The beautiful weather and jubilant mood at last Saturday’s commencement seemed a fitting end to a year of extraordinary accomplishments for Lafayette:
But we’re not done yet! The resources of the campaign and the strategic direction we are pursuing will power the next phase of Lafayette’s trajectory towards even greater visibility and distinction. Securing Lafayette’s place among the top undergraduate colleges in the nation will be critical to our success in the increasingly competitive landscape of higher education.
The successful Live Connected, Lead Change campaign provides a strong platform on which to build. The campaign created 17 new endowed faculty positions and 195 student scholarships, brought in $86.7 million for financial aid, and transformed Lafayette from the bottom of the hill at the Williams Arts Campus, up the side of the hill at the Oechsle Center for Global Education, through the renovated Quad, to the top of the hill, where the Rockwell Integrated Sciences Center stands ready to open for classes this fall. Beyond the campaign, the President’s Challenge for Financial Aid will continue to be a primary focus for fundraising, along with support for new directions in the academic program and for enhancements to our Division I athletics program.
The continued support of the community will be important to the success of our strategic direction of Affordability and Distinction through Growth. Three years into the plan, we are seeing the results of our strategy of increasing financial aid in order to bring talented students to campus regardless of their financial means. Total enrollment is up by more than 100 students and the quality and diversity of the student body are rising as well, demonstrating that increasing financial aid resources is improving our ability to attract and enroll the very best students. We have already filled 10 of the 40 new tenure-track faculty lines that are part of the plan, and have added staff in key areas of student support. Recent faculty hiring has increased the number of faculty from underrepresented groups and the number of women faculty in STEM fields in particular. Our progress so far, as well as a broad summary of our overall financial health, is outlined in this annual report.
Because our plan is an ambitious one, our community has been discussing ways to measure our progress and assess the impacts of growth on the campus experience. The Faculty recently created an Ad Hoc Committee on Expansion for this purpose. In addition, we held a Board, faculty, and staff retreat in February devoted to discussion of the Affordability and Distinction through Growth plan, and followed up with open meetings on three important aspects of the plan: enhancing student support, managing resource allocation, and fostering socioeconomic diversity.
An important opportunity for external assessment of our strategy was presented this spring when we hosted a team of evaluators as part of our decennial reaccreditation from the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools. We will receive official word on our reaccreditation later this summer. However, the committee complimented us on our dedicated faculty, staff and trustees and outstanding students; applauded our ambitious and timely strategic direction; and cited the authenticity and candor of our self-study as indicative of a purposeful confident institution. My deepest thanks to everyone involved in the accreditation process, particularly the Steering Committee of faculty, staff, and trustees who authored the self-study, led by co-chairs Professor of Foreign Languages and Literatures Markus Dubischar and Dean of Academic Initiatives Jamila Bookwala.
With strong progress towards affordability underway, we are now able to focus our attention on enhancing the distinction of our educational and co-curricular programs.
Over the last two years, faculty have been working on an Academic Plan to enhance the College’s curricular offerings. The plan, which was approved last fall, calls for increased attention to six emergent areas that cut across traditional disciplines: data science and digital scholarship; design, media and the arts; environment and sustainability; global education; humanities center; and inclusive STEM studies. We are already working to support the goals of these initiatives. For example, the new Daniel and Heidi Hanson ’91 Center for Inclusive STEM Education, soon to open in the Rockwell Integrated Sciences Center, will develop and bolster existing innovative approaches to supporting students from underrepresented groups in STEM.
In the area of sustainability, we took an enormous step forward with the passing of the Climate Action Plan (CAP). Lafayette’s distinctive identity as a liberal arts college with a strong engineering program makes us well positioned to take a leadership role in this area. The plan is built around curricular opportunities to use faculty and student expertise to address our carbon-reduction goals. The CAP furthers the College’s mission as an institution that prepares our students to confront the challenges they will face as citizens.
The Academic Plan was developed under the leadership of Provost Abu Rizvi, who concludes his term as Provost at the end of this academic year and will spend a year’s sabbatical at the University of Pennsylvania’s Alliance for Higher Education and Democracy before returning as Professor of Economics. The Board of Trustees recently announced the creation of an endowed fund in his honor, The S. Abu Turab and Paige Rizvi Fund for Faculty Start-Up, which will help support initial research costs for new faculty. This fund reflects Abu’s focus on the importance of attracting and retaining top-notch faculty, and is a fitting tribute to his excellent work as Provost.
Speaking of accomplished faculty, three of our faculty were recognized with endowed positions earlier this month: Ida Sinkevic (art) as the Arthur J. ’55 and Barbara S. Rothkopf Professor of Art History; Khadijah Mitchell (biology) as the Peter C.S. d’Aubermont Scholar of Health and Life Sciences; and Lindsay Soh (chemical and biomolecular engineering) as the reappointed Kate and Walter A. Scott ’59 Scholar in Engineering. Four distinguished members of our faculty received emeritus status upon their retirements this year: Diane Cole Ahl, Arthur J. ’55 and Barbara S. Rothkopf Professor Emerita of Art History; George M. Rosa, Professor Emeritus of Foreign Languages and Literatures; Diane Windham Shaw, Director Emerita of Special Collections and College Archives; and Leonard A. Van Gulick, Matthew Baird Professor Emeritus of Mechanical Engineering. We also held a celebration of the upcoming retirement of Professor of History and Jewish Chaplain Robert Weiner, who has just concluded his 50th year of teaching at the College. I know from talking to alumni from classes spanning many decades how great an impact these colleagues have had.
The strong support of faculty mentors was instrumental in the success of our students in winning a large number of student national awards and honors this year. Clare Grunewald ’20 studied in Chile during the spring semester and Katie Kavanagh ’21 will study in Jordan next year as only the second and third Lafayette students to win a prestigious David L. Boren Scholarship. Graduating senior Rachel Marbaker ’19 was joined by four young alumni (Hannah Weaver ’14, Kyle Tucker ’14, Emma Sosa ’17, and Marissa Laws ’18) in winning awards from the NSF-Graduate Research Fellowship Program. Three students — Daisy Grace ’20, Sarah Blitz ’20, and Jodi Graf ‘20 — won Goldwater Scholarships.
Other awards included Department of Defense SMART Scholarships to Ethan Miller ’21 and Zachary Martin ’21, and Saint Andrew’s Society awards to Reeve Lanigan ’19 and Guen Geiersbach ’21. Two students won Public Policy and International Affairs Fellowships: Princess Lonimi Adeyinka ’20 (University of Minnesota) and Phuong Ly ’20 (Princeton). Aleeza Ajmal ’19 won an Erasmus Mundus Scholarship for graduate study in chemical nanoengineering; Charlotte Skelsey ’22, a Critical Language Scholarship for the study of Russian; and Andres Parada ’20 a Gilman International Scholarship for study in Portugal. Evelyn Adams ’19 received a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship to Luxembourg and Jacquelyn Cobb ’19 will be teaching English in India under a Fulbright-Nehru English Teaching Assistant Grant. A listing of this year’s scholarships and fellowships can be found on our website.
Our speech and debate team won the Pennsylvania Forensic Association tournament and one of its members, Saeed Malami ’20, won the national championship in persuasive speaking, a rare accomplishment. Saeed, who is from Nigeria, delivered a speech about the use of child slavery in cocoa production.
International study — whether students coming to Easton from around the globe or American students traveling abroad — has long been integral to a Lafayette education During this year’s winter interim period, students studied in China, Cuba, Ecuador, Italy and Senegal. This spring, we began celebrating the 60th anniversary of the international affairs major. The celebration began with a lecture by former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and will continue into the fall, including an October lecture by journalist Fareed Zakaria. You can join the celebration by contributing photos and memories to an international affairs timeline on our website. This year’s Forbes’ ranking of the best American colleges and universities for international students placed Lafayette at No. 19 based on factors such as school quality, the proportion of the student body that comes from abroad, and financial aid available to international students.
Last month we launched the Queer Archives Project, a digital humanities site developed through collaboration among faculty, staff, and students that aims to document and preserve decades of experiences and reflections by Layette’s LGBTQ community, as well as to promote positive institutional change. Efforts to promote diversity and inclusion are also evident in the sciences and engineering, where female faculty and students organized the College’s first “Women in STEM Week.”
Our highly ranked Engineering programs (No. 11 among undergraduate colleges, according to U.S.News) will be even more closely integrated with our liberal arts curriculum thanks to the new bachelor of science in engineering degree approved earlier this month by the faculty and Board of Trustees. The new degree becomes effective with the Class of 2023 and will provide engineering students the opportunity to study interdisciplinary areas, such as robotics and bioengineering, and offers non-engineering students new courses on topics such as systems thinking.
A new programmatic direction is energizing our athletics program as well with last fall’s launch of Athletic Director Sherryta Freeman’s strategic plan, Creating a Championship Culture. The plan outlines six pillars of building a championship culture: achieving competitive excellence, strengthening academic excellence, providing the most positive student-athlete experience possible, building more community and spirit for Lafayette Athletics, ensuring integrity in everything associated with Lafayette athletics, and securing the funding necessary for success. Like all of our goals, this plan is an ambitious one that will take many seasons to achieve. We hope that many in the community will be excited by this vision and eager to help us #ClimbtheHill.
We are proud that this year two teams, field hockey and baseball, qualified for the Patriot League Tournament, while several of our student-athletes acquired impressive accolades. Will Halamandaris ’20 took the Patriot League’s individual golf title, Player of the Year honors and advanced to the NCAA Regionals; we had three Patriot League rookie of the year honorees, Molly McAndrew ‘22 in field hockey, Malik Hamm ‘22 in football and Justin Johnson ‘22 in baseball; Natalie Kucowski ’21 was named the league’s defensive player of the year in women’s basketball; and Brooke Wensel ’19 earned Patriot League Softball Scholar-Athlete of the Year honors.
As the Class of 2019 heads out into the world, they should feel reassured by the success of their predecessors. Our most recent graduate survey data shows that 97% of graduates are employed, continuing their education, or engaged in internships or volunteer work within six months of graduation. This year, under the leadership of Assistant Vice President Mike Summers, we reimagined the professional guidance we provide to students through the newly christened Gateway Career Center. A new Career Tracks program held in New York, Chicago, Boston, and the Lehigh Valley during winter break gave over 160 students across a variety of majors immersive, multi-day experiences in fields such as consulting and consumer products, finance, innovation and entrepreneurship, law and justice, life sciences, media and communications, real estate, and technology. These programs were made possible by the involvement of dozens of committed alumni, parents, and friends of the college. In order to leverage the power of Lafayette connections further, the GCC is about to launch GatewayLink, an exclusive Lafayette arena for career-centered networking and mentoring.
I have to admit that, while the above facts are important, the best demonstration of our success may be this three-minute commencement video. I hope it will make you as proud as I am of all that we have accomplished together this year.
Best wishes for a wonderful summer.