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All the usual phrases apply—on the move, making waves, effecting change, forward focused. These are common phrases in higher education, but at Dickinson, spurred by the momentum of our 29th president, Margee Ensign, they’re grounded in some serious walk to back up the talk.
Beginning in fall 2018, Dickinson will offer a new academic major: quantitative economics, which applies mathematical concepts, models and theories to economic issues. This specialized field is great for students seeking careers in economics, consulting or data analysis— or anyone who wants to go on to graduate school in any of those or connected areas. “More and more, our students are finding that employers want their employees to be able to use data to analyze trends in the market for finance. And the quantitative economics major is really in line with that,” says Emily Marshall, assistant professor of economics.
Dickinson’s Bridge Program is a new college-preparation initiative that provides educational opportunity to young people from global regions experiencing conflict and natural disasters—and for whom higher education would otherwise be impossible. The first four students participating in the program are continuing a remarkable journey that began with a kidnapping by Boko Haram terrorists in a remote part of northeast Nigeria. The women are in a special college-prep program until they are ready for college-level work, and their experience at Dickinson is funded by the Murtala Muhammed Foundation and the Nigerian government’s Victim Support Fund.
The Bridge Program was featured in a front-page Philadelphia Inquirer article in May, and it’s just the beginning.
“We hope to expand this program to more young people from other parts of the world,” Ensign told the Inquirer. “After graduation, I hope these women return to their countries to engage in conflict resolution, peace building, women’s empowerment, education and economic development. Defeating terrorism through military means is by itself an insufficient, unobtainable solution. People need education, opportunity and hope—and that’s what we are providing.”
Dickinson and the U.S. Army War College (USAWC) recently signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that reaffirms their longstanding partnership and outlines ways to continue to build on that strong relationship for mutual benefit in the future. The two Carlisle-based institutions have collaborated extensively for years, thanks in part to grant support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Approximately 30 Dickinson students intern at the War College annually, and the spouses and children of USAWC International Fellows take courses tuition-free at Dickinson.
Student tutors at Dickinson’s Writing Center tutor USAWC International Fellows on writing effectively in English, while USAWC faculty and International Fellows participate in panels and give presentations at Dickinson. The two institutions share faculty members and offer occasional joint courses and research opportunities, but Ensign saw an opportunity to take this partnership to the next level.
According to the MOU, “Together we have worked to bridge the military-civilian divide in this nation, and we will now expand that work to better prepare military and civilian strategic leaders to manage future large-scale emergencies worldwide.”
In addition to continuing all of the aforementioned opportunities, Dickinson plans to offer graduate-level courses to War College attendees, and the two institutions will work to establish the Program for International Peacekeeping and Humanitarian Assistance, Coordination and Management.
One of Ensign’s principal projects has been developing Dickinson into a leader in intercultural competence, which is the ability for community members to engage with each other across cultural differences. From the formation of a task force to collegewide workshops and trainings, the Dickinson community has embraced the directive and run with it. Members of senior staff and the Board of Trustees completed an online assessment to measure personal intercultural competency and identify areas for growth. They then shared what they learned with 63 student volunteers in January during an intensive on-campus workshop.
“It was an absolutely awesome experience for our team,” says Connor Murphy ’18, who participated in the workshop along with all of his lacrosse teammates and several student leaders. “I really enjoyed seeing all the growth and momentum that came out of it.”
The momentum includes the creation of a new Student Senate committee on inclusivity, and a Summer Study Group comprising senior administrators and faculty and staff from across the college worked to increase awareness, knowledge and skills around the interdependency of intercultural and domestic diversity.
“In a country with the most diverse population and in a world of so many different peoples and cultures, we all must have intercultural skills to work effectively with others. But these skills are not quickly, easily or automatically acquired,” Ensign explains. “That’s why we’re making sure that all of our students and all members of our community receive the intercultural education they will need. Already a national leader in global education and sustainability, Dickinson is now poised to become a national model in intercultural education as well.”
In addition to the work on intercultural competence, this year brought a renewed commitment to civic learning and community engagement, which have long been integral components of the Dickinson experience both in and out of the classroom.
In October, Ensign announced the formation of the Commission on Community and Civic Learning & Engagement. Made up of faculty, students and staff, the commission is focused on coordinating the existing work into a comprehensive collegewide effort with strong emphasis on the academic curriculum and the greater Carlisle community. Dickinson also will seek a Carnegie Community Engagement Classification, an evidence-based national recognition of an institution’s commitment to using academic learning to work for the common good.
“It’s my hope that all Dickinson students will graduate having already learned how to apply the vast knowledge they have gained to solving problems in the wider world,” Ensign says. “Just, I believe, as Benjamin Rush would have hoped.”
Published August 3, 2018