I write this as I complete my first semester at Colgate — a period marked not just by an effort to get to know this campus, but also by first visits with many Colgate alumni, on campus and around the country.
At these events, I spend as much time as I can listening to alumni speak about their time on campus and their thoughts about Colgate’s future. But I also try to offer a sense of what I am focused on and how I think about Colgate’s future.
During these conversations and presentations, I emphasize the fundamentals of an institution like ours. I speak, always first, about academic life. At the heart of Colgate is the academic enterprise — the faculty, the ways they are supported, the curriculum they sustain, and the means through which Colgate supports their continued development as teachers and scholars. Enhancing the academic program is the deep and hard work of an institution, the bedrock of its reach and reputation.
Next, I address the ways in which we attract and enroll students of extraordinary promise and possibility. This is the role of the admission and financial aid office as we fan out across the country, and around the world, speaking to students for whom this form of education might be the most beneficial. Then we do our best to ensure that students can make a Colgate education work financially for them and their families. What is a university if not its students?
I next speak about life on the campus. How do the programs we create and support prepare our students for lives of accomplishment and purpose? How do our students live outside the classroom? The college years should provide a series of opportunities and encounters that provide a pathway for our soon-to-be graduates. This is the noisy — but often the most joyful — part of the work of any college or university.
Finally, I speak about the campus itself — its beauty, the way it supports our faculty and students, the way it creates community. The magnificence of the Colgate campus is an integral part of the Colgate experience, and it must be planned for and maintained for current students and for generations to come.
One could add to this list. How are we stewarding our resources? How are we communicating and marketing to the larger world? How are we considering our environmental impact? Universities are complex enterprises, and they must be managed across a variety of perspectives. But I have to remain focused on those four key elements of Colgate: its academic life, its students, the experiences of the campus, and the campus itself.
Colgate’s future, and its strength, will depend on the extent to which all of these matters are tended to, and the ways we build on Colgate’s unique expressions in each area. There remains much to learn and much to consider. But I remind myself that it is those four bedrock matters that must take up my time and concern.
Every now and then, a college or university goes through a remarkable period of transformation. A phase where it grows in strength, reputation, and possibility. These moments come when the institution commits itself to achieving excellence in its core activities. These moments come when the institution gathers the resources necessary to pursue its mission at the highest level. These moments come when the campus moves together.
I look forward to continuing to listen, to speaking about Colgate’s fundamental mission, and to nurturing that which makes it unique. And I look forward to developing bold dreams for Colgate with you, its graduates and its legacy.