Values

Today, these words are written to you, my colleagues who will come to Bates to help build Digital and Computational Studies. Others might read them, including my current students, or students considering coming to Bates to join this exciting new course of study. They can, and should, read this as well, as these ideas are not private. Our students will lend their voices and ideas to our work, and in doing so will shape the development of our program in many profound ways. But, today, you are my first and most critical audience.

I have re-read my own teaching, research, and diversity statements authored at this time last year, have revisited the language surrounding the position description you have read, and still struggle to find a way to say powerful and meaningful things concisely while preserving their intended depth of intellectual sincerity and emotional power. I cannot. But, I can offer you two things that might help you think about the endeavor before you, and the possibilities it represents.

First, I value transparent and inclusive process. In this regard, I have begun laying a foundation for our work by talking to students and colleagues across campus about their hopes, dreams, and values that should guide this new program at Bates. The broad pillars on which we might build this program have already been described to you, and grow out of the early stages of my listening to the community around me. I look forward to you joining this process, and helping develop a model for computing at Bates that is deeply inclusive and integrative.

Second, I offer you President Clayton Spencer’s  remarks to the class of 2021. I find the following paragraph especially timely and relevant in computing education today:

Bates was founded on the principle that education is meant to develop the full potential of every human being. We achieve this goal by treating all persons as equal and worthy. An offer of admission to Bates is a validation of talent and ambition and a vote of confidence in the ability of every student to engage the full promise of a Bates education. As we have learned repeatedly, and painfully, over the past several years, however, there remains a gap at Bates between our ideals of equality and the lived experience of some of our students. It is imperative, therefore, that we persevere in the hard work of examining our curriculum and teaching, together with the formal and informal structures that define student life, to make sure that we cease to perpetuate assumptions or practices that exclude groups of students or diminish their experience.

We have the opportunity not just to create a new model for computing education in the liberal arts, but to critically interrogate our practices in and out of the classroom, as well as the theories of instruction and assessment that we have taken for granted for decades in higher education. We can, and must, do better by our students, and we have the opportunity, if not the imperative, to do so at Bates.

Yours,

Matt