The university’s Board of Trustees gathered for a series of virtual committee and full board meetings in late January and early February. During the plenary session, the board heard the initial results of the comprehensive effort to imagine Tufts as an Anti-Racist Institution. The workstream co-chairs joined this session which explored the accomplishments thus far and the work ahead of us to achieve the goals I know each of you share. The trustees provided their feedback on the five workstream reports and supported the university’s goal of developing implementation plans for the workstream recommendations.
The Academic Affairs Committee approved a new MS in Biomedical Management. This innovative program leverages the academic strengths of the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences to offer outstanding training in biomedical sciences and pharmacology, combined with additional training in management and business through the Tufts Gordon Institute. The program includes internship experiences and management courses that provide a competitive edge for those looking to break into biotech, pharma, or science management.
The Student Affairs Subcommittee heard a report from Provost Aubry regarding the data on how Tufts graduates fare in career placement within six months of graduation. The university has put additional focus within the past year on offering virtual career fairs, increasing alumni engagement on the HERD alumni mentoring platform, rolling out a new career services website for undergraduates, and increasing communications to students.
At the Committee for University Advancement meeting, the administration presented a proposal to launch the Women’s Impact Initiative with the goal of encouraging the women of Tufts to lead, give, and inspire others to engage fully as leaders in the university community. The committee members also discussed the current challenges in fundraising for higher education but was pleased to hear of the success of Giving Tuesday which saw a 30% increase in total dollars raised driven by challenge gifts and the opportunity for targeted giving.
Since last year, I have been reporting on the ways the university is supporting its host communities in facing the challenges of the pandemic. The committee heard a report on the university’s collaboration with the cities of Medford and Somerville to launch a new COVID-19 pooled-testing program for students, teachers, and staff of K-12 schools.
Given the financial impact the pandemic has had on institutional budgets, the Administration and Finance Committee met over two sessions to review the budget projections through the current fiscal year, begin to develop a 10-year integrated plan for capital and operating priorities, and lay the foundation for access to capital to support them. Several levels of borrowing were discussed for housing and dining facilities; major academic building improvements on the Medford-Somerville campus; and anticipatory borrowing for future capital projects for clinical facilities, athletics, laboratory renovation, and de-carbonization projects. Operating budget investments will be needed to support recommendations coming from diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives; startup costs needed to advance online and alternative education strategies; the cost of research; clinical service expansion; and environmental sustainability.
Most noteworthy, the committee voted to approve the recommendation of the Investment Committee to prohibit direct investments in coal and tar sands companies as part of a multi-part commitment to advance sustainability and address the urgent crisis of climate change. As part of this commitment, the university will invest up to $25 million in positive impact funds related to climate change over five years and proactively call on external investment managers to take environmental, social, and governance considerations into account in their investment processes. The trustees and I want to express our gratitude to students, faculty, and staff of the Responsible Investment Advisory Group (RIAG) who convened throughout the fall of 2020 to study this issue.
This action dovetails with the agenda of the Buildings and Grounds Committee which discussed the university’s multi-faceted commitment to the environment and sustainability goals. The Joyce Cummings Center, expected to be completed next year, will achieve an aggressive energy reduction target when completed.
I know you all join me in expressing our appreciation to the members of the Board of Trustees who bring their professional expertise as fiduciaries of the university and their deep dedication to the work of the board to make Tufts University an exemplar in higher education.