Year in ReviewHere’s What Happened at Vassar in 2018!

The year 2018 was a very good one for Vassar. Here are just a few of the highlights:

Innovations to the Curriculum

Professor of Earth Science Jill Schneiderman and Keira Congo ’20 analyze micro-plastics found in Cape Cod sand. Read more about URSI projectsPhoto: Karl Rabe

Dean of Faculty Jonathan Chenette and other administrators and faculty members developed significant changes to the curriculum, calling for the creation of “intensives,” courses that foster collaboration among academic departments and encourage learning outside the traditional classroom setting. The college was awarded two generous grants that will assist the college in implementing some of these academic innovations. A $1 million award from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute will help the college transform its science curriculum with the aim of attracting and retaining more students who are traditionally underrepresented in STEM fields. A $2.5 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation will enable Vassar to lead a four-college consortium (Bard College, Sarah Lawrence College, and Bennington College are the other three) in focusing on the world refugee crisis. The funds, which will be distributed over the next four years, will be used to develop curricula and other programs on the issue of forced migration.

Our Sustainability Initiatives Earn National Recognition

The Barns and other parts of the Farm are now powered by the sun. Read the storyPhoto: Karl Rabe

Vassar’s initiatives, protocols, and practices were cited by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, which awarded the college a Gold rating in its 2018 assessment. Vassar had earned Silver ratings in 2011 and 2014, but it improved its rating due to better assessments in academic programs, clean energy initiatives, reduction of greenhouse gases, and more energy-efficient buildings. In September, an array of solar panels was activated on the barns on the Vassar Farm and Ecological Preserve, home of Vassar’s Environmental Cooperative. Electricity from the panels will power the barns and most of the farm and preserve.

The Engaged Pluralism Initiative Gets Underway

EPI Director and Associate Professor of Anthropology Candice Lowe Swift (right) oversees a World Café. EPI WebsitePhoto: Karl Rabe

Implementing plans that began in 2017 following the receipt of an $800,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, EPI working groups identified key issues, set priorities, and developed assessment practices designed to ensure that the campus and the curriculum are truly inclusive. As Associate Professor of Anthropology Candice Lowe Swift, director of EPI and President Bradley's Special Advisor on Inclusion and Engaged Pluralism, notes: “Engaged pluralism is not focused on celebrating cultural difference, but rather it grapples with the question of what people from different places and histories bring to Vassar, and what the current student body and employees offer Vassar in terms of evolving our educational practice.”

An Academic Partnership is Forged with Dutchess Community College

Dutchess Community College President Pam Edington (left) and Vassar President Elizabeth Bradley talk about collaboration. Read the storyPhoto: Karl Rabe

Vassar President Elizabeth Bradley and DCC President Pamela Edington forged an agreement that enables full-time students from one college to take up to two courses per year, tuition-free, at the other institution. The agreement grew out of discussions the two presidents have had over the past few months on a variety of topics. “Vassar College and DCC have unique capabilities that can benefit the other,” President Bradley said. “It only makes sense that we would collaborate to help expand the educational possibilities on both campuses.”

New Leadership on Vassar and AAVC Boards

Tony Friscia (photo by Sam Stuart), William Plapinger (photo by John Abbott), Steve Hankins (photo by Karl Rabe) and Missie Rennie Taylor (photo by Sam Stuart).

Tony Friscia ’78 P’15 became Chair of the Board of Trustees, on July 1, succeeding William Plapinger ’74 P’10, who served as chair for 12 years. On the same day, Steve Hankins ’85 P’13 P’17 assumed the reins of the Alumnae/i Association of Vassar College (AAVC) from Missie Rennie Taylor ’68 who has been serving Vassar in various capacities for the past five decades.

Fundraising Successes

During the year, the Office of Alumnae/i Affairs and Development spearheaded two new initiatives in which our alums played a key role. On February 7, Vassar’s student-athlete community issued a challenge to athletic alums and other supporters: Collect 270 donations in 27 hours to raise money for The Brewers Fund, which benefits the college’s athletic programs. A total of 3,595 donors raised more than $190,000. Three months later, Vassar’s inaugural Founder’s Giving Day netted $693,803 from 3,229 donors!

The VSA Celebrated its 150th Birthday

President Elizabeth Bradley, VSA President Anish Kanoria ’18 and Political Science Professor Himadeep Muppidi at the Global Campus colloquium.Photo: Karl Rabe

The Vassar Student Association marked 150 years of student government on campus with a student-faculty forum exploring what it means for Vassar to become a global campus. The event, held on March 28, included remarks by student speakers Ruoyu Li ’19, a political science major from Beijing, China, and Maya Sudarkasa ’18, a history and French/Francophone studies double major from Silver Spring, MD, and Johannesburg, South Africa. Faculty speakers were Himadeep Muppidi, Professor and Chair of Political Science on the Betty Goff Cook Cartwright Chair; Jodi Schwarz, Associate Professor of Biology; Lisa Paravisini-Gebert, Professor of Hispanic Studies on the Randolph Distinguished Professor Chair; and Maria Höhn, Professor and Chair of History on the Marion Musser Lloyd ’32 Chair. VSA President Anish Kanoria ’18 and VSA Vice President Ashley Hoyle ’18 also celebrated the milestone by creating “The VSA Sesquicentennial Book,” a compilation of information and observations from former VSA presidents.

The Inaugural Summer Institute for the Liberal Arts

President Bradley (second from left) and Professor of History Robert Brigham, (third from left), coordinator of Vassar’s first Summer Institute for the Liberal Arts, with Institute participants.Photo: Karl Rabe

Vassar faculty and distinguished alumnae/i hosted a contingent of international business leaders in a series of workshops in a wide range of disciplines, including geopolitics and diplomacy, economics, philosophy, cognitive science, art, literature and film. The workshops were supplemented by visits to the FDR Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park and the United States Military Academy at West Point. The conference drew rave reviews from both presenters and participants, prompting Vassar President Elizabeth Bradley to vow to organize similar events in the future.

And Finally—A National Championship

National Champions! The 2018 Vassar Women’s Rugby Team. Read the RecapPhoto: Stockton Photo, Inc.

The women’s rugby team captured the first national championship in Vassar history December 2 when it defeated Winona State, 50-13, in the finals of the USA Rugby Division II Fall Nationals in Charlotte, NC.