President Jonathan Veitch addressed a near-capacity Choi Auditorium on Wednesday in his first public meeting of the year. He outlined his goals for the coming year: making an Occidental education more affordable and Occidental athletics more competitive; decreasing the average age of Board of Trustees members and increasing the longevity of the Occidental staff, and meeting a new fundraising goal of $20 million per year.
Veitch began the meeting by discussing the five years preceding his arrival at Occidental–most notably, the fact that the school had hired four presidents in those five years.
“When you have that kind of turn over at the top, the good things about the college remain good regardless, but you can’t necessarily do the new things,” Veith said. “Certainly one of the biggest challenges was to reestablish rapport with our board, our alumni, and with foundations who had begun to lose a little faith, frankly, in Occidental.”
One of the “new things” Veitch referred to was the renovation of major buildings on campus, such as Swan Hall, Dumke Hall and the McKinnon Center for Global Affairs. He believes that initiatives such as this will soon have Occidental considered the west coast equivalent to schools such as Middlebury and Macalester College, frequently deemed the most elite in liberal arts global studies.
After discussing the school’s global presence, Veitch switched his focus to the Urban and Environmental Policy (UEP) department and the UEP institute, the research and advocacy arm of the department. He singled out programs such as the Neighborhood Partnership Program and Upward Bound as positive examples of the school’s reach into the surrounding area, but also discussed challenges facing the urban studies departments.
“I think the challenge is making the whole greater than the sum of its parts and [creating] the kind of visibility and resources that we now have for international affairs,” Veitch said. “The other piece that will help ground our claim of being the most distinctive urban liberal arts college in the country is the strategic partnerships we make outside our door.”