President David A. Greene, Amy Walter ’91, Litt.D. ’17
Discuss the State of Higher Education and Colby’s Bold Future
In a live virtual event Dec. 8, President David A. Greene and Amy Walter ’91, Litt.D. ’17, political analyst and national editor of the Cook Political Report, discussed Colby’s pandemic response and some of today’s other pressing issues.
Leading in a Crisis
Colby’s intensive COVID-19 protocol was among the most comprehensive in the nation, allowing students to have a safe, on-campus experience. Several national media outlets reported on Colby’s plans and success, including in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and PBS NewHour, Forbes, and more.
“What Colby did was nothing short of remarkable. It puts Colby in a very distinct class of colleges,” Walter said.
Providing students with an exceptional, in-person education is the essence of Colby’s mission. “We knew that no matter what, if we could do it safely, we had to be back together,” Greene said, citing the extraordinary effort of so many people from committed faculty, staff, and students to outside experts on public health.
Greene said Colby’s approach was to put trust in the community. “We asked them to internalize a set of principles and values—to protect yourself, others, and this experience.” Walter said that the College put its faith in students, faculty, and staff to do the right thing, and they paid it back.
With robust surveillance testing—almost 90,000 tests were administered this semester—Colby was able to prevent community transmission of the virus and learned a lot about mitigation. Colby plans to invite everyone back to campus for the Jan Plan term and spring semester.
Colby’s commitment to delivering an extraordinary experience to its students also included members of the Class of 2020 who were impacted by the pandemic in unique ways. In May 2020 the College launched Pay It Northward, a campaign to support recent graduates entering a challenging job market by securing postgraduate opportunities for every member of the Class of 2020. The Colby community stepped up, and only a small percentage of the class is still seeking an opportunity. The College is now planning a similar effort for the Class of 2021. “My hope is that they will have it easier than the Class of 2020, but we can’t guarantee that. So we’re going to knock on everyone’s door again,” he said.
Fostering an Inclusive Community
When asked about the national reckoning on racial injustice, Greene spoke about the College’s continued commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. “It’s a moment that if we let it slip by without making the changes that we need to make as a country, as a College, then that’s on us. This really is an inflection point, a moment where we could do something important,” said Greene, who explained that while the College has made great progress over the last several years, there is much work to be done.
Efforts include building upon and evolving the work of the Presidential Task Force on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and developing a new multidisciplinary field of study around structural inequity.
To make it possible for the most talented students from all backgrounds to attend Colby, removing financial barriers is essential. New financial aid programs have made Colby far more accessible than ever before, and the College continues to build on these efforts through the support of generous donors.
An Unwavering Partnership
Working with city officials and urban planners, the College continues to invest in Waterville. With the addition of the Bill & Joan Alfond Main Street Commons, 200 students are living downtown and engaging with the community. New capital investments include the Paul J. Schupf Art Center, the arts collaborative building, and the Lockwood Hotel.
Greene cited indicators of success such as population and job growth in the city. “With a couple more turns of the wheel on this one, we’re going to be in very good shape,” he said. “Waterville is going to have a great future.”
In response to a question about the status of Colby’s partnership with Waterville during the pandemic, Greene said, “We are not fair-weather partners. We are here for all time with Waterville to make sure this works.”
From her trustee service to her honorary degree and 2017 baccalaureate address, Amy Walter ’91, Litt.D. ’17 has brought her expertise and commitment to the College in many ways. Involved with Dare Northward since the beginning, she narrated the campaign launch video which states, presciently, that Colby doesn’t seek shelter from the world, but seeks to change it.
A Northward Trajectory
While the challenges of 2020 have tested the nation and the world, Greene and Walter remain optimistic about the future of higher education and Colby. The College’s innovative spirit continues to position Colby to not just succeed but lead, especially during these unprecedented times. “I look ahead over these next 10 years, and I think that Colby has unlimited potential,” said Greene.