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Jonathan Lash
Jonathan Lash is president of Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass., among the most innovative liberal arts colleges in the country where students design their own program of study and recruit a faculty committee to guide them -- a “graduate school for undergraduates.” Lash is an internationally recognized environmental leader who served previously as president of World Resources Institute (WRI), as chair of the President’s Council on Sustainable Development for Bill Clinton, and as senior staff attorney of the Natural Resources Defense Council. He also served as Vermont's Environmental Secretary and Commissioner under Governor Madeleine Kunin, as well as a Peace Corps volunteer and trainer.

Entries by Jonathan Lash

Buildings, Blocks and Experience

(0) Comments | Posted April 28, 2016 | 11:06 AM

Five years ago when -- deeply impressed by the college's students -- I agreed to become Hampshire's sixth president, my wife, Ellie, was bemused; she knew very well that her non-academic husband, even with a master's in education, would face a steep learning curve. After 40 years as a primary...

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Carbon and Values: Change Begins on Campus

(0) Comments | Posted November 17, 2015 | 3:30 PM

In a few weeks, world leaders will gather in Paris seeking agreement on measures to reduce emissions that are warming the Earth. In past years as head of the World Resources Institute, I would have been caught up in a frenzy of preparation: Analysis of each country's position; strategy meetings;...

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Results of Removing Standardized Test Scores From College Admissions

(4) Comments | Posted September 23, 2015 | 12:52 PM

You won't find our college in the U.S. News & Word Report "Best Colleges" rankings released this month. Last year Hampshire College decided not to accept SAT/ACT test scores from high school applicants seeking admission. That got us kicked off the rankings, disqualified us, per U.S. News rankings criteria. That's...

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Healthy Food for All

(1) Comments | Posted June 16, 2015 | 12:24 PM

Food is essential to life. Failure to distribute it justly causes hunger, sickness, and misery. Destructive production degrades soils, poisons the environment, and contributes to accelerating climate change.

In their book, entitled Food Justice, Robert Gottlieb and Anupama Joshi define food justice as "ensuring that the benefits and risks of...

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Teaching Math: Changing Education

(0) Comments | Posted May 19, 2015 | 8:58 AM

My last post looked at math as part of an inquiry-driven, interdisciplinary curriculum, with the focus on the individual learner's questions and needs. Let's turn now to some of the values and aspirations informing that approach -- inclusion, inspiration, empowerment, and positive change.


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Teaching Math: What's the Learning For?

(0) Comments | Posted May 12, 2015 | 5:39 PM

If students spend their time in class doing something over and over, with an emphasis on memory and recall, can we blame them for wondering, "What am I doing this for?"

Learning is a process best driven by inquiry rather than a grade. Focusing on the learner's questions and...

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Lifelong Learners in a Rapidly Changing World

(0) Comments | Posted April 15, 2015 | 10:36 AM

Whether college, high school, elementary school, or preschool age, today's students are going to face challenges heretofore unknown. The pace of change is accelerating, and it's estimated that 70 percent of them will end up in jobs not yet invented. They will collaborate with people on multiple continents, struggling to...

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Partners in a Lifelong Endeavor

(2) Comments | Posted April 13, 2015 | 10:07 AM

A recent conversation with my wife, a career elementary school teacher, gave me a new way to think about lifelong learning.

I had pictured students at this moment, excited to keep learning, questioning, and creating ideas in response to the rapid change they will face in the future. And of...

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Ideas Into Action

(0) Comments | Posted February 10, 2015 | 3:18 PM

I was a dreadful student in college. A curriculum based on lectures, reading lists, and examinations didn't work for me. But when I entered the Peace Corps the experience was compelling. I wanted to understand the society I was living in, read everything I could find, and when I had...

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The Healthy Food Transition

(1) Comments | Posted December 17, 2014 | 3:10 PM

In my last post I promised to share some examples for reaching minds through food. Please indulge me on two points: I am of necessity using my own institution as a case study, as it's work I can document. And I can only skim the surface, as these...

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Food for Thought

(0) Comments | Posted December 12, 2014 | 9:28 AM

Students think about food. The type of thought may vary by age, personal circumstance, setting, or institutional mission, but food is an essential interest in every learner's life. Something so universally important offers rich opportunities for interdisciplinary learning.

Food served on a campus conveys values: Do we value healthy, tasty,...

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Educating for Change

(2) Comments | Posted December 2, 2014 | 10:05 PM

Here we are, midway into the second decade of the 21st century and growing ever closer, by connection if not through understanding. Money, goods, ideas and images flow freely across borders, creating both acquaintance and conflict.

The pace of change is accelerating. By one estimate, the amount of new technical...

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Rigor in the Admissions Process

(0) Comments | Posted November 19, 2014 | 11:00 PM

Without SAT/ACT scores, and recognizing that grades are not a true measure of learning, how does a selective college make admissions decisions?

We evaluate applicants the same way they'll be evaluated as students -- through a narrative of effort, accomplishment, and growth. We look at their ability to present themselves...

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Test-blind and Rigorous

(1) Comments | Posted November 12, 2014 | 10:40 AM

Students are not simply vessels into which knowledge is poured, and authentic academic rigor implies engagement and effort on the part of the learner. My last post explored how grades can discourage intellectual risk-taking and inhibit curiosity. I turn now to a pernicious way we fail learners by...

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Do Grades Really Reflect Rigor?

(6) Comments | Posted November 6, 2014 | 4:27 PM

I work for an institution that, with full board support, questions conventional wisdom in all aspects of pedagogy and operations. Not all college presidents are so fortunate. My next few posts here will explore questions related to unconventional approaches and academic rigor. I hope to debunk some common myths and...

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Mission Is the Core Commitment

(1) Comments | Posted October 2, 2014 | 12:58 PM

On any given day you can find a news story about the challenges that changing demographics and revenue pose to higher education, particularly residential liberal arts colleges. Those pressures are real, and I don't mean to diminish them, but they do offer small colleges an opportunity to think about who...

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Nelson Mandela, A Moral Educator

(0) Comments | Posted December 6, 2013 | 10:50 AM

Today, as the world mourns the loss of Nelson Mandela, his legacy of combining resistance and strength in the face of oppression with courageous insistence on reconciliation inspires us. Nelson Mandela turned a history of pain and injustice into a remarkable lesson in the power of love. After what he...

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It's About the Future

(2) Comments | Posted October 24, 2012 | 11:23 AM

U.S. colleges and universities invest a lot of money. We need to think about the future we are investing in.

America has the world's best system of higher education. It is widely available. Its graduates have much higher incomes and lower joblessness than those who do not graduate from college....

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Access to Higher Education as a Deep Principle

(4) Comments | Posted September 5, 2012 | 1:00 PM

This is the time of a beautiful and encouraging autumnal ritual. Students arrive on campus for the opening of a new academic year, filled with promise and expectations. As many as 21 million will attend state, community, and private colleges in the United States this fall, all part of a...

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On Global Warming: Trust but Verify

(0) Comments | Posted December 4, 2009 | 5:24 PM

As the nations of the world assemble in Copenhagen next week to complete the first step toward a binding agreement to confront climate change, naysayers are running out of reasons to delay or deny progress. The United States and China, which account for some forty percent of global greenhouse...

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