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PRESIDENT’S PERSPECTIVE Success—Skidmore style


Typing “success” into Google Search returns “about 1,090,000,000 results.” Mention the word to most Americans and they likely will agree that this con- cept is central to our national psyche— although they may well disagree on just how to define it. No doubt, the concept of success does take on various connota- tions for different people, but it is possi- ble to identify themes that recur across many of these divergent perspectives. In this issue of Scope, we interrogate the notion of success. Professor John Brueggemann, author of Rich, Free, and Miserable: The Failure of Success in Ameri- ca, joins other faculty colleagues to dis- cuss meanings of success in our culture. Campus-life staff members explain how they support students’ personal develop- ment. And several accomplished alumni are inter- viewed about suc- cess in their pro- fessional and per-


sonal lives. I firmly believe that a liberal education provides our students the foundation for achieving success in all these dimensions: personal, profession- al, social, and spiritual. Helping our stu- dents develop their personal definition of success and giving them the tools to pursue it are integral to our work at Skidmore.


When we hear that someone has been “successful,” what may first come to mind is financial security. These days the idea that a liberal education can lead to material prosperity is often greeted with some degree of skepticism. To my mind, however, a liberal education still provides the best preparation for a pro- fessional life in a world marked by rapid and profound change—a life likely to encompass multiple careers in an ever more globally integrated, multi-ethnic, multilingual workplace. So, yes, Skid- more remains a great launching pad for a “successful” career.


The need to enhance our support for


graduates taking their first steps toward a ca- reer was clearly articu- lated during the “town hall” meetings we held several years ago. Partic- ipants strongly and con- sistently reaffirmed the value of a Skidmore ed- ucation; yet they also said we should do more


SKIDMORE PRESIDENT PHILIP A. GLOTZBACH


A LIBERAL EDUCATION PROVIDES THE FOUNDATION FOR ACHIEVING SUCCESS IN ALL THESE DIMEN-


SIONS: PERSONAL, PROFESSIONAL, SOCIAL, AND SPIRITUAL.


to help our students transition to the world after college—to enable them to leverage their Skidmore education in whatever path they might choose in the workforce or in graduate or professional education. These conversations led to a new initiative called “Transition and Transformation” that includes a broad- ranging over- haul of our ef- forts to help our graduates realize the promise of their education


through various kinds of career develop- ment support. This issue of Scope out- lines some of the new programs we are implementing, but I want to underscore that these efforts are only the beginning. We are committed to achieving the same level of excellence in supporting our stu- dents’ career development as we expect throughout the curriculum and our cocurricular offerings.


But many of our graduates today would emphasize that true success can- not be measured solely in terms of their bank balance or stock portfolio. They want to do work that engages them and provides intrinsic satisfaction, not just work that pays them well. They want their lives to include a sense of meaning and purpose. They care deeply for the well-being of others and want to leave behind a world better than the one they found. So we must never lose sight of liberal education’s greatest promise to our students and, indeed, to us all: the promise of grounding a life that realizes


one’s human potential in all its dimensions. In his Ethics, Aristotle used the Greek word eudai- monia to denote the highest sense of human flourishing or happi- ness. I would parse Aris- totle’s concept to say that such a life encom- passes not only profes-


sional achievement but also civic re- sponsibility and fulfilling personal rela- tionships—a life of meaning marked by balance both within an individual and between that individual and the world. I invoked this notion eight years ago in Engaged Liberal Learning: The Plan for Skidmore 2005–15, and I continue to be- lieve it expresses very well our highest hopes for our students. Accordingly, the “Transition and


Transformation” initiative also seeks to identify those activities most conducive to the kind of personal and intellectual transformation critical to this ideal of human flourishing. These transformative experiences, which we call “engaged lib- eral learning practices,” include small classes, an emphasis on writing, and close student-faculty interaction, as well as student-faculty research collabora- tions, study abroad, senior capstones, service-learning courses, and internships. These experiences have been shown to contribute disproportionately to the suc- cess of our students—both at Skidmore and long afterward. While they are avail- able to all of our students, our analysis has shown that some of them could be more deeply integrated into our stu- dents’ academic careers and that some students’ financial circumstances prevent them from accessing these opportunities. We are working to improve in both of these regards. As I consider what’s next for the College, it is clear that fostering our graduates’ success—in all the dimen- sions of that term—must remain our highest aspiration.


SPRING 2012 SCOPE 3


GARY GOLD


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