Looking out my office window in Hopkins Hall, the mountains have shifted into the reds, oranges, yellows and umbers of fall. A New England autumn has a rooted, calm beauty that welcomes each viewer on equal terms. Williams is in its element at this time of year.
Fall often symbolizes the end of a season. However, I see it as a renewal—a time when the world slows down in order to muster its resources for the beginning of a new, vital season.
In the fall Williams published a Strategic Plan that lays the groundwork for the college’s flourishing over the next 10 to 15 years. You’ll find it at the strategic plan website. It describes how we’ll nurture our academic strengths and tap the full educational potential of residential life and our co-curriculum. How we’ll branch out into new commitments in sustainability and diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility. And how we’ll deepen the roots and reinforce the structures of a great college: the people, programs and facilities that give Williams substance.
These processes are already underway. For example, at its October meeting our Board of Trustees voted to begin the design phase of a new Williams College Museum of Art and launch our planned expansion and renovation of the Davis Center, enhancing intellectual, creative and social life on campus. Faculty members are exploring exciting new curricular possibilities. We’re growing our commitments to financial access and affordability for all families, finding new ways to engage alumni in our educational mission, and setting focused sustainability goals for the future. We’re also celebrating 50 years of Williams co-education, shining light on our women leaders.
I’m seeing renewed enthusiasm supplanting the sense of loss we felt during the early months of the pandemic. My colleagues and I have repeatedly been inspired to hear students, faculty and staff express their fresh appreciation for the joys of in-person learning.
There are still plenty of challenges, including a tough labor market, supply-chain disruptions and evolving employee expectations for remote work. Our student body has been profoundly affected by the events of the last several years, and the board devoted time in October to what I expect will be a continuing discussion about mental health on campus.
We should not be daunted by such challenges, given the extraordinary resources that we can bring to bear on our mission: people with great minds and real heart; students hungry for learning; an enviable tradition of alumni partnership; and a commitment to the long-term stewardship of our financial assets in support of our liberal arts mission.
As a time of transition, fall can feel bittersweet. But, to me, it is a harbinger of the many springs to come. A time to nourish the soil, prune a twig or two, deepen the roots and prepare for a new season of growth—for the world, and for Williams.