Board Meeting: April 12-13, 2019
Chair of the Board Georgene Vairo began the meeting by welcoming its newest member, Scheline Crutchfield, who has had a distinguished career as a banker and has been an active member of many not-for-profit boards. She also is an artist and pilot. The chair also welcomed faculty who were invited to attend the Friday morning session of the meeting. She also thanked Suny Monk for her service as she comes to the end of her board term. She noted that Suny will remain a friend of the College and will be available to help the College as we move forward.
Meredith Woo discussed the matter of student retention with the board. She noted that fall-to-fall retention numbers have remained constant since 2015, and that the rate for Fall 2018 to Fall 2019 may be similar. She previewed that our five-year budget projections are premised on an assumption of 80%-85% fall-to-fall retention and a 75% four-year graduation rate. To meet these rates, retention and graduation rates for the College must be improved through effective collaboration among academics, student life as well as athletics. In dialogue with the board, President Woo noted some specific measures that were under consideration.
Faculty in attendance commented that in some faculty member’s opinion, retention is affected by a number of factors, including the degree of college preparedness.
Interim Dean Jeff Key reported on academic governance. The dean noted that the current faculty governance structures had evolved over many decades. He then presented a draft proposal reflecting both the recent curricular and other changes in the College, as well as the landscape in small college liberal arts education in general. He emphasized the importance of aligning policy decisions with the mission and budget of the College, which requires a greater degree of coordination by the dean’s office. He also noted that the proposal would free faculty time for teaching, scholarship and student advising, all of which should help with our efforts to improve retention. The board encouraged the faculty leaders to work with Dean Key to flesh out the dean’s proposal.
Enrollment Management Update
Melissa Richards explained the College’s strategy for growing enrollment by increasing applications and acceptance rates while yielding the best applicants. There followed a question and answer session touching on international recruitment, yield analysis and retention, as well as making further investment in marketing, admissions personnel and application processing.
Mary Pope M. Hutson ’83 explained the impact of priority fundraising initiatives on the FY20 budget and how to mesh Annual Fund fundraising efforts with priority fundraising. She presented the College’s four primary initiatives approved at the past two meetings: merit-based scholarships, academic innovation, stewardship of the natural and built environment and campus quality of life. She also explained how to synchronize fundraising goals aligned with strategic initiatives through unrestricted fundraising initiatives with restricted operational fundraising and restricted endowment fundraising. She also discussed planning for phasing in staffing to meet those goals.
Vairo thanked Kelley Fitzpatrick for her hard work as Finance Committee chair over the last couple of years and introduced and thanked Gillian Munson for accepting an appointment as chair of the Finance Committee.
There was brief explanation around a slight increase in Junior Year in France fees and also around the room and board fee schedule. The board approved the College’s recommendations with respect to both items.
Lori Husein, VP for finance and administration, then presented the FY20 budget, as well as a multiyear financial projection. In discussing the five-year budget model, Husein noted that figures in the model are conservative, and will be adjusted over time based upon enrollment, faculty and student capacity, endowment income and fundraising. The fundraising priority plan will be refined and presented at the next board meeting. The board unanimously approved the FY20 Budget.
Board Committee Reports
Kelley Fitzpatrick reported on steps being taken by the Fund Evaluation Group (FEG) as the College begins the transition from BDO to FEG as our OCIO. Fitzpatrick will serve as the chair of a Finance Committee Investment Sub-Committee. Directors and non-directors will serve as members of the sub-committee.
Vairo, on behalf of the Directors Committee, presented Steve Smiley for election to the board. He was unanimously elected. Steve has been involved in major private equity ventures and has extensive corporate and not-for-profit board experience.
Board Governance Committee
Lynn Pasquerella briefly reviewed committee-recommended amendments to the bylaws and a brief discussion followed around the issue of composition of committees and selection of committee chairs and members, advance notice for nominations for officers from the floor, and the reduction of the number of board committees from eleven committees to six. The proposed amendments, together with a couple of friendly amendments made with recommendations from the floor, were unanimously adopted, effective immediately. The amended bylaws will be posted after review for minor, non-substantive errors and consistencies. The six committees moving forward will be: Executive Committee, Finance Committee, Governance Committee, Building, Grounds and Technology Committee, Committee on Academic and Student Excellence, and Committee on Alumnae, Communications and Advancement. The purpose of the reduction in the number of committees is to streamline board governance and to align the work of the committees to provide the College with a higher degree of strategic input.
The committee also recommended establishment of a task force to review the mission statement of the board. A retreat with faculty and other constituents was suggested as part of this process. The board responded that a retreat be planned for the near future.
Combined Directors Committee and Advancement Committee
Mason Rummel reported on a combined committee meeting in which there was discussion of setting expectations around board members’ support of the College. The board was divided into three breakout groups to discuss mandatory or expected minimum gifts by board members, gifts-in-kind, board engagement and participation, and board meeting expenses. Breakout leaders will compile results from the three breakouts and report back to the Board Governance Committee, which was charged by the chair to develop and recommend policies at the next board meeting.
Professor Linda Fink arranged for a board tour of our apiary. After the meeting, several board members attended the tour and were delighted both by the apiary itself and the excellent presentations and explanations about the bees by several of our students.
Georgene Vairo ’72
Chair, Sweet Briar College Board of Directors