Dear Colby Community,
For my family and me, there is no better sight than the Colby campus filled with students, faculty, and staff. The arrival of new and returning members of the community over the last several days has lifted our spirits and filled us with excitement about the year ahead. It also reminds us that, 202 years since its founding, this great college is constantly in a state of renewal and evolution.
Colby’s enduring strength and enviable position among the world’s great colleges is due in no small part to its ability to anchor these changes to a set of core values that have stood the test of time and guided the College through moments of challenge and opportunity. These values, which were reaffirmed during an all-faculty retreat at the close of the spring semester, include an unswerving commitment to:
- academic excellence sustained by a rigorous and supportive intellectual culture
- exemplary teaching by leading scholars
- a broad liberal arts curriculum that prepares students for lives of meaning, purpose, and impact
- a vibrant residential and cocurricular student experience
- a diverse and inclusive community that brings richness and dynamism to learning
In fairness, the last point has become more central to Colby’s values in recent decades, as it has at many colleges that, like Colby, grew from regional to national to even global institutions. Over time evidence about the importance of diverse perspectives to learning, scholarship, and effective teams in the workplace has also increased. And, of course, the demographics of this country and many around the globe have shifted dramatically such that the world our students are entering is very different from the one that my generation and previous ones found when leaving college. Colby simply cannot meet its mission and attract and educate the most talented students without a strong and visible commitment to diversity and inclusion.
How we prepare students for this fast-changing world has been very much on my mind. Many have argued in recent years for a pragmatic education geared toward specific labor needs of the moment. While that surely fits with the mission of some institutions and might even be optimal preparation for many entry-level jobs, Colby’s liberal arts education continues to be the very best platform for those who will think deeply and nimbly, approach problems with an understanding of context and an appreciation for nuance and tradeoffs, and ultimately shape fields of knowledge, institutions, and societies.
That said, my view is that we need to bolster our commitment to diversity and inclusion, to becoming a more globally focused college, and to connecting the liberal arts to the world of work. I will be asking our faculty and senior staff to make ambitious and actionable recommendations in these areas in the coming months. These are areas where Colby could carve out a national leadership position that would strengthen our identity and the preparation our students receive for postgraduate success.
While we are thinking globally, we are also focused locally. Our connections to and support of Waterville and the surrounding areas are essential to our long-term success. Over the last several months, I have chaired a steering committee of local business and civic leaders to develop a framework for the revitalization of Waterville’s Main Street, its historic center. That process has been collegial and productive, resulting in a clear set of agreements on how we might work together to greatly improve housing, lodging, retail, and small business development downtown. You will be hearing much more about the exciting opportunities that have emerged through this process in the near future, and this fall we will engage the wider campus and Waterville communities in these deliberations.
That commitment to our local community also informed our recent planning for new performing arts and athletic and recreational facilities at Colby. We were unusual, in my experience, in focusing from the very beginning on how these significant investments could support College programs and needs while also engaging and enriching the community. The findings of those important studies will be the topic of considerable conversation this fall as we determine how best to proceed with these initiatives. We are also looking forward to celebrating the opening of our new softball and baseball complex next month, a facility that is certain to be a great resource for local teams and programs.
Finally, we will be launching a similar facilities planning study to understand the space needs of our libraries and how we can best support these absolutely critical scholarly and teaching resources. This study will build on the work of the faculty library committee, which delved into an initial set of questions last year about the future of the libraries.
There are many more initiatives underway, all designed to improve our capacity to meet our mission and allow our faculty, students, and staff to do their very best work. We have jump-started these initiatives while we craft a more comprehensive plan for Colby’s future. That process is underway, with central coordination by the Committee on Mission and Priorities and with broad involvement of the campus community. I look forward to sharing more information about this planning as the year progresses.
I start my second year on Mayflower Hill more optimistic than ever about Colby’s future and more eager to do all I can to support our remarkable community. Colby has never been stronger or better positioned to distinguish itself among the leading institutions of higher learning. I welcome your thoughts and insights as we move forward.
David A. Greene