Over the past year, we’ve been listening to students, faculty, staff, alumni, and parents talk about why Bates is important to them. Our charge has been to translate that insight for our first-time online visitors: people who know nothing about Bates.

During that time, the essence of Bates has come through clearly and consistently, both from our Bates friends and also from our collaborative agency, iSite Design, which brings a valuable external perspective to this work.

Many liberal arts and sciences colleges work to help their students, alumni, and employees thrive in a rapidly changing world, and this is a foundation for the Bates approach.

“A liberal arts education offers the most effective preparation in an ever-changing world for a lifetime of meaningful and productive work, commitment to civic and community leadership, and personal growth and happiness” — Annapolis Group

Beyond such preparation, however, Bates people report that their experience here has helped them achieve something more — a deeper benefit — that of making significant impacts in their lives.

“Being able to really feel that, no matter what level you are, you can still make a difference … and change the world around you.” — Bates student

We wanted to better understand the qualities of those impacts and the role that Bates people and programs play in facilitating them.

There are many kinds of impact; some positive, others negative, some fleeting, others sustaining. Of all the possible kinds of impacts we can have in our lives, Bates people report that their experience here helps them make impacts that are, above all, meaningful to them, helping them contribute more deeply to their profession, families, communities. Sometimes the impacts are quite visible, other times quietly behind the scenes. Sometimes they have made difference as an individual, in others they have been part of a group, a movement that has effected desired change.

“The next question that always comes is, what are you going to do with that when you graduate? Inside I think, truthfully, anything I want …” — Bates student

Those impacts, however, cannot be seen only as a cause and effect relationship. Often the action changes the person; it’s a fluid interaction between individuals and their social situations, both effecting the other. Broad understanding and deep insight are critical perequisites at the foundation of Bates’ approach to residential liberal arts education, but its the way that the person and situation change and effect each other defines the value of the impact.

The Bates approach raises awareness of the link between the person and the context in order to ignite impact.

“I left Bates charged with a passion for democratic community…  It gave me a language for a desire I hadn’t been able to articulate.” — Michael Wilson ‘07

“”Lynne has provided a model for how to [approach the removal of river dams that are coming up for relicensing]. Without studies like this, we’re really flying blind.” — About environmental economist Lynne Lewis

“I wanted to provide a venue for learning and for experiencing some things that are essential to the development of young people, yet which they are otherwise not getting in academic courses.” —  professor of German Denis Sweet

In their China visits, Maurer-Fazio encourages her students to drop their preconceptions and really perceive what’s around them. She boils the concept down to seven words of antimetabole: “Learn to observe and observe to learn.” — Bates economist Maggie Maurer-Fazio

“I put my attention toward growing healthy soil, and the tomato plant just comes along very happily on its own.” — vegetable grower Nicolas Lindholm ‘86

“It seems to me that when, in a few hundred years, people look back on our time, one of the very key things that they will judge us on is how well we did or did not deal with the transition [to sustainable resources.] So I can’t think of anything more important to devote my professional life to.”  — Lee Lynd ‘79, winner of a $100,000 Lemelson-MIT Sustainability Award