Welcome Back!

To the Dartmouth community:

To our newest undergraduates, graduate and professional students, faculty and staff, and to those returning to campus after what Gail and I hope was a memorable summer break -- welcome to the fall term!

Over the summer, I had a chance to sit down with one of our most accomplished alumnae, a leader in her field. I asked her what she felt were her most formative experiences during her time at Dartmouth. Without hesitation, she brought up the time she spent learning in the classroom, participating in study abroad, and working on a research project with faculty members, all of whom were recognized thought leaders in their fields. And this message -- this simple point of differentiation -- is one that alumni have made to me over and over. Their work with leading scholars on the Dartmouth faculty was transformative: the unique insights, the excitement of working at the very frontier of knowledge, the understanding of the complexity of the world's issues, and the capacity of the human intellect to address them.

It is a hard fact that the landscape of higher education is more turbulent than at any time in our history as it undergoes massive disruption. In this environment, Dartmouth must represent to the world a singular, remarkable, unique educational experience. Our alumni point to part of the formula: For Dartmouth to stay at the forefront of education, we must enhance the quality of our scholarly work and seamlessly connect it with the student experience.

At some universities, these might be viewed as competing pursuits -- education and research. Not so at Dartmouth. Our comparatively small, intimate campus means that not only can a student's education and a faculty member's scholarly work complement one another, they can also push one another. As a faculty member, my colleagues and I have dual responsibilities: to remain at the forefront with our research and creative work; and to integrate students into this work in meaningful ways, giving them access to a transformative learning experience, while accessing a wellspring of talented, energetic young collaborators in the process.

This term marks a sort of milestone in this regard. We are beginning to see the realization of efforts, now two years in the works, to better integrate our two fundamental missions -- education and advancing the frontiers of knowledge -- into a stronger whole.

We welcome to campus this term the first cohort of junior fellows in the Dartmouth Society of Fellows -- talented individuals who will "fill the middle" between undergraduates, graduate and professional students, and the faculty, forming connections across these groups. When I announced creation of the society as a lead-off strategy in my 2013 inaugural address, even I couldn't envision what a stellar group we would assemble. As the first five of these scholars join our community, my hope is that many of you will identify with their interests and the work they wish to achieve here, and find ways to join in their work or bring them into your own. And to Caitano, Vanessa, Katharine, Bess, and Yvonne, welcome to Dartmouth!

Additionally, over the past two years, we have made tremendous progress on our faculty cluster hiring initiative, which aspires to make Dartmouth the epicenter of breakthrough work on a number of complex challenges of global import. The response has been swift and gratifying from our alumni who have provided support for the first four of these clusters in computational science, decision science, health care delivery science, and a cluster focused on globalization and human well-being in societies around the world. We are pleased to welcome to campus the first faculty member recruited as part of the cluster initiative, Professor Rahul Sarpeshkar from MIT, who will anchor the William H. Neukom Academic Cluster in Computational Science.

Meanwhile, we continue to increase our capacity for experiential learning in support of integrating students into the work of our faculty. The needle is set to move dramatically with the Experiential Learning Initiative housed at the Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning. DCAL has identified several pilot projects that represent curricular and co-curricular experiential learning across all divisions. These include the course "Introduction to Biological Anthropology," taught this term by Professor Jeremy DeSilva, part of the international team that just last week announced the discovery of a previously unknown species of human ancestor. Jeremy and his Dartmouth colleagues have created fossil casts that will allow students to explore what "National Geographic" describes as potentially "one of the greatest fossil finds of the past half century." Students will also interact with the leader of the research team, Professor Lee Berger of South Africa's University of Witwatersrand.

In the arts, through the Curricular Connections program, the Hopkins Center brings artists, dancers, musicians and performers of all kinds into our classrooms, while bringing classes to the Hop to attend performances that enrich the learning experience. DCAL will help expand the program by inviting faculty to develop experiential learning curricula that more deeply engages visiting artists, fostering more powerful curricular connections. And these are just two examples; this fall, DCAL plans to hold a competitive bid process open to the whole campus.

Scholars who teach -- a timeless Dartmouth difference. Faculty who are eager to partner with students in the business of changing the world, and students who are equally eager to apply their talents and passions to advance the frontiers of knowledge. For many of our alumni, this is a key reason that their Dartmouth experience led them to lives of leadership. And for those outside the Dartmouth family, it is a reason many are surprised by the impact that a small college in rural New England brings to the table.

A new term is always exciting but there is something a little different going on at Dartmouth this fall, something more ambitious. There is nowhere else in the world I would rather be than at the heart of it, and I thank each of you for playing a part.

I hope you have a wonderful fall term!

Sincerely yours,

Phil Hanlon '77