Dear Alumni, Parents, and Friends of Colorado College,

When I arrived at Colorado College last summer, many people asked what drew me here. I explained that the unique combination of strength and ambition, along with a sense of adventure, was irresistible! Over the course of my first year, many experiences have underscored that first impression. Of course, great new colleagues and warm friendships have only added to the intense attachment I feel for this wonderful place.

We are indeed a college of immense strengths. Our students are truly remarkable. Their confidence, curiosity, innovative spirit, and talent inspire awe and appreciation for all they offer while they are in our midst — and later as alumni who continue to give back to this community.  Our faculty members are absolutely committed to undergraduate education both inside and outside of the classroom; they display their wide-ranging pedagogical and research skills in their mastery of the Block Plan. We have dedicated staff members and coaches who are inspired by our mission and who show their commitment to both our students and community in ways large  and small.

Bold action is part of our history. We were one of the first liberal arts colleges in the West, and we developed our distinctive Block Plan in 1970. Our entrepreneurial and innovative spirit continues to permeate today through creative team-taught courses, student endeavors such as Venture Grants, blocks abroad, and block breaks. These learning experiences set our alumni apart as independent-minded leaders in their fields.

Another strength is our financial condition. After attending the Harvard Seminar for New Presidents in July 2011, I realized just how strong we are relative to most colleges and universities. While many of our nation’s public and private institutions are struggling, Colorado College has weathered the economic crisis thanks to farsighted decisions made by previous leaders.

Early on in my tenure, I realized that I could begin my work with no better foundation than a deep understanding of what the people who make up this special place believe about the strengths, challenges, opportunities, and aspirations that will determine how we move into the future. And so I spent my first year listening to our students, faculty, staff, trustees, alumni, parents, and friends.

And what a great experience it was!  Over dessert at the President’s House, student government leaders shared their dreams with me. Sitting down to lunch with international students, I learned more about the challenges they face. Meeting with students who live off campus, I heard more stories about community involvement and inspiring professors. Through formal and informal conversations with faculty and staff colleagues, I learned about the Block Plan and its implications, and then I learned even more when I co-taught a block myself.  In the 13 cities that made up my listening tour, I met hundreds of engaged alumni and parents who care enough about CC to provide their input and explore new ideas.

My opportunity this year to think about Colorado College in the context of higher education in the U.S. has been another great experience. While our faculty and students continue to distinguish themselves, we and our peer institutions across the nation are encountering important questions about the changing demographics of future students, new forms of learning approaches made possible by technology and digital resources, the shape and feel of the distinctively American undergraduate residential experience, and the considerable economic challenges that all sides of higher education — institutions, students, and families — are experiencing.  The issues present us with compelling questions about how liberal arts colleges will draw on these forces and how we’ll evolve while maintaining our distinctiveness.

In this issue, I will share what we’ve learned during the year’s many conversations and explore some strategic approaches. To read the full “Year of Listening” document, which more fully places this knowledge within the broader context of a residential liberal arts education, visit I offer these ideas with gratitude to those who have shared their experiences and insights during this last year, and with great eagerness for our work ahead.

With warm regards,

Jill Tiefenthaler


Read more from Jill at the President’s Blog.