Bennington College commits to address the complexity and urgency of six global challenges - economics and equity; the environment and sustainability; health; sustaining democratic governance; education; the appropriate and inappropriate uses of force. Specifically, Bennington College will: 1) embed in its curriculum the depth of intellectual demands, the diversity of perspectives, and the strategic intelligence necessary to address the complexity and urgency of these challenges; 2) engage a faculty that includes activists, politicians, journalists, and public intellectuals in addition to scientists, artists and scholars; 3) build a major new green facility to enable and enhance the programs objectives -- the work of the center will serve as a catalyst for making concerns for the public good an informing principle of curriculum.
While the wealth of the world is expanding dramatically, human suffering, because of horrendous poverty, expands at a similar, maybe greater pace. Our current consumption of energy is unsustainable, yet we persist on a path that is in defiance of reason and sanity. We have seen a predilection for the use of force by the world's leading democracy that is harrowing, only to be matched by an equivalent distaste for alternative, non-violent modes of intervention. Our capacity to improve the quality and the duration of human lives has increased significantly; nonetheless the tide of death and suffering continues to rise because of our abject failure to distribute adequate medical care. Despite having a research establishment that is the envy of the world, more than half of the American public does not believe in evolution. Mastery of basic skills and a bare minimum of cultural literacy elude vast numbers of our students. Meanwhile, undergraduate education in the United States has given way to narrowing specialization and relentless careerism. This trend has worked to distance, disincline, and disable colleges and universities from educating students to address urgent, real-world problems. At the same time, there is growing evidence of the eagerness of young people to meet these challenges. In addition to developing to the fullest their individual talent and intellectual promise, Bennington's curriculum will now focus their enthusiasms, aptitudes, and skills on the world's most pressing problems
A director for the center will be appointed within the coming year and will report directly to the president. The director will work with the Provost and Dean of the College to maximize coordination between visiting faculty and faculty and students of the college.
Three new types of courses will be added to the Bennington curriculum beginning in Fall 2008.
1. Workshops to refine our understanding of the critical variables that should inform action directed at the target issues
2. Labs to design and implement specific projects for addressing these issues.
3. Ongoing forums that features activists who are models for using educational resources to address social and political issues.
Architectural design has been commissioned. The new green facility is scheduled to open in 2010.
Measure of Success:
The extent to which these critical public issues enter the curriculum; the number of Bennington College students, faculty, and staff who actually and effectively engage major issues at national and international levels, as well as state and local levels; the percentage of Bennington students whose annual Field Work Term is devoted to these issues; the extent to which this transformation of curriculum serves as a model for similar reorienting of priorities at other colleges and universities; the extent to which this model also begins to influence pre-college curriculum; over the long term, the percentage of alumni who sustain a commitment to civic engagement.
- Recruiting and hiring a director for the center.
Bennington College seeks venture capital funds for innovative student/faculty/staff social-entrepreneurial projects that emerge through this initiative, as well as additional general and project specific private philanthropy and foundation grant support. In addition, Bennington seeks partnerships with NGOs and other organizations for funded international internship opportunities for its students in these targeted issue areas.