Highlights of the Feb. 15-16 meeting of the Board of Trustees included a concert on Union’s newest Steinway piano, the dedication of the Kelly Adirondack Center and hockey wins over Yale and Brown.
On Friday, Trustees were treated to a wonderful concert by Drew Ivarson ’15 on the gorgeous new concert grand Steinway, a gift from Trustee Kelly M. Williams ’86 and her husband, Andrew Forsyth. The piano is the new centerpiece of the renowned Union College Concert Series, which features world-class chamber musicians in the acoustically superb Memorial Chapel. Kelly has made a truly remarkable gift that will enlighten, entertain and inspire thousands in the years ahead.
On Saturday, the College dedicated the Kelly Adirondack Center a few miles east of campus. The Kelly Adirondack Center has become a center of lectures, concerts and exhibits. It also is a hub of research for a range of studies from environmental protection to economic development to policy studies. The purchase of the former home of noted conservationist Paul Schaefer was made possible by Trustee John E. Kelly ’76 and his wife, Helen-Jo. The Kelly family’s generosity now covers a wide range at Union, from technology to the environment, and we are sincerely grateful for their support.
With revision of the Strategic Plan under way, this is a time for taking stock of the effectiveness of our academic program and identifying areas of future work. The 2007 plan has proven very useful in its focus on global education, diversity, the integration of engineering and the liberal arts, the role of advising, and in creating an innovative environment. We foresee continued emphasis on Union’s identity as an academic village, expansion of opportunities for diverse and global education, innovative advising, facilitating a deep and broad education (including fostering distinctive connections across disciplines), and strengthening technology in education.
Current projects include construction of the Henle Dance Pavilion, development of the “Union Plan of Study” (an on-line advising tool funded by the Teagle Foundation), and a focus on the role of digital humanities in teaching and scholarship.
The Board was pleased to recognize excellence in teaching, voting unanimously to confirm the tenure and promotion to associate professor of six outstanding faculty members: Rebecca Cortez, Mechanical Engineering; Holli Frey, Geology; Bradley Hays, Political Science; David Hodgson, Mechanical Engineering; Katherine Lynes, English; and Nicole Theodosiou Napier, Biology. Promoted to professor were Christine Henseler, Modern Languages; and Eshragh Motahar, Economics.
Administration and Finance
The Planning and Priorities Committee (the President, senior staff, faculty, staff and students) continues to develop the 2013-14 operating budget and five-year budget model. The most recent model reflects improved forecasts for energy and health benefit costs, both of which have complicated budget planning in recent years, but a stable outlook for enrollment and commitments of financial aid. The Committee is keeping a close watch on the economy, particularly the financial markets, unemployment rates and post-election tax legislation from the U.S. Congress.
The Board approved a 3.5 percent increase in the comprehensive fee for the 2013-14 year, bringing the total to $58,248. Mindful of keeping a Union education accessible, the Board also approved a financial aid budget of $40.5 million to meet the need of all students and families.
Admissions and Financial Aid
Competition for the current first-year class at Union was at a record level, with an all-time low admit rate of 38 percent. Applications for next year totaled 5,643, which exceeded last year’s total and represents a 17 percent increase from four years ago. With more than 26 percent of the class enrolled in Early Decision Round 1, this large pool of applicants will allow Union to be highly selective during our Regular Decision process and will put us in a position to challenge our admit rate. Currently, Early Decision Round 2 applicant numbers are even with last year’s interest.
Diversity efforts at Union College emphasize cultural competency on both domestic and global levels, which is also reflected in our updated draft version of the Strategic Plan. We have been highlighting, in our on- and off-campus communications, our programs and progress with campus international initiatives. This broader perspective of diversity and inclusivity on campus includes topics around domestic and global social justice and economic, political and environmental concerns. This year’s Presidential Forum on Diversity includes guest lecturers who provide a global view of inclusion and diversity. We have partnered with Academic Affairs, the Minerva Office, the International Student Support Services office, and student groups to promote our theme.
In addition, we will develop stronger policies and procedures for enhancing our diversity efforts in hiring. Working with the UCID Committee (Union’s Coalition for Inclusivity and Diversity), we have identified academic recruitment resources that target historically underrepresented populations. The liaison Committee on Diversity will also help in these efforts.
The Trustees discussed the completion of the You Are Union Campaign and the transformative changes enabled by the Campaign’s success. The Campaign closed on Dec. 31, having surpassed our $250 million goal by $8 million.
Among the accomplishments of the Campaign were a substantial increase in Annual Fund giving, the creation of numerous scholarships, the addition of critical faculty positions, and remarkable improvements to our campus facilities. Minerva Houses, Messa Rink, Viniar Athletic Center, Taylor Music Center, Breazzano Fitness Center, Lippman Hall, Butterfield Hall, Henle Dance Pavilion, and the upcoming addition of the Wicker Wellness Center and renovation of the Humanities Building – all this owes to the success of the You are Union Campaign. We have much to celebrate and we will during ReUnion activities in May.
I want to thank members of the Union community – both on- and off-campus – who have contributed to the success of the Campaign. This was made possible by the generosity of so many who share a passion for what makes Union special. We have accomplished much together! Thank you!
While there are many who helped the Campaign succeed, the Board is especially grateful to President Stephen C. Ainlay and Judith Gardner Ainlay. They have travelled the country and the world, telling the Union story, building support, and working with donors to secure transformative gifts.
In recognition of the critical role they played in the Campaign’s success, the Trustees are awarding President Ainlay a sabbatical leave. Sabbatical leaves for college presidents have become a more common practice in recent years. By way of example, nearby peer institutions Hamilton, Vassar, and Skidmore have all recently granted sabbatical leaves to their presidents. The leave is also an investment in our future. It will allow President Ainlay to develop recommendations for advancing the priorities of our revised Strategic Plan, especially recommendations on how we will finance future programs and projects that will be critical to Union’s future. It will allow him to take stock of the rapidly changing educational environment and to continue his effective leadership as we open yet another chapter in Union’s history. President Ainlay will be on leave from July 1, 2013 until December 31, 2013.
I am pleased to announce that Therese McCarty has generously agreed to serve as Acting President during President Ainlay’s leave. Likewise, I’m pleased to announce that David Hayes has generously agreed to serve as Acting Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculty. Each will have full responsibility and authority of their respective offices. We are remarkably fortunate to have such talented and dedicated people to lead us and I know members of the Board as well as President Ainlay join me in thanking them.
Mark L. Walsh ’76
Union College Board of Trustees