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The Dartmouth
April 18, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Dartmouth appoints LaMar Bunts as College’s first chief transformation officer

Bunts will be in charge of expanding the net revenue growth and extending the reach and impact of the College.

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On Jan. 12, the College announced the appointment of the College’s inaugural chief transformation officer LaMar Bunts, who will head the new Transformation Office. Bunts’ mandate will be to focus on “expanding Dartmouth’s reach and impact and helping position the institution to compete in the rapidly changing higher education sector,” according to the announcement.

Bunts said that his job is to define the goals and programs of the office — which he described as currently “a bit undefined.” He added that generally, the office aims to accomplish two goals for the College, which are in line with the larger strategic goals established by the Board of Trustees in 2020: creating net revenue growth and extending Dartmouth’s reach and impact.

“[The office is] just getting started,” Bunts said. 

Board of Trustees chair Elizabeth Cahill Lempres ’83 Th’84 said that the Board’s ongoing areas of interest reflect the future and evolution of higher education as well as determining what Dartmouth’s role will be in that future.

“We started thinking about this role as an outgrowth of that work as we thought about the changing landscape — the different needs of students [and] the opportunity to have impact with broader populations,” Lempres said.

According to Lempres, the Board began looking for candidates for chief transformation officer last winter. She added that they were looking for someone who understood higher education and how to operate a startup, in addition to having experience with entrepreneurial initiatives. Bunts, who previously led the college testing firm ACT and has held senior positions in finance and business operations, transitioned to working part-time for the College last fall and then began working full time in January.

“We began shaping the role in the summer and fall of [2021] as a way of creating focus at Dartmouth for new programs [and] new initiatives that would leverage our strengths and be consistent with our mission,” Lempres said. 

Executive vice president Rick Mills said that when President Phil Hanlon arrived at the College in 2013, Hanlon had already identified that future revenue growth for higher education would not be as great as it had been in prior decades. This expected decline in revenue, according to Mills, could be attributed to an expected decrease in the growth rate of tuition costs, a flattened increase in federal funding for research and grants and lower returns on the College’s endowment and other capital market trends than in previous decades.

“We’re not likely to see the next couple of decades produce returns the way the prior couple of decades had produced returns,” Mills said.

According to Mills, the College entered into discussions with the consulting firm McKinsey & Company in the summer of 2020 regarding what a transformation office would look like. Bunts added that McKinsey looked at the investment and return on investment of about two dozen Dartmouth initiatives, which each fell into one of four different buckets: a small or big investment with either decent or bad returns. The firm’s analysis revealed that the College should create a small office — the Transformation Office — that would be “this new driver” of investment activities in order to generate revenue by capitalizing on Dartmouth’s pre-existing resources, Mills said.

Capitalizing on Dartmouth’s strengths, the office will be a “pretty small, core operation” under President Hanlon that leverages people and research resources across the university, Bunts said.

Bunts will report directly to President Hanlon as a member of the College president’s senior leadership team, according to the announcement. Bunts said that although the office has yet to develop specific goals, there are “buckets” of potential initiatives of interest to launch. For example, Bunts said that the office will examine Dartmouth’s international and online presences.

“There’s a lot of places where we’ll collaborate with other institutions that have tried some things, learn some things and we’ll figure out if there are partnership possibilities,” Bunts said.

Mills said that he expects that during the first year and a half of the office’s operations, ideas surrounding specific metrics and goals will “bubble up.” Additional revenue generated by the office should take place within three to five years, he added. 

“I think we’re going to have to remember that some of this will not work exactly the way we want it to,” Lempres said. “Some of the initiatives we’ll learn from, and then we’ll build on those to do other things.”

Allen House senator Matthew Kim ’25 said he is “for” the transformation office. 

“As long as the money is going towards creating good programs, I feel it will be a net positive,” he said.