June 2021 Board Update

The Board of Trustees held a remote, online meeting June 2–5, 2021. While we again very much missed visiting the campuses (this is the fourth consecutive Board meeting held remotely), we are grateful for the deep conversations and open information sharing that occurred. We also happily welcomed two new Trustees: Kristin Jamerson and Tom Nickell. 

As is our practice, the Trustees opened each day’s meeting with readings from the Bible, Mrs. Eddy’s writings, and the Christian Science Hymnal, followed by open inspiration sharing. Readings focused on God’s governance, one Mind in action, unity, and progress as a law of God. The Trustees are also always moved by and grateful for the prayerful support of members of the Principia community. We know Truth inspires and heals.

Board Governance
The Board, the interim Chief Executive (CE), and senior administrative leaders held extensive discussions about board governance best practices with an external board governance consultant (Mary Pat Seurkamp, a former university president). The discussions covered board structure, board culture, governance policies and procedures, fiduciary responsibilities, board committees, shared governance principles, and effective working relationships with the CE and senior administrators. 

Improving Institution-wide Communications
The Board had a discussion with the CE and senior administrators about ongoing efforts for improving coordination and alignment of institutional communications.

We affirmed that the primary communicators for Principia are the CE and campus heads and that the administration will take the lead in evolving an institution-wide communications plan to include the role of the Board. We acknowledged that crisis management requires active, timely, and broad-based communications, while recognizing the benefits and the challenges of personal, instantaneous social networking.

Turning to Board communications, we agreed to examine the effectiveness of Board messaging, the processes used, and how messages are being received.  This may include receiving outside expert guidance. We asked the CE to carry this work forward while keeping the Board informed.

Advisory Councils
There was a discussion about the roles and relationships of advisory groups to Principia, including external, independent advisory groups in light of Policy 21. While we welcome any supporter of Principia—or group of supporters—to share their thoughts with the Board, we do not plan to establish any overall advisory council to the Board.  We will, however, continue to invite individuals with specific expertise to be non-voting members on Board committees. We also support any interest by the CE and the administration toward having external advisory groups associated with Principia divisions and departments. 

Board Committee Restructuring
The Board took a fresh look at the present arrangement of eight Board standing committees and their essential role in bringing recommended proposals forward for Board consideration. 

In light of societal and educational changes following the global pandemic—as well as to complement the current strategic plan—we approved the immediate formation of a new Board committee focused on long-term mission fulfillment and strategy. Following consultation with the CE and senior administrators, the Board Executive Committee will write the charter for this new committee for full Board approval.

The Board discussed consolidating the Board Finance Committee, Facilities Committee, and Investment Committee as their areas of attention widely overlap.  The Board deferred approval until further discussions with the CE and administrators.  Those discussions will include other possible consolidations and new committees.

Pilot Admissions Program
The Board discussed the progress and assessment of the pilot admissions program for “widening the tent while strengthening the stakes.” While pleased with early, anecdotal evidence of program success, we decided to maintain the status of the program as a “pilot” until more assessment data is available. 

In addition, and in light of the program results to date, we decided to move ahead with examining Principia’s 23 Policies for possible updating within the context of Principia’s mission to serve the Cause of Christian Science. 

The CE will oversee work to refine and carry out program assessments, work to resolve implementation issues, and establish a committee to examine possible Policy changes, while keeping the Board and the community informed. 

Financial
The Board discussed and approved the 2021-22 proposed budget as recommended by the CE from the Chief Financial Officer. We noted the improved draw rate on the endowment is projected to decrease to 7.25 percent while those funds pay about 70 percent of Principia’s yearly expenses. We recognized and praised administrative efforts toward more sustainable, long-term budgets.

The Board accepted a new policy on the approval process for new construction and existing facility sustainment, granting the CE authority to approve projects within specified limits while reserving Board approval for projects beyond those limits. 

The Board also approved the 2021-22 fundraising priorities and goals as recommended by the CE from the Chief Advancement Officer.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Absolute recognition and support of all individuals is mandated by Principia’s Policies, especially Policy 3. To help the Board better understand the everyday implementation of that and other Policies, the Board, the CE, and senior administrators received a briefing from and engaged in a question-and-answer session with Dr. Jennifer Stollman, a DEI expert and consultant. Dr. Stollman has been working on DEI issues with the College.

The Board decided to seek a further, deeper understanding of Principia DEI issues and consider all appropriate steps for the Board to acknowledge any historical or present shortfalls, institute preventive measures, and assess their effectiveness. We decided to expand an institutional culture survey led by the CE and administrators. 

Other Board Business
The Board re-elected Allan Marquardt for another three-year term as a Trustee. 

Dr. Scott Schneberger was elected Board Chair along with a new Executive Committee consisting of Dr. Chuck Lindahl (Vice Chair), Mindy Savides (Treasurer), Steve DeWindt (Secretary), and Janna Hernholm (Member-at-large). 

Finally, the Board recognized and praised the extraordinary contributions of our outgoing Board Chair, Meridee K. Olsen, during her five-year tenure. We unanimously bestowed on Meridee the honor of becoming the first Principia Board of Trustees Board Chair Emerita. Thank you, Meridee!

We also recognize and thank everyone for your devotion to and hard work for Principia, its mission, staff, and students. We are certain you are here for a divine reason. Your daily work profoundly inspires us with your blessings for everyone. Thank you!