President Alison Byerly sent the following update to the campus community on Tuesday, August 16, 2016:

Dear Members of the Lafayette Community,

There are only a few times in any institution’s life when its purpose, pride, and potential are in such perfect alignment that it possesses both the vision and capacity to transform itself. I believe that this is such a time at Lafayette.

The new strategic direction that we announced last spring, which seeks to enhance the College’s affordability and distinctiveness by increasing the size of both the student body and faculty over the next six to eight years, will advance the College in ways that both reflect the realities of a changing world, and honor and extend our historical mission.

As we prepare to welcome another outstanding class to Lafayette this fall, I write to update you on some of last year’s accomplishments and on our plans for the coming year, including our plans for implementing our initiatives for affordability, distinctiveness, and growth.

The breadth and quality of a Lafayette education was confirmed again this past year as students, faculty, and alumni captured some of the nation’s most prestigious honors, including Goldwater, Marshall, and Fulbright scholarships or fellowships; awards funded by the National Science Foundation and the Environmental Protection Agency; and grant support for the study of languages, cultures, international affairs, and human rights. Deborah Rosen, the David M. ’70 and Linda Roth Professor of History, won the Bancroft Prize, considered one of the most prestigious honors in the field of American history, for her book, Border Law: The First Seminole War and American Nationhood (Harvard University Press). Ross Gay ’96 won a National Book Critics Circle Award, Yolanda Wisher ’98 was named poet laureate of Philadelphia, and the Chicago Cubs’ Joe Madden ’76 was named National League Manager of the Year.

We welcomed to campus a notable collection of speakers, scholars, and performers who enriched our students’ education, including writer and public radio commentator Sarah Vowell, distinguished scholar of critical race theory and constitutional law Kimberlé Crenshaw, former Vice Chairman of NASDAQ David Weild IV, civil rights activist Diane Nash, and actor Tom Hanks, who joined Professor Donald Miller to talk about their shared passion for World War II history.

We also launched the Connected Communities program to provide students with a broader experience of social and intellectual engagement within residential life, assigning first-year students to one of five Commons that are named after ships on which the Marquis de Lafayette sailed: L’Hermione, Alliance, Brandywine, Cadmus, and La Victoire.

In a year in which college campuses across the country confronted difficult issues concerning the impact of race on the undergraduate experience, we realized firsthand the strength of existing connections in our community when more than 400 students, faculty, and staff came together to participate in #MoreThanMizzou, a student-led event that explored the issue of race on our campus. Over the course of this summer, students, faculty, and staff gathered twice as a community to share thoughts and feelings related to events occurring nationally and around the world. Several groups on campus, including the Office of Intercultural Development, are already planning discussions and events for the coming year that we hope will encourage open and constructive dialogue. During this volatile election season, it will be especially important for us to create an educational environment that encourages both free speech and respect for the views and experiences of others.

The coming year will provide a unique opportunity to highlight Lafayette’s distinctive combination of liberal arts and engineering. This fall, we will celebrate the completion of the Williams Arts Campus, featuring the College’s newest academic building, William C. Buck Hall, as well as the recently opened theater and film and media studies buildings on North Third Street. Collectively, the three buildings now located at the foot of the hill realize our vision for a visible sign of our commitment to creativity in all its forms, as well as of our commitment to further connection with the broader Easton community. We will host a Gala Celebration of the Arts and other events to highlight the role of the arts on campus and in the Easton community.

At the same time, we will also be celebrating 150 years of Engineering at Lafayette. When the College’s trustees voted in 1866 to add the engineering program to the College’s curriculum, they stated that the goal of the new program would be “educating not just the engineer, but the whole person who is able to meet the challenges of a world in which scientific, technological, and human needs have steadily become more complex.” Lafayette continues to build upon this tradition of interdisciplinary thinking, and our celebrations will highlight the ways in which Lafayette’s engineering programs combine technical rigor with the broad and critical thinking of the liberal arts. In addition to guest speakers throughout the year, there will be a special event during Homecoming weekend in which a 150-foot replica of the Northampton Street Free Bridge will be constructed on the Quad. The Free Bridge, designed and built by Lafayette alumnus and faculty member James Madison Porter III, was chosen to be the logo of the 150th celebration. More information, including a historical timeline of Lafayette Engineering, can be found at engineering.lafayette.edu/150th/.

All of these successes reflect the contributions of Lafayette’s people: an incredibly talented student body, dedicated faculty and staff, and supportive alumni, parents, and friends. Alumni and other friends of the College have so far raised more than $300 million through the Live Connected, Lead Change campaign, including a record-breaking $51 million in FY16 alone. We are tremendously grateful to all of those who have already stepped up to support the College’s ambitious goals.

This extraordinary success has encouraged us to raise the portion of the $400-million campaign total that is allocated for need-based scholarship support from its original $60 million to $85 million. This may sound like a lot of money, and it is, but the $85-million financial aid target is only a portion of what is needed in order for us to attain a goal we believe to be critical to Lafayette’s future: increased affordability. As the cost of providing a high-quality education continues to rise faster than wages, it is becoming harder for many families, including middle-income families, to afford Lafayette. Yet Lafayette has so much to offer talented students from all walks of life, and living and learning with students with a wide range of backgrounds and experiences is really what residential liberal arts education is about. During this campaign and beyond, we seek to build an endowment that will allow us to join the best colleges in the nation, which are able to admit students regardless of their financial circumstances.

In addition to funds raised through the leadership of alumni and friends, our goals will be supported by the planned expansion of the student body announced last spring. The addition of 350-400 students, and 35-40 faculty, over the next 6-8 years will require not only efficient use of existing campus infrastructure, but also some additional facilities that we are currently engaged in planning. These include the new Integrated Sciences Center, for which we break ground in June 2017, as well as some additional residence halls. We are also fortunate in having the opportunity to further our connection with downtown Easton by relocating some office staff into a set of offices in Easton’s historic Alpha Building. This will free up additional space in the central campus while also strengthening the College’s ties with its hometown. You can read more about these facilities plans in my recent memo to the campus community here: news.lafayette.edu/2016/08/08/accommodating-growth/

I spoke about this transformational new direction at Reunion. You can see the entire talk here or view these highlights:

I hope that you will be in touch if you have thoughts or ideas to share. The input I have received over the last three years from the extended Lafayette community has played a central role in my own thinking about the future of the College, and your support will be critical in attaining our ambitious goals.

I look forward to seeing students back on campus very soon for the start of an exciting year. Enjoy the final few days of summer!

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