Challenges and Successes

In reflecting on this past year, it is impossible to ignore the fact that the college year was shadowed by the unimaginable events of September 11. Our response as a college and as a community helped us regain some sense of balance and calm, but there was throughout the year a current of unease, dissatisfaction, and anxiety that constantly challenged each of us, both in our individual duties and in our interactions. Sometimes this gave a sharper edge to our conversations, sometimes this led to distraction, but almost always it added a dimension of seriousness to our debates. I believe this is because those events did not so much alter our world as reveal underlying factors—our interdependence, mortality, and uncertainly—we had chosen to, and could so easily, ignore. A college campus with bright students and serious faculty members and a clear sense of mission is a very good place to be in a crisis, providing challenges and resources, both intellectual and emotional. It was a critical experience for all of us, individually and collectively.

The cycle of our year went forward after we marked the events in New York, Virginia, and Pennsylvania, and we had by every measure a most exceptional year. Much of it was spent celebrating Scripps’ remarkable history of 75 years of women’s education—and looking forward to the next 75! As a college and as a community, we are in excellent position to continue our progress toward becoming “a woman’s college that offers the best liberal arts education in the nation,” the goal stated in our strategic plan. All of the quantitative and qualitative indicators point to progress: an increasing and increasingly talented pool of student applicants; awards and publications of our teaching faculty; continued success in fund raising and in the stewardship of our endowment and physical assets; direct, sometimes noisy, engagement in campus issues by students, faculty, and staff; and the achievements of our graduating seniors in securing fellowships, graduate and professional school placements, and undertaking wide-ranging opportunities in teaching, service, and learning.

While we know the state of the College is superb, it is heartening to be validated by an impartial outside group. This past fall, a team from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) came to campus for Scripps’ 10-year accreditation review. WASC would be, as team chair and provost of Bryn Mawr College Robert Dostal said, “a mirror to you about yourself.”

And what did their mirror reflect? A paragraph taken from WASC’s report says it all:

Upon its introductory tour, the team was quite taken with the beauty of the place and asked itself whether the appearance of the place was matched by the substance of the educational program. After the exhaustive study of the documentation and the intensive visit with the various constituencies of the college, the visiting team concluded that appearance is matched by substance.

I believe we are meeting our goal of excellence in the areas we care most about: the quality of our students, faculty, and staff; the environment for intensive and intimate study and learning; and the opportunities for academic, professional, and personal growth. Our challenge is to keep defining what it means to be best, as we continue to explore new ideas and opportunities—and this is what we are doing.

Let me share some facts that will give you a picture of where Scripps is today and the direction in which we are headed:

The quality of our students, by measurable standards, continues to increase. We had a substantial increase in applications this year—well over 18%. And our acceptance rate—a key measure of a college’s selectivity, keeps getting lower (this is good!). It was 58% this year, a remarkable 20% lower than four years ago. The incoming Class of 2006 boasts 20 National Merit Finalists, a record number for Scripps, which last year led all women’s colleges with 15 finalists. The average combined SAT’s for the incoming class is 1310, another record, and up from 1280.

But numbers don’t tell the whole story. Our current students continue to amaze us with their spunk and creativity, from studying abroad to volunteering locally. The honors, achievements, and personal qualities of our graduating seniors—some of which are highlighted in this Bulletin— help round out the picture of a diverse, talented, and engaged student body.

Our faculty inspires students with their teaching and with their own study and research. They continue to be successful in securing grants, winning recognition for their past work and support for future work. The honor roll of awards—from foundations like the Rockefeller Foundation to foreign governments like the Federal Republic of Germany, and American government sources—and the list of publications and invited papers all give us reason to be proud of the Scripps College faculty. During this past anniversary year, a large number of faculty generously shared their expertise with members of the Scripps community at the Brad and Mary Ann Blaine Faculty Lecture Series on campus. The lectures were so popular that we hope to offer similar programs this coming year.

We also look to our campus environment as an indicator of excellence. If you have visited campus lately, you may concur that it has never looked better nor offered more opportunities for active community life. From the most beautiful swimming pool at the Claremont Colleges to the finest new residence hall to the new center of campus life—the Malott Commons—the Scripps campus is a lively, bustling place.

The decade-long campaign to renew our older buildings is nearly complete. Over that period, we have renovated our historic campus, wired all of our buildings for technology, installed water-saving irrigation and planting, recycled water in all of our fountains, and built new residential spaces and splendid facilities for science, studio art, gallery art, and soon, performing arts.

We are not complacent about our beautiful surroundings, just as we are not complacent about academic life. This spring, we earned a two-year grant from the Getty Grant Program to enable us to create a Landscape and Architectural Blueprint for the College. This “master campus stewardship plan” will help us make future decisions related to structures and plantings that ensure that the historic integrity of the physical environment is retained and enhanced.

Our endowment has grown, and now supports a larger part of our budget. The Campaign for the Scripps Woman is at 92% of the established $85 million goal with nearly two years to go before completion, largely because you—alumnae, parents, and friends—always generous supporters, have increased your giving over these crucial campaign years. We recently were able to appoint, with great delight, Professor Jane O’Donnell as the Bessie and Cecil Frankel Professor of Music. This endowed chair, the result of a bequest from two of our most generous donors, brings to seven the number of endowed chairs established during the campaign-with one more chair to make our target. We have had magnificent gifts this past year, and for that we are enormously thankful. We are also grateful for the high participation rates of our alumnae (among the highest in the nation), because all campaign gifts help the College achieve its goal of excellence.

Another area where we measure our excellence is in the climate we create and offer to all members of our community. In my letter to you last summer, I focused on our efforts to increase and improve diversity at Scripps by “including at our table members of every group, because every single person who shares our goals and passion for women’s education can contribute.” I concluded: “The more varied the voices, the more harmonies we can explore.”

We took this charge seriously throughout the year. The College’s Diversity Coordinating Committee, chaired by Dean Michael Lamkin, met regularly
is year and weekly during spring semester, with the goal of making Scripps a truly multicultural academic and residential community. Students and alumnae formed a committee to discuss issues, share stories, and develop programs that would bring women of all ages and from diverse backgrounds into closer student-alumnae relationships. We have hired new faculty who will bring new perspectives and backgrounds to English literature, music, and studio art. We have much work to do in the area of diversity to meet our goal of excellence, yet we are taking active, positive steps in this direction.

I thank all of you for being part of our work-through your gifts, your entrusting your daughters’ education to us, your positive and helpful comments, your active involvement in the life of the College.

As we now look to the next 75 years with enormous confidence, courage, and hope (words that are as appropriate now as they were 75 years ago), I rely on all of you to help us achieve greatness. Please feel free to write me with your reactions to our successes and suggestions for our future. I look forward to a continuing dialogue with you.


Nancy Y. Bekavac