Trustees Meet During Packed Celebratory Weekend

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They discussed academic successes and took part in the celebration of coeducation.

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The front of Baker library
(Photo by Katie Lenhart)
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The Board of Trustees held their November meeting on a celebratory weekend as hundreds of alumnae and others returned to campus to commemorate 50 years of coeducation at Dartmouth and the rededication of the newly renovated Dartmouth Hall.

"Fifty years ago, Dartmouth transformed its future by acknowledging that the world was changing, and it was time to embrace that change by beginning to admit women," says board Chair Elizabeth Cahill Lempres '83, Thayer '84. "The contemporaneous creation of the Native American Studies Program and the formation of the Black Alumni at Dartmouth Association changed Dartmouth forever. We celebrate the more diverse, vibrant, and welcoming learning environment we have today as a result—a campus community that would have been impossible without courageous decisions five decades ago."

Board members had a busy weekend attending events in the Celebration of Women: 50 Years of Coeducation at Dartmouth program, observing the Veterans Day flag retreat ceremony on the holiday, attending the dedication of Dartmouth Hall, and dining with the President's Leadership Council, members of which were in town for the weekend. In addition, board members held their own sessions with campus leaders.

In his report to the board, President Philip J. Hanlon '77 provided an update on what has been "the busiest fall term since I started as president 10 years ago." In addition to describing the energy on campus as in-person turnout soared at events—including this year's homecoming and the Give a Rouse tour connected to the final year of The Call to Lead campaign—he paused to reflect on the losses leading up to the Day of Caring and the memorial for President Emeritus James Wright, who died in October.

"The ability of the Dartmouth community to remain focused on its dual mission of education and research is a source of pride and inspiration to me," said President Hanlon. "The last several months, in addition to the last few years, have brought an unusual amount of challenge to the extended Dartmouth family, and yet our students, faculty, and staff have persevered by supporting one another in and out of the classroom. The Dartmouth community is extraordinary."

Hanlon shared metrics illustrating Dartmouth's academic successes, including measures within the Association of American Universities that indicate Dartmouth's high standing among peers, such as the number of faculty receiving prestigious awards and the number of scholarly monographs by Dartmouth faculty, contributing to ongoing scholarship worldwide.

Thayer Strategic Plan Progress

As a follow-up to presentations each of the academic deans made to the board last year on their strategic plans, Thayer School of Engineering Dean Alexis Abramson provided a status report on Thayer's progress, now more than two years into its most recent plan. The engineering school has seen improvement in a number of measures, she said, with 18 new faculty members hired since 2019 and an increase in the number of PhD students and research expenditures. Thayer is also working on raising the school's standing in national rankings, Abramson said.

"To compete as a modern school of engineering and attract the best and brightest faculty, staff, and students, it is imperative that we continue to focus on the growth of faculty and expansion of our programs," she said.

To do this Thayer will work to increase the number of non-engineering majors taking engineering courses, attract more students to enroll in the bachelor and master of engineering degree programs, and expand partnerships in Thayer's dual-degree program with other universities. Abramson said Thayer is also seeking to strengthen fundraising to increase the size of the school's endowment.

Thayer has created a new administrative structure that supports the school's goals and priorities and implemented a new strategy for graduate student admissions, recruiting, and enrollment, which has seen a 63% increase in graduate applications and a 20% increase in applications from underrepresented minorities. In addition, the PhD Innovation Program has doubled its applications. The school is also in the midst of a redesign of the undergraduate engineering curriculum and has created incentives for faculty and graduate students to support undergraduate research in their labs.

Making a Tuck Education More Connected

Tuck School of Business Dean Matthew Slaughter told trustees that the heart of Tuck remains its flagship two-year, full-time MBA program. The quality and diversity of the MBA classes continues to rise and the financial return on the MBA investment remains incredibly strong, he said.

"Tuck distinguishes itself by offering in all programs an educational experience that is distinctly personal, connected, and transformative," said Slaughter. "We are a trust-based, data-informed, 21st-century learning community with a strong culture of implementing strategy through outward-looking innovation." 

He said the Class of 2024 is made up of 45% women, 31% U.S. minorities, and 43% international citizens. In addition, 11% of the class are the first generation in their family to graduate from a four-year university.

Tuck is building on its success using virtual reality in one course, exploring new methods of teaching and the use of augmented and virtual reality more broadly. In addition, the school this year introduced two new types of courses, sprints and practicums, to expand how students interact with issues, clients, and projects. In sprints, students can explore a timely topic in a condensed format. Practicums allow students to receive credit for hands-on, experiential project work.

At future meetings, trustees will hear from Geisel School of Medicine Dean Duane Compton and Guarini School of Graduate and Advanced Studies Dean Jon Kull '88.

Arts and Sciences Exploration Continues

Elizabeth F. Smith, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, talked with trustees about the continued exploration of alternative organizational structures for Arts and Sciences.

The directional impetus of the project sits in three primary areas—holistically integrating undergraduate academic and student experience functions into a more comprehensive approach to undergraduate education; fostering greater incentive for collaboration, innovation, and distinction among faculty; and aligning governance and budget structures to support those two aims.

"At a time of enormous flux in higher education, Dartmouth has a generational opportunity to transform its organizational approach to undergraduate education," said Smith. "In so doing, we can give students and Arts and Sciences faculty greater access to the full benefit of the Dartmouth experience."

Working groups are currently considering budget models and meeting with faculty committees on governance issues.

Toward Equity: DEI Strategic Plan

Shontay Delalue, senior vice president and senior diversity officer, presented the new three-year strategic plan advancing diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging called Toward Equity. The plan, announced on Nov. 3, is 15 months in the making following meetings with faculty, students, staff, and alumni, Delalue told trustees.

"The work of advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion doesn't begin and end with one initiative," she said. "Toward Equity presents an opportunity for Dartmouth to improve the processes, systems, and structures that will create a positive environment for people from diverse backgrounds and cultivate spaces where the most innovative, academically excellent, and creative ideas can be realized."

The plan is made up of 15 actions organized into four areas—coordination, structure, accountability, and assessment—each with an anticipated completion timeframe.

Student Mental Health and Well-Being Update

Provost David Kotz '86 provided an update on the multi-year, multi-pronged effort to expand and refine support for student well-being and to increase Dartmouth's capacity to address students' acute mental health needs.

"We are deeply committed to creating a culture of care and compassion across all of Dartmouth," Kotz said. "We are continuing to develop a thoughtful, comprehensive, and coherent campus-wide plan to support all of our students in all of our schools."

To help guide the effort, Kotz told the board that he has appointed physician and Geisel School of Medicine psychiatry professor Matt Duncan, MED '01, to serve as a special adviser to him on student mental health as they and others work to develop a strategic plan to address mental health and wellness.

On Oct. 21, Dartmouth sponsored a Day of Caring as a way to offer time for community members to grieve, process, and reflect on recent tragic events, on and off campus. And beginning Nov. 1, the 24-hour teletherapy service Uwill is now available to all students, at no cost. Also ongoing is Dartmouth's work with the nonprofit Jed Foundation on a four-year partnership to improve mental health on campus.

To date, Dartmouth has increased the number of mental health professionals and expanded screening for mental health issues; expanded wellness programs to enhance student safety, well-being, and resilience; and worked to communicate comprehensive wellness resources. Bolstering these goals are a number of new efforts. In September, Dartmouth offered use of the Headspace app to students and employees, at no cost, as a tool for mindfulness and stress management. As of late October, almost 780 students had used the app.

Two New Departments Approved

Among the other subjects discussed, board members approved the transition of two academic programs to become departments. The decision to make the African and African American Studies Program and the Latin American, Latino and Caribbean Studies Program into departments follows changes that last year allowed three other programs to become departments—environmental studies, linguistics, and Native American studies.

Following the process laid out by faculty committees for programs to be considered departments, academic units must have a critical mass of full-time tenure-track faculty; represent a distinct disciplinary field; be self-governing; offer a defined curriculum, including a major; show demonstrated student interest; and share contiguous office space, the guidelines say.

"This important change reflects the reality that these academic groups have operated successfully with the autonomy of other departments," said Smith. "I am so pleased that this has been acknowledged by our internal process and approved by the board."