Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,

I write to share an update on major strategic steps forward for the College this spring semester.

Before I do though, I want to celebrate the Class of 2024, whom we will join together to recognize this weekend as they receive their well-earned Lafayette College degrees at our 189th commencement ceremony. Of course, this class began college life in the midst of a pandemic. For most of our soon-to-be graduates, that worldwide crisis interrupted not only the final months of high school, but also their own high school commencement ceremonies. Separated by masks and distancing rules, finding loss and loneliness all around them, the entire class met challenges that were disruptive, saddening, and unprecedented. Yet, through their determination, their caring for one another, and their drive to learn and grow, they stand now on the verge of a momentous achievement–and beginning new lives as Lafayette alumni carrying their education and experience into wonderful new roles and opportunities near and far. As this academic year ends, I join with all our students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends everywhere in wishing our newest graduates and their families our warmest congratulations and our very best on this exciting new beginning.

I also want to reflect on this tumultuous time we are living through. The scenes we have continued to witness in the media have affected us all. We are fortunate that this campus community has by and large found a way to be supportive of one another as worrisome scenes have unfolded in communities around the world, from the Middle East to Europe, from South America to Africa. In our Lafayette community, antisemitism, Islamophobia, and hate speech of any kind are unacceptable. We strive for open and empathetic engagement about our differing views on even the most challenging questions. We do not always achieve these goals, and struggle as any community does to live up to its ideals, but this shared set of values has been fundamental to our community amid the profound stresses of these days. As we gather together across this weekend’s special traditions, we affirm as well our enduring commitment to free speech and free expression, our commitment to being a community of mutual respect and caring, and our shared joy in honoring the achievements of students who have shaped who we are and aspire to be and will continue to make the world around them better.

As this academic year concludes, I’d like to take this opportunity to update you on the significant progress this College community has achieved in a number of areas over the past 10 months, and to preview some of the related invigorating work that lies ahead. On Tuesday, I shared a strategic plan update, so the following will touch upon other timely developments. 

Students Honored with National Scholarships, Fellowships, and Awards
I am delighted to share that more than 30 of our students and young alumni have earned recognition from highly prestigious national and international scholarship and fellowship programs for their exceptional academic achievements this year. These awards span the fields of STEM, English language learning, fighting hunger, foreign service, and more. I invite you to read the full listing of winners, alternates, and finalists and to join me in congratulating these students and alumni on these notable achievements.

Preparing to Welcome the Class of 2028
The comprehensive process of recruiting and admitting students to the Class of 2028 has gone very well again this year, thanks to the hard work of our dedicated Enrollment Management team and partners across campus and beyond who help with this vital work. Our goal is to welcome 700 new first-year students as members of the Class of 2028 this fall. I am pleased to share that 733 students have accepted admission and placed deposits to join us. Of these 733 students:

  • Between 12% and 13% of these are Pell-eligible students (please note: This is only an estimate, as the relevant data are not available yet due to the continuing and well-publicized FAFSA problems affecting this information.)
  • 7.0% are international students
  • 27% are domestic students of color
  • 12.2% are first-generation students

Across the months ahead, we will be working to ensure as many of these students as possible enroll this fall. The FAFSA issues have made this admissions season one of the most tumultuous in recent history. Thanks especially to our Admissions and Financial Aid teams, under the leadership of Vice President Forrest Stuart, 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 by hosting prospective students and families and sharing their Lafayette story. The scale of this work requires a massive community effort. There is every sign that this fall we will welcome another exceptional and diverse cohort of outstanding young people to our community.

Philanthropic Loyalty
With every contribution, whether large or small, our loyal supporters fortify Lafayette’s strong foundation, ensuring its continued excellence and impact. More than 8,100 donors have collectively donated over $23 million to Lafayette this academic year alone, with $14 million of this total designated towards bolstering the College’s endowment—a crucial investment in our scholarships, financial aid, educational programs, capital improvements, and sustainability. The Lafayette College Fund also has an ambitious goal this year of $3.75M, its highest ever. This yearly financial support from alumni, parents, and friends allows investment in every aspect of the College’s work, provides stability, and allows for the flexibility to respond to emerging educational and leadership opportunities for our students. We are grateful to all of our loyal donors.

The 2024 Vice Presidential Debate
As you know, the College was selected last fall by the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) to host the U.S. Vice Presidential debate for the first time. Yesterday, two presidential candidates announced intentions for their debates that may impact this plan. The CPD has pledged to keep us informed on any impact these developments may have on the vice presidential debate, and we will share updates with you as we receive them. 

Leadership Searches
As you know, we successfully completed the search for our new provost, Laura McGrane, who is already in conversation with Provost John Meier and others as she prepares to take up her responsibilities. 

This spring we have been in the final stages of a search process for our new general counsel. I am happy to report we have a successful candidate and will be announcing this appointment next week.

Meanwhile, we have initiated a search for our next Vice President for Communications and Marketing, to succeed Pete Mackey, who has been serving in the interim role for us since summer 2023. Storbeck Search is working on this search in partnership with a strong search committee led by Professor of Mechanical Engineering Scott Hummel and Dean of Admissions Krista Evans. They are joined by committee members Professor Adam Biener, Vice President of the Alumni Association Fran Della Badia ’91, Director of Athletics Sherryta Freeman, Trustee Chris McCumber ’89, Assistant VP for Communications and Marketing Scott Morse, Director of Alumni Engagement Mary Neuenschwander, Director of Strategic Projects and Gateway Career Counselor Melissa Shultz, and Chief of Staff Nicole Eramo (ex-officio).

Two Construction Projects Nearing Completion
We are entering the final phase of construction on the new Simon Center, including last touches to the outdoor spaces and interior. By early August, offices in the building will be ready for faculty to move in; and by the time the fall semester begins, the building will be open. The McCartney II residential hall construction project is also in its last few months of work, with interior and exterior work happening concurrently. This new building will be ready and open this fall as well when students return. Thanks to our facilities team especially and to all those involved in these highly demanding and important projects, and to everyone impacted by this significant work for your patience during construction. It will be exciting to see these wonderful academic and residential spaces open and in use when the next academic year begins.

The end of an academic year is intense and demanding across campus, but moves ever forward, as it always does, through the extraordinary work of students, faculty, and staff toward the magnificent culmination that commencement brings. As we greet the end of this academic year and look forward to a beautiful weekend honoring our graduates and those that support them, I wish each of you the very best and a restful and fulfilling summer. I look forward to the great work we will do together in the new academic year that awaits.

With optimism for what is ahead,

President Nicole Hurd



Categorized in: Presidential News

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