Envisioning the Carleton of 2033

7 February 2024

Photos by Beth Elzer, Julian White-Davis ’23, and Harry Pound

Carleton’s new strategic direction, unveiled in October 2023, is rooted in values that are central to the Carleton experience: community, curiosity, and impact. These emphases touch everything from student mental health and the diversity of our student body to issues around campus energy use and curriculum planning. Just four months later, progress is already being made in key areas, while more intensive projects—for instance, the development and implementation of a campus-wide facilities plan and planning for a new sustainability major and an accompanying facility—will extend deeper into the 10-year plan’s life.

Here’s a look at three early successes:

Student Support

Carleton 2033 aims to increase the socioeconomic diversity of the student body by increasing the percentage of students from lower income families from 8.7 percent to 10 percent over four years, and the total number of students on financial aid at Carleton from 56 percent to approximately 58 percent. The $50 million Carleton Access Initiative will help fund this endeavor by permanently increasing the number of low-income students who are eligible for federal Pell grants from around 285 per year to about 340, or about 17 percent of the student population. To date, more than $36.1 million has been secured toward the initiative’s goal.


Carleton 2033 dramatically alters the target date, originally set in 2011, for achieving a carbon-neutral campus, from 2050 to 2025. The construction of the geothermal wells under the Bald Spot and Bell Field in 2018, in addition to other updates to the campus heating and cooling system, got things started, resulting in a reduction of campus energy usage by over 40 percent since 2014, says Rob Hanson, manager of campus energy. But new energy-efficient building efforts, like new student residences at Lilac Hill, will continue these gains: the project is anticipated to get full certification under PHIUS (Passive House Institute US, Inc.), a highly energy efficient construction standard, and will get clean electricity via rooftop photovoltaic panels. “In Minnesota, a significant portion of a building’s energy use is for space heating,” he says. “If the building is air tight and well insulated, the energy needed for heating is drastically reduced.” Anticipated to be the first student housing project in the Midwest to achieve passive house certification, the new residences are designed to achieve a 69-percent reduction in energy use compared to a residence meeting the minimum energy code.

Interdisciplinary Studies

On a longer timeline, modifications to Carleton’s curriculum will be led by faculty, but fundraising is already well underway to help continue academic innovation. In January, the Mellon Foundation announced it has given the process a jumpstart by awarding $1.5 million for Carleton’s three-year Indigenous Engagement in Place initiative, a cross-disciplinary effort between faculty and Indigenous partners that, among other goals, will establish a minor in Native American and Indigenous Studies.

President Alison Byerly sees the strategic direction as playing an ongoing generative role in shaping the Carleton of tomorrow. “Fundamentally, the strategic plan starts with the recognition that Carleton is excellent, but may not be excellent in 10 years if we don’t continue to grow and evolve,” she says. “Carleton 2033 is really about building the muscles that we’ll need in every area—in student life, in facilities, and in the academic program—for continuing that growth into the future.”

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