The Residential College Experience

The grand ambition of the liberal arts college—America’s unique contribution to higher education—is that the residential experience should inspire students to pursue their own passions even as they learn to create and tend to the multifaceted dimensions of democratic community. Through engagement with their peers in extracurricular activities as well as the academic program, students develop the capacity to appreciate culture in all its many and diverse forms. As Isaac H. Clothier Professor Emeritus of History and International Relations Professor Robert DuPlessis said in his Baccalaureate remarks this year, “knowledge must be sought across and beyond confining borders of race, class, gender, religion, and nationality … only by encountering and attempting to comprehend the origins, assumptions, and logics of perspectives that are different from —even repellent to —our own, can we adequately understand our own convictions. True learning, in short, requires broad exposure along as many parameters as possible. This type of ‘deep’ diversity is not politically correct but educationally mandatory.”
In this social learning environment, students are educated to be leaders who contribute to society in a wide variety of ways. As a liberal arts college, Swarthmore should be the exemplar of how a residential experience supports the work of developing individuals; manifesting diverse, inclusive, and engaged community; and building democratic communities in the world.

Strategic Directions identifies the following goals as we imagine the next chapter of our life as a substantive community:

• Build upon our longstanding commitment to diversity by developing a comprehensive, coordinated plan for diversity, inclusivity and engagement among students, faculty, and staff.
• Reaffirm that civil discourse is the foundation of intellectual engagement and community life by fostering a community that develops models of civil discourse in our increasingly diverse and inclusive global community.
• Preserve and enhance Parrish Hall as the symbolic and actual centerpiece of campus and community life while re-envisioning spaces where larger groups of students, faculty, staff, and alumni may come together for deliberative discussions and social interactions.
• Use our resources and environment in a sustainable manner, understanding the complex interactions between natural- and human-made systems.
• Build upon the program for socially responsible leadership and the Lax
Conference to create a comprehensive approach to Swarthmore-style leadership development through a Center for Innovation and Leadership for students.
• Make fitness and wellness a focal point of community life by encouraging participation in intercollegiate, club, and recreational athletics, addressing facilities needs, and developing programs that promote healthy lifestyles for all.
• Encourage students to engage in and with the arts outside the classroom.
• Continue to recruit and develop a staff whose devotion to the community makes such a profound impact on our students and others.
• Build bridges to bring students and alumni together in ways that are rewarding for all.

Plan Summary [pdf]