One of the best ways Franklin & Marshall can claim our future as a leading liberal arts college is to be a national leader in supporting the post-graduate aspirations of our students and alumni. There may be no more tangible manifestation of F&M’s educational value than how we empower our graduates to pursue their goals.
Are F&M students ready to hit the ground running when they arrive on campus? Are they making the most of the opportunities F&M offers to learn and grow? Can they identify their passions and professional interests? Do they have what it takes to pursue and excel in those interests? Are they resilient in the face of setbacks? Can they inspire and lead others? These are the kinds of questions we ask relentlessly.
Today’s college students are navigating a longer transition to independent adulthood than did previous generations. Recent research portrays the late teens through the mid‐twenties as a period of “emerging adulthood.” During this period, many young people choose to continue their education, delay marriage and parenthood, and defer career choices. In the first few years out of college, today’s graduates are more likely than their parents or grandparents to hold several jobs, in several fields, to discern the career paths and modes of adult living that feel right for them.
Expectations for how a transformational college education empowers these students after graduation have changed significantly in just a decade. The twin factors of high college costs and serious underemployment and unemployment of recent college graduates have created new expectations for higher education. Washington policymakers have proposed new metrics and rankings to promote accountability in providing students with a useful education and to measure colleges by their ability to limit indebtedness.
In this context, Franklin & Marshall has gained national recognition for creating new resources, consistent with the aims of a liberal arts education, to help recent graduates compete for professional and personal growth in a rapidly-changing economy. Our work extends in many directions. Through the College Houses and the Office of Student and Post-Graduate Development, launched in Fall 2012, we are pursuing strategies to prepare students to become independent adults, including leadership development, entrepreneurship, financial literacy, civic engagement, wellness and self-advocacy. While the College’s track record in graduate school success is strong—each year, students and alumni are admitted to Ph.D. programs at institutions like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford, Duke, University of California and Harvard—we will continue to develop new strategies for competitive success.
We also will double down on our work to help students compete for fellowships and graduate and professional programs. In recent years, F&M students have won the Mitchell, Truman, Pickering and Fulbright Full-Grant Research fellowships, and several have secured Fulbright English Teaching Assistantships to serve abroad. We will increase our pool of qualified nominees for the top national fellowships each year.
By extending our educational reach beyond the four years students are on campus, we believe Franklin & Marshall will offer a game-changing model in terms of student growth, alumni engagement and societal good. Indeed, it will be interesting to see if larger institutions that do not know their students so well can keep up with us.