Thinking of Japan

My thoughts this morning continue to be with the members of our broad Wellesley College community who may have been affected in some way by the devastating earthquake and tsunami in the Pacific.

Andy Shennan and I joined the Wellesley College Alumnae Association yesterday in reaching out by email (currently the only reliable means of communication, as one alumna told us) to our alumnae in Japan. As we continue to monitor the news reports, we know that more details and information will emerge in the coming days and weeks. Certainly, events such as this one remind us just how small and interconnected our world is, and how fragile our lives are in it.

Please join me in keeping in your thoughts all those affected by Friday’s events, including our Wellesley students, faculty, staff, and alumnae who have friends or relatives in Japan.

Building Dialogue, Continued

In my first post, I talked about how this blog could help me communicate with faculty, staff, and students. But the fact is, those aren’t the only people who are reading The HKBlog! I found this out recently when an alumna told me she was reading it, too.

What I should have said is that this blog will help me stay connected to the entire Wellesley community—including faculty, staff, and students, of course, but also alumnae, Trustees, parents, and friends.

After all, the Wellesley community extends far beyond the boundaries of the campus.

When I first thought of this blog, I envisioned it as a form of local communication. Not realizing at a visceral level that this blog could be global—and not just local—is, alas, characteristic of generations of a certain age.

A Grand Opening

I had a chance to stop by the new Science Center cafe last night, during its grand opening celebration. Last night was a wonderful opportunity to enjoy the company of colleagues, listen to the Wellesley talent who performed, and explore the sciences! Plus, we learned last night that, by popular vote, the new space will be called The Leaky Beaker. Congratulations to Elizabeth Lillard ’11, who originally submitted the great name!

If you haven’t had an opportunity to stop by the new cafe, I hope you will soon!

Trustees in the Snow

The start of the spring semester has been one of the snowiest on record and yet even the mountains of snow can’t quash the palpable energy always on campus. As this semester gets underway, I am reflecting on our recent Trustees meetings.

At the end of January, our Trustees convened on campus for several days. Our time spent together was both informative and productive, and I thought the discussions reflected the good forward momentum on campus.

There are several items from those meetings that I want to highlight.

EBURS. By now you have probably heard a little about the process we are using to organize our comprehensive facilities planning, a process which we call EBURS  (Evaluate Building Utilization and Renovation Strategies). A steering committee is reviewing prior reports on facilities and current programmatic needs laying the groundwork for a comprehensive planning process. This steering committee is led jointly by Provost Andy Shennan and Andy Evans, Vice President for Finance and Treasurer. The steering committee will be forming small, multi-constituent project teams, which will further develop the principles that will shape the priorities in their areas for building and renovation on campus. The Trustees will be involved in this process, and they are enthusiastic about it.

Residential Life. At the Trustee meetings, there was a discussion of the importance of community and residential life. Several students joined us for this lively discussion on the value of residential life at Wellesley. Not surprisingly, the resounding theme was that Wellesley’s residence halls foster a strong sense of community and encourage friendships and connections that might not otherwise be made. As we consider residence hall renovation as part of EBURS, the points made in this discussion will be useful.

Tenure. We also had an in-depth discussion with the Trustees about tenure and our rigorous tenure process. It is important for the Trustees to understand why tenure is crucial to the academy, since they officially grant tenure as one of their major responsibilities. I thought Faculty Trustee Jim Kloppenberg, the Charles Warren Professor of American History at Harvard, was particularly helpful in guiding the Trustees’ appreciation of the tenure process and its value to higher education.

Separate from that discussion, the Trustees voted to approve the tenure appointments of six faculty members: Rebecca Bedell (Art), Bryan Burns (Classical Studies), Sealing Cheng (Women’s and Gender Studies), Donald Elmore (Chemistry), Robin McKnight (Economics), and Ismar Volić (Math). Congratulations to all on this career milestone!

Tuition. There was also an intensive and thorough discussion of next year’s tuition, and tuition-setting in general. There are many factors that affect the setting of tuition. The Trustees approved a 2.5 percent increase in our comprehensive fee. This decision to increase tuition only modestly was influenced by our recognition of low rates of inflation, but was primarily driven by our historical commitment to affordability and our awareness of the economic difficulties many students and their families are experiencing.

Admission. At the Board meeting, I also updated the Trustees on our excellent pool of applicants for the incoming class. Just over 4,400 women applied for a spot in the Class of 2015, a 2 percent increase over last year. Additionally, there was an 18 percent increase over last year in early decision applications. Of particular note, the geographic diversity of our applicants is consistently strong—among both international and domestic students. This good news reflects the focused outreach efforts of our Admission team, as well as alumnae and students who have worked to enhance the College’s visibility. Specifically, we have seen increases in applications from the West/Northwest, South, and mid-Atlantic regions of the country.

This was a long entry, but a lot goes on at Trustee meetings—I didn’t even cover it all! I will return to EBURS for updates in future blogs, and will branch out into many other topics, as well.

Building Dialogue

I was pleased when CIO Ravi Ravishanker told me his plan to unveil a blogging platform to the Wellesley College community.  I had been thinking for some time about how a President’s blog could help me communicate with Wellesley faculty, staff, and students.  I am happy to have a new medium for this kind of dialogue.

This blog will give me the opportunity to tell you about important and/or interesting things that are going on at the College. It will also allow me to tell you about the things that I am thinking about, worrying about, or happy about. I hope that some of you will suggest topics that you would like to see in my blog. Now or in the future, leave me a comment here, or send an email to

I’m looking forward to connecting with the College community in a new and interactive way!