To the Williams community,
I write, as usual, to report on the recent Board of Trustees meeting. The Board met at Williams last Friday and Saturday, January 19-20. Their agenda included high-level discussions about how Williams achieves our mission, combined with sessions that focused on specific projects advancing us toward that goal. Discussions included the following:
- Provost and Class of 1955 Memorial Professor of History Eiko Maruko Siniawer ’97, Dean of Admission and Student Financial Services Liz Creighton ’01 and members of her team facilitated several sessions with the Trustees, reviewing and discussing the college’s admission values, principles and objectives. This was part of the Board’s continuing focus on those subjects.
- Board members received an update on the Williams College Museum of Art project, as the design development effort nears completion. The resulting design will be broadly shared with the campus community in the coming weeks, and will continue to be refined through the next phase of our process.
- Interim Vice President for Facilities Mina Amundsen and Project Manager Julie Sniezek reported on planning progress for the new Multipurpose Recreation Center. The Center, whose construction is supported in part by alumni gifts, will be located adjacent to the college tennis courts and will house, on an interim basis, activities that previously occurred in the Towne Field House. With design well underway, the intent is to break ground on the new facility in late spring, with planned completion sometime in late 2025.
- Assistant Director for Energy and Utilities Jason Moran and Zilkha Center for Environmental Initiatives Director Tanja Srebotnjak provided an update on our Energy and Carbon Master Plan (ECMP). This multi-year project to decarbonize campus includes an effort to identify options for transitioning the college heating plant away from fossil fuels. Within that aspect of the process, we are exploring the possibility of a new district energy plant that taps into geothermal sources. The college will continue drilling test wells to assess our geothermal potential.
- Vice President for Institutional Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Leticia Smith-Evans Haynes ’99 and Dean of the Faculty and Kimberly A. ’96 and Robert R. ’62 Henry Professor of Economics Lara Shore-Sheppard led the Trustees through their annual review of the college’s recruitment and retention efforts, and particularly those efforts directed toward supporting faculty and staff from underrepresented populations. The discussion touched on historical trends at Williams, and on opportunities and challenges related to supporting and retaining a diverse faculty now and in the future.
- The Board voted to approve the promotion of ten faculty members to associate professor with tenure, effective July 1, 2024. You will find their names and information in the recent announcement on Williams Today. Please join me in congratulating them on this terrific academic and career achievement.
- The Board received routine updates from Vice President for Finance and Operations and Treasurer Mike Wagner on FY24 budget projections; Vice President for College Relations Megan Morey on college fundraising; and Chief Investment Officer Abigail Wattley ’05 on endowment performance.
- During the meeting the Trustees also voted to approve the 2024-25 comprehensive fee. We will provide details in our annual tuition letter to students, as we have done in the past.
- Between sessions, Board members were pleased to tour the new Davis Center. They were very impressed and are excited for its grand opening celebration in April. Thanks are due to all the staff, students and faculty who have contributed to the building and program work, and to the Williams alumni who are helping make the new Center possible.
Finally, I reviewed with the Board several Senior Staff changes that will occur this spring:
The first is that Keli Gail, Assistant to the President and Secretary of the College, has decided to retire in July 2024. I will soon launch a national search for her successor. The second is that Jim Reische has decided to retire on June 30 from his roles as Chief Communications Officer (CCO) and Senior Staff member. On July 1 Jim will then step into a new, part-time position as Special Advisor to the President for Executive Communications and Media Relations. With the Board’s approval, I am promoting Associate Vice President for Communications Meike Kaan to succeed Jim as CCO, and as the Communications representative on Senior Staff.
Keli, Jim and Meike embody the dedication of college staff and administration to Williams’ educational mission and people, as partners with our faculty. I will send out a fuller—and more fulsome—appreciation of them shortly.
During the Board meeting we discussed the experience of living through an extraordinary—and extraordinarily turbulent—era for higher education. Everything from our admission policies and financial models to our longstanding values is being scrutinized and, often, questioned. The intensity of these debates is a reminder of how much people care about education—and how much it matters. I am grateful to the Trustees, as I am to each of you, for working so hard to advocate for its virtues and model its benefits.