October 2023

Dear Members of the Campus Community,

Last week trustees were on campus for three days of fall meetings, and immersed themselves in the important work happening at Puget Sound. As I finish my first meeting as board chair, I want to express my gratitude for the opportunity to serve the university in this capacity. I am honored to step into this role and eager to share our recent experiences with you.

Our time on campus has left us inspired and enthusiastic about the remarkable projects and initiatives in progress. On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I offer the following overview of our activities during our visit.

Welcome to New and Returning Trustees. The board is enriched each year by the generosity, expertise, and perspectives of new members. This fall we are happy to welcome returning trustee Bruce Titcomb ’80, P’13, and Nicholas Vasilius ’07; and the following new trustees:

  • Maria Arellano ’86
  • Ryan Dumm ’07
  • Betsy Campbell Stone ’79, P’14

More information about the Board of Trustees and our work in support of Puget Sound can be found on our website.

Campus Engagement. Trustees always appreciate the opportunity to meet informally with members of the campus community throughout our visit and experience the vibrant campus environment.

  • Experiential Learning Showcase. We thoroughly enjoyed hearing from students about their internships, summer research experiences, study abroad trips, and community-based learning experiences and the ways these experiential learning opportunities helped them apply their classroom learning in hands-on environments and find and further their professional and personal interests. Many trustees considered this session a true highlight of the meetings and were impressed by the passion, dedication, and intellectual curiosity of the students in pursuing their interests.

  • Reception and Breakfast. Trustees also enjoyed their one-on-one interactions with the experiential learning student presenters, experiential learning staff, faculty, staff and student members of our policy committees, and recently tenured and promoted faculty during the Thursday evening reception at the Wilson Welcome Center as well as conversations with members of the Faculty and Staff Senate at the Friday morning breakfast. These opportunities to foster meaningful connections and gain deeper insights into the heart of Puget Sound are another highlight of our meetings.

  • Joint JSU-MENA Statement on the Israel-Hamas War. While on campus, trustees read the recent joint statement from the Jewish Student Union and Middle Eastern North African Student Association on the Israel-Hamas War that was published in The Trail. We were heartened by the unity in the message and its embodiment of our core values of self-expression, collegiality, courage, passion, diversity, and leadership as part of a liberal arts education and applaud our students for working together across differences in this way. It is also a reminder, that while it may seem distant, the impact of such events reaches far and wide, even into our own community.

Retreat. We participated in a half-day retreat focused on building a shared understanding of how trustees can best support the university within an evolving landscape for higher education, and also spent time deepening our understanding of the Student Success Plan, and how we can best engage in supporting this work, and acting as volunteers and ambassadors for Puget Sound. We appreciate the Plan’s emphasis on collaboration, first year experience, faculty engagement, staffing alignment, metrics and data analysis, and technology to assure we can provide the best experience for our students.

Workshop. In light of the growth of generative artificial intelligence (AI), trustees, ex officios, and members of the President’s Cabinet benefited from a workshop focused on “Opportunities and Challenges of Generative AI in Higher Education”, led by Provost Drew Kerkhoff. The workshop featured presentations by Sara Vaezy, Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy and Digital Officer for Providence, one of the largest health systems in the nation, and a panel of fantastic Puget Sound faculty and administrators: Gareth Barkin, America Chambers, Kevin Kirner, Justin Tiehen, and Ariela Tubert. Through their presentations and Q&A, we explored topics such as:

  • How generative AI can support the work of complex organizations, including higher education;

  • Emerging opportunities, threats, and challenges regarding the use of generative AI;

  • Considerations for an institutional AI strategy, and its intersection with governance, guardrails, and technology needed for responsible AI use; and

  • How our faculty and academic technologists are preparing students to use their “actual intelligence” to harness and successfully utilize artificial intelligence.

Business Meeting. In advance of the meeting, we read reports submitted by President Crawford and ex officio representatives, including Faculty Senate Chair Elise Richman, ASUPS President Chloe Pargmann ’24, Staff Senate Chair Kevin Kirner, and Alumni Council President Ted Meriam ’05 who were in attendance at the business meeting. The trustees greatly value hearing directly from students, faculty, staff, and alumni about their work and their perspectives on issues facing the university and board.

Highlights of the business meeting include:

  • Master Plan presentation. Trustees heard an exciting presentation on the progress of the Master Plan.

  • Budget Parameters. Trustees approved the parameters for the 2024–25 fiscal year budget, covering tuition and fees, our first-time-in-college (FTIC) enrollment goal and discounts, and endowment expenditures.

  • Total Compensation and Benefits Project. Trustees received an update on the Total Compensation and Benefits project.

  • Endowment Report. Trustees received an update on our endowment investment fund. Since Agility was hired as Outsourced Chief Investment Officer in late 2013, the annualized return has outperformed the benchmark with lower volatility.

  • Puget Sound Fund. The trustees affirmed goals for participation in and contributions to the university’s annual fund for the current fiscal year, including goals for trustee giving and renewal of our ongoing commitment to 100 percent participation.

  • Unified Interpretation of the Faculty Code. Trustees and members of the Professional Standards Committee have worked together to reach a unified interpretation of the Faculty Code regarding consultation in the context of program discontinuation, and continue to work together on developing a second unified interpretation related to the basis for program discontinuations.

As always, we are impressed by all the remarkable individuals who make Puget Sound so extraordinary. The dedication, talent, and energy of our faculty, staff, and students are the driving force behind the university's excellence. Your contributions have been instrumental in shaping our institution's future. We are truly grateful and proud, and we look forward to seeing you again in February.

Warm regards,

Beth M. Picardo ’83, J.D. ’86
Chair of the Board of Trustees