October 2016 Board Report

Board of Trustees Meeting
October 2016

The board of trustees held its annual fall retreat Oct. 5-7. It was President Crawford’s first meeting with the full board since he began his service to Puget Sound in July, and my first in the role of board chair. In that capacity, I write to you today to provide an overview of discussions and action items that emerged during a very productive series of meetings.

In addition to our business meeting, it is customary for the trustees to participate in a workshop on a strategic area of importance for Puget Sound. This fall we sought to strengthen our understanding of the Puget Sound student experience to better inform decisions the board will make in the coming months, including the February 2017 approval of the university’s annual budget.

In our workshop we heard from Academic Vice President Kris Bartanen and Vice President for Student Affairs Mike Segawa; Director of Institutional Research Ellen Peters; and a panel of students and faculty members, including ASUPS President Noah Lumbantobing ’17 and Faculty Senate Chair Alisa Kessel. Our conversation focused on a better understanding of who Puget Sound’s students are and how we best ensure a campus climate and culture that reflects the values of the university. Topics included how we continue to foster diversity, inclusion, and social justice; effectively supporting each of our academically strong and uniquely talented students; and supporting the campus in creating broader student engagement with high-impact educational experiences, such as undergraduate research, community-based learning, and internships.

On behalf of the trustees, I’d like to thank all participants for a thoughtful, enlightening, and engaging discussion. As I shared at the meeting, this was not the type of workshop where we can say that we are “done” and move on. The student experience and how it relates to the climate and culture of the university involves everyone at Puget Sound, and is part of our responsibility as trustees.

In our business meeting we heard reports on academic and student affairs, development and alumni relations, and finance and facilities.

  • Transition years, especially those immediately following the completion of campaigns, can be challenging for fundraising; although the college fell short of projected goals, $6.6 million in new gifts was secured and the Puget Sound Fund posted a record total of $2.87 million, an increase of 4.8 percent over the previous year.
  • While the Alumni Fund posted a modest increase of 1.3 percent, the Parents Fund was up 5.8 percent, and the Friends Fund was up 18.1 percent. Trustee giving increased by 33 percent over the prior year. We have also seen substantial growth in alumni involvement, with more than 1,300 volunteers actively working on behalf of the college. This level of engagement and investment in Puget Sound is critical in providing a transformational liberal arts education to each and every student.
  • As a result of the college’s disciplined management of the budget, the Finance and Facilities Committee reported an unrestricted operating budget surplus for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2016. In accordance with board policy, a portion of the surplus was reinvested in auxiliary facilities (primarily for ongoing maintenance and renovation of student housing) and a portion was invested in the endowment to provide ongoing support for student financial aid and campus operations. The board also approved allocations to help fund the expansion of the Student Diversity Center (completed this summer), to support the presidential transition and upcoming inaugural events, and for strategic investment as determined by President Crawford.
  • Due to the earlier availability of this year’s Federal Application for Student Financial Aid (FAFSA), Puget Sound will need to publish tuition and make financial aid awards earlier than in the past. The board pre-approved a range of 2017-18 increases in aggregate tuition, room, board and ASUPS fee not to exceed 3.5%, with the understanding that we will work hard to contain any increases as much as possible. The final rates will be informed by the recommendations of the Budget Task Force.
  • Following up on the Board Statement on Divestment shared with the campus community in May, the Finance and Facilities Committee approved modifications to the Pooled Endowment Investment Policy to align with the divestment statement. The committee also approved the establishment of a new fossil fuel-free endowment option for donors, which we anticipate will be available Jan. 1, 2017. As of Aug. 31, 2016, the value of Puget Sound’s endowment was $321.8 million.
  • We also reviewed Fall 2016 enrollment figures, which are on target with 2,495 undergraduates and 241 graduate students, and received a report on the evolution of several important academic areas and programs: the Race and Pedagogy Institute, and new majors in African American Studies and Environmental Policy and Decision Making.

This is an exciting and important time at Puget Sound. We are fully engaged in the issues that affect the campus community, the challenges faced by liberal arts colleges, and the opportunities before us as we work with President Crawford and others toward a comprehensive strategic planning process. Along with my fellow trustees, it has been an honor to introduce President Crawford to alumni; friends; local business, political, and nonprofit leaders; and other friends of this great college.

Additional information about the work of the board, including board membership, faculty and student representatives, organizational structure, and upcoming meetings, is available on this website. 

Sincerely,

Robert Pohlad P’07
Chair, Puget Sound Board of Trustees