As we begin the academic year, I would like to extend a warm welcome to our new faculty, staff, students and their families. Over the past few weeks I have met many of you across the university, including the undergraduate Class of 2020, and it is clear that your energy, talent, intellect, passion, and diversity of perspectives and experiences will enrich our vibrant community. It is particularly exciting for me to get to know those of you at the SMFA now that the School has become part of Tufts.
When I greet new students, I always encourage them to take advantage of the full range of intellectual opportunities across all of our schools. Harnessing the broad expertise of our faculty and students to address local and global challenges in innovative ways is a critical aspect of our university-wide T10 Strategic Plan, which builds on Tufts’ strengths to guide our academic priorities for the next decade. We are focused on identifying and supporting cross-school initiatives such as the Bridge Professorships. Dr. Jan P. de Ruiter, whose work in Cognitive Science spans the Psychology and Computer Science departments, joined us this summer; underway this fall is the search process for a Bridge Professor in Cyber Security and Policy between the Department of Computer Science and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. We are taking the next steps toward the creation of a Center for Computational and Data-Intensive Research to foster education, training, and research in statistics, computational science, and data science university-wide.
Last month the Provost announced two outstanding appointments to his leadership team. Simin Nikbin Meydani, Director of the USDA Jean Mayer Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (HNRCA), began her new responsibilities as Vice Provost for Research on a part-time basis on August 15, and will assume the office fully on October 1. Until then, she continues to serve as Director of the HNRCA. Diana Chigas, Professor of the Practice of International Negotiation and Conflict Resolution at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, is now Associate Provost and Senior International Officer. She will be responsible for engaging leaders across the schools to enhance Tufts’ outreach, impact and visibility internationally.
Investing in capital projects and renovations to our facilities is essential to supporting our academic mission. This summer was an especially busy time on our campuses. In Grafton, the new waiting/reception area of the expanded Foster Hospital for Small Animals will be available for clients later this month, and the whole project will be completed in December. We have broken ground on the new Equine Sports Medicine Complex, with completion expected in early 2017. On the Medford/Somerville campus, the annual cycle of residence hall upgrades continued as well as classroom upgrades. Work proceeded on the Central Energy Plant, scheduled to be complete in spring 2017, and the Science and Engineering Complex, which will be ready for occupancy next summer.
Like other institutions of higher education, Tufts continues to face the challenges of providing an outstanding education and supporting innovative research while moderating growth in tuition costs and broadening access. This balancing act has been harder since the recession, putting stress on the operating margins that allow us to make important programmatic and capital investments. The university’s planned budget for the fiscal year just ended was essentially breakeven. Over the course of the year, we saw improvement in operating results thanks to the responsible budgeting and spending of Schools and departments. The resulting overall surplus was still modest in relation to our total operating budget and the need for continued investment in academic programs and facilities, and we will continue to focus on careful management of our financial resources.
We are tremendously grateful to the many alumni, parents, and friends whose generous contributions play a critical role in allowing us to better support our students and faculty. Fundraising achievement for the fiscal year totaled $151 million, the highest it has been since 2008 and well ahead of our $125-million goal. The Financial Aid Initiative came to an end, surpassing its goals. Over the course of its four years, the Initiative raised more than $92 million for endowed financial aid across Tufts. Support for scholarships and fellowships will continue to be a fundraising priority for the university.
Tufts is deeply committed to the health and wellbeing of the campus community. This fall, I will launch and chair a new university-wide task force dedicated to student mental health. This group will assess policies and services in light of evolving needs to make sure that we are providing the resources and support that our undergraduates and graduate and professional students need. I am very pleased that Dr. Paul Summergrad, chair of the Department of Psychiatry at the School of Medicine and Tufts Medical Center, and a past President of the American Psychiatric Association, has agreed to serve as co-chair of this group, which will engage students, faculty, and staff.
Tufts benefits from a tradition of active citizenship and civic engagement that is truly unique. For more than 150 years, Jumbos have been working to address the critical needs of communities near and far. Active civic participation is an indispensable starting point for this effort. The JumboVote initiative through Tisch College will facilitate registration and voting so that eligible members of the university community can cast their ballots and get engaged in the electoral process.
As always, the fall semester will see a tremendous range of activities on all our campuses. Later this month, we will formally rededicate South Hall on the Medford/Somerville campus in honor of trustee emeritus Bernard W. Harleston, who has been a respected and beloved member of the Tufts community since he arrived here in 1956 as the first African American hired to a tenure-track position at Tufts. I hope you will join us at Harleston Hall at 12:30p.m. on Friday, September 23, to celebrate Bernie’s many contributions to the university.
I look forward to the achievements of our students, faculty and staff this academic year, and the progress we will make on exciting academic initiatives and the administrative and facilities improvements to achieve our university goals.