Hampshire College was founded 50 years ago on the principle of impacting education and changing the world. The new challenges facing the world today require an approach to education that is responsive to these problems while inspiring and enabling students to become changemakers in the world. We’re organizing our curriculum around a set of essential issues, challenges, and possibilities in order to work together to imagine and build a better future that is informed by our knowledge of the past. Hampshire College is uniquely positioned to do this. We are not restricted by disciplines, departments, or pre-set majors. Instead, we forefront a changing set of challenges and possibilities—e.g., Uncertain Futures, Rights and Responsibilities, Sustainable Ecologies, Biological and Digital Futures, Migrations, Origins. Our faculty work together to think flexibly across these compelling thematic areas to explore questions together and engage students in completely new ways. The intentionally transdisciplinary investigation of these themes engages students in ground-breaking conversations that are simply not possible within disciplinary models. This set of thematic topics is a living curriculum that will evolve as the most compelling and relevant issues, challenges, and possibilities change.
Students enter Hampshire and join one of the themes, where they become part of a community of learners, thinkers, makers, and doers. Our model supports a scaffolded progression of skill development, preparing students for work of increasing sophistication and rigor. This scaffolding will include learning to reflect on one’s own positionality in relation to one’s engagement with others and with the themes, and each theme will attend to issues of power and privilege and work to affirm diversity and foster inclusion and accessibility.
During Division I, students will pursue coursework and projects related to one of the themes. Division II students will pursue increasingly sophisticated topics within or across these themes, or can launch from these themes in new directions; and students participate in cohort activities and are mentored by more advanced students, faculty, and staff. During Division III, students design and carry out individual or collaborative projects that are informed by the challenges they’ve engaged with, yet reach beyond to contribute toward changing the world. Regularly-held symposia will enable the community (students, staff, faculty, and alums) to share their work within the thematic areas.
Transformative funding from foundations or donors could establish flexible institutes that accelerate transdisciplinary work on the themes. The Institutes might bring to campus prominent scholars and practitioners to work with students, and host multi-year post-docs and visiting faculty with expertise in the current themes. Hampshire College would become a center for collaboration across higher educational institutions on these topics of global importance, such as by hosting summer institutes.