Potash Hill

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Reimagining Marlboro
By Kevin F. F. Quigley 

There is a well-known Chinese expression, “may you live in interesting times.” For Marlboro, and many other small colleges, these are indeed interesting times full of challenges. Marlboro, for not the first time in its history, is confronting a set of enrollment and financial challenges. At its May 2018 meeting, the board of trustees agreed to a multipronged “Reimagining Marlboro” project to address these challenges.

In June, a faculty task force was set up to “reimagine the curriculum” (see page 18). A dedicated group of nine faculty members worked assiduously over the summer to meet a September deadline. Working closely with a group of consultants, these faculty members examined marketing and assessment data and considered what was the essence of a Marlboro education and whether we had a distinctive niche that would attract future students. Together, the faculty developed the “Marlboro Promise.” Under this promise, every student at Marlboro, while pursuing their academic passion, will learn three things: (1) write clearly, (2) live in a community, and (3) lead a big idea from conception to execution. These three elements of the promise are reflected in what we already do: writing portfolio, community governance, and Plan.

The promise provides a clearer way to communicate to prospective students and their families what every student learns at Marlboro, as well as offering a “contract” related to that learning. The promise also helps our students clearly describe what it is they learned at Marlboro and how that applies to securing meaningful work. The Marlboro Promise was approved at a special meeting of the board on September 22.

Alongside this faculty work, we also set out to reimagine our admissions work and strengthen support for student success. In August, we welcomed Fumio Sugihara as dean of admissions and financial aid. Previously director of admissions at Bennington, Fumio brings a breadth of experience at liberal arts colleges and a data-driven, innovative approach to the challenging work of admissions. He has already begun to incorporate the Marlboro Promise in communications to prospective students. Working with consultants, Marlboro is also developing a new website built around the promise, due to be launched later this spring.

It has been said that challenges are what makes life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful. Marlboro is always an interesting place and throughout its history has frequently encountered and overcome challenges. I am confident that working together we will address these challenges in ways that add great meaning to the uniqueness of Marlboro.

Photo by Kelly Fletcher