It has been an exciting and memorable first semester for me at Tufts, and I thank everyone in the Tufts community for the warm welcome they have given the Monaco family. I am very grateful that, beginning with a beautiful matriculation weekend right through to the pomp of the inauguration, I had the opportunity to meet so many students, their parents, and faculty and staff on all three campuses. The inauguration itself was an experience I will cherish forever as a celebration of all that Tufts has accomplished in its long history, an occasion for personal reflection and a moment to define our shared aspirations for the future.
My first semester has been most remarkable for the frequent opportunities it has given me to engage with our students. I have had many inspiring conversations with both undergraduate and graduate students over meals at Carmichael, Dewick and the Mayer Campus Center. I have been energized by their passion for their academic pursuits as well as the arts, athletics and active citizenship. How they find the time and the energy to fit all their activities into an average day at Tufts remains a mystery! Thank you for inviting me to so many of these activities, where I enjoy seeing your talents in action—and sometimes even participating.
I have also been on the road this semester on my “listening tour,” meeting alumni and friends of Tufts as well as parents of current students. We have already held well-attended events in Washington, D.C., New York City, Boston, London, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Honolulu. Additional events are planned next semester both in the U.S. and abroad, and I will be making more of these visits in the future. It has been wonderful to hear our graduates’ thoughts on all aspects of university life and to see firsthand the passion and loyalty they feel for Tufts. That Jumbo passion and loyalty was exemplified for me by one particular graduate I met on the tour: a centenarian member of the Dental Class of 1935, with whom I had a most memorable and inspiring conversation.
In November, I had my first meeting with the Board of Trustees, where we covered many aspects of Tufts’ academic and administrative affairs. I have also spent much of my first semester getting to know each trustee on a personal level in order to build the working relationships that support strong governance. I have been thoroughly impressed by their dedication and enthusiasm for Tufts and their commitment to supporting us as we move Tufts to even greater achievements.
I’m delighted that during inauguration week, we were able to emphasize the academic strengths of this great university by holding a symposium on child development. Speakers from across Tufts showed how our faculty members in many disciplines are contributing to the world’s understanding of the complexities of human development. Last semester, a number of forums deepened my appreciation of the extraordinary research done by our faculty and students. These included focused research presentations at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, and the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging. I anticipate many more such learning opportunities this term. I have joined the board of the Tufts Medical Center and look forward to helping better integrate translational research from the Tufts University School of Medicine and all our schools with our affiliated teaching hospitals.
I also had a busy fall working on our academic agenda with the provost, deans and faculty. Together, we are developing strategies that will allow Tufts to have the greatest possible impact on challenges of the 21st century, through its teaching, research and active citizenship. We are in the process of identifying particular thematic areas where interdisciplinary research and graduate education will position Tufts especially well for continued academic excellence and international leadership. Working groups will begin to meet this semester to map our current activities in these areas and assess the most promising opportunities for future exploration. We have also completed an external review of our technology transfer office, which affirmed Tufts’ comparative strength in moving the innovations developed here into the marketplace. At the same time, the review suggested new opportunities to extend the influence of our research.
Tufts’ ability to lead the way toward new solutions to old problems was underscored in 2011 when the World Peace Foundation chose the Fletcher School as its new home, deciding this was the right place to advance its intellectual leadership on issues of peace and justice. In November, thanks to a $6.9 million grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, we also launched ChildObesity180. Led by faculty members Chris Economos and Mim Nelson of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, and Peter Dolan, vice chair of our Board of Trustees, ChildObesity180 is an innovative new program that addresses one of the country’s most critical social and public health concerns, the fact that childhood obesity has more than tripled in the last three decades.
As I indicated at the beginning of last semester, I have made a personal commitment to two issues of university-wide importance: diversity and sustainability. Thanks to the hard work of a number of students, faculty members and colleagues in administration, we will soon be announcing the membership of the President’s Council on Campus Sustainability. The council expects to hold its first meeting at the end of this month and will include separate working groups focused on strategies for carbon emissions, waste and water management across all three campuses. The President’s Council on Diversity will launch shortly thereafter, with separate working groups focused on the undergraduate experience, the professional school and graduate student experience, and administrative policies and faculty and staff diversity issues.
My senior leadership team and I have also been laying the groundwork for the development of a university-wide strategic plan that includes the input of the entire Tufts community. In the meantime, I would like to thank the many faculty and staff who have been actively engaged with a number of reaccreditation efforts, not only the comprehensive institutional review by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges scheduled for 2013, but also the successfully completed reviews of the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine and the School of Engineering.
We are currently working hard on the university budget for 2012–13. Unfortunately, during this past semester, there was no respite from the uncertainties of the external economy. So we seek to balance realistic and prudent expenditure forecasts with investments that enable forward momentum in critical areas such as financial aid and faculty support. We will continue to focus on key strategic priorities in each school as our talented and dedicated staff help to manage our risks. One important strategic investment, now well underway, is the implementation of a new Student Information System (SIS) to replace our very old system. I am happy to report that this immensely complicated endeavor is both on schedule and on budget, thanks to the extraordinary collaboration across all our schools and divisions.
In my first semester, I was very fortunate to be working alongside a dedicated senior leadership team, which has helped me enormously as I learn to navigate this wide-ranging institution. Provost and Senior Vice President ad interim Peggy Newell and her colleagues in the Provost’s Office have made invaluable contributions to our strategy going forward. The Provost Search Committee is continuing its work this semester with the expectation of the appointment of a new provost this summer.
In other transitions, Senior Vice President for University Advancement Brian Lee announced in December he would be leaving Tufts after 25 years to become vice president for development and institute relations at the California Institute of Technology this spring. We wish him the best and thank him for his dedication to Tufts, which culminated in the successful completion of the Beyond Boundaries campaign last summer. I have appointed Executive Director of Development Eric Johnson as vice president for University Advancement ad interim, effective March 1. Eric will assume leadership of our great advancement team, which has helped us build such strong relationships with generous donors and volunteers who believe intensely in Tufts’ mission.
Clearly, that mission includes developing the entire student, physically, emotionally and intellectually, so I want to mention a few things we are doing to promote health and fitness in the Tufts community. First, congratulations to everyone participating in the Tufts Marathon Team and the Trek to Talloires, and thanks to those who have volunteered to help on Marathon Monday in April. I know we all eagerly await the completion of the new Steve Tisch Sports and Fitness Center, due to open in September. It will double the size of the fitness facilities for use by the Tufts community as well as provide Tufts athletes with state-of-the-art locker rooms, teaching rooms, coaching offices and facilities for sports medicine.
No question, we had an exciting fall season of sports at Tufts. I have already attended some of the winter athletic events and look forward to the upcoming spring sports. As much as I have enjoyed watching the athletic feats of our students, it has been just as enjoyable to see so many members of the Tufts community attend the meets and games in support of our Jumbo athletes. I would like to mention in particular the Fan the Fire activities, which are being held at many of our sporting events to celebrate Tufts athletics—and the important role they play in inspiring school spirit. Once again, I have been struck by the incredible warmth of the Tufts community and feel privileged to be part of it.
It has been an inspiring first semester, and I look forward to working with all of you, on campus and around the world, as we advance Tufts and its mission.