Last month I had the opportunity in New York and Washington to update our alumni and give broader presentations to industry colleagues and higher-ed media about the many recent projects we have going in partnership with the City of Albion. From initiatives we've led (often with input and expertise from alums)—such as creating the Build Albion Fellows program, operating the Ludington Center, and revamping the residential Cass Street neighborhood just west of campus—to more supporting-role efforts such as with the new hotel and the Starr Commonwealth program in Harrington Elementary School, I have been happy to convey in each of those visits that engaging directly with our community on a shared future has led to definitive progress over the last few years.
What's more, these local partnerships have spurred additional ideas and investment—the Albion Malleable brewpub, the apartments at Superior and Erie, the Foundry Bakehouse and Deli. We are indeed in this together.
On the surface it looks like we are rebuilding our town, but what we are really doing is rebuilding the underpinnings of a residential liberal arts college. This story is still in its opening chapters (there indeed is so much more to do), but what we have already done is exemplary. That is confirmed whenever I return to campus from a trip. And knowing that Albion College and Albion, Michigan, will serve as a model for other institutions, particularly in the Midwest, is something that should excite all of us.
In 2016 and early 2017, four Albion College faculty partnered with faculty at other institutions through the Midwest Higher Learning Consortium, which was funded by the Teagle Foundation. Marcy Sacks, Ian MacInnes, Heather Betz, and Dave Reimann built online course modules and projects that could be integrated into courses on other Consortium campuses and that facilitated peer-to-peer collaboration with digital tools. (You can read about Marcy’s project and see the results.)
Last semester, I participated in preliminary discussions with peer institutions in the Michigan Colleges Alliance about partnering with Google on transformative technology that could connect our campuses more closely than ever—in the classroom, in the same course, at the same time. I mentioned “preliminary,” but I felt we were well prepared to move quickly. Two other schools did as well, and now, Bille Wickre is teaching Earth, Art and the Environment not only in Olin, but to students simultaneously at Alma College and Calvin College. It’s one of three courses taking advantage of an impressive Google hardware offering it calls a Jamboard.
State-of-the-art may be a tired term, but we are indeed out in front on using technology to expand capacity and reach, especially among liberal arts colleges. I strongly recommend you read more about Bille’s class in the Albion website’s news section, and more about the technology in Inside Higher Ed.
Making connections implies growing bigger and stronger, as we build our networks, our outreach, and our campus.
A couple of weeks ago we were fortunate to host a record number of students and their families for our increasingly competitive Distinguished Scholar Program, and this weekend we’ll do the same for our Distinguished Artist Program. For many, the Saturday all-day experience on campus (where students engage with faculty and vie for top scholarship awards) seals the deal that Albion College is indeed the place for them for the next four years, and for a lifetime after that. They are an important way for us to multiply the connections we make with high-achieving students and their families, and I want to thank all the faculty and staff who have volunteered and helped make these great events.
Growing bigger and stronger could also be rather literal, and we are gearing up for an exciting summer of building projects. As we do so, we’ll continue to emphasize those projects that connect the College to the City; our students to each other and to faculty and staff; our alumni and visitors to campus; and this historic institution to its Strategic Plan for the future.