Now more than six months into her presidency, Margee Ensign’s presence and passion continue to be felt across campus and in the Dickinson community around the world. Her fall kickoff to the Useful Education for the Common Good Tour drew hundreds and will continue with additional events in the spring. She remains a strong voice on issues of the day, with recurring mentions and bylines in local and national media outlets. Here, in a continuation of the fall issue’s “A Visible Spark” feature, she responds to additional questions from members of the campus community.
What advice and recommendations do you have for our women students who are emerging or aspiring leaders?
—Donna M. Bickford, director of the Women’s & Gender Resource Center
Identify your passions and what you want to contribute to the world, seek out mentors, be determined and resilient and understand that life’s progress is not linear. I have seen women’s roles in society change and expand enormously during my lifetime: Be part of that change. The world needs your talent.
How do you view the performing arts on campus? The theatre, dance and music departments contribute incredible opportunities and important performances to campus, but it has felt like the arts are consistently pushed to the fringes. Do you have some idea of how this could be mended or how the performing arts can be more integrated into Dickinson’s environment?
—Sarah Zimmer ’17
I see the performing arts as integral and essential to a liberal-arts education. The whole point of a liberal-arts education, it seems to me, is to expand our horizons, to open the world to us, to make us more fully human. Of course the arts are crucial to that endeavor. Just imagine a world without music, without dance, without all of the arts. How very diminished we would all be, how less than fully human. I certainly intend to make sure that our programs here are given the resources and support they need.
What does Dickinson do to create opportunities for Native Americans on campus, and how does Dickinson educate the community about indigenous people?
—Shante Toldeo ’21
Like students from all backgrounds, Native American students are an important part of the cultural fabric of Dickinson, no matter how small the population may seem, and Native American culture is certainly part of the academic program and the student experience. Dickinson service trips have included the Navajo Nation, and we have a partner program for study at the Institute of the American Indian Arts (IAIA) in New Mexico. We have hosted Native American speakers, such as the prominent activist and environmentalist Winona LaDuke, and various classes have addressed Native American issues. Some have been devoted to Native American history and religion; others have included Native American materials. For example, a sociology course, The Political Economy of the Family, includes classes on family systems and gender relations in several Native Nations.
Recently, Dickinson faculty, library staff and some 20 students created the Carlisle Indian School Digital Resource Center to facilitate study of this important place of memory for Native Americans by scholars and students across the globe. To explore student interest, we have hired Nikki Dragone as visiting assistant professor of American studies for two years to offer courses in Native American studies. This fall she taught Introduction to Native American Studies and Native American Activism & Resurgence—both were well enrolled.
What do you perceive as the greatest opportunities and risks for Dickinson in the next one, three and five years, and how will you approach them?
—Brian Kamoie ’93
I think we have wonderful people at this college. Our national leadership in global education and in sustainability have taught us that being on the cutting edge of U.S. higher education is possible in a small institution. We need the courage and will to continue in that pioneering spirit, and we have that. We are certainly going to build greater intercultural competencies here on campus, for one thing, and to actively engage in building new programs to attract new audiences. Our greatest risk would be complacency—this is true of all very successful and excellent schools. But I am not particularly worried about complacency because I find the Dickinson spirit to be very much alive and well. We are a campus that looks forward to new challenges.
What are your expectations for Dickinson alumni to be involved with, contribute to and engaged with the future of the college?
—David Lee ’91
I have spent the last few months traveling around the country meeting with close to a thousand Dickinsonians. I have to say that their enthusiasm, their love of the college and their loyalty have been, at times, quite overwhelming. As a newcomer myself, it has been a revelation. Many are just looking for ways that they can help, and we have those ways: financial support (of course) and planned giving, but also serving as mentors to our current students and graduates, providing internships, helping to spread the word about the college nationwide, recruiting and referring new students, sharing their views with me and the staff and the board (which consists largely of alumni, of course). Dickinson alumni have always been an enormous resource for the school, and I see them as even more active in the future.
What has the culture shock been like, moving back to the United States after living abroad?
—Andrew Conte ’93
Well, returning from a very very poor region of Africa, the wealth and the enormous range of consumer choice is a bit startling, and Walmart can be a bit overwhelming! I think, too, the cultural diversity of this country strikes me anew. We are a settler society, and we just assume that a country will include people from all over the world. While my previous university (the American University of Nigeria) was quite a diverse place in terms of staff, our region was far less so. I find our diversity invigorating—it’s a source of pride in being American.
If you could choose to do any other job in the world that is outside of the field of education, what would you do and why?
—Michael Donnelly ’02
It would involve some sort of development work. If you have lived in poorer parts of the world, you realize how fortunate we are and how far we have to go to improve people’s lives. There is a great deal of suffering—both in parts of our country and in the wider world. Isn’t it our job to try to relieve that suffering? That’s what I was taught, that is what I believe and that is what I hope I can inspire our students to work toward as well.
Read more from the winter 2018 issue of Dickinson Magazine.
Published February 1, 2018