President's Letter, July 2002
Dear friends and colleagues, alumnae/i, and other members of Goucher's extended family,
Over the past eight months, a Strategic Planning Group comprising Goucher faculty, staff, students, alumnae/i, and trustees worked intensively to envision how we might, as an institution, strengthen our engagement with the world around us. Goucher College has always had an international and intercultural dimension, but the global crises of the past year have made the need to expand this perspective all the more clear-and all the more imperative. In these times, no one can consider herself or himself an educated person without understanding the other countries and cultures with which we share the planet, let alone the diverse cultures in our own country. A liberal arts and sciences education must maintain a sharp focus on the international aspects of every discipline if it is truly to prepare young people for the world they will inherit. I am exceptionally proud of our new Strategic Plan, which was approved enthusiastically and unanimously by the Board of Trustees at its May meeting. I am confident that it will guide us capably and smoothly through a time of transformation when we all-as a college, as a community, and as individuals-will experience growth, evolution, and an expansion of possibilities as never before.
The purpose of this letter is to share with you the thrust of the Strategic Plan and some early thoughts about its implementation. I would like to explain how it will make Goucher stand out among liberal arts colleges, as we look ahead to some of the transformations we can expect to see and take part in over the next several years.
Concentrating Our Resources, Expanding Our Perspective, and Reaching Out to the World
Goucher College's new Strategic Plan represents expansion in just about every sense of the term. We have expanded our definition of a liberal education, making direct experience of the global context of every discipline a bedrock principle. We will expand our notion of community, encouraging increased engagement in the lives of the local, national, and international communities in which we live, learn, and work. We will expand our sensitivity to ecological issues as they relate to global citizenship and to the evolution of our campus landscape. We will modestly expand our faculty and student body, increasing at the same time the cultural and intellectual diversity of our campus. Finally, we will expand our campus resources-and, in some ways, the campus itself-not simply to accommodate a growing population, but also to create entirely new kinds of spaces and facilities. They will blur the lines between the intellectual, social, and cultural lives of the various populations within our community and more clearly reflect our vision of an educational environment that knows no boundaries.
There are two major areas where we will concentrate many of our efforts: the transformation of the curriculum and the transformation of the campus. In addition to emphasizing the global significance of the ideas we discuss in our existing courses and programs, we hope to create the possibility for every Goucher student to go beyond the boundaries of our campus every year to experience firsthand how those ideas affect the daily lives of people, communities, and cultures. We hope to increase Goucher's presence in downtown Baltimore and Washington, DC, through satellite facilities and programs in those cities. And we will transform our existing campus through the construction of an Athenaeum that will house a magnificent new state-of-theart college library, spaces for performances and lectures, dining facilities, and common areas where community members can come together in a freeflowing exchange of thoughts and ideas. The Athenaeum will be the centerpiece of our campus and the heart and soul of our intellectual community-the literal, physical embodiment of an education that touches every aspect of our lives.
These are the most novel elements of the new Strategic Plan and, perhaps not surprisingly, the subject of the most discussion and debate in the community, and I will talk about them in greater detail shortly. First, however, I would like to make a few general comments about the plan as a whole.
Although the Strategic Plan recommends some substantial changes to the daily life of the Goucher community, it will preserve the fundamental character of the college. From its very inception, Goucher has been characterized by a rather satisfying paradox: while the campus community has always been small and close-knit, the impression its members make on the world outside the campus has been disproportionately large and far-reaching. Goucher has always been a small college with a big view of the world, an institution that works closely with its students to focus their thinking on how they can engage the world and change it for the better. It encourages them to do so, at every stage of their academic careers and their lives, and our alumnae/i are a living demonstration of Goucher's profound impact. We intend to stay true to this institutional character. Throughout the development of this plan for Goucher's future, the Strategic Planning Group has been keenly aware of how it draws on and proceeds from Goucher's past, and we believe it is fully consistent with the college's traditions and history.
A Time of Transformation and Smooth Transitions
Put simply, the new dimensions we plan to add to our curriculum bring together Goucher's traditional sources of strength in untraditional ways to create an academic program that is truly distinctive. Goucher has always been ahead of the pack when it comes to connecting classroom learning to real-world experience, particularly through internships, service-learning programs, and collaborative faculty-student research. In recent years, the college has been increasingly creative in finding ways of enhancing its students' academic careers with international experiences-even for students whose majors do not traditionally include a strong international component. The next step is to make the connections between these outstanding programs and the existing curriculum even stronger. With the college's long-held interdisciplinary philosophy of education as our inspiration and guide, we will use the combined power of our curriculum and our experiential learning programs to demonstrate not only how every discipline connects to every other, but also how every one of them comes into play every day, throughout the globe, in all of the human struggles and advances that define our lives.
It is true that this transformation will entail some changes in the way our academic program is organized. Academic Dean Michael Curry and I will propose to the college faculty the adoption of an annual requirement that engages students' international, intercultural, and ecological awareness. In order to provide them with a range of opportunities to fulfill the new yearly requirement, we will examine all of the ways in which students can explore these dimensions of their education-here in our immediate community, elsewhere in the United States, and around the world. We will expand some existing programs and create still more. In order to give students plenty of time to participate in these programs, we will also explore new ways of arranging the academic year, possibly adding a short January or May term devoted specifically to intensive threeweek courses in the areas of international literacy, intercultural fluency, and ecological sustainability. A great many such programs are already in place. During the winter break, you can now find Goucher students studying marine biology in Honduras, African arts and culture in Ghana, and theatre and dance in England. Last January we began offering the intensive study of French in Avignon, and next year the same will be possible for Spanish in Cuernavaca and German in Berlin. In May, a group went to Greece to study mathematics and philosophy. Other programs in Havana and Prague are being developed. These three-week courses offer a brief but bracing plunge into the intellectual and cultural lives of our partners in the global community. A faculty committee will begin this summer to examine how these and other curricular innovations, including similar experiences within the United States, can become a fundamental, yearly component of a Goucher education.
Many of us here at Goucher are thrilled by the idea of an academic program that promises every student at least one chance every year to get out into the world-just about anywhere in the world, including unfamiliar worlds in our own communities-and experience the new possibilities to which such an education can lead. At the same time, I understand that some of the logistical concerns involved in this new approach can be daunting, and I would like to take this opportunity to assure everyone of a few things right up front. First, no matter what curricular model we adopt, it will be just as possible in the future as it is now for students to complete a double- major, to create their own interdisciplinary majors, and to complete their education in four years. We will also continue to do everything we can to keep the cost of a Goucher education reasonable. Most important, whatever changes we make will be accompanied by a transitional program for current students that will keep their education on track and running just as smoothly as it has been to this point. And because any and all curricular changes will be designed and approved by faculty (consulting with students and staff ), everyone can rest assured that the changes will be consistent with the quality and character of education we have all come to know and expect from Goucher College.
Just as the curricular transformation will concentrate Goucher's academic strengths in exciting new ways, the Athenaeum will bring together the elements of campus life that already make this a lively, invigorating place to be. Even before I arrived here last year, Goucher had begun to plan a substantial renovation and expansion of the Julia Rogers Library. The college has also become very well known for the impressive variety of performances, lectures, readings, forums, and panel discussions it hosts every year. In the Athenaeum, we envision a space that merges the intellectual power of an outstanding, comprehensively stocked, fully wired college library with the palpable energy that arises when musicians, authors, activists, politicians, journalists, dancers, scientists, actors, athletes, and all sorts of other notable members of the global community come together to take part in a broad variety of events and programs. These programs and the constant buzz of academic and extracurricular activity throughout the campus will generate electricity and momentum, and the Athenaeum will also serve as a means of harnessing and perpetuating that energy. Like the ancient classical academies from which it derives its name, or the salons of the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, the Goucher Athenaeum will be a haven for the special kind of intellectual exploration that takes place when genuine social camaraderie and interaction engage the life of the mind. In its common areas-its café, its conference and study rooms, its lounges and game rooms and nooks and corners and wide-open spaces-the conversations that begin in class, at events, at our jobs and internships, and elsewhere in our lives will spill over into gatherings both formal and casual, planned and spontaneous. And as the library moves to become the anchor of this new facility, we will be able to renovate the Julia Rogers building to provide more and better space for our growing academic departments-for improved faculty offices and innovative classroom spaces that also bear the imprint of our new educational vision, both in their design and in their implementation of the full range of current instructional technology.
Transcending Boundaries and Realizing Our Vision
I want to make it clear that when I talk about our intellectual community and its members, I mean those terms in their most expansive sense. The entire goal of this Strategic Plan is to transcend the boundaries we sometimes draw in our minds-between disciplines, ideologies, individuals, communities, cultures, societies, states, and nations-that keep us from seeing the benefit of points of view that might at first glance seem foreign. In so doing, we want to draw on the intellectual strength and energy of all of the people who participate in the daily life of the campus. We want to send as many of those people as possible out into the world to study and work, and then we want to invite them back to share what they have experienced, accomplished, and come to understand. And we want to enrich our own community by inviting visitors from other communities throughout the country and the world to share their unique perspectives and ideas with us. The center of our intellectual community will always be here on the Goucher campus, but its perimeter will remain undefined, encompassing the best of what the entire globe has to offer and teaching all of us crucial lessons about participating fully and responsibly as true global citizens.
These are bold, expansive, and genuinely innovative goals, and the process of imagining and developing them has energized everyone who has taken part thus far. That energy will carry us a long way in putting this Strategic Plan into action, but it is not all we will need. The realization of great dreams always entails the surmounting of great challenges, and this will require a great deal of unified effort and support from all who share our vision. There are many ways in which every member of the Goucher community can help. Our students, faculty, staff, and alumnae/i can share their own innovative ideas about the Strategic Plan through one of the many committees we will be organizing to coordinate its implementation. Individuals and organizations who wish to support our efforts financially can contribute through the Annual Fund or the major capital campaign we will begin within the next year or two in support of our strategic vision for the college and an expansion of the faculty and the student body. Most important, though, I hope everyone will find a way to participate in the daily life of the college, taking advantage of the new academic opportunities we will offer; attending our events, programs, and athletic competitions; dropping by the Athenaeum and other improved facilities to hang out, grab a bite, read a book, or talk to someone new; and sharing with the Goucher community the knowledge, understanding, and perspectives gained over the course of a life and intellectual career.
I sincerely hope you are as thrilled as we are by the possibilities this new Strategic Plan presents, and I hope you will consider the variety of ways in which you can lend your support. In the meantime, please feel free to get in touch with me anytime to discuss any questions, suggestions, concerns, or ideas you have about Goucher College. I look forward to working alongside all of you as we realize Goucher's magnificent possibilities together.
Sanford J. Ungar