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Fall 2012 Welcome Letter to the Community

September 3, 2012


Welcome back to Colorado College as we begin the 2012-13 academic year! I hope that your summer was filled with wonderful adventures and relaxing times with friends and family. My family and I were thrilled to be able to go on a few summer adventures of our own: We visited the East Coast to spend some time on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, we returned home to Iowa for my parents’ 50th anniversary, and we got to do some exploring in the mountains in Summit County, Colorado.

I hope that this year, like the last, will bring fresh challenges and opportunities for us to grow and connect as a community. As we begin what is sure to be another great year, we should start by welcoming new community members.

Although she’s not technically a new face on campus because she’s been a professor in the sociology department for the last 12 years, let's welcome Professor Sandi Wong to her new role as dean of the college/dean of the faculty. Joining Sandi and Associate Dean Jeff Noblett in that office are Re Evitt, professor of English; and Eric Popkin, former dean of summer programs. Re will begin working as the associate dean of the college and Eric will step into a new role as the associate dean of global, community, and summer programs. I know that you join me in looking forward to the leadership of Dean Wong and her team.

Also joining us this year is Ivan Gaetz, our new library director. Prior to coming to CC, Ivan was the dean of the library at Regis University in Denver and he holds a Ph. D. in educational studies from the University of British Columbia. I am enthusiastic about Ivan’s potential to take the library in new directions, and welcome him to campus.

Our search for a new vice president for advancement ended recently with the announcement that Sean Pieri will be joining us in October. Sean, who currently serves as the vice president of development at the College of William & Mary, will bring an excellent track record of fundraising success as well as incredible enthusiasm to our advancement efforts.

Another new face at CC is our director of campus safety, Pat Cunningham. We are extremely fortunate to have Pat in this role, as he has more than 30 years of combined service at Vanderbilt and Georgetown universities. Also new to campus this year are Ian Wood, our head athletic trainer, and Ryan Hammes, our director of outdoor education. Welcome to them and to all of the new faculty and staff, as well as to our first-year students. As I learned last year, CC is a wonderful community and each new member enriches this great place.

For those of you returning to campus, you may have noticed that some improvements were made over the summer. Perhaps the biggest change is the addition and renovation to El Pomar Sports Complex. Office and meeting space were added in the new front addition, which is now open and being used. The renovation to the existing building is ALMOST complete and will open soon. I know that you all will enjoy these beautiful and functional athletics spaces. You can now see the new Adam F. Press Fitness Center addition on the back beginning to take shape. That exciting addition and the new track will be complete in the spring of this academic year. This summer, the college also began work on the new Cheryl Schlessman Bennett Children’s Center, located at 909 N. Nevada Avenue. Children and staff will “move in” to the new 10,000-square-foot center in about a week. The new facility is designed to support 58 children — nearly doubling the current capacity — and includes a three-tiered program for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers.

Residential Life and Housing was also busy with renovations over the summer. Four houses on Weber Street were significantly improved. I got a chance to tour 918, 922, 928, and 930 Weber Street a few weeks ago, and they are lovely. I am thrilled that we have added these beautiful homes to our living options for students. In addition, Residential Life continued their progress in upgrading the Western Ridge Apartments.

You may have noticed that an area has been added on the east side of Shove Memorial Chapel to provide a turn-off from Nevada Avenue to allow drop-offs for events on campus. A pathway also has been constructed around the entire chapel to complete the pathway that runs from Shove to Cutler and the main quad area. These additions are a great step forward in making our campus accessible to all.

As many of you know, the focus of my first year at CC was to listen to students, parents, alumni, staff, faculty, and friends in order to gain a shared vision of our aspirations for Colorado College. Thanks to all of you who participated in my CC education! Based on these conversations, I’ve gathered a clearer picture of Colorado College’s strengths, challenges, and aspirations. I heard over and over again about CC’s key strengths:

  • First, our students are remarkable. Your intellectual energy propels the college forward and renews our community.
  • In addition, our faculty and staff are talented and committed. They make a lasting impact on our students who become our alumni.
  • Third, the Block Plan is the hallmark of our educational experience and provides us with unique flexibility and opportunities for learning.
  • Fourth, we are united as a community on the value of a liberal arts education.
  • And finally, we are fortunate to be located in the beautiful Rocky Mountains, a great place for learning and living. Informed by our conversations and research on higher education during the Year of Listening, three promising strategies are taking shape to guide our next stage of development.
  • First, building upon the strengths of our remarkable curriculum and the Block Plan, how can we take further steps to support Engaged Teaching and Learning?
  • Second, our place – both our campus and our location in the Rockies – inspires a sense of shared adventure and individual spirit, a ruggedness combined with a reflective culture. At a time when the virtual community is capturing the headlines and tweets, how do we enrich our Distinctive Place of Learning?
  • Third, our alumni living around the world asked me how we can become more visible and better known for the high quality of our educational experience. What are some ideas for Extending Our Reach by highlighting ways that we contribute to the world of knowledge and the broader society?

Over the summer the Board of Trustees held a retreat and they charged me to lead the campus in a planning effort focused on these three areas. I am thrilled that the committees will include faculty and staff as well as student representation. With the input of the CCSGA and Student Body President Nathan Lee, who will be serving on the steering committee, we are excited to welcome several students to the strategic planning committees.

I am confident that these students will represent the student body well and that they and their faculty and staff colleagues will reach out to get input from the entire CC community in doing this important work.

I will also be receiving regular input from the CCSGA officers and the members of the new President’s Council, which will start up this month. The students who have been selected as members of the President’s Council will serve as representatives of the student body in addition to fulfilling the role of student ambassadors at presidential events. I hope you will be in touch with your representatives so that your voices are heard.

In addition, like last year, I’ll be having open office hours for students. You can come and discuss an issue, ask a question, or just say hello. You can find me — usually on Monday afternoons — in Worner next to the main desk. Even if it’s not student office hours, please feel free to come by my office or stop me on the quad at any time if you want to talk.

You can find my designated student office hours as well as the complete Year of Listening document on the President’s Office website. There is also a strategic planning link there that will provide updates on the process throughout the year, and my blog, which according to my 13-year-old daughter Olivia, is helpful if you have insomnia.

Finally, I am excited about my upcoming inauguration on September 22. I see this as a wonderful opportunity to come together to celebrate our community and I hope that each one of you joins the celebration. I am honored to be a part of a community empowered by intellectual curiosity and the drive to improve upon an already stellar institution. I sincerely look forward to what is sure to be another invigorating and productive year at CC!