August 18, 2023

Dear Members of the Hobart and William Smith Community:

As we prepare to welcome new and returning students to campus, the usual excitement has been amplified by this week’s news from the Princeton Review. For the seventh year in a row, Princeton Review has ranked Hobart and William Smith among the top 25 colleges and universities in the country for faculty. Our strong program in career services and our commitment to the environment are also in the top 25 in the nation. The Colleges appear on the Princeton Review’s list of “Colleges That Create Futures,” which includes 50 schools that “empower students to discover practical applications for their talents and interests through experiences that complement their classes and coursework.” Importantly, the Princeton Review’s rankings are based on student surveys, making this recognition particularly meaningful.

As classes begin, so does a lively year of academic offerings, co-curricular opportunities, athletic contests and events. Our innovative curriculum and the transformative mentorships between faculty and students continue to provide a vital foundation for students to learn and grow. Indeed, at the beginning of the fall semester, Provost and Dean of Faculty Sarah Kirk will lead the Opening Institute, focusing on the exciting developments proposed by faculty for the Colleges’ curriculum. Add to that a diverse range of topical speakers, an award-winning writer-in-residence, a remarkable group of incoming students and outstanding athletics programs — and Hobart and William Smith should anticipate an exhilarating and thought-provoking year. I look forward to welcoming the full campus community back for the fall semester.

Below, I’d like to share a glimpse of what the 2023-24 year has in store. 

The Classes of 2027 

An impressive cohort of new students arrives on campus on Sunday for Orientation. Of the 503 incoming first-year and transfer students, nearly 40 percent of first-year students applied Early Decision, meaning HWS was their top choice. They hail from 27 states, 16 countries and five continents. With an average high school GPA of 3.62, their top academic interests span economics and entrepreneurial studies, biology and history, media and law. International students make up four percent of the new student body, students of color 25 percent and first-generation students 21 percent. Nearly two-thirds of incoming students attended public high schools, and more than 40 percent are student-athletes. 

For the first time, HWS Orientation spans a full week. Through Spark! projects under the direction of faculty and staff, students will take a deep dive into a topic of interest while they get to know campus and make connections to future academic and co-curricular paths. As they acclimate to campus, new students will meet their advisers and first-year mentors, and explore thought-provoking topics in their First-Year Seminars, which serve as a foundation for critical thinking and communication skills as well as an introduction to the Colleges’ academic values and community.  

Consequential Coursework 

In classrooms, labs and field sites in the community, students will explore the world’s most pressing challenges, previewing emerging issues, technologies and ways of thinking. Adding to the HWS offerings is a new major in Management and Entrepreneurship and a new minor in Public Health. The Institute for Global Studies offers a new interdisciplinary framework for studying international issues, from global politics to languages to cultures, while a newly configured department, Gender, Sexuality, and Intersectional Justice, offers a suite of major and minor programs that encourage exploration at the intersections of race, sexuality, ableism and justice. With a new focus and topics centralized on the United States, the Political Science Department is changing to the Department of Politics, bringing new subfields focused on the American political system and the country’s relations to the world.

Speaker Series

Throughout the semester, the Colleges will welcome leading thinkers to campus through a variety of speakers series, and I draw your attention to two upcoming events for the fall semester that should prove particularly interesting:

  • On Oct. 19, the Stern Family Forum welcomes New York Times columnist Frank Bruni and Lee Carter, author and President and Partner at Malansky + Partners, for a conversation moderated by Emmy Award-winning 60 Minutes Correspondent and HWS Trustee Bill Whitaker ’73, L.H.D. ’97. Generously funded by Honorary Trustee Herbert J. Stern ’58, P’03, LL.D. ’74 and Trustee Samuel A. Stern ’03, the Stern Family Forum was created to support annual public discussions with notable guests who bring nuance to difficult, sometimes controversial subjects.
  • On Oct. 25, the Anderton Economic Policy Symposium will welcome former president of the Minneapolis Fed Narayana Kocherlakota, now the Lionel W. McKenzie Professor of Economics at the University of Rochester. Established in 2022 by former Trustee James F. Anderton IV ’65, the symposium brings experts to campus to share their insights with the HWS community.

The Year of the Sun

In April 2024, a total solar eclipse will cross North America, running from Mexico, through the U.S. and into Canada. The path of totality — the narrow trajectory along which the moon completely obscures the sun — will pass through Geneva and the Hobart and William Smith campus, offering observers from the Colleges’ community an unparalleled view. In preparation for the eclipse and thanks to the efforts of Associate Professor of Physics Leslie Hebb, the Colleges will host a series of events and programs organized under the theme, "The Year of the Sun," exploring the scientific, artistic, economic and cultural significance of the sun. 


The Trias Residency for Writers welcomes Rachel Yoder, the author of Nightbitch. Adapted for an upcoming film starring Amy Adams, the novel was named a best book of the year in 2021 by Esquire and Vulture. It was also recognized as a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award for Debut Fiction and the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award, and shortlisted for the McKitterick Prize. In addition to a reading from Yoder, the 2023-24 Trias Reading Series will feature authors Jessamine Chan and Sheila Heti. 

Let’s Go, Herons and Statesmen! 

Following an incredible 2022-23 year, which saw Hobart Hockey win the DIII National Championship and William Smith Lacrosse claim a seventh straight league title, student-athletes return to campus for the fall season. This year, Hobart Soccer celebrates 70 years as a varsity sport. In January, Hobart Volleyball will hit the court as the Colleges’ newest sport. Explore the schedule at

Events for Alums, Parents and Friends 

Mark your calendars for Homecoming and Family Weekend, Oct. 27–29. The Colleges are also hosting events throughout the year on and off campus for alums, parents and friends to gather and reconnect. See the calendar here.

As the Colleges enter our third century, there is much to look forward to, both in the months ahead and beyond. With the support of our faculty, staff, alums, parents and friends, our students have unparalleled educational experiences. I remain grateful to the entire HWS community for the guidance and engagement that makes those experiences possible.


Mark D. Gearan