View from College Hill
By David Wippman
January 30, 2017
My first months at Hamilton have been spent getting to know the campus, its ethos and its students, faculty, staff, alumni and parents.
I’ve been offered practical advice (yes, the mango brie paninis at Café Opus are as good as people say) and asked pressing questions (e.g., how can we do a better job of preventing sexual misconduct on campus). Everyone, on campus and off, has been extraordinarily welcoming, which has helped me acclimate quickly. I still have a lot to learn and many more people to meet, but I feel ready to move forward on planning for Hamilton’s future. With the assistance of our campus planning committee and suggestions from many others, we have developed the framework for a process that will examine issues ranging from curricular change to student success to the sustainability of Hamilton’s business model. A steering committee will oversee the work of the following three committees:
Imagining Hamilton Committee
The Imagining Hamilton Committee will take a 30,000-foot look at the challenges and opportunities facing higher education in general and residential liberal arts colleges in particular. With that context in mind, the committee will engage the Hamilton community in conversations intended to elicit big ideas, however unconventional, that have the potential for transforming the direction or operations of the College and the education it provides its students. The committee will look, in particular, at strategies that might cut across existing domains, e.g., academic programs and student life, and might consider questions such as: What does, and what should, differentiate Hamilton from its peers? How can we foster continuous improvement of existing programs? Are there technological, demographic, social, legislative or financial forces on the horizon that will force major changes in what we do and, if so, how should we prepare?
Academic Vision Committee
The Academic Vision Committee will examine future directions for Hamilton’s academic programs in light of the changing composition of our faculty and staff and the challenges facing higher education. In that context, the committee should consider our curriculum, workplace issues and the needs and interests of students to recommend priorities for the near future. Among the many questions to be considered are: What is and what should be distinctive about Hamilton’s curriculum? Are there new areas that should be developed or existing areas that should be revised? How should our curriculum respond to anticipated changes in student demographics, technology, globalization and developments within and between disciplines? What kind of flexibility (in departments and programs, in majors, in staffing) might we need to respond to the changing interests and needs of students, as well as current and future imbalances in the distribution of students across majors? What do we need to do to recruit, retain and develop the most talented teacher-scholars and staff? How should faculty balance and be rewarded for teaching, scholarship and service? What areas of the workload need improvement? How can we maximize the value of off-campus study programs?
Student Success Committee
The Student Success Committee will identify ways to improve the overall student experience at Hamilton, with a particular focus on co-curricular activities. As Hamilton welcomes and embraces an increasingly diverse student population and strives to prepare students for lives of meaning, purpose and active citizenship, the committee will examine the educational challenges and opportunities that exist beyond Hamilton’s formal classrooms. Potential questions include: How do we take full advantage of our residential community to maximize learning, success and satisfaction of all students? How can Hamilton better foster a vibrant social environment and reduce the negative impact of substance abuse? How can we equip students with the tools and skills needed to be successful at Hamilton and after they graduate?
The committees have been asked to consult widely; they welcome input from alumni, parents and friends, so I hope you will share your thoughts. We will keep you informed of our progress.