Swarthmore College
Curating liberal arts conversations at Swarthmore College.

In our essay “What We Talked About When We Talked About Talking”, we discuss some of our recent evaluation of past Aydelotte work.

Most recently, we completed a two-year pilot of the Frank 5 Fellows Program. This program was intended to showcase how recent graduates of Swarthmore College were thinking about their education and the concept of the liberal arts. We had two years of fascinating discussions on and off-campus with two sets of exemplary alumni. We learned a lot and so did the audiences who interacted with the Fellows. We hope to think of a way to extend, complicate and rescale the program so that we can trace some of the experiences of a wider group of recent graduates from more institutions. Not only do academics need a better, richer understanding of the “pipelines” that connect liberal education with labor markets and social networks, but we also need to understand in a more nuanced way what the situated conversations between the liberally educated and their post-graduation worlds are like–and what happens when the graduates of two different kinds of institutions meet and compare their experiences. You can find more about the Frank 5 Fellows program here.

For its first four years of our operation, under the directorship of Patricia Reilly and Eric Jensen, the Aydelotte focused on encouraging conversations between Swarthmore faculty across the disciplines through a variety of programs and forums. Some of these, like the Second Tuesday Cafes, remain a part of our programming now.

The Aydelotte hosted a number of notable visiting speakers to talk about the status of the liberal arts and major issues facing higher education, including Louis Menand and Sandy Baum, and we hosted an all-day symposium featuring distinguished Swarthmore alumni who have served as university leaders.

The Aydelotte organized and facilitated the first all-day faculty retreat at Swarthmore College during the Foundation’s first year of operation. In the following year, we convened a series of salons and then subsequently coffee hours for faculty and staff to talk together about issues in higher education. Additionally, the Aydelotte sponsored a major weekend conference on visual media that featured a mix of talks and artistic performances.

Our first research seminar was led by Professor Philip Jefferson (now provost at Davidson College) and focused on scholarly approaches to poverty across the disciplines. Our second was led by Professors Rachel Buurma and Lynne Schofield and focused on collaboration as a phenomenon and a practice. Our third most recent seminar examined problem-solving across the disciplines, led by Adam Light, Kathryn Riley and Ann Renninger.

The Aydelotte also invited proposals for “blue sky” projects that included a study of creating a makerspace at Swarthmore and a proposal for curriculum mapping, both of which have gone on for further development and implementation.