The November announcement of the alliance between Marlboro College and Emerson College has been followed by a series of visits by members of both campuses, helping to build relationships and a common understanding of the future of Marlboro. The first of these visits was on November 20, when five members of the Emerson leadership visited Marlboro to answer questions and get a feel for the mood of the campus around the proposed alliance.
“Our students and you share some commonalities,” said Emerson President Lee Pelton, who addressed Town Meeting on behalf of the visitors. “They see in Emerson a place of magic, a place of creativity, a place where there are independent-minded people, and where students have agency. And my sense is that many of those characteristics are common to those of you who decided to come to Marlboro.”
Pelton expressed optimism that Marlboro students and faculty and their counterparts at Emerson could work together to create an academic program of excellence. In addition to attending Town Meeting, the visitors lunched with faculty, met with faculty committees, listened to senior Plan presentations, and concluded their visit by having tea with students to respond more specifically to their concerns.
That visit was followed with a trip by 40 students and faculty to Emerson’s Boston campus on November 24, to get a tour of campus facilities, meet some students, talk about curriculum, and see an ArtsEmerson production of An Iliad. This visit was facilitated by Marlboro life trustee and former staff and faculty member Ted Wendell, who has also been a longtime supporter of ArtsEmerson.
“This was a way of introducing to Marlboro some of the richness that Emerson has to offer and getting them on the actual campus,” Ted said in an interview with the Emerson student publication the Berkeley Beacon. “I think getting the two parties to get to know each other and start to understand the strengths and values of each other is the best way to have it be smooth and fruitful for both sides—to have this new relationship prosper.”
Building on these experiences, a group of Marlboro students invited students from Emerson College to enjoy part of Thanksgiving break on Potash Hill, and 10 students from Emerson came to Marlboro for two nights. They shared meals together, including Thanksgiving dinner, and explored and connected with the particular sense of place that is uniquely Marlboro.
Marlboro senior Adam Weinberg, who orchestrated the Thanksgiving visit, felt the brief trip brought some profound moments for shared reflection—from face to face engagement, to appreciation for Marlboro’s spirit of trust and open access to facilities, to theoretical questions of “Why liberal arts?” and “What does it mean to explore across fundamental questions?” The morning before returning to Boston, the students expressed great thanks for Marlboro’s sincere hospitality along with a heartfelt promise to hang out again, soon.
Emerson staff in admissions, student success, and other departments visited campus in January to meet with Marlboro students and discuss their potential transition to Emerson’s community. Students were also welcomed to Emerson for a group visit on February 14, and ongoing individual visits throughout the spring 2020 term, to experience the college’s community, offerings, and classes.
There have been several exchanges of faculty visits as well, starting with visits to Emerson in the week of December 2 and return visits to Marlboro in the week of December 16. These have been valuable opportunities to learn more about where Marlboro faculty will fit into Emerson’s programs and departments, how the curriculum for the new Marlboro Institute is expanding to embrace them, and what resources and facilities are available to them.
“As we enthusiastically shared ideas and goals, I wished our community could see the good will and compassion with which we were greeted by students, staff, and faculty,” said theater and gender studies professor Brenda Foley, following her first visit to Emerson. “Working with faculty peers at Emerson on our alliance convinced me that the coming together is far more than a pact ‘in name only.’ It promises an opportunity to carry with us intrinsic elements of a Marlboro education we hold dear, leave behind aspects that are no longer productive, engage with a more diverse cohort, and conceive of expansive and exciting new projects.”
The visits will continue to fill in the gaps between two cultures, between two campuses, and between idealistic hopes and concrete plans. “I feel fortunate to be making the journey with so many of my Marlboro faculty colleagues and students and look forward to the transformation to come,” added Brenda.