Correction 2/12/2021 2:00 p.m.: An earlier version misstated the year Senior Vice President and Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Whitney Soule was promoted to Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid in 2008, but Soule was promoted in 2016.
At the end of the 2020-21 academic year, Senior Vice President (SVP) and Chief Investment Officer Paula Volent, SVP and Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Whitney Soule and SVP for Development and Alumni Relations Scott Meiklejohn, the three longest-serving members of Bowdoin’s 12 most senior administrators, will be stepping down.
President Clayton Rose announced in an email to the campus community on February 1 that Volent will be leaving the College on June 30. Rose announced in an email sent to faculty on October 29 that Meiklejohn will be transitioning to a senior adviser role at the College once a replacement for his position is found. The announcement that Soule will be leaving on July 1 to take on a new role as Vice Provost and Dean of Admissions at the University of Pennsylvania came in an email to faculty and staff on Tuesday.
Volent, who will be stepping down after 21 years as Chief Investment Officer, has done more to transform Bowdoin’s finances over the past two decades than any other figure. Under her oversight, the Bowdoin endowment has ballooned from $465 million to $1.8 billion, and Bowdoin’s investment returns have consistently been the best of any American college or university over that period.
Since 2008, Bowdoin has had a need-blind admissions policy and no-loan financial program, making it one of just 19 colleges and universities in the country to do so. According to Rose, the is a direct result of Volent’s prowess in managing the College’s endowment.
“Being of 19 schools that is need-blind and no-loan in our financial program … is something that’s deep in our values, but it’s also something that’s possible because of two things,” said Rose in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “The generosity of our alumni and our parents, and [Volent]’s amazing track record. Without that, we’d be in a very different place now with respect to access. Her work has been the leader [every] year in outperforming her peers in the market, and it’s been so powerful for our ability to provide access to students, provide the kind of financial aid that we do and to be the well-resourced college that we are. That’s the central legacy she will leave here with … [and] that’s an enormously powerful legacy.”
Soule leaves Bowdoin after a 13-year tenure in the admissions office, five of them as Dean of Admissions. When Soule was promoted to SVP and Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid in 2016, Bowdoin’s acceptance rate was 18 percent, a record low at the time. Thirty-two percent of students on campus were students of color, and 44.7 percent of students received need-based financial aid. Last year’s acceptance rate was just 9.1 percent, and today 33.6 percent of students are students of color and 48.6 percent of students enrolled receive need-based aid. First-year applications to Bowdoin increased by 37 percent during her tenure, from 6,790 in 2008 to 9,332 in Fall 2019.
“I am thrilled for the opportunity for [Soule] professionally, and I’m sad for us,” said Rose in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “She has been remarkable here at the College. She has done great things for access, for creating much greater diversity on our campus, and for bringing together amazing classes of students. She has a legacy that will be with us for a long time. I’m both happy and sad.”
Meiklejohn has been at Bowdoin for 24 years, serving as an assistant to President Barry Mills before taking on the role of Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid from 2008 until 2016, when he was succeeded by Soule. For the past five years, he has served as SVP for Development and Alumni Relations, in large part orchestrating the “From Here” comprehensive fundraising campaign unveiled a year ago.
“Scott’s going to be stepping back from this role when we have a replacement, part of a plan that he and I have been talking about for a couple of years,” said Rose in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “He will remain at the College as a senior adviser … but will get out of the day-to-day management.”
The search for Meiklejohn’s replacement is being conducted by Lindauer Global, a third-party hiring firm specializing in asset and investment management. Rose said in a Microsoft Teams interview with the Orient that the College “often will retain an outside executive search firm to look for senior-level positions … I would say more often than not we do it, but not always.”
Rose said that the College will not retain Lindauer for the search for Volent’s and Soule’s replacements.
Not since 2016 have more than three senior administrative positions been vacated in a single year. Including Meiklejohn’s five-year stint as SVP for Planning and Institutional Advancement from 2003-2008, Volent, Meiklejohn and Soule, respectively, are currently the three longest-serving SVPs. Once all three step down this summer, they will take with them a combined 29 years of service as SVPs, more than all of the seven other SVPs combined.
Nina McKay contributed to this report.