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Welcome Letter to the Community: September 7, 2011

Dear Hampshire Community,

Welcome to the next year of the great Hampshire experiment. Greeting new students and welcoming back returning students and faculty is an exhilarating experience I have been awaiting eagerly. Thank you all for the kind reception you have extended to Ellie and me. After over a hundred meetings, seven tours, and a wonderful series of dinners, lunches, and receptions, I am completely overwhelmed by the warmth and generosity of your welcome to your new President. Thank you. Now I look forward to the academic year and, most importantly, to opportunities to get to know Hampshire with students present.

As my knowledge of the Hampshire community grows, my conviction grows that our opportunities greatly outweigh our challenges. I have spent my career in public service, in government, nonprofit organizations, and for a few years as an educator, mostly focused on environmental issues. At World Resources Institute, I dealt daily with the global consequences of failure to confront problems that create injustice for the current generation and are stealing the future from the next generation. I have been increasingly moved by the urgent need to educate young citizens who are engaged members of their community, independent thinkers, and innovative problem solvers. Now, as the sixth President of Hampshire College, I am committed to leading our institution to work towards solving the pressing issues facing the 21st century as well as meeting the challenges and maximizing the opportunities that are presented to us internally. The work of the Hampshire faculty and staff coupled with the achievements of Hampshire's students and alumni are compelling evidence of the effectiveness of our approach. I believe that Hampshire can have a greater impact on our world.

My optimism is buoyed by the Hampshire story I continue to hear both in oral and written narrative. Our story is one of passion and commitment, inspiration and motivation. With your help and guidance, I want to go out to the external community and articulate our story and answer the question of why Hampshire is important to the world. We are innovators and leaders. We need to be explicit about our value in a rapidly changing world, and tell the story of why learner centered, multidisciplinary, experiential education is essential preparation for living effectively in a time of accelerating change.

I recognize that I have a great deal to learn, and I am grateful for work that has been done that has helped me to understand where we are and where we want to be. I especially want to recognize and say thank you for the work produced under the leadership of Marlene Gerber Fried, including an extensive and thoughtful strategic planning process that produced a wealth of ideas. The strategic planning committee worked tirelessly to encapsulate valuable feedback from the community; I want to use this process to guide our work moving forward as we develop the compelling case that articulates our shared purpose in dealing with 21st century problems globally, nationally, and locally.

As we move forward, working together to build upon the important work the community has already undertaken, I want to emphasize the importance of trust and respect in the process of allowing our community to work effectively. Trust is based on openness and respect, values I hold dear both personally and professionally. I look forward to hearing from all community members about how to continue to create a community where ideas and exchanges can take place in an environment that is inclusive and safe for all.

I am grateful to the deans, the executive committee of the faculty, senior administrators, and all the faculty, staff, and students whom I have met with over the last six weeks for sharing their knowledge, input, and guidance. I look forward to visiting every area on campus and meeting everyone, although I recognize it may take the entire academic year to do so. I will be available to students at the Monday breakfasts starting September 12, holding the monthly staff breakfasts starting September 14, and visiting the five Schools. I plan to produce monthly letters to update the community on the work that we are doing and look forward to receiving your input and suggestions.

In making the decision to come to Hampshire, I wanted to be part of a community that is compassionate, critical, insightful, challenging, and supportive. I want to be part of a community that believes that it can solve the pressing problems that society faces today and will face tomorrow. I am very happy to be able to serve an extraordinary learning community, and to help advance the educational approach that Hampshire has pioneered. This is why I am at Hampshire. This is why we are all at Hampshire.

Welcome all!


Sincerely,

Jonathan Lash

 

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