As the crisp air settles on Colorado Springs, I am drawing great energy from the “Year of Listening” events that are taking place on campus and in cities such as Seattle, Los Angeles, Denver, and Boston. These highly interactive sessions are enriching our vision to make Colorado College the very best we can be. It is very gratifying to see the collective enthusiasm for building on our strengths as a liberal arts college and acting on our desire to take bold steps.
Themes that have emerged so far include pride in our strong faculty and their devotion to teaching, the importance of the Block Plan as an educational approach in this fragmented world, and the need to explain and underscore the importance of the liberal arts. And we all agree that the positive force of our community is one of our most important assets. Time after time, students and alumni describe the enduring ties they forge at and through the college. The number of you who continue to enjoy and nourish the friendships you made here is truly astounding!
We are right to take pride in our strong faculty, and I am pleased to join our alumni, students, parents, and staff in applauding their commitment to undergraduate teaching — a commitment that is becoming all too rare in higher education. Recently, the American Political Science Association stated that: “Within political science, and academia in general, research productivity is the Holy Grail. Career promotion and retention are largely based on research. Faculty prestige…also is often based on it.”
But this is not the case at Colorado College, where the faculty’s top priority is to offer students a top liberal arts education. Over and over during the listening tour, alumni describe moments with professors that still shape their lives. Frequently, for example, they recall a professor who helped them develop academically as well as socially. They are quick to explain that the close-knit faculty-student relationship here has prepared them in ways few schools can offer.
Closely related to this strength is our Block Plan-centered curriculum. With its capacity to engage students with a depth and directness that is rare these days (especially when compared to the communication via Facebook and Twitter), the plan is more relevant than ever. I am excited about teaching the Economics of Higher Education during Block Five and experiencing first-hand the focus instilled by the plan.
While other schools are professionalizing their curriculum or becoming “the University of Wherever,” as Bill Keller wrote recently in The New York Times, we are continuing to develop students’ skills in critical thinking, reading, and writing. We are also encouraging them to seek significant academic relationships with faculty, pursue independent research, and extend their commitment to community service. Through the multidisciplinary liberal arts, we are preparing our students to be global citizens, life-long learners, and lifetime achievers. We want our students to be creative and innovative — not in just one profession, but throughout their lives.
I close by thanking all of you who have contributed to the “Year of Listening” so far and encourage everyone to share in the experience by visiting my website and offering your ideas about the future of our college at www.coloradocollege.edu/president. I hope to hear from you often and see you on campus or in your own location very soon.
With best wishes and warm regards,