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The Bulletin

The Alumni Magazine of Swarthmore College

  • Fall 2021


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  • Define What Is Possible

    WE ARE IN DEEP WATER and looking for answers. Yet in these most extraordinary days, Swarthmore alumni, faculty, and students continue in a fierce pursuit of solving problems and, just as importantly, a creative approach about what questions to ask.

    In this Bulletin issue, as the campus welcomes all students back after a prolonged absence due to COVID-19, Swatties share ways they approach the work and care of planet Earth.

    A tremendous task.

    Through the collective crises of climate change, the continuing pandemic, humanitarian relief needs, global terrorism, and a blistering, hyperpoliticized culture war in the United States, Swarthmoreans continue to work through the ringing noise and define what is possible for an enlightened world.

    Two takeaways: Start small and listen closely. John Leary ’00 literally begins with seeds in his quest to expand the presence of trees, collaborating with communities in sub-Saharan Africa to cultivate forest gardens. “We need a great-big reset in our food systems,” Leary says.

    Bradley Davidson ’90 works at the cellular level, with his research on sea squirts and the possibility of discovering how the evolutionary secrets these marine organisms hold might someday help to cure diseases, such as cancer. “Diversity is much richer and more fragile than we realize, and we have a mission to document this diversity before it is lost,” says Davidson, associate professor and chair of biology at Swarthmore. As a guide in the fight against environmental threats, Sarah Jaquette Ray ’98 is providing an existential toolkit for a generation of young people carrying the metaphorical weight of the world on their shoulders. Leading the way is Patrick Houston ’17, who makes an impassioned call for climate action in New York, urging others to follow and “blaze new paths to transformative solutions.”

    We share their stories and many more with the aim that they leave you as inspired — and hopeful — as they have us.

    Together we can reach the surface.

    — Kate Campbell

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