Haverford is known for its rigorous academics. As one student, major still undecided, puts it, “Haverford is all about academic integrity. Students are there to learn, not to compete with one another.” A liberal arts education encourages students to learn from not just one but many disciplines, and it’s this school of thought that drives Haverford’s curricular requirements. All students must take a one-semester or year-long writing seminar as freshmen, a course that will serve as a foundation for their later studies, whether in the hard sciences or the visual arts. Since Haverford recognizes that the world is ever-expanding and the school wants its graduates to be prepared to meet challenges outside the comforts of the Pennsylvania campus, all students are also required to complete two semesters of college-level study of a language other than English by the end of junior year. For students eager to take advantage of one of Haverford’s study abroad programs, it’s the perfect opportunity to explore a new country and learn a new language at the same time. Every student at Haverford, regardless of major, is enabled to complete a senior thesis, which represents the culmination of his or her time at Haverford and, since there is no graduate program at Haverford, often gives students the opportunity to conduct graduate-level research while still an undergrad, under the supervision (and with the encouragement) of the faculty. Senior theses range from the hard sciences, such as tracing the origins of antibiotic resistance, to the humanities, where students have applied their linguistic training to parsing the J.R.R. Tolkien’s languages in The Lord of the Rings series and studied the role of working women during the Second World War. Balancing strong academics with the school’s progressive ideals, one psychology major says that “Haverford values academic excellence with a strong emphasis on social justice and mutual respect between students and professors.” The professors, many of whom are on a first-name basis with their students and often host dinners at their on-campus houses, also cite this shared respect between students and faculty. Says one Haverford chemistry professor, “I learn new things all the time through interacting with my students, and that is certainly also the case for many of my non-science colleagues, whose scholarly interests are always enriched through interacting with inquisitive, hard-working, and critical Haverford students.”
The experience at Haverford is designed to maximize the amount of time students spend in direct collaboration with faculty. In fact, 61 percent of faculty live on campus. This close proximity means that faculty attend their students’ concerts, art shows, and athletic events and that the majority of students will get asked over for dinner at some point during their time in school. A professor of chemistry says, “As the Faculty Athletic Representative, I often talk to students about their most recent games or how their teams are doing, and I attend many on-campus athletic events. I run an active research group that includes students from all levels, and we have regular group meetings that are either in the Science Center or at my house.” From this handy vantage point, what kind of student does well here? One professor answers, “Close interaction with faculty helps to identify students’ interests and acumen for specific areas and kinds of problems, but students who are able to begin to think about these things for themselves get the most out of our very personalized academic system. My hope for all of my students is that they will learn to ‘follow their own noses’ into challenging and interesting areas for them; many of our most successful students have some sense of how to do this soon after they arrive on campus.” And a professor of biology, adds, “The students here are incredibly bright, intellectually and technically fearless, and idealistic. If a student is curious and deeply interested, they will enjoy being at Haverford.”
Haverford is home to three academic centers: the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship (CPGC), the John B. Hurford ’60 Center for the Arts and Humanities (HCAH), and the Marian E. Koshland Integrated Natural Sciences Center (KINSC). The mission of the CPGC is to integrate innovative scholarship and civic engagement both inside the classroom and out in the world at large. Founded in 1999, the CPCG strives to provide opportunities for students during the academic year as well as during the summer, along with maintaining a network of social justice resources and running a campus café. A 2008 Haverford graduate in political science stressed the importance of one of her summer CPGC grants, a program that she explains has grown since her time at Haverford: “Twenty people were given a grant to intern with some sort of social justice oriented non-profit or company that really can’t afford to offer a paid internship. Haverford didn’t want us to lose the opportunity to take that internship, so they would fund it for you.” A current Growth and Structure of Cities major echoes the importance of CPGC funding, adding that the “Center for Peace and Global Citizenship funds dozens of students for international and domestic internships related to social justice every year and sponsor conferences, faculty and student research regularly . . . it has allowed me to finance internships that I would not have been able to do on my own.”
The Hurford Center supports the artistic ambitions of Haverford students and staff through art exhibitions, performances, lectures, symposia, writing and reading groups, artist residencies, and other visual and cultural programming. In an attempt to bring a more diverse culture to the Haverford campus, the HCAH reaches out to a wide range of artists and performers. HCAH gives students and faculty the time and space to host lectures and seminars, as well as exhibits and art residencies, which are organized by faculty and supported by the HCAH’s Exhibitions and Mellon Creative Residency Programs. Exhibitions range from explorations of Latin American destructivism to a workshop on making your own ‘zine.
In keeping with the interdisciplinary tradition that forms the backbone of Haverford, The Marian E. Koshland Integrated Natural Sciences Center (KINSC) does for scientific inquiry what HCAH and CPGC do for the arts and social justice, respectively. A place for students and faculty with an interest in the natural sciences to come together, the KINSC encourages Haverford students to pursue scientific questions beyond the classroom. The departments that make up the KINSC—astronomy, biology, chemistry, computer science, mathematics and statistics, physics, and psychology—get supplemental support from the center in order to facilitate interdisciplinary dialogue and collaborations, both within the sciences themselves and between other departments throughout the college. As with the other academic centers at Haverford, with which the KINSC cooperates, the KINSC helps fund student projects that take them outside the confines of Haverford to explore larger scientific questions that may have a more global impact.