President Mills mulls College expansion
Even though President Barry Mills has just recently begun his tenure at the College, he has already started to discuss plans for his vision of an improved Bowdoin. Along with the rest of the Bowdoin Board of Trustees, Mills has begun to investigate the possible expansion of the student body by approximately 200 students. This expansion would be implemented with the goals of strengthening the intellectual diversity while still maintaining the intimate educational atmosphere that Bowdoin emphasizes.
Even though the College grew in enrollment throughout the 1990s, Mills feels that continuing to expand may allow Bowdoin to adapt better to the changing times. Although Mills stressed that his plans are not definitive but simply "worth talking about," he remained optimistic that his vision could benefit the College.
"I think if we got somewhat larger we may be able to continue to deepen and strengthen both academic departments and the intellectual life on campus. But I think it's something we really need to investigate." Mills cited that fact that Bowdoin "is nearly the smallest school in the cohort that we consider ourselves a part of," and that expansion might allow the College to become more comparable in size without adversely affecting the academic programs or social life.
Also by expanding the College, more room would be given to increase the diversity of the student body as well as attracting more prospective students because of the increased size and diversity. However, Mills is also very aware of some of the logistics that must be considered if the College is to expand. By bringing in more students every year, there are basic issues that need to be addressed to effectively maintain their needs.
"There are a lot of issues that we need to think about,"
said Mills. "There are issues related to facilities, student housing,
residential life, class size, academic programs, let alone the finances
of the College." On the topic of finances, Mills also stressed the
importance of endowment per student. Because an increase in the student
body would dilute the endowment per student, careful steps need to be
taken by the administration to balance the number of students to maximize
the financial well-being of the College.
Namsoo Lee '01 said that increasing the number of students and the diversity at Bowdoin "would make it more possible to share ideas," but also commented that he thought addition of a few hundred kids "would not make a significant enough improvement at Bowdoin to outweigh the costs." Jon Rizzo '06 also had mixed opinions on the possibility of expanding the College. "I think that it's a positive that we are looking to improve the student body here," he says. "Increasing the number would help improve academic diversity, but I am not sure that it would be a large impact with only 200 more students."
Although Mills realizes that his vision for the improvement of Bowdoin will take multiple years of planning and implementation, he feels as though the school owes to itself the investigation of whether an increase in students will benefit the college.
"I think that there is a lot of support for the discussion of expanding the college. There are reasons why it's worth talking about, in terms of deepening the academic life here. But beyond that I think that we need to do the work and really think about it," he said.