Letter to faculty regarding the new academic year - August 12, 2016

Dear Colleagues,

We write to welcome all of you to a new academic year and to offer a special welcome to our new colleagues and to those who have been away on leave.  We look forward to greeting many of you at the year’s opening events, which are listed at the end of this letter.

As many of you know, we had another outstanding admissions season this past year, receiving more than 6,800 applications—a new record for Gettysburg. Our talented Class of 2020 includes roughly 700 students from 29 states and 15 countries, and it is the most racially diverse class in the College’s history. 

As we welcome such a promising group of students to our campus, we are also quite pleased with the most recent results of our “One-Year-Out” survey, which is designed to determine how our recent graduates are faring.  This year’s survey garnered a 92% participation rate among the Class of 2015 and indicates that 98% of the class is now employed or attending graduate/professional school—another historic high for Gettysburg.

The kind of education and preparation we offer to our students is, as it should be, the focus of the strategic planning process in which we have been engaged over the last year. That process, which has included faculty, administrators, support staff, students, and trustees, has affirmed our dedication to providing a superb residential liberal arts education.  This process has also highlighted the need to be financially accessible; appealing to today’s students and their families; and contemporary in our educational approach.

Inspired by Abraham Lincoln’s words spoken here in 1863 about the “unfinished work” still left to be done by our nation, and by scores of ideas brought forward by our community, our plan is built around three key themes: Impact; Inclusion and International Initiatives; and Innovation. We believe these themes, woven into the Gettysburg academic and co-curricular experience, will enable our students to make significant contributions towards the unfinished work before us—on campus, across our nation, and around the world.

At the opening faculty meeting on September 1, we will share the key goals related to the plan’s three themes.  The following month the Board of Trustees will review the current draft plan and provide feedback as they move towards adoption of the plan.  Once the plan has been adopted formally by the Board, we will share it widely with both our internal and external constituencies.  

Recognizing that we must be thoughtful stewards of our resources, we will also continue to explore cost-saving opportunities as part of our strategic plan. Over the last two years we have made considerable progress in this area, securing operating budget reductions of $2.2 million.  We are always eager to hear your suggestions about how we might do things differently to ensure the best use of the resources available to us.

Fundraising is, of course, an important component of our financial strength, and we’re pleased to report that our campaign continues to move along with great success.  Since our Gettysburg Great Campaign kick-off on campus two years ago, our alumni, parents, employees, and friends have rallied around our five priorities: global initiatives, scholarships, faculty support, engaged learning opportunities, and annual giving. To date we have raised more than $118 million, and we continue to work aggressively toward our $150 million goal.

As you make your way around campus, you may notice a number of facility upgrades we made over the summer, most notably renovations to Hatter Planetarium, the Dining Center, and the roof of Pennsylvania Hall, which is still in process. In the coming months, we will also begin construction on an Admissions Welcome Center—a 4,500 square-foot addition to the existing building—thanks to a gift from Geoff Jackson ‘91.  In the summer of 2017, we will kick-off our renovation of the College Union Building, removing the old swimming pool (finally!), creating offices for our Center for Career Development and Garthwait Leadership Center, and expanding the capacity of the Bullet Hole.

The College’s First-Year Common Reading Program, titled ’20 Reads: Circumstances, Choices, Challenges, enters its third year by featuring Cristina Henriquez’s The Book of Unknown Americans, a novel that includes voices from Nicaragua, Panama, Mexico, and Guatemala, among others. This is Henriquez’s second novel, and it deals with the timely issue of immigration. She will give a public presentation on Tuesday, September 13, and the entire first-year class will engage in small group discussions about the book on Thursday, September 15. For more information on the novel and Cristina Henriquez, please access the library’s first-year reading website: http://libguides.gettysburg.edu/readforfun/20reads

Finally, we have some important dates to note as we prepare for the start of classes.

  • Convocation for the Class of 2020 will be on Wednesday, August 24, at 4:00 p.m. on the Beachem Portico of Pennsylvania Hall. This year’s faculty speaker is Sahana Mukherjee, assistant professor of psychology.
  • The First-Year Walk to the National Cemetery will depart from the Chapel at 6:45 p.m. on Thursday, August 25. Christopher Gwinn ’06, Supervisory Park Ranger for the division of Interpretation and Education at Gettysburg National Military Park, will deliver his reflections on the Gettysburg Address.
  • This year’s opening faculty meeting will take place on Thursday, September 1, at 4:00 p.m. in Master’s Hall, Mara Auditorium (Room 110), followed by a reception at the President’s home at 243 West Broadway from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Once again, a warm welcome to all of you.  We look forward to a great year!



Janet Morgan Riggs ’77                                                  Christopher J. Zappe

President                                                                        Provost