Initiatives for 2013-2014


Cathy Davidson: Now You See It: Why the Future of Higher Education Demands a Paradigm Shift

In April 1993, the Mosaic 1.0 browser was made available to the general public, ushering in the contemporary Information Age where anyone with access to an Internet connection has the ability to communicate ideas to anyone else in the world with Internet access. In one generation, we have undergone tremendous changes in how we communicate, socialize, learn, do business, and engage in civic life.  We rely on non-experts for information on sites such as Wikipedia and take the advice of strangers on everything from restaurant recommendations to health care. Interactive digital technologies have changed how we learn in everyday life far faster than they've changed the structures, motives, and metrics of our educational systems.  Until now.  We are on the threshold of a monumental transformation in higher education, one aimed at the needs and expectations of the next generation of resilient, connected, self-paced, peer-inspired, creative, multidisciplinary, and multicultural global learners.  Will learning all be online?  Will technology be the cornerstone?  Or now, more than ever, do we need a liberal arts education to help us understand the demands, challenges, opportunities, and responsibilities of living together online.

Conversations with Robert George '77 and Cornel West

Amid the difficult campus conversations at Swarthmore in Spring 2013, many students, alumni, faculty, and staff grew concerned about the ways in which community members were (and, in many ways, weren't) engaging each other. Alumni and friends of the College expressed support, and a few offered to help in whatever ways they could. Princeton professor Robert George, Swarthmore Class of 1977, and fellow Princeton professor Cornel West talked about how they were teaching together and working with students to develop the skills of talking fruitfully across political, ideological, and other differences. Conversation ensued about the possibility of their discussing their experiences with our students, faculty, and staff. Professors George and West agreed to visit campus and help us think about what it means for intellectuals to learn from each other despite deep differences on important questions. More

Defining Community at Swarthmore

A yearlong series of panels and events that will focus serious attention and discussion on the theme of "community." The topic will be explored from a disciplinary perspective, from a lived experience, in literature, and through a public lecture by a prominant voice on the subject. Community will serve as a focal point for deeper discussions: facilitating both insights from academic, scholarly perspectives and from personal, lived experience.


Faculty Retreat

In fall 2013, the Institute for the Liberal Arts will host the College's first-ever full faculty retreat. Faculty will reflect upon how we have handled change at the College over the years and what resources we have as a community to deal with change, as well as what academic disciplines tell us about making change. Participants will consider the Swarthmore experience from a fresh perspective, learning from faculty members who have returned to the student experience by trying out a "new major." And finally, the group will discuss anticipated changes in knowledge, student experience, and teaching practices to think about how we can continue to provide the best possible learning experience at the College.


Faculty Seminar on Poverty and Inequality

The Faculty Seminar is intended to provide a space where ideas, questions, and analysis about a topic can be explored, tested, challenged, and refined. This fall's seminar, convened by Philip Jefferson, will focus on the topics of poverty and inequality, the ten participants will meet regularly, providing an opportunity for rich interdisciplinary engagement. It is anticipated that additional faculty seminars will be offered on different topics in the years ahead.


Leaders in the Liberal Arts: Swarthmore Alumni Reflect upon Swarthmore's Sesquicentennial

The Institute will celebrate the College's Sesquicentennial with a symposium featuring alumni who are liberal arts leaders on Feb. 22, 2014. Mary Schmidt Campbell '69, dean at the NYU Tisch School of the Arts, will deliver the keynote address, reflecting on the globalization of education. Panel discussions will focus on Fostering a Democratic Society through Education and The Future of Knowledge during this daylong event.


Second Tuesday Science Cafe

Organized for all faculty and staff, these events are geared for individuals who have no formal science background. The only requirements are curiosity about science and a willingness to learn about new concepts. Talks will last about 35 minutes, allowing plenty of time for Q&A. 


Toni Morrison Reading Group

In preparation for Ms. Morrison's campus visit and lecture, scheduled for April 7, 2014 at 7 p.m. in the Pearson Hall Theatre, Lang Performing Arts Center, the Institute for the Liberal Arts is convening book groups that will focus on the works of Toni Morrison throughout the academic year. The book groups are designed with community engagement in mind, they aim to provide an enriching and fun opportunity for all employees of the College to read selections of Ms. Morrison's writings. Reading materials will be provided by the Institute for the Liberal Arts.