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Spelman College

President's Letter to the Community

Thanks for 2017

My Spelman Friends,

As 2017 comes to an end, our country is being re-shaped by profound changes. The revisions of the tax structure and the Higher Education Act (HEA), if passed, will have a definitive impact on families, individual students and every educational institution and not-for-profit in this country. In the midst of this turbulence, Spelman continued to ascend.

The College experienced significant improvements in virtually every national ranking that measures educational excellence. Some examples include:

  • U.S. News and World Report Best Liberal Arts Colleges (increase of 11 points)
  • The Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education College Rankings (No. 3 for student inspiration)
  • The Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education College Rankings (from No. 105 to No. 101)
  • HBCU rankings in The Wall Street Journal and U.S. News & World Report (No. 1 on both lists)
  • Institute for International Education Open Door rankings for study abroad (from No. 29 to No. 25)
  • Senator Paul Simon Award for Campus Internationalization

I write now to provide just a few highlights of the past year and to preview some of the ways in which we are thinking about securing our future in light of changes to the tax code and HEA.

Innovation is one of the four themes of the College's strategic plan and this year Spelman made several innovations under the umbrella of ARTS@Spelman. Our Innovation Lab, currently located in the Rockefeller Fine Arts building and directed by Dr. Jerry Volcy, Brown-Simmons Professor of Computer Science and faculty member in the computer and information sciences department, initiated a long-distance learning project between our Innovation Lab and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab, under the direction of Colin “Topper” Carew, Ph.D. The Media Lab website highlights our Spelman students designing digital musical instruments using microcontrollers.

Two new majors were added to the Department of Art and Visual Culture: documentary filmmaking and photography. Filmmaker Julie Dash and photographer Myra Greene joined the Spelman faculty. Jeanne Gang, founding principal of the architectural firm Studio Gang, has begun working with the College to plan the new Center for the Arts & Innovation that will house all of Spelman’s arts disciplines and the multi-disciplinary Innovation Lab.

In addition to the innovations in the arts, the College became one of the nation’s first Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation Campus Centers. Led by Dr. Cynthia Spence and Spelman students who are Social Justice Fellows, Spelman held a series of "Difficult Dialogues" with other local campuses.

Summers continue to provide opportunities for Spelman students to advance their studies and this year students spent time in climate change institute internships, social entrepreneurial incubators and biomedical sciences programs. They returned in the fall to research genes, win a corporate finance competition and produce arts podcasts. Amid their studies, they successfully advocated to stem the tide of food insecurity across the entire Atlanta University Center.

Spelman faculty continued to win important research awards that allow them to not only investigate topics in their field but involve Spelman students in research as well. Research grants included topics in materials science, in teaching teachers how to make use of data science and in the development of a major theatrical production. This year, the Office of the Provost published Faculty Excellence at Spelman College, a compendium of the outstanding work of some of our faculty. Our continuing expansion of global studies has been fueled, in part, by the expanding involvement of Spelman faculty in our study abroad programs.

As reported in the first end-of-year communication, staff completed the invaluable process mapping initiative. Our advancement team led a record-breaking fundraising initiative on #GivingTuesday to support the College’s strategic plan.

As I listened to the voices of Spelman and Morehouse College students during the 91st annual Christmas Carol Concert, I was reminded that our combined glee clubs, with their excellent and masterful performances, are symbolic of the educational excellence of our institutions. This year's performance was shared with the world as we streamed the concert live in the College’s first Facebook Live event. More than 675,000 viewers from around the world — including Dubai, the British Virgin Islands and Barbados — shattered all of the College’s previous social media records. In the new year, the two glee clubs will be featured once again. On January 19, 2018, they will perform in concert with renowned opera star Kathleen Battle and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra at the Woodruff Arts Center.

Last year also brought the voices of protest of our students from Spelman and Morehouse that called our attention to shortcomings that need to be addressed on our campus. As the new year begins, we will welcome a new president of Morehouse, David Thomas. President Thomas and I have already met to determine how we, along with Clark Atlanta University, can engage our campuses in productive conversations that will lead to safe communities that are models of mutual respect. We look forward to keeping you informed of those conversations and the action plans we expect to unfold from them.

In closing, I return to the subject of the massive legislative changes that are on the horizon. Please take a look at sample letters that we sent to our legislators that outline our concerns about pending legislation. As we face the future, Spelman plans to take a hard look in 2018 at key elements of our strategic plan. That includes forging new academic partnerships that allow us to provide clear career and professional pathways for our students; seeking support for our stellar faculty and staff; continuing our aggressive upgrade of our technology infrastructure; assessing our current business plan to make sure that it can withstand changes in the tax environment; and assessing our fundraising needs for the future.

I want to take this opportunity to thank publicly the phenomenal Spelman College Board of Trustees that has been a beacon for the College. They are actively engaged in the governance of the College and its future. Under the extraordinary leadership of Board Chair Rosalind Brewer, C'84, new group president and COO of Starbucks, and staffed seamlessly by Secretary of the College Dr. Terri Reed, the Board has steered the ship of Spelman with purpose, prudence and passion. My thanks to each and every one of them.

My thanks as well to the entire campus community — students, faculty and staff, to Spelman families who are our partners in the education of our students, and to our alumnae who sustain the bonds of sisterhood with their time, treasure, faith and love. We thank, too, all of the friends of Spelman for all that you do to keep our College moving forward.

May the holidays bring you time for rest, recharging and enjoying loved ones.

Warmest wishes,

Mary Schmidt Campbell, Ph.D.
President, Spelman College