The Marlboro Record

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View from the Hill

The Big Questions

Planning is one of those crucial but sometimes abstract procedures that can either stimulate great ideas or engender yawns, and sometimes both. I put a lot of stock in planning and have been reinforced here at Marlboro College by seeing how much we can accomplish once we describe our objectives clearly, get support from college constituencies and move each idea ahead strategically. Our Four Goals to Guide Marlboro are now familiar to many of you.

Last year, former board chairman Bart Goodwin and I began to look beyond the timeframe of these goals, to explore Marlboro’s strengths and weaknesses in the face of emerging trends in higher education. These trends included the diminishing number of students choosing a liberal arts education, the growing number of adult learners, rapid changes in technology and more. We decided it was time to convene a representative group to ask the “big challenge questions” and to answer them in the form of directions for Marlboro’s future. We invited 15 other participants—trustees, faculty, staff, students and alumni—to spend six months thinking together and offer their recommendations to the board of trustees.

In the process, the Task Force on the Future learned a lot about the college, as we examined its identity and its future in the world of higher education. The group posed a number of important questions, such as: What do we know about today’s students, at both the undergraduate and graduate level? Is a liberal arts education still valued? How do we communicate what Marlboro offers? What is the curriculum of the future? How do we control the high cost of a college education?

This issue of The Marlboro Record features an article on the Task Force on the Future and our process over the past year. Our recommendations were based on a set of values that will look familiar, emphasizing student-driven, transformative education and a supportive community concerned with the development of the “whole student.” After long, open discussions, the group developed far-reaching recommendations that also look like Marlboro: they reinforce our strengths and where student and faculty interests are taking us.

Co-chairing the Task Force on the Future with Bart Goodwin and hearing the caring, informed discussions of its members was one of the highlights of my more than six years as president here. Their recommendations are both wise and imaginative. I hope you will agree and contribute your own ideas.

Ellen McCulloch-Lovell

For a full list of Task Force on the Future members and their recommendations, go to