The most recent meeting of the Board of Trustees was one of the many events that helped bring the academic year to a successful close.
I have noted previously that the administration and Board share a concern for the impact of the cost of education. At the May Board plenary session, I discussed some of the key challenges facing Tufts as we seek to attract and support a diverse cohort of outstanding students and faculty, enhance financial aid, make needed investments in facilities and programs, and restrain growth in tuition costs. Using data from the College Board, we looked at trends in price and affordability at Tufts in comparison to the national cohort of four-year private institutions as well as at our key competitors, many of which have significantly larger per-student endowments. This presentation was intended to lay the groundwork for more detailed work on these issues starting within the administration this summer.
Admissions and financial aid were important topics of consideration across the weekend. At its business meeting, the full Board heard a comprehensive update on this year’s admissions results in all our schools, putting them in the context of longer-term trends in enrollment and academic strategy. The University Advancement Committee heard an update on admissions marketing at the undergraduate level and discussed plans for intensified fundraising to support scholarships and fellowships across the university.
On the recommendation of Administration and Finance Committee (A&F), the full Board approved the balanced budget presented by the administration for FY13. The Buildings and Grounds Committee and A&F have had fruitful discussions of capital planning and the use of the proceeds from our recent major bond offering. One important area for investment is in our business systems. Both the Academic Affairs Committee and A&F discussed the university’s proposed new research administration system, and A&F formally approved the capital expenditure necessary for this important commitment to our research infrastructure. The Audit Committee and the full Board reviewed the newly developed Risk Register, which will become a key management tool for ongoing assessment and mitigation of the full range of risks to which the university is exposed.
The Academic Affairs Committee considers key questions in student life as well as issues directly related to the faculty and academic programs. At this meeting, it met with Dean for Undergraduate and Graduate Students John Barker to hear his thoughts about how to strengthen undergraduates’ residential-campus experience, especially in their first two years at Tufts, while Jean Papalia, Director of Career Services for Arts and Sciences and Engineering, talked about trends in students’ internship and job-placement experiences and expectations. As at the May meeting each year, the Committee also reviewed a group of exceptional faculty promotions and tenure decisions that will enhance the university’s teaching and research for years to come.
The Board plenary also featured a very exciting presentation on ChildObesity180. Based at the Friedman School, this project has brought together a group of senior-level national leaders from multiple sectors to develop a strategic and coordinated portfolio of initiatives to prevent childhood obesity on a national scale. ChildObesity180 exemplifies Tufts’ ability to generate interdisciplinary solutions to challenging problems in health and society.
Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees Peter Dolan serves as Chair of ChildObesity180. His personal leadership in this arena is just one example of the great service our trustees render to the university. The outstanding quality of our Board governance is tremendously valuable to Tufts, and will be even more important as we work together to advance our mission in a challenging environment.