What Is the Goldfarb Center?

Lovejoy lecture
Recognizing that Colby had a range of excellent programs in social sciences and interdisciplinary studies but lacked a means of achieving synergy among them, professors, trustees, and committee members came up with the concept for the Goldfarb Center for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement. The center was designed to facilitate collaborative teaching and research among faculty members from different disciplines, with Colby students actively involved in all aspects of center activities as research assistants, seminar participants, conference planners, and lecture and dinner attendees.

In the fall of 2003 the Goldfarb Center for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement was officially launched, thanks to a generous gift from Colby trustee William Goldfarb '68. L. Sandy Maisel, the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Government, was chosen as the center’s director. Goldfarb Center programming was later expanded with a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Last year the Goldfarb Center sponsored 30 major events on campus. Visiting lecturers have included Tom Curley, president and CEO of the Associated Press; embryonic stem cell researcher Dr. Fred Gage P’05; and Rush Holt (D-N.J.) on New Directions in United States Energy Policy. The center also oversees three high-profile Colby lecture series—the Lovejoy, Brody, and Oak Human Rights lectures.

The Goldfarb Lecture Series includes three annual public lectures on themes chosen by a committee of faculty members and students. The theme for 2004-05 was Election 2004 and for the previous year was terrorism. Lecturers are intentionally chosen to approach the topic from many different perspectives, including ideological, political, and regional. A second category of lectures is run by a different faculty member each year. These presentations are designed to be more specialized and focused, and speakers may meet with students and attend classes.

In April 2005 the center convened its first official conference, Fighting Terrorism: Ethical and Policy Dilemmas, under the direction of Associate Professor of Government Ariel Armony. The conference brought internationally recognized terrorism experts to Colby and included a Cotter Debate on Counter Terrorism Tactics. Cotter Debates, now under the auspices of the Goldfarb Center, also included Privatization of Social Security. Organized by Goldfarb Center Advisory Board member Eric Rosengren '79, it featured Steven Sass, associate director of the Institute for Retirement Research at Boston College, and Laurence Kotlikoff, chair of the department of economics at Boston University.

The Meal-Time Seminar Series brings faculty and students together for discussions on particular topics, the only requirement being that topics involve more than one academic discipline. The popular series has included such topics as Corporate Social Responsibility in Latin America, Global Problems/Local Solutions, The Blue/Red Divide in American Politics, and Off The Hill: Challenges/Rewards of Community-Based Learning.

A primary objective of the Goldfarb Center is to develop and promote internships and career opportunities for Colby students within the areas of public policy and civic engagement. Goldfarb Center regional boards and Colby alums provide assistance in arranging internships that allow students to put their classroom knowledge to work in a professional environment and gain valuable work experience.

Last year the Goldfarb Center awarded four civic engagement course development grants to faculty members to aid them in creating classes that provide an intense learning experience involving engagement with the local community. In such classes, students gain a better awareness of the world around them, a greater sense of their personal effectiveness, and a greater knowledge and understanding of social problems. Currently eleven different academic departments offer civic engagement classes at Colby, including Problems in Environmental Science (biology) and Children and Adolescents in Schools and Society (education).

Other civic engagement activities sponsored by the center include the Hunger Banquet to benefit the Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter; Burst the Bubble Week, which strengthens connections to the local community; and Colby Cares Day, which puts 150 Colby students to work on projects around town.

The Goldfarb Center also functions as a survey/research facility, with data gathering and analysis done by Colby students for regional and national organizations. Research topics last year included Corporate Social Responsibility in Latin America and Social Rights Deprivation in Buenos Aires.

Colby’s Oak Human Rights Fellowship program, a key component of the Oak Institute for the Study of International Human Rights, has been extremely successful. By sharing their personal experiences and work, fellows from Pakistan, Congo, Colombia, Kosovo, Sudan, Cambodia, and Zimbabwe have inspired both students and faculty. Using the Oak Fellow program as a cornerstone, the Goldfarb Center will bring additional visiting fellows of different interests and backgrounds to campus.

The Goldfarb Center recently began overseeing the very successful student-run Colby Volunteer Center. Last year 434 students did volunteer work for 24 organizations that serve the greater Waterville community, and 218 Colby students served as weekly mentors to at-risk children through the Colby Cares About Kids program.

In 2006, the Goldfarb Center will move to its permanent home in the Diamond Building for social sciences and interdisciplinary studies.

Read more about the Goldfarb Center at www.colby.edu/academics_cs/goldfarb.

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