Liberal Arts in the 21st Century
At the heart of our institution is the education of men and women in the liberal arts tradition. Through the transference of knowledge and the skills necessary to obtain and create knowledge, we are educating students to become active and engaged members of society who will go on to lead lives of consequence. How we do that – the curriculum we employ, the faculty members we entrust, the courses we offer, the co-curricular opportunities we create – are all decisions that make up the very heart of the Colleges. Nothing could be more critical to our mission than the ongoing evaluation and enhancement of the Hobart and William Smith education.
- The nature, pace and structure of life and learning both inside and outside the classroom are all changing rapidly; in many ways formal education today is characterized by greater fluidity and integration with other aspects of life. We believe that a liberal arts education is the best preparation for an uncertain future; however, we also recognize that students benefit from connecting their liberal arts education with other components of their HWS experiences in ways that make all of the pieces relevant for learning and for post-graduation life. As a key component of HWS 2015, we will complete a faculty-driven general education curriculum review that is evidence-based and that considers ways in which we can promote diversity, inclusivity, integration and coherence of student-learning experiences.
- In conjunction with this curriculum review, we intend to improve, enhance and extend advising so that it connects to the broader context of student outcomes. Our most successful students are ones whose development is guided by faculty mentors who help them navigate an array of individual itineraries. Advising is strongest when a faculty member and a student work together to create a roadmap that leads the student to find his or her intellectual passion and then translate that passion into a career or further education in graduate school. Our goal in improving the advising process is to find ways to foster these relationships between faculty and students and to more clearly define some of the possible roadmaps given the array of our majors and minors, our interdisciplinary orientation, and the now very rich and ever-expanding opportunities for internships, research and scholarship.
- In considering the liberal arts in the 21st century, we must contemplate recruitment and retention as a balance, with each side affecting the other. We must determine which actions are necessary to enroll students whose intellectual passion, character and potential will persist and thrive at Hobart and William Smith. This does not place the responsibility of retention in enrollment, but rather spreads the responsibilities for both recruitment and retention across the institution, to be jointly owned by all faculty, staff and students. Faculty and staff must create and sustain the intellectual environment that will attract prospective students and then, once they are enrolled, work deliberately to engage and retain these students. Enrollment must closely match the actual experience of the Colleges to its recruitment communications on the web, in print, via social networking and ultimately in the face-to-face interactions that consistently convert prospects to students.
- As part of this work, the Colleges seek to expand the base of its applicant pool to more broadly encompass transfer students, creating reciprocal partnerships with some of the most prestigious community colleges in the country.
- Whether considering traditional or transfer students, we must resist the notion that recruitment only happens before students arrive on campus for the first time. Instead, we must re-recruit our students every year, in every class, and in every interaction they have with the Colleges. This is a wholly more complicated endeavor, one that is sophisticated in its ideology yet individual in its execution.
- We will explore program offerings including the creation of distinctive master's degree and certificate programs that will enhance and extend the student experience beyond the BA/BS. These may include degrees or certificates in the health professions, architecture, environmental science, environmental sustainability, technology and community engagement.
- In 2000, the Colleges completed a comprehensive master planning process that incorporated a space needs analysis for academic and administrative functions. By identifying deficiencies and outlining opportunities, the master plan, along with strategic plans HWS 2005 and HWS 2010, allowed the Colleges to make significant changes to campus in a relatively short amount of time. These have included adding or substantially renovating academic, campus center, residential and athletic facilities as well as improving access to the lake. As part of HWS 2015, we intend to revisit the campus master plan in an effort to identify the next set of capital priorities.
- When, how and what students learn is often dependent on their residence hall life experience. We envision an environment where the lines between curricular and co-curricular activities integrate and merge. We must have facilities, and in particular residence options, that foster this kind of comprehensive learning. To date, students live in 50 different structures on campus in everything from multi-floor, traditional residence halls to converted homes that serve as theme houses. It is therefore important that our campus master plan include a comprehensive plan for residential spaces. We intend to find ways to create a strong sense of community within residence life, building on the theme house character that has been a part of HWS history for decades.
- We will complete fundraising to construct academic space for the performing arts. The first of its kind at Hobart and William Smith, this structure will create a dynamic theatre, dance and music complex that will foster greater collaboration between departments, faculty and students. The new performing arts space will serve as a competitive advantage as we seek to attract a higher caliber of students and a new generation of scholars. Standing across from the Scandling Campus Center and next to the Quad and Medbery Hall, the new performing arts center will be a geographic intersection of culture and creativity for the HWS and Geneva communities. Engaging sensibilities and stretching imaginations, the performing arts facility will offer our students, faculty, staff, visitors and community members - both as performers and spectators - a living laboratory for active learning.
- One of the Colleges' greatest assets is its natural and built environment. Maintaining and improving that environment's accessibility, sustainability and flexibility is critical to HWS 2015. Our current Facility Capital Renewal program budget is less than recommended or necessary so HWS 2015 seeks to increase and stabilize that budget. Capital projects, whether for new construction or renovation, must follow HWS sustainability practices, giving appropriate attention to Americans with Disabilities Act requirements and best practices. They must also be energy efficient and funded to ensure appropriate maintenance. Likewise, technology, including pervasive wireless capabilities and one-card access to services and facilities, is essential as students, faculty and staff extend the boundaries of teaching and learning. By eliminating barriers to the physical campus, increasing resources to better provide for nontraditional learning needs, meeting the requirements of the Colleges Climate Action Plan, and building and maintaining the campus with an eye toward flexibility, we can continue to lay a solid capital and technology foundation for future generations of the HWS community.