Dr. Philip A. Glotzbach
President of Skidmore College
Philip A. Glotzbach became the seventh President of Skidmore College on July 1, 2003. A philospher, academic administrator, and spokesperson on issues of higher education, he joined the College following eleven years at the University of Redlands in southern California
To members of the Skidmore community:
As we continue the new semester, I want to take a moment to acknowledge the good work done by so many to get the year off to a terrific start. Marie and I spoke with a number of families during new-student orientation, and they were quite appreciative of the professional way the College has welcomed new students into our community, which was facilitated by the excellent work of a many offices, staff members, faculty members, and students from across the campus.
I also want to acknowledge several notable milestones that we are celebrating this year. Later this week (September 25-27), Salmagundi will mark its 50th (!) anniversary as a leading journal dedicated to literature and social and political commentary with its “Belief and Unbelief” conference. On October 16, the Tang will commemorate its 15th anniversary with a series of special presentations and exhibitions. On October 23-24, the Zankel Music Center will mark its 5th anniversary with two concerts, one by Joshua Redman and The Bad Plus, and one by San Fermin. On December 4, we will celebrate the 10th anniversary of Skidmore Cares Holiday Open House at Scribner House. I can’t imagine our community without any one of these four remarkable institutions, and I hope you will join in celebrating their significant anniversaries.
Focus on Planning and Community
Earlier this month, I noted that my focus this year would be on two key areas: planning and community. I write now to update you on our progress in each area and to highlight several important upcoming events.
Several key planning initiatives are currently underway. These include our review of the General Education Curriculum, our ten-year Middle States Reaccreditation, and, most significantly, the completion of a new Strategic Plan. With regard to the strategic planning process, the President’s Cabinet and I have worked over the summer to synthesize what we heard over the previous year from the campus, the Institutional Policy and Planning Committee (IPPC), the Board of Trustees, and alumni about the future direction of the College. That effort has led to the production of a draft plan, The Creativity Imperative: The Plan for Skidmore College, 2015-2020, that we now will review with the campus community.
As a start to this stage of the process, I invite all members of the community to join in a public discussion of the draft Plan at the State of the College Address, which will be held upstairs in Murray-Aikins Dining Hall from 3:00-4:30 PM, tomorrow, Friday, September 25. Our goal is to ratify the plan at the February 2016 meeting of the Board of Trustees. At this time, I welcome the input of all members of the community.
This semester we also will be holding several public discussions of our draft Middle States Self-Study. We have scheduled three public forums – October 5, 27, and November 16 from 4:00-5:30 PM – in Gannet Auditorium. Our Self-Study draft needs to be completed by mid-December in time for a formal review by a Middle States Reaccreditation Visiting team from March 6-9, 2016. We will need everyone to be well aware of this process throughout the year. So please do what you can to participate in this conversation.
Lastly, the Committee on Educational Policy and Planning (CEPP) is continuing its work that began two years ago to revise our general education curriculum. This work will continue throughout this academic year.
As I noted in my “Welcome to the Academic Year” communication, though there are many positive aspects to the Skidmore community, we certainly have ongoing challenges that we must face to become the inclusive and affirming campus community that we want to be– one that fully supports all our efforts to achieve excellence in our work. Our own experience over the past several years with repeated incidents of bias as well as the continuing pattern of race-related violence across our nation has made it clear to me that we need to take additional steps to address the various issues that have impeded our growth as a community. To move this agenda forward, I am announcing two key initiatives.
First, I have appointed Dr. Joshua C. Woodfork to serve in the newly created position of Vice President for Strategic Planning and Institutional Diversity. This decision arises from the very thorough and thoughtful work of the Committee on Intercultural and Global Understanding (CIGU), which, in December of last year, presented a report to the IPPC and President’s Cabinet that outlined a number of steps to move us toward becoming a more inclusive community.
After being asked by IPPC to prioritize its proposals for improving campus climate and increase inclusion, CIGU’s primary recommendation was that we create a Cabinet-level position of Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) to provide additional expertise and leadership within the College for these important efforts. The Cabinet reviewed CIGU’s report and recommended unanimously to me that we take this action; after some reflection, I decided to accept that recommendation in a way that I believe will be effective, without significantly increasing costs or disrupting existing institutional structures.
Dr. Woodfork’s appointment reflects both my determination to address the larger concerns referenced above as well as a belief in his particular qualifications for this position. His title also emphasizes the crucial link I see among institutional planning, diversity, and inclusion. As most of us know, Joshua held the position of Assistant Professor of American Studies at Skidmore from 2005 to 2010. He then left to become an Assistant Professor of American Studies and faculty liaison to the Frederick Douglass Distinguished Scholars Program at American University, a position he held until 2012. At that point, he took the position of Director of the Consortium on High Achievement and Success (CHAS) at Trinity College (Hartford), where he also taught as an adjunct faculty member in the American Studies Department. In September 2013, he returned to Skidmore as Executive Director of the Office of the President and Coordinator of Strategic Initiatives.
In his time at Skidmore and most especially in his present position, Dr. Woodfork has impressed me with his knowledge, his judgment, and his ability to collaborate effectively with a wide spectrum of people. His charge will be to work across our campus community, beginning with the President’s Cabinet, to help us be smarter and more successful in becoming the truly inclusive and respectful community we want to be: to ensure that, institutionally, we are asking the right questions, identifying crucial connections, and developing the creative solutions needed to help us address issues we continue to face regarding diversity – in the broadest sense of that term – and inclusion. As noted above, this appointment does not change any existing reporting relationships in other areas. I will continue to emphasize that people holding leadership positions across the College retain responsibility for attending to issues of diversity and inclusion. I am also considering the possibility of creating an auxiliary position of Diversity Fellow (analogous to the highly successful model of Sustainability Fellows) to provide some additional support to these efforts but will hold on that appointment to allow Dr. Woodfork time to establish his new role. Going forward, Joshua will retain his previous responsibilities within the President’s Office. As his previous title suggested, he already played a significant role in the planning and execution of the College’s strategic priorities.
The second new initiative pertaining to community is the launch of a Pilot Staff Advisory Group. This is one outcome of the extensive staff surveys we conducted and reported on last year, and we will be discussing other developments following from this process as the year progresses. It is my hope that the Staff Advisory Group will provide a valuable forum to engage staff members in the work of strengthening our community and providing advice to the President’s Cabinet, Human Resources, and to me in a variety of contexts. I strongly support its formation. The Group will hold its first meeting Wednesday, September 30, from 3-4 PM in the Intercultural Center. I appreciate the engagement by interested staff members thus far and encourage others to participate as we launch this initiative.
There will be two other new faces on the President’s Cabinet this year, and I am grateful to have two experienced Interim Vice Presidents in place as we begin the academic year.
With Rochelle Calhoun’s departure over the summer to take the position of Vice President for Campus Life at Princeton University, we lost a thoughtful College leader who spoke forcefully on behalf of our students and for the cause of diversity and inclusion. To lead the division of Student Affairs this year, I have appointed Gail Cummings-Danson Interim Dean of Students and Vice President for Student Affairs. Gail was named Athletic Director at Skidmore in 2005 and has served as an Associate Dean of Student Affairs for several years, so she is well known to the Skidmore community. Before coming to Skidmore, she spent 13 years at the University at Albany as Associate Athletic Director. During her tenure there, she also served in two interim roles – one as Interim Athletic Director and one as Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs. Previously, she had served in Assistant Athletic Director roles at Temple University and Connecticut College. I very much appreciate Gail’s willingness to assume these new responsibilities, while staying connected to her role as Athletic Director. I know that it is not easy to perform both functions. We will soon launch a national search for a new Dean of Students and Vice President for Student Affairs.
In May, I announced the creation of a new administrative division – Communications and Marketing – to be headed by a Vice President. This decision is closely linked to our current strategic planning process, and it follows a yearlong analysis of those functions, which previously had been located within Advancement. That process involved not only members of the Advancement team but also others across the College and the Board of Trustees. It was initiated by Collyer Vice President for Advancement Michael Casey who wanted to ensure that the College was positioned to meet the challenges of a rapidly-changing and increasingly competitive environment, an environment that demands even more effective communications and marketing across digital media platforms. Almost all of the necessary financial resources for this new department and additional services have come from reallocations within the existing budget.
I have appointed Debra Townsend as Interim Vice President for Communications and Marketing. Debra is an experienced professional who has advised on a variety of projects at Skidmore since 2001 and has assisted over 40 other colleges and universities in their communications functions – including Colgate, Washington State University, Bates, Union, Trinity, Bowdoin, Bennington and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. She has previously served in nine interim roles, including two at Skidmore, and will do so this year as we conduct a national search for the permanent head of this division. That search will get under way later this year.
As always, we will seek broad community involvement in these important searches, including input from the Committee on Appointments, Promotions, and Tenure (CAPT), the Faculty Executive Committee (FEC), the Student Government Association (SGA), and the Staff Advisory Group.
Despite its length, this report leaves much unsaid. I might just mention the “Science Summit,” which also will occur on Saturday, October 24. We also will be holding several more Community Meetings and President’s Open Office Hours on differing days and times throughout the semester. Please save the date for the annual Skidmore Cares Holiday Open House at Scribner House on Friday, December 4th. And, of course, there is much, much more going on across the College and throughout the year.
Thank you for your attention. And please accept my best wishes for a productive and fulfilling fall semester.
Philip A. Glotzbach
Welcome – and for most of us, welcome back.
Tomorrow, we officially begin the College’s 104th year as more than 800 courses, a dozen varsity sports, a wide range of performing groups and student organizations come together to begin their work for the fall semester. The Class of 2019 has arrived on campus and in London. Selected from more than 8,500 applications (our second-highest total ever), the class numbers 694 students, including 35 in our London program. A record 13 percent are international students (99) hailing from 32 countries and another 7 percent hold dual passports. 23 percent self-identify as domestic students of color and 14 percent are the first in their family to go to college.
I expect this to be an extraordinary year for the College, and it is exciting to look ahead with you at all the strategically significant projects that we will tackle together in the coming months.
This fall will see a confluence of major efforts that will set important directions for our future. First, we will come together again in shaping our next Strategic Plan, with continued input from faculty and staff members, students, trustees, and alumni. As we reflect upon all of the accomplishments associated with our 2005-2015 Strategic Plan, Engaged Liberal Learning, and our annual action agendas, we are determined to develop an even more ambitious blueprint to guide us going forward. We will begin circulating a draft of that Plan for campus reaction in the near future.
Along with strategic planning, we will be completing our preparations for the upcoming Middle States accreditation, as well as the continuing review and revision of our General Education requirements. In addition, this year we will prepare for the public launch of a $220-240 million Comprehensive Campaign around the theme of “Creating Our Future.” This Campaign, which already has raised more than $90 million in its “quiet” phase, will focus on increased endowment support for financial aid and academic programs, the new Center for Integrated Sciences, and a new home for Admissions and Financial Aid. Other priorities will involve funding to increase the endowment for the Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery, to enhance experiential academic and career opportunities, to make athletic facility improvements, and to grow the Skidmore Fund, which provides budget support for so many of our academic and extra-curricular programs.
The thread that will knit all of these efforts together is a continuing focus on building community. As we all know, last year presented significant challenges as we addressed issues related to both sexual assault and diversity and inclusion. Since then we have engaged in very frank and useful campus discussions, reviewed policies in these important domains, and we will step up our efforts in the months ahead. The appointment of a Chief Diversity Officer, implementing revised policies on sexual and gender-based misconduct, and enhancing training are just a few of the steps we will take this fall.
We aspire to be a community that values a diversity of perspectives and that can engage productively in conversations about even the most challenging issues. I am committed to this proposition and call upon all of us to redouble our efforts to realize this vision through our work this coming year. Accordingly, I ask for your participation in making Skidmore an even better place to learn, live, and collaborate as teachers, scholars, and community members in 2015-16 and wish you an exceptional year.
Philip A. Glotzbach