214th Session Committee Summaries

The 214th session of the Dartmouth Alumni Council opened with meetings of the Alumni Liaison Committee and the Nominating and Alumni Trustee Search Committee. Alumni Councilors attended one of three student panel dinner discussion groups: Thinking Like the Fed: The Fed Cup Challenge; Experiencing Human Origins in South Africa; and The College Pulse App: It Pays to Be Heard.

Later that evening, alumni councilors attended The Pitch: “Shark Tank” for Student Groups, an event sponsored by the Council’s Professional Development Committee.

The morning began with meetings of the Academic Affairs, Alumni Service, Athletics, Communications, Enrollment and Admissions, Professional Development, and Student Affairs Committees. This was followed by a “back-to-the-classroom” experience, providing councilors with the opportunity to attend undergraduate classes located at various locations around campus. The Honorary Degrees Committee and the Young Alumni Committee also met at this time.

Lunch featured a presentation titled Small Place, Big Ambitions: How Teaching and Learning Are Changing at Dartmouth by Lisa Baldez, professor of government and of Latin American, Latino and Caribbean studies, Cheheyl Professor and director, Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning  (DCAL).  As part of its mission, DCAL serves all who engage in teaching at Dartmouth, including faculty in all ranks, schools; and disciplines; librarians; educational designers; graduate students; postdoctoral fellow; deans; and directors. Educators assess effectiveness of their teaching in order to improve and practice learner-centered course design, implementation, and assessment. Between fall 2015 and spring 2017, DCAL sponsored more than 30 experiential learning programs and courses, representing the full spectrum of experiential learning pedagogy. The projects include on-campus and off-campus, academic and co-curricular, and short- and long-term experiences in arts and innovation, global and cultural engagement, and social impact learning.

Chair of the Academic Affairs Committee Mary Dengler ’96 presented the inaugural Professor John Rassias Faculty Award to Donald Pease, Professor of English and Comparative Literature, The Ted and Helen Geisel Third Century Professor in the Humanities, and chair of the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies Program; and to Steve Swayne, the Jacob H. Strauss 1922 Professor of Music, and Co-Director, Humanities 1 and 2. Council honored both professors with standing ovations.

The first plenary session opened with welcome remarks by Alumni Council President Russell Wolff ’89 TU’94. He then introduced President Philip J. Hanlon ’77. President Hanlon greeted the councilors and thanked them for their important work in communicating with their constituents. He noted that this time in the spring term is particularly intense for students and their academic work.

The president shared recent news about Dartmouth. The College enjoyed some extraordinary successes in the admissions cycle. The Class of 2021 is the most diverse in the College’s history. Average verbal and math SAT scores increased. There are more than 100 more valedictorians and salutatorians in the class than last year.  61 percent of admitted students have accepted the College’s offer of admission, the largest yield in recent years. The president offered his thanks to Lee Coffin, vice provost for enrollment and dean of admissions and financial aid, and noted that applicants cited particular interest in the Arthur L. Irving Institute for Energy and Society and the excellent teaching of Dartmouth faculty.

Dartmouth faculty are receiving more public recognition and visible honors. Outstanding examples include Hany Farid, Albert Bradley 1915 Third Century Professor of Computer Science and Chair of Computer Science (Wall Street Journal profile), Professor of Engineering and Director, PhD Innovation Program Eric Fossum (Queen Elizabeth Prize laureate), Associate Professor Vievee Francis (recipient of the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award), and Assistant Professor of Music Ashley Fure (recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship and a finalist for the 2017 Pulitzer Prize in Music).  

Dartmouth ranked 11th in the 2017 U.S. News and World Report university rankings. Dartmouth made a slight jump, over Northwestern and CalTech, from a 12th-place ranking last year. The College placed seventh in U.S. News’ ranking of institutions with the best undergraduate teaching.

The president spoke about the pillars of Dartmouth: the strong bonds it engenders; its unwavering commitment to the teacher scholar model; and its sense of place. Investment in initiatives such as DCAL are crucial. The center aided in the creation of courses with an embedded experiential learning component. One premier example is Anthropology 70, Experiencing Human Origins and Evolution, in which students examine current evidence for human origins and evolution, with a particular emphasis on South Africa. Professors Nate Dominy and Jeremy DeSilva traveled with the students to South Africa at the conclusion of the term. On their second day of excavating in Malapa, South Africa, Dartmouth students recovered a fossil of Australopithecus sediba, an early human predecessor. This experience is distinctly Dartmouth.

Hanlon has embarked on a listening tour around the country and provided many leadership briefings. Alumni encouraged him to think boldly about the undergraduate liberal arts, the teacher-scholar model, passionate faculty, the intense sense of community, and a sense of place. A capital campaign will launch in the coming year, and the president asked for support from the Council in stewarding the college into the next 250 years. Looking forward, the president stated he wants to be inspired by the great issues of the day, to stay true to the liberal arts, and to continue to create a student experience that is rich with experiential learning and a heavy dose of creativity.

Next, Vice President for Communications Justin Anderson provided an overview of Dartmouth’s strategic communications framework, designed with input from the president, provost, faculty, administration, staff, alumni, and students, as well as marketing professionals. He emphasized the following descriptors of Dartmouth: liberal arts at the core; scholars who love to teach; an adventuresome spirit; base camp to the world; and a profound sense of place. The liberal arts are foundational in educating and preparing students for a lifetime of learning and leadership. Collaboration is simple given the proximity of the professional schools. Scholars who teach lead study abroad programs. The adventuresome spirit is exemplified by such examples of “the 50” (students who hike from Hanover to Moosilauke every year), Professor Ross Virginia’s Arctic research, or Olympian Abbey D’Agostino ’14. Students have access to opportunities for exploration, as Dartmouth ranks top in the Ivies for study-abroad participation, and as one of the top 10 schools nationally for internships.

This framework is being used to tell a consistent story about Dartmouth by Admissions as well. Supplemental essay questions in this year’s application referenced Dartmouth figures such as president John Sloan Dickey, Fred Rogers ’50, and Shonda Rhimes ’91. We should be confident, bold, and embrace our distinctiveness; celebrating our size, setting, and people. Dartmouth is an Ivy League School in a league of its own.

Next on the agenda, Andrew Davidson, vice president for development, and Ann Root Keith, chief operating officer for advancement, talked about how fundraising powers success at Dartmouth. They discussed stages of planning for the next campaign.  In this quiet phase, academic leaders articulate strategic priorities for Dartmouth.  The campaign planning committee, comprised of volunteers, has begun its work. A public launch is planned for FY 2018. These efforts will be part of and continue through the celebration of the 250th anniversary and beyond.

Dartmouth has remarkable traditions and a community of support. The annual fund is unrivaled nationally in participation or dollars (with the exception of Princeton). Volunteers play a large role in Dartmouth’s success. The national average of alumni annual fund participation for all colleges and universities is under 10 percent, and for private institutions under 15 percent; Dartmouth is consistently over 40 percent. The Dartmouth College Fund has grown fivefold over the past 20 years, and the College is exploring technology to facilitate giving. The impact of women’s giving through the Centennial Circle is unprecedented at any university. The group has set a goal for Dartmouth’s 250th anniversary that alumnae will comprise 50 percent of total giving, and will support 250 Centennial Circle Scholars by 2019.  Young alumni participation is on the upswing. The last three years have been record setting.

Edward Miller, associate professor of history; and Jennifer Miller, assistant professor of history, convened a panel of students to speak about the Dartmouth Vietnam Project (DVP) to the Council. The DVP brings together members of the Dartmouth community to conduct, record, and preserve oral histories about the Vietnam War era. The online archive of interviews is a joint collaboration between current Dartmouth students and older members of the community who have volunteered to share their stories of the war and its impact on American society. After a brief introductory film about the project, each student spoke about their impactful experiences with the program.

Next on the agenda Lee Coffin, vice provost for enrollment management and dean of admissions and financial aid; and Meg Lysy ’99, director of the Admissions Ambassador Program (AAP) in the Office of Alumni Relations, provided an update on admissions. Lysy explained that the AAP’s mission is to leverage the strength and reach of the alumni network to assist in the recruitment and yield of prospective students. Membership in this group spans generations, and the program is a gateway volunteering opportunity for young alumni. Almost 200 seniors in the Class of 2017 interview as part of the virtual district, helping to reach students in areas where there are not many alumni, such as military bases, rural parts of the country, and abroad. 6,025 interviewers submitted 14,250 interview reports (71 percent) and planned 39 admitted student events. The yield for students who attended an alumni event was 87 percent.

During the course of his first year, Coffin had the opportunity to expand strategy in recruiting students. His team was able to identify areas where Dartmouth’s presence could be cultivated. Dartmouth’s presence online and in social media was magnified. New essays referencing Dartmouth were introduced to the application. The Dimensions of Dartmouth program for admitted students offered sessions with teacher-scholars, which proved very popular.

At the completion of the plenary, Vice President for Alumni Relations Martha Beattie ’76 offered a warm tribute to former council president Mark Harty ’73 who passed away in February.

Following a reception in the Hayward Ballroom of the Hanover Inn, the evening dinner program opened with greetings from Council President Russell Wolff and President Hanlon. After dinner, councilors heard remarks by the Honorable Eric Fanning ’90, the 22nd secretary of the Army. The evening concluded with a thank-you to retiring alumni councilors and the singing of the alma mater.

The Alumni Liaison Committee met for breakfast with President Hanlon and trustee Laurel Richie ’81.

Russell Wolff opened the Saturday plenary session, introducing Alumni Council President-Elect Jack Steinberg ’88.

Steinberg introduced Laurel Richie ’81, trustee-chair elect, who provided an update from the Board of Trustees. She opened by thanking the councilors for their service to the College. This is an exciting time for Dartmouth. Richie and others at Dartmouth are crystallizing the message of what makes Dartmouth distinctive and emphasizing the importance of proudly telling Dartmouth’s story. Dartmouth is an intimate, connected, rugged place, where extraordinary work is achieved by faculty and students. This year, Lee Coffin and the admissions team made changes to the application, with the goal of revealing not only academic contributions but also community ones. President Hanlon has put into place a leadership team with vision. A capital campaign will launch in the coming year.  Dartmouth is positioned for differentiation, combining the power of a liberal arts school with three professional schools.

Next on the agenda was the Nominating and Alumni Trustee Search Committee update. Chair John Banks ’90 thanked the alumni councilors who ran for leadership positions. He outlined the purpose of the committee – to identify, recruit, and attract the best alumni to serve on the Board of Trustees, in Alumni Council leadership positions, and in other critical alumni leadership roles. The composition of the Nominating Committee is purposefully representative of the alumni body, composed of the president, the president-elect, the past Nominating Committee chair, one appointed councilor, and six elected councilors.

In the fall of 2017 the Nominating Committee will consider candidates for the alumni-nominated trustee seat. The committee has met four times this year, and its working agenda also includes consideration of Alumni Council leadership roles, the Nominating Committee slate, the Alumni Liaison Committee slate, and the president-elect slate; the Alumni Council at-large appointments; affirmation of class, club, and affiliated group councilor appointments; affirmation of appointments specified in the Alumni Council constitution; and some specified positions on the Dartmouth Alumni Magazine editorial board. Banks called for a vote to approve the appointments of the undergraduate representatives, graduate program representatives, Alumni Liaison Committee at-large members, Alumni Council at-large representatives, and affiliated group representatives (as required by the Alumni Council constitution). The new alumni councilors were approved. Banks presented the nominated slates for the president-elect, Alumni Liaison Committee, and the Nominating Committee. This was the first time the Council has conducted the voting process electronically, so those not in attendance could now vote, and councilors were reminded to cast their votes, with the election results to be announced later in the plenary.

John “J.B.” Daukas ’84, former president of the Alumni Council and Association of Alumni (AOA), led a study of Board of Trustees (BOT) and AOA election rules. There are 26 trustees, of which the governor of New Hampshire and the president of Dartmouth College are ex officio members. 16 trustees are charter trustees, elected by the BOT, and eight trustees are alumni nominated. The BOT has ultimate responsibility for the financial, administrative, and academic affairs of the college: including fiduciary responsibility, appointment of faculty and officers, purchase and disposition of property, awarding of degrees, and approval of new programs and initiatives. Alumni-nominated trustees are chosen in the following manner: if the trustees notify the Alumni Council that there will be a vacancy on the board the following year, the Alumni Council solicits nominations from the alumni body, and then the Nominating and Alumni Trustee Search Committee nominates 1-2 candidate per seat. In 2014, amendments to the AOA constitution were approved by alumni in an all-media election, amending the Alumni Council’s nomination process, resulting in the elimination of the requirement of alumni-wide balloting for uncontested elections. The AOA runs an alumni-wide election only if it is contested, and the Board of Trustees votes to seat the winning candidate. If an election is held, all ballots will be sent electronically to each eligible voter, unless a voter has requested a paper ballot by mail.

Every year the AOA Nominating Committee nominates new members to the AOA Executive Committee. As with alumni trustees, AOA officers are also elected in an alumni-wide vote, which occurs along with the trustee vote, if there is a contested election.

Chairs of the standing Alumni Council committees reported on the meetings held the day prior.

The committee reports were followed by a presentation titled Thayer: How Engineering + Liberal Arts = National Leadership, moderated by Joseph J. Helble, dean of the Thayer School of Engineering and professor of engineering; with panelists John Currier ’79, TH’81, Thayer School research engineer; Ryan Halter, assistant professor of engineering, adjunct assistant professor of surgery, Geisel School of Medicine; Vicki May, professor of engineering; and Petra Bonfert-Taylor, professor of engineering. The Thayer School was founded in 1867 by General Sylvanus Thayer, the father of West Point, as an engineering school to be integrated with the liberal arts, and is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year. It has had an outward community focus from the beginning. There is an emphasis on engineering, design, and creativity as well as analytical and qualitative skills. Points of distinction include no entry barriers to the undergraduate program, which is the only one requiring an AB prior to earning a BE.  The graduate program pioneered the Masters of Engineering Management and the nation’s first PhD innovation program in engineering. Today’s emphasis is on innovation and entrepreneurship. Its team-based creative design has been in place for more than five decades. Since 2000, 38 unique companies have been founded by 24 unique faculty members (one in three tenure track faculty), with most located in the Upper Valley.

Thayer’s unique integration of engineering and liberal arts creates “liberal engineering;” is one of the largest majors on campus; allows for experiential learning (interdisciplinary project based design) open to all, not just engineers; is comprised of diverse students at gender parity; and has a focus on entrepreneurship, with a vision for a digitally integrated future with computer science and collaboration with the Tuck School.

Professor Bonfert-Taylor presented on ENGS20: Introduction to Scientific Computing. The class, a prerequisite for engineering majors, is comprised of 65 percent first-year students, and utilizes C and MATLAB programming in an active learning environment. Professor May spoke about ENGS21: Introduction to Engineering, which focuses on skills building. Professor Halter teaches ENGS 89/90: The Capstone Design Experience, in which external project sponsors work with interdisciplinary teams on a two-term experiential learning project, such as an arsenic removal system, wall-mounted nicotine sensor, or an Advance Transit bus app.

The Mobile Virtual Player (MVP), a robotic tackling dummy developed jointly by Thayer School of Engineering and Robert L. Blackman Head Football Coach Buddy Teevens ’79, started as a project for ENGS 89: Engineering Design Methodology and Project Initiation. The MVP is the first powered device that simulates a real football player in size, weight, agility, and speed by replicating an in-game experience. Research engineer John Currier maneuvered the MVP into the meeting and described the inception of the product, the timeline of its development, and the founding and growth of the company. Units have been bought by other colleges and the NFL.

At the conclusion of the Thayer presentation, Steinberg announced the Alumni Council leadership election results. Adrienne “Tee” Lotson ’82 was elected as the president-elect of the Alumni Council. Beth Donahoe Cook ’94 and Eric Taylor ’84 were elected to the Nominating and Alumni Trustee Search Committee.  Melanie Pastuck ’11 was elected to the ALC, and Rich Stoddart ’85 was appointed to the ALC from the AOA body.

The open forum commenced.

The meeting was adjourned. The Executive Committee met for a debriefing immediately after.