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Members of the class of 2008 will continue their year-long exploration of human security, civil society, and liberal learning during New Student Orientation this Friday through Sunday, August 27-29.

Click here for Class of 2008 web page.

“Imagining America” is the theme of orientation. Students will be introduced to Lafayette’s intellectual and academic life and continue their exploration of the American identity, human interdependency, and shared responsibilities of securing and advancing civil society.

“Many countries, including America, are increasingly concerned with questions of civil society and human security, including ways to have freedom from fear, want, and conflict,” explains Gladstone A. (Fluney) Hutchinson, dean of studies. “The chief aim of orientation is to create opportunities for faculty to establish influential and nurturing relationships with new students, and the interdisciplinary scope and intellectual breadth of these issues accommodates the engagement of students with diverse perspectives and faculty from a variety of disciplines.”

The class includes 610 students. The proportion of students ranking in the top 10 percent of their high-school class is 65 percent, an all-time high, and the mean SAT score is 1265.

Lafayette received 5,581 applications. In the last five years applications have increased by 26 percent. The admission rate is 39 percent, and the proportion of admitted students enrolling, or yield, is 29 percent. In the last nine years the average SAT score of incoming classes has improved by 49 points. The ratio of students in the top decile in high-school class rank has grown by 76 percent. At the same time Lafayette has improved its acceptance rate and yield by 38 percent and 45 percent, respectively.

Students of color make up 14 percent of the class. Under the Lafayette Scholars program, 86 outstanding members of the class of 2008 will receive more than $1 million in financial awards based on academic merit. These include 51 students named Marquis Scholars and 35 students selected to receive Trustee Scholarships.

Lafayette’s newest students began their intellectual odyssey during the summer with two common reading assignments, David K. Shipler’s book The Working Poor: Invisible in America, and Elaine Scarry’s essay “The Difficulty of Imagining Other People.”

Before coming to campus they’ve been exchanging questions, insights, and ideas about the readings and other topics with each other, Lafayette faculty, and other members of the campus community via a special web portal.

Overseeing the online discourse is William Carpenter, assistant professor of English, along with Kathryn Schubel, assistant professor of geology and environmental geosciences; David Shulman, assistant professor of anthropology and sociology; Susan Averett, professor of economics and business; Nicole Fabricand-Person, assistant professor of art; Gary Miller, retired College chaplain; and David Stifel, assistant professor of economics and business. Click here for a list of summer reading resources.

In The Working Poor, published this year by Alfred A Knopf, Shipler examines poverty by looking at those who live barely beneath or a little above the federal government’s official poverty line.

“From the edge of poverty, we have an illuminating view of poverty’s depths,” he writes in the introduction. “[I] have tried to see with clear eyes, not through an ideological lens. Indeed, devout conservatives and impassioned liberals will be bothered by this portrait of poverty, at least I hope so, for the reality I discovered does not fit neatly into anyone’s political agenda. I want to challenge and undermine longstanding assumptions at both ends of the spectrum.”

Scarry’s essay was originally published in the 1996 book For Love of Country: Debating the Limits of Patriotism, edited by Martha C. Nussbaum (Beacon Press). Scarry is the Walter M. Cabot Professor of Aesthetics and the General Theory of Value at Harvard University.

Students will have a distinctive opportunity to continue their exploration of orientation’s themes with artist Sekou Sundiata, who will serve a year-long campus residency.

The students will participate in Sundiata’s latest creative endeavor, The America Project, which will take shape at Lafayette in 2004-05.

Combining art and civic dialogue, “The America Project is a contemplation of America’s national identity, of its power in the world, and of its guiding mythologies,” says Sundiata, whose work includes poetry, performance, music, and theater. “It explores how America defines itself in a new era characterized by unprecedented global influence and power. It is about an adventure, a quest to find a vision of what it means to be both a citizen and an individual in a deeply complex, hyper-kinetic society.

“I take it as a civic responsibility to think about these things out loud, in the ritualized forum of theater and public dialogue,” Sundiata says. His residency is cosponsored by Imagining America, a consortium of colleges and universities sharing a commitment to public scholarship. It will serve as a model for similar endeavors by other consortium members.

A professor at Eugene Lang College of New School University, New York City, Sundiata just completed a national tour of Blessing the Boats, his one-person theatrical work about five tumultuous years of his life – “an exile from the self I had come to know” – including his struggle with life-threatening kidney failure and subsequent organ transplant and recovery.

Sundiata was featured in The Language of Life, Bill Moyers’ PBS series on poetry. In collaboration with composer Craig Harris, Sundiata has written and performed in several acclaimed theater works, including The Circle Unbroken is a Hard Bop, The Mystery of Love, and Udu. The first writer-in-residence at New School University, he has also been a Revson Fellow at Columbia University, screenwriting fellow at Sundance Institute, and master artist-in-residence at Atlantic Center for the Arts, New Smyrna Beach, Fla.

During orientation, Sundiata will meet with students, faculty, and administrators and give a keynote address at 7:30 p.m. Sunday. His residency will include, among other things, linkages with classes, community events, and citizen interviews. Sundiata will include Lafayette students in a performance to be presented in the fall at the Imagining America national conference at the University of Pennsylvania. During the spring term he will deliver a major lecture, and his residency will culminate with the staging of The America Project with class of ’08 members in Lafayette’s Black Box theater.

Throughout the year the Williams Center for the Arts will present additional programming and the Landis Community Outreach Center will coordinate community engagement activities relating to the orientation theme and to Sundiata’s residency.

Andrew Smith, assistant professor of English and chair of American studies, will deliver the 2004 Convocation lecture at 3 p.m. Friday.

Faculty teaching First-Year Seminars will explore creative ways to link the orientation theme to their seminars, including cultivating first-year student writing related to the orientation theme. They may also use the summer reading texts in their classes and incorporate activities related to Sundiata’s residency.

Categorized in: Academic News