On Liberal Arts in the 21st Century

The arrival of new students to our campus in the fall each year symbolizes the spirit of renewal and the potential for intellectual growth that are such an integral part of the Hobart and William Smith experience. In September, Mary and I welcomed 517 students from 29 states and 10 countries to the HWS community. Already they are making their own contributions in our classrooms, on the sports fields and as volunteers in the many community service programs that are so important to Geneva.

The beginning of the new academic year also serves to remind us of our purpose at HWS: to educate a new generation of men and women in the great tradition of the liberal arts. Our task is to teach our students how to think and learn in the broadest sense; to demonstrate the importance of culture and the promise of the sciences; to think critically and challenge the conventional wisdom; to communicate effectively and solve complex problems; and, ultimately, to become leaders in their communities and the careers of their choosing.

As I enter my fifth year as President of the Colleges, I believe that we - and especially the talented and dedicated people who compose our faculty - are accomplishing our mission at HWS. Moreover, I am convinced that our purpose as a national liberal arts college has never been more important than it is today. The pace of change in our own country and the international scene, the diversity of our culture and the increasing complexity of our economy all demand that we have citizens with the skills and values that are at the center of our curriculum at HWS.

But just as we prepare our students for a promising future, so, too, must we continue our efforts to ensure that the Colleges - as an institution of higher learning - remain strong in every way. Here, too, we are meeting the strategic goals we established in our plan "HWS 2005: A Commitment to Excellence." Together, we - the faculty, staff, parents, alumni and alumnae - are building a record of accomplishment. Thanks to the generosity of our alums, parents and friends, we are improving our existing facilities and constructing new buildings that will provide 21st century classrooms and labs for our academic program, improving living space for students and creating better facilities for our athletics programs.

Over the last five years, the number of high school students who applied to HWS has increased by 17 percent, and more high school seniors who apply to HWS are making us their first and only choice. And thanks again to the financial investment of our graduates, parents and friends of the Colleges, we are contributing to the preservation and beautification of the Finger Lakes Region and our community in Geneva.

These are just a few of the many achievements that reflect the spirit of engagement that exists on campus today. To maintain our leadership among the nation's most prestigious liberal arts colleges, however, we must continue to build on what we have accomplished together. Just as we encourage our students to constantly seek new knowledge, those of us who are entrusted with the Colleges' future, and those who have benefited from all that HWS has offered, must not rest on our laurels. Instead, I believe that we owe the next generation of HWS students the same level of commitment to excellence that our predecessors left behind for us.

We have a bright future ahead of us at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, and I am excited about this academic year. I thank you for your support and hope you will join us in celebrating this extraordinary moment of opportunity in our history.


Mark D. Gearan

Mark D. Gearan



On Liberal Arts in the 21st Century

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