Trustees Celebrate Faculty, Consider Strategic Priorities

News subtitle

Board members discussed medical and graduate schools, mental health, and the budget.

Dartmouth Hall

(Photo by Katie Lenhart)


The Board of Trustees heard updates on a number of strategic priorities during three days of meetings this past week, which included a long-awaited opportunity to recognize members of the faculty.

“The highlight of our meeting was celebrating our faculty in person,” says board Chair Liz Cahill Lempres ’83, Thayer ’84. “The foundation of our distinction as a university is the enduring excellence of the faculty and their commitment to Dartmouth students and to research. We continue to be awed by their achievement.”

On Friday, board members held a reception for faculty who had been promoted or tenured—the first time in three years, because of COVID-19 restrictions, that the board has been able to honor promoted faculty. That evening, they had a dinner session with Brendan Nyhan, the James O. Freedman Presidential Professor, who talked about disinformation and democracy, with trustee Jake Tapper ’91 moderating the discussion.

A day earlier, board members had a fireside chat with Matthew Delmont, the Sherman Fairchild Distinguished Professor of History and associate dean of international and interdisciplinary studies. Delmont talked about his recently published book, Half American: The Epic Story of African Americans Fighting World War II at Home and Abroad, which has received critical acclaim. Trustee Susan Huang ’84 led that discussion.

As part of his regular campus update, President Philip J. Hanlon ’77 led a discussion on ChatGPT, the trending chatbot developed by OpenAI. He had recently spoken with several faculty experts about their perspective on the technology—which uses advanced artificial intelligence to generate conversational responses to user prompts—and its implications on teaching and learning in higher education.

“In every course we teach, we ask students to draw conclusions through the application of reason to a body of evidence. It is important that our students develop those skills through practice. Artificial intelligence is beginning to do these things with increasing effectiveness,” says President Hanlon.

“While the current iteration of the generative AI tools has obvious flaws, future generations will only get more sophisticated. So we need to teach students to use AI as an assistive technology while continuing to engage them in the kinds of deep thinking that will cultivate the quality of mind that we expect from Dartmouth graduates.”

The trustees’ three days of meetings also included budget, tuition, and financial aid approvals and continued dialogue and updates on Dartmouth’s schools and programs.

Briefings on Geisel, Guarini, and Arts and Sciences

Trustees heard about a sharpened focus at the Geisel School of Medicine that emerged from its recent strategic planning exercise.

“Optimal health can only be achieved through the combination of prevention, education, and clinical care. At Geisel we are focused on all three,” says Geisel Dean Duane Compton. “The pandemic exacerbated the underlying racial and economic disparities inherent in our health care systems, highlighting how systemic inequities inhibit every individual from reaching their optimal health potential.”

Geisel is focused on leading through a convergence of public health and medicine, he says.

The school plans to grow its research programs aimed at preventing disease; become a national leader in education programming by emphasizing the relationship between public health, social determinants of health, health equity, and individual wellness; and advance equity in health and health care through experiential programming designed to identify and dismantle inequities in public health and medical systems.

The Guarini School of Graduate and Advanced Studies is working to attract talented students and postdoctoral scholars, to identify programs that can distinguish the school’s strengths, and to develop mechanisms to increase revenue, Dean Jon Kull ’88 told the board.

“Guarini plays an essential role in contributing to the research enterprise at Dartmouth, which is key to its distinctive identity,” says Kull.

Kull says Guarini is working to become a central hub for academic programs across Dartmouth and is creating a support program that includes professional development and career training for its students. The school will also establish an internship program for PhD and master’s students and plans to expand its most successful programs, such as the PhD innovation program, and is looking for opportunities to tap into Dartmouth’s academic strength where advanced programs make sense.

“We are focused on creating a virtuous cycle where we can attract graduate students and postdoctoral scholars who will serve as catalysts for interdisciplinary research at Guarini and across Dartmouth,” says Kull. “At the same time, like all graduate schools nationwide, we must develop a stronger financial model that continues to support this important work.”

Guarini is also creating a “principles of community” document to be a foundation for the school’s focus on community, inclusivity, diversity, and belonging. In addition. Guarini is working to stay competitive, this year increasing graduate student stipends to $40,000.

Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean Elizabeth F. Smith briefed board members on the Arts and Sciences Transformation Project. The project, which began in June 2022, is considering models that would unify the curricular and co-curricular experiences, creating a more coordinated and supportive student experience and which, through a different budget model, would create more agency for faculty and incentivize innovation and collaboration.

“The working groups have focused on developing models that will more seamlessly integrate academics, co-curriculars, extra-curriculars, residential life, and well-being,” says Smith. “Our goals remain to align academics and the student experience and to foster greater incentive for groundbreaking research, interdisciplinary and interschool collaboration, and distinction among faculty. Our governance and budget structures should support those two aims.”

Mental Health and Wellness

Matthew Duncan, MED ’01, a physician and Geisel assistant professor of psychiatry and medical education, briefed board members on the progress Dartmouth is making on student mental health and wellness. The mental health crisis on university campuses is not new, says Duncan, who is serving as a special advisor to the provost on student mental health and well-being.

“There has been a mental health crisis in this country for at least the last decade. The pandemic revealed that the rising tide of need across the U.S. has become a flood,” says Duncan. He added that “Our goal is that Dartmouth will create the structures and provide the necessary resources to promote the health of the entire student community.” 

Dartmouth is creating a strategic plan on mental health and wellness while it continues to address mental health needs and promote wellness in a number of ways. For example, it has added teletherapy services for students—which Duncan says, since becoming available in November, are being used by many—and it is increasing communication about mental health initiatives through a regular email from Provost David Kotz ’86, and a website that will provide easy access to health and wellness services.

Transformational Principles

Trustees heard early observations from LaMar Bunts, Dartmouth’s chief transformation officer, who began work on Jan. 1. Bunts presented principles he’s developed for how he can tap into Dartmouth’s specific constellation of schools, programs, students, faculty, and staff to develop a more diverse portfolio of revenue.

“LaMar’s appointment reflects the board’s belief that there is untapped potential across Dartmouth waiting to be unleashed,” Lempres says. “Good ideas are constantly being born that would benefit from a champion with the skills to help make them a reality. The trustees were excited to hear LaMar’s vision for the future.”

Bunts says he will seek to identify opportunities that can be scaled; leverage underutilized capacity; look for unique capabilities and strengths of Dartmouth, including nonacademic operations; and pursue opportunities that address issues that are a high priority for Dartmouth. He says he will include faculty members in his exploration and will avoid disrupting Dartmouth’s core residential model.

Capital and Operation Budgets and Tuition

Board members approved tuition and fees as well as a 2024 operating budget of $1.4 billion for the fiscal year beginning July 1. They also approved a $95 million capital budget, which includes funding for housing renewal and energy system projects.

Underlying the operating budget is an uncertain market environment with inflationary pressures, volatility in investments, and rising costs in nearly every expense line, says Chief Financial Officer Scott Frew. “Yet, through rigorous financial processes, creativity, philanthropy, and reallocation, Dartmouth is able to continue to make investments in its academic enterprise.”

Tuition, where it will increase, will do so at a rate that is below the rate of inflation. Undergraduate tuition will increase 4.9%. Tuition has increased an average of 3.5% a year during Hanlon’s time as president. Tuition, fees, and room and board for undergraduates next year will be $84,300. Thayer’s tuition will increase by 4.9% and will be $63,700. There will be no increase in tuition at Geisel and the Tuck School of Business. Tuck’s tuition will be $77,500, and Geisel’s MD program tuition will be $67,500.

Based on the approved budget, undergraduate financial aid support of $149 million is forecast for the coming year, up over the current year’s $135 million. The trustees also supported a $428 million distribution from the endowment, an increase of 8% over the current year. The endowment distribution next year is anticipated to fund 30% of the operating budget.

New Academic Programs

Board members approved the creation of new degree programs—a master of health administration jointly offered from Geisel and Tuck, and two programs for a master of engineering degree at Thayer.

One of the Thayer programs, in the field of computer engineering to start, will be fully online and is expected to begin in winter 2024. The other is remote with classes to be held on Zoom, in materials science to start, with classes expected to begin in fall 2023. The Thayer programs come as approximately 30% of students obtaining engineering masters globally are doing so through online courses.

The health administration degree, which will prepare students for management careers in health care, will be taught by faculty from Geisel and Tuck in a hybrid online/in-person format, and is expected to be launched in the summer of 2024.

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