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Spring 2001

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Message from the president: Travel plans

     We asked you, the Skidmore extended family, about the “soul” of Skidmore and your vision for our future. Well over a thousand questionnaires, more than sixty roundtables, and many rolls of butcher paper later, you have helped us confirm that what matters most at Skidmore is what has always mattered.

     Our mission has always been to educate students for lives of learning, accomplishment, and service, through interdisplinary study blending the mind and the hand. The means for achieving that mission, as they are emerging from our strategic-planning discussions, are fundamental and familiar: enhancing close relationships among students and faculty, strengthening the experience of community and diversity, and linking students’ learning and living experiences.

     I’m not surprised. I see us striving for those goals every day in the practical ways that really signify an institution’s values. Let me give you a few examples from the arena of student-faculty relationships. The induction ceremony for the Pi Mu Epsilon mathematics honorary society, designed jointly by faculty and students, drew an SRO crowd. At the Dominican Independence Day party, two science majors told me how much they value the accessibility of their teachers and the chance to do research directly with senior faculty. Faculty tenure and promotion files speak eloquently to the faculty’s exceptional teaching quality, creativity, and engagement with students beyond the classroom. Faculty routinely demonstrate their commitment to students by participating in workshops on teaching techniques and the advising process, which generate caring and creative interactions. Every day, in every department, students and teachers work, volunteer, choreograph, compose, analyze, experiment, and edit side by side.

     I also see examples of how these relationships remain rich and alive for former students. The alumni I meet light up when they talk about their teachers—and when I tell those teachers about their former students, they in turn light up. A generation of Mary Ann Foley’s psychology students returned to hear her deliver the prestigious Moseley Faculty Research Lecture. Our graduates honor their teachers with funds for student research, endowed chairs, library acquisitions, lectureships, and countless thank-you notes—further testimony to these enduring bonds.

     Now that we have listened to and distilled your voices into a few central themes, our next challenge is to focus our energies and resources. Skidmore is blessed right now with unprecedented strength in our students, faculty, spirit, and visibility. We have a sense of accomplishment and momentum on which to build. These, and the dedication and support of our faculty, staff, alumni, and parents, are great natural resources. At the same time, we must be realistic. Many other colleges are also improving dramatically. Skidmore has to be especially efficient and imaginative, given our relatively smaller financial resources. All of us face an uncertain economy, changing demographics, in-creased expectations for student services and facilities, rising costs, and concern about tuition increases.

     In the next phase of our planning process we will build on the working goals we have identified and examine recommendations for the best ways to achieve them. I will link the key planning and outreach groups—the Institutional Planning Committee (IPC), the alumni association, and ultimately the board of trustees—to evaluate the possible strategies, drawing on their wisdom for the critical work of setting priorities and choosing the most essential and promising.

     One might envision this process as designing a road map. We are choosing our destination and are now determining the conditions for a successful journey. Next we will identify the possible routes, vehicles, and stopping points, recognizing that there are many different ways to reach our destination and that we must be selective. By next fall we will have a “draft road map” to offer for wide consideration. Once we are satisfied with our plans, we will lay out the actual steps in the journey, what we have to do to reach them, and the mile markers and signals that will measure our progress.

     In short, the Skidmore journey continues, to a magical future built on our enduring values.

 


© 2001 Skidmore College