall term is a time of new beginnings and great promise.

When my wife, Gail, and I traveled to the Mount Moosilauke Ravine Lodge recently for a First-Year Trips dinner, I was reminded of the beginning of my own time as a Dartmouth student. The Lodge hasn't changed a bit in almost 40 years, nor have the amazing effort and boundless energy put forth by Lodge staff and trip leaders. The nervous anticipation among the first-years and their excitement about what lies ahead for them at Dartmouth were palpable in the room that night.

Like the Class of '17, I too am excited about what lies ahead. Wednesday will mark my 100th day in office, and on Friday I will be inaugurated as Dartmouth's 18th president (http://dartmouth.edu/inauguration). My return to campus has been more fulfilling than I could have hoped and every bit as busy as I had imagined. My first months back in Hanover have been spent getting reacquainted with Dartmouth--and listening. I've been doing a lot of listening.

Beginning with my appointment in November, extending through the summer, and in a process that is ongoing, I have spoken with more than 700 students, faculty, staff, and alumni. These talks have been frank, forthright, sometimes spirited, and always insightful. I have come away from each impressed with the diversity of thought and unity of purpose evident throughout the community.

Two things have become clear: First, all of us share a deep affection and high ambition for Dartmouth; and second, we are all interested in strengthening the bonds of community that make the Dartmouth experience so special. On both fronts there are challenges and opportunities.

While the state of Dartmouth's academics is strong, it can be made stronger.

We must embrace the promise of new learning technologies to reach a global audience and, more importantly, to enhance the teaching and learning taking place right here on campus. We have opportunities to harness the power of experiential learning--learning by doing--more fully, to equip students with a flexibility of mind and the understanding that the power of deep thinking is the most potent tool they have in life.

In addition, we must fully leverage the assets that set us apart--the amazing talents of our students, the commitment of our faculty, outstanding professional schools, graduate programs, and our unique setting--to enrich our already best-in-class educational work.

In our scholarly work, which is already robust, we must strive to broaden our impact by reaching across traditional fields of study, working together to create new areas of impact. We will better serve our mission of sending citizen-leaders into a world of complex problems by having the vision to imagine solutions born of new knowledge we create, not the paradigms of old. In this sense, Dartmouth must strive to be at the leading edge of scholarship by synthesizing the diverse and groundbreaking work of our world-class academic community.

In the area of student life, much has been done over the past few years by student leaders working in concert with Dean Charlotte Johnson and her staff.

But we must do more. In fact, we have a responsibility to rise to the challenge of maintaining a campus that is unfailingly open, inclusive, safe, and welcoming to all--one that serves as a necessary complement to our already unparalleled academic environment. This is essential if we are to ensure that the Dartmouth experience, at its very heart, represents not simply a campus, but a community.

On a more personal note, in the past few months it has been a great pleasure watching Gail come to know what makes Dartmouth so special. She is quickly appreciating something I have known since that first fall I spent on campus back in 1973--what makes Dartmouth extraordinary, beyond its picturesque beauty or intellectually stimulating environment, is that this is a community of caring. Gail and I extend our deepest appreciation for the sincere welcome we have been shown, and we look forward to working with you in the months ahead.

After many years away, it's great to be home.


Phil Hanlon