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Spelman College

President's Letter to the Community

Welcome Back!

August 11, 2016

Welcome Back!

We return to campus at an auspicious moment—in the midst of a hotly contested national election. Elections, a time to take stock of where we are as a nation and where we believe we need to be heading, remind us of the value of a liberal arts education. They remind us that as Spelman prepares students to become scientists, humanists, artists, social scientists, entrepreneurs, and leaders, we are also preparing our students to become citizens as well. And citizenship, as this election cycle has made clear, requires all of the skills of a liberal arts education. Critical thinking, the capacity to probe complexity and contradictions, to summon evidence, to write and speak truth are national necessities.

I welcome you back, too, at a momentous time for me, my first anniversary as president. I begin my second year on the cusp of a new strategic plan for the College. With your input, our new plan, currently in development, will be a covenant that forges among the president, the Spelman community and the Board of Trustees a set of shared goals. By the time we present a completed document to the Board in January of 2017, we will have identified the chief academic priorities that we believe will allow Spelman to continue to soar. And the plan will represent our agreement on how resources—human, intellectual and financial—will be focused on the next five years to realize the plan’s goals. Please take a moment to provide your feedback via Spelman’s Strategic Planning website and have your voice count as we continue the planning process this semester.

We know that our new strategic plan will include a focus on Title IX policies and practices. My first year as president of Spelman introduced me to the work that needed to be done to strengthen and expand our Title IX policies and practices. Much of the summer was devoted to that work. I have attached as separate documents, a Title IX update and the schedule of student events compiled by our new dean of students, Dr. Fran’Cee Brown-McClure. After the fall break, my office will circulate another Title IX update so that the community can stay abreast of our progress.

Last year Spelman continued to gain ground as a high performing liberal arts school. We experienced a record number of applications, more than 8,000 (including transfers) that gave us a selectivity rate of 35 percent. This fall we welcome nearly 570 new students, including Pauline E. Drake scholars and transfers. We experienced a significant increase in the number of students studying abroad last year, 402, up from 367. Altogether our students, often accompanied by faculty, studied in 35 countries, on five continents—South America, North America, Europe, Asia and Africa.

In national rankings we continue to gain ground. Spelman ranked No. 1 among the 10 historically Black colleges and universities with the highest four-year graduation rates. The College was also ranked the No.1 HBCU on Forbes 2016 list of America’s best colleges. Spelman holds the No. 2 spot for the Peace Corps top volunteer producing HBCUs, and the College’s Wellness Center was named to the Great Value College’s list of 20 Great Recreation Centers at Small Colleges.

Two important task forces will be at work this year. A task force on emergency planning, chaired by Dr. Darnita Killian, C’79, vice president for Student Affairs. She will work with Public Safety and other stakeholders to develop a set of protocols and procedures for students, faculty and staff to follow in the event of an emergency. Ingrid Hayes, vice president for Enrollment Management will convene a task force that makes a recommendation to the president on the admission and enrollment of transgender students. We anticipate a report from both groups by the end of the academic year.

In closing, I share with you some of the special events that will take place on campus this year. These are in addition to the already exciting slate of regularly scheduled events on campus. Please be on the lookout for announcements throughout the year.   

  • To call attention to voter registration, on August 25, award-winning playwright Pearl Cleage, C’71, will host a sunup to sundown voter registration event on campus designed to register 1,000 new voters.
  • As I did last year, I am hosting a President’s Book Circle this year. We will read Alice Walker’s trilogy of novels — "The Color Purple," "The Temple of My Familiar" and "Possessing the Secret of Joy."  A total of 25 students will be selected through an application process.
  • Ms. Walker will join us on campus as the Mellon Artist-in-Residence from October 4-6. While she is on campus, she will deliver a public convocation, attend selected classes and pay a visit to the President’s Book Circle.
  • On October 15, as an outcome of a letter signed by a group of HBCU presidents, including me, calling for peace and unity, the College will host a colloquium on gun violence. This opportunity for exploration and discussion around the root, effects and solutions to this pervasive issue will include the entire Spelman community, particularly our Social Justice Fellows, as well as our local health and civic partners.
  • You may recall that dancer/choreographer Dianne McIntyre, our distinguished visiting scholar on campus last year, choreographed a piece for the Dance Theatre of Harlem that included our Spelman College Glee Club. I am happy to report that Ms. McIntyre’s work, a collaboration among her, the Dance Theatre of Harlem and the Spelman College Glee Club, will be presented this fall at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre October 22-23. Student discounts will be available.
  • We welcome a new distinguished visiting scholar, photographer Myra Greene, to Spelman. Having created benign portraits of cross sections of white American life in her book titled “My White Friends,” Ms. Greene explores photographic processes that engage issues about the body, memory, the absorption of culture, and the ever-shifting identity of African Americans. She is a recipient of the Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Photography and her works hang in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston.

I hope you join me in my excitement for all that the 2016-2017 academic year will bring. Welcome back, and I look forward to seeing you on campus soon!

Mary Schmidt Campbell

Mary Schmidt Campbell, Ph.D.
Spelman College
350 Spelman Lane, SW
Atlanta, GA 30314-4399