As a newcomer to the Hiram College community, I spent my first several months meeting with Hiram’s most important constituents: students, faculty, staff and alumni. The stories they tell and the memories they share have moved and motivated me. Recently, I have taken to learning more about Hiram’s history, so we can be both mission-driven and market-wise as we position ourselves for the future. The more I learn and the more I see, the more convinced I am that the type of education Hiram has long provided is increasingly rare and increasingly relevant. This is one of the many reasons why I believe Hiram can become a prototype for bringing a 21st century liberal arts education to life.
Hiram brings education to life by being a real place, with real people, real opportunities and just enough real challenges to keep us on our toes. The education we provide in our small classrooms, and out in the “field” – via guided research projects or during trips abroad – is stronger and more meaningful than what I have seen in most other places.
The strength and purpose of Hiram’s programs are fueled by the tremendous efforts of the “whole.” Here, everyone rolls up their sleeves to work together, help each other, and form and strive for “a common good.” The interesting thing about the common good at Hiram is that it is shaped by vastly unique faculty, staff, students and alumni, who are finding and becoming their best selves while helping others do the same. There is real magic to a common good that grows out of individual uniqueness, rather than one that is born of a conformist community.
As we all go out to invite prospective students to visit campus and encourage our own sons, daughters, nieces, nephews and friends to consider this gem on the hill, let’s work even harder to highlight how this part of our past positions us to become the type of contemporary liberal arts college that others wish to emulate. Our original name, the “Western Reserve Eclectic Institute,” still aptly describes who we are today and what makes us so strong. Let’s honor that name by continuing to bring to life the characteristics and values associated with such a powerful moniker.
Dr. Lori E. Varlotta