To the Editor:
The Chronicle's coverage of the recent meeting on "The Future of the Liberal Arts College in America and Its Leadership Role in Education Around the World" delineates some changes and collaborations but ignores large ideas that many underendowed institutions will have to address to survive. Those who convened the meeting, as well as those quoted in your articles, are all representative of the wealthy liberal-arts institutions whose marketing challenges are entirely different than those of colleges that are small, rural, and less well endowed.
Recently, a very-well-educated father of an architecture student called me to ask if we looked at semester-abroad programs when we review résumés in our architectural and planning office. I was shocked that a professional, today, was nervous about sending the student to a semester in Madrid or Rome, yet he was. I advised that knowing other people, foods, and languages, let alone the history of architecture, is an essential part of life today. But I began to think about the many rural colleges with whom we consult who draw first-generation students from a 100- or 200-mile radius. Are their families afraid for them to go abroad to participate in a wider world of learning? Is the money the stopper?
One collaboration that may help with recruitment and retention for small institutions is easily available within the United States. You quote Eugene M. Tobin, a program officer at the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and a former president of Hamilton College, as saying that "collaboration must become commonplace to enhance faculty development, globalization, and civic engagement." Why not foster collaborations at a distance? What marketing advantage would a small institution have if it could offer a student a four-year degree earned in several different cultural landscapes? If a student completed a freshman year in Pennsylvania, could he not spend a second year in California and a third in Louisiana, for example, before returning to the home campus for a fourth year and a degree? If families are worried about sending students abroad, why not at least get some exposure beyond the 200-mile radius? Such collaboration and sharing of curriculum and credits could offer a real recruitment advantage to those colleges that configure enticing opportunities within our own borders.
Thomas C. Celli
Celli-Flynn Brennan, Architects and Planners