Trustees Talk A&S Faculty, Pandemic, Dartmouth Hall Work

News subtitle

Board approves spending $37.5 million to renovate Dartmouth’s most iconic building.

Fall foliage and Baker tower
Photo by Keoni Ocalvey ’20, Th ’21

In meetings held last week, members of the Dartmouth Board of Trustees heard about the accomplishments and vitality of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, talked about lessons learned from the pandemic, and moved ahead with a renovation project of Dartmouth Hall—the most iconic building on campus—to update classrooms and technology.

Presentations by Elizabeth Smith, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and Jon Kull ’88, dean of the Guarini School of Graduate and Advanced Studies, concluded a series of talks with the trustees by Dartmouth’s academic deans discussing their vision for the future and highlighting what distinguishes their programs within higher education.

In September, the trustees heard from deans of the Geisel School of Medicine, Thayer School of Engineering, and the Tuck School of Business. That meeting and last week’s Nov. 5-7 trustee sessions were held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Board members are consistently and deeply impressed by the distinctive and extraordinary nature of our arts and sciences faculty, and all of our faculty members,” said trustee Chair Laurel Richie ’81. “Never have we been more proud of their work than we are now, as the faculty have expertly pivoted during the pandemic to continue to provide a best-in-class education to our undergraduates and graduate students.”

Smith said the teacher-scholar model differentiates Dartmouth in recruiting faculty to come to Hanover.

“The faculty we have recruited have embraced the Dartmouth ideal of the teacher-scholar model. That’s why the faculty chose to come to Dartmouth over a primarily research or primarily teaching institution, and what the arts and sciences faculty most want to protect,” she said. “They are constantly innovating and adapting to new modes of teaching and research.”

Smith discussed enrollment changes in the last decade and how students’ majors and course choices have affected the size and composition of the arts and sciences faculty. She said faculty expansion over the years was deliberate, responding to greater demand in certain areas of study. Smith noted the importance of accommodating increased demand while at the same time ensuring that Dartmouth offers the full range of academic disciplines to make sure that the breadth of the liberal arts is well represented.

Kull said Guarini students in master’s and PhD fields have strengthened Dartmouth. A robust research enterprise attracts top faculty who want to be affiliated with Dartmouth, which not only appeals to graduate students, it also provides opportunities to undergraduates that increase the quality of their education, he said. Dartmouth’s membership in the Association of American Universities (AAU), which it was invited to join a year ago, and its Carnegie Classification as an R1 university rank it as one of the nation’s top research universities. The Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education gives an R1 designation to those institutions that have the highest level of research activity.

In addition to pursuing their own research, Guarini students serve to “fill the middle,” providing scholarly mentors at all levels, Kull said, adding that the school’s small size allows for a “hand-crafted experience” for PhD students who are able to forge their own scholarly paths. In addition, Guarini puts a high priority on training its students to be leaders in their fields, said the dean.

The trustees met informally to celebrate recently promoted faculty members, getting a chance to learn about the next generation of faculty joining the tenured ranks at Dartmouth and about their scholarly pursuits. The trustees met in break-out groups with Professor Txetxu “Joseph” Aguado; Professor Mary Coffey; Professor Carrie Colla; Professor Marc Dixon; Professor Laura Edmondson; Professor James Feyrer; Professor Jeffrey Friedman; Associate Professor Desirée Garcia; Associate Professor Levi Gibbs; Professor Ryan Hickox; Associate Professor Wojciech Jarosz; Associate Professor Laura McPherson; Associate Professor Paul Novosad; Associate Professor Julie Rose; Associate Professor Alireza Soltani; Professor James Stanford; Professor Melanie Benson Taylor; Associate Professor Zenovia Toloudi; Associate Professor Vikrant Vaze; Professor John Voight; and Associate Professor Jonathan Winter.

Smith and Kull praised faculty and students for rising to the challenge of learning during the pandemic, with nearly all undergraduate classes being held remotely and graduate students returning to classrooms and to work in labs under strict public-health-related guidelines. Many of Guarini’s 800 students were the first to be back on campus after the pandemic caused everyone to leave campus in March, said Kull.

“Our graduate students were courageous, coming back under difficult circumstances, with reduced density and extra precautions in labs. Despite the additional procedures, students wanted to be back to work, back to their research. Their return was extraordinarily successful, and I am so proud of them,” Kull said.

COVID-19: Operational Updates, Lessons and Challenges

Provost Joseph Helble provided an update on how fall term has progressed and previewed plans for winter term, which will begin on Jan. 7, three days later than had originally been planned, to provide adequate time for people who are returning to campus to travel, quarantine, and undergo COVID-19 testing.

Also discussed were lessons learned as a result of COVID-19, including the ease with which faculty have brought guests into their remote classrooms and the wider reach and larger audiences arts programming has had through online performances and events. President Philip J. Hanlon ’77, who has taught a graduate-level math class this fall, said he has a new appreciation for the adjustments faculty have had to make to teach remotely. It is more work to engage students, he said, adding that he misses meeting in person to connect with students.

President Hanlon and Helble briefed the trustees on the ongoing planning and work by staff to support learning during the pandemic.

“Since March, staff and faculty have been working long hours to plan and execute a safe process for us to be able to hold classes remotely, return to labs, and work on campus for those jobs that require it,” said Hanlon. “I can’t thank members of our community enough for their diligent work.”

While the pandemic has led to discoveries about teaching and modes of outreach for Dartmouth’s centers and institutes, it has left the institution with a budget deficit for the current fiscal year expected to range from $75 million to $125 million. Officials reviewed how they closed the $50 million budget deficit in the last fiscal year, which ended on June 30, and spoke about their continued work to deal with the current year’s red ink.

Positioning Dartmouth for the Future

One of the priorities this year is to consider Dartmouth’s position in the future landscape of higher education. During their meeting, the trustees considered directions for this inquiry, which includes thinking about what students, parents, faculty, research sponsors, and employers need and want from Dartmouth; what essential services and activities Dartmouth should provide or suspend; and what considerations and hypotheses should be used to shape Dartmouth’s future.

To inform the work of the board, members of Hanlon’s senior leadership team will consult with campus stakeholders, including the Council on Priorities, the budget committee, and student, faculty, and staff focus groups. Senior leaders will present ideas to the board in early 2021 on near-term revenue-generating opportunities and long-term positioning.

A More Welcoming and Inclusive Dartmouth

The trustees heard from Matthew Delmont, a history professor who is serving as special advisor to Hanlon on faculty equity, diversity, and inclusivity. Delmont meets regularly with academic leadership and is facilitating campus conversations to articulate a long-term vision for the recruitment and retention of Black faculty and faculty of color more generally. The board has made creating a more welcoming and inclusive campus the other strategic priority this year.

Board members also heard about the current search to fill the new post of senior vice president and chief diversity officer, reporting to Hanlon and serving as a member of the president’s senior leadership team. And they were updated on a working group, whose members are soon to be named, that will consider whether there should be changes to iconography across the institution.

Renovating a Dartmouth Icon

The trustees voted to approve spending $37.5 million on renovations to Dartmouth Hall, the institution’s most iconic and historic building, and work will soon begin to renovate faculty offices; improve space efficiency; make flexible room for teaching, performing, and events; outfit classrooms with state-of-the-art technology; and update the building’s major systems. The Leslie Center for the Humanities and the majority of language faculty offices will be relocated to the building’s first floor. The work will also make the building accessible to all and create an accessible path from the Green to the Dartmouth Row buildings, where Dartmouth Hall is located.

For generations, Dartmouth Hall has been a central part of the Dartmouth undergraduate experience: More than 90% of all undergraduates have taken at least one class in Dartmouth Hall and it has been a venue for major speeches by campus visitors. The renovation is made possible by an initiative led by Dartmouth alumnae in recognition of Dartmouth’s 250th anniversary to make a gift to future generations of students through the Call to Lead campaign. To date, 1,930 alumnae have contributed to the project, raising $25.3 million. Fundraising will continue until the building’s rededication, planned for 2022, in time for the 50th anniversary of coeducation.

Also approved was the new 2020 strategic master plan, called “Planning for Possibilities: A 30-Year Strategic Campus Framework.” The master plan is the result of meetings with more than 2,500 constituents from Dartmouth and its neighbors in the Upper Valley. The plan does not authorize any specific project, rather it will serve as a road map for planning Dartmouth’s physical campus for the next three decades.

“We are proud of the work Dartmouth Planner Joanna Whitcomb and our planning and design staff put into the creation of this document,” said Mills. “The plan will serve Dartmouth well into the future.”

For the latest information on Dartmouth’s response to the pandemic visit the COVID-19 website.

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