Washington College Standing Strong

06/03/2022Mike Sosulski
Main Entrance in Spring

Less than a year ago, I was entrusted with the leadership of Washington College, one of the finest and most historic institutions of higher education. Serving as president is a unique privilege, and one that comes with a special set of responsibilities, challenges, and rewards.

And while there has been no shortage of challenges of late, I am grateful for them, because in short order I witnessed the incredible resilience, strength and optimism that define this wonderful college.

Indeed, challenging times like these create opportunities to rise up to meet them, and when we were presented with obstacles and barriers that might have broken us, we adapted and overcame them. Instead of merely getting by, we got better. There has never been a better example of Washington College ingenuity than during this global pandemic, when we saw professors innovate quickly to adapt their award-winning teaching to new conditions. We also saw staff invent new and creative ways to keep serving students, despite the challenges of Covid. Having now concluded a successful in-person academic year with a wonderful, in-person commencement on the beautiful campus green, it affords us a great moment to pause and celebrate the many high points from this year, letting the highlights write this chapter, and not the things that stood in our way. 

The results of the Washington College First Destination Survey over the past several years are consistently impressive. The recent graduating classes of 2020 and 2021 had Career Outcomes Rates of 91% and 92%, respectively, which means these graduates are working full-time in their career of choice, pursuing graduate school, volunteering, serving in the military or taking an intentional gap year to plan their next steps. Our goal is always for students to have a transformative experience, graduate in four years and then move right into their chosen career paths. It’s especially gratifying to see data that validate the College’s efforts here. 

Washington College is rapidly moving forward with improvements to the physical campus as well, starting with a $20 million investment in renovations to some of the campus’s most iconic residential halls, Reid and Minta Martin, and important energy conservation measures. A new dining services partner, AVI Foodsystems, is taking over starting July 1, with a “from-scratch” philosophy and a focus on sourcing fresh, local ingredients.

 On the Advancement front, we were thrilled earlier this year to receive one of our largest single gifts in the College’s 239-year history, a $5 million grant from the JHC Foundation. This gift will provide direct investment to move the College’s business management program towards accreditation by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), positioning the program for long-term sustainability and impact. It will also allow the College to endow key faculty positions and proceed with upgrades to Daly Hall, the department’s home on campus. Overall, the college’s financial position continues to improve, with our endowment reaching a high of over $300M at the end of December. 

Our dedicated faculty continue to champion the liberal arts, encouraging students to follow their passion and create their own academic experiences. The results speak for themselves, as this year alone we are celebrating Fulbright Award winner Salamata Jalloh ’22, recipient of the UK Partnership Award for the University of Edinburgh; and Jonathan Miranda, recipient of the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship. We applaud the six incredibly talented writers who were named as finalists for the prestigious Sophie Kerr Prize – the largest literary undergraduate prize in the country – and celebrate Teddy Friedline, the winner of the 2022 prize. We also look to other successes, such as junior Ella Sanvee, who was encouraged by Dr. Mindy Reynolds, Associate Professor of Biology, to apply for an Undergraduate Diversity Program Award that afforded her the opportunity to participate in the Society of Toxicology’s annual meeting in California. Another stellar student, Anastasia Bekker ’24, was invited to participate on a panel session during the annual conference of the Philippine Society for Public Administration, thanks to encouragement and guidance from Dr. Tahir Shad, Associate Professor of Political Science and International Studies. 

Washington College faculty also continue to be recognized as subject matter experts, serving as sources and thought leaders for prominent publications. This spring Dr. Christine Wade, Professor of Political Science and International Studies and Director of the International Studies Program, contributed to a piece in The Christian Science Monitor that explores U.S. foreign policy in Central America, and Dr. Melissa Deckman’s co-authored case study on gendered nationalism was cited in a Guest Essay that appeared in the New York Times. Deckman is the Chair of the Political Science Department and a Professor of Political Science. Clayton Black, Associate Professor and History, was also interviewed locally to offer perspective on the war in Ukraine, given his extensive knowledge and study of Russia.

Our athletic teams were able to fully compete again, and it was spectacular. We sent teams to postseason play in the fall, winter and spring, saw multiple record-setting seasons, and once again felt that electrifying Shoreman and Shorewoman spirit here on campus. With the announcement of the addition of golf and more sports expansions on the way, our talented student-athletes are going to continue to make a name for themselves and our programs. It is also worth noting two student-athletes who made a name for themselves this spring for their actions off the field. For months, Kain Domenech ‘23 and Erik Parry ’23 each made daily calls to Gabriel, a local man who has autism, helping him practice his conversational skills. What they found is that it was just as rewarding for them as for Gabriel. Giving back to the community, in ways large and small, is a vital part of the Washington College spirit. 

In another unique collaboration, Washington College has become a test site for the American Bird Conservancy’s bird-safe glass testing program, doubling the organization’s capacity to test and rate glass products. As the only college or university in the country to become a part of this program, the College is helping to provide critical testing data that is helping to solve a problem that accounts for over a billion bird deaths annually in the United States alone. The Foreman’s Branch Bird Observatory – the College’s major migratory bird banding station - laid the groundwork for this partnership, and we are also pleased to share that over $1 million has been committed towards their new bird-banding facility.

The best news is that this is just the beginning. We are about to embark on a formal strategic visioning process that will ensure that we set ambitious goals and champion forward-thinking initiatives that further elevate the Washington College experience. Despite the challenges of the past two years – or perhaps even because of them – the future of our institution is indeed very bright. 

  • Center for Environment and Society
  • First Destination Survey
  • Sophie Kerr Prize