During former College President Jim Yong Kim's administration, Dartmouth pursued a poorly-conceived and half-baked mission of globalizing the College's reach and increasing its international profile. It placed greater emphasis on graduate programs particularly Geisel Medical School, whose international reputation has always lagged behind that of Tuck Business School and on professors' publication of research. This effort, while well-intended, had the side effect of diluting Dartmouth's strongest merit, which has always been its emphasis on undergraduate education.
As the new College President and a Dartmouth alumnus himself, President-elect Philip Hanlon '77 would do well to remember the student body's apathy towards Kim's "global Dartmouth" endeavor and to make undergraduate education the linchpin of his academic legacy as the next President of the College. Doing so will not only start Hanlon's presidency off right, but also preserve the undergraduate focus that makes Dartmouth unique among the Ivy League.
Well-intended as it was, Kim's vision of a "global Dartmouth" with a higher international profile was one that was born from, inspired by and overly informed by the former president's personal interests, rather than the interests of the College and its students. For example, the Center for Health Care Delivery Science, one of Kim's major accomplishments at Dartmouth, is certainly a commendable endeavor serving a worthy goal. However, it is not an institution that strengthens Dartmouth's undergraduate mission.
The idea that Dartmouth is not well-known enough internationally is an old one. However, the Kim administration's idea that improving graduate education and pushing professors to publish had the expected and to undergraduate students, unwelcome effect of taking resources and attention away from the undergraduate students, who make up almost 70 percent of the College's student population. Similarly, Kim's push for Dartmouth to make a bigger mark through leadership on global health issues naturally led the administration to pay more attention to science, technology, mathematics and engineering, known as STEM disciplines and particularly the research sciences, to the detriment of liberal arts departments.
President-elect Hanlon, as an alumnus of the College who has presumably benefitted from the quality of Dartmouth's undergraduate teaching, should share undergraduate students' desire to maintain the College's focus on providing the best possible education to its undergraduates, many of whom chose Dartmouth for its focus on undergraduate education. As the next College President, Hanlon must reconcile the administration's desire to increase Dartmouth's visibility with its students' desire for it to maintain its identity as an undergraduate-focused institution. On a similar note, Hanlon must decide how to develop the College's graduate programs alongside, rather than in opposition to, the College's undergraduate programs. If he finds a successful balance between the two, the Hanlon presidency will be remembered as a success for bringing Dartmouth greater international recognition without compromising its most important traits.
If he comes to Dartmouth as a president focused on the College's undergraduate student body, Hanlon will also want to examine the steep 12.5 percent decline in early decision applications for the Class of 2017 and to address its causes. As President-elect, Hanlon has a tremendous amount of ability to influence others' perception of the College through his personal appearances, public statements and interaction with the student body in the months leading to his assumption of the presidency.
Finally, and most importantly, Hanlon can prove his commitment to Dartmouth and its students by staying at the College. For all the changes (or lack thereof) that it brought to Dartmouth, Kim's administration may best be remembered for its brevity. Today, especially in light of the College's recent image woes, it is imperative that Hanlon settles down in Hanover for a long and stable presidency. This will allow current students, alumni of the College and prospective students considering Dartmouth to take comfort in the thought that this school has again found a president who regards the needs of the College, its students and its alumni as his top priority.