July 1, 2020
Dear Olin community,
I want to personally thank each and every one of you for the wonderful Olin welcome today. From your chalk drawings on the oval, to student decorations and welcome baskets in my office, to my first-ever car parade, I couldn’t imagine a more joyful first day! For the past three months, since the public announcement naming me as president of Olin College, many of you have shared stories, advice and encouragement. My family, including my husband, Joe, and son, Jori, will be forever grateful for your kindness.
It is my privilege to join the Olin community—and begin our work together to chart a new course for this remarkable institution.
I’m often asked what brought me to Olin. Clearly there is much to love about this special place, because I hear the pride in Olin from those who know it best. I also hear respect and admiration from educators throughout the country for what Olin has achieved. I have said to more than one of you that my connection with Olin was immediate and it was deep. I share with you a desire to make a difference and to be a force for constant change in education.
But there are real challenges for Olin as we embark on this next chapter. We are not immune to this moment in time.
Just over a month ago, the results of long-simmering systemic racism in this country exploded into view. This is deeply personal to me as a woman of color in a technical field such as engineering. My mission has always been to make sure people who haven’t had opportunities are given opportunities. I have dedicated my career to pursuing equity in education and I believe places such as Olin have a particular role to play. We can and should use our platform and our voice to build a different world—one that works to dismantle systemic racism in engineering, in higher education and around the world.
Separately and importantly, Olin, like all colleges and universities, is experiencing the consequences of the global pandemic, which has put unexpected pressure on our existing financial model. An Olin education has been a launching pad to a transformed life. We must find a way to deliver this life-changing engineering education within a sustainable financial model.
I also see continued urgency around the need to examine ourselves, who we are and where we want to go. You have done some of this work in the past year, beginning with the search for a new president and most recently through the Pathfinding process. Now, we will do more of it together. The work will not be easy, but it is important and necessary to ensure that Olin continues to be a leader in engineering education around the world.
There is risk in venturing away from our safe confines, but our institution is one whose history shows that it has always gravitated to the road less traveled. Breaking new ground is in Olin’s DNA.
I am confident in our future because as we begin to chart a new course, we do so buoyed by the encouragement of a strong network of supporters. Olin’s alumni community now numbers more than 1,000 strong. The talented graduates in this global network are our most important ambassadors. And the hundreds of educators who have visited our campus through the Collaboratory will help us amplify the power and importance of Olin’s mission: to change engineering education while preparing students to become innovative and creative engineers.
I am looking forward to facing the challenges and the joys of this work together.
Thank you for your warm welcome. I am ready and Olin is ready. Now let’s get started.