When the Trustees convened for their February meeting, some students might not have even realized that they were on campus.
"After four years here, it was the first time I think I ever even saw a trustee," said senior Jon Ludwig, who, as a member of the a cappella group the Meddiebempsters, sang at a reception for the board on the Friday night of the February 8 to 10 meetings.
"It's a big deal when the Trustees are on campus, but you always hear about it after the fact," Ludwig said. "It was nice to be able to put faces to names."
Secretary of the College Richard Mersereau that the Trustees' busy schedule limits the amount of time they can spend with students.
"Around the formal things there are chances for informal interactions," Mersereau said. "We tend to invite students for some reason that's tied to the agenda."
He said, however, that the Trustees always leave meetings saying they want more time with students.
Trustee Michele Cyr '76 said she always makes an effort to get to campus the Thursday before official meetings begin in order to spend as much time with students as she can.
"I can never get enough interaction with students," she said, "but it's hard because we're always trying to be very efficient and maximize all the time we have."
Cyr said she connected with students at an informal discussion with members of the Young Alumni Leadership Program (YALP). She spent the evening talking with a group of students, who then invited her to Friday's basketball game. Cyr, who said she was visiting the College this week in a different capacity?taking her college-bound son on a tour of the campus?planned to take the students up on their invitation to stop by their Harpswell Apartment dorm, where Cyr lived when she was at Bowdoin.
"That's the kind of thing that really makes a huge difference," she said.
Jin Sun Kim '07, one of the students who connected with Cyr at the YALP discussion, said that the YALP reception was the first time she had ever met with a trustee. She noted that meeting with trustees motivated her to stay connected to the College once she graduates.
"One really cool thing about meeting with trustees is you get to meet really successful Bowdoin alums and see how involved they are with their alma mater," she said.
Alex Hughes '07, a YALP intern who helped plan the event, said that trustees were "really willing to engage with students."
"I thought the reception was a testament to the relationship between trustees and students," said Hughes, whose mother is a trustee.
Cyr said that she meets new students every time she's at Bowdoin, but she noted that she might not be meeting a complete cross-section of the campus community.
"Inevitably I suspect, as it was when I was in college, there will be some students more likely to put themselves out there," she said.
DeRay Mckesson '07, student representative to the Trustees' executive committee and the Trustees' committee for admissions and financial aid, said one reason some students may not see much of the Trustees is that the students themselves are not taking the initiative.
"I don't think students have been knocking on the door, saying, 'Let me meet with trustees,'" he said.
Mersereau agreed that it is up to students to take the first step.
"Students with an antenna up will find out who's on the board and see a common interest," he said. "The system is open to making those connections."
Trustees also stay connected to students and campus life through the student representatives to their committees.
Cyr, who chairs the Trustees' academic affairs committee, stressed the important role student representatives play at meetings.
"There's not a committee meeting that happens that doesn't incorporate feedback," she said.
Burgess LePage '07, who is the student representative to Cyr's committee, agreed, saying board members take very seriously contributions made by students.
"They can't rely just on their experiences here because they're so different," LePage said. "[The College] is changing, and it's important that they have a grasp on that."
Trustee Jeff Emerson '70 said the College is "fundamentally different" from when he was at Bowdoin.
"In those days, [trustee] interactions were more limited and more removed from student life than today," he said.
Mersereau said that one of the benefits of having a large board?he noted that Bowdoin's board has 45 members, including the president, while the average at other private institutions of comparable size is between 30 and 35?is that it allows a greater diversity to be represented, including diversity in age. The two youngest members of the board are graduates of the Class of 1987, and Mersereau said the possibility of having greater generational differences represented on the board was raised at the meeting.
Mckesson noted no one on the board has been a student since fraternities were phased out, which "leads to interesting campus perception issues."
While Chair of the Board of Trustees Peter Small '64 said that part of the fun of being a trustee is interacting with students, he was wary of having too much interaction between students and trustees, noting that the board's "role is to solve problems not with students but through the administration."
"We don't manage the College," Small said. "Our job is to protect the College through the years. When there's an immediate problem, we want to know all about it, but most of it is much longer term."
Mersereau said that trustees stay updated on what's happening at the College through a variety of sources, noting that some get their information through their children who are current students.
Emerson has a daughter who is a first year, but said that he also stays updated on campus life by talking to other students, who he says are "very forthcoming and candid." He said there are multiple ways to interact with students when the board convenes.
"I think we have to find the balance of institutionalizing [student-trustee interaction], which risks being artificial, and finding informal ways of interaction," he said.
Mckesson said finding new ways to interact with students could be the next creative challenge for the board.
"There are a remarkable number of trustees who are close to the College who keep in touch with students," Mckesson said, but he noted, "It would be cool to find some other way to have the Trustees engage in campus life beyond the usual suspects."