President Greene delivers State of the College address

On February 11, the Student Government Association (SGA), in conjunction with the President’s of- fice, hosted the State of the College Address; an open forum intended to help inform the community on overarching goals, missions, and plans for the College. In front of a large student audience, Student Body President, Michael Loginoff ’16, and Vice-President Brittany Chin ’16, began the forum by addressing the issues facing the student body.

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President David A. Greene addresses students at the State of the College — Photo by Kiernan Somers

Both Loginoff and Chin reiterated that one of their primary concerns is the necessity to reduce dorm vandalism, known more familiarly across campus as “dorm damage.” This year in particular, the occurrence of false fire alarm pulls has spiked. Student leaders called for a renewed effort to respect our “home” and a rededication of the Colby Affirmation. Developed in 2013, the Colby Affirmation, which bears the tagline, “Be a Mule, not an Ass,” intended to promote respect across all levels of the Colby community. In addition to outlining plans to decrease dorm damage, SGA announced initiatives that focused on masculinity and the role of males in the community, strengthening ties with the Waterville community, and increased engagement between students, faculty, staff, and alumni through events.

Following SGA’s short discussion on student issues, President David A. Greene took the podium. Over the course of his two-year tenure at Colby, Greene has made sweeping reforms, overhauling departments and aggressively hiring. In the past two years, Greene has hired five new senior administrators and has also completely reorganized the structure of the President’s office. His strategic overhaul has led to the integration of career services and alumni relations, an aggressive expansion of the Office Admissions and Financial Aid, and the establishment of a Diversity Task Force to examine the overarching institutional approach to diversity.

In his address, Greene identified that his mission over the past two years has been to “focus and redefine the student experience.” Greene further delved into what he described as the identifying aspects of the Colby community, highlighting the intellectual culture and the inclusivity of the College. Colby students have long discussed the “work hard, play hard” mentality present on campus and effective ways there might be to change that. Greene discussed his desire to have the “Night Colby” and “Day Colby” become more interconnected. Greene then transitioned to discussing three large-scale special projects being pursued by the college.

As announced in the spring of last year, planning groups were developed to study the effectiveness of the current athletic and performing arts spaces on campus. Greene made it apparent that the planning groups recommended the construction of new property when he jumped into discussing the development of a new performing arts center and a new athletic center. Last year, the College issued $100 million in debt for “strategic initiatives.” Low interest rates stemmed the debt issuance.

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Courtesy of Colby College

While employed at the University of Chicago, Greene spearheaded a similar strategy, increasing the school’s debt-load to approximately $3 billion in order to pursue campus projects. The investment paid off as the school saw a spike in applicants and a jump in its ranking to tie for the fourth-best institution in the US. Colby, according to the U.S. News & World Report, is ranked in a tie as the 19th-best liberal arts institution in the US. Colby is the fourth-lowest ranked NESCAC school.

Outside of College rankings, when compared to peer institutions, Colby lags behind in many areas. Greene highlighted fundraising, application numbers, and facilities as a few of these underperforming areas. According to the 2014-2015 Financial Overview produced by the College, fundraising totaled $21.5 million. Greene announced that this is well below average and that the College is hoping to fund most strategic initiatives moving forward with funds raised in order to avoid large increases to tuition. Currently, tuition accounts for a substantial portion of revenue.

This year, Colby saw a spike in application numbers. In the past two years, applications submitted to Colby have nearly doubled, growing 90% since 2013. Applications closed on January 1, 2016 for the Class of 2020, which saw 9,833 applicants, according to a College press release. The Administration has invested heavily in the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid, bringing in a new director, Matt Proto, from Stanford University. Greene commented that under Proto’s guidance, admissions officers have traveled across the globe hoping to attract the best students to the school. Greene also stated that the composition of applicants has evolved in conjunction with the school. Colby, which is widely known throughout the northeast, has been trying to increase its national profile. This year, California was second in applicants, and Texas was sixth. Massachusetts, which is the most represented state on campus, was first in applicants.

Greene then began to discuss important facility initiatives that the College is pursuing. Runnals Union, the current performing arts center, is outdated and small in size. The building, which once hosted sorority meeting rooms and the Women’s gym on campus, was renovated in 1976 to accommodate Strider Theater, which is the primary performance space on campus. Strider currently seats 262. The College intends to construct a new 90,000 square foot building dedicated to the arts. 15,000 square feet is planned to host a new theater. A slideshow presentation displayed during the address introduced plans for The Colburn School of Performing Art’s Zipper Hall, a 430 seat modern concert hall that is approximately 10,000 square feet. The College is considering two possible locations for the center, both in existing parking lots. Throughout the discussion on the performing arts facility, Greene spoke very highly of locating the center in Robert’s lot. The Colby College Museum of Art, which is the largest museum in Maine in terms of collection size and floor space, is adjacent to Robert’s lot. According to Greene, this location would establish an “arts precinct” that would invite community members to engage with aspects of both the fine arts and the performing arts. The second potential location is in Coburn lot, facing Runnals and adjacent to Diamond, the main facility for the social sciences. is location would provide for a new entrance to one side of the College. The College is currently well known for its museum, which boasts a large and diverse collection of American art that features numerous pieces by James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Alex Katz, and Terry Winters.

In an interview with the Echo, Carolyn Muzzy Director of the Colby College Museum of Art and Chief Curator Sharon Corwin expressed her excitement about the institutional strengthening of the performing arts. She stated: “The new center is an opportunity for Colby to strengthen its identity in the arts.” The museum is an institutional partner with Waterville Creates and has helped to develop a robust arts and cultural program in Waterville.

Following the discussion of the new performing arts center, Greene discussed the construction of a new athletic facility. The Harold Alfond Athletic Center is currently the oldest in the NESCAC. The facility is just under 200,000 square feet and lacks competition-ready spaces. Most notably, the swimming facility is unable to host NCAA meets as it fails to meet the standard regulation of 75-feet by 50-meters. The Colby swimming pool is 25-yards by 25-meters. The College is pursuing a plan to construct a 343,000 square foot space. Colby recently hired Tim Wheaton as the Harold Alfond Athletic Director to oversee the rebuilding of Colby Athletics. The current facility, which pales in comparison to other NESCAC facilities, has hampered recruiting efforts according to many student-athletes. Colby, which competes in one of the most competitive Division III athletic leagues in the country, has not won a NESCAC championship in five years.

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Rendering of Baseball/Softball Complex — Courtesy of Colby College

“Within the athletic department, the change in leadership has afforded us an opportunity to be competitive at the highest level in the NESCAC,” stated Football Assistant Coach and Coordinator Matt Hanhold. “As a coach, you have to be welcoming and embrace change. [Wheaton] has a vision of successful programs highlighted with excellence in the classroom and in society,” continued Hanhold. Hanhold has been a coach for 11 years and has seen the landscape within College Athletics dramatically shift. He repeatedly reiterated the necessity for Colby to have world-class facilities to compete on a national scale for the best and most academically-qualified applicants.

The College has partnered with Hopkins Architects, an internationally renowned firm. Hopkins has been the lead architect in designing iconic buildings such as the London 2012 Olympics Velodrome. Greene displayed a campus map showing that the facility would most likely be built on top of the current Bill Alfond Field, which hosts lacrosse, field hockey,and soccer fields, in addition to Loebs field. The renderings displayed new fields replacing the soccer field and the Alfond Field, but neglected to indicate an additional space to replace Loebs field, the current home of the Colby Rugby clubs.

Greene highlighted that the new facility would feature an aquatic center with a regulation size pool, a 200-meter indoor track and field house, nine squash courts, an expanded weight room and fitness facility, and a new ice hockey arena.

The Alfond Rink has long been a staple of Colby athletics. Constructed in 1955, the 1,750 seat rink is one of the oldest in Maine and played host to the first ever women’s intercollegiate varsity game in 1975. Greene detailed that the new facility would feature a “grand entrance and hallway that would feature viewing of everything going on in the facility,” which according to the renderings, would be across from Pond Drive and Johnson Pond. The College is targeting the facility to be complete by 2020 and is still considering three different potential layouts. In the fall, the College completed construction on a new baseball/softball complex that features turf playing surfaces. The complex is the first in the NE- SCAC to feature a turf field and allows for both teams to begin play at home earlier in the season. In seasons past, both the baseball and softball teams had to play the large majority of their games on the road due to field conditions.

An additional facility initiative the College is pursuing is the relocation of Career services from Eustis to Grossman Hall. Design on a remodeling of the building is set to be finished in the spring with construction to begin over the summer. The Office of Career services was recently grouped under the newly formed Office of College and Student Advancement, headed up by Vice President for College and Student Advancement Dan Lugo, a new hire from Franklin & Marshall College. Career services recently overhauled its entire program, phasing out the Colby Connect program for the new Professional Pathways Experience & Planning (PPEP) program.Screen Shot 2016-02-18 at 11.52.26 AM

Colby’s investments in downtown Waterville have recently garnered a lot of attention. Greene addressed many student questions concerning the College’s purchasing of five dilapidated buildings on Main St., as well as the College’s intent to purchase a section of a parking lot to construct a new five story mixed-use residential and commercial building that would serve as a dorm for students. The College has sought to utilize the buildings downtown to help provide a jolt to the local economy. A major step in this process was the establishment of a delivery center by Collaborative Consulting, a technology consulting firm based in Burlington, Massachusetts. Greene highlighted Collaborative’s move to Waterville as instrumental in the city’s redevelopment. The College has agreed to front most of the relocation costs for Collaborative Consulting.

Colby is now the largest property owner on Main street and has plans to invest even further on Main Street. On February 16, the City Council voted to approve the sale of a 3⁄4 acre lot located on the Concourse, a large parking lot and strip mall off of Main Street. The Concourse was developed in the 1960’s and currently plays host to the farmer’s market.

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1920’s Main Street — Courtesy of Colby College

The Concourse property would mark the sixth property for Colby. The College is in the process of hiring a Director of Commercial Real Estate to oversee the development of the College’s properties, according to the website that has been established to keep the community informed on the redevelopment effort (colby.edu/downtown).

In addition to a new Director of Commercial Real Estate, all of Colby’s buildings are to be maintained by an independent property management firm. On campus, all buildings are maintained by College employees of the Physical Plant Department. In addition to the construction of a new dormitory on Main Street, the College has been collaborating with developers to remodel a property into a boutique hotel, renovate buildings to host mixed-use residential and commercial property, and create purpose-built retail space to attract new firms. Colby’s involvement in the area has also stimulated additional investment from other developers. Justin DePre ’06, along with his brother, have purchased the former Atkins Printing buildings and have begun renovations. Most notably, the DePre’s have removed a brick facade, completely ch

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The Old Atkins Printing Building — Photo by Kiernan Somers

anging the face of the building. The DePre brothers are well known among students for owning the “Colby Castles,” a group of four residential houses that are popular choices among students who wish to live off campus. GMH Insurance owner Bill Mitchell also purchased property in the Main St. area, on Common Street, with the intention of remodeling the space for offices and a restaurant.

 

The College and Greene have outlined a five-year evolution for downtown Waterville and they hope to see students, faculty, and staff living on Main St. by 2019. Both the College and Greene have stated that the most immediately achievable goal is to get as many people living and spending money downtown. Greene called Main St. the core of the city and reiterated that without a vibrant and lively core, the city will continue to flounder.

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A rendering of the Hains Building — Courtesy of Colby College

Following the address, Greene welcomed questions from the audience, which was comprised of mostly students. Most questions centered around the feasibility of the projects and the financial burden. Many students were also worried about the impact on the student body and how dorms on Main St. could separate students from the Colby community. Greene closed by encouraging students to get involved in the process and to ask questions.