Academic Year in Review
The 2011-12 academic year was one for the history books. Dickinsonians took part in time-honored traditions and forged new ones; celebrated milestones in the classroom, on the field and beyond; and strengthened ties on campus, in the local community and across the globe.
Surprises up her sleeve
Convocation was held Aug. 28 in the Anita Tuvin Schlechter Auditorium, thanks to rainy weather brought on by Hurricane Irene. A few weeks later, Mother Nature unleashed another minor surprise, delivering a rare October snowstorm that created frosty conditions for trick-or-treaters and snapped tree limbs filled with autumn leaves.
History and history in the making
The Dickinson community observed the 10th anniversary of a watershed moment in American history on Sept. 11; five days later, the community gathered again for the college’s first celebration of Charter Day. Dickinson marked the anniversary of the 1912 sinking of the Titanic with a special archives exhibition; a digital archives exhibition marked unique moments in the college’s history. On April 20 the college awarded a posthumous honorary degree to Dickinson’s first-known black-woman graduate, trailblazing poet/activist Ether Popel Shaw ’19, and Sylvie Toux made college history when she was named the first endowed director of the Dickinson Center in Toulouse.
The college witnessed the dawn of a new era in January, when longtime president William G. Durden ’71 announced he would retire effective June 30, 2013. The ongoing search for a new president kicked off in March; in May, students organized Durden Appreciation Day in recognition of the president’s years of service to the college.
The class of 2012 worked hard to make its mark last year, launching the Senior Club, creating sustainable-chic pint-glass mementos and personalizing many annual senior-year events. This year also saw the first crop of MANdatory graduates and the graduation of Dickinson’s first cohort of Community College Partner Program students.
In class, on the field and beyond
Learning extended beyond the classroom and across disciplines. Examples include a student-faculty project that attracted the attention of national Icelandic television; a first-year video assignment that was included in a New York Public Library archive; and Dickinson’s bioinformatics program, which advanced knowledge in the fight against cancer. Language classes ventured into art galleries for in-depth cultural exploration, and artists-in-residence such as the Galax Quartet collaborated with students in class and onstage. Science majors learned interdisciplinary tools in a blended bio-chem lab and presented original work at the 27th-annual Science Student Research Symposium.
A new study-abroad partnership with Oxford University was forged, and Dickinson was recognized as one of the country’s top global-education leaders for continuing to expand learning opportunities across borders and around the world.
The arts flourished on campus. Works by masters such as Picasso, Bonnard, Warhol, Matisse, Renoir and Rembrandt illuminated The Trout Gallery this year, and studio-art majors created intriguing worlds during the senior art exhibition. Flirtatious farces flounced onstage during Shakespeare’s effervescent Much Ado About Nothing; in the spring, the Mermaid Players lit up the stage with an incendiary tale. Poets from around the world performed with two student writers during the 10th-annual Semana Poética. The Dance Theatre Group tackled technology issues in its fall concert, The New Normal; the group’s spring concert, Freshworks, celebrated the interception of theory and function. In February experts and scholars from three colleges gathered to explore the interplay between arts and the Africana experience.
It was a banner year for athletics; 12 Red Devil athletes earned All-America honors and 34 Red Devils were named to All-Centennial Conference teams. The Devils captured Conference championships in men's soccer and men's lacrosse, and the baseball team set a school record, winning 25 games in 2012.
The Dickinson College Farm became home to herd cattle in summer, 2011, and the campus community launched its first Green Energy Challenge—one of many sustainability-minded events on campus this year. In May Dickinson awarded its first prize for environmental activism. Over spring break, students learned about environmental ethics—and Judaism—by digging in the dirt.
Distinguished guests and new alumni
In May Dickinson welcomed four new honorary-degree recipients into the fold: CIA Director David H. Petreus, who delivered the Commencement address; John H. Adams, co-founder of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC); Herta Müller, recipient of the 2009 Nobel Prize in Literature; Nina Totenberg, award-winning National Public Radio legal-affairs correspondent; and Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org.
Many other distinguished guests visited campus throughout the year, including Booker Prize-winning author Margaret Atwood, best known for her novel The Handmaid’s Tale, who accepted the 2011 Harold and Ethel L. Stellfox Visiting Scholars and Writers Program Award, and Michael Chertoff, a former federal judge and secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, who delivered the 2011 Constitution Day address. Pioneering chemist George Whitesides presented the college's annual Joseph Priestley Lecture in November. Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jennifer Egan discussed her book A Visit From the Goon Squad. Benjamin Rush Award-winner Charles W. Cole Jr. predicted bright skies for bright grads, and Poitras-Gleim speaker and MacArthur “genius”-grant awardee Majora Carter advocated for urban renewal. Mou Guangfeng, senior environmental inspector for China's Ministry of Environmental Protection, gave an insider's perspective on the environmental costs of China's industrialization and urbanization. Retired Navy Adm. Dennis Blair, a former U.S. director of national intelligence and commander in chief of U.S. Pacific Command, chatted with students about international affairs.
Not all special guests were players on the international stage, however, but all offered rare glimpses into intriguing worlds. These include Kamga Morin Fobissie, who spoke about the Utamtsi Coffee Cooperative in his native Cameroon; local homeless persons, who shared experiences in a powerful Clarke Forum discussion, Life on the Streets; and Thom Shanker and Eric Schmitt, Pentagon correspondents for The New York Times, who discussed the Pentagon’s new strategy to fight the war on terrorism. Students also received valuable career tips from visiting alumni who are leaders in their chosen fields.
New spaces and places
Summer-construction projects updated residence halls and other buildings, and form and function blended beautifully at the newly reonvated Rubendall Recital Hall. The Center for Sustainability Education also got new digs, and the college’s new Wellness Center promoted holistically healthy lifestyles. In April the Board of Trustees greenlighted the most extensive campus-enhancement effort in Dickinson's history, which will include a new soccer complex, interdisciplinary greenhouse, and residence hall and the expansion of the Kline Fitness Center.
Student organization the Idea Fund launched the campus’ Handlebar bike-repair station in the fall. Throughout the year, the Idea Fund also backed an on-campus fair-trade coffee cart, the Coffee Peddler; helped expand the biodiesel plant; and co-led the senior class sustainable pint-glass project.
Joining together, giving back
Relationships were affirmed and strengthened when 900+ alumni and relatives of current students from across the country connected during Dickinson’s 2011 Homecoming & Family Weekend; students and alumni joined together again at the annual Networking Day. The class of 2012 reinforced student-faculty ties when it kicked off the new Senior Club with lively conversation and music by an all-faculty band. The all-campus Thanksgiving and holiday dinners and concerts were big hits, as well.
Service trips and continuing community work placed Dickinson on President Obama’s Higher-Education Service Honor Roll, and the spirit of service and a strong sense of community continued to grow as Dickinsonians rallied for worthy causes throughout 2011-12. Dickinson observed National Coming Out Day, for example, through the annual Out on Britton event; kicked off Black History Month with events examining MLK’s relevancy for a new generation; and helped migrant middle-schoolers through a unique summer program.
After a beloved professor was seriously injured in a bicycle accident, Dickinsonians organized the Yoga for Cozort fundraiser. Faculty, staff and students lent a hand to the local community Oct. 18 during the first campuswide Day of Service. Four student vocal groups aided local children through the Acappellooza fundraiser; a second a cappella fundraiser, Hit the Lights, was held March 25.
Learn more about the 2011-12 academic year:
By MaryAlice Bitts-Jackson
Photos by Carl Socolow '77 and Jennifer Crowley '12