Photo by Fred Field Mitchell Lecture. Goldfarb Center. Colby College 20150409A new decade for the center brings with it significant changes, in the form of new leadership at the College and the center, growth in certain academic departments, evolving needs of the central Maine community, and more. Broader contextual forces have also shifted, including the novel concerns and interests of a new generation of Colby students and the very nature of our economic, political, and social world. Therefore, it is important that the center define and articulate our vision and strategic goals to respond to these changes. Across the nation there is broad recognition that public affairs and civic engagement programs are poised for a “second wave,” where initiatives better match the needs of communities and the interests of students.

Strategic Goals for the Second Decade

Our efforts will be linked to the core values of liberal education. We will endeavor to create opportunities to empower students with knowledge and skills, a desire to learn, and a deeper sense of the responsibilities of democratic citizenship. Our work will be done through challenging encounters from diverse perspectives.

We will strive to offer innovative, interdisciplinary opportunities. We conceive of “public affairs” and “civic engagement” in broad, inclusive ways, so our aim will be to expand the scope of our work through new partnerships, novel programs, and “outside the box” thinking.

Specifically, the center will work to accomplish five interrelated goals:

Feature Article - Michael Donihue 2Become a national leader in public affairs programming. Lectures, dinners, debates, films and much else will remain an important part of our work. Indeed, we believe these programs are important, as they offer students unique opportunities to hear from some of the best minds, often in intimate settings. We also believe, however, that modes of student learning are changing rapidly, and that varied, interactive programs will sometimes better tap student interest and convey novel ideas. We will work to offer fresh, lively programs.

Confront salient, difficult issues to reveal complexities, implications, and answers. At best, liberal education helps students develop a deeper understanding of complex, controversial issues and eschews easy answers. Critical thinking may be more important than finding the “right” answer. Much of our work will be designed to explore complex public policy questions—and to do so in ways that shake traditional wisdom and preconceived ideas.

Create and support unique initiatives for the betterment of the Colby community and for the advancement of others in central Maine and beyond. The center currently boasts an impressive array of community and community school-based initiatives—programs that are making an important difference. We will continue to build upon this foundation, paying close attention to the changing needs of those in central Maine.

Serve as a resource for individuals and civic groups working for the improvement of our democracy. Beyond providing services, the center will broaden its efforts to provide community and national groups with research, information, and expertise. Colby is stacked with nationally renowned experts in many fields, and new efforts will be made to share these resources.

Be a reliable resource of information and expertise for those doing similar work and for regional and national media outlets. Steps will be taken to better link our efforts with those doing similar work at other institutions. We envision new, exciting collaborations on a range of programs and topics.