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.
In 1866, during a celebration of the cornerstone laid at Swarthmore College’s first building, President Edward Parrish spoke of a higher mission for Swarthmore students: “It should fit them for life, with all its possibilities.” For more than 150 years since, stewards of this great institution have come together to chart new paths with destinations that meet President Parrish’s aspirations. We are driven by a collective passion for discovery, creativity, and curiosity. Bound by a shared commitment to a society made better because of the contributions of Swarthmoreans the world around, the community has come together, again and again, to reestablish the College in ways that stay true to its enduring values and adapt to and anticipate the challenges and opportunities ahead.
This is one of those moments; Swarthmore is poised to forge a path forward.
For the past 18 months, members of the Swarthmore community have studied, deliberated, and envisioned the College’s future. Swarthmore Forward is the road map that has been distilled from that work and will guide our journey. It is shaped by our unwavering, unapologetic belief in the liberal arts and our commitment to intellectual rigor, creative exploration, and the pursuit of the common good. It seeks not to redefine who we are, but to strengthen the transformative learning environment we provide, ensuring our educational experience aligns with emerging global opportunities that are as exciting as the challenges are daunting. Swarthmore Forward builds on our history of fostering a culture of innovation and collaboration, and it provides a path to enhance our ability to prepare learners to be thoughtful, ethical leaders in a diverse, rapidly changing, and increasingly complex world.
We begin this venture from a position of strength. Swarthmore enjoys a standing as one of the world’s most respected liberal arts colleges, and for good reason: We boast a talented faculty of dedicated teacher-scholars; an intellectually passionate and engaged student body; loyal alumni who have made extraordinary contributions to every field of human endeavor; committed staff members who support all aspects of our residential learning environment; and a beautiful and inspiring campus just miles away from the richly diverse cultural hub of Philadelphia. We also benefit from abundant, carefully stewarded financial resources; we will continue to be judicious and intentional in how we direct those resources to support the priorities within the plan.
Swarthmore Forward naturally starts at the heart of all that we do: academics. The plan calls for a reexamination of the College’s curriculum, which will inform how we evolve our liberal arts education to meet the demands of the 21st century. Every day, Swarthmore faculty engage students in the kind of creativity and discovery that sparks innovation and passion. A review of the curriculum will create an infrastructure that more intentionally connects that extraordinary work to the challenges that face us as a nation and as a global community, while also ensuring students are introduced to Swarthmore’s breadth of academic offerings across the arts and humanities, social sciences, natural science, and engineering, and interdisciplinary studies. Swarthmore Forward commits to the allocation and addition of resources necessary to advance these academic interests, including the expansion of the size of the permanent faculty. This commitment will allow us to enhance areas of traditional strength, invest in emerging areas, and ensure the close faculty-student relationships that are a hallmark of a Swarthmore education continue to fuel intellectual curiosity and a love of learning.
Swarthmore Forward also underscores our steadfast belief in educating the whole student. At a time when students require growing support for mental and emotional health and wellness, this plan emphasizes holistic development, integrating advising and academic excellence with opportunities for personal growth, recreation, civic engagement, and joy. In an effort to connect students’ experiences within and beyond the classroom and to cultivate class unity, we will create a suite of required first-year, first-semester seminars to introduce students to the College and its resources; encourage career exploration throughout all four years of a student’s experience; and find new ways to nurture students’ physical, emotional, and social well-being.
We are a residential liberal arts institution committed to the value of diversity across all measures — from race, ethnicity, and religion to gender and sexuality to ability and diversity of viewpoints. During a time of polarization on campuses and across the wider society, Swarthmore must model the meaning and the possibilities of inclusive excellence. We will establish the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion to develop a strategic vision for this work. We will foster greater experiential diversity through the creation of a gap-year program and the expansion of the number of community college transfer students. We will review and develop policies and practices that advocate for and prioritize a campus wide culture of health and wellness. And in the spirit of equity, the plan introduces the Swarthmore Promise — a commitment that all students will have access to experiences that will equip them with the skills and resiliency they need to thrive in an uncertain future. In this way, Swarthmore Forward directs resources to expand diversity across campus and foster an environment where every member feels valued and empowered — where individuals and groups from disparate backgrounds and views find space for rest, reflection, joy, and flourishing — where equity and inclusion are not just ideals but lived experiences.
This plan acknowledges that the physical space in which we learn and grow is critical to our ability to live fully into our values. It includes the continued renewal and reimagining of our campus infrastructure to align with and support our strategic goals. Doing so involves creating spaces that foster health, wellness, and community engagement alongside investing in a sustainable and technologically advanced infrastructure. These physical transformations will include completing our commitment to zero carbon emissions, significant investment in our athletic and wellness facilities, and other initiatives spawned by a master plan for the College. They are symbolic of our broader commitment to a future that is sustainable in every sense – environmentally, socially, and financially.
Swarthmore Forward offers a vision of a future where our community members thrive, where our values are lived, and where our impact is felt far beyond the boundaries of our campus. Let us embrace this moment with optimism, courage, and a shared sense of purpose.