Opening of the Academic Year
Dear Colby Community,
More than two centuries ago Colby opened its doors in downtown Waterville. This week, for the first time since the 1950s, we reopen our doors in the heart of our community as more than 200 students, faculty, and staff move into the Bill & Joan Alfond Main Street Commons. On Thursday we will cut the ribbon to formally open this beautiful new building, an essential component of our partnership with the city to revitalize the historic downtown.
The Alfond Commons becomes a true bridge to the city through the civic engagement programs housed there, with all residents supporting community organizations and deepening their learning about the city and its rich history. I am excited about the opportunities presented by the establishment of the Chace Community Forum, a light-filled convening space that will house the City of Waterville’s public meetings, including city council and the planning board, and become a meeting place for local nonprofit organizations and events created by our students.
The planned opening of the Alfond Commons allowed us to restore and renovate lounge and study spaces in many campus residence halls that had been used as student rooms in recent years. We have also made substantial progress toward improving the accessibility of our campus by creating fully accessible dorm rooms, re-grading and improving pathways, and making academic and student life buildings easier to enter and navigate for those with mobility challenges.
Our commitment to supporting a diverse and inclusive community extends to our broader academic and campus life programs. This year we added new staff to work with students and their professors on learning accommodations, provided a weeklong training program for our faculty on inclusive classrooms, and added academic and mental health counselors to our talented team. We are currently in the process of rethinking how we organize and structure our academic support areas.
We undertake this important work as we welcome the supremely talented Class of 2022 to Colby. Chosen from 12,313 applicants, this class represents a level of academic preparation and achievement that will continue to elevate our intellectual life. In this class, 43 percent are receiving need-based financial aid, 14 percent are Pell Grant recipients, 31 percent are students of color, 11 percent are non-U.S. citizens, and 11 percent are first-generation-to-college students. To put this in perspective, there are more students of color in this first-year class than Colby had in the entire student body just a handful of years ago, and the number of Pell Grant recipients in the class has doubled over the same period. This is the first class to benefit from our policy of no expected parent or guardian contribution toward the comprehensive fee for families at roughly the national median family income, $60,000 annually, or less.
We are also fortunate to be joined by 41 new faculty members—exceptional scholars who will build on a tradition of recognized excellence of teaching at Colby. Our total faculty size this year is 208, which represents the largest faculty in Colby’s history. The growth of the faculty allows us to expand our curriculum in emerging fields, better advise students, increase research and partnerships with external organizations, and establish new global programs for our students. In the second year of our DavisConnects program, we will be able to double the number of global awards provided to students and faculty for international experiences. This summer alone, 83 students were granted a total of $250,000 for research and educational and work experiences around the world. And we now have 7,200 employers, across all industries, recruiting Colby students—a 68 percent increase in just one year.
When I reflect on these improvements to Waterville and our campus; our student support, financial aid program, and admissions outreach efforts; and the growth and support of our faculty, academic programs, and related global, research, and internship programs, I know they wouldn’t be possible without the generous support we have received through our campaign, Dare Northward. Nearly 18,000 donors have committed $420 million as we enter the third year of this campaign, and the direct effects on our community are notable and heartening. I see them in these high-impact improvements as well as transformational efforts to ensure that we can carry out our mission at the highest level and position Colby for sustained success in the centuries to come.
Anyone who has driven down Washington Street recently has seen the steel girders take shape above the trees as the new athletic complex construction proceeds. The Harold Alfond Stadium field and track were resurfaced this year, completing a remarkable set of new or renovated outdoor competition venues for our students and the broader community. The new center for arts and innovation is in design, as are the downtown hotel and center for contemporary art and film on Main Street.
The Lunder Institute for American Art is off to an auspicious start, with an all-star leadership group and programs and events planned for the year ahead. This fall Theaster Gates, in his role as Lunder Institute distinguished visiting artist and director of artist initiatives, will lead a conversation on urban transformation and art. The Museum will also present an exhibition by Lunder Institute Artist in Residence Torkwase Dyson, who will spend time on campus working with astronomers, poets, historians, and environmentalists. The Museum’s collection continues to grow in exciting ways. Over the last year, the Museum has acquired 446 works of art by artists such as Jackson Pollock, David Driskell, Juane Quick-to-See Smith, Joaquín Torres-García, and Barbara Chase-Riboud.
As I start the fifth year of my presidency, I am filled with optimism. So many wonderful initiatives are unfolding, building on the impressive legacy of this College. I could not imagine a better community of faculty, students, and staff to live and work with every day. We will face challenges, as all communities do, but I know we will do so with integrity while being guided by our enduring values and principles.
I continue to be humbled and grateful for the opportunity to lead such a special place.
David A. Greene