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Skidmore College
Office of the President

Welcome back message from the President

September 4, 2018


Welcome to another exciting academic year. To the 685 students of the Class of 2022, welcome to Skidmore! To returning staff, students and faculty, I trust your summer was filled with adventures and new experiences. It has been a busy summer, and we have a great deal of news to share with those who are new and those who are continuing their relationship with the College.

You no doubt have noticed the major progress that has been made in the construction of the first phase of the Center for Integrated Sciences (CIS). The underground infrastructure is now complete, and the geothermal wells that will provide sustainable heating and cooling for the building are also in place. Although we still are completing work on the foundation, we are beginning to pour concrete, and you’ll see the steel structure of the “North Bar” of CIS going up this fall and winter.

I invite everyone to attend a public groundbreaking ceremony for CIS on October 20 at 10:30 a.m. near the construction site at Palamountain Hall. The event will include keynote remarks from Neil Shubin, Professor of Organismal Biology and Anatomy at the University of Chicago.  Many of us will recall that Shubin is the author of Your Inner Fish – the common reading for students entering in fall 2010 – and a 2014 Skidmore honorary degree recipient.  This event will be an important moment in affirming Skidmore’s educational leadership in all areas of the liberal arts curriculum, including the sciences.

Our faculty and staff are the heart of all that we do, and I am excited to welcome several new individuals to the campus community. Michael Orr joined us in July as Dean of the Faculty and Vice President for Academic Affairs. I want to thank Crystal Moore, who served as Interim Dean from January until Michael’s arrival and who will continue to serve on the President’s Cabinet alongside Michael for the coming year.

Following the retirements of Paul Calhoun, Dean of Special Programs, Michael West, Vice President  for Finance and Administration (VPFA), and Barbara Beck, Executive Director of Human Resources, we have appointed interim leadership for these areas. Auden Thomas will serve as Interim Executive Director of Special Programs, while Kyle Bernard and Kelley Patton-Ostrander will share the role of Interim VPFA until Mike’s successor arrives. Lastly, Sarah Delaney Vero will serve as Interim Director of Human Resources until a national search is completed, following the arrival of our new Chief Financial Officer.

In that vein, I am excited to announce the appointment of Donna Ng as Skidmore's next Vice President for Finance and Administration and Treasurer, effective October 1, following a national search to fill this critical leadership position. Donna joins Skidmore from Simmons College in Massachusetts. She brings extensive experience overseeing accounting, budgets, investments, purchasing, human resources, facilities, grounds, public safety, real estate, emergency preparedness, dining services, and information technology.  We very much look forward to Donna’s arrival in a few weeks.

It is my distinct privilege and pleasure to welcome members of the Class of 2022 to the College. These distinguished students hail from 35 states and 27 countries and were selected from a record-breaking pool of nearly 11,000 applicants.

Even as interest in Skidmore’s distinctive liberal arts education continues to grow, so does the demand for need-based financial aid to attract and retain the very best students. This year, a full 47 percent of Skidmore’s entering class will require some form of financial aid. This situation is not unique to our student body; it reflects a larger trend in higher education that we must not only accept but embrace. This coming year, we will be exploring new options for budgeting that will be necessary to accommodate this new financial reality. In the meantime, I ask all members of the Skidmore community to do their part to find ways to work smarter, more efficiently, and with a focus on making the very best use of our sufficient but not unlimited resources, so that we can ensure the highest quality educational experience for all our students.

As we reported last spring, we continue to make great strides in the Creating Our Future: The Campaign for Skidmore.  We recently surpassed the $165 million mark against our goal of $200 million to be raised by 2020. In celebration of this crucial phase of the Campaign, we will hold a campus and regional campaign launch event on October 18 at the Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery. All staff and faculty, along with our extensive network of regional alumni, are invited to attend this celebratory event, as we explore the many ways we all can support and shape Skidmore’s future together.

Finally, as we embark on this new academic year, there are important discussions we must hold and decisions we must make as a community. Among these, we plan to emphasize our efforts to promote free speech and our capacity to engage in challenging conversations on campus. We will welcome professor Sigal R. Ben-Porathfrom the University of Pennsylvania on September 13, as guest speaker under the Office of the President’s Community Dialogue Series. Professor Ben-Porath is the author of Free Speech on Campus, our shared community reading for fall 2018.

Also, our campus will be a smoke-free environment as of January 1, 2019. The purpose of this new policy is to provide the Skidmore community with a healthy working and learning environment by limiting the potential exposure of students, faculty, staff and visitors to the effects of secondhand smoke. Beginning this fall, you’ll start to see signage appear around campus to communicate this new initiative.

In a world in which differences that separate people from one another can appear more salient than the underlying commonalities that unite us all, our work to educate informed, responsible, global citizens has never been more relevant. No matter what role each of us plays in the campus community, we each contribute to the fulfilment of our central educational mission. I encourage us to reaffirm our commitment to Skidmore’s mission and to understand the connections to one another in our ongoing work.