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Hampshire Invites 50th Anniversary Class to Engage in Complex Questions of the 21st Century

College reorganizes around modern themes empowering students to explore freely and innovate across fields

Hampshire College is developing a bold curriculum to prepare students to engage in complex, pressing issues and questions of the 21st century. Departing completely from traditional college majors and siloed academic departments, Hampshire’s new direction intentionally prepares students for a future of constant and rapid change, in which graduates will need to apply advanced skills and innovate continually.

Hampshire will implement the new approach for incoming students next fall, its 50th anniversary class, as it reshapes the liberal arts for today’s world and builds on its legacy of student-designed, interdisciplinary learning.

The inventive new program invites students to

  • actively engage in complex questions and issues starting from their first semester;
  • explore and innovate freely across any fields of knowledge; and
  • develop lifelong entrepreneurial skills including creative problem-solving, applied critical thinking, and resiliency, as each student designs the questions that drive them into their personal program, a hallmark of a Hampshire education.

In December Hampshire faculty endorsed four overarching themes that will organize elements of the academic program for at least the next two years, within a full liberal arts curriculum:

  • Environments and Change: How do we conceptualize and interact with environments, and what are the consequences? Potential topics: sustainability, global health, migration, environmental justice, climate change
  • In/Justice: How do justice and injustice govern our systems and inform our actions and futures? Potential topics: human rights, food access and security, reproductive justice, equity in education and labor, art and social change
  • Media and Technology: How do we use our imagination, technology, and art to reflect and construct realities? Potential topics: sustainable design, curation, biotechnology, game design, multimedia performance
  • Time and Narrative: Who are we, how did we come to be, and how do we envision our past, present, and future? Potential topics: origins, narratives and counter-narratives, philosophy and physics of time, identity and change, youth-driven futures

Hampshire’s accreditation was recently continued by a vote of the New England Commission of Higher Education, announced in November, 2019, based on a review of Hampshire’s progress report and five-year financial plans.

Hampshire’s latest innovation addresses recommendations that U.S. colleges prepare graduates not just for entry-level roles but for long-term advancement. For example, the American Association of College and Universities interviewed hundreds of business executives and hiring managers who overwhelmingly endorsed broad learning and skills that cut across majors as the best preparation for long-term career success. Incoming students will take full-year seminars around these themes and learn collaboratively with fellow students, faculty, and staff. Hampshire students will continue to have free access to the offerings of its partners in the Five College Consortium: Amherst, Mount Holyoke, and Smith Colleges, and UMass Amherst.

We are reorganizing to develop the skills today’s students need, crossing disciplines and moving further from the barriers of departments and majors of the last century. We invite students to wrestle with their complex questions by drawing on the best thinking, methods, and resources from across humanity.
President Ed Wingenbach

The College will also invite its alumni community to contribute to the student experience by facilitating more opportunities for students for professional and community engagement.

Unlike colleges where students check off menus of credit requirements, Hampshire is a competency-based college: at the end of their first year, students present a plan for their personalized program, and then advance through three divisions, demonstrating progress by presenting projects and portfolios to their advisors. The new curricular themes will also incorporate learning cross-cultural skills and cultural competency, essential skills in an increasingly diverse world and global economy.

Hampshire has a legacy of academic innovation. The College was founded by its partners in the Five College Consortium as a major departure from traditional colleges. Hampshire’s founding document, The Making of a College (1966), rejected passive lectures and exams and identified active inquiry as the heart of its program. Its founders defined one of the College’s main goals to be enlarging the capability of each student to conduct their own learning, by educating them in the use of intellectual tools for independent work.

Many of the innovations pioneered by Hampshire have become standard features of American higher education. Hampshire’s new curriculum continues this path of innovation, and puts the College once again at the leading edge of higher ed.


Hampshire is actively recruiting students to join its 50th anniversary class in Fall 2020 and plans to rebuild to full enrollment of 1,100 students by 2023-24. The College strives to make its education accessible to a broadly diverse student body through its progressive admissions and financial aid strategies.
 

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