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“Exploring the Unfamiliar” is the theme for the Marquis Scholars program, and Lafayette hopes it creates a certain anxiety in its students.

Co-curricular activities and field trips throughout the year are designed to challenge students’ perceptions, broaden their intellectual perspective, and develop leadership.

“Liberal learning is best achieved through exposure to the unfamiliar,” says Gladstone A. Hutchinson, dean of studies. “We want our students to have some anxious moments as they are exposed to something new. Their response cannot just be reflex action. We want to create a different kind of anxiety in them. And in the processing of this anxiety, they can become more informed citizens.”

Marquis Scholars are recipients of Lafayette’s highest non-need based scholarships — $12,500 annually ($16,000 effective with the class of 2009) or a full grant if their demonstrated need is more – and their distinction in high school marks them as leaders of the future.

They also receive funding for a three-week, Lafayette-funded study-abroad course during January’s interim session between semesters. The activities offered to Marquis Scholars are designed to help them realize their potential, according to Hutchinson.

This school year, Marquis Scholars have visited the Whitney Museum of American Art, toured CNN studios, and seen performances at Carnegie Hall, Broadway, and off-Broadway in New York City. They also traveled to Philadelphia to see the Constitution Center and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Other activities have included a marathon reading of George Orwell’s 1984, a canal boat ride, dinner at a Japanese restaurant, and rock climbing in the Delaware Water Gap.

Mentoring the students are nine faculty advisors from a cross-section of disciplines: William Carpenter, assistant professor of English; Edward Gamber, associate professor of economics and business; Victoria Langland, assistant professor of history; George Panichas, professor of philosophy; Polly Piergiovanni, associate professor of chemical engineering; Robin Rinehart, associate professor of religious studies; Roger Ruggles, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering; Kathryn Schubel, assistant professor of geology and environmental geosciences; and Helena Silverstein, associate professor of government and law.

By exposing the students to new ideas and experiences, and having them look at things from a multi-disciplinary perspective, Hutchinson wants to take them out of their “comfort zone.”

“The message to our young learners is ‘you have to learn to process the kind of internal conflicts that surround ideas,’” says Hutchinson.

“We are trying to prepare them to reach what I call the Sandra Day O’Conner test – leadership in the 21st century must be legitimate before the increasingly multicultural, socially, and ethnically diverse America. We have to be able to interact with people who are from different circumstances, people who have a different interpretation of things, if we are going to be productive citizens, if we are going to enhance civil society, if we are going to solve issues,” he adds.

The goal of the program isn’t to present a particular viewpoint to students, but to get them to see the various viewpoints different groups can have in looking at issues, says Hutchinson. And he stresses that he wants activities that make students venture outside their academic majors.

Lafayette has given students more control over the activities selected for the program, with the proviso that an activity must be a different experience for the students and that it must represent an exploration.

Hutchinson wants to expose students to the “different prisms” of society.

“Our students are already using their minds,” he says. “We want to create in them leadership: productive interaction, productive dialogue, and productive discourse.”

Categorized in: Academic News, Marquis Scholars