Williams students, faculty and staff,
I’m pleased to welcome you all to Williams for the new semester. It’s exciting to feel the energy of this particular moment in the year, as our community returns and is renewed. In that spirit I offer a special greeting to our newest students and colleagues, who are enjoying your first fall on campus.
To that end, I thought it might be interesting to share a little about who “we” are this year:
- We have 579 new students joining us this fall—a larger entering class than usual, as you may have heard. This very diverse group includes eleven transfer students and four veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces, one of whom has received the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star for Valor. Almost half of our first-years are U.S. students of color, and 112 are the first in their family to attend college. Welcome to all! The cohort is sensationally diverse in talents and interests, too, including a nationally-ranked dairy goat breeder, a co-captain of the USA Debate Team and not one but two oyster farmers. While I love mentioning unusual examples, each of you brings something unique to this place. I hope you can have fun this year discovering each other’s talents, interests and histories.
- The Williams staff, meanwhile, has also added many new co-workers, in areas from finance to facilities and dining to daycare. With so many people having joined us during our pandemic measures, we have some catching up to do in helping everyone get to know each other. It was wonderful to see hundreds of familiar and new faces at the President’s House for donuts on the lawn recently. We’re working on more community-building plans for this fall—look for details soon.
- On the faculty front, I want to offer a warm welcome to the many new faculty and visitors joining us this fall. I look forward to meeting many of you at upcoming faculty meetings and events.
- Among continuing faculty, I’m very pleased to announce this year’s recipients of the Nelson Bushnell ’20 Prize, our major award for faculty excellence in teaching and writing. Please join me in congratulating our colleagues:
The diversity and intellectual vibrancy of this impressive community is evident in even a sampling of recent accomplishments:
- Through faculty scholarship and collaborations with staff, Williams continues to have a significant impact on important research questions of our times. Twenty-two faculty members have secured more than $2M in research grants this year, for projects spanning all three divisions and every level of seniority.
- Student scholarship has been equally extraordinary, as reflected in senior thesis projects and Mellon-Mays and Allison Davis projects, as well as Summer Science, Humanities and Social Science work, and much, much more.
- Congratulations, too, to all those who completed internships this summer, including those who participated in the inaugural year of the Williams College Museum of Art’s Summer Arts Program and our reconfigured Summer Intensive Training Program with the Williamstown Theatre Festival.
- Meanwhile, a number of major campus projects are progressing, including the Davis Center building project (which will be Petal-certified for sustainability), the new Center for Teaching, and our campus framework planning partnership with the Sasaki design firm, in which we are trying to imagine—and thoughtfully plan for—the Williams of the future. These and other initiatives evolved out of campus discussions during our strategic planning efforts in 2019-2021.
- In the area of Sustainability, colleagues from the Planning, Design and Construction office and the Zilkha Center are mapping out a multi-year project to create Williams’ first energy and carbon master plan. The plan will generate the detailed engineering analysis needed to transition our campus away from fossil fuel combustion and reduce our carbon emissions from 1990-91 levels by 80 percent. Their process will include many opportunities for community involvement, and I encourage everyone to participate.
- Among the many other projects already in process with a sustainability element, the new Williams College Museum of Art site and building will include ambitious sustainability goals. We will also build on our first-ever STARS Gold sustainability certification by advancing efforts such as our ongoing zero-waste initiatives and developing college and departmental sustainability action plans. You’ll receive an annual report on campus sustainability via email later this fall with a broader picture of our efforts, successes and challenges.
- Finally, you may have seen a new National Science Foundation study that ranks Williams second among the country’s private colleges and universities in the percentage of Black graduates going on to earn a Ph.D. I want to recognize our alumni for this impressive career achievement and thank the current and past staff of Pathways for Inclusive Excellence (formerly the Office for Special Academic Programs) for supporting so many students pursuing advanced study, scholarship and teaching.
In closing I also want to note the significance of last spring’s move to make Williams the first school in the country to move to an all-grant financial aid program. I look forward to hearing about the impact of this effort, but even now the upwelling of pride and encouragement from Williams people says a lot about our values. There is more good work to be done, and our community has the passion and commitment to do it.
As always, my goal in this message was to give you just a quick introduction to some of the many good things happening on campus. There’s much more going on, including lectures, arts exhibitions and performances and athletic competitions. I encourage you to explore and discover for yourselves, and to make this a joyous year of learning and growth.