221st Council Session Message | October 22-23, 2020
Last month, Dartmouth alumni leaders came together in full force for Volunteer Engagement Week, which included the 221st meeting of the Alumni Council and the VOX (Volunteer Officer eXperience) Conference for volunteer leaders. Although we weren’t able to gather in Hanover, the virtual format allowed us to find new ways to learn, discuss, and collaborate with each other and Dartmouth’s leadership.
Our conversation covered many issues that are shaping dialogue across the world, and as your Alumni Council President, I’d like to share some highlights with you.
1. Although things may not look the same, Dartmouth’s commitment to its educational mission remains strong—and the pandemic plan is working to keep virus numbers down and students safe on campus. Dr. Lisa Adams MED’90, co-chair of the COVID-19 Task Force, explained how Dartmouth’s COVID-19 response is based on belief in the ability of students, faculty, and staff to come together in a unique partnership with Dartmouth Hitchcock. Positive virus tests have been extremely low in the Dartmouth community. Dean of the College Kathryn Lively and Dean of the Guarini School of Graduate and Advanced Studies Jon Kull ’88 shared efforts to build social connection and ensure quality of experience for students on and off campus. With empathy for the many changes students have had to navigate, I was heartened to hear that many traditions are continuing and students are rising to meet the moment.
2. President Hanlon, the Board of Trustees, and alumni leaders are all committed to building a more diverse and equitable Dartmouth. In response to this summer’s protests against police violence, Dartmouth’s leadership expressed support for the national movement to end racial injustice at all levels of society and to address systemic racism at Dartmouth. A tangible step in this direction is the search for a new senior vice president and chief diversity officer who will report to the President and help lead meaningful change at Dartmouth. The Council shared feedback with the co-chairs of that search regarding the role and measures of success with respect to diversity and equity. We also met with Elizabeth Smith, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and Professor Matt Delmont, special advisor to the President, to discuss the role of a diverse community in academic excellence and efforts to recruit and retain faculty of color. Alumni Councilors and other alumni volunteer leaders also discussed how to increase a sense of belonging and equity in Dartmouth’s 200+ alumni organizations, and we will be convening a working group to more deeply explore these topics in the months to come.
3. Financial Aid is more important than ever to Dartmouth’s success. The Council met with the co-chairs of the newly created Presidential Commission on Financial Aid to learn why the current moment is so critical to Dartmouth’s future. Dartmouth’s student body has grown more diverse and academically accomplished, with a higher percentage of international and first-generation students. Acceptance to Dartmouth has also become more competitive. Right now, financial aid is important for almost half of the student body, and student need has spiked during the current economic downturn. Requests for undergraduate financial aid in the current academic year are expected to grow by $8 million beyond what is already budgeted. For our students to have full access to the Dartmouth experience—and to allow Dartmouth to compete for the most talented students—we need to come together as an alumni community to pay forward what has benefited so many of us. I invite you to learn more and to share your own financial aid story.
4. Finally, the Council fulfilled one of its most important functions and approved Dr. Joyce A. Sackey M.D. ’85 MED’89 as this year’s alumni-nominated candidate for the Board of Trustees. I encourage you to read the minutes of the Alumni Council meeting for more information, and to share your comments, questions, and feedback about Dartmouth with your Councilor and the Council’s Alumni Liaison Committee (ALC), which monitors and synthesizes alumni sentiment to share with the Board of Trustees and other Dartmouth leaders. You can also read about feedback received during the 2019-2020 academic year in the ALC’s annual report and recent snapshot report on addressing racism at Dartmouth. I hope you will continue to leverage the Council and ALC channels so that your voices may be heard at the highest levels of the administration.
I wish you and yours good health and look forward to when we can gather on the Green again.
Rachel Bogardus Drew ’98