Principle 3. Swarthmore recognizes that the faculty is critical to ensuring the excellence of the academic program. Our professors should be dedicated to teaching undergraduates while pursuing research, scholarly writing, and creative production in the arts.

In being active scholars and artists, often enlisting students as collaborators, faculty members model for students the processes of rigorously and imaginatively analyzing received wisdom and ultimately creating new knowledge and understanding, the practices we hope they too will pursue.

Constance Hungerford, Mari S. Michener Professor of Art History and Provost (2001–2011)

Swarthmore recruits highly gifted and dedicated professors who are passionate about learning and devoted to inspiring in students that same passion to explore and discover. These scholar-teachers come to Swarthmore for a life of intellectual engagement with both colleagues and undergraduates. They encourage students to be agents of their own intellectual growth and empower them to use knowledge for positive change. Over and over, our investment in a low ratio of students to faculty is affirmed as faculty members create more opportunities to engage with students in a variety of ways.

While delivering lectures is still an effective and stimulating way to present information to students, increasingly faculty members are integrating problem-based learning into the classroom with projects that apply and test what is learned, sometimes in community settings. They encourage students to do independent research—and the possibilities are almost unlimited. Faculty members in history have taken students to archives in Barcelona and Vienna for independent research leading to award-winning theses, while some dance faculty members actively Skype with students while they are pursuing projects abroad. Others teach students to use the Web to record disappearing languages or create digital humanities archives. Many students arrive at Swarthmore with the expectation of a one-on-one research experience with a faculty member. The research experiences of our undergraduates prepare them for a variety of careers, including those of successful teachers, doctors, lawyers, financiers, entrepreneurs, and social activists. Graduate admission and fellowship award committees increasingly expect that undergraduates have this experience, sometimes along with a publication record. As more students seek supplemental experiences and plan for post graduation careers, their professors advise them closely, support their independent projects and creative ideas, and write many recommendations on their behalf.

Challenge us with your best work, your alternative visions of the world, and your insights, because I promise, we will challenge you. …This is a serious community of learners.

Sarah Willie-Lebreton, Associate Professor of Sociology

These increasing time commitments on the part of faculty come on top of the considerable time they spend outside class engaging with and helping each student to thrive. In grading papers and lab reports, they consider not only content but also writing skills, critiquing multiple drafts and conferring with students individually about ways to strengthen their work.

In an era where the emphasis on teaching combines rigor and creativity, faculty must stay productive in their research in order to keep current with new advances in their fields. Continuing engagement with one’s field invigorates curricular innovation, as well as teaching and research. And, both for their own ongoing development as well as Swarthmore’s reputation, faculty members need to engage with larger academic, creative, and performing arts communities. The changes in teaching, learning, and research in the current era make it challenging to carve out time for their own scholarship and creative expression and to be engaged with professional communities around the world.

Just as faculty work has evolved in response to changes in the higher education landscape, so should teaching responsibilities and institutional support reflect these expanding roles. Most peer institutions have already recalibrated teaching loads to meet the current demands of teaching, learning and research in order that faculty members may meet the needs of students, including students’ expectation that they will be taught by faculty who excel in rigorous and creative thought in their fields. Support for faculty excellence in scholarship and artistic production takes many forms, ranging from funds for travel to conferences to support for regular sabbatical leaves. Swarthmore has long been committed to staying competitive with peers in this area to ensure faculty excellence.