Presidential Communications

See recent communications from the Office of the President below.

Presidential Communications

Dear Washington College Community,

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. 

Best, 

Mike

To the Washington College Community,

One of the commitments made by this College is our Diversity Statement. In part, it reads “we endeavor to be a community made up of people from a variety of backgrounds with differing perspectives” and that “we commit to fostering a more equitable, inclusive, and engaged community that embraces all the complexity that each person brings to campus.” It also promises that we will “cultivate a continuous desire and ability to understand and meaningfully engage with different perspectives and experiences, including those of historically underrepresented and marginalized groups.” 

Sometimes, we stumble in these areas, even as we endeavor to live out these ideals. Last week, there was a Public Safety Alert that included an inflammatory depiction of a suspect in a recent shooting near our campus. This is a mistake that we are learning from. 

There have also been several incidents of vandalism on campus recently, one in particular targeting the statue of George Washington on the Green, which we can reasonably interpret as a statement about this historical figure’s own complicated history and his elevated status at the College.  

Just as we need to acknowledge and confront our own biases to prevent the harm of the PS message, we also need to continue to re-examine the complexities of our college’s history and namesake; however, doing so destructively and anonymously does not move us forward. As an institution of higher learning, we are called to engage with one another through reasoned, honest, and courageous conversation and debate, rather than through acts of harm and destruction. Therefore, we encourage the person or persons compelled to deface campus property to seek other, more productive ways to engage with the College on this important topic of its history. We will do our part, in turn, to create more opportunities for engagement. 

On a more positive note, some really meaningful initiatives have already begun to acknowledge and be transparent about the College’s participation in systems of racism, inequality, and inequity.  In light of the recent incidents on campus, I want to highlight them. 

One such example is the Asterisk Initiative, part of the larger Washington College History Project. Through this project, launched in the summer of 2020, we revisited the legacy of nine different sites and figures on campus. This re-examination included, among others, George Washington’s prominent physical presence through various statues, busts, and the signature logo. In the retelling, we sought to share the unvarnished truth, which includes the reality that Washington himself was deeply implicated in the institution of slavery. 

I strongly encourage you to explore some of the resources that are available to learn about this history and again thank the numerous members of our community who have worked diligently to share the untold stories through these projects. 

This work is ongoing, and we invite those who feel passionately about the topic to work in partnership with the rest of the community in seeking productive, meaningful avenues for this type of conversation.  

I’d also like to note that at the end of March, I joined the leaders of the Faculty Council, Staff Council, and Diversity Committee in sending out a call for all Washington College faculty and staff to participate in online training we are providing on diversity, equity, and inclusion. This training is a critical first step for us in raising our collective consciousness about these issues, as we continue to educate ourselves and to be open to new perspectives.  

Last week was notable on our campus for the incidents noted here; but on a much more celebratory note, it was memorable nationally for the fact that Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson was confirmed as the next Justice on the Supreme Court, making her the first Black woman to serve on our nation’s highest court. In her acceptance speech, she said, “In my family, it took just one generation to go from segregation to the Supreme Court of the United States,” acknowledging both the struggles and progress of Black Americans. Jackson is a symbol of hope and aspiration for millions of young girls, who can now look to this institution and see the possibilities for themselves.  

Indeed, this historic appointment will rightfully be remembered as a sign of progress for the Black community – and Black women in particular – and Jackson’s elevation to the Supreme Court is a joyous occasion for all Americans and should be celebrated as such. 

In these times when important steps forward can feel overshadowed by frustrating missteps, it is important to both hold space for the joy of this historic appointment and to acknowledge our society’s – and our own -- shortcomings and then do something about them. We at Washington College are endeavoring to do just that. 

Best,​

Mike

Dear Students, Colleagues and Friends: 

Washington College challenges and inspires emerging citizen leaders to discover lives of purpose and passion. These familiar words from our beloved college’s mission statement have taken on new meaning for me these past two weeks, as I have watched the terrible events in Ukraine unfold. Inspiring lives toward purpose and passion is among the highest aims of an education, and it is right, dignified and proper for the liberal arts to be that sort of catalyst in young people’s lives. Sadly, these past weeks have seen an entirely different and tragic spark for purpose and passion in eastern Europe, as Ukrainians young and old have taken flight to save their lives and taken up arms to save their country against a rapacious and volatile neighbor, Vladimir Putin. As a community, it is important to state clearly that we stand with Ukraine, as they continue to fight for their lives and their democracy in the face of continued military attacks.   

Witnessing the unprovoked attacks on Ukraine, a sovereign nation, is a stark reminder of just how fraught and fragile the world in which we live truly is. And as New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman has rightly pointed out, unlike many wars and conflicts of the past, this one is well-documented in our social media feeds, putting the horrific impact of Russia’s actions on full display. It is truly heartbreaking to see near real-time images of the human cost of this act of aggression against the people of Ukraine. Orphaned children at border crossings, bombed hospitals, and people living indefinitely in concrete shelters are all very real consequences of this invasion. The long-term consequences have yet to be realized. 

At present, an estimated three million people have fled Ukraine since the invasion began three weeks ago. Nearly 2,400 civilians are known to have been killed or injured. For those who remain in areas under attack, badly needed aid is slow to arrive and their communities are increasingly under rubble. 

There is an impulse to look away from all of this, but I urge you to look on and bear witness to acknowledge the overwhelming despair of those who wish only to go about their normal days—working, caring for families, pursuing an education—but no longer have that luxury. Not looking away is critical because in the age of disinformation, knowledge is power. While it is jarring to see this unfolding at the street level, it is also eye-opening and important. Those who are bravely exposing these raw and immediate atrocities are begging us to look on and to witness both their bravery and the devastation this unprovoked war has wrought.  

It may feel futile to say that we stand with Ukraine, while we sit 8,000 miles away, passively watching these horrors unfold from the comfort of our living rooms, our offices, or in coffee shops. It is not. Standing with Ukraine, acknowledging out loud their rights as a sovereign people, is standing up for democracy. These are people just like us, and in standing with Ukrainians, we are wise to also acknowledge that while our democracy may span more than two centuries, it is precious and did not come with a lifelong guarantee. 

Our Washington College community has always been a champion of the ideals that the world desperately needs. Now more than ever, as we stand together in solidarity with the people of Ukraine, let us seek to be a beacon for citizen leaders who seek lives of purpose and passion and who live out the enduring values of critical thinking, effective communication and moral courage. Change can—and must—start with us, in our daily interactions with each other and with our community, and in lifting up our collective voices to call out injustice wherever and whenever we witness it.  

 Michael J Sosulski Signature

Mike

Washington College condemns the bomb threats made against Historically Black Colleges and Universities across the country on the first week of Black History Month. We stand in solidarity with these institutions, particularly the three in the state of Maryland--Bowie State, Coppin State, and Morgan State. 

We decry the bigotry and intolerance that deny individuals their rights to learn and work in environments free of violence and racism. We reinforce our commitment to celebrating the contributions, achievements, and accomplishments of African Americans -- not just during Black History Month, but all year long, as well as our abiding commitment to respect, inclusion, and belonging. It is our moral responsibility to prepare students to succeed in a world where diversity is the norm, and we denounce the forces that would deny this and diminish us all. 

To the Washington College Community,

As we enter the 3rd calendar year of COVID-19, now is the perfect time to pause and recognize that even as we continue to navigate this ever-changing pandemic, some key things have changed. 

Initially, without vaccines available and with a more limited understanding of how this virus worked, the only safe choice was a shutdown. No one knew enough to offer any viable alternatives to the campus closure and then the national home quarantine that followed. 

But now, two years later, vaccines and booster shots are readily available. The result for those vaccinated and boosted (the vast majority of us on campus) is a high probability that if you do contract COVID, you won't get very sick or require hospitalization. We also know more about how the virus actually spreads. These developments mean that we have passed the point where our default response to positive cases is to cancel all events and activities, or even to significantly limit in-person interactions. 

Instead, with the benefit of expert knowledge and guidance from the medical community and the power of the vaccine, we are able to transition to a place where we can focus on mitigation strategies, providing sound guidance on how we can safely do normal things in person. Being together in person on our campus though, means doubling down on the proven tactics for decreasing transmission risks, including the vaccine requirement, masking in all indoor public spaces, testing (especially those unvaccinated and/or symptomatic,) and isolating those who do contract COVID. 

The Omicron variant that represents today’s challenge is highly transmissible.  Because of the nature of its spread, it is simply not realistic to expect that we will be COVID-free this semester. We know we will not be, and at times, case counts may be higher than what we’ve previously experienced. We can reasonably expect some number of students, faculty and staff alike to test positive, particularly in the first few weeks of the semester. We are prepared for that and will manage those outcomes through our policies around quarantine and isolation and worker leave guidance. And again, we can also anticipate that for the vast majority who do contract COVID, the symptoms will be mild or non-existent. 

But the pervasiveness of Omicron doesn't mean that we won’t be operating as safely as possible; instead, it means that our approach is responsive to what we know now and the new tools we have to combat it.  

COVID is here to stay, but so are we. We will continue to respond responsibly, cautiously, and appropriately to the risks, knowing that our community is well over 90% vaccinated. It has been a long couple of years but what these years have shown us is that our campus community is both resilient and responsive to anything thrown our way. 

We will be sending out weekly updates from the WC Response Team that will include any changes to our COVID guidance and operations for the coming semester. To all of you: students, staff, faculty, parents, families, friends, and alums, who have patiently committed to all of our efforts to keep Washington College safe and thriving for these past two years, we thank you and look forward to the spring 2022 semester!  

Best,

Mike Sosulski

Today we celebrate Dr. Sosulski's 100th day with Washington College!  In recognition of this early milestone, he took some time to reflect on what he’s learned, where we are and where we’re headed. We invite you to watch his 100-day address here.

Read a Welcome Message from President Sosulski HERE.

Read the full announcement here.