June 14, 2023
During Commencement and Reunion weekends, I was once again reminded of the importance of our work together and the transformative education our students prize. From honorary degree recipients and our newest graduates to our returning alums and families, there was a notable sense of gratitude for their educational experience and the relationships formed here on campus that last a lifetime. I was also reminded of how hard and effectively our faculty and staff work to educate and mentor our students and to provide them with the tools they need to be successful. I am grateful to all who made certain these signature events were so successful. Thank you.
The days leading up to Commencement were particularly busy with faculty holding a two-day retreat to consider the general curriculum and how it can be enhanced to prepare our students for the dynamic years ahead. The goal, as outlined by the co-chairs of the Academic Task Force, is to develop a sustainable curricular proposal by the spring of 2024, and work is underway to meet that deadline.
Commencement weekend also corresponded with the spring meeting of the Board of Trustees during which the Trustees had the opportunity to meet with students, faculty and staff and to take part in various events of the weekend including Baccalaureate and special graduation ceremonies for First Generation and Posse students. In their deliberations, they advanced committee governance on diversity, equity and belonging, approved promotions for 11 faculty colleagues and approved next year’s budget which includes a step increase for faculty and a corresponding across-the-board raise of 1.7% for staff. In recognition of the importance of ensuring that employees are prepared for the future, the Board also increased the Colleges’ retirement contribution from 6% to 8% effective July 1.
Our admissions numbers continue to hold steady and reflect the progress made this year with First Year enrollment at 477 students, an increase of 8.6% over last year. As I previously reported, every key performance indicator for admissions and financial aid has gone in the right direction this year with an improvement in the discount rate and yield rate, and a notable decrease in the acceptance rate. Net tuition revenue is up year over year, and we are encouraged by the enrollment in our graduate programs to date. I am pleased to report that the efforts of staff and faculty to enhance and expand Orientation and our First Year program are being favorably received by students. Faculty advising of First Year students is underway and we have a remarkable number of First Year students (99%) who have already completed the necessary forms to matriculate. As we look to the coming weeks and months, we need to double down on tactics that were previously successful while generating new strategies that will lead to further increases in enrollment.
To that end, I am pleased to announce that we have concluded the search for our Vice President for Admissions and Financial Aid. Mike Quinn, the Vice President for Enrollment Management at Rockford University, will begin at the Colleges on June 26. With significant experience in creating and implementing successful strategic enrollment plans at Rockford and Randolph College, Mike has the kind of seasoned experience the Colleges need to accelerate momentum. He impressed the search committee with his innovative approaches and his ability to coalesce a team to make a real difference in enrollment metrics. Originally from Buffalo, Mike holds a Ph.D. in Higher Education Leadership from Notre Dame of Maryland University.
My sincere thanks go to Kathy Killius Regan ’82, P’13 who has served her alma mater for the last year as the Interim Vice President for Admissions and Financial Aid with dedication and commitment. Her efforts have been exceptional, and she deserves our collective appreciation. Kathy will be working with Mike as he transitions to his new role and will assist with admissions efforts as the office completes hiring for open positions and plans for next year.
Also joining HWS this summer is Amanda Jantzi ’06 who will serve as the Colleges’ new Title IX Coordinator. After graduating from HWS magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa with a degree in political science with honors, Amanda went on to earn her law degree from Cornell University and a master’s degree in higher education and student affairs from SUNY Buffalo. Most recently she was the director of student services and advising at Cornell University School of Law. I look forward to welcoming her to campus and to her leadership in this important area.
Finally, I end with some very good news. The Office of Advancement reports that we are on track to have the second largest fundraising year in HWS history with $32.2M in gifts and commitments already booked before the fiscal year end of June 30. These funds will support several areas, most notably financial aid and the new integrated science center. With this kind of sustained philanthropy over the last several years, we are in the planning stages to publicly launch a campaign in the next 18-24 months.
Over the course of the past year in various convenings, we have talked candidly about the importance of our collective engagement in the work of admissions. We have discussed the imperative of making progress on the critical metrics of the incoming class and I am encouraged by the improvement this year. We need to build upon this progress in admissions along with our efforts to enhance the student experience and curriculum and advance our capital campaign. In the coming weeks, our senior staff will be preparing for the next academic year and working with their respective teams on initiatives that further these strategic objectives. I am excited for this work and the opportunity we have to position Hobart and William Smith for its Third Century.
We live in a time of enormous change – from technology and AI to new ways of learning and the changing interests and needs of our students. In the months ahead, we must engage in critical conversations about these changes and how we should address them for our future. The history of Hobart and William Smith Colleges is one that takes on the challenges of each era – working collaboratively to advance this special place – with the education of our students as our North Star. I look forward to this vital work and remain grateful to the members of the faculty and staff for their hard work, dedication and unyielding commitment to our students. As always, I hope you will not hesitate to contact me with any thoughts, ideas or concerns.
Mark D. Gearan
Hobart and William Smith Colleges