February 2020

A message from
Dr. Hilary L. Link

February 21, 2020

Dear Members of the Allegheny Community:

Amidst my many other activities and engagements in the past month, I have had the pleasure of convening with colleagues from across higher education in two thought-provoking arenas: the annual meeting of the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), whose theme was “Shaping the Future of Higher Education: An Invitation to Lead,” and the annual meeting and advocacy day of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU). I came away from both meetings further energized by the dedicated work of our faculty, staff, and students and reminded of Allegheny’s innovative place in higher education.

While attending a dinner at NAICU, I was fortunate to hear David Epstein, author of Range, speak about the importance of a liberal arts education in training future successful leaders in all fields. For those of you who are not familiar with Epstein’s work, I highly recommend it; Range’s premise is the following: “Generalists often find their path late, and they juggle many interests rather than focusing on one … They’re also more creative, more agile, and able to make connections their more specialized peers can’t see … As experts silo themselves further while computers master more of the skills once reserved for highly focused humans, people who think broadly and embrace diverse experiences and perspectives will increasingly thrive” (italics and emphasis mine).

As we work to strengthen Allegheny’s focus on interdisciplinary thought — achieved through our major/minor requirement in two completely different disciplines — I am encouraged by the increasing public understanding that connecting different approaches and seeing through different lenses are indeed key to future success in solving the large-scale issues confronting our world. I am excited for Allegheny to become an even more prominent leader in championing this type of multi-perspectival approach to problem-solving.

Also at AAC&U, I was proud that Dean of Curriculum and Registrar Ian Binnington and Vice President and Dean of Students April Thompson presented a session discussing the integrative and productive partnership between academic affairs and student life at the College on initiatives, including new student orientation. Ian Binnington also served on a panel about retention with individuals from the Gardner Institute. Our faculty and staff are leaders in their various sectors, and wherever I go I encounter people who are impressed with the quality of our community.

These two gatherings provided me additional occasions to engage with other chief executive officers on a range of pressing issues facing higher education, including demographic challenges and the financial realities of the marketplace. You may have read the recent Inside Higher Ed article about a study on the higher long-term return on investment for graduates of liberal arts colleges. While that financial impact is certainly important, I am grateful for the emphasis that Allegheny has long placed on developing individuals who are committed to success in the workforce and to bettering their communities. We can point to example after example of Allegheny students and alumni who exemplify that philosophy, as well as to faculty and staff who model it.

As always, I want to take the opportunity here to share just a few highlights from the past months on campus:

  • I enjoyed attending events celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Week, including the MLK Day commUNITY Brunch, the annual Fellowship Dinner, and Pride Night with the IDEAS Center and Allegheny Gator Basketball. My thanks to all who worked to organize these events. You can view photos from them on my website and my Instagram. If you are not currently following me on Instagram and Twitter, I hope you will start doing so — you can find me on both at @presidenthlink!

  • The Board of Trustees met earlier this month for a deep-dive retreat on effective trusteeship and how to best leverage the College’s exciting momentum and trajectory. Rick Legon, former president of the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AGB), led the board through two intensive days of discussion and engagement.

  • We continue to look forward with excitement to the College achieving climate neutrality in 2020, the result of excellent work by so many people over nearly two decades. I am very pleased to join Trustee Christine Scott Nelson and Presidents Emeriti Richard Cook and Jim Mullen in Atlanta for a plenary session devoted entirely to the extraordinary work Allegheny continues to do in this realm, at the Second Nature Higher Education Climate Leadership Summit on Feb. 23–25. At this session, we will discuss how the College has maintained a commitment to achieving climate neutrality through multiple presidential transitions, making Allegheny a national model!

  • Black History Month programming continues this month with a variety of events sponsored by student organizations. You can view the schedule here.

  • Two Allegheny faculty members recently shared their expertise in stories featured in the Erie news media. You can watch the interviews with Professor Brian Harward on WJET and Professor Becky Dawson on WICU/WSEE. The Allegheny News Center also recently shared stories about Professor Amelia Finaret’s research on the economics of nutrition and Professor Beth Choate’s trip to Israel during winter break. We are excited to share more broadly news about our faculty and their scholarly work in the future.

  • The newly formed Allegheny Pep Band made its debut this semester, performing at men’s and women’s basketball games on three dates. The band was a wonderful addition to the fun and excitement of Gator basketball, and I’m grateful to the students and faculty who brought the band back!

  • For the first time, the Bruce R. Thompson Center for Business and Economics has expanded its Zingale Big Idea Competition to include area residents. Entrepreneur in Residence Chris Allison and I enjoyed our interview with the Meadville Tribune for this article about the competition. And speaking of the Meadville Tribune, I recently also had the opportunity to talk with a reporter about women’s leadership in the workplace, a topic about which I care a great deal.

When I’m not on campus during the next few months, my travels for the College will take me to Georgia, California, Washington State, New York and Dublin. It’s very gratifying to share the Allegheny story with others who might not know much about Allegheny but want to learn more about this remarkable college. It continues to be a great joy to meet with our alumni to hear about their accomplishments and love for their alma mater.


President Hilary L. Link