A College for Coming Time: Diversity and Changing Demographics in Higher Education

In 1856, Bates founder Oren B. Cheney envisioned a new institution of learning that would serve to educate those who did not have easy access to higher education at the time. A radical notion in the mid-19th century, he planned to welcome to this school children of poor Maine farming families, both women and men, African Americans, and others from a broad array of racial and religious backgrounds. Cheney appealed to the Lewiston public for gifts to establish what was later to become Bates College in November of that year:

It is enough to say that our plan is broad. We mean to found an institution for coming time. We are exceedingly anxious to open the school by the fall of 1857 and to have some two or three hundred students walking your streets and mingling in your associations….we, as a village, will put our hands and our hearts to the work.”

Cheney’s words are particularly meaningful today as Bates continues to examine pressing issues relating to diversity and the rapidly-changing demographics of prospective college students to ensure its high standing in the competitive marketplace of higher education, and to fulfill the promise of its forward-looking founder. Over recent years, Bates students, faculty and staff have increased their participation in discussions and initiatives to build awareness around diversity and difference.

As part of these efforts, President Elaine Tuttle Hansen will host “A College for Coming Time: Diversity and Changing Demographics in Higher Education” on May 10, 2007 at the Olin Arts Center. The symposium represents a culmination of the College’s many recent efforts to promote diversity and the beginning of a new chapter marked by action, perseverance, and systematic and long-lasting change.

The program will include presentations by national experts Jamie Merisotis ’86, Bates Trustee and president of The Institute for Higher Education Policy, and Blenda Wilson, former president and CEO of the Nellie Mae Foundation, as well as small group discussions. With students, faculty, staff, alumni, academic and community leaders and other friends in attendance, the event promises to be both informative and inspirational. 

Symposium Program          Symposium Speakers

This event is free of charge and open to anyone who wishes to participate. If you have questions or would like to register, please contact Alicia Richard at or 207-786-6336.