While it seems not long ago that we were welcoming new students across the university, we are now embarked on the spring semester—a semester that will see continued innovation in teaching and research.
In December, following agreement in principle by the Boards of the university and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, we announced plans for the School of the Museum of Fine Arts (SMFA) to become part of Tufts on July 1, following final approval of definitive agreements. Making the SMFA part of our School of Arts and Sciences offers a unique and compelling opportunity to support and strengthen our academic mission. I am tremendously excited about this landmark agreement, which brings to Tufts an exemplary and highly distinctive arts program and builds on an existing academic relationship that dates back to 1944.
This fall the School of Arts and Sciences launched its new major in Film and Media Studies. The program has already generated strong student interest and reflects the energy on campus around interdisciplinary work in the arts and humanities—work which will be enhanced when the SMFA becomes part of Tufts.
Educational innovation at the graduate level includes a new M.S. in Innovation and Management, which the Gordon Institute will offer starting in fall 2016. This one-year program, targeted at recent graduates, will augment technical knowledge with skills in areas such as marketing, finance and product strategy, and leadership development.
To ensure our sustained academic momentum, the Schools continue to develop individual strategic plans within the framework provided by the university’s T10 strategic plan. The Cummings School refreshed its plan last summer, while the School of Engineering, the Friedman School, and Tisch College are working on new plans now.
We live in a world dominated by data, ninety percent of which was generated in just the last two years. The ability to leverage data will drive innovation in every sector of society—and most assuredly in higher education and research. I talked at greater length about Big Data, and its promise and challenges, in the Fall 2015 Tufts magazine. Last year, a university-wide faculty working group recommended that Tufts establish a cross-campus center for data-empowered research, and the Provost has now charged a planning group with taking the next steps. They are already at work to assess the needs of our faculty and students so that we can ensure a position of leadership for Tufts in this critical domain.
The excellence of our academic and cocurricular programs depends in very real ways on the strength of our community. On the Medford/Somerville campus, senior academic and administrative colleagues and I have had open and productive conversations with Black students about the concerns they shared last fall. Progress has already been made on a number of issues and we discussed collaborative and innovative ways to improve the compositional diversity of students and faculty. I know that everyone involved in those conversations is deeply committed to making Tufts a better place. We look forward to continuing this work across all campuses, under the guidance of Chief Diversity Officer and Associate Provost Mark Brimhall-Vargas.
In October, I had the pleasure of presenting Bill Gehling, now Senior Advisor in University Advancement, with the Hosea Ballou Medal in recognition of his exceptional service to the university, including fifteen years as Athletics Director. At a campus reception last month I presented the President’s Medal to former Mayor of Medford Michael McGlynn, a good friend to Tufts who recently completed twenty-eight years of dedicated service.
It was with great sadness that we learned of the passing on January 4 of Ambassador Stephen W. Bosworth, Dean Emeritus of The Fletcher School. As an academic leader and diplomat, he brought moral courage, personal integrity and a passion for scholarship, research and teaching to bear on many of the thorniest problems of our time, and our thoughts are with his family. A memorial will be held on Saturday, February 20; details are available in the Tufts Now tribute to him.
The fall and winter have seen significant progress on our major capital projects. In Medford, the newly redesigned and reconstructed Memorial Steps are now open, and we held a topping-off ceremony in mid-December for the Science and Engineering Complex. In Grafton, the renovation of the Foster Hospital for Small Animals at the Cummings School is well underway.
Tufts makes an impact not just on campus but across the nation and around the world. Last month, the federal government issued new U.S. Dietary Guidelines, which take the emphasis off single nutrients to focus more on dietary patterns. Three members of the Tufts faculty worked on the scientific report of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, and many are playing important parts in the ongoing public discussion about the final guidelines.
In September, Provost Harris appointed Professor Diana Chigas as Senior Advisor to the Provost on Global Strategy. Since then, she has worked with the community to identify university-wide geographic strengths and opportunities, as well as planning for the longer-term strategy of Tufts’ global activities. Earlier this month many of our senior academic leaders and I visited Hong Kong for Tufts Global Reach Hong Kong, the first in a new series of events bringing the best of Tufts today to alumni and friends around the world. We expect that this spring’s Tufts Global Reach program in London will be equally stimulating.
Last November, our Alumni Leadership Summit brought many of our most active and engaged graduates back to campus for a stimulating program. Thanks to the generous philanthropic support of alumni and friends, we continue to make strong progress in the Financial Aid Initiative; by the time it ends this summer, we hope to have raised more than $90 million in endowed scholarship funds university-wide over the course of four years.
The spring semester is always especially busy for students, faculty, and staff alike. I hope that it is productive for all of you.