The 221st session of the Dartmouth Alumni Council was held virtually due to COVID-19 restrictions, the second virtual meeting of the Council in its 107-year existence. For the first time, the Council meeting was wrapped into Volunteer Engagement Week and included a welcome from Vice President for Alumni Relations Cheryl Bascomb ’82; class association, club, group, DCF, and DED meetings; a virtual community building session; a volunteer briefing by Dean of the College Kathryn Lively, Dean of the Guarini School of Graduate and Advanced Studies Jon Kull ’88, and Co-Chair of Dartmouth’s COVID-19 Taskforce Professor Lisa Adams; a campus update with President Hanlon, Dean of the College Elizabeth Smith, and special advisor to the president Professor Matthew Delmont; and a session focused on the new West End with Alexis Abramson, dean of the Thayer School of Engineering; David Kotz, professor of computer science; Elizabeth Wilson, director of the Irving Institute for Energy and Society; and Jamie Coughlin, director of the Magnuson Center for Entrepreneurship.
Alumni Council President Rachel Bogardus Drew ’98 opened the Council meeting Thursday, October 22 with a welcome session. Rachel shared personal reflections on being a Dartmouth alumna in the time of COVID-19, with its new opportunities for other forms of virtual connection with the Dartmouth community. She reminded the councilors of the vital role they play in alumni governance, and that as a representative body they are a valuable conduit of information for Dartmouth. Vice President for Alumni Relations Cheryl Bascomb thanked the Council for their participation and highlighted the sessions offered over the course of the week. Last spring, Alumni Relations pivoted their work to provide virtual programming, including Pre-Unions, Home Sweet Dartmouth Homecoming, Volunteer Engagement Week, and Dartmouth on Location and Future of Work offerings. She explained how Alumni Relations work is focused on outreach and inclusion. She also shared a chart of the sentiment received by alumni councilors from their constituents.
The next session, “Fostering an Inclusive Volunteer Community,” featured Alexis Kanda-Olmstead, director of talent management at Dartmouth; Karim Marshall ’03, president of BADA (Black Alumni of Dartmouth Association); and Cheryl Bascomb; and was moderated by Rachel Drew. Rachel explained the session’s purpose was to provide alumni volunteers with an understanding of Dartmouth’s commitment to racial justice and inclusion; engage alumni volunteers with concepts of diversity, equity, and belonging; and offer tools for organizations to move toward conscious inclusion. Cheryl noted the social and political climate of today has created space for change and issued a call to action for the entire alumni body. Karim Marshall shared personal experiences and his hopes for a more diverse and inclusive College.
Alexis Kanda-Olmstead laid out a framework for diversity and inclusion and the importance of the feeling of belonging. She asked councilors to self-identify across several parameters and acknowledged that Dartmouth stands on land inhabited by Abenaki, Pennacook, and Wabanaki peoples past and present. There are four stages of inclusion: exclusion, segregation, integration, and inclusion. Alexis asked councilors to remember a time when they felt they belonged. Diversity is a strategy. Inclusion is a goal. Belonging is a feeling. Belonging strategies include developing authentic relationships , providing opportunities for feedback , achieving a critical mass at all levels , adopting inclusive meeting practices , striving for organizational transparency, and ensuring involvement and ownership. Councilors broke into small groups to discuss additional strategies for belonging. Rachel Drew announced the formation of an inclusion working group composed of alumni volunteers. Details and a call for volunteers will be shared soon.
The following committees met virtually during Volunteer Engagement Week: Academic Affairs, Alumni and Student Engagement, Alumni Liaison, Alumni Service, Enrollment and Admissions, Honorary Degrees, Nominating and Alumni Trustee Search, and Professional Development.
On Friday, October 23, councilors met for a virtual luncheon. Committee chairs led breakout rooms as the councilors socialized in a relaxed setting.
Next on the agenda was a report from the Nominating and Alumni Trustee Search Committee. NomCom Chair Karyn Calcano ’87 TU’91 outlined the purpose of the committee: to identify, attract, and recruit the best alumni to serve on the Board of Trustees, in Alumni Council leadership positions, and in other critical alumni leadership roles. The composition of the Nominating Committee is purposefully representative of the alumni body, composed of the president, the president-elect, the past Nominating Committee chair, one appointed councilor, and six elected councilors.
The committee has met virtually several times this year, and its working agenda also includes consideration of Alumni Council leadership roles, the Nominating Committee slate, the Alumni Liaison Committee slate, and the president-elect slate; the Alumni Council at-large appointments; affirmation of class, club, and affiliated group councilor appointments; and affirmation of appointments specified in the Alumni Council constitution.
The Board of Trustees has ultimate responsibility for the financial, administrative, and academic affairs of the College. The Board’s responsibilities include fiduciary responsibility, appointment of faculty and officers, purchase and disposition of property, awarding of degrees, and approval of new programs and initiatives. It is comprised of eight alumni-nominated trustees, 16 charter trustees, and two ex-officio members (the President of the College and Governor of New Hampshire). One of the eight current alumni-nominated trustees, Mitch Kurz ’73, will rotate off the Board of Trustees in 2021.
Karyn described how Dartmouth needs to attract the strongest trustee candidates, given the enormous complexity of the institution, financial challenges of the higher education model, increasingly global nature of the College, competitive environment for talent and resources, and the critical role of higher education today. The Nominating Committee’s objective is to conduct a process that is broad-based, open, and inclusive; thorough and rigorous; respectful and discreet; and independent.
Trustee candidates should demonstrate the following qualities: broad service/passion for Dartmouth; demonstrated ability to govern; responsible fiduciary; strategic and critical thinking; ability to work with complex concepts; demonstrated courage of conviction; respect and integrity; outstanding leader of organization/profession; constructive and collaborative participant (previous board experience is important); and ability to enrich and add value to the Board. In addition, the committee considers diversity of all kinds.
In June, Dartmouth alumni were invited to submit trustee recommendations. Later in the summer the Alumni Council voted to nominate one candidate for the one vacancy. All nominations were thoroughly reviewed, researched, and vetted by the Nominating Committee. Hundreds of alumni have been considered in the past years. Background checks and pre-referencing were conducted through multiple sources on multiple prospects. Karyn informed the Council she would be presenting the candidate later in the day.
In 2014, Dartmouth alumni passed an amendment to the Association of Alumni constitution which eliminates the requirement of alumni-wide balloting if there is an uncontested slate. The deadline for petition candidates is January 4, 2021. If the slate is contested, an election will be held in February and March, with the results announced at the Association of Alumni annual meeting on March 17, 2021. The Board of Trustees will then vote to seat the candidate.
At their winter meeting, the NomCom will identify, vet, and recruit councilors to serve leadership positions: a two-candidate slate for President-Elect; a four-candidate slate for two positions on the Nominating and Alumni Trustee Search Committee (to be elected by the Council); a three-candidate slate for one position on the Alumni Liaison Committee (to be elected by the Council); one at-large representative to the ALC selected from the alumni body; and two at-large representatives to the Council selected from the alumni body.
The next session, “Creating the Role of Chief Diversity Officer,” featured Matthew Garcia, professor of history and Latin American, Latino, and Caribbean studies, and special advisor to President Hanlon; Hilary Tompkins ’90, trustee; and Sandhya Iyer, general counsel. Council president-elect Laurie Shapiro ’95 introduced the session and provided context for the discussion. With the retirement in June of Dartmouth's vice president for institutional diversity and equity, the institution is seizing this moment to elevate the title, portfolio, and reporting line of the new role as a search gets underway to fill the position. The new senior vice president and chief diversity officer will report to President Hanlon and serve as a member of Dartmouth's Senior Leadership Group.
Hilary Tompkins called this moment an opportunity for the Dartmouth family to confront issues around diversity and inclusion. The Board of Trustees have made this a priority. By setting hiring targets, the College has made itself accountable. Cluster hiring is helpful in supporting goals. The Presidential Commission on Financial Aid allows the Admissions Office to find the best and brightest students. The new position of Senior Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) will be part of the leadership team. Alumni input is welcome in defining important qualities.
Sandya Iyer has been the chief legal officer at Dartmouth for three years, and is co-chair of the search along with Matt Garcia. She reiterated that the search process for the new position will involve the entire community. The committee has embarked on a series of listening sessions. Dartmouth hired the search firm Isaacson Miller to hopefully hire for the position by spring 2021.
Matt Garcia emphasized the importance of the Board’s participation in this effort. He has attended many hours of listening sessions with key stakeholders. He noted four key messages: Dartmouth has done a good job of recruiting diverse faculty and staff, but has not been as successful with retention; the College’s location in the Upper Valley should not be viewed as a detriment; the position should be imbued with authority; and this position will be an opportunity for the right person. The parameters of the role should not be overly defined but will create a hub or clearing house where campus-wide efforts coalesce. The presenters asked councilors to utilize their personal networks to suggest outstanding candidates for the CDO role.
The next session was titled “Presidential Commission on Financial Aid Update: The Role of Financial Aid in Dartmouth’s Pursuit of Undergraduate Talent.” The panel was introduced by President Hanlon. He spoke about how the pandemic shined a light on the Dartmouth community’s incredible creativity and commitment. Despite the financial struggles of the past months, the College will not shy away from assisting her students. Since the establishment of the Presidential Commission on Financial Aid, $40M has been raised for financial aid.
The Council heard from some of the commission’s chairs and subcommittee chairs: Leslie Davis Dahl ’85, W. Robert Dahl Jr. P’18, Julie McColl-McKenna ’89, Byron Boston ’81, Andrea Boston, Hadley Mullin ’96, and Carmen Lopez ’97. Leslie Davis Dahl described how The Call to Lead $3B campaign set forth a goal of raising $500M toward financial aid. Alumni strongly support financial aid, according to a recent survey, and it is an area that alumni say they most want to support at Dartmouth. Overwhelmingly, alumni find supporting low income background students the most compelling reason to support financial aid. The strongest motivators for giving to financial aid: attracting diverse students which is essential for a dynamic education, and ensuring that all students can take full advantage of a Dartmouth education. However, awareness of how financial aid works and its impact at Dartmouth is low. The health crisis and economic downturn have called for intensified efforts to support financial aid, as well as a holistic examination of financial aid.
The PCFA established four subcommittees: storytelling, to create content that informs and inspires the community; educating, to create a community to sustain and enhance financial aid support; fundraising, to help raise the remaining funds of the campaign for endowed scholarships; and imagining, to identify trends and develop ways to attract a socioeconomically diverse applicant pool. The co-chairs of the committee have discovered that financial aid plays a critical role in supporting student diversity and experiences; philanthropy sustains the Dartmouth financial model (all students received aid); alumni support financial aid strongly, but their awareness of its workings and impact is low; competition for student talent is fierce among Dartmouth’s peer institutions; and the major investment to improve and sustain financial aid will allow Dartmouth to achieve its mission and ideals.
Julie McColl-McKenna described how Dartmouth’s student body has steadily become more diverse ethnically with a higher proportion of international and first-generation students. The acceptance rate has declined steadily, and the yield is increasing, especially over the past 5-6 years. Dartmouth’s financial system relies heavily on philanthropy. All in all, the annual cost per student for the Dartmouth experience is $140K. Net tuition and fees as revenue sources fall well short of the total cost per student, so all students are “aided”. Dartmouth guarantees a student receives all assistance needed. Forty-six percent of Dartmouth undergraduate students receive financial aid. Growth in average scholarship per student has outpaced growth in tuition. Student need has spiked in the face of the current economic downturn.
Byron Boston shared his personal experience as a Dartmouth student who benefitted from receiving financial aid. He is leading the educating subcommittee and expressed the urgency of accelerating the message to give to financial aid. Hadley Mullin and her husband, Dan Kalafatas, are chairing the imagining workstream, and she shared how financial aid enriches the experiences of Dartmouth students. The current admissions environment is competitive, and Dartmouth is not yet on par with her peers in offering financial aid. Carmen Lopez emphasized how the stories of financial aid recipients can motivate alumni to donate. She asked councilors to submit their own financial aid stories, and to assist in energizing the alumni in this effort. Bob Dahl said he hoped councilors were inspired by the session and their understanding of the challenge and refined opportunity. Funds need to be raised for the short term to support the Dartmouth College Fund and Bridge Fund.
President-elect Laurie Shapiro called for the chairs to report on the work of the committees. Committee summaries will be posted on the Alumni Council site after the meeting.
Next on the agenda was a conversation with four members of the Board of Trustees: Laurel Richie ’81, the chair of the Board and member of the Governance/Nominating Committee; Emily Bakemeier ’82, the vice chair of the Board and chair of the Academic Excellence Committee and member of the Governance/Nominating Committee; Ellie Loughlin ’89, chair of the Advancement Committee and member of the Governance/Nominating Committee; and Greg Maffei ‘82, chair of the Finance Committee and member of the Campus Planning & Facilities Committee and Investment Committee.
Laurel Richie thanked the councilors for participating in the session and noted the Board of Trustees is grateful for the Council’s partnership. She acknowledged that alumni councilors had requested additional information about the elimination of sports teams for their constituents, but said that the trustees were unable to comment further at that time due to pending litigation. She is proud of the Dartmouth community’s response to COVID-19. The Board has created working groups that are focusing on three topics: campus climate and culture, with the goal of creating a truly inclusive campus; Dartmouth’s presence in the landscape of higher education; and the aspiration of linking all the individual schools at Dartmouth into one Dartmouth.
Emily Bakemeier chairs the Academic Excellence Committee, which was formerly Academic Affairs. With the College’s strategic priorities of improving campus culture and creating a sustainable place for Dartmouth in the future of higher education, the deans all have shared challenges. While teaching is central to Dartmouth’s mission, there is also groundbreaking research going on. Dartmouth is an R1 institution as defined by the Carnegie Classification and in 2019 joined the Association of American Universities (AAU). Recruiting and retaining an excellent and diverse faculty is of utmost importance. Fifteen slots have been dedicated to BIPOC faculty.
Ellie Loughlin chairs the Advancement Committee. She noted that although this year has been difficult due to the pandemic, Dartmouth has been an anchor for alumni through virtual gatherings of classes, clubs, groups, etc. Alumni have stepped up to help each other, and support for financial aid from a large and diverse group is crucial, as the next several years promise to be difficult for many families. The Council can play a big role in encouraging donations to financial aid. She thanked the Alumni Liaison Committee for their role in capturing alumni sentiment and sharing it with the Board.
Greg Maffei chairs the Finance Committee. He thanked the Council for their positive outreach. He described how at this time the College is projecting an $85M loss for the coming year and detailed some of the extensive budget reductions that have been made across the institution. He talked about how Dartmouth should plan to benefit from the best of the teacher/scholar model while maximizing the use of its facilities.
The final session of the meeting focused on the presentation of the alumni-nominated trustee candidate. NomCom chair Karyn Calcano reported how the Nominating and Alumni Trustee Search Committee reviewed several hundred names of outstanding alumni for the one vacancy in June 2021. She then presented the alumni-nominated trustee candidate: Joyce Sackey, M.D. ’85 MED’89. Dr. Sackey is the associate provost and chief diversity officer for Tufts University’s Health Sciences School. She is also dean for multicultural affairs and global health and the Dr. Jane Murphy Gaughan Professor at Tufts University School of Medicine. Dr. Sackey was approved by a Council vote, and her candidacy will be announced to all alumni on October 26 via email and postcard.
The open forum commenced. An open discussion period for councilors followed, along with an open microphone for alumni.
The meeting was adjourned.