Timeless and Timely

At Williams, we love our traditions. We can’t resist a chorus of “the Mountains.” There isn’t enough purple clothing in the world to satisfy us. We cherish Mountain Day and grilled honeybuns.

Head shot of President Maud S. MandelThe college also has a remarkable ability to innovate within our curriculum in ways relevant to each era while still being rooted in our tradition of close teacher-student relationships. You could say we have a knack for offering an education that is both timeless and timely.

Last fall, as part of the Strategic Planning process, Provost Dukes Love invited Williams faculty and staff to propose Strategic Academic Initiatives—projects that, to quote Dukes, “substantially reimagine an existing area of strength or respond to evolving definitions of a liberal arts education in the 21st century.”

We received 23 proposals, from which many good ideas were channeled into one of our eight existing working groups. Other ideas warranted broader institutional consideration. With Dukes’ and my support, four groups of faculty and staff have now outlined charges, conducted outreach and developed recommendations for leveraging Williams’ established and emerging strengths in various areas. Here’s a brief introduction to the work of each group:

International Initiatives: Williams students need to understand the dynamics and consequences of our globalized world. This group is developing ideas for how the college can build on its already globally diverse campus population, its curriculum and its programs to promote what the authors call “persistent and profound engagement with the world.”

Technology and the Liberal Arts and Science; Technology and Society: We want Williams students to develop both technological skills and the capacity for critical thinking about technology’s influence. One group is proposing ways to weave technology into teaching and scholarship across the whole curriculum, and a second group is recommending ways to educate students about the social construction and ethical implications of scientific and technological knowledge.

The Future of the Arts: This group is examining ideas on how to sustain and renew Williams’ leadership in the arts during a time of interdisciplinary experimentation and increased attention to the voices and experiences of people historically excluded from artistic canons and discourse.

All of these groups have published draft reports for the community to review. I encourage you to explore them and share your thoughts at williams.edu/strategic-planning. The recommendations are just the newest expression of Williams’ talent for evolving our curriculum in ways both timeless and timely.

I’m grateful to you and our whole community for this good work, and I’m proud that we’re about to extend Williams’ long tradition of innovation in the liberal arts.