Community

In “The Community We Aspire to Be” (June 2011), President Falk notes the greater diversity of students and that neither diversity nor tolerance alone are enough. He says the College’s “mission to prepare leaders must surely include engaging students with the diverse society they will graduate to serve.” Left unanswered though, is how.

Neither study abroad nor community service programs are enough. Falk’s goals echo those of Professor Robert Gaudino and Presidents Sawyer and Chandler more than 40 years ago. Gaudino developed rigorous off-campus home- and work-stay programs outside students’ comfort zones—to not just have experience but also to use it to move to greater understanding, motivation and empathy. After working five years with Williams students in a Gaudino-esque Winter Study project called “Resettling Refugees in Maine,” I am convinced that in a campus and world more diverse, connected and wired than when we were born, ironically there is a greater need to push away from TV, computer and PDA screens and to get outside our comfort zones—to actively listen to and learn from people, ideas and situations very different from ours. Offering rigorous Gaudino-esque projects off campus is one tool to maximize the benefits of community and diversity.
Jeff Thaler ’74, Yarmouth, Maine