“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
These enduring words by the late Nelson Mandela speak to an orientation deeply rooted within the liberal arts experience, and more specifically the education we have long provided and endorsed at Gettysburg College.
Our students graduate with a sense of responsibility to the greater good, and an impulse toward meaningful action. When coupled with our distinctive history and geographic assets—including our close proximity to Washington, D.C.—we have a special opportunity to advance this essential work, and to spark real and lasting change within our society.
Teaching students to think broadly and critically is integral to the pedagogy of any top-notch college or university in our nation and world today. Yet, from my early impressions on campus, and in dialogue with our dedicated faculty and passionate alumni, I have learned that what makes Gettysburg’s academic approach so unique—and so powerful—is that we also help students discover how to use their education to have a direct impact on the lives of others.
This takes a civic education, an understanding of the tools of government, social structures, public policy, and communications, so that ideas can be translated into purposeful work. It requires a championing of diversity, and the related ability to navigate, bridge, and find strength from difference. But, perhaps above all else, it demands a commitment to look inward, to grow, and to step forward in service of something bigger than oneself.
Inspiring Gettysburgians, like the change agents highlighted in this issue’s feature story, remind us that—whether we are fighting for equal rights, environmental protections, or any number of consequential issues within our public discourse—progress is possible, if we confront the defining challenges of our time with courage and conscience.
Today, we have a variety of programs, both in and outside of the curriculum, that inform our students’ perspectives and judgments. This allows students not only to determine for themselves where they stand on a contested issue, but also how they may work toward effective solutions. From peace and justice studies to the Center for Public Service to the Eisenhower Institute, these Gettysburg College offerings—and so many others—provide our students with hands-on experiences that prepare them for wherever life may bring them—and to have the tools to make a difference in their communities, workplaces, and beyond.
My job affords me such a wonderful view of our students and faculty at work in the pursuit of knowledge, personal growth, and social transformation. It inspires me every day.