President Greene delivers State of College address

On Oct. 28, the College held its annual State of the College President’s Address. Members of the Colby community gathered in Page Commons to learn about the College’s progress in the past year as well as future plans. The event, which is in part organized by the Student Government Association (SGA), commenced with opening remarks from SGA Vice President Thomas LaJoie `20, who went on to welcome President David Greene to the stage. 

Early in his address, Greene discussed the topic of investment in academic programs. The President highlighted several initiatives and programs currently funded by the College such as the new Pulver Science Scholars Program, which, beginning with the class of 2024, will give ten incoming students scholarships to pursue the sciences at Colby and external partnerships. The President placed a heavy emphasis on the College’s partnerships various labs, non-profits, and companies. 

“These partnerships allow students and faculty to have experiences rarely found at schools the size of Colby,” Greene said. 

Greene also unveiled two new construction projects: The Gordon Center for Creative Arts, which will replace Runnals Union as the home of Colby’s Theater and Dance department, and the Paul J. Schupf Arts Center in downtown Waterville.

 The Gordon Center for Creative Arts will boast a large-capacity theater, multiple dance studios, and practice rooms for music groups. Construction is anticipated to begin the fall of 2020 on the Mary Low lot. Upon completion, Runnals Union will be converted to an academic building. 

The Paul J. Schupf Arts Center will be a 32,000 square feet building. It will include an art gallery and multiple film screening rooms. In his address, Greene said that he hopes the center will provide the downtown community with more common spaces to engage with one another. 

The President also revealed that the College is in search of a new director for the Goldfarb Center for Public Affairs. He expressed his desire to expand on teaching public policy. Shortly afterward, Greene took some time to acknowledge the controversy around former governor Paul LePage’s visit to the college on Oct. 23.

“I thought the way it was handled by the students was terrific,” he said, adding that the students expressed their dissent very respectfully. 

Colby’s financial aid program was the next highlight. Greene underscored the College’s dedication to meet 100 percent of students’ demonstrated need. Since the start of Greene’s tenure in 2014, the budget for financial aid has ballooned from $28 million a year to $46 million. The generous financial aid program is often cited as a contributing factor in the spike in the number of applicants to the College in recent years. The more diverse applicant pool has in turn also increased the number of pell-eligible, first-generation, and students of color enrolling at Colby.

President Greene pointed out Colby’s partnership with QuestBridge, a non-profit that helps link low-income students with scholarship opportunities at prestigious American colleges and universities. The partnership started four years ago and has welcomed 145 QuestBridge scholars to Colby so far, making Colby the liberal arts college with the most QuestBridge scholars. 

The President also talked about accessibility around campus. Greene touted that the College now has full-time staff devoted to student accessibility. The most recent major undertaking was the construction on Runnals Walk over the summer. The ground was raised to be level with Mary Low, Coburn, and Foss. The area was also filled in to become a pedestrian walkway with cafe-style seating and granite benches.

President Greene emphasized the importance for students to have areas to interact with each other. He also indicated that there are future plans to do something similar with walks by Cotter Union and Bixler. 

In addition to changes occuring at the College, Greene presented a bigger picture on current economic woes in Maine. The state currently has a negative population growth rate and is struggling to attract outside investment. Greene called attention to the release of a recent report on Colby’s economic impact on Waterville.

The forum ended with a Q&A session where students had the opportunity to ask questions to the President directly. Many students voiced worries for maintaining carbon neutrality with the various construction projects. Other students were also concerned about the expected loss of parking when the new buildings are completed. Greene recognized these apprehensions and noted students will be offered parking in a farther location. 

When asked by the Echo what he thought about his reputation for making sweeping or “dramatic” reforms, Greene replied, “No matter what it takes, I work everyday to make Colby a better place.”

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