Connecticut College to develop campus hub for global study and engagement

A rendering by Centerbrook Architects of the Otto and Fran Walter Commons for Global Study and Engagement, which is scheduled to open in the spring
A rendering by Centerbrook Architects of the Otto and Fran Walter Commons for Global Study and Engagement, which is scheduled to open in the spring

Building on a tradition of innovation and a commitment to international education and social justice, Connecticut College will launch a new center for global study and engagement.

The Otto and Fran Walter Commons for Global Study and Engagement will advance dialogue and social justice across disciplines, borders and boundaries. Developed in concert with Connections, the College’s reinvention of liberal arts education, the Global Commons will open in the spring on the ground floor of Blaustein Humanities Center, following a $1,625,000 renovation.

“This vibrant hub for global learning will allow our faculty and staff to infuse courses and off-campus programs with diverse world perspectives, and will afford our students new opportunities to address the most relevant issues of our time,” said President Katherine Bergeron. “The Walter Commons is the embodiment of our vision for a more deeply connected and engaged education that promotes the intellectual, social, professional and civic development of every student.”

The new Walter Commons brings together the College’s Center for the Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity, Global Learning Lab (formerly Language and Culture Center), Office of Study Away, Toor Cummings Center for International Studies and the Liberal Arts, and Office of Global Initiatives.

The modern, collaborative space unites core elements of the College’s historically strong global education—language study, research abroad, study away, public engagement, globally focused courses, and co-curricular programs—with opportunities for local and global engagement, and ensures every student can integrate a global perspective into their four-year experience.

“We see the Walter Commons expanding the context for language learning, harnessing advances in technology to further connect our students to the world, and cultivating new partnerships with colleges and universities at home and abroad,” said Amy Dooling, associate dean of global initiatives, director of the Walter Commons and professor of Chinese.

Renovations begin in October and are funded through grants from private foundations, including $750,000 from the Otto and Fran Walter Foundation, $200,000 from The William Randolph Hearst Foundation, and $175,000 from The George I. Alden Trust, as well as a generous gift from Susan Eckert Lynch ’62.

“The Otto and Fran Walter Commons for Global Study and Engagement brings into focus Otto Walter’s lifelong belief that the way to build global peace tomorrow is to create opportunities for international cross-pollination today,” said Martha Peak '75, vice president and grants director at the Walter Foundation. “The foundation that bears Otto Walter’s name is proud that this commons will be located at the heart of the Connecticut College campus, in a place that has long emphasized international study and cross-cultural engagement.”

The Walter Commons initiative started in 2007 thanks to an initial planning grant from the Otto and Fran Walter Foundation. It began as a faculty-driven initiative focused primarily on the languages and international studies curriculum. It has evolved significantly over the past decade as stakeholders from across all four academic divisions of the College, and a variety of different offices, have become involved.

Key components of the Walter Commons include:

  • Curricular and co-curricular activities to promote awareness of the intersections between social justice and deep knowledge of cultures and communities
  • Enhanced academic advising to enrich student off-campus learning and engagement
  • Pre- and post-departure study away programs
  • Events with campus and community partners to promote global understanding
  • Projects foregrounding spaces and opportunities in the wider New London and New England communities to develop global perspectives
  • Lectures and seminars with international visiting scholars and artists, including scholars in residence hosted through the IIE-Scholar Rescue Program
  • Globally networked learning opportunities to connect students on campus with partners and places in other parts of the world

The Walter Commons was designed to align with the pillars of Connections, by enhancing world languages and intercultural knowledge, deepening global and local engagement, and fostering interdisciplinary collaboration, all while ensuring that students graduate fully prepared for the challenges of today’s complex world.

“The imperatives of global education in the 21st century require more deliberate integration of social justice and internationalization agendas,” Dooling said. “This includes realigning our practices to better meet the needs and leverage the cultural wealth of our ever more diverse domestic and international student body while ensuring that a Connecticut College education equips students of all backgrounds with the capacity to put knowledge into action.”

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September 5, 2017