In this culminating piece of our Decade in Review series, we asked College administrators, professors, trustees, and Brunswick officials to look ahead to the next decade and share their predictions, expectations and hopes for Bowdoin. Given the nature of our request, the reflections reported in this article only skim the surface of what may be in store for the College. We hope, however, that in transitioning from a retrospective look to a prospective lens, our faithful readers will achieve a cohesive perspective on from where Bowdoin has come, where it may be headed, and where it stands today.
By 2020, Bowdoin may have achieved carbon neutrality on campus, constructed a new social sciences building at the site of the former Dayton Arena, developed land acquired from the Brunswick Naval Air Station (NASB), and initiated a new capital campaign.
While administrators are optimistic about plans and changes to come, they emphasized that in many respects, concrete plans for the future remain uncertain.
"Coming out of this recession, it's really hard to know what the new normal is going to be," said Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration Katy Longley.
Despite financial uncertainties, however, many administrators said they do feel confident that Bowdoin's recent history has established a solid foundation for the next chapter at the College.
"This place has gone from being a very good college to being an outstanding college over the last 20 years, and I think everybody should take a lot of pride in that," said Senior Vice President for Planning and Development Bill Torrey.
Looking to the future, Torrey, like others, said that he hopes that the College will continue to be strong in ways that have always been at the core of its mission.
"My greatest hope for the College is that it continues to be a place where students who graduate from here feel both satisfied with their education, and leave here as good citizens who are happy with their college experience," he added.
Building on core strengths
While the first decade of the millennium was defined by constant construction and renovations to campus, Mills said progress and improvement would be measured by a different standard in the coming decade.
Though Bowdoin has maintained relative stability in the midst of precarious economic conditions, Mills emphasized that the College will be prudent with its spending over the near term.
Mills said that over the next few years, the College will rely on improvement and growth within Bowdoin's areas of core strength: teaching, learning, research and community service, to name a few.
"We're going to have to take pride in that and be proud of what we do and grow programmatically, without this view that anytime you think about a new program it's always about new space," he said.
Despite projections about limitations on capital projects as "the world is rebalancing," Mills said he did not think that being realistic about resource required a diminished vision for the College.
"We have to stay ambitious, and we have to stay imaginative," he said. "I actually think that Bowdoin is in a much better place than a lot of institutions because we know who we are. And since we take pride in what we are, and do it really really well, it's not difficult to understand what we need to do in the future to enhance that."
According to Chair of the Board of Trustees Peter Small '64, the strengths of the College are numerous and clear.
"Our greatest strengths are our academic program, our beautiful campus, our commitment to diversity and our strong financial management, all made possible by our healthy endowment and our loyal alumni who provide financial support," said Small.
"The challenge is to keep this mix going," he said. "Places like Bowdoin don't just happen."
Capital campaigns to come
According to Torrey, the question to ask about the next capital campaign is not "if," but "when."
"Inevitably there will be another campaign," said Torrey. "At what point that campaign comes into being, it's impossible to know at this point."
If institutional history is any indicator, however, the start of new capital campaign might not be too far off.
"Every 10 to 20 years there is a need for new capital," said Torrey. "We finished the last campaign in 1998, and we started planning for the one that we just finished in 2002, so I would suspect within five years we'd be starting to talk about what's next."
Torrey noted that the most recent capital campaign arose out of the "pent-up needs of the College," as the campus had not seen significant construction for a period of time prior to the early and mid-'90s.
The most recent campaign allowed for the completion of the College's pressing building projects, in addition to raising nearly $100 million for financial aid and funding new faculty positions.
But, Torrey said, "you're never done."
"There will inevitably be other needs that are going to have to be met, and I think any great college continues to look at itself and say 'How can we get better?'"
Future building projects may not be on the immediate horizon, but they are by no means ruled out, according to Longley.
"We will have building projects again, but right now they're on hold, probably for another eighteen months, two years," said Longley.
A "master plan" for the campus, developed in the spring of 2004 by the College in conjunction with an outside consulting firm, outlined a three-tiered set of goals for campus buildings and construction over the course of five decades.
Mills said that his intention was not to set plans for the College in stone, but rather to motivate administrators to "think in a disciplined way about the campus."
"I think the master plan is very valuable to the College because it gives a basis on which to continue our thought about Bowdoin," Mills added.
Looking back reveals that the changes anticipated for 2010, including the construction of Kanbar Hall, a new hockey arena, a renovated Walker Art Building, and a new concert hall, all came to fruition.
The next tier of projections looks ahead to 2025. According to Longley, components that might be implemented include a possible renovation of the Brunswick Apartments, the construction of a humanities building at the former site of Dayton Arena, and a new quad by the Osher and West residence halls, in addition to two new dormitories at that site.
"I don't want to make it sound like it will happen," said Longley. "It's just in the plan."
According to Small, the campus master plan is "a guideline, not a mandate."
Mills said he considers the campus master plan as a "baseline" for thinking about construction on campus, and hopes that administrators and students in the coming decades will continue to evaluate its components.
While building projects may be on hold for the time being, administrators assured that the growth and expansion of the academic program will more than make up for a lack of new buildings.
Initiatives on the part of the faculty, in particular, will drive changes and developments in academics.
"It really is incumbent on our faculty to continually analyze where they are excellent, and how they can be even more excellent," said Mills.
Senior Capital Gifts Officer and Special Advisor to the President for College Relations Richard Mersereau '69 said that faculty members, particularly those with tenure, "have maybe even more influence in terms of what Bowdoin looks like 10 years from now than a lot of other people."
A recent influx of new faculty, made possible by the success of the recent capital campaign, has allowed departments to diversify, according to administrators.
"We added a lot of faculty positions," said Torrey. "We're in the process of recruiting some really outstanding faculty members to come here and teach."
"The campaign has teed us up for so many things," said Dean for Academic Affairs Cristle Collins Judd. "The kind of creativity coming out of that is definitely the place where there's tremendous energy."
According to Judd, recent faculty appointments have allowed for the introduction of Arabic courses and an expansion of the interdisciplinary offerings in environmental studies. In addition, the Africana studies department has grown significantly, with all four current departmental faculty members having been hired in the past three years.
While new faculty hires have significantly enhanced the academic program, Mills cautioned that the College would "only grow the faculty with new endowment money to support the new position."
"It's a mistake to grow the size of the faculty off the back of our general revenue," he added.
Though significant enhancements have already been made to the academic program, both through the hiring of faculty and innovative faculty initiatives, Mills said that the process of strengthening the intellectual life of the College is ongoing, regardless of how much funding is available for new hires.
"I continually look to our faculty to really thoughtfully consider how our College can be a better place as we move forward," he said.
With the College aiming to achieve 100 percent carbon neutrality on campus by 2020, the next decade will be marked by an increased focus on environmental and sustainability issues.
According to Keisha Payson, coordinator for Sustainable Bowdoin, an intensive study of campus energy practices preceded the creation of the blueprint for carbon neutrality, leading to an increased awareness of the College's strengths and weaknesses in energy consumption.
"We have a really good inventory now, and we know what we want to address," said Payson, adding that the College's close assessment has better prepared it to apply for funding and grants.
Administrators said that although it is too early to forecast whether the College will achieve its carbon neutrality goal, they are optimistic that it is possible.
Additionally, Payson said that Bowdoin is required by the American College University and Presidents' Climate Commitment to update the blueprint every two years, which will ensure that gradual changes are implemented over the course of the decade.
"We'll be able to mark our progress and see whether we're hitting the trajectory that we hope to be achieving," Payson said. "Now that it's released, we need to make sure we're doing things that continually engage the campus community."
While effecting behavioral changes in student energy use is among Payson's goals, environmental awareness will also become prominent in the curriculum in the coming years.
According to Associate Professor of Environmental Studies and Biology Phil Camill, the environmental studies department will seek to link its curriculum to offerings in the humanities and social science, including to the departments of psychology, English, creative writing, and visual arts.
Additionally, Camill said that his department hopes to further integrate the Coastal Studies Center on Orr's Island and the Kent Island field station into the curriculum, allowing for increased student research at both properties.
Ultimately, Camill said he hopes that every member of the community will, at some point, engage in the conversation about environment and sustainability issues, regardless of his or her academic focus.
"What we can't do is just have the environment be under the sole guidance of environmental studies, because it absolves everybody else on campus from having to think about it," said Camill. "I'd like to see the majority of students making it through their Bowdoin career having engaged the environment in some meaningful way."
'Hand in hand'
Following the past decade's negotiations that led to Bowdoin acquiring two parcels of land at the NASB, administrators are now focused on developing plans for the acquired acreage. The two parcels comprise six acres of land on Bath Road, and approximately 175 developable acres on the base's west side, off of Harpswell Road.
"It's probably likely that we'll spend a lot of time over the next five years thinking about the naval base," said Mills. "We will need to start to think about what it is we're going to do with that land in a way to both enhance Bowdoin and to enhance Brunswick.
According to Longley, a draft of the environmental impact statement concerning the land is scheduled for release this May, with a finalized version of the statement to follow in the summer or fall. If all goes well, Longley said that the anticipated property transfers should occur in the summer of 2011.
Though Longley said that Bowdoin's plans for the land are currently in the "preliminary stages," the base land could eventually see a facilities building, athletic fields and laboratory spaces.
With the closing of the base coinciding with the difficult economic climate, Mills said that a sense of cooperation between Bowdoin and the town would be "even more important than it's been in the past."
"We have a longstanding relationship with the town," said Longley, noting that the College contributes over $150,000 a year to town projects.
Additionally, Longley said the College will continue its affiliation with the Maine Street Station project.
Project manager at JHR Development Mike Lyne said that the firm hopes to complete three additional buildings over the next 24 months at the Maine Street Station complex, including a 50- to 60-person inn at the corner of Maine and Noble Streets.
Anticipating the arrival of the Amtrak Downeaster and continued development of the complex, Lyne said "Ten years from now I think people will look back at the Maine Street Station project as the first step that the Town of Brunswick took to redefine this community's identity in the post-NASB era."
With current leases on the second floor of Building 3 of Maine Street Station, in addition to the space occupied by the College Store, Longley said she believes that Bowdoin will maintain a "continued presence in some form at Maine Street Station" over the long term.
Anna Breinich, director of planning and development for the town of Brunswick, reported that she anticipated that over the next 10 years, "Maine Street Station will be built out and really become a vibrant part of the downtown, with regular train service bringing more travelers to Brunswick."
"Of course, Bowdoin will always be an active player in any of Brunswick's activities," Breinich wrote in an e-mail to the Orient. "The two go hand in hand."
Although the College weathered a turbulent decade and two economic recessions, administrators said that one consistent, stabilizing factor was the man in charge.
Taking up his post as president just days before the events of September 11, 2001, Mills' tenure as president has spanned most of the past decade.
Although Mills recognizes that presidential terms at colleges and universities typically last ten years, he said that the continued challenges and opportunities at the College are motivations for him to remain in his current role.
"As long as people are happy with what I'm doing, and the entire community is really on board with me staying, there are strong reasons why I should stay," said Mills.
Noting Mills' successes over the course of the decade, Mersereau said that in his estimation, "everyone at Bowdoin loves what he has done."
"Barry holds it all together," he added. "Why wouldn't we be rooting for Barry to continue?"
While Mills said he remains committed to his role at the College, he noted that he has also begun to consider what the next decade might bring for him personally.
"I never answered the phone before when people would call me about opportunities," said Mills. "Now, I at least answer the phone and listen, but I do it without any strong desire to do anything different."
"It's actually the truth," he added. "I could easily see myself staying here for another five years."
People and change
Though long-term blueprints and plans are poised to effect many of the potential changes over the next decade, administrators said that new faces are also integral to innovation on campus.
According to Mills, welcoming new students, faculty, and staff to campus brings about an "annual renewal" that contributes to the continued strength and momentum of the College.
"It's always exciting to greet new students who are thinking about Bowdoin," said Mills. "It's always exciting to meet the new faculty who are interested in teaching here. I look forward to every year, and enjoy what's happening on campus.
"If there's anything that I'm looking forward to I think it's probably the continued strength of this place," Mills added. "For me, it's much more in celebrating the success of people, and what they do, than it is in ribbon cuttings."