As we begin the new semester, we can be proud of all that our students, faculty, and staff have achieved already during this academic year. Activities across all our campuses last semester reflected the dynamism and impact of the university’s work. Together, we welcomed international leaders to Tufts; launched an unprecedented effort to facilitate students’ participation in the Presidential election; performed brilliantly in arenas from athletics to drama; and learned more about the shared history linking Tufts’ early benefactors and America’s nineteenth-century movements for social justice.
We continue to innovate in teaching, scholarship and research through exciting academic initiatives and thoughtful strategic planning. In November, the Friedman School launched its Strategic Plan, which will enhance the School’s impact by further strengthening its unique stature as a source of both trusted nutrition science and leadership in policy and the academy. Our cross-School initiatives will benefit from the creation of a new university-wide Faculty Senate, whose establishment was approved by the university’s trustees at their November meeting. The faculty and students at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, in its first semester as part of Tufts, have shown themselves eager to collaborate with our other schools.
Tufts is a student-centered research university, and supporting our students remains a personal priority for me just as it is for our faculty and staff. We have now launched the Task Force on Student Mental Health, and I am grateful to the members from across Tufts who are actively engaged in its work. We are now finalizing the membership and charge of the committee to review the culture of undergraduate student life—information on whose work will be posted on the President’s website as available. It is essential that all our students have the opportunity to pursue their studies as full members of the Tufts community, and in November I affirmed our support for our DACA and undocumented students, reflecting our mission and values as a university. [NOTE: On January 29, 2017, I shared a message about supporting and protecting the international members of our community.] A search for our next chief diversity officer will begin shortly; Robin Glover, associate dean for public health and professional degree programs at the School of Medicine, will serve in the role on an interim basis for the Boston and Grafton campuses, while Professor Ellen Pinderhughes of the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development will serve on an interim basis for the Medford/Somerville campus.
We are fortunate to benefit from the dedication of exceptional faculty. Congratulations to Professor Athena Papas, head of the division of oral medicine at the School of Dental Medicine, whose appointment as one of the university’s Distinguished Professors was recognized in December. At the same ceremony, the School presented its Dean’s Medal to two alumnae who went on to have illustrious careers on its faculty, Professor Hilde Tillman and the late Dr. Esther Wilkins, who had passed away just a few days before, shortly after her 100th birthday.
Looking ahead, supporting our students and faculty will continue to require the active engagement of our dedicated alumni and friends around the world. I am grateful to all those who have already supported Tufts generously this year, especially on our very successful #GivingTuesday. Gifts for capital projects are helping make possible such exciting accomplishments as the renovation and expansion of the Foster Hospital for Small Animals at the Cummings School in Grafton, whose new reception area opened in October. The latest in a series of major gifts to the university from the Jaharis Family Foundation is making possible the renovation and expansion of the anatomy laboratory that serves medical and dental students on the Boston health sciences campus while also easing the debt burden on students specializing in family medicine.
On the Medford/Somerville campus, construction moved ahead through the fall on both the Central Energy Plant and the Science and Engineering Complex. In December, I joined Presidential colleagues from universities around the country in calling on our national leaders to accelerate progress toward a clean-energy future, and this semester we will relaunch the Sustainability Council to ensure continued focus on the environmental responsibility of our own campus operations.
I hope that all of you are as excited as I am about the prospects for Tufts. The spring semester—always a busy and exciting time—is sure to see even more notable developments as we work together to advance our academic mission.