In mid-May a capstone meeting of the GLCA Opening Doors of Dialogue program engaged representatives from 10 Midwestern colleges and their host communities to share experiences and thinking about community-campus relationships and the potential for strengthening bonds through collaboration.  The Opening Doors of Dialogue was funded by a grant from the Mellon Foundation to the GLCA.

Through a lively set of exchanges, one community-campus team would “interview” another team, working from written accounts of community-campus roundtables carried out through the fall and winter of 2021-22. 

The meeting’s discussions centered on a core question:  What is the case for community-campus partnerships in the twenty-first century? The answers yielded expressions of reciprocal benefits collaboration can offer.  If there is a basis of trust and mutual commitment, both campus and community can inspire one another to discuss what is possible to achieve and act on ideas that are enhanced by working together.  In some instances, the liberal arts college can bring expertise to the community. No less important, though, the community offers lived experience and practical approaches to address challenges and enrich the learning college students can gain from the curriculum. 

In both cases, working with others who do not necessarily share the same background or experiences can provide fruitful, productive, and meaningful partnerships.  Employers today voice growing calls for college graduates who possess skills and understanding beyond academic knowledge.  Experiential learning, from engaging with and contributing to the community, can offer solidified grounding for student learning and application.

Some Core Recommendations

The dialogues of this three-day meeting addressed a range of topics. From a list of key takeaways written on flip charts the final morning, a few points attracted significant endorsement, as expressed through a “dot voting” process.

  • Build the relationships among people who will engage in a community-campus partnership. All successful collaborations stem from a foundation of trust which must be established at the front end of planning. Collaboration cannot succeed without first establishing strong bonds among the primary stakeholders as people who share the vision and can be trusted to support one another in pursuing the goals. Build the relationships to ensure success, strength, and longevity.
  • Create systems that will allow a collaborative project to make progress toward its goals, even as changes occur in the project’s setting and participants. It often happens that the founders of a campus-community partnership achieve their initial visions and move on to other things. Sustaining action toward a longer-term success requires that a program have a structure in place to engage others who can carry the progress forward. College students may offer important contributions, but they likely move on at graduation or the end of a semester. Community partners and stakeholders cannot be left in the lurch from such transitions.

  • Make reciprocity a core principle of campus-community collaboration. Leaders of a collaborative project must act to ensure that the benefit of their work accrues equitably to both parties.  A pointed question from one community-campus round table had asked, “So, the students earn credit and graduate.  What’s in it for the community?”  Campus leaders and college-educated students must be certain that a collaboration delivers value to members of the community as well as to themselves.  A college that wins a grant from a foundation to fund actions and people of a project must be certain that community partners who contribute to this work are recognized and compensated in comparable ways.  Leaders should strive to build a team that is not just diverse but inclusive and equitable – regardless of education, culture, race, or economic status.  Avoid the condescending attitude that community members should feel flattered simply to be invited to the college’s project.  Two heavily endorsed takeaways from the final meeting segment made these points:   

  • Colleges must affirm the value of faculty achievements in community-engaged learning and research, and they must fulfill this commitment through policy statements and actions that declare this work “counts” in the assessment of faculty for purposes of tenure and promotion. Statements expressing the importance of community-campus engagement can be found in publicity materials of virtually every college and university in the U.S.  There are differences, however, in the value that higher education institutions accord to community engagement.  Sometimes the imbalance contributes to different experiences for individual faculty members in terms of their career advancement.   One of the strongest takeaways from this capstone meeting was that college leadership needs to make a structural decision (involving dollars, policy, tenure & promotion) concerning the value of community-engaged learning. 

Steps Forward from the Roundtables

Another component of this program invites community-campus settings which had earlier hosted Opening Doors roundtables to apply for grant funding of up to $8,000.  The purpose of such a grant is to continue the dialogues or try a small pilot project as a test of concept to strengthen collaboration.  Ideally, some of these extended actions can yield a larger implementation proposal to a major foundation, which would help community and campus stakeholders to build stronger bonds and enhance the quality of life and learning in their setting. 

Visit GLCA Opening Doors of Dialogue Program for more information. 

 

 

 

The GLCA extends its hearty congratulations to Diane Suess, professor emerita of English at Kalamazoo College, who has won the 2022 Pulitzer Prize for her volume of poetry entitled frank: sonnets, published by Graywolf Press. 

The poems adopt the literary form of the sonnet, a highly structured genre often employed as a kind of set piece.  Seuss applies this mode toward different ends, exploring moments in her life that are often painful in their rendering. 

The Pulitzer Prize Board’s description of her work calls “frank: sonnets” “a virtuosic collection that inventively expands the sonnet form to confront the messy contradictions of contemporary America, including the beauty and the difficulty of working-class life in the Rust Belt.”

We of the GLCA regard Diane Seuss a special colleague.  Between 2008 and 2017 she served several times as a poetry judge of the GLCA New Writers Award.  We are pleased to celebrate her achievement in frank: sonnets, which is her fifth published volume of poetry. 

Read the announcement from Kalamazoo College here

Congratulations, Diane!

A lively, engaging reading by two winning authors of the GLCA New Writers Award took place at Hope College on the evening of March 8, 2022.  The event featured presentations by Gabriel Bump, 2021 winner of the fiction award, reading from his novel, Everywhere You Don’t Belong; and by Marianne Chan, winner of the 2021 poetry award, reading from her winning volume entitled, All Heathens.

Marianne Chan (left) and Gabriel Bump (right) at the Jack Ridl Visiting Writers Series at Hope College, March 8, 2022. 

The event was a compelling example of the power of the New Writers Award to generate student interest in creative writing by young writers who are in early stages of a literary career.  Founded in 1970, this program continues to create opportunities for promising young authors to meet with students, visit classes, give public readings, and answer questions about their work and the process of writing and publishing.  More than 70 people attended the Hope College event – including students, faculty members, and others from the college and Holland community. 

Gabriel Bump’s novel is a coming-of-age story set in Chicago.  While the setting is real, the family and lead character of the novel are fictional; Bump spoke of the great pleasure he has in imagining a world through fiction in a setting he knows well. Marianne Chan’s poems explore elements of her Filipino-American identity and the experience of family, place, and culture.  She explores human relationships through the lens of places, things, or events – the moon, Michigan ice, Magellan’s circumnavigation of the world. 

Several students had major roles in the event, introducing the writers with tributes to their literary achievements, and leading a question and answer session that yielded remarkable responses from the two writers.  The dialogue ranged from questions about the act of writing, how their writing has changed over time, other authors who had  inspired them,  the process of getting published – and what their next works would be.

Marianne Chan and Gabriel Bump (center) with several students who organized the event in conjunction with Dr. Susanna Childress (left) and  Dr. Pablo Peschiera (right) of the Hope College English Department

In closing, both authors expressed their thanks to the GLCA and the New Writers Award for the opportunities the program had created for themselves both personally and professionally.  Gabriel Bump said, “This award is the best thing that has come about from this book.”  Several attendees expressed their admiration for the writers in conversation and in purchasing books, which the authors signed. 

The wining writers of the current year’s season are:

Marianne Chan, winner of the poetry award, for her volume entitled, All Heathens

Gabriel Bump, winner of the fiction award, for his novel, Everywhere You Don’t Belong.

Nina Boutsikaris, winner of the creative non-fiction award for her work, I’m Trying to Tell You I’m Sorry

An announcement of the winning writers for the season that will begin in September 2022 can be found at this link

The Great Lakes Colleges Association is pleased to announce the winners of the 2020 GLCA New Writers Award for Poetry, Fiction, and Creative Non-fiction. Now in its 53rd year, the New Writers Award confers recognition on promising writers who have published a first volume in one of the three genres.  Judges of the New Writers Award are faculty members of creative writing and literature at GLCA’s member colleges.  Winning writers receive invitations to visit GLCA member colleges – where they give readings, meet with students and faculty members, and discuss technique and creativity in the writing process. 

The 2022 winner for Poetry is Sumita ChakrabortyArrow, published by Alice James Books.  Our GLCA judges note:

The poems in Sumita Chakraborty’s masterful debut, Arrow, range from the epic maximalism of long lyric poems to the minimalism of aphorisms and redacted translations. The book’s journey is part imaginative mythmaking and part rigorous intellectual investigation.         
The collection exhibits a capacity to narrow on the deeply personal and mythical, while also expanding to the cosmic, citational, and philosophical. These formal shifts in perspective amplify the poet’s grappling with the residual presence of a sibling’s death. This tension between direct address and obfuscation propels the collection’s wide stylistic range and rich lyricism, refracting the book’s explorations of loss and love outward into conversations with philosophy, astronomy, literature, and even deep into language itself. 
Chakroborty’s poems have a spell-like intensity of language – searching, lively, varied – sometimes expressing frustration, sometimes growing song-like.  She speaks with a punctuating crispness, while retaining the power of poetry to leave us with astonishment and mystery.

Judges of the 2022 Poetry Award were:
David Caplan, Ohio Wesleyan University
Robin Schaer, Oberlin College
Orchid Tierney, Kenyon College

The 2022 winner for Fiction is Michael X. WangFurther News of Defeat, published by Autumn House Press.  Our GLCA judges note:

This collection demonstrates an extraordinary range: real and fantastic, urban and rural, young and old, past and present. The stories move with measured and unflinching prose. The characters, charged equally by desperation and impulsivity, are live wires crossing powerful and often predatorial forces. Violence is endemic, personal and state-sponsored.  The grace notes, humor, odd encounters and ironies leaven the violence and make it survivable. 
The disparate narrators show Wang’s extraordinary capacity to empathize with different people. Wang is thorough in imagining the thoughts of his characters, especially when their thoughts are questionable or when they’re not behaving well. The authorial distance seems quite an accomplishment in a writer’s first work.  The stories are literary, but written as if told and not written.  At its intersection, Wang delivers stories of remarkable symmetry.
This is a collection full of devastating loss, yet resonant light cracking against the long night.  

Judges of the Fiction Award were:
Mari Christmas, Allegheny College
Andrew Mozina, Kalamazoo College
Robert Olmstead, Ohio Wesleyan University

The 2022 winner for Creative Non-Fiction is Melissa ValentineThe Names of All the Flowers, published by Feminist Press.  Our GLCA judges note:

Melissa Valentine’s story is one of collective trauma, rendered beautifully in the details of a large biracial family in the 1990s. Whether set in Oakland, California or Selma, Alabama, The Names of All the Flowers interrogates how place shapes consciousness, how identity can flower in unlikely locations but also be extinguished.  Valentine offers us a lyrical but also anguished portrait of the complicated borderland between the good and bad sections of town, between black and white parents, between being innocent and being doomed.
Our narrator, who sees everything and shows it to us through shifting lenses, child and adult, uses present tense to hold us in a perpetual present. The pulse of this memoir is urgency. The story of her brother’s untimely death, Valentine seems to say, not only never ends, it is always happening somewhere. 
Standing in the family cemetery next to her brother’s grave, she comes to see “how [my brother’s] lost black life is every lost black life, how my grief is part of a collective sorrow.”  Anchored in place, Valentine’s vision is indeed transcendent, evoking many ghosts and graveyards, troubled families and streets, across an entire country trying to survive as well as remedy a racist past and present.  

Judges of the Creative Non-Fiction Award were:
Elizabeth Eslami, DePauw University
Eric Freeze, Wabash College
Daniel Bourne, The College of Wooster

For more information on the New Writers Award, please contact Gregory Wegner, Director of Program Development ([email protected]), or Colleen Monahan Smith, Executive Assistant to the President ([email protected]) at the GLCA.

Additional information is available on the GLCA web site: GLCA New Writers Award

Richard Detweiler

Richard A. Detweiler, President Emeritus of the GLCA, has published a major research study on the impact of a liberal arts education on the lives of its graduates.

The book is entitled The Evidence Liberal Arts Needs:  Lives of Consequence, Inquiry, and Accomplishment. (MIT Press, 2021) 

The study presents a strong case for the value of liberal arts education.  It verifies this claim, not by rhetorical or philosophical appeals, but through a rigorous empirical study of a random sample of 1,000 people across the U.S. in cohorts that graduated 10, 20, or 40 years earlier.

The interviews asked participants a range of questions to describe both the “what” and “how” of their education:  what kind of university or college they attended, the kinds of courses taken, average class sizes, encouragement to develop larger perspectives and discuss with others inside and outside of class.  These were supplemented by questions about involvement in social activities and interaction on campus, such as clubs and athletics. 

Respondents were also asked about their subsequent lives in society:  satisfaction with life and career, participation in volunteer activities, civic engagement, and income.

Detweiler’s results indicate an array of factors that distinguish graduates of liberal arts colleges from those of other kinds of institutions.  As the book’s subtitle suggests, this analytical project sought to trace the relationships between the experience of higher education and “lives of consequence, inquiry, and accomplishment” at intervals in later life. 

Two significant findings show a distinct link between a student’s educational experience in relation to those three desired qualities later in life:

  • The number of times a student talks with a faculty member – on academic or non-academic subjects – outside of class; and
  • The practice of taking more than half of one’s classes outside the student’s major field of study.

By its very nature as small residential learning communities, liberal arts colleges are in positions to maximize the likelihood of significant mentorship between a student and faculty member.  They are also settings likely to support student interests in exploring across academic disciplines to reap the benefits of reading and thinking widely in the course of their learning. 

Richard Detweiler’s book offers a distinctive set of insights into the nature and value of the liberal arts.  The study provides new inroads to understanding the connections between liberal arts undergraduate study and the achievement of a life of engaged consequence and fulfillment.  

Update:  Since the first posting of this GLCA news article, Rick Detweiler’s book has been distinguished as one of “The Best Higher Education Books of 2021” by Forbes Magazine.  Forbes calls the book “a superb source for all those wanting a clear explanation of the value of the liberal arts.”  

An interview with Scott Jaschik, editor of Inside Higher Education, appears here.

The link to Richard Detweiler’s book, published by MIT Press can be found here.

At the opening session of the 2021 Council of Independent Colleges’ Chief Academic Officer Institute, Provost Ron Cole of Allegheny College was presented with the 2021 CIC Chief Academic Officer Award.

Mickey McDonald (left) congratulates Ron Cole on his award.

The award recognized Cole’s support of colleagues at independent colleges and universities including regularly presenting at CIC institutes and the CIC Workshops for Department and Division Chairs, and leading the Mentor Program for new CAOs.  Present at the ceremony was GLCA President Mickey McDonald and CAOs from GLCA members institutions.  “Ron is well deserving of this award.  He thinks deeply about collaboration, camaraderie and sharing knowledge,” noted McDonald.

In his recognition speech, Cole remarked on his thoughts on leadership:

Lead with empathy, lead to serve, and lead for purpose. I believe these are essential ingredients to build the leadership capacity and positive morale that’s needed to achieve those goals that ultimately are meant to serve our students and strengthen our institutions.  Strategic goals for programs and policies will evolve and change. But, the culture of leadership shapes how we achieve our goals and that, I believe, is long lasting …I’d like my legacy to be a community of care built from empathy, service, and purpose – because this is how I believe we achieve our strongest outcomes.”

Cole joined the faculty at Allegheny College in 1994 and has served as Provost and Dean of the College since 2015.  He is currently the Chair of the GLCA Deans’ Council. 

See the announcement of the award from Allegheny College here.  Learn more about the Council for Independent Colleges here.