There are a few choice words that Swarthmore loves to use as an institution and community. In addition to “multi-faceted,” “interdisciplinary,” and “research,” is “accessibility.” We, Swatties, are constantly endeavoring to make knowledge, resources, and opportunities accessible to others, especially those with barriers to these things. By building equity, all people can improve and innovate in our society as much as possible with contributions from all perspectives and backgrounds. This richness in diversity serves as one of the key driving forces of progress and makes Swarthmore a truly unique and beautiful community. However, this concept of accessibility is new to many students arriving on campus, so how does it manifest itself here?
In my own academic pursuits, I have found my niche as both an engineering and economics double major in writing. While I always had a strong passion and inclination towards STEM fields, my high school constantly emphasized the importance of writing. Thus, it became my responsibility to reconcile these usually vastly separated interests. Especially now at Swarthmore, I am by no means the smartest or most technically proficient student in the engineering department. However, I do have a skill that many engineers lack: communication. I have fully embraced my role as a technical writer, taking these grandiose ideas and convoluted technology and putting it in layman’s terms, making it accessible to all audiences.
Swarthmore is truly unique for this phenomenon; in no other institution will you find brilliant people with such broad and diverse interests. We pride ourselves as nerds and intellectuals, seeing the passion for learning as something that should be celebrated. This explains why I, an engineer and economist, also end up writing for four publications on campus. It is the reason why one of my roommates plays the zither, runs his own cafe, and still finds time to be a computer science major on campus. It is the reason why professors take time to learn about all of our interests as students, despite being undergraduates. And it is why Swarthmore produces some of the best graduates around.
To that end, Swarthmore students and administration alike provides plenty of opportunities for edification in these skills. Apart from the numerous publications on campus, the Writing Center, an integral part of academic life at Swarthmore, uses peer editing and trained student Writing Associates (affectionately known as WAs) to improve accessibility through writing. Whether through a walk-in or prescheduled appointment, the Writing Center staff will always provide you with their own advice and insight at any point of the writing process and help you create a masterpiece, academic, professional, or otherwise.
In my own experience, I have used the Writing Center for academic papers in anything from laboratory reports to historical essays to job applications and it has never failed to impress me. The WAs undergo extensive training as both educators and editors, while the atmosphere exudes productivity. Plus, Swarthmore requires that you take at least three Writing courses, specifically noted for an emphasis on their field’s writing techniques, in multiple disciplines during the course of your time here. There are few academic and course requirements on campus, so the continued emphasis on this skill shows its importance to your collegiate education.
Another resource available to all Swarthmore students actually lies right under everyone’s nose. In your time at Swarthmore, the professors around you not only always hold open office hours, but intentionally want to teach undergraduates. Thus, Swarthmore professors not only constitute some of the most brilliant minds around, but some of the most accessible ones as well, particularly to undergrads here. It would be a grave error not to take advantage of these incredible advisors during your time here.
It is the hope that after your education concludes here at Swarthmore, you not only have a broad knowledge of the world around you, but are also aware of the issues that plague our society. You can use this liberal arts education, drawing on your experiences in Ancient History, Computer Science, Drama, and Biology to maximally contribute to the ongoing progress in our society, by tackling any problem you may face. Most schools can give you one side of this dichotomy, the technical proficiency, but Swarthmore not only teaches you how to do X, Y, and Z, but more importantly, how to think. Swarthmore students can thus approach any problem, confident in their own abilities as intellectuals, teammates, and leaders.
Nevertheless, this concept of accessibility is critical to the purpose of your education, whether you end up at Swarthmore or not. The world is full of information these days, and our technology has advanced far beyond the comprehension of the average citizen. Thus, it is our duty and our privilege to bring other people this knowledge, as we Swatties take pleasure in the acquisition of knowledge ourselves. These driving forces make Swarthmore unique and innovative, representing the frontier of thoughts, research, and progress in our society today.