President Alison Byerly sent the following message to the campus community today.

To the Lafayette Community:

The spectacular weather that we have enjoyed over the last few days has made our campus even more stunning than usual, which I hope adds to everyone’s excitement at being back for the start of a new year at Lafayette.

We begin the year now fully launched on our strategy of growing the student body by 350-400 students and adding 35-40 new faculty over the next five to seven years. The Class of 2021 is our largest entering class ever, with 681 students from 42 countries and 37 states, and the third class to be assigned to a Commons as part of the Connected Communities program. At our reception for the families of entering students on Friday, Steve and I enjoyed talking with parents from New Jersey, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Minnesota, Jamaica, and Guatemala, among other places. They all had one thing in common: They are delighted that their sons and daughters chose to come to Lafayette.

We are also welcoming a record 17 new tenure-track and 16 visiting faculty this academic year.  Seven of our tenure-track hires are in STEM fields; six of those seven are women. In addition, we have added key staff in Career Services, where Mike Summers is our new Assistant Vice President; in Campus Life, where Chris Hunt returns to Lafayette as Dean of Equity and Inclusion; and in Athletics, where Kia Damon joins us as Head Coach of women’s basketball. Yusuf Dahl began work as the new director of the IDEAL Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Anne Houston, whose appointment as Dean of Libraries was announced in February, arrived this summer.

If you were on campus, you know that this summer was a busy time for strategic work on campus infrastructure. The beautiful improvements you see on High Street were funded in part by a $1.1 million grant from the Commonwealth Financing Authority. With parking now eliminated on High, and reduced at March Field, we have added many new spaces for students at the bottom of Bushkill Drive. The March Field parking lot has become the temporary home for March Hall, a modular housing unit that will accommodate our student growth while we proceed with plans to build new residential housing along McCartney Street that will be available in fall 2019. Work is underway on the Rockwell Integrated Sciences Center, as you can see from this ongoing time-lapse view of the construction. Finally, in a small yet welcome change, there is now a stop sign at the top of Hamilton Drive where it intersects with High Street.

Our outstanding faculty are very active during the summer months as they engage in scholarship and creative work here on campus or at libraries, labs, and archives elsewhere. Some brought visibility to the College by sharing their expertise with the public. Associate Professor of Government and Law Seo-Hyun Park was called upon for analysis of the situation with North Korea by the local press, while Assistant Professor of History Hafsa Kanjwal’s op-ed on the Kashmiri independence movement appeared in the Washington Post. Faculty worked closely with dozens of students as part of the EXCEL Scholars program, and nineteen Lafayette students presented their work at the National Conference for Undergraduate Research in Memphis. Students also traveled abroad with faculty on interim courses to multiple destinations from Italy to Iceland.

In June, we received word from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation that the College would be awarded a $950,000 grant to support a collaborative initiative titled “The Lehigh Valley Engaged Humanities Consortium: Understanding Transformations of the Past Half-Century.” The grant to Lafayette will unite six colleges and three cultural institutions in a four-year effort to explore life in the Lehigh Valley through the arts and humanities, allowing us to advance our goal of building more diverse, inclusive, and connected campuses, cultural institutions, and communities. At a time when the role of the humanities is sometimes a topic for debate, this will provide a wonderful opportunity to affirm the critical value of artistic and humanistic inquiry to our local community and the general public.

The strong support we have received from the Lafayette community for the goals of the Live Connected, Lead Change Capital Campaign, particularly the President’s Challenge for Financial Aid, was powerfully demonstrated by our great results at the close of the fiscal year on June 30: We raised a total of $48 million, exceeding our $45 million target for the year and bringing us to $363.2 million total toward our campaign goal of $400 million.

Amidst the excitement of a new year, we also must acknowledge that this is a sobering time in the world around us. Lafayette families, alumni, and friends from the Texas area are reeling from Hurricane Harvey, and our thoughts are with them as they continue to deal with the catastrophic effects of this unprecedented storm. The recent events in Charlottesville remind us that college campuses are not immune from the political tensions of the nation as a whole; on the contrary, they have become theaters for deliberate testing of the role of colleges and universities in helping to define the boundaries of free expression and public discourse. As I noted last spring, I believe that the Lafayette community has met the challenges of the current moment well thus far. But we will no doubt continue to face difficult issues in the coming year, and it will be useful for us to engage in open discussion about how best to navigate them as a community that values all voices. Some specific ideas, including workshops, visiting speakers, and panels, are already under discussion, and we will welcome input from the community on the kinds of events and discussions that would be most valuable.

On a related note, we will be preparing this fall to conduct a campus-wide survey in the spring semester that will help ensure that the College is identifying and addressing critical issues related to community, inclusion, engagement, and diversity. Our last “campus climate” survey was conducted in 2010, and action steps taken since then can be found on our diversity and inclusion website. While we had already planned to undertake a new survey now, this seems an especially useful moment to look at how we are doing, and how we can do better, at building community at Lafayette.

It is wonderful to have everybody back on campus to share in the renewal and excitement of a new year. I am grateful to each of you for your contributions to making Lafayette the special place that it is, and I look forward to seeing what we will learn and accomplish together in the year ahead.

President Alison Byerly

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