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College Mission, Goals, and Planning

Swarthmore College provides learners of diverse backgrounds a transformative liberal arts education grounded in rigorous intellectual inquiry and empowers all who share in our community to flourish and contribute to a better world. 

We commit to this mission by:

  • Offering a robust, liberal arts curriculum connecting the arts, humanities, natural sciences and engineering, social sciences, and interdisciplinary programs
  • Fostering innovative research and creative production and encouraging collaboration among faculty, students, and staff
  • Building a diverse, equitable, and inclusive residential community that enriches our experiences and expands our worldviews
  • Stewarding our resources through intentional daily and long-term sustainability practices, honoring our location on the ancestral land of the Lenni Lenape people
  • Creating opportunities for education and growth among faculty, students, staff, and alumni by sharing in the multitude of talents of the College community, exploring the beauty of our natural environment, and actively engaging in the rich cultural diversity of our region and our world
  • Committing to peace, equity, and social responsibility, rooted in our founding as a co-educational Quaker institution


Our mission drives our planning and assessment activities across all areas of the College.   Our most recent planning effort resulted in Strategic Directions (pdf), a document that is our blueprint for the future.   Many of the initiatives developed during this planning are already underway.   Learn more about our planning activities and initiatives (including our campus master plan) at our Strategic Directions website.

More recently President Smith has shared her Vision for the Future of Swarthmore College.  The priorities that she articulates also focus the activities of the College:  access and inclusion, academics, and education for the common good.

The College has spent a number of years discussing and refining its goals for student learning, listed below.  Initial work was conducted by the Academic Assessment Committees (particularly in 2012-13 and 2013-14).  Currently responsibility lies with the Council for Educational Policy for any modifications to our goal statements. 

Consistent with the College's mission and goals, academic and administrative departments develop their own goals for students and services.  Links may be found in the pages of this website, particularly Academic Areas - Goals for Student Learning and the divisions and areas listed under Support and Administrative Areas.


Swarthmore College Goals for Student Learning

Defining Excellence

Swarthmore's commitment, first and foremost, is to intellectual rigor and creativity.  Toward that end, we foster an appreciation of education as a process as well as a product. The experience we offer our students is intended to nurture the confidence, curiosity and humility to be challenged intellectually, to fulfill personal and professional aspirations, and to interact respectfully with those from a variety of backgrounds. We hold to the conviction that the best learning includes both synthesizing existing knowledge and producing new knowledge.  We lay the foundation for students to understand the joys, inspirations, boundaries and goals of ethical and humane scholarship, engaging with the past and participating with others in the creation of an inclusive future.

Swarthmore’s mission is secular, but our roots in the Religious Society of Friends call us to tend to community with care.  And, while students may choose their level and form of participation in that endeavor, one of our goals is that students leave the Swarthmore experience having engaged with people and places in ways that broaden their sense of themselves and others.


Achieving Excellence

Goal 1:  Students will demonstrate critical thinking, depth of knowledge, capacity for individual research and/or production, and mastery of analytic and expressive skills through the core methodologies and competencies of the majors and minors.

Goal 2:  Students will demonstrate knowledge, including analytic and expressive skill, across a range of disciplines, engaging with intellectual pursuits outside their major field of study. 

Goal 3:  Students will engage with different cultures, ideas, institutions, and means of expression to enable the critical examination of their own perspectives. 

Goal 4:  Students will have the opportunity to engage in activities that support personal development, encourage interaction with off-campus communities, and build interpersonal and leadership skills.