2020 group considers College’s future

When most people hear “20/20,” they think about eyesight, but the College’s 2020 Committee sees something more specific: the place of Williams in a globalized world, the future of the faculty, technological and environmental change and the new face of the student body. The Committee, comprised of a group of sub-committees of trustees, faculty members and the President’s Advisory Group, met in Oxford, England last month to discuss possible strategies and policies that will guide Williams in the coming years.

“The essence [of 2020] is to prepare ourselves to meet any emerging challenges and to become an even stronger institution over the next dozen years than we are today,” said President Schapiro.

At the Oxford retreat, the Committee broke into several smaller groups to discuss multiple issues, including globalization, technology, sustainability, changing demographics and faculty recruitment. The Committee aims to provide Williams with the best possible way of adapting to changes around the world. “The 2020 Committee is more of a process than an actual committee,” said Jim Kolesar, assistant to the president for Public Affairs. “The whole College governance structure will be engaged in development.”

According to Tiku Majumder, professor of physics, the group has discussed a wide range of proposals. “We’re just now beginning to sort through all these proposals, most of which are modest, but some of which are highly ambitious,” Majumder said. “Some of them have already been implemented.” He cited the construction of the new Children’s Center as an example.

One of the biggest issues the Committee faces is predicting the need for new professors and establishing techniques for recruitment. According to Ralph Bradburd, professor of political economy, the issue of attracting new faculty is a serious concern. “The College is geographically isolated, which affects our ability to hire professors who are single or who are minorities,” Bradburd said.

The 2020 task force has generated several solutions to deal with the issue of isolation. In addition to financial incentives such as pay raises and bonuses, one approach for drawing new faculty would be improving the quality of local schools to make the community more attractive to potential professors. The task force also proposed an increase in support for programs such as the Bolin Fellowship, which offers funding for pre-doctoral students. “Typically the participants in the program are from underrepresented groups,” Bradburd said. “This might encourage others to consider applying.

The nation’s western development and increased Latino population is expected to influence the diversity of the student body. Based on trends in applicant diversity, the College projects a increase in Latino and Asian students over the next ten years.” “The College has made great strides in becoming more diverse,” Bradburd said. “I think we’ll continue to develop this diversity in a well thought-out manner.

The 2020 Committee was recently commended by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges in the 2007 accreditation report. “While [the 2020] process is just underway, we found [Schapiro’s] approach imaginative, timely, and inclusive,” the evaluation team wrote. “The senior management team and the trustees are comfortable using sophisticated models to predict evolving trends in higher education and these tools are used effectively to inform their planning.”