Happy New Year — Roaring Into the 2020’s!!

Happy New Year — Roaring Into the 2020’s!!

Main Hall

Can you believe it?  Here we are in 2020!!  A whole new decade begins!  And goodbye, 2019, we will not miss you!!

New Year’s Day is a traditional time for taking stock of what has been, and making resolutions about what can be if we only work a little harder, dig a little deeper, reach a little higher, expand our commitments to love and peace and justice more broadly.  We all can wish for many improvements in the world beyond our door, and I will address some of that in future blogs.  But for now, I want to focus on what this wonderful new year and new decade holds in store for Trinity!

Trinity is roaring into the 2020’s, bolstered by great success in the last decade and eager to launch our 125th Anniversary celebration!  August 20, 2022 is the official 125th birthday of Trinity, but since we love parties and coming together to celebrate our alma mater, we will start with preliminary activities in 2020 and run through 2025, the 125th Anniversary of our first entering class.  We will make the most of the next five years to lift up all that Trinity has meant to thousands of alums and students even as we prepare Trinity for the thousands yet to come.

When the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur founded Trinity in 1897 as one of the first Catholic colleges for women, they could not have imagined Trinity in 2020 — a thriving small university, still sustaining our historic women’s college but also welcoming men into graduate and professional programs.  They would be proud of Trinity’s achievements across the years, particularly in the ways that Trinity has adapted to meet the needs of new generations of women in our city, particularly women of color and often from marginalized backgrounds who find pathways to success through their Trinity education.  The SND’s of 1897 could not have imagined that they were at the forefront of a revolution in women’s education that grew to nearly 300 women’s colleges around 1960, with about 170 of those as Catholic women’s colleges, but then decades of coeducation caused the sector to shrink dramatically — some went coed successfully, but many more closed or merged with nearby men’s schools.  Today, about 35 women’s colleges continue, with about 7 still identifying as Catholic women’s colleges, Trinity among them.

But the critical questions for Trinity and similar institutions cannot be about the glories of the past; what is most critical today is our understanding of why we persist with this unique mission in the homogenized world of higher education, and whether we can sustain this mission as new challenges arise each year to traditional collegiate structures and programs.

We answer these questions affirmatively in our work each day, and in the days ahead in 2020, we will illuminate those answers in our development of the new strategic plan Leading Trinity 2025 that will provide guideposts for our work across the next decade.

Trinity 2010-2019: A Decade of Achievement

Before outlining the goals for Trinity in the 2020’s, let’s look back at the top highlights of the decade 2010-2019:

In 2010 we did two things that would change the course of Trinity’s history:  we launched the Nursing prelicensure program and the School of Nursing and Health Professions, and we selected the architectural firm EYP to create the concept design for a new academic center.

In 2011-2012 we launched the Occupational Therapy Assistant Program and built the OT laboratory in Cuvilly Hall.

In 2013 our great alumna Joan Payden ’53 made a remarkable gift to launch the Second Century Campaign and the construction of the academic center, soon to be known as the Payden Center; also, our wonderful friends Bill and Joanne Conway started the Conway Scholars Program in Nursing.


(Joan Payden ’53 at groundbreaking for the Payden Center)

In 2014, at Alumnae Reunion, we broke ground for the Payden Center to the cheers of hundreds of alumnae, benefactors and friends; construction began shortly thereafter; that fall we also welcomed our first cohort of Dreamer Scholars:


(Groundbreaking for the Payden Center 2014)


(First Dreamer Scholars cohort, Fall 2014)

In 2015 we were deeply into construction, a Middle States self-study, and happy to receive major national recognition with the Carnegie Award for Academic Leadership.  The College of Arts & Sciences also received the first of several Mellon Foundation grants to strengthen Arts & Humanities and undergraduate research.

payden construction

(construction begins on the Payden Center early 2015)


(The Payden Center, April 2016)

2016 was a huge year for Trinity:  we dedicated and opened the Payden Academic Center!  We completed the Second Century Campaign over goal at $32 million!  Thanks to the great work of our science faculty, Trinity received a $1 million grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in a competitive selection process.  We also launched the Master’s in Occupational Therapy.  We also had an immensely successful Middle States accreditation review with many plaudits for Trinity, and also received the TIAA Institute Hesburgh Award for Academic Excellence.



(Ribbon cutting at the Payden Center was a highlight of 2016)

In 2017 we spent a good deal of time settling into the new academic center, acquiring a great deal of new instrumentation and simulation equipment thanks to a major grant from the U.S. Department of Education Predominantly Black Institutions Program, and beginning to plan our next building project and capital campaign.  We also received a second major grant from the Mellon Foundation for undergraduate research, experiential learning and information literacy.

In 2018 we received a third major grant from the Mellon Foundation to create the Trinity Global Leadership Initiative.  The faculty in Counseling began the process to secure CACREP accreditation, while the Education faculty began working toward CAEP accreditation.   Both CACREP and CAEP approved Trinity’s programs for accreditation in 2019.

2019 began with huge excitement on campus as Trinity Alumna Nancy Pelosi ’62 became the Speaker of the House once more, elected for a second time and still the only woman ever to hold the position — making her the highest ranking elected woman in the United States.  On the day after her swearing-in, Speaker Pelosi came to Trinity for the MSNBC Town Hall marking her new term as speaker, and many students, faculty and staff participated in the program.

MSNBC Town Hall at Trinity

(Screenshot from MSNBC Town Hall at Trinity, January 4, 2019)

Also in 2019, we decided on the next major building project:  the renovation and modernization of Alumnae Hall.  This project will be the signature priority for the Campaign for Trinity125: The Campaign for Student Success.  We chose the architectural firm Quinn Evans to create the concept design, and the firm JLL to be our project management consultant since they did a great job working with Trinity on the academic center.  In late 2019 we were also pleased to receive a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation to support dissemination of Trinity’s successful model of inclusive excellence in our STEM programs.

Whew!  We accomplished a lot in the last decade!  But we have to do even more going forward!

Trinity Roars Into the 2020’s

No resting on laurels!  Higher education in 2020 is going through a time of stress and challenge to innovate; no college or university can rest on a glorious past, we must focus on building an even more vibrant future for the generations of students yet to come.

What’s on Trinity’s agenda for the 2020’s?  Five significant goals will guide our work in the early part of this new decade:

  • Celebrating 125 Years of Trinity Success!   Reaching a 125th Anniversary is a tremendous milestone for any college or university — and for one of the nation’s historic Catholic women’s colleges, it’s quite a feat!  Trinity has so much to celebrate in this anniversary period.  We’ll be spending 2020 visiting with alumnae and alumni around the country as well as students, faculty and staff asking for your ideas about the best ways to observe our landmark anniversary.
  • The Campaign for Trinity125: The Campaign for Student Success — Successful colleges and universities need financial resources for innovation, renovation, and most important of all, student support.  We want the idea of student success to be at the center of our campaign — everything Trinity does is to ensure even greater success for our students.  This campaign will have an ambitious goal to raise money for student scholarships, academic programs, and the renovation of Alumnae Hall to create a modern student center with contemporary dining options, a comfortable climate-controlled environment, meeting spaces and fully renovated student residence rooms.


(Alumnae Hall circa 1930’s)

  • Renovation and Modernization of Alumnae Hall — Successful students need modern, comfortable spaces for gathering, dining, living and meeting up with friends and faculty outside of class.  Alumnae Hall is one of Trinity’s historic treasures, but after more than 90 years, the venerable dining and residence hall is showing its age.  This will be a project of at least $25-30 million — the architects at Quinn Evans are working on the concept design right now, and we’ll know more about the costs later in January.  We must have air conditioning in the building, a completely new HVAC system, new elevators, new plumbing, new lighting — the works.  At the same time, we want to preserve the historic beauty of the large dining halls and other spaces.  More than a dining hall alone, we believe a renovated and modernized Alumnae Hall can be a true campus student center, a wonderful capacious companion to the beautiful Payden Center for our academic lives.  We hope to have plans to bring forward for community review in February, and we are already meeting with potential donors to support the project.  (And, yes, we know that the other historic buildings need attention — all are on our agenda, we just need $$$ !!!)

(Dr. Patrice Moss participated in the Clare Boothe Luce Designated Institutions Convening in Fall 2019
at the Henry Luce Foundation in New York; the Luce Foundation is a major partner with Trinity
in strengthening our STEM Programs)

  • Sparking Academic Innovation — Successful students need contemporary academic programs that provide strong intellectual foundations for many years beyond graduation day.  The foundation in liberal learning remains Trinity’s essential educational platform, but as we have seen with the addition of healthcare programs across the last decade, students with professional ambitions also need specialty programs in professional fields delivered in contemporary formats.  Planning is already underway to do more with STEM education at Trinity, to consider additional healthcare disciplines, and to incorporate more digital and technology-focused disciplines into the curriculum.  We are aware that the expansion of the technology workforce in the Washington region is a great challenge for all of higher education, and we must have a place at that table to ensure pathways into technology careers for Trinity students.  All of these ideas are on our agenda for strategic planning in 2020.


(Students in the Coolidge Early College High School visit Trinity in Fall 2019)

  • Strengthening Trinity’s Partnerships — Modern universities must engage deeply with their cities in order to be truly successful in meeting the educational needs of the community and the workforce expectations of employers.  Trinity has long cherished our partnerships with local schools and systems, and in the last year, we have developed our partnership with the DC Public Schools in very specific ways, notably with dual enrollment courses and participation as the collegiate partner on the Coolidge Early College Academy.  Our programs in Education also work closely with our local schools, and we will continue to expand our initiatives in Early Childhood Education and other specialties that align with the priorities of local jurisdictions.  We will look to expand the range of our school partnership programs in 2020 and beyond.  In healthcare, we enjoy clinical partnerships with scores of healthcare providers, and are building specific partnerships with the MedStar hospitals and also Children’s National.  In the same way, we deeply value and seek to expand the partnerships we enjoy with private companies, nonprofits, the federal and local governments who provide internships, career pathways and other forms of support for our students.  Strengthening the full range of Trinity’s partnerships is a major dimension of our strategic planning work in 2020.

Speaker with Trinity

(Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Trinity ’62 (center) with Trinity students and faculty in Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol for Women’s History Month 2019)

What else should we be working on as we roar into the 2020’s?  I welcome your ideas for inclusion in our strategic planning and creative development work for Trinity’s future.  Please share your comments by clicking the “comment” link below, or email me at president@trinitydc.edu

None of this would be possible without the hard work of our faculty and staff, the delight and challenge our students bring to us each day, the generosity of so many alums and benefactors, the leadership of our trustees and support of the large DC community.  I am deeply grateful to all for your many contributions to Trinity’s past success, and even more, to the myriad ways you will make Trinity’s future a reality across the next decade.

Thank you, and onward!  Happy New Year!