State of the College
President Mariko Silver reflects on her final term at Bennington College.
Greetings from beautiful Bennington, where the trees are frosted with snow and students are making final preparations for Field Work Term. The past few months have brought new opportunities for artistic discovery and intellectual collaboration. Students dove into fall term eager to flex their creative, analytic, and democratic muscles and start building a better world. We are excited to share with you all the great work that is under way.
As we round the corner into the new academic year at Bennington, we carry the momentum of all that our community accomplished over the past year. The feats of our students, faculty, and staff—enlivened by Bennington’s pioneering spirit—astonish year after year, as you’ll see for yourself below.
We’re breaking new ground—literally and figuratively—at Bennington, with a raft of new partnerships, new teaching initiatives, new faces, and new spaces. This embrace of change is part of our history and our DNA at Bennington—but no matter how constant the pace, with each step into the new comes a renewed energy and excitement.
Bennington is the home of individualized education, but it is also a shared endeavor. We are a community of creative thinkers who are constantly generating new ideas and ways of working—together—on campus and out in the wider world. Every single day, we make the decisions, clear the spaces, and extend the invitations that allow us to build the College, collectively and collaboratively, according to our most deeply-felt principles, ideals, and aspirations.
Bennington is animated by a spirit of regeneration and renewal. With every new season there is a freshness in our faculty, students, and curriculum, enlivening our essential work of teaching and learning, working and doing, bringing new ideas, projects, programs, and voices to the world. It’s my pleasure to share with you just a few of the highlights of what’s new at Bennington.
We are intimate, our classes are small, our houses are homes. But we take up space in the world—in the cultural landscape, in the landscape of higher education, and in the global landscape of ideas and makers. And that’s because we think big.
"A Bennington education is an education in the real." These were the words of class speaker Parke Haskell ’15 to her fellow graduates at this year’s commencement. “We don't ask questions that already have answers,” she continued. “We are encouraged to reach beyond the realm of the ascertained, to take risks and leap into the very scary real, where we do not know at all what will happen, where questions only engender more questions, where nothing has a name. This is why I believe that a Bennington education is the most terrifying and gratifying one in the world.”
As I begin my second year as Bennington’s president, I am working every day to build on the hundreds of conversations I have had with students, alumni, faculty, staff, and parents over the past year. With each encounter, each moment, each day, I am ever more certain that Bennington has a crucial role to play in shaping the landscape of higher education today.
It was not quite a year ago that I arrived on the Bennington campus, thrilled to be joining this remarkable community—a community that over the next twelve months would add two more Pulitzers to its ranks, two more Fulbrights, another New York Times Magazine cover story, an upcoming solo exhibition at the Walker Art Center, an Echoing Green Fellowship, and countless other triumphs large and small.