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Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,

This fall, several student groups on campus have raised questions surrounding the College’s endowment, specifically with regard to holdings related to fossil fuels. One group, the Advisory Committee on Socially Responsible Investing (ACSRI), has been meeting regularly with Patrick Norton, the College’s Vice President for Finance and Treasurer, and one of its members attends Investment Committee meetings of the Board of Trustees. Other groups, some part of a national movement on college campuses, have also engaged the College administration and community, hoping to learn more about the College’s endowment, how it is invested, and whether we should divest of our investments in fossil fuel companies.

As an academic institution, the College administration and the Board of Trustees are interested in engaging our students’ interest in the endowment. Such engagement, however, must be serious and be based in responsible inquiry and research. It must also be respectful and inclusive of all opinions. A look at divestment must include the consequences, both pro and con, of such a direction, including how likely it will be to achieve the hoped-for results and what the implications might be for the College, for faculty, staff, and individual students.

With input from several groups on campus, including ACSRI, we will set up and host panel discussions with experts in endowment management and divestment. It will include, for example, representatives from the firm that manages our endowment (Investure), veteran investment managers, and our own Scholar-in-Residence, Bill McKibben.

The management of Middlebury’s endowment is complex and has evolved over time. We are part of a consortium with other colleges and foundations whose pooled resources are invested in a number of “fund-of-funds” and therefore the College is very limited in either selecting or deleting any particular investment within its overall portfolio. Despite such limitations, the Investment Committee, the Administration, and Investure have been working with ACSRI to ensure that socially responsible investing is discussed and reviewed as a regular and ongoing part of the investment process. We have instructed Investure and the managers they engage to follow the environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) principles that align investors with broader objectives of one’s mission and society at-large (see: http://www.middlebury.edu/media/view/437641/original/proxy_voting_priciples.pdf )

At the same time, the primary fiduciary responsibility of our investment committee is to maximize its investment returns to support vital programs including financial aid and staff and faculty compensation, while managing risk. Currently, the endowment finances approximately 20 percent of the College’s annual operating cost—approximately $50 million this past year. It is vitally important to understand both the risks and rewards of one’s investment decisions as we are the stewards not only of the endowment for the current generation of Middlebury students, faculty, and staff, but for future generations as well.

At present, approximately 3.6 percent of the College’s $900 million endowment is directly invested in companies related to fossil fuels. For those interested in the amount directly invested in defense and arms manufacturing, the share of our endowment in those companies is less than 1 percent—approximately 0.6 percent. I have included an explanatory note at the end of this communication to provide information on the methodology used to determine these percentages. I encourage you to contact Patrick Norton (pnorton@middlebury.edu) if you have any questions about this methodology or about the College’s endowment.

I, along with my administrative colleagues and fellow board members, look forward to engaging the community on an issue of great interest and import to the College and its many constituents. I will be sending more information on the first panel discussion when plans are finalized.

Sincerely,

Ron

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This post is a bit unorthodox in its content and length—it is very long, yet I invite comment, as always. It is a report I sent recently to our faculty to set the context for some of the discussions we intend to have this year about our curriculum, pedagogy, governance, cost, and defining a liberal arts education for these dynamic times. As you will see, I have more questions than answers about how we should address the changes that are reshaping American higher education. But I firmly believe that we must engage them and I welcome your thoughts.

— Ron

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Dear Faculty Colleagues,

I hope you all have had good summers, finding the right combination of relaxation and productivity as we approach the coming academic year.

At about this time each year, I provide the Trustees with a summer report on significant campus issues. Often my report concerns the summer programs, but I also comment on matters that are likely to require their time, attention, and study during the coming year. Given the challenging times for higher education, the work we need to do on campus as follow-up to our NEASC ten-year reaccreditation review, and issues of general concern within the faculty, I thought it would be a good idea to share some thoughts with you as we look forward to a busy year come September.

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We have now completed our four-city trip, and it was both a great success and a reaffirmation of the College’s strategy to engage Asia more purposefully.   If one believes that “one needs to see to believe,” then a trip to Asia will underscore that this might indeed be Asia’s century, and that any American institution that chooses to ignore this in planning its future is putting itself at great risk.

Our trip had three major goals: (1) to meet and thank our alumni, past and current parents, current students studying in Asia, and friends of the College for all they do on the College’s behalf; (2) to seek increased support for the College, both financially and in helping to create greater opportunities for our students and (mentoring, internships, and jobs); and (3) to strengthen the College’s network by integrating alumni of the undergraduate college with Language School, Schools Abroad, and Monterey alumni.  A few words about these goals and how we advanced them on our trip.

We held receptions in Tokyo, Beijing, Hong Kong, and Singapore, and had between 60-80 guests at each one, by far the largest gatherings in Asia the College has ever hosted.  The critical mass in each of the four cities demonstrates the growing global character of our programs and the success of our graduates.  It was so rewarding to see the size of the crowds, and the enthusiasm for the College—what it is doing both in Vermont and around the world—was palpable in all cities and in the many individual meetings we had during the trip.

Our current students who are studying at our programs in Tokyo and Beijing are thriving and had much to say about their experiences abroad.   A panel in Beijing, which was part of our reception, featured two alumni from the College (’98 and ’08) who are working in Beijing—one of them a native of Shanghai and the other from Brooklyn, along with two alumni from the School of Chinese (1966 and 1977).  The four shared their experiences in China and how Middlebury influenced their careers and lives.  It was a remarkable display of talent, perseverance, and, in the case of the Language School alumni, history: one of the alums was among the first nine students to be invited into China in the early 1970s as part of Zhou Enlai’s ping pong diplomacy, which eventually led to Deng Xiaoping’s initiating China’s reforms in 1978, and the other was among the first Americans to be allowed to remain in China and work among Chinese (in a factory in northern China) in 1978.

The panelists represented multiple generations and a wide range of expertise; all have remarkable knowledge of China and connections within Chinese society and all are eager to assist recent graduates and current students interested in the region.  The evening allowed the large number of attendees, all with Middlebury connections (the College, Language Schools, Schools Abroad, and Monterey), to come together, network among themselves, and help us create a tighter and stronger alumni group, which, in turn, will provide greater support and opportunities for current students and graduates.

Perhaps the most moving part of the reception was how one set of former parents traveled by overnight train to attend the reception in Beijing simply to thank us in person for all the College did for their daughter, who graduated in 2008.  They could not speak a word of English, but they expressed their deep gratitude for their daughter’s education via a translator, and then far more in their non-verbal expressions of appreciation to the College.

We succeeded in obtaining commitments for internships for our students in each of the four cities.  We sought internships for students who might stay on for a Winter Term following a fall semester of study, for those who might stay for the summer following their spring semester abroad, and also for students who could manage an internship during their semester of study.  We will be following up with a number of parents, alumni, and friends of the College to establish these internships, which are becoming more and more helpful for those who are seeking longer term opportunities in Asia.  We also received immediate and unexpected financial support, as attendees made gifts and commitments to the College on the spot, which is unusual but, needless to say, very welcome.

Our final goal was to continue the process of leveraging all of our resources related to our rich array of international related programs.  In particular, by inviting alums of the College, of Monterey, of the Language Schools, and the Schools Abroad we are consciously attempting to more than double, and nearly triple, the number of individuals who could (and should) serve as resources for our students and other alumni.   If we are successful in bringing together alumni from all these programs we will increase our alumni body from slightly fewer than 30,000 graduates of the undergraduate college to about 80,000, which includes attendees and graduates of the Language Schools, attendees of our Schools Abroad, and graduates of Monterey.  Those 80,000, as our receptions showed, live throughout the world, and should be a great support system for students and alumni who are increasingly seeking work and lives not only in Asia, but in literally every corner of the world.  No liberal arts college can boast as large, distinguished, and global alumni network as ours, and with as many potential benefits to our students.  Judging from the rich discussions at each reception among attendees from each of our programs, we made very good progress in establishing a more unified alumni network for the College.

Connecting the Dots

This is the fifth in a series of postings from Asia, as I and my colleagues visit alumni, parents, and friends in the region. This posting is by Mike Schoenfeld ’73.

Singapore

The final stop of our week-long Asia trip is in Singapore, and we are greeted by the city’s tropical heat and humidity. Just one degree north of the equator, the tidy city is lush with vegetation overhanging the immaculately maintained streets. Knowing we are headed back the next day to the late fall weather in Vermont, we enjoy the warm welcome.

Middlebury’s presence in Singapore is less developed than in China and Japan. Often a short-term destination for business transactions, it is only recently that Singapore has become home to a growing number of alumni. Regular visits to the strong local schools by our admissions office have yielded an interesting mix of Singaporeans, ex-pats from many countries, and United World College students coming to Middlebury. Now some have returned. We take the time to visit the UWC and make a presentation to an auditorium full of prospective students. With 10 students from this school at Middlebury already, the interest level is high.

Young alumni in Singapore turned out in force for a Middlebury reception with President Liebowitz at Flutes at the Fort restaurant. Pictured left to right are Kyle Smith ’13, Luke Douglas ’09, President Liebowitz, Bobby Gosney ’09, Divvya Dasan ’09, and Chalene Pek ’10.

Our reception later in the evening shows that our trip here is well worth the effort. As was the case for our gatherings in Tokyo, Beijing, and Hong Kong, we meet a record number of parents and alumni who are delighted to see us. Fred Myers ’67 cashed in some frequent flyer miles and flew up from his farm in Western Australia just to be here. Edi Sentosa, MIPM ’93, made the trip from Indonesia. Young alums, many of whom had not met each other before, worked their iPhones to exchange contact information. The Middlebury network expands.

Our work nearly done, we reflect back on the trip with Rick Scanlon ’93 later that evening over Thai food. Rick’s story is becoming familiar—a Midd undergrad and Language School alum who finds extraordinary business opportunities in Asia and makes a life for his family here. Now he wants to stay connected to his college and is offering his help. All the ingredients for Middlebury’s global future in Asia are here—promising students, extraordinary educational opportunities, language-adept and culturally proficient graduates, parents and alums who want to give back. All we have to do is keep connecting the dots.

—Mike Schoenfeld ’73, senior vice president and senior philanthropic adviser

Hong Kong Connections

This is the fourth in a series of postings from Asia, as I and my colleagues visit alumni, parents, and friends in the region. This posting is by Mike Schoenfeld ’73.

Hong Kong

The ride from the airport to the island city is dramatic, with the rugged forested mountains framing crowded skyscrapers of every conceivable shape and size. There is movement and activity everywhere, from the bustling harbor to the lively canyon-like streets. The tidiness of Tokyo and constraints of Beijing give way to the openness and energy of Hong Kong.

Our relationship with Hong Kong is deep and strong—stronger in many ways than our relationship any other city outside the United States with the exception of London. Most Middlebury presidents visit here at least once in their tenure, going back as early as President Sam Stratton in 1959. It was at a dinner for Stratton hosted by C. V. Starr that Tom Kan ’64 first learned about Middlebury. Fifty-two years later, Tom proudly introduced Ron at a small dinner that included the Hong Kong parents who hosted a reception for John McCardell in 1997, Kenneth and Nancy Ting P’96.

The difference on this presidential visit is the level of Middlebury’s involvement in the region. Fifteen years of international recruiting in admissions, coupled with the opening of the schools abroad in China and Japan, has dramatically increased the number of students who want to work and study in Asia. They join the early pioneers who picked up their language skills in the Language Schools and the undergraduate program beginning in the late ’60s and accelerating into the ’90s. The opportunities of the global economy bring plenty of jobs, and Middlebury alums have just the right skills to take advantage to that. When you add Monterey alumni to the mix, you have more than a critical mass to form a significant Middlebury network.

No place is this network stronger than in Hong Kong. The alumni and parent reception at the China Club is packed as Ian Malin ’99, the newly elected president, introduces Ron. Even the core group of volunteer leaders is surprised at the strong turnout. We all feel that this is just the beginning of a whole new chapter in Middlebury’s presence in Asia.

—Mike Schoenfeld ’73, senior vice president and senior philanthropic adviser

History and Opportunity

This is the third in a series of postings from Asia, as I and my colleagues visit alumni, parents, and friends in the region. This posting is by Mike Schoenfeld ’73.

Beijing

The traffic on Jinbao Street was heavy on a relatively pollution free day on our way to Tiananmen Square. The vast number of bicycles I remembered from my visit 15 years ago has been mostly replaced by new model taxis, buses and cars. Shoppers in fashionable western clothes walked by the luxury stores, peering into store front windows at Gucci hand bags and the Cartier jewelry.

We made our way with thousands of others to watch the ceremonial lowering of the Chinese flag strategically placed at the head of the Square. As we waited for dusk to arrive, we were dazzled by images of stunning landscapes, cultural treasures, and modern architectural wonders on two gigantic video screens that framed the view to Mao’s mausoleum. All attention focused as the flag slowly dropped, with the daily ritual captured by hundreds of cell phone cameras. Soldiers crisply gathered the flag for the march across the street and under the large portrait of Mao guarding the entrance to the Forbidden City. The large crowd orderly dispersed under Chairman Mao’s watchful eyes.

Our brief time as tourists provided us with a small glimpse of the confluence of history and opportunity that defines the new Beijing. As our meetings with alumni and parents progressed to a well-attended gathering the following evening, we began to see how this framework is shaping the lives and careers of our graduates. Kim Woodard, the moderator of the evening panel who attended the first year of Middlebury’s Chinese School in 1966, reminded us that it was only 40 years ago that we were fighting a proxy war with China in Vietnam. Woodard was one of the first Americans to enter China during Nixon’s ping-pong diplomacy effort in the early ’70s and has been here ever since. In those early days, Kim felt he knew just about every American doing business in China. Now they number in the hundreds of thousands.

Among the new business people in Beijing are an increasing number of Middlebury grads. Well equipped with language skills passed on by John Berninghausen, Gregory Chiang, and other Middlebury and Monterey professors, they are working in banking, finance, education, publishing, technology, and green energy. Many seem surprised at how long they have been here, finding a sense of place in a country that is struggling to seek a balance between promoting economic development and maintaining societal constraints.

One young alum, Tao Zhou ’98, reflected on his journey back to China after his time at Middlebury. A math and computer science major with a minor in physics, he credits his liberal arts background for his success in business and his view on life. Although it was the two master’s degrees he received at Dartmouth that gave him skills and credentials, it was his passion for  “living a life of uncertainty” that led to his realization that he was born to be an entrepreneur. His startup company in China now employs 30 people and continues to grow. Where will it lead? Tao believes someday he may go back to get a Ph.D. in philosophy and become a teacher. No one in the audience that evening would be surprised.

—Mike Schoenfeld ’73, senior vice president and senior philanthropic adviser

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