View from the Hill

Embracing Uncertainty 
By Kevin F. F. Quigley 

Last December’s Dances in the Rough was an amazing showcase of student work, demonstrating a depth of curiosity and passion for learning that characterizes Marlboro College. One of the most inspiring performances was called “A Two-Part Experiment in Not Knowing,” choreographed by Alta Millar ’20 and performed by Alta and Charlie Hickman ’21.

Punctuating the dance with seemingly random movements and drawing members of the audience into their tangled web of uncertainty, Alta and Charlie posed questions that required “the practice of being comfortably unsure.” Their insights were particularly poignant during this uncertain time as we work to forge Marlboro’s alliance with Emerson College. 

There are so many reasons to be anxious during this momentous transition, and my heart goes out to everyone on whom this uncertainty has taken a toll. Since the announcement of the Emerson alliance in November, both communities have made great strides in learning about each other’s strengths, finding synergies, and charting a new path together. Some of this work you can read about in this issue of Potash Hill, but much of it is necessarily still a work in progress. 

In the meantime, of course, students have questions about what classes they can take, or if the faculty they planned on working with will be moving to Emerson. Faculty have questions about what their curriculum will look like, or what physical spaces will be available to them. Alumni and Marlboro townspeople have questions about the future of the campus and Marlboro’s legacy. There will be answers to all of these, but not until Marlboro and Emerson sign a more binding agreement. While I am optimistic that an agreement will be reached soon, it is still pending at the time of this publication. 

The devil is in the details, as always. Many people who are passionate about the success of the Marlboro Institute for Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies are working hard on sorting out these details, and I am heartened and inspired by their continued progress. I am also grateful to the board of trustees for addressing our insurmountable financial and enrollment challenges now, while Marlboro still has the resources to forge a partnership that ensures the continuation of our mission and identity, while also providing remarkable opportunities for our faculty and students who choose to go to the Marlboro Institute at Emerson. 

In the current landscape of many small New England colleges closing abruptly in the face of similar challenges, we consider ourselves lucky. But we have traded certain abruptness for uncertainty, as we have taken this period of time to make the Emerson alliance the best it can possibly be, for all parties involved. We have chosen the path of being “comfortably unsure” because of the promise that path holds. 

You can find the latest details of Marlboro’s alliance with Emerson at