President Alison Byerly emailed the following message Sept. 2, 2015:
Dear Members of the Lafayette Community,
Our beautiful campus has come to life once again, and the signs of summer’s passing and the beginning of a new academic year are everywhere. I’m especially excited because I believe this is a moment of tremendous opportunity for Lafayette, and I’d like to share with you why I believe that to be the case.
The world is demanding the type of education that gives students the breadth, depth, flexibility, and analytic skills that will serve them well in a wide range of careers, and one that provides them with the experience of living and working alongside diverse peers within an engaged community. Here at Lafayette, our distinctive combination of liberal arts and engineering, the close interaction and mentoring students receive from faculty, and the strong community of support that we build on campus and beyond offer precisely that.
Last year we launched the public phase of an ambitious fundraising initiative that builds on those strengths. Our “Live Connected, Lead Change” campaign will secure the resources that will enable us to create a seamless, holistic educational experience that exemplifies the value of an education that takes place not only in the classroom, but on playing fields, in residence halls, in theaters, in the local community, and around the globe—the very model of what a relevant undergraduate education looks like in the 21st century.
We are already seeing the impact of the campaign across campus in the beautiful new Oechsle Center for Global Education, the arts buildings that have completely reshaped the entrance to the College on North Third Street, and new faculty positions that allow us to deepen and expand our curriculum.
But perhaps the most important impact is in the increased diversity and quality of the student body. Our last two classes have been both the most diverse and the most academically qualified in the College’s history, a wonderful combination that is a direct result of our capacity to offer financial support.
This talented group of students will be supported through the new Connected Communities Program, which provides a framework to help students build strong networks and productive habits in their first year. This fall, all new students are assigned to one of five Commons, comprised of a single residence hall or adjacent halls, which serve as the foundation for their first-year community. Commons will gather throughout the year for special events and speakers, compete in first-year intramural sports, host socials for Commons members, and forge unique identities and traditions that will make each one a welcoming community within the larger Lafayette student body. Each Commons has a cohort of upper-level peer advisors to help new students navigate the first-year experience, including Orientation Leaders, Resident Advisers, and new mentors called PARDners.
The Commons that will help launch students on their Lafayette journey are named for five ships on which the Marquis de Lafayette sailed to and from America during the Revolutionary War, and on the final journey in 1824 that inspired the citizens of Easton to name their new college in his honor. They are L’Hermione, La Victoire, Cadmus, Brandywine, and Alliance. You can learn more about the Commons here: https://news.lafayette.edu/2015/08/31/common-knowledge/
Even as we pursue our ambitious goals and celebrate the programmatic enhancements that the capital campaign will bring, we are also working to strengthen the scaffolding on which this new vision of the College is built. Last spring, we began to focus our attention on a set of budgetary and structural parameters that are critical to our future competitiveness—student profile, faculty resources, enrollment size, endowment per student, tuition level, and financial aid capacity. Our goal for this year is to develop a long-term budget model that reflects our priorities in these areas, and allows us to focus our resources in a way that supports our long-term strategic direction.
Accordingly, we are appointing three short-term, targeted working groups to develop specific recommendations in three key areas: enrollment size, faculty resources, and financial aid capacity. These recommendations will be refined through incorporation into a comprehensive and interactive budget model, allowing us to test different scenarios that balance these parameters or priorities in different ways. At the same time, we will review our operational costs across the College to ensure that we are using our resources as effectively as possible.
This is unquestionably a powerful moment for Lafayette, a time when the College is running on all cylinders. Applications have hit record numbers, student quality has never been higher, and the College has earned national recognition in a number of arenas. In today’s highly competitive higher education landscape, however, it is important that we look critically and strategically not only at what we do, but how we do it, in order to ensure that our model of education is competitive, sustainable, and true to our mission.
I look forward to keeping you informed of the progress of these ongoing discussions, as well as the results of initiatives already underway. Even without a game at Yankee Stadium this year, this is an exciting time for Lafayette!