In this season of academic rankings, Hobart and William Smith have been listed alongside some of the top colleges and universities in the country for their diverse, challenging and engaging courses, their commitment to global and service learning, and their approach to liberal arts education.
The Colleges were recently ranked 17th overall among the nation’s liberal arts colleges in the area of service by Washington Monthly in its 2009 “College Guide” liberal arts college rankings. The publication defines service as the institution’s encouragement to students to give something back to their country and ranks colleges in this area based on the number of alums who go on to serve in the Peace Corps and the amount of federal work-study money going to community service (versus non-community service), among other criteria.
“The members of this campus community show an enthusiasm for and a resolve to becoming engaged citizens in our global community,” says Mark D. Gearan, President of the Colleges and former Director of the Peace Corps. “It’s something we’ve become known for and it’s an honor to receive recognition for it.”
Washington Monthly further recognized the Colleges for their commitment to service by ranking HWS 12th in the nation for the portion of federal work-study money spent on service versus non-service work, and 37th for the number of Peace Corps volunteers. This acknowledgement of the Colleges’ robust Peace Corps program is attributable, in part, to an initiative formed by Peace Corps regional recruiter Shannon Small and the Colleges’ Salisbury Center for Career Services; an initiative to increase, in a three year span, the number of Peace Corps volunteers from the eight volunteering at the time to 20. The Colleges met that number this year, just shy of its three-year goal.
In recent years, Hobart and William Smith Colleges have also been listed in The Princeton Review’s Colleges with a Conscience: An Engaged Student’s Guide to College, which ranked HWS as one of best institutions for service learning and civic engagement.
The service work done at HWS is not the only thing turning heads. Just last month, the Colleges once again were recognized by The Princeton Review as among the best in the country, with their study abroad program ranking 18th in the nation in this year’s edition of The Best 371 Colleges (Random House/Princeton Review).
“Our study abroad program consists of a remarkably diverse set of opportunities, and is distinguished by unique pre-departure and post-return programs that transform the experience into a life-changing event,” says Teresa L. Amott, provost and dean of the faculty. “We appreciate that the academic rigor of our abroad program, as well as the caliber of academics at HWS as a whole, were recognized in this survey.”
In a recent feature on FoxNews.com, Professor of Political Science David Ost’s course, “Radical Thought from Karl Marx to George Bush,” was included with courses offered by colleges such as Berkeley, Carleton, Cornell, Georgetown, MIT and Oberlin as one of the “11 Wackiest College Courses of Fall 2009.”
While some courses on the list may at first appear different, many, like Ost’s, are doing precisely what the HWS Center for Teaching and Learning suggests makes effective teaching in the 21st Century: using topics that capture students’ attention to teach time-tested themes.
Indeed, the academic intensity of Ost’s course mirrors the complexity and significance implied by its title. The course examines left and right radical thought of the past 150 years with students studying the work of the left radicals Marx and Lenin, anti- Soviet leftists such as the Frankfurt School and Sartre, neoconservatives from Allen Bloom to William Kristol, and responses to neo-conservatism from Russell Jacoby to Žižek.
Some of the other course topics on the list-such as “Star Trek,” LGBT issues, and zombies-are proven classics at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, which have been offering “Star Trek Physics” for years, were one of the first academic institutions to offer a LGBT studies major/minor, and featured “Zombies, Witches and Cyborgs: Animating Gender and Monstrosity” as part of last year’s Fisher Center Lecture Series.
In addition to other political science courses like “Urban Politics and Public Policy” and “Mass Media,” “Radical Thought from Karl Marx to George Bush” is just one of a number of courses offered by academic departments across campus, speaking to the creativity and ambition of the Colleges’ faculty and students.