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Board of Trustees Updates

Joe Davis, chair of the Board of Trustees, provides periodic updates for the Whitman community.

Dear members of the Whitman community,

We write to you today to provide an update on the discussions held and decisions made by the Board of Trustees during their meetings last week. Just over half of the members of the Board made the trip to campus for these meetings with the remainder joining via Zoom. This was an important step toward engaging in our work in person, and we remain hopeful that everyone will be able to come to campus for our May 2022 meetings.

The main item of business during our February meetings is the approval of the operating budget for the next fiscal year, fiscal 2023. This budget remained true to the preliminary budget assumptions that were approved by the Board and reported to the community in November 2021. It was developed by the Cabinet with guidance from the President’s Budget Advisory Committee. Thanks to the difficult but appropriate decisions we made last year, an unprecedented enrollment rebound coupled with strong retention, extraordinary growth in the college’s endowment, and the many donors who appreciate the value of what we have done and are striving to do, we have dollars to invest this year.

This budget invests in our people in many ways including the following:

  • The largest salary pool in the last seven years at 6.5%
  • A new position in Human Resources specifically focused on staff training and onboarding and on enhancing our DEIA efforts
  • An additional $5.4 million in financial aid in support of our strategic priority of access and affordability
  • Two new student support positions in DEI
  • Enhancements to the new Career Coaching Initiative in the Career and Community Engagement Center
  • An Associate Athletic Director to enhance our athletic recruitment and retention efforts
  • A new executive support position to support the new president

It is important to note that the 6.5% salary pool does not mean everyone will see a 6.5% increase. Both merit and equity will be considered, so some people may receive larger increases while others receive less. But the available pool will allow us to make significant progress in reaching our compensation goals.

The full budget for 2022-2023 is available here.

The Board also reviewed our progress on implementing the decisions made during the financial sustainability review. They were pleased that Moody’s and other external financial reviewers recognize the college’s strong financial footing that is the result of careful stewardship over many years and many boards. As those with fiduciary responsibility for the college, the Board remains convinced that the Financial Sustainability Review completed in 2021 was a necessary recalibration of where the college chooses to invest its dollars so that we can maintain that strength and make investments to best serve our students for years to come.

The Board received an update on our enrollment outlook for the Fall of 2022. Our budget targets 430 incoming students at a discount rate of 51%. While we saw some good signs, like a record number of applications, we also saw a notable decline in applicants from Washington and California. The admission team is working to understand the reasons behind these numbers while working aggressively to build a strong entering class for next fall.

The other action item for the Board involved a number of faculty personnel decisions. I am pleased to announce three-year contract renewals for:

  • William Bares, Associate Professor of Computer Science
  • Miles Canaday, Assistant Professor of Music
  • Nancy Day, Assistant Professor of Psychology
  • Kathryn Frank, Assistant Professor of Film and Media Studies
  • Xiaobo Yuan, Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Religion.

The Board also approved tenure and promotion to the rank of associate professor for:

  • Matthew Bost, Associate Professor of Rhetoric, Writing and Public Discourse
  • Tarik Elseewi, Associate Professor of Film and Media Studies
  • Maria Lux, Associate Professor of Art
  • Marian Manic, Associate Professor of Economics
  • John Stratton, Associate Professor of Computer Science.

And, finally the Board approved promotion to the rank of professor for:

  • Alzada Tipton, Provost and Dean of the Faculty and Professor of English.

I hope you will join us in congratulating our colleagues on these important achievements.

ASWC president Salma Anguiano presented updates from ASWC, and then ASWC VP for Sustainability Nat Lange shared preliminary results from a student survey related to sustainability and climate change.

Finally, faculty engaged in curricular innovation briefed the Board on the progress of their work. Janet Davis, Michelle Janning, and Justin Lincoln talked about their efforts to develop a program in Human-Centered Design. Shampa Biswas, Matt Bost, and Nicole Simek talked about a possible new program in Social Justice, and Jason Pribilsky and Zahi Zalloua shared their work on Indigeneity, Race, and Ethnic Studies. Trustees were excited to engage with faculty working on these interesting new curricular ideas.


Joe Davis, Board of Trustees Chair and Kathy Murray, President

Dear Whitman campus community,

Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Joe Davis, I am the incoming Board of Trustees Chair.

I graduated from Whitman in 1980. As Whitman moves into its 140th year of educating, my spouse and I have just celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary. I met Sarah Nordholm Davis at Whitman; we were married by Dr. George Ball, one of our dearest professor friends. My son is a 2018 Whitman graduate. My mom’s family were wheat farmers in Waitsburg, and I spent a couple years at Sharpstein Elementary. My second semester of our senior year, Sarah, and I, and four friends, rented an off-campus house directly across from Sharpstein and a few blocks up from where I lived on Newell St. while attending elementary school.

I owe a lot to Whitman. As you might imagine I love Whitman College, and my love of the college has only grown over the years.

Let me add my welcome to being back on campus or starting your first year. I heard you had a wonderful move-in, exciting opening week and a great orientation.  I am so thrilled you are on campus and able to be together; I know all of you are working hard to ensure each other’s safety and well-being. I am heartened to hear reports from President Murray and Peter Harvey of the initial test results.

To the faculty of our dear college, thank you for all you do to teach and nurture our Whitman students. Thanks, in advance, for what I hope is a great year, even with the inevitable ups and downs we will have with COVID uncertainty. As I have committed, I look forward to meeting you during this school year. 

To the administration and staff, thank you for all you do to hold Whitman together. Often one does not see the commitment and effort you put in to ensure Whitman is its best self, but know you are deeply appreciated.

And to the students, Whitman is, of course, for you! I hope you have a wonderful year. I hope you learn, grow, push yourselves to try new things, debate with friends, hear new points of view from which you learn, and thus expand your own thinking. I hope you develop the skills to take facts, feelings, data points, experiences, emotions, and opinions, rapidly analyze the inputs, and connect the learnings to come forth with insights and ideas that will make a difference, that will move the world positively forward. This is the essence of a liberal arts education.

I am excited to begin my journey as Board Chair with you. The Board remains fully committed to working with our entire community to ensure, first and foremost, Whitman provides an exceptional education and an environment to foster growth to each of our students, better enabling our graduates to be a positive force as they leave Whitman. We also remain committed to helping ensure Whitman is a wonderful place to build a career for faculty and staff, in a dynamic and challenging, yet diverse and inclusive environment.

I hope to meet many of you, granted COVID allows me to be on campus.

I wish you all a great year. 

Joe Davis

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