Ever since I was assigned the byline for the next several Updates, I have been pondering the best way to convey how we in The College see our legacy working in consort with our efforts over the last several years to pursue innovation in our work with student participants and institutional partners.
This morning I discovered the answer whilst discussing with the owner of our local coffee shop the mix of challenges and possibilities facing liberal arts institutions in the current higher education environment. It struck me that the long history of American liberal arts institutions, which has always involved weaving together a dedication to educational first principles with a desire to innovate so that that those principles meaningfully engage the shifting needs of students, describes perfectly where The College finds itself –– seeking innovation in order to leverage our historical strengths.
In the book How College Works, the authors draw on a decade-long study of Hamilton College to make the simple but crucial points that “personal relationships are the prerequisite for learning” and that “personal connections are often the central mechanism and daily motivators of the student experience.” In short, education is a relational activity, dependent on engaged teachers, advisors, and mentors. This insight frames the approach The College is taking to the challenge noted above, which involves drawing on our long commitment to building relationships with our students and institutional partners to create meaningful and relevant opportunities for students, education abroad programs, and faculty members.
By choosing to foreground “building relationships to create opportunities” as the focal point of our activities in The College, we believe that we’re taking the best advantage of our educational and professional expertise to respond to the needs of students and institutional partners for programs, services, and support that expand their capacity, extend their skill sets, and offer paths for growth. I hope that you will join me over the next several Updates to learn more about The College’s new initiatives in teaching, advising, and mentoring, program development, and institutional relations that we hope will innovatively meet the needs of your students and institutions.