Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,

Spring has again brought out the natural beauty of our campus, and it is wonderful seeing so many of you outside enjoying it. 

As our students head into the final weeks of the semester, I want to wish you well with all your hard work as the academic year ends. My best wishes especially to the members of the Class of 2023 as you conclude the last few weeks of your momentous time as Lafayette students. Our entire community looks forward to celebrating you at Commencement and events surrounding it. Make the best of these final weeks as you complete your degrees and prepare for the extraordinary opportunities that await.

At this time, I thought you might want an update on some of the major actions underway presently in the College administration. Recently, I updated you about the strategic plan and the campus master planning processes, and below is some news on other developments. 

National Scholarship Recipients, Fellowships, and Awards
It is a thrill to share news that, yet again, several of our students have earned some of the most competitive national and international scholarships. 

  • The Goldwater Scholars program this year featured 1,267 nominees of exceptional academic achievement. Consistent with the scholarship’s provisions, all were sophomores and juniors intent upon earning a doctoral degree and pursuing STEM research. The 413 new Goldwater Scholars included three of our own: Carter Brand ’25 (biochemistry), Anna DiFelice ’24 (chemistry), and Samantha Greenberg ’24 (biology). They were nominated from a highly competitive campus applicant pool of eight deserving STEM majors. Congratulations to each of them. And our special thanks to the three faculty members who served on the campus selection committee and whose dedication to the review process made it such a success: Rebecca Miller (lecturer, chemistry), Heidi Hendrickson (assistant professor of chemistry), and Wendy Hill (director of the Hanson Center for Inclusive Stem Education). 
  • Mariama Bah ’24 was awarded a Boren Scholarship, which funds undergraduate study abroad in world regions critical to U.S. interests. Summer-only Boren Scholarships are available only to STEM students. Mariama was awarded the scholarship to study Portuguese in Brazil coupled with an internship. Mariama was also a finalist for the prestigious Truman Scholarship, open to juniors who plan on attending graduate school in pursuit of a career in public service.
  • Natalie Beckford ’24 was awarded a Public Policy and International Affairs (PPIA) fellowship, an academic award for juniors looking to advance their careers in public service. She will attend PPIA’s Junior Summer Institute at Princeton University. Natalie also was awarded a Critical Language SPARK scholarship, a virtual initiative for U.S. undergraduate students to learn languages essential to America’s engagement with the world. Natalie had to decline the SPARK award for Arabic, but we congratulate her for earning this honor. 
  • Mackenzi Berner ’23 was awarded a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship for Spain. In her spare time she would like to volunteer with refugee resettlement organizations. 
  • Maria Bossert ’23 was awarded a Fulbright Study/Research Grant to conduct independent research in Nepal examining traditional ecological knowledge of two Indigenous communities and their relationship to conservation.
  • Caitlyn Carr ’23, the College’s finalist for the Marshall Scholarship (one of the nation’s most competitive postgraduate-study awards), received the coveted Florence Fellowship, awarded by Syracuse University’s Graduate School and Department of Art and Music Histories, to support students in a one-of-a-kind M.A. program devoted to studying Renaissance art. She will divide her study and research time between Italy and the U.S.
  • Samantha Ganser ’23 was named an Honorable Mention for the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship (NSF-GRFP) for her doctoral studies at Northwestern University in biochemistry.
  • Rachel Hurley ’23 was awarded an NSF-GRFP for her doctoral studies in civil engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
  • Nathan Kornfeind ’23 was awarded a German Academic Exchange Service scholarship to earn a master’s degree in political science at Friedrich Alexander University Erlangen-Nurenberg in Germany. 
  • Maya Nylund ’23 is currently an alternate for a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in South Korea. 
  • Daniela Spera ’26 was awarded a Project GO summer scholarship—which is open to all ROTC students nationwide. She will study in East Africa with James Madison University’s Kenya and Tanzania East Africa Field School, with a focus on Swahili
  • Olivia Sterantino ’23 was awarded a French Government Teaching Assistant Program award to teach English in France. She declined the award, but we want to celebrate her achievement in earning it. She will attend graduate school at Washington State University with a focus on research in environmental science. 

Congratulations to each of these students, and to the faculty whose close work with them throughout their studies, and in many cases on the scholarship vetting processes, contributed to the learning experience and preparation that helped each student earn these honors. And our deep thanks to Julia Goldberg, who leads the scholarships and fellowships office, and her team for all they do to support our students through these highly competitive and demanding scholarship reviews.

After the current vetting processes underway at national organizations and agencies on faculty national grants and fellowships are concluded, I am sure we will have more exciting news to share about our faculty recipients, and I look forward to sharing that news then.

The admission cycle for this fall and the Class of 2027 is wrapping up with significant successes in meeting our goals. The numbers in hand presently will change as the summer unfolds, as some students may decide to go elsewhere and others will decide to choose Lafayette. Our admissions team works hard to reduce the summer melt and help other students reconsider Lafayette. But at this time, our Class of 2027 numbers are as follows:

Our goal remains to enroll 700 new first-year students, including—as part of our goal to enroll outstanding students from all economic strata—that 12.5% of the class come from families who are Pell Grant-eligible. As of May 2, we had 715 students who had accepted admission for the Class of 2027, including

  • 12.9% who come from Pell Grant-eligible families
  • 7.5% who are international students 
  • 25% who are domestic students of color
  • 12.2% who are first-generation students
  • Students from 35 states and territories. This was an especially successful year in advancing our goal of establishing Lafayette in places outside of our local markets, particularly in the South and Southwest.

As these early data suggest, the Admissions and Financial Aid teams, under the leadership of Vice President Forrest Stuart, are doing a fantastic job. Besides their hard work throughout this admissions cycle, they worked many long and late hours solidifying this class, especially this last week and weekend as May 1 (Decision Day) approached. This includes five new admission counselors, who quickly made major contributions to the team’s work to build trusting relationships with College counselors, parents, and students. My thanks to this team for all they have done, and will continue to do in the days and months ahead, to complete this admissions cycle. 

My thanks as well to the many students, faculty, and staff across the College who have played such an important role again in this admissions cycle in hosting prospective students and families and talking with them about Lafayette. The scale of this work requires a massive community effort. Thanks for your engagement in this vital process. There is every sign that this fall we will welcome another exceptional and diverse cohort of outstanding young people to our community. 

Our Generous Donors
In addition to some key gifts in support of student experiences and capital improvements, Lafayette donors continue to be incredibly generous in supporting current operating expenses through the Annual Fund. Annual Fund support (both unrestricted gifts and those that are restricted) so far this year includes gifts from alumni, parents, and friends in excess of $6.3 million. These funds go directly to the everyday needs of the institution to ensure an excellent Lafayette experience. Overall fundraising for the institution this year now exceeds $18.3 million, including Annual Fund and longer-term commitments through generous multiyear pledges from donors to support key projects.

I have continued to meet with alumni and friends around the country. Most recently, I have had the opportunity to join alumni, parents, and accepted students at events in Connecticut and San Francisco. These events have allowed alumni to meet prospective students and share their own Lafayette stories and experiences.

Impact of Bergh Gift Update
Last October, as you know, we announced the largest-ever gift to the College to support student internships, student-faculty research, and study abroad experiences, a $5.25 million gift from Chip ’79 H’22 and Juliet Bergh. Beginning this academic year and in honor of the College’s Bicentennial in 2026, the Berghs’ gift is funding 200 students who are engaging in the type of life-changing learning experiences for which the College is known.  

The impact has been immediate and significant. Thanks to the Bergh Family Fellowship (BFF), the Office of Financial Aid and the Study Abroad Office have been able to award more students more aid for interim study abroad experiences than ever before–and, for the first time, to award some form of aid to every participating student demonstrating need. 

Prior to the BFF’s beginning this academic year, across the prior three years combined we awarded a total of 92 students this type of grant aid. Those grants averaged $3,749 per recipient. By comparison, thanks to the BFF, this year alone we have awarded 69 students grants averaging $5,610–marking an increase of nearly 60% in the total grant amount and more than doubling the annual number of students receiving these grants.

Building on the Berghs’ generosity, we have been talking with other donors about endowing 200 annual experiences with $20 million to establish the BFF program permanently. We are optimistic our generous donor community will make that happen.

Capital Improvements
In early June, the new Welcome Center and pedestrian bridge to Markle Hall parking deck will be completed and ready to welcome guests to the admissions office and to the greater campus. The final work ahead includes the installation of three remaining components: bird-friendly glass, concrete and landscaping on the pedestrian bridge, and audio-visual screens and displays along the office corridor that will highlight the College’s academic programs and the work of our faculty and students. Funding for the Welcome Center was provided by Charles E. Hugel ’51 and Cornelia F. Hugel.

The construction of the new Simon Center for Economics and Business is also proceeding well, including the extensive interior demolition. This month will see the start of the work to install interior wall layouts and new electrical, mechanical, and plumbing systems. Over the summer, the builders will put in place new foundations and steel for the new front glass addition and entryway. The project remains on schedule for opening at the start of the 2024 fall semester.

In April, we broke ground on a renovation project at Metzgar Fields for our men’s and women’s soccer programs: Gummeson Grounds: Home of the Mike Bourger ’44 Field at Oaks Stadium. This project will include updated roof-covered seating, English-style terraces behind the goals and along the sidelines, a new press box, and an irrigation system for the playing surface. Thanks to a lead gift from Peter Gummeson ’80 and commitments from 40 additional donors, the new stadium will be open for this fall’s soccer season.  

Leadership Searches
We have two searches underway for senior administrative positions:

  • The Vice President for Student Life search committee is formulating the position description in partnership with our search firm, Witt/Kieffer, and will soon be posting the position in major outlets. My thanks to Professor David Nice and Chief of Staff Nicole Eramo for co-chairing the search, and to Professor Wendy Hill, Associate Director of Admissions and Coordinator of Student Success Louise Frazier, and Director of Intercultural Development Rob Young for serving as our committee members. We expect to bring candidates to campus over the summer, with opportunities for students, faculty, or staff who want to do so to engage with candidates both in person and virtually, and to fill the position by the start of the fall semester.
  • We also have underway our inaugural search for a Vice President for Inclusion. In this search we are again supported by Witt/Kieffer. I am excited to be bringing this new role to campus to continue driving forward the important work already being done by many to make Lafayette a more inclusive community. We have been working with the Diversity Council and others to finalize the job description, and I will be appointing the search committee soon. Our goal for this search is to have the position filled this fall. 

Critical Incident Management
I have asked members of my administrative team to focus on critical incident management to ensure that the College is as prepared as possible to keep our community safe in cases of an emergency. I’ve charged several subcommittees to work on different elements of this issue, including:

  • Contact data management to ensure databases we use to reach students, faculty, staff, and parents during an emergency are as complete and easy to access as possible.
  • Integration of our incident action plans to ensure we are prepared to soundly coordinate our communications and operational processes (e.g., public safety, facilities, student services) during emergencies.
  • Expanding the information we make available for all students, faculty, staff, parents, and community members about our crisis management plans, including information that you can use in an emergency to protect yourself and others.

I am grateful to all our colleagues involved in every aspect of these preparations and reviews. We will share further updates on this work as it continues. Speaking of which, if you haven’t registered for Leopard Alerts yet, please do so now. It provides the fastest way for you to learn quickly about emergencies on campus and to receive quick information that can help keep you, those around you, and our community safe.

It has been a productive semester, full of progress on many fronts. As we move into these final weeks, may we celebrate the many accomplishments and find joy in this exceptional community.

To great things ahead!

President Nicole Hurd

Categorized in: Presidential News