Academic journal article Journal of Higher Education

Intellectual Life of Alumni

Academic journal article Journal of Higher Education

Intellectual Life of Alumni

Article excerpt

The idea that a college might organize itself for continuing the education of its students after they leave its halls is relatively new. Experience has been miscellaneous. The conception, if indeed it may be said that there is yet any clear conception on which any number of people agree, is hydra-headed in its beginnings. It is fair to say, for instance, that a part of the urge which went into the development of the Home Study Department of Columbia University was this recognition of the intellectual need of the alumnus, because the department had been built up by a former alumni secretary who had "discovered that one of the principal things that alumni clubs wanted . . . was something to do." And this "something" seemed to this official to be educational.

Amherst College was the first institution, soon after the war, to inaugurate a program of educational service for its alumni, proceeding "on the theory that a substantial group of alumni have an intellectual interest, and that it is our task to find that interest, and having done so, to contribute to its development in the best way possible." From its original announcement to its fifty-three hundred alumni, one thousand replies were received covering "the widest conceivable range of interest." The faculty undertook to guide those interested in their reading, organizing the different subjects according to the demand, the nature of the subject, and the discretion of the faculty committee in charge. This reading-course plan continued at Amherst aggressively for three years, and was then slowly abandoned in favor of a less pretentious and less exacting method. Meantime, however, the idea had spread to other institutions and has been developed since on a wide scale by the American Library Association.

In 1925, Provost Penniman, of the University of Pennsylvania, announced an educational "service . . . based upon two principles: first, that education is a lifelong process, and [second], that the University as an institution devoted to the promotion of education should participate in such service." Eight different agencies were proposed for rendering this service to the alumni, on both a professional and a cultural level. And in undertaking these services it was believed "that the University is entering upon one of the most noteworthy advances in the history of American education." By 1928, the American Alumni Council was ready to recognize the intellectual aspect of the college-alumnus relationship as its basic and most important one. Since that time the Council has, in co-operation with the American Association for Adult Education, been studying and experimenting in this field of educational activity.

The conscious, planned intellectual services rendered in recent years by some of our colleges and universities to their alumni take many forms. Prominent, and perhaps foremost, of the methods used is that of stimulating and advising systematic reading. This, the reader's adviser service, has, in turn, taken varied forms. The original plan at Amherst was designed to organize a certain amount of reading material around a specified subject in which the alumni showed interest, characterized as "reading courses." Reviews of the best currently issued books have been distributed in certain alumni bodies, with no regard to a previous demand. Book reviews appear in alumni journals with increasing frequency. Smith College has developed the Amherst idea, but will permit one alumna to have only one reading course at a time, thus forcing greater concentration. Wellesley has undertaken to work out for its alumnae intensive reading courses for those who can come back to the college library and spend sufficient time to go thoroughly into any particular subject.

The response in any of these cases has not been particularly wide, nor sustained in any certain manner. Perhaps the most substantial experience in this field has been that of Smith College, where a fairly large and a reasonably well-stabilized group of alumnae have followed the work from course to course and from year to year. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.