Franklin & Marshall and the Collegiate Zeitgeist
13 August 2003 (collegiateway.org) — Along with a group of my Middlebury colleagues I had the pleasure of meeting last month a contingent of visitors from Franklin and Marshall College in Pennsylvania. Franklin and Marshall is a liberal arts college similar to Middlebury, and its new president, John Fry, is seeking ways to improve the quality of campus life, as many campus leaders are today. In his inaugural address he wrote:
[W]e must create a richer intellectual and social environment on our campus. Our classroom and laboratory experiences are infused with excitement, a diversity of material, and genuine collegiality. But we still have plenty of work to do in creating this kind of environment outside of formal academics. So much of the value of coming to live as part of a liberal arts college community comes from the informal conversation, the chance meeting, the serendipitous threads woven into the social fabric. We need to reinvent that fabric of our College to create a more joyful and vibrant campus that is buzzing with life, activity and a wonderful sense of community. Two factors will be especially critical to our success: the first will be our ability to create more diverse, original and physically appealing residential options—the literal and figurative mortar binding together our academic and social lives. The second will be to re-imagine the physical campus, especially our public spaces, both indoors and out. The core of any community is its people. But people need comfortable, memorable places to gather together to create a sense of community.
One of the options Franklin and Marshall is exploring is the residential college model, and should they adopt it, which I hope they will, they will join Middlebury and Willamette as leaders among liberal arts colleges in decentralizing the structure of campus life.
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