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Global Ambassadors

From New York to Ghana, alumni are changing the world

As president of Swarthmore College, I treasure opportunities to meet with alumni across the globe and learn about their lives. These visits affirm the exponential impacts of a Swarthmore education; our alumni are indeed changing the world.

In October, I spent an evening with more than 125 alumni, parents, and friends who gathered in New York City for “Liberal Arts Lives: Swarthmore in Fashion.” The event featured a conversation with fashion designer Joseph Altuzarra ’05; journalist and longtime editor of Glamour Cindi Leive ’88; and Cathy Polinsky ’99, chief technology officer for Stitch Fix, the online personal style service. The discussion of the intersections of fashion, technology, and the liberal arts was fascinating; their experiences exemplify the types of opportunities a Swarthmore education makes possible.

Farther from home, I was similarly thrilled to visit Ashesi University in Ghana with a group that included representatives from higher education, business, and nonprofit organizations. Patrick Awuah ’89, H’04 founded the liberal arts institution in 2002 with the vision of combining a multidisciplinary core curriculum with degree programs in computer science, business administration, management information systems, and engineering.

Patrick was able to attend Swarthmore because of the College’s generous financial aid. He benefited from a range of curricular and cocurricular opportunities that led him to earn degrees in engineering and economics and launch his career as a software engineer and program manager for Microsoft.

Swarthmore inspired Patrick to take the lessons he had learned home to Ghana and create an institution that would forge ethical, entrepreneurial leaders of the future. I’m delighted to say that he and his team are achieving nothing less—encouraging students to think critically, work collaboratively, communicate effectively, and hold themselves and others to the highest ethical standards.

Although this was my first visit to Ashesi, its campus felt somehow familiar. Like Swarthmore, Ashesi is landscaped with beautiful native trees and plants and features an amphitheater and outdoor gathering spaces and classrooms, supporting its vision of a holistic residential experience.

On day two of my visit, I met Sebastian, who had been a visiting student at Swarthmore in fall 2018 studying mathematics and music theory. Enthusiastic and insightful, Sebastian shared compelling reflections about his time both inside and beyond the classroom at Swarthmore.

Sebastian represents a community of Ashesi students and alumni who confidently articulate the ways their coursework, commitment to problem solving, and entrepreneurial spirit prepare them to confront grand challenges—those facing Ghana, the African continent, or the world as a whole.

I often think about the values that help define Swarthmore: extending the liberal arts to the world beyond our campus; providing a transformative educational experience; serving the common good; and removing socioeconomic barriers to a Swarthmore education. My journeys on behalf of the College continue to reinforce this message and demonstrate that our alumni embody these values across seemingly disparate fields, including technology, fashion, entrepreneurship, and higher education. That is the power of a Swarthmore education—an education that changes lives that change the world.