Board of Trustees Meet on October 17, 2019

Board of TrusteesSaint Mary’s Board of Trustees gathered for its annual fall meeting last month. During the October 17, 2019 meeting, the Board addressed a variety of topics, including SMC’s successful Comprehensive Campaign, the status of the College’s finances, the changing landscape of the higher education market, and recommendations made by the Business and Academic Resource (BAR) Task Force.

The meeting included recognition of new Board members Dr. Karl Beutner ’71; Shirley Gee ’80, MBA ’09; and Song Woo MBA ’05; and acknowledgement of the second term of Board Chair Kevin Nagle. Additionally, the Board welcomed Anthropology Professor Jennifer Heung in her role as chair of the Academic Senate to the Board’s general sessions during the academic year.

Highlights:

  • President James Donahue’s report to the Board involved a review of institutional priorities, including developing the 2020–2025 Strategic Plan, ensuring adherence to the bottom line of the FY 2019-2020 budget, creating a focused enrollment plan, starting implementation of the Business and Academic Resource (BAR) Task Force recommendations, completing fundraising for the Comprehensive Campaign, and setting the stage for the College’s next campaign initiatives. Donahue acknowledged the stellar faculty scholarship at the university, which was underscored by $1.4 million in grants awarded for faculty research. In his report, Donahue also recognized the excellence of his current administrative leadership team, new academic leaders on campus, athletics teams’ successes, and the College’s ongoing commitment to Saint Mary’s Lasallian and Catholic mission.
  • An Enrollment Planning Report included observations from Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Margaret Kasimatis about the shifting landscape of higher education and its enrollment implications for institutions like Saint Mary’s. Vice Provost for Enrollment and Communications William Mullen followed the provost with a presentation on the contraction in the undergraduate higher education market, and how SMC must do more to secure a strong and stable level of enrollment in this environment. Strategies for stabilizing enrollment for fall 2020 include improving marketing and outreach to prospective students, increasing the transfer student population, developing strategic financial aid measures to support access and affordability, and improving services and outreach to military/VA-benefit students.
  • Vice President for Finance & Administration Susan Collins gave an update on the College’s finances. For the second year in a row, the College has had positive operating margins, while the endowment fund and endowment per student have increased slightly over the last several years. Looking at the FY 2019/20 budget, she indicated 51 percent of that revenue is from undergraduate tuition, 18 percent is from auxiliaries (housing and food service), and 20 percent is from graduate tuition. She noted this year’s enrollment shortfall has placed stress on plans, but the Cabinet has identified expense savings that have been enacted to offset the revenue decrease. Plans are in place to meet the bottom line commitment contained in the budget.
  • Vice President for Advancement Lisa M. Moore ’96 provided an update on the progress of Defining the Future: The Campaign for Saint Mary’s, the College’s Comprehensive Campaign, which is marching confidently toward its goal of $125 million. The Campaign concludes on Dec. 31, 2019. Looking forward, Moore noted the Library & Innovation Center as a strategic fundraising initiative as well as a possible scholarship support effort. Provost Kasimatis joined in the briefing on the potential impact the Center will have on the College, supporting academic collaboration, learning, research, and the creation of new knowledge. The Board unanimously agreed that following the completion of the Comprehensive Campaign, the Library & Innovation Center will be a priority capital project for Saint Mary’s.
  • The Board also heard from a panel of scholarship students. Introduced by Vice Provost for Student Academics & Dean of the Core Megan Mustain, the discussion underscored the importance of scholarship support toward recruiting and retaining talented students. Panel moderator and Director of the High Potential Program Jenee Palmer engaged with the panelists, who were recipients of either Moonlight scholarships or Cristo Rey scholarships: Anahi Torres ’22, Kidus Solomon ’18, Abel Cuevas ’22, Isabel Martinez ’22, and Diego Reece ’22. The students talked about their academic experiences and support from the High Potential Program, and offered suggestions for improving the student life experience.

Resolutions: 

During the Oct. 17 meeting, the Board passed a number of resolutions. They included:

  • Approval of $6,029,000 for phase two of the McKeon Renovation Project.
  • Authorizing President Donahue to award all degrees and certificates to candidates who have fulfilled the appropriate requirements during the 2019–20 academic year.
  • Extending an invitation to the chair of the Academic Senate to attend and report out at the October, January, and May General Session Meetings of the Board of Trustees.
  • Sharing with the Academic Senate any approved Board resolutions that impact the College, with the provision that the Board reserves the right not to share any background or confidential material that may accompany said resolutions. 

Saint Mary’s Board of Trustees is the College’s governing body whose fiduciary duties and responsibilities are determined by the College’s bylaws and other governing documents. The Board’s responsibilities include advocating for the College locally, nationally, and internationally; exercising appropriate oversight of the academic quality and fiscal health of the College; approving the annual budget; evaluating and advising the president of the College; and providing financial support, as well as leadership in fundraising, to sustain the College’s mission and progress.