Since 1855, Bates College has been dedicated to the emancipating potential of the liberal arts. Bates educates the whole person through creative and rigorous scholarship in a collaborative residential community. With ardor and devotion — Amore ac Studio — we engage the transformative power of our differences, cultivating intellectual discovery and informed civic action. Preparing leaders sustained by a love of learning and a commitment to responsible stewardship of the wider world, Bates is a college for coming times.
The Foundations of the College
Bates was founded in 1855 by people who believed strongly in freedom, human rights, and the importance of a higher education for all who could benefit from it. Bates has always admitted students without regard to race, sex, religion, or national origin. Great efforts were made in designing the institution to ensure that no qualified student would be turned away because of the cost of a Bates education. Although the founders met with considerable criticism from other colleges, they held fast to their commitment to admit both men and women, making Bates New England's first coeducational college and one of the first coeducational colleges in the United States.
The Reverend Oren Burbank Cheney, a Freewill Baptist minister, a teacher, and an abolitionist, is honored as the founder and first president of Bates. And as with many New England institutions, religion played a vital role in the college's founding, writes Professor Emeritus of History James S. Leamon '55 in the essay "Enduring Values in a Changing World," published on the occasion of the college's 150th anniversary in 2005:
The practical application of [their] religious convictions led Freewill Baptists to emphasize the spiritual and intellectual equality of men and women and aggressively to oppose the institution of slavery—to the point of excluding from membership those who owned slaves... Most colleges established in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries reflected the principles of their religiously affiliated founders, and Cheney's college was no different. Education, he believed, could leverage the power of one's free will and personal freedom. From the outset, Bates would be open to all, and its charter was bold for what it did not include: any restriction on enrollment by race, gender, or religious denomination.
The inclusive nature of the college's founding philosophy has guided, enriched, and strengthened the institution for more than 160 years.
A. Clayton Spencer became the eighth president of the college in 2012. In her inauguration address, she first stated her goal for Bates to set the standard for the "engaged liberal arts." This means recruiting talented and motivated students from a broad range of backgrounds, providing them with strong financial aid, and supporting them for academic and personal success once they are here. It means delivering a rigorous and highly personalized education that centers on deep and sustained interactions among students, faculty, and community. It also means engaging the intellectual trends, demographic changes, and technology that are transforming higher education and the world into which Bates students graduate. Finally, it means preparing students for lives of meaningful work. To that end, the college's Purposeful Work initiative includes a cocurricular program involving cycles of exploration, reflection, and skill-building; practitioner-taught courses during Short Term; and a highly structured network of internships to provide funded work experiences for Bates students.
The faculty exemplifies the college's commitment to academic excellence and intellectual rigor. Faculty members' professional lives encompass scholarship and research, but they are at Bates because they are dedicated first and foremost to teaching undergraduates. As of October 2019, 100 percent of tenured or tenure-track faculty members hold the Ph.D. or another terminal degree. Bates students work directly with the faculty; the student-to-faculty ratio is 10-to-1, and faculty members teach all courses, with exception of five to six practitioner-taught courses. Approximately 70 percent of class sections, excluding independent studies, have fewer than twenty students enrolled.
In fall 2019, Bates enrolled 1,820 students from 48 states, districts, and territories and 55 other countries. The college is recognized for its inclusive social character; there have never been fraternities or sororities, and student organizations are open to all. Bates offers a compelling education for students while they are undergraduates, and prepares them well for further study and careers. More than 70 percent of recent alumni have earned graduate or professional degrees within ten years of graduation.
The Curriculum and Student Scholarship
In their academic work, Bates students are encouraged to explore broadly and deeply, to cross disciplines, and to grow as independent thinkers. Bates requires a senior thesis, senior project, or senior seminar to graduate. The senior thesis provides an opportunity for extended, closely guided research and writing, performance, or studio work. Many students launch their scholarly careers by collaborating with faculty in their research during the academic year and through the summer. Bates recognizes the special role that international study plays in providing students with the perspective and the opportunities that lead to international careers or service as well as a sense of world citizenship. Typically, 60 percent of students study abroad for a semester or longer during their time at Bates, one of the highest rates in the nation.
A core value of the college holds that liberal education includes the development of social responsibility, and Bates is a national leader in community-engaged learning and research. A Bates education seeks to connect learning to action, a connection expressed by high levels of student participation in academic and volunteer work in the community as well as by graduates' careers and community leadership. Many faculty members routinely incorporate community-based learning and research into their courses, and about half of Bates students are involved in a wide variety of community-based projects. Bates is committed to its home communities of Lewiston and Auburn, together constituting Maine's second-largest urban area, which provide a valued setting that enriches Bates' educational mission and social life. The college intends its many forms of engagement beyond campus to be true partnerships, drawing on the strengths of all partners for mutual benefit.
Bates is located on a 133-acre traditional New England campus, at the center of which is the verdant historic Quad. Academic and cultural resources on campus include the George and Helen Ladd Library; the Edmund S. Muskie Archives and Special Collections Library; the Olin Arts Center, which houses a concert hall and the Bates College Museum of Art; Schaeffer Theatre and two smaller theatrical venues; the Peter J. Gomes Chapel; and an extensive athletics complex. The college also holds access to the 574-acre Bates-Morse Mountain Conservation Area, in Phippsburg, Maine, which includes coastal wetlands and preserves one of the few remaining undeveloped barrier beaches on the Atlantic coast. The neighboring Shortridge Coastal Center includes an eighty-acre woodland and freshwater habitat.
Alumni and Support for Bates
The educational mission of the college is supported generously by a significant percentage of alumni who have made a lifetime commitment to their alma mater. The college's alumni, living in all fifty states and around the world, remain actively connected to Bates in various ways. Thousands of alumni volunteers serve annually as admission representatives, career resources, fundraisers, reunion volunteers, and regional leaders. The college's endowment provides resources for financial aid, academic programs, faculty and student research, and general support of the educational mission. At the close of the 2019 fiscal year, the college's endowment was valued at $330 million, and the distribution from the endowment supported 11 percent of the college's operating budget.
Bates is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, and the American Chemical Society. It maintains chapters of Phi Beta Kappa, the nation's oldest academic honor society; Sigma Xi, the national scientific research and honor society; and Eta Sigma Phi, the national society honoring the study of Greek and Latin.
Statement of Community Principles
Membership in the Bates community requires that individuals hold themselves and others responsible for honorable conduct at all times. Together we create the educational and social setting that makes Bates College unique, with an atmosphere characterized by trust and mutual concern. Our actions must support our ability to work, study, live, and learn together productively and safely. We are dedicated as a community to intellectual honesty and to the protection of academic freedom. These values are fundamental to scholarship, teaching, and learning. We expect one another to maintain the highest integrity in all of our academic, social, and work-related undertakings.