Report from the 210th Alumni Council Meeting

Report from the 210th Meeting of the Dartmouth Alumni Council

May 14-16, 2015

By Jacques Steinberg ’88


During the current academic year, Dartmouth has focused on ways to foster a social life on campus that is safer, healthier, and more inclusive – as exemplified by President Philip J. Hanlon ’77’s release in January of his response to the findings and recommendations of the Moving Dartmouth Forward task force.


As energetic work continues on that front– you can find an update on where things stand here – the President has also sought to help the College “to turn a page,’’ as he put it in an email to the Dartmouth community on March 30. As the 126-member Alumni Council, representing dozens of classes as well as other key constituencies, gathered on campus in mid-May for its spring meeting, President Hanlon spoke to us about the efforts he was leading to draft the next chapter in Dartmouth’s nearly 250-year-old story.


Enhancing the Academic Experience


The President made clear that a prominent theme of his tenure would be enhancing the academic experience for Dartmouth undergraduates in particular – an experience forged in a community that he described as unusually tight-knit, and grounded in a location that is almost “spiritual” in its rugged beauty.


In building upon Dartmouth’s history as a haven for “deep intellectual engagement” with “the liberal arts at its core,’’ Hanlon said he has sought to expand opportunities for undergraduates to pursue “experiential learning” – where hands-on work in a student’s subject of interest enhances what he or she might absorb in a more traditional classroom setting.


He spoke to us, for example, about academic enrichment grants that are awarded annually, including through the Stamps Scholars Program. One Dartmouth undergraduate used a Stamps Grant to map archeological sites in Mexico by employing advanced radar technology. Another Stamps Grant recipient paired artists with nonprofit organizations; the nonprofit helps advertise the artist’s work, and then shares in the proceeds of any works that are sold.


Hanlon also described the coordinated hiring of “clusters” of faculty from various disciplines, all with a common set of interests. These and other academic initiatives are intended, he said, to buttress Dartmouth’s mission of preparing its undergraduates to rise to leadership positions in their field of expertise, as they seek to tackle the world’s most pressing problems armed not only with knowledge but with a penchant for “risk-taking and adventure.”


A Question for You


Before turning to other highlights from the weekend, the leadership of the Alumni Council– along with the Alumni Liaison Committee (ALC), which seeks to solicit and synthesize a range of alumni feedback for the Board of Trustees – has asked that we pose a common question to every alumnus/a:


How would you describe to someone who had never visited Dartmouth – such as a prospective applicant – what differentiates Dartmouth’s sense of community, and its sense of place, and the role they play in the educational experience? Are there reflections from your own time on campus that you would share?


Please send your responses to your alumni councilor – ideally by July 1, 2015. All responses will be forwarded on to the ALC, which will incorporate them into its report to the Trustees.


(Earlier this year, the Council and ALC began posing questions in a similar vein on the Dartmouth Alumni Facebook and Twitter channels, under the heading “Alumni Council Asks.”) I would encourage you to “like” Dartmouth Alumni on Facebook, or follow on Twitter, so that you can receive information about our Alumni Council questions and other postings that may be of interest.


Other Highlights from the Council Session


What follows are some other things we heard during the Council sessions

  • In a joint presentation entitled “A Promising Partnership: Admissions and Alumni Relations,’’ Maria Laskaris ’84Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid, and Martha Beattie ’76Vice President for Alumni Relations, spoke of various ways that the admissions office is seeking to draw on the time and talent of alumni. These include efforts to increase the numbers of alumni interviews of applicants (note: admissions officers do pay close attention to how alumni interviewers size up applicants, Laskaris emphasized), as well as the training of interviewers and communication with them. The story of one applicant for the Dartmouth Class of ’19 from the Bronx was featured prominently this year on the “Today” Show, and you can view that segment here.
  • The affordability of a Dartmouth education remains a front-burner concern of the administration. Bill Helman ’80Chair of the Board of Trustees, told us that Dartmouth’s undergraduate tuition increased 2.9 percent this year, the same as last year, which was the lowest increase since 1977. That said, Helman said the Trustees continue to discuss potential cost-saving measures with the administration, including those related to facilities and efficiency.
  • The Interim Dean of the College, Inge-Lise Ameer, said that Dartmouth continued to move toward a reorganization of residential life in which some dormitories would be grouped as communities of houses. There will be six house communities in all – each composed of about 700 students, about half in residence at any one time – with an emphasis on continuity (sophomores, juniors, and seniors can choose to live in the same house community for all three years), faculty engagement, and academic and other programming. Learn more about this initiative.
  • The John Sloan Dickey Center for International Understanding has become a hub for bringing together students, faculty, undergraduates, and graduate students to address the world’s hot-button problems – with as many as one in ten first-year students participating in its Great Issues Scholars program. You can learn more about the broad offerings of the Dickey Center here.
  • The three graduate schools at Dartmouth – the Geisel School of Medicine; the Tuck School of Business; the Thayer School of Engineering – continue to not only bolster their offerings to graduate students, but to create opportunities for undergraduates. In a panel with each of those schools’ deans moderated by Bob Lasher ’88Senior Vice President for Advancement, we learned that engineering is now the third most popular major at Dartmouth – and that 48 percent of juniors who have declared engineering as a major are women. Thayer is about to undergo a major expansion, aimed in part at an undergraduate audience.
  • F. Jon Kull ’88Rodgers Professor of Chemistry and Dean of Graduate Studies, discussed plans that are underway to form a School of Graduate Studies at Dartmouth. It would serve to coordinate the 17 Ph.D. programs and 12 Masters’ programs at Dartmouth – in ways that, he said, could better support faculty recruiting, retention, and research, as well as the exposure of undergraduates to graduate programming outside Geisel, Tuck, and Thayer.
  • Bob Lasher also shared the progress made to date on fundraising intended to support the mission laid out by President Hanlon, and stressed that donations from alumni help create the margin of excellence that defines Dartmouth. Through the generosity of Dartmouth alumni, he said, funding has been received for four of the ten potential academic clusters. The College has also received sufficient donations to support the initial year of the new residential model of house communities. Alumni who took a freshman trip or spent time paddling the Connecticut will be pleased to learn that the Moosilauke Ravine Lodge and the Ledyard Canoe Club are being rebuilt. The Hood Museum is also being renovated and expanded.


Alumni Council News

  • The first-ever, nation-wide Alumni Day of Service, held on May 2, was deemed a success – with hundreds of alumni, family members and friends volunteering for 24 projects in 20 communities. You can view an article and photos from the day, which was led by Aly Jeddy ’93.
  • The Council leadership announced the recipients of the 2015–16 Dartmouth Alumni Award. They are Patricia E. Berry ’81Ellie Mahoney Loughlin ’89 and Ellis B. Rowe ’74. The recipients of the 2015–16 Dartmouth Young Alumni Distinguished Service Award are S. Caroline Kerr ’05 and Michael J. Vidmar ’03.  They will all be honored at the Fall Alumni Council meeting in October. Read more about the recipients.
  • As it does every May, the Council elected new leadership. Russell Wolff ’89, ’94Tu was elected the next President of the Alumni Council. He will succeed Jennifer Avellino ’89, whose one-year term as President (following the term of outgoing President Lou Spelios ’95) begins on July 1.


Please take a moment to respond to our “pop-up” question above.


Read the full minutes of the 210th Council Session.

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