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Making an Impact

A year and a half after her arrival, Swarthmore President Valerie Smith’s enthusiasm for her work remains palpable. Whether you bump into her at an alumni gathering in Hong Kong, making a speech in Denver, or even taking a quiet stroll up Magill Walk, her ever-present smile is her trademark. It’s fully on display today as she describes the College’s historic new campaign, “Changing Lives, Changing the World.” 

Why is now a good time to launch the campaign?

More than ever, we need to support the College’s core mission: to teach students to think critically, to distinguish fact from fiction and valid arguments from specious claims, to write and to speak persuasively, to solve problems, to work collaboratively, to contribute to the common good, and to participate actively in democratic society.

How are all of our community members informing your vision?

They share a sense of curiosity about ideas and about the world. I hear how proud they are of the College’s efforts to provide educational opportunities to all qualified students, whatever their financial circumstances. I also hear that they yearn for more opportunities to spend time with other members of the Swarthmore community.

What are the campaign’s priorities?

First, enhancing our social impact. We need to invest in our ability to enhance the common good, a principle upon which the College was founded.

Second, connecting the liberal arts. We need to invest in strengthening the core academic mission of the College with a special focus on connecting the liberal arts disciplines and engineering to each other and to the outside world.

Third, increased access and inclusion. We need to invest more resources in financial aid and in the programs and funds that help us to meet the “hidden costs” of a Swarthmore education.

Fourth, creating vital spaces. We need to invest in campus facilities to ensure that they more adequately support the values of a Swarthmore education.

How can we better engage with both the campaign and the College?

Attend events, connect with one another, and encourage friends and family to give. The campaign will succeed only if we all commit to giving as generously as our means allow. This campaign is not just for the wealthiest members of our community; this campaign is for everyone. 

While the campaign will make lots of new opportunities and positive campus changes possible, what won’t change about the College?

Swarthmore will remain defined by its commitment to inclusivity, to academic rigor, and to preparing people to value the importance of learning throughout their lives. I look forward to seeing the impact this campaign will have on our ability to continue to be bold and innovative.

Anything else you’d like to say?

When you invest in Swarthmore, your dollars have an exponential impact. Just as the investment previous generations made in your education allowed you to go out into the world and change lives, so, too, will your donations—combined with others’—create opportunities for future students to make a difference in the world around them.

Giving to an institution that has shaped your life and the lives of your loved ones is a joy and an opportunity. As Maya Angelou once wrote, “Giving liberates the soul of the giver.”