President Higdon Has Big Plans for Last Year in Office

On November 12, 2012, President Leo I. Higdon, Jr. announced that he would be stepping down from his position as President of Connecticut College at the end of 2013.  Over the next thirteen months, he plans to continue accomplishing the remaining goals that he outlined for the college when he assumed the role of President almost seven years ago.

One of the President’s major priorities is to oversee the completion of the Comprehensive Campaign, which is expected to end on June 30, 2013. The Campaign set a nominal goal of two hundred million dollars and the college has currently raised a little over one hundred and ninety million. A large portion of the money raised during the Comprehensive Campaign has been used to renovate or build three facilities on campus. Two of these buildings – the Fitness Center and the new science center in New London Hall – have been completed and are open to faculty and students. The renovations of Charles E. Shain Library, which is the third and final facility project, are to be completed within the next two years. The Campaign has also funded the renovation of every common room, upgrades to athletics facilities and classrooms and new student social spaces on campus.

The college also announced a new plan to create a new Academic Resource Center earlier this year. The center is funded by an eleven million dollar grant given to the college by an anonymous donor; the largest single gift in college history.

“The Academic Resource Center is there to try to help all students reach their highest academic potential,” said President Higdon.

The Academic Resource Center is expected to be up and running by next fall, if not earlier, and will most likely eventually be located in Shain Library. Among other things, the new center will include a redesigned student-tutoring center that will enhance the academic achievements of students at Connecticut College.

President Higdon is staying very involved in the formation of the Academic Resource Center by actively engaging in conversations regarding the center’s new director. The administration is currently in the process of interviewing candidates for the job and hopes to have one chosen by the end of this year.

“It’s a home run for this college to have this kind of center, to be supported as extensively as it is with the comprehensive programs that it’s going to have. This is an advantage for every student,” President Higdon said.

Another of the President’s top priorities is to help position the college for post-Campaign success. During these last thirteen months, President Higdon must turn some of his attention to making sure that the college’s fundraising momentum will continue well into a non-campaign environment.

Environmental sustainability is another important item on the President’s agenda. The administration is in the process of creating and implementing a plan to make the campus more sustainable. He hopes that students will begin to see the effects of this plan around campus shortly. He also plans to continue to expand diversity on campus for the duration of his presidency.

The President also wants to make progress on general education reform, which is an issue that the student body has been made aware of and is beginning to get involved in. The President will work closely with Dean of Faculty Roger Brooks and other members of the faculty to begin the preliminary stages of the general education reform process.

“The landscape of higher education is changing,” said President Higdon.

In order to succeed in this changing education landscape, the President wants to spend some time analyzing various campus needs in order to plan for the future.  The President said he wants to assess some of the more historic academic and residential buildings on campus and begin to plan for renovation needs. This information will be helpful when the administration begins planning for the next chapter of history under the leadership of a new president.

The President is mindful of the fact that the economy and other aspects of the outside world are affecting Connecticut College, and the next president has to be aware of these changes and understand how to deal with them.

“I think it’s important to know that just because I have announced that I am stepping down doesn’t mean that I am not here and very active,” President Higdon said with a chuckle. The long list of tasks that he hopes to complete during the remainder of his presidency reflects this statement.

The President said that he will not be involved in the search and hire of his successor. It is customary that the sitting president does not influence the process of selecting his or her successor.  However, the President does think that he will be asked to sit down with whomever is chosen for the position and discuss the institution and their role as President.

The next president will be chosen by a search committee comprised of trustees, faculty, students and staff.  The committee will work in conjunction with a firm to find the best candidates.

The President does not foresee finding candidates to assume the position to be an issue, “There will be a lot of interest in Connecticut College, I can guarantee you that.”

President Higdon said he wants to be certain he leaves the college in a better position than when he started. “I want to make sure that when I leave the institution that our standing, our reputation and the identity of the institution is as strong as it’s ever been.  I feel good about that, but we’re not going to let up on that over the next eleven or twelve months.  It’s a very important task.”