199th Session Meeting Minutes

Interdisciplinary Studies

Following introductions, Bruce Duthu ’80, chair of the Native American studies (NAS) major, spoke about NAS in the context of the interdisciplinary academic program at Dartmouth. As background, he noted that President Kemeny, in 1970, rededicated Dartmouth to its founding principles of educating Native peoples. In 1972, NAS was established. Not to be confused with the Native American program, which is run out of the Dean of the College area and focuses on support for Native students, NAS operates within the Dean of the Faculty area as an interdisciplinary academic program. Michael Dorris was its founding chair. Most of the faculty hold joint appointments in NAS and another academic discipline. Duthu, appointed in 2008, holds the first full appointment to NAS. The department has a full assistant professor as well. The principle behind the interdisciplinary approach is the creation of a structure that avoids isolation of an academic area. By linking it to other areas of study such as history, anthropology, and government, NAS becomes integrated into the core of the academic program. NAS has now matured to the extent that it no longer needs so many joint appointments. Its courses are popular and have vigorous enrollment. Some courses this fall were oversubscribed. On average, there are 25 majors and 6 minors; there are also several double majors. Duthu strongly believes in the value of interdisciplinary studies, and is proud Dartmouth takes seriously the idea that liberal arts means students have to be comfortable shifting in and out of different worlds.

Lindsay Whaley, associate dean of the faculty for international and interdisciplinary studies, stated that there are more than 10 interdisciplinary programs, including NAS, linguistics and cognitive studies, Jewish studies, women’s studies, environmental studies, African and African-American studies, Asian studies, Latin American studies, international studies (a minor), and war and peace studies. New programs that may come online are digital arts and sustainability. Dartmouth is a leader in the field of interdisciplinary studies. NAS and African and African-American studies were among the first such programs in the world. We created the standard for other institutions. Some programs are structured like departments and others are spread out among several departments, depending on size and curriculum. On the positive side, these programs allow for innovation in the curriculum and help students navigate in multiple worlds. These are good skills for the workplace. There are challenges though, including the risk that the academic program becomes superficial. It also poses a difficult balancing act for faculty whose work cuts across two departments. Lately, the focus has turned from regional to theoretical, and Dartmouth needs to make sure that there is faculty expertise in regional studies.

Most of the academic programs are stable or have grown. The only exception is Jewish studies, which has not been as successful.

Although there is no formal interdisciplinary requirement, the vast majority of students samples one to three courses rather than choose a major from these programs. Double majors are also very common.

Dartmouth Undergraduate Journal of Science (DUJS)

Shreoshi Majumdar ’10 and Peter Chen ’10 joined the committee for a discussion about this publication, which is the leading undergraduate science journal in the country. It was established 12 years ago, supported by a faculty board. Open to all students of science, DUJS is a place for undergraduates to publish review articles or research papers. The staff of 40 students conducts rigorous editing for this high-quality journal. Some of the issues have themes, such as drug development, environmental science, evolution, and “visualizing the invisible.” The publication schedule is year-round: fall, winter, and spring.

In addition to the print journal, there is a website for online science news, faculty interviews, events, seminars, lectures, and podcasts.

The print journal has domestic and international subscribers. The staff also holds events; during a recent event science writers were invited to talk about careers in science writing. The budget is $27,000 per year, but that budget is under stress.

DUJS has multiple generations of students and more articles per issue and more issues per year than any other institution. Undergraduates are actually doing the research and writing about it. Dartmouth is first and best in the nation!  

Ideas for the Spring Council Meeting

Dartmouth’s reaccreditation process

Evidenced-based decision-making (how student and faculty performance is tracked)

International programs (this was covered recently)

Election of the committee vice chair from first-year councilors

Other suggestions are welcome. 

Sarah Jackson-Han ’88, vice chair of the Communications Committee, opened the meeting and explained that Jon Murchinson ’91, committee chair, was unable to attend the Alumni Council meeting due to his child’s illness. She welcomed the five first-year councilors who have joined the committee. Sarah provided a summary of 2008-09 alumni councilor communications. Councilors sent out 213 emails and reports (more than a 100-percent increase over the 99 reports sent last year) and received more than 600 responsive messages from alumni. The responses of alumni feedback were forwarded by councilors to the Alumni Liaison Committee, which compiled the annual report for the board of trustees. The report is posted online at http:///news.aspx?id=502. The report has been posted in its entirety and is also available in two sections (body of the report and appendices). These downloading options resulted from a recommendation that was made by Communications Committee member Jay Davis ’54.

The committee discussed the meeting summary, which will be produced by Brooks Clark ’78. The summary is made available to all alumni councilors for their use when communicating with constituents. Lynne Gaudet ’81 of Alumni Relations told Brooks that many councilors liked the format he had used for a previous meeting, which provided both a short “elevator statement” of main points as well as the more detailed summary of the meeting. Some councilors used the elevator statement and then provided their own commentary in their communications.

Communications regarding the 2010 trustee election were addressed. In response to some questions from committee members related to the history of the trustee election process, Lynne Gaudet and John Mathias ’69, president of the Association of Alumni, provided information about this. Sarah informed the committee that the Nominating Committee, which includes Jon Murchinson, is working on providing councilors some communications pieces about the trustee nominations. The committee also discussed ideas for outreach to increase voter participation.

Committee members agreed to continue the practice of following up with councilors who do not promptly send out an email to their constituencies. Approximately six weeks after the Alumni Council meeting, Lynne Gaudet will provide each committee member with names and contact information to follow up with some councilors about this. Elliott Weinstein ’56 ’57Tu mentioned that the committee used to also contact councilors in advance of meetings to encourage them to contact their constituencies in preparation for meetings. The committee would like to do this again, and so Lynne Gaudet will email each member the contact information for some councilors before the spring meeting.

A discussion followed about sending effective communications to gather feedback. The committee would like to recommend to the Alumni Council’s Executive Committee that it have a panel presentation at the spring meeting composed of particularly effective Alumni Council communicators who could share some “best practice” ideas with fellow councilors and lead a brainstorming session on this topic.

Diana Lawrence, director of Alumni Relations communications, then made a presentation about online communications and showcased several sites and pages.

Diana also mentioned that alumni like to download the Baker Library bell tones for their cell phone ringtone. A holiday email card will be sent to all alumni; the office is exploring the demand for mobile applications, and they hope to place more communications online.

Sarah Jackson-Han discussed the Alumni Council Facebook page, and explained that she would be making a presentation about it to the entire Alumni Council during the Saturday morning plenary session. Also during that session, Mike Backman, director of alumni information resources, was to speak about Dartmouth alumni technology.

Below is a summary of the key initiatives discussed by the committee.

Alumni Interviewer Initiative

While case studies highlighted the importance of the alumni interviewing effort, we discussed our desire to continue to increase the total number of volunteers, as well as the importance of “embracing” and retaining the current roster of alumni interviewers. Based on feedback and suggestions from committee members, we plan to send out updates to all interviewers three times a year: in early fall as interviews get underway (as Dan Parish ‘89 did last month); during mid-season with a brief update; and at the end of the season as a thank you, with a summary of admissions results.

We also discussed reaching out to alumni through the class officer network, and Dan has been in touch with Alumni Relations to get this started. Last, and important, we asked all Committee members to raise their hand and volunteer to be an alumni interviewer, a request that we have also made to the council at large. This is a great way to help the College in a very tangible way.

Anyone interested in interviewing can register by clicking the “Sign Up to Interview” link at www.dartmouth.edu/~interviewers

Low-income Outreach Program

Stan West ’78 summarized a program he has initiated in Los Angeles that is directed toward enhancing and reinforcing the recruitment efforts of the College. We highlight this initiative as one that has very real potential. Follow-up calls to further reinforce and define this effort are under way, and we look forward to reporting back to the council in May as to progress here. To Stan’s credit, he has worked at defining this effort in Los Angeles, and we look forward to hearing more on this front. 

School Partnership Program

Ellie Loughlin ’89 and Colleen Wearn ’06 provided an update on plans to roll out, on a selective basis, a program whereby designated alumni assist the Admissions Office as representatives to specific schools. As we learned at our meeting, the number of school visits conducted by the Admissions Office dropped from 626 in 2008 to 450 in 2009 due to budgetary and time constraints. This program is intended to assist the Admissions Office in its efforts, and we look forward to a recap from Ellie and Colleen in May as to how the program is shaping up. 

The meeting opened with an introduction of committee members.

Then followed a Student Assembly presentation by Frances Vernon ’10, president, Student Assembly; Cory Cunningham ’10, vice president, Student Assembly; and Tina Chang, president, Graduate Student Council (GSC). Tina explained the role of the GSC and that they are working on hosting social events (for all grad students), a dedicated graduate student center, vision and dental insurance for graduate students, improved Advance Transit scheduling, ID cards and discounts for spouses, and a career fair catering to grad students.

Frances reviewed the role of the Student Assembly and talked about current topics the assembly is addressing, such as an “alternative” social space, the Organizational Adjudication Committee, and the current alcohol policy.

Then followed a panel presentation by student-athletes Matt Dinger '10, Men’s Rugby Club; Margaret Smith ’10, varsity women's basketball; Dan Markowitz ’11, varsity men’s hockey. The athletes talked about why they chose Dartmouth, how sports play a role in their Dartmouth experience, their respective team’s performance, and future plans. This presentation was followed by a briefing by Bob Ceplikas ’78, acting director of Athletics. He provided an update on the scope of the athletics program, the varsity sports programs, the priority of rebuilding the football program, the high participation of athletics among undergraduates, physical education and recreation programs, club sports, important considerations regarding the athletic department’s budget, alumni giving information, and the costs of the various programs.

Sylvia Spears, acting dean of the College, then gave a presentation on current issues and what is being done about social space, social event management procedures and the new advisory board overseeing those procedures.

Then followed a presentation from Mike Lewis ’11 on “Blitzes, Texting, and Facebook: Social Media and the Dartmouth Experience.”This was a research project that dealt with communications before and after the introduction of cell phones, Blitz, social networks, etc. The full video can be found here: http://mba.tuck.dartmouth.edu/digital/videos/ITdoc.html