This past month, we celebrated Commencement—a time when the Tufts community gathers to honor accomplishments on what is truly the happiest day of the academic calendar. During this year’s ceremony, our graduates heard from Claude Steele, author of Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do. In his address, Dr. Steele encouraged our graduates to “ask for directions” from those around them, to “let in” new ideas and acknowledge what they don’t know, and to take advantage of the best that collaborative learning has to offer.
This year at Tufts, we have undertaken a strategic planning effort – Tufts: The Next 10 Years – inviting engagement from across the university in order to chart a course for our future. In March, Provost David Harris released the “Prelude to the Strategic Plan” outlining challenges, opportunities, and possible new directions, and inviting feedback. The T10 efforts have drawn on the work of the President’s Council on Diversity with respect to diversity, climate, and inclusion at Tufts. In the spring, the Council released preliminary recommendations on the undergraduate experience and invited comments. The Council will soon release their preliminary report and recommendations on the graduate and professional student experience and the faculty and staff issues. After integrating feedback from the Tufts community, both the T10 strategic plan and the Diversity Council final report will be released this November.
Campus sustainability is another strategic area in which we have made considerable progress this year. In May, the President’s Campus Sustainability Council released its final recommendations; Vice President of Operations Linda Snyder will generate an implementation plan to meet the goals of the report. Sustainability will play a major part in our capital planning. Executive Vice President Patricia Campbell is leading development of a five-year capital blueprint, which the Board of Trustees will review at its November meeting. Thanks to this collaborative work between faculty, staff and students, we will remain at the forefront of sustainable practices in campus and community contexts. This spring, the Tufts Effectiveness in Administrative Management (TEAM) Project released a preliminary outline of opportunities to increase administrative effectiveness and efficiency across the university. This thoughtful effort to streamline our administrative structures and practices will be instrumental as we map out our next ten years and beyond, and is an essential part of our response to the challenges posed by the rising costs of higher education.
Over the course of the academic year we have also experienced several leadership transitions. Most recently, Provost David Harris announced the appointment of Alan D. Solomont, A70, A08P, currently serving as U.S. Ambassador to Spain and Andorra, as the Pierre and Pamela Omidyar Dean of the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service. Ambassador Solomont will succeed Nancy Wilson, who has served with distinction as Dean ad interim since 2011. A Tufts alumnus, Trustee Emeritus, and founding chair of the Board of Advisors of Tisch College, Ambassador Solomont is uniquely positioned to be the new leader of Tisch College. At the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Dean Stephen Bosworth, who has provided outstanding service for the last twelve years, announced his retirement in the fall. After an extensive search process, the Provost announced the appointment of Admiral James Stavridis, F83, F84, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe, as the new Dean of the Fletcher School. We are excited to have Admiral Stavridis, who earned his Ph.D. from the Fletcher School, returning to take the helm at Fletcher. We also announced earlier this year the appointment of The Reverend Gregory McGonigle, currently serving as the Director of the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life at Oberlin College, as Tufts’ next University Chaplain.
In addition to new leaders and faculty, we are excited to welcome the undergraduate Class of 2017 in the fall. Our applications increased by over 12% this year, reflecting a continued rise in the desirability of a Tufts educational experience to the world’s brightest students. As a result, this was the most selective year in our history with an acceptance rate of less than 19%. Thanks to many generous alumni and friends, we have made great progress in our university-wide Financial Aid Initiative to raise additional scholarship funds. Among our graduates this year were the first in the School of Medicine’s Maine Track Program, now in its third year. Reserved for students with ties to Maine, the program works to fill the need for healthcare professionals in Maine, especially in rural parts of the state.
This year, as every year, there were many reasons for our community to celebrate and engage in thoughtful intellectual activity and debate. We started off the academic year highlighting the music, dance, and traditions of Northern Ghana by hosting the 3-day World Damba Festival. In February the Tufts Beelzebubs celebrated their 50th anniversary, as did the Jackson Jills. David Walt, the Robinson Professor of Chemistry, was recognized for outstanding teaching and scholarship when he was named to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences this spring. Internally, we are proud to recognize our outstanding faculty, including Professor Charles Inouye, who received the Lillian and Joseph Leibner Award for outstanding teaching and advising. Our athletic teams also celebrated major victories this year. The Women’s Softball Team made Tufts history by winning the 2013 NCAA Division III Championships. Their victory followed another triumph for the Jumbos when the Field Hockey Team won the 2012 NCAA Division III Championships in the fall.
Reflections on our great accomplishments this year are inevitably contrasted by memories of the Boston Marathon Bombings and their paralyzing aftermath. The members of the Tufts Marathon Team and our whole university community felt the pain and loss of the horrific events, but I was filled with tremendous pride in the way our community responded to the situation. Since the bombings, we have reviewed our emergency policies, procedures, and communications in order to ensure the continued safety and wellbeing of the community on all of our campuses.
While there were other challenges as well, including both Hurricane Sandy and the February Blizzard “Nemo,” the past year has been one of intense activity for our community. We began to carefully craft our future strategy, capital investments and operating practices. We confronted difficult problems—both anticipated and unanticipated—and we have continued a communal journey of intellectual pursuits, active citizenship, and global impact. I remain energized about our potential to enhance Tufts’ impact as an academic institution in the years to come. I wish everyone a thoughtful and restful summer as we look forward to an exciting and productive year ahead.