As many of you know, I announced in May that I will be retiring as president of Gettysburg College following the 2018–19 academic year. Not surprisingly, this is a bittersweet moment. Although I believe the time is right for me to transition into retirement, and I look forward to the adventures ahead, my heart will always be with Gettysburg. But before I wax too sentimental, let me quickly turn to the work we have before us this year.
I have written in prior columns about two of the three pillars of our strategic plan: Impact and Innovation. Today, I write about the third pillar, Internationalization and Inclusion, which focuses on the cultivation of a diverse, inclusive, and welcoming campus environment that prepares our students to thrive as citizens and professionals in a diverse society and an internationally interconnected world.
Over the past several years, we have made remarkable strides in recruiting and retaining talented students from across the nation and around the globe. The Class of 2022 is the most diverse in the College’s history, with more than 31 international students coming from 12 countries, domestic students coming from 28 states and Puerto Rico, 157 domestic students of color, and 151 first- generation college students.
The diversity of our student body is of great benefit, as it provides everyday opportunities to share and debate a variety of ideas and perspectives, enriching the learning experience immeasurably. As I welcomed the Class of 2022 to campus, I spoke about our institutional philosophy supporting freedom of expression, which was approved by our Student Senate, faculty, and Board of Trustees last spring. Of course with that freedom comes responsibility—and so we strive to teach our students the importance of respect and empathy as they engage one another, skills that we think are ever more important in an increasingly diverse society.
In addition, Gettysburg’s academic and cocurricular programs are designed to expand the perspectives of our students. Gettysburg students must take
at least one year of language study and two cultural diversity courses. Thanks to the efforts of our Center for Global Education (CGE), the Institute of International Education has consistently ranked us among the top 10 liberal arts colleges for our semester-long study experiences. Sixty percent of Gettysburgians spend at least one semester studying in locations around the world, from Norway to China and Morocco to Brazil. Nine hundred fifty of our students, faculty, and staff have been issued the Intercultural Development Inventory. Our Center for Public Service (CPS), which is nationally recognized for its approach to community-based learning and research, sends students into local and global communities, prepared to collaborate with community partners as they offer support and work together on issues of importance. All of these experiences advance our students’ intercultural understanding.
We have also aligned our facilities with our inclusion efforts. For example, our newly renovated Mosaic House provides a home for our Office of Multicultural Engagement, as well as social space for our community and residential space for our students. Our newly opened Center for Religious and Spiritual Life likewise provides gathering space, welcoming all Gettysburgians for programs and social events.
Many members of our community have happily observed that our campus looks and feels different than it did just a few years ago. That is as it should be. There is strength in diversity, and today’s student experience is building on that strength.
As the world changes, so must we.
Janet Morgan Riggs ’77 President