our president

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Lisa F. Tedeschi
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president's messages

Why Are Students at the Core of our College?

February 2010

My theme since my arrival as president in 2006 is that Colby-Sawyer College makes every decision by asking how our students will benefit. While this statement is both true and professionally and personally meaningful for our college and for me, we need to ask ourselves why. Why do we make every decision with our practical and moral compass set toward benefiting our students? Why do we believe in and put into practice this principle as a core value of this college? Why do we believe benefiting them is so important?

Is it because we are a selfless community that wants to focus on someone other than ourselves? Why do we view ourselves that way? Do we think this kind of orientation will enhance the college's image or how we view ourselves and our roles in higher education? Is that a morally appropriate orientation?

Could it be that every great school views its students' needs as its highest priority? Are we then measuring ourselves by what others do? Perhaps we see our primary role as empowering our students and preparing them to thrive on their own. But what if this principle inadvertently teaches our students to become selfish and self-interested people? We would not be satisfied with that result.

With reflection and feedback from my colleagues, I've come to understand that this simple, straightforward principle of benefiting our students that guides us in our work each day has deeper, implicit meanings that resonate in all of us as members of the college community and of the larger human community. It rests in our largely unspoken belief that the education our students experience at Colby-Sawyer College has the power to release the potential that resides within each of them to realize their highest aspirations and, ultimately, to make the world a better place.

We believe that by dedicating our best efforts and resources to ensure that our students benefit in all aspects of their education, we do our part in strengthening our community, our state, our nation and our world. Through educating our students, one student at a time in the Colby-Sawyer way, we are trying to make the world a better place tomorrow than it is today.

Education as Inspiration

Many of our students and graduates do their part every day to make their communities and the world better. Students in many of our academic fields of study, such as Communication Studies, Early Childhood Education, Environmental Studies and Nursing, for example, work closely with schools, organizations and individuals in communities near and far to support their mission and goals. They are promoting and assisting in the work of nonprofit organizations, educating young children and working collaboratively to protect the environment and promote health and wellness.

Alumnae such as Jennifer White '90 and Nancy Taylor '67 are educating people about how to change their practices in their work and home lives to protect the earth and conserve its resources. Alex Hardenbrook '07 and Haydi Caldwell Sowerwine '60 have worked to improve the quality of life for people in Uganda and Nepal respectively. Many other graduates are contributing their time and talents to the world in ways large and small, demonstrating their commitment to good citizenship and to humanity.

Is our belief in our students and their capacity for changing the world in positive ways an idealistic vision for the future? Yes, but idealism is always born of optimism, hopefulness and honesty, and it serves as the catalyst for so many of our greatest human endeavors and achievements. The belief that education can enlighten and transform individuals and societies is nearly as old and true as human civilization itself. And so far it has worked; I believe education is the key to a better world for all of us.

Our modern world has come to understand that people thrive—they feel better, behave better and even sleep better—when their lives and work are intrinsically rewarding and directed outward to engage and benefit the community and the world at large. In providing our students with the kind of education that allows them to expand their knowledge, hone their skills, and evolve as caring, responsible and engaged global citizens, we enrich our own lives as administrators, faculty and staff. We have dedicated our careers and committed our intellectual and emotional energy to our students' education and to their, and our own, capacity for creating the kind of world in which we all want to live.

Greater Expectations for Next Generations

We also know that educated societies are more successful, and that the benefits of a good education are passed down from one generation to the next. If your parents graduated from high school, you will be expected to do so as well and are more likely to attend college. By educating our current generation of students, Colby-Sawyer College expands not only their horizons, but also shapes the aspirations of their children and their children's children.

So how are we making the world a better place at Colby-Sawyer College? As educated citizens, our graduates are better informed, tend to earn more and support others, and also engage more deeply in their communities. We are enrolling more students and providing 90 percent of them with financial aid, thus creating greater access to higher education for more students. And more than 300 of our students belong to the first generation of their families to attend college, and they embody their families' pride and hope for a brighter future.

Many colleges are providing only 50 percent or fewer of their students with financial aid. At Colby-Sawyer, we know that even in difficult times, we must invest in our students' potential and in maintaining the kind of personalized education they will need to make their individual marks on the world.

In this time of economic uncertainty, Colby-Sawyer is expanding its commitment to create a more diverse and inclusive college community and encourage global perspectives on campus as part of a comprehensive education that prepares our students for the world as it is today. We welcomed our second class of Progressive Scholars this year — many of them promising first-generation college students — who joined our community from urban centers such as Boston and Chicago.

The college has also welcomed a growing number of international students who are enthusiastic about celebrating and sharing their vibrant cultures with their new community. And last fall, 32 members of the Class of 2013 were the first students to experience our new Global Beginnings Program, studying abroad in France and Italy in their first semester.

These new students, with their fascinating range of social and cultural perspectives and experiences, bring new energy and vitality to our campus and have begun to build a college community that more closely reflects the wider world. Their access to a wonderful college education has benefited not only them but our entire student body and college community. If our students are to graduate and make a positive impact on their communities and the world, it's critical that they be able to connect and collaborate with people who have diverse backgrounds.

Imagining the College's Future

As we increase diversity on campus and prepare students for a world where national boundaries, cultures and time zones are blurred by global technologies and communication, we are focusing on the future. Our efforts to integrate teaching and learning in the liberal arts and sciences with professional preparation will benefit our students now and in the years to come. Integral to our efforts is an intensive self-evaluation and self-projection, and to this end our college community is currently engaged in a major strategic planning initiative. We have asked students, faculty and staff, and trustees to consider the college's highest goals, as outlined in the Strategic Plan and determine the most innovative and imaginative ways for us to realize these goals.

The Strategic Plan, with its focus on Academic Excellence, Enrollment, Student Development, Diversity, Human Resources, Board Involvement, Advancement, Town/Gown Relationships, Communications, Facilities and Financial Strength, provides a broad framework for addressing questions about what kind of educational experience will benefit our students most in the future. Yet as we approach Colby-Sawyer's 175th anniversary, we recognize and honor the college's enduring core values and distinctive characteristics that we must continue to believe in, support and take pride in, which include our community's singular devotion to our students and their success in college and throughout their lives.

Even as we imagine the future, we watch it unfold every day on campus. A new Windy Hill School is rising up from the frozen ground, and soon young children and our college students and teachers will begin to reap the benefits of an optimal teaching and learning environment. This unified laboratory school began as a shared vision for the future, and over time, was transformed into reality by the imagination, generosity, love, hard work and focus of many people who care about and believe in the power of education.

At the same time, the old stone well house near the library is taking on a new life and purpose as a sugar house, where faculty and students will work together to make our own maple syrup, a gift of the stately maples trees that line our front lawn.

At Colby-Sawyer, we have so many dreams, some under construction, some on the drawing board, and still others materializing in our minds and hearts. We continue to pursue our dream of building an inspiring new Fine and Performing Arts Center, which will not only bring our art students and faculty under one roof, but also draw community members and patrons of the arts from around the region together to celebrate the arts.

We can all, one at a time and collectively, through our gifts of passion, intellect, creativity, generosity and energy, strengthen our college and shape it in ways that retain the best of our past and prepare for an exciting and imaginative future. It's going to be a great adventure for us all.


Thomas C. Galligan Jr.

President and Professor of Humanities