The Annual Report of the President, my opportunity to share with you reflections about the academic year just past, begins this year with a peek at the near future. Although it seems incredible to contemplate, Dean Parker Beverage and his colleagues in Colby’s Admissions Office are now recruiting Colby’s bicentennial class, the Class of 2013. As venerable an institution as Colby seems in many ways—in the maturity of its academic program, the timeless beauty of its campus, the influence of its alumni around the world—the feeling in the air on Mayflower Hill remains fresh and full of the excitement of striving for goals, of never being satisfied with good enough. That’s the kind of atmosphere that makes you fall in love with a place, as I certainly have in my years as president.
Even as I reflect on the 2007-08 academic year, I have that bicentennial class in mind. Much of what transpired at Colby last year will have a direct bearing on the Colby those students will come to know. The bicentennial theme, “In their Footsteps,” describes both our debt to the thousands of students, teachers, and staff members whose lives have inflected this College for two centuries and our sense that we, too, will leave footprints for others who follow us. Last year, faculty and staff colleagues, the Board of Trustees, alumni, parents, and students contributed to the lasting legacy of Colby.
In January, at their meeting in Boston, Colby’s Board of Trustees authorized a bold initiative to increase access to Colby for students from many socioeconomic groups. No longer will our students be required to take out loans as part of a Colby financial aid package. Of the handful of American colleges and universities that have established such programs in recent years, including Harvard, Princeton, Davidson, and Stanford, Colby is among those with the smallest endowments. This is a stretch for us, a reach for an appropriate star. Students and their families stand to save tens of thousands of dollars thanks to this program, and Colby students will be able to graduate unburdened by loan debt. We can only begin to imagine what that may mean for these students in their lives after Colby, but we hope it will allow them to make career choices, choices about graduate education, and the like based more on the urgings of their hearts than on the drag on their wallets.
Curriculum Review Underway
As the College concluded the process that resulted in our reaccreditation by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, the senior administration and the faculty decided that it was time to assess Colby’s curriculum in light of what students told us about their sense that they could gain more mastery over the skills that are the hallmarks of educated persons. (See my essay in the 2006-07 Annual Report of the President for details.)
In consultation with Vice President for Academic Affairs Ed Yeterian and me, the faculty empanelled three curricular planning working groups, composed of faculty but with administrative support from the Office of the Dean of Faculty and the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment, to delve into areas of critical importance for the present and future success of Colby students. The groups, which are due to present their findings in February 2009, are tackling ideas such as how best to engage students in academic and other activities in order to inflect the intellectual atmosphere on campus; how ought senior year be organized in order to best send graduates out into the world; and what array of skills should students be certain to develop and hone in order to thrive throughout their lives. There will be much more to say about this effort in upcoming president’s reports and other communications; it could have profound effects on the way education is shaped on Mayflower Hill.