A Message from Mary Coleman, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Those whom we welcome to Lesley University
During every admissions cycle, I have wondered how we identify talent in the application pool and how we build a reputation that will draw more future readers, writers, scientists, social scientists, teachers and artists to want to study here. A passion for reading history, writing verse and imagining can compete with the passion for wealth and lucrative careers. So the following question poses itself: how do we engage our students in the further development of their passions at the same time as they build careers and chart meaningful lives as citizens of the world? Can higher education be taught to affirm opportunity, not just affirm demonstrated performance in high school or a successful gap year in the Himalayas?
For thirty years I have taught students whose parents were homemakers, cooks, custodians, teachers, yardmen, seamstresses and maids. Many were underprepared for college but many were open to learning what they did not know, to working hard and asking questions, to improving their reasoning, active listening and writing skills. Some, like Cornell Brooks, a Yale law graduate who made law review; others, like Thomas Fox, a Harvard law graduate and the son of a cook, a single mom, also fared well, making law review and inventing a purposeful career. Like my first student, my son, both of these students possessed the sensibilities of a poet, the language and analytical skills of an Oxford Scholar, and the bravery and gentleness of Yann Martel's Pi. I have learned from my students' examples that what matters most are the choices we make in life-what we do for and to ourselves--not just what is done to us by others.
Those who follow their passions as writers/artists are often under-valued in the academic professions and the marketplace; too often they spend their lives proving their worth to others instead of reveling in the exercise and beauty of their craft and teaching it well to others whose passions burn similarly bright. Some spend their lives seeking a recognition that is perhaps easier to come by instead of trusting that someday their work, like De Tocqueville's, will(re)define a country, or like Faulkner's, a region. Other than by exclusion of those who cannot afford college, how do we decide who is worthy of a college education? And, however we decide, do we care about whether our decisions will usher in the next Appiah, Roosevelt, Hurston, Whitman, Charles Taylor, William Wilson or Emerson? How should we think about whom we welcome to the university? As a vibrant university with a liberal arts college containing impressive professional and pre-professional undergraduate and graduate programs and an art school, we can certainly nurture an artist, scientist, writer, social worker, teacher, lawyer or a therapist, in the way that a conservatory, clinic or stand-alone education program cannot.
The Lesley University faculty who stand before students in the classroom and who nudge them to excel, represent an equally rich range of academic expertise and experience: the poet-scientist, the multilingual faculty member who has taught in Paris, or Palestine and Israel, Zambia and Romania; those who love music and art, and understand their power to heal; and those who know politics and mathematics. They all model the passion and knowledge that contribute to the community and world as much as those who have chosen other, more lucrative careers. I think that Lesley University is a place where students follow their intellectual passions and curiosity, all the while fully planning to bring that knowledge to bear in creating a larger community that is civically engaged, better informed, artistically richer and more just. In the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, just shy of 300 students have chosen to study with talented faculty and engage a demanding first-year curriculum. They are joined by 1000 returning students-adults and traditional students-- whose grit and intelligence greet us each day in our classes, on the quad, at Brattle, in the cloud, and University Hall. Their academic and societal endeavors animate Lesley University and give new meaning to our collective labor and our stewardship as citizen scholars.
Mary ColemanDean, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
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