Artist Leonardo Drew has said, “You need to apply yourself to the unknown.” By centering the student experience on complex questions and collaborations rather than majors, Hampshire College prepares students to act effectively in a rapidly changing world and to address problems important to them and their communities. Students are invited to frame and pursue complex questions, collaboratively and individually, in a college uniquely suited to draw upon knowledge and methods from any or all disciplines. Rather than majors or concentrations, the organizing principle of the curriculum is question-driven learning, a process of deep collaborative engagement that fosters investigation of authentic challenges and open-ended problems.
Students’ question-driven work is scaffolded in a carefully structured and mentored progression from large guided collaborative projects (Division I), to cohort-based projects developed by small groups of students (Division II), to sophisticated independent projects that may be collaborative or individual (Division III). Students learn how to: gain knowledge and skills by framing and pursuing compelling questions; organize and collaborate with other people in effective groups; locate resources; advocate for themselves; see their learning in broader contexts; adapt flexibly to changing conditions; learn from failure; and transfer and apply their knowledge from one environment to another. Students are supported in learning to reflect on their own positionality and to contribute to creating inclusive environments that are responsive to the needs of all students.
In Division I, students learn to engage with questions while pursuing mentored collaborative projects designed by faculty and staff to draw on multiple disciplinary perspectives and produce rigorous outcomes. In Division II, students form their own cohorts and enlist faculty and staff mentors to guide their projects. Student cohorts articulate and define themes, complete project work, and develop proposals for advanced Division III work. In order to build content knowledge and skills, seminar projects are supplemented by coursework and other learning activities, including Five Colleges courses and off-campus study and practice, such as internships and study abroad. In Division III, students pursue collaborative or individual projects, and a Division III seminar serves as a support structure for peer mentoring and cohort advising. A symposium of Division III project presentations serves as a culminating event for the entire campus.
Additional funding could be used to invite visiting scholars and practitioners with direct expertise in the projects being pursued by students. Funding could support the implementation of Division II cohort project solutions as well as support resource needs of cohorts, including funding partnerships with community groups, businesses, and other organizations. Summer project opportunities could support Hampshire students’ year-round engagement on projects, as well as enable college students from other campuses to join summer collaborative learning communities. Hampshire College would become a center for inquiry-driven collaborative learning within higher education and could host summer institutes.