Dear Faculty and Staff Members,
Our work to advance Leadership for a Changing World, our 10-year strategic plan for Puget Sound, is well underway! I hope you enjoy this periodic update to keep you informed about our progress and engaged in our work to be bold and forward-looking in meeting the needs of our students, our campus community, and the broader world.
For those of you who were not able to attend the Fall Faculty and Staff Welcome, a transcript of my remarks about our current enrollment, financial projections, and plans for the coming year is available on the Office of the President website. It was so good to see such terrific engagement at the reception that followed. Let’s keep the conversation going! We piloted our first monthly “Campus Coffee Break” on Wednesday, Sept. 25, and had a great turnout. Please plan to stop by the next one on Thursday, Oct. 24, between 9:45 and 10:15 a.m., in Rasmussen Rotunda. To show your support for sustainability, please bring your favorite mug!
The big vision for the strategic plan’s focus on the undergraduate curriculum is that everystudent will benefit from broad and deep learning at Puget Sound and graduate with a well-integrated set of high-impact experiences that will prepare them for work, life beyond college, and our rapidly changing and complex world. The Curriculum Task Force, co-chaired by Professors Dexter Gordon and Alisa Kessel, was appointed in November 2018 and continued its work over the summer and into the fall to develop a framework for the undergraduate curriculum that will integrate the major, interdisciplinary pathways, experiential learning, and mentorship. We look forward to a recommendation from the full faculty, and thank all who are involved in this transformative work to benefit our current and future students.
Curriculum Task Force Members
Ex-officio to the committee
We are thrilled to announce a $1 million grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support development of a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies for incarcerated women at the Washington Corrections Center for Women in Gig Harbor, Washington. FEPPS provides a rigorous accredited college program to incarcerated women in Washington and creates pathways to educational opportunity after women are released from prison. The program's goals are to increase economic and personal empowerment, contribute to family stability, and reduce recidivism through college education. FEPPS is one of our signature programs, and we are excited to be able to more fully invest in this program that leverages our role as an intellectual asset in the community and agent of social change. The faculty approved the bachelor’s degree program on Sept. 4, 2019, and the board of trustees approved it on Oct. 11, during the fall board meetings. In addition to advancing our academic mission, the new degree program also supports our strategic priority to enhance engagement with our local community.
Throughout 2018–19, the university explored several new possibilities for academic programs at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. An external consulting firm provided market analysis, and faculty working groups explored the opportunities and challenges associated with each possibility. At the Oct. 2 faculty meeting, Provost Laura Behling reviewed the findings and invited faculty members to develop a proposal for a master’s degree program in public health, which has emerged as a mission-focused program with high demand for students, projected job growth, and alignment with our current graduate programs in education and health sciences. Explorations of other possible additions to the curriculum are welcome and ongoing.
Retaining our students from their first year on campus through graduation is a critical measure of success in meeting our educational mission. To better support this work, Ellen Peters has been named associate provost for institutional research, planning, and student success. Our student retention has been on a decline in recent years, especially between the first and second year of college, and it is most imperative that we work together as a campus community to be attentive to student needs and develop programs that support and inspire students to complete their educations at Puget Sound.
Puget Sound has recently been the recipient of a number of accolades, including being named among the top 20 most beautiful campuses in the country by The Princeton Review. We also continue to appear on best colleges lists produced by U.S. News & World Report, Forbes, Money magazine, and others. One of the endorsements that I’m most excited about comes from a report produced by the Council of Independent Colleges and authored by NORC at The University of Chicago. Strengthening the STEM Pipeline, Part II names Puget Sound as a leading college for women who go on to pursue doctoral studies in the sciences, especially in the physical sciences and chemistry. (Puget Sound graduates actually outperform our peers and institutions like Harvard in some of the STEM listings, and is recognized as a top producer of students among small colleges nationwide who go on to pursue advanced study.) These are data about which our students, faculty, and staff who work in the sciences should be very proud.
I am grateful to the faculty and staff members who have assumed leadership roles in diversity and inclusion following the recent departure of our chief diversity officer and Title IX compliance officer. After considering our opportunities for growth in our commitment to diversity and inclusion, hearing advice and recommendations from our community, and reviewing best practices at other institutions, I proposed to our board of trustees that we 1) elevate the role to a vice president for diversity and inclusion and 2) better focus the role by staffing the responsibility for harassment and discrimination education and complaints outside the scope of this position. I believe this will better support our institutional focus on diversity and inclusion, and our efforts to realize the goals of our diversity strategic plan.
The creation of any vice president position requires consultation with and approval by the board of trustees. I am pleased to report that the proposal met with enthusiastic approval from our trustees at their meetings last week. This Cabinet-level position will report directly to the president, serve as the institution’s chief diversity officer, and elevate our commitment to diversity and inclusion on campus. We will conduct a national search inclusive of campus input and the appointment of a search committee later this fall.
In other areas of progress toward our goals:
As reported earlier in the semester, the data that we commissioned from the Great Colleges to Work For survey have been received and will be shared with the faculty and staff soon. In order to obtain the most comprehensive understanding of feedback, we surveyed all faculty and staff members (rather than a random sample) and are working to sort through a significant amount of data to create a full report. In addition to receiving recognition for our tenure process, an early overview of the findings indicates that faculty and staff members are engaged in the mission of the college, feel very good about their colleagues, and appreciate our retirement benefit. Similar to other participating institutions, there is a desire for better compensation and greater resources. Puget Sound staff members, in particular, identify a need for improved recognition, better understanding of promotion opportunities, and clearer communication around decision-making. The presentation of the results will include findings for Puget Sound and how we compare to peer institutions, as well as opportunities to solicit your feedback as we celebrate our strengths and prioritize and address opportunities identified for improvement. Please look for a message this week from the Department of Human Resources with dates, times, and locations for presentations of the survey results.
In May, the board of trustees updated it’s 2016 commitment to reduce fossil fuel investments in the university’s endowment, recognizing that climate change is unique among concerns in our society in that it is global in its reach and existential in its threat. At the May meeting, the board reaffirmed its commitment and expressed its aspiration to have an endowment that is entirely free of fossil fuel investment. Please review the commitment to learn more about actions being taken by our board.
This group met for the first time a few weeks ago to build on the good work and ideas advanced by our strategic planning goal team under the leadership of Professor Lynnette Claire and Associate Provost Ellen Peters. The group is charged with identifying and exploring potential ways to diversify the university’s revenue beyond our current primary sources of net tuition, philanthropic gifts, endowment distribution, and auxiliary income. A recommendation is expected at the end of the calendar year and will be presented to the board of trustees for its consideration and further discussion. Members of the work group are:
Stay tuned for updates throughout the year as we continue our good work to advance our strategic vision to ensure the future of Puget Sound students for generations to come.
We challenge and support our students as they become broadly and deeply educated lifelong learners, prepared to create and serve the future and to become the world’s next generation of visionary leaders.