New Swarthmore Institute for the Liberal Arts Awarded Grant for Pilot Launch

by Celina De León
President Rebecca Chopp
Swarthmore President Rebecca Chopp says the Institute allows the College to explore the liberal arts model and its enduring relevance to society.

The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations awarded Swarthmore College's new Institute for the Liberal Arts a grant of $250,000 to help support its first two years of facilitation and exploration of programming to help advance and evolve liberal arts education.

Developing an institute for the future of the liberal arts is one of the recommendations identified in Strategic Directions, the College's plan for the future that was published in December 2011. Cultivated over the course of many months through conversations with a broad number of College constituencies, the plan identifies as a key priority the need to create the Swarthmore Institute for the Liberal Arts in order to study and expand liberal arts education at Swarthmore, in the United States, and around the world. There is currently no collection of scholars and practitioners devoted to understanding the intrinsic value of the residential college, encouraging innovation in this setting, or expanding liberal arts approaches around the world.  

"We are deeply grateful for this award by The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations and are excited by the encouragement and support of our work going forward," says President Rebecca Chopp. "The Institute serves as a framework for the College to explore the liberal arts model and its enduring relevance to society. We remain passionately committed to educating future generations in the pursuit of the common good and further exploration and enhancement of democratic principles. The Institute will allow us to coordinate these efforts among our faculty, along with numerous external partners, as well."

Chopp will speak about the challenges and opportunities confronting liberal arts institutions during an open faculty lecture, "Against the Grain: Making the Case for the Liberal Arts in the 21st Century," on Thursday at 4:30 p.m. in the Scheuer Room of Kohlberg Hall.  

Some of the projects the Institute will support this year include the Second Tuesday Science Café series; symposia on Jonathan Haidt's The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion; a reading group focused on Daniel Kahneman's Thinking, Fast and Slow; a conference on Visualizing Media Futures; a consideration of the study of poverty across the College curriculum; an exploration of curricular and campus data collection; interdisciplinary research on the Federal Reserve's anticipation of the 2008 financial crisis; and visits by outside scholars who study the state of the liberal arts.

The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations is a national philanthropic organization dedicated to supporting higher and secondary education, theological education, as well as public television and health care.