March 11, 2009
To Members of the Five College Community:
Five Colleges, Inc., one of the oldest and most extensive consortia in the country, is an affiliation that has in multiple ways enriched our five institutions. Despite its many strengths, Five Colleges has as yet unrealized potential. For the past year, we, the directors, have been discussing how we might achieve even fuller mutual benefits. In the 1960s, the presidents of Amherst, Mount Holyoke and Smith, and the chancellor of the University of Massachusetts, imagined a bold project -- the creation of Hampshire College, an experimental college founded with the assumption of shared resources. Now, we are ready for a second “Hampshire moment,” which takes the consortium to a whole new level of functioning.
The current economic crisis makes our call for a new strategic vision for the Five Colleges even more timely than when we began these conversations. Our goal is to move cooperation more to the center of our planning and to use Five Colleges to help to sustain and build the excellence of our institutions in the years ahead.
We believe that both academic strength and administrative effectiveness can be enhanced through collaboration. We can not only achieve economic efficiencies -- through, for example, the combination of back-office operations -- but pool resources to create extraordinary depth and breadth in our academic programs. The mastheads of faculty in the valley in any number of areas rival that of any major institution.
To move to a higher level of integration, we will have to plan imaginatively and to evaluate candidly the current logistical and policy impediments to greater collaboration. Are there better transportation alternatives? How can we best use distance learning technology in combination with face-to-face instruction? Can we construct course schedules that better accommodate shared classes?
We are currently searching for a new Executive Director who will be able to build upon the excellent foundation Lorna Peterson has laid to help us achieve this vision. Even before the new director arrives, we would like to begin by launching a number of pilot projects to experiment with ways of achieving greater curricular integration in our majors. Shortly the deans of the Five Colleges will issue a request for proposals, inviting departments across the colleges to be the pioneers in this experiment.
We hope many of you will take up this invitation and join with us in finding creative
ways to take full advantage of the incredible resources that our combined institutions represent.
Anthony W. Marx, President, Amherst College
Ralph J. Hexter, President, Hampshire College
Joanne V. Creighton, President, Mount Holyoke College
Carol T. Christ, President, Smith College
Robert C. Holub, Chancellor, University of Massachusetts Amherst