Community can’t be built out of bricks and mortar. But take a community like Colby’s and nurture it with the right spaces, and people come together. That was the premise behind two major construction projects: Schair-Swenson-Watson Alumni Center and Pulver Pavilion. Pulver Pavilion was intended to serve as a "living room" for students. But that didn’t mean it would work. "Often, trying to draw students into a central place is difficult. It feels contrived to the students," said Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Jim Terhune.
But at Colby, it did work. Students gather for coffee, to discuss classes and club activities, to watch television, and to promote events. "To me, what’s telling is anytime you walk into Pulver after eight o’clock in the morning, you’re going to find students in there."
The new bookstore, which moved to Cotter Union from Roberts, is now more central to the student experience. The Fireside Lounge, the new pub, and other programming spaces allow students to gather for activities from studying to intimate music performances.
The Schair-Swenson-Watson Alumni Center provided new space for community events, including a large room for dinners and talks. Alumni congregate there for programs throughout the year.
The community also gathers for athletic events, and the new Harold Alfond Stadium has created a space for more than just football fans, Terhune said. Other teams use the field, and the lights allow for more flexible game times. "If you’re playing at four o’clock in the afternoon on Wednesday, you’re not going to get the kind of turnout that you will at a night game, because people aren’t in class, aren’t in lab—you know, they’re more inclined to go."
The Class of 2014 is the most diverse in Colby’s history, reflecting the College’s mission: to make a Colby education available to qualified students and to create a diverse, world-reflecting community on Mayflower Hill.
How did it happen? Let’s go to the numbers of the Reaching the World campaign.
The campaign, including the Colby Fund and the Colby Fund for Parents, raised $42 million for need-based financial aid and established 55 new financial aid funds. The Boulos Family Scholarship Fund and the Michael L. ’66 and Sally Gordon Financial Aid Fund targeted Maine students and high-achieving, high-need students, respectively. As a result, Maine students can graduate from Colby without debt, and the brightest, high-need students have the opportunity to study at Colby.
Consider the numbers:
The success of the Reaching the World campaign has allowed for the average grant amount to increase 128 percent. At the same time, the average parent contribution has increased 24 percent, less than half the increase in actual cost.
This has come during an economic recession, at a time when federal and state funding for higher education has decreased, notes Lucia Whittelsey ’73, director of financial aid.
Whittelsey held out two documents, one showing the gifts received by the College during the campaign and another showing the increased funding for students with financial need. "This," she said, pointing to the campaign document, "makes all of this," pointing to the aid report, "possible."
The success of the campaign "enables us to people our classrooms with students who are going to add to the Colby experience and benefit the most from it," said Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Parker Beverage. "In difficult economic times, it enables us to assure families we can still meet fully their eligibility for aid."
Enhancing the Classroom Experience
It’s easy to focus on the tangible results of the campaign: one major expansion of the campus, two new buildings, two new synthetic athletic fields, hundreds of works of art. What’s harder to see—from the outside, anyway—is the impact these and other gifts have had on the academic experience.
In the Diamond Building, students are taking advantage of new spaces and opportunities. The state-of-the-art GIS (Geographic Information Systems) lab allows students from disciplines ranging from economics to Jewish studies to use mapping technology to analyze data. Already, environmental studies majors have said they believe they got their first jobs out of Colby because of the skills learned there.
Diamond has also provided the space to facilitate student-faculty relationships. "We’ve now got physical spaces for these students to work in close proximity to their mentoring faculty," said Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs and Associate Dean of Faculty Michael Donihue ’79.
Students and faculty also get collaborative time through grant funds designated for international study, like the one that sends students to India with Professor Steven Nuss for Jan Plan. Student-faculty collaborative research grants from the Goldfarb Center for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement fund projects like the unpiloted aerial vehicle for mapping (see Summer 2010 Colby). And a Howard Hughes Medical Institute grant established mentoring for science-focused students from traditionally underrepresented groups.
Outside of the classroom, campaign funds extend the academic experience into the evenings through lectures sponsored by the Goldfarb Center, the Creative Writing Program, and the Gerrish Fund for Spiritual Enrichment.
Museum Enhancement and the Visual Arts
When Colby announced that it would receive the Lunder Collection of American Art, then valued at more than $100 million, the Colby College Museum of Art jumped into the national spotlight. Now, more than three years later, the collection serves as a major draw. "I think the Lunder Collection, in its quality and in its excellence, has brought real recognition to the museum," said Carolyn Muzzy Director and Chief Curator Sharon Corwin. "We have people who travel here from all over the world to see works in the Lunder Collection."
Soon, with the completion of a major museum expansion, more of the collection will be on view at all times. And that’s good not just for world-traveling art aficionados but for Colby faculty and students—and even local kindergartners.
Through the campaign, two endowed positions—the Mirken Curator of Education and the Anne Lunder Leland Curatorial Fellowship—have enabled the museum to share its treasures with a broad audience.
The Mirken Curator focuses on linking the curriculum to the museum’s exhibitions. "It’s really thinking creatively about how to engage faculty and students across the curriculum and beyond the humanities," said Corwin. Additionally, the Mirken Curator brings thousands of local K-12 students into the museum each year—an experience that "can just be transformative to how they think about art and their culture as they grow into adults."
Visitors also benefit from the work of the curatorial assistant, who focuses on public relations, publications, and assisting with exhibitions. The assistant also works with gifts from the Alex Katz Foundation, which has donated modern and contemporary art by artists such as Marsden Hartley and Chuck Close.
From the perspective of today’s Colby, it seems almost quaint: lacrosse teams practicing indoors, field hockey team playing on a field that had to be mown, the football team running drills on a practice field that, during dry spells, turned hard as concrete, its chalked yard markers erased by pounding cleats. "The thirty-five yard line used to be the oak tree," said head football coach Ed Mestieri. "It isn’t anymore."
Colby athletics leapt to the forefront of sports-facility technology during the Reaching the World campaign with construction of the Harold Alfond Stadium, featuring a FieldTurf surface (used in the National Football League) and full stadium lighting, and with the Bill Alfond Field, one of the first synthetic turf fields in NESCAC.
With Bill Alfond Field, a gleaming facility opened in 2004, lacrosse and field hockey teams were no longer at the mercy of the weather. Games could be played under the lights, which shined like a beacon across Mayflower Hill. Lacrosse players for men’s and women’s teams, both now nationally ranked, no longer had to wait for spring break trips to play on an actual field. "It’s just so fun to get outside," said women’s lacrosse coach Karen MacCrate Henning. "It’s just refreshing."
Henning and other coaches credit the new facilities for reducing injuries, easier scheduling around players’ academic responsibilities, quality practices, and effective recruiting. Combining with the Boulos Family Fitness Center, upgraded during the campaign, the athletic facilities have helped fill the renovated Parker-Reed Trophy Room.
Mestieri, whose current seniors played on the former natural grass turf field before it was replaced after the 2007 season, says he makes sure his younger players appreciate the difference. "I tell them never to take for granted," he said, "that we have these beautiful facilities to practice and play on."