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Lisa F. Tedeschi
Chief of Staff and Director of Strategic Planning
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A Time of Change at Colby-Sawyer College

October 2010

On Sept. 3, we began the 2010-2011 academic year by welcoming 420 new students to Colby-Sawyer. This group, the second-largest entering class in our history, is an accomplished and enthusiastic class hailing from 11 countries and 14 states, from New England to California. Our new students are well traveled; among them is a student who taught in Belize for six months, one who spent last summer in Morocco, and another who has worked in a Chinese orphanage. They excel in sports as diverse as marksmanship, bike racing and field hockey. They are dedicated to helping others; one has even created a scholarship program.

Right now, though, they all are making transitions as new college students. There are the high expectations that they must meet from professors who love to teach and share their expertise and experience in their fields. They are learning to engage in an active educational process and reach toward new intellectual heights. Our new students are learning the rules, spoken and unspoken, about living with roommates and in residence halls and about being involved and responsible members of the college and local community.

Our new students are finding their place in what at times seems like a strange new world filled with exams and assignments, with club meetings and dance and theater rehearsals, and with intercollegiate athletic competition. They are meeting the challenges they encounter and learning from them. They are already growing and changing, as their families surely noticed on Family Weekend in early October.

Change Is On The Way

While our new students find their way and plan for their years at Colby-Sawyer – which might include study away and at least one internship before graduating – this year promises to be one of great opportunity and challenge for the college itself. In many ways, we are in a similar position to our new students. We are in a time of major change and planning for the coming years based on four strategic themes that have emerged as areas of focus for the college: engaged learning, living sustainably, linking to the world, and a dynamic devotion to excellence.

This year we will continue to expand on these themes and create a detailed plan for the college's future. Healthy organizations always prepare for the future, but today's climate demands ever more creativity and flexibility. Our challenges will include stagnant or even decreasing family incomes that make a college education unobtainable for many students without significant financial aid; rising demands on our facilities as the college creates new academic programs that require more faculty and more offices and classrooms; and increased competition from for-profit and public educational institutions.

An old adage tells us that only two things in life are inevitable: death and taxes. Well, add to that list one more inevitable occurrence – change. Change is inevitable, and the times are certainly changing for Colby-Sawyer. The times, of course, always change, but there's a particular urgency now.

Twenty years ago, Colby-Sawyer became a coeducational institution and officially welcomed men to campus. At the time, it was clear that change was inevitable and necessary. What made the difference in our successful transformation? The people of Colby-Sawyer. The college community came up with a plan to extend Colby-Sawyer's academic mission and worked hard to implement it in ways that made us stronger.

Working together and following a plan – this way of thinking will help our students as they navigate college, and help our faculty, staff and administrators steer through these rocky economic times. In this time of change, we need to think about how to extend our mission to embrace new programs and ways of delivering a Colby-Sawyer education.

Let's revisit our strategic themes now with change in mind, starting with engaged learning.

Engaged Learning

While the Colby-Sawyer community is made up of friendly and welcoming people, we are more than anything else an academically demanding college that challenges its students. It is important that we continuously convey our high expectations to our students. New and prospective students in particular must understand that early on so they can make appropriate decisions and preparations. They should be aware that Colby-Sawyer provides a comprehensive and engaged education which prepares our students to make their contributions to making the world a better place.

What Colby-Sawyer offers is an education based firmly in the liberal arts and sciences in which our faculty, staff and students are actively engaged in teaching and learning. It is a challenging, demanding and interdisciplinary education that is active and involved. Our college community is made of faculty and staff who know and support and contribute to the education of every student.

Other hallmark features of a Colby-Sawyer education include Pathways, the Capstone project, small classes, internships and the innovative integration of the liberal arts and sciences with professional preparation. It is a well-rounded education that prepares our students to thrive and adapt to change, as well as continue to learn and grow throughout their lives.

Examples of engaged learning abound in every corner of our curriculum. Students from across the academic disciplines have engaged in making the college's new maple sugaring operation successful, applying their knowledge and skills in the sciences, the arts and in business and marketing. Exercise and Sport Sciences majors are at work on the playing fields with sports teams and in the training rooms with athletes, assisting them in gaining strength and flexibility.

Each year our Communication Studies students assist organizations around the state in improving their Web sites and publications and with their overall communication strategies, while Business Administration students collaborate with local businesses and nonprofits to develop strong marketing and advertising campaigns. Our Child Development and Psychology students engage in teaching and learning with children at the Windy Hill School, while Graphic Design students help businesses and organizations develop new logos and assist clients on campus with their graphic design projects. Soon our students in Biology, Nursing, Environmental Science and Studies, Exercise Science, Psychology and Health Studies will have opportunities to conduct biomedical research through a five-year, $15.4 million grant funded by the National Institute of Health. The grant is shared by nine New Hampshire colleges and over the five year period Colby-Sawyer will receive almost $1 million.

Living Sustainably

Talk to students around mid-terms and you'll get the impression that their world is pretty much worrying about deadlines, getting in their lab hours and finishing papers. Students need to sustain their academic lives and we need to sustain the college, but we all must work together to sustain the planet where we live.

How do we do this? It involves respect for the environment and for the generations that follow. In education, thinking of future generations comes with the territory, but it's time to push that territory's boundaries, and Colby-Sawyer is doing just that. In May 2010 the Board of Trustees adopted our Climate Action Plan, and already we are making progress. We continue to reduce our environmental impact by using 100 percent recycled paper for stationary and copy paper and have recently implemented a policy that requires us to purchase energy-efficient appliances when it's time to replace the old models.

Many college offices are reducing their printing or using document imaging to go “paperless.” Summer workshops for faculty addressed the issues of Climate Change, Sustainability and Quantitative Literacy. The Faculty Working Group on Sustainability in the Curriculum is developing a “Sustainability 101” resource for professors interested in integrating sustainability concepts into their courses.

The Students in Free Enterprise club and the Student Government Association successfully pushed to replace paper to-go cups in the Dining Hall with reusable mugs. Our new college cars will be hybrids. We have also engaged a consulting firm to perform a comprehensive energy assessment and help us develop a strategic plan for moving the campus toward greater energy efficiency. Since Aug. 1, all of our electricity comes from renewable energy, a move that reduced the college's carbon footprint by an impressive 43 percent.

The “Walking Our Talk” campaign began this fall and encourages all members of the college community to use their creativity to discover what we can do, individually and collectively, to reduce our environmental impact and promote whole systems sustainability on campus and in our homes and communities. The campaign focuses on improving our procedures and behavior so that they align more closely with our values and goals. This campaign is consistent with all four of our strategic themes.

Speaking of walking, the fifth Annual 5K Dash and Stroll offered organic cotton T-shirts to participants this year. Everyone's favorite Colby-Sawyer tradition, Mountain Day, was held on Monday, Sept. 20, and this year had a goal of Zero Waste. Sodexo Dining Services offered zero sort recycling and compost pick-up. Plates, forks and napkins were plant-based and compostable, along with leftover food, and the food itself was created with minimal packaging. We hope to make all future events Zero Waste.

Of course, sustainability in general requires that we become experts on inclusion and cooperation. Our ultimate success will depend on our ability to recognize that our local efforts may benefit someone else in a different area of campus, on a different continent, or in a different time altogether. These new initiatives at Colby-Sawyer are an invitation, not a prescription, to discover the best in ourselves, and the best ways to live, so that others can live well for generations to come.

These initiatives do not divert us from the central question that has guided us in the past: “How will our students benefit?” We're only stepping up our charge and recognizing an additional responsibility in light of the larger social and global contexts in which we live. Reengineered, the question has become, “How will our students benefit, and how can we empower them to be of benefit to the world?”

Linking to the World

Colby-Sawyer has also stepped up efforts to make our community more diverse and inclusive. This fall we welcomed our third group of Progressive Scholars – students who come from urban environments – from the Boston area, Chicago, the San Francisco area and New York City. We also welcomed 27 new international students and sent two faculty members and 26 first-year students to study in Italy and France for the second year of our Global Beginnings Program.

More students are taking the opportunity to study away, including three seniors who are in Africa this semester through our affiliation with the School for Field Studies. Last spring, the first group of students headed to the nation's capital for a semester to participate in a new affiliation with the Washington Internship Institute. Students can choose to work in one of three programs: the Embassy and Diplomatic Scholars Program; the Go Green Program; or the Capital Experience program.

The IDEA Fund, a new initiative created by the Wesson Honors Program to support independent student research, awarded grants to students to travel in Asia this summer. One student tested American teaching methods in a Chinese school, while two others explored the cultural realities and perceptions in the relationships between China and Tibet, Nepal and India.

This past summer, Pamela Serota Cote joined the college as our first associate dean of International and Diversity Programs. Pamela has worked in student development and with international and diversity programs at several colleges. In her new role, she will provide support to our international students, Progressive Scholars, Global Beginners and Safe Zones. In addition, she will work to engage the college community in international and diversity education.

One of her first initiatives is to celebrate Colby-Sawyer's increased engagement in international life with a series of events during International Education Week in November. The college community will have the opportunity to hear from international students about their cultures and experiences; view travel photos submitted by students, faculty and staff; watch and discuss foreign films; and enjoy international cuisines in the dining hall. Three students will win funds to pay for their U.S. Passports in a special raffle. Colby-Sawyer is working hard to educate students about the world and the tools they will need to explore their planet.

Dynamic Devotion to Excellence

The fourth and final theme, Dynamic Devotion to Excellence, is inseparable from the other three. As I mentioned earlier, Colby-Sawyer is committed to expanding and deepening our traditional areas of strength such as engaged learning and to broadening our focus to embrace new priorities – living sustainably and linking to the world. Today Colby-Sawyer must be responsive to change, efficient in our operations and flexible in our planning. Above all, we must strive for excellence in all we do.

We must put our campus facilities to their best and highest uses, and to ensure that we do so, we have retained a firm to analyze and make recommendations for our current and future space needs. The composition of our campus buildings should convey the primary importance of our academic mission, even as our academic, athletic and student services programs provide excellent and cohesive educational experiences for our students. New facilities such as the Windy Hill School and the proposed Fine and Performing Arts Center must be viewed not only as opportunities to expand the campus, but most importantly, as venues for strengthening and deepening the quality of our teaching and learning experiences.

Our new Teaching Enrichment Center is also promoting opportunities for our faculty to deepen their pedagogical knowledge and hone their teaching skills. The center, led by Exercise and Sport Sciences Professor Jean Eckrich, coordinates events in which faculty share their knowledge and learn from each other as well as from other visiting scholars and teachers.

Additionally, Colby-Sawyer promotes excellence among staff members through many new opportunities for professional development within the workplace. The college has also offered staff members the option of greater flexibility in their work schedules, and in some cases, opportunities for telecommuting. These new programs are an effort to increase job satisfaction and productivity for employees while also reducing expenditures for the college.

In recent years, the college community has also collaborated to think strategically and creatively about ways to increase our financial strength. We have tightened our belts across the college to create leaner budgets, gained greater operational efficiencies, and discussed myriad ways to generate new sources of revenue. We will continue to hone our plans and move toward implementation over the coming months and years. The college community's devotion to excellence must be dynamic and attuned to opportunities for meaningful change and actions. Based on college-wide collaboration and well-articulated strategic plans, we will seek to extend our academic mission in viable and exciting new directions which both benefit our current students and attract new populations of prospective students.

The times are changing and so is Colby-Sawyer College. Our long history has been one of continuous evolution and growth as an institution, so change should neither surprise nor daunt us now. We will move forward with greater focus and momentum than ever, certain of our strengths and clear in our vision for the future.


Thomas C. Galligan Jr.

President and Professor of Humanities