December 13, 2022 | Office of the President

Reflections on the Fall Semester (December 13, 2022)

To the Bowdoin community,

As the semester draws to a close, I am writing to share a few thoughts.

This has been a semester of wonderful highs and profound lows. We have been operating in “normal mode” in everything we do for the first time since March of 2020, which has been terrific. Classes are being taught as they should be and where they should be. Our performance spaces are again filled with amazing creativity. The mountains, rivers, lakes, and coastline of Maine have seen more Bowdoin students than ever through Outing Club trips. And our athletic venues are full, and full of energy, as our teams are back to full competitive strength. I’m also told that there have even been a few parties. This return to normal has also required gaining comfort with managing the new endemic phase of the pandemic (and the powerful flu and respiratory viruses that are circulating), and this has been challenging for some. In addition, we have had to relearn methods of doing our work and regain comfort and the skills to engage with one another in person, one-on-one, and in large and small groups in all manner of things—at work, in class, and socially. This has not always been easy. But, as we do this work, we have seen great generosity, grace, and kindness.

The tragic death of our student Omar Osman ’26 is inexplicable. As we have experienced before, there is no way for us to understand or come to terms with the death of someone so young, so beloved, and so wonderful. As I said at the faculty meeting and again at the service last week, even in our grief we can be very grateful to have known Omar, and he will always be a part of Bowdoin College. His passing is a reminder that we should focus on what’s most important in our lives: the bonds of friends and family and seeking meaning and joy in our lives through those we love, through our work and passions, and through our service. I am very grateful to our student affairs leadership and staff, and to our residential life staff, for the compassion, care, and thoughtfulness that they brought to every aspect of this tragedy. As we continue to witness, the Bowdoin community pulls together to provide support for one another at the most challenging times.

There has been much that has gone on at Bowdoin this semester—for those who are interested, an update is appended to this note.

Julianne and I wish you and those whom you love a wonderful holiday season and New Year. I hope you take the opportunity over the break to rest and recharge, and to enjoy and treasure your time with friends and family.

All the best,


In my welcome back message in August, I urged you, above all else, to engage and spend time with one another as we emerged from the pandemic restrictions of the past two years, to focus on building community, and to make sure you take the time to have some fun. Here is a sampling of Bowdoin this fall, a reminder of how far we’ve come:

The semester began with so many of the events and gatherings we’ve missed or had to scale down these past few years. Captured beautifully in photographs, it was beyond wonderful to gather with the Class of 2026 as they got to know the Maine outdoors and connected with Maine communities through the McKeen Center as part of their introduction to Bowdoin.

We launched Bowdoin’s groundbreaking Digital Excellence Commitment to create a common learning platform for students and faculty and to create equity regarding essential tools for learning and teaching and announced a new partnership with Northeastern’s Roux Institute in Portland to provide opportunities for students who may want to gain additional educational and professional credentials in a host of technological fields.

As the semester began, Asian studies and Latin American, Caribbean, and Latinx studies were in a new campus home, members of our faculty and staff were heralded for a winning project aimed at strengthening democracy, and some of the 103 students who received funded CXD internship grants last summer shared their experiences at a well-attended gathering in Smith Union. Beautiful early fall weather brought many of us outdoors for gatherings like the Student Activities Fair on the Coe Quad and a celebration on the main Quad hosted by LASO to kickoff Latin Heritage Month. And we were once again out on our playing fields to root for the Polar Bears at the start of what would be a season of encouraging progress for football, an outstanding record for men’s soccer, and yet another national championship for our amazing women’s rugby team that outscored its opponents 399–83 this fall!

We continued to make important progress on our sustainability efforts by bringing online a new 17,000-panel solar array on college property at Brunswick Landing that generates nearly half of our annual electricity energy consumption. The Schiller Coastal Studies Center was honored for its “passive house” design and hosted an open house for community members, who were not all discouraged by a steady November rain. And as I write, the finishing touches are being put on our two newest buildings—Barry Mills Hall and the John and Lile Gibbons Center for Arctic Studies—the first in Maine to be built entirely of sustainable mass timber.

This year, we celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of environmental studies at Bowdoin, and for those who have never been there, we offered a peek at the amazing work that takes place at the Bowdoin Scientific Station on Kent Island. Our graduate Douglas Jones ’89 was among a group of international diplomats and other senior government officials who convened on campus in mid-October to discuss the strengthening of ties between the United States and Greenland, and we announced the appointment of renowned climate expert Ayana Elizabeth Johnson as Bowdoin’s new Roux Distinguished Scholar.

Two members of our faculty—Andy Rudalevige and Zorina Khan—were recognized with book awards, while Emma Maggie Solberg was corecipient of an outstanding article award from the Modern Language Association of America; other faculty convened a public discussion on the history behind the US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade; seven professors were appointed to named chairs in recognition of their achievements as scholars and educators; and at the end of October we were wowed by singer, composer, musician, producer, and curator Toshi Reagon—our new Joseph McKeen Visiting Fellow—during a packed evening of music and conversation in Pickard Theater.

Students also excelled this semester, with thirty-one receiving fall research awards to advance their independent research projects. More than 300 students showcased their summer research on the main quad under a brilliant autumn sky on Family Weekend; and the College recognized 313 Sarah and James Bowdoin Scholars, honored thirteen students elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and presented eleven of them with the Almon Goodwin Prize for exemplary members of the academic society. Students also entertained us in Pickard Theater with a production of Our Town, featured their summer photography projects in a three-week exhibition in Edwards, and just this past Friday, dazzled us with their energy, skill, and creativity in the December Dance Concert and at a visual arts open house.

Our ongoing work on diversity, equity, and inclusion got a boost this fall with the permanent appointment of Benje Douglas as our new senior vice president for diversity and inclusion. Substantial work continues and is growing in every part of the College to further the goals of "The Work Ahead" to make Bowdoin a place where everyone has the chance to truly belong, and where all students, faculty, staff, and alumni have equity of opportunity for a great Bowdoin experience. As reported earlier in the fall, the College joined with thirty-two peer institutions in an amicus curiae brief filed with the US Supreme Court that supports the use of race as one factor in a holistic admissions process.

Homecoming was truly an event to remember, as alumni, guests, students, faculty, and staff came together on a gorgeous autumn weekend to reconnect with one another and the College. The new Bowdoin College Black Alumni Association hosted its first complete weekend of events, SWAG finally had a chance to celebrate fifty years of women at Bowdoin with a backyard social, there was a special lunch for Latinx alumni and an Asian alumni reception and dinner, and Miscellania and the Meddies celebrated their fiftieth and eighty-fifth anniversaries, respectively.

In November, we honored business leader and social and racial justice champion Ken Chenault ’73, H’96 with The Bowdoin Prize at a special ceremony in New York City. Other celebrations and gatherings included the colorful and lively Diwali Festival in mid-November; the Rose Ball Junior-Senior Dance earlier this month; a Veterans Day lunch honoring US military service by members of the Bowdoin community, including students and staff; the annual and always immensely popular Bowdoin Thanksgiving dinner prepared and served by our extraordinary staff in dining, and during the last several weeks, we have been treated to spectacular performances by the Bowdoin College Concert Band, the Bowdoin Chamber Choir, the music department’s Middle East Ensemble, student-led a cappella groups, and the Bowdoin Symphony Orchestra.

These are just some of the moments from a fall of friendship, achievement, and renewal.