The Last Word

by President Richard J. Cook

Superb Collaborative Efforts Deserve—and Need—Our Support

Imagine being a member of a student team that submits a winning design for a public art project that you then create and install next to a busy intersection on a state highway—and the project subsequently garners a state-wide award. Or contemplate being a member of a federally funded research team that spends the summer at 11,000 feet in the Colorado Rockies studying the causes of salamander population cycles. Perhaps your interests lie at the intersection of psychology and classical music, and you publish your research results in a national journal after gathering mounds of EEG data at live musical performances in Ford Chapel.

If you are a student at Allegheny, there is no need to just imagine—these examples, and many more, are the daily reality on campus. Never have I been more enthusiastic about Allegheny’s essential place in the higher education landscape than during a recent meeting of the Board of Trustees’ Academic Affairs Committee. On that occasion, Professors Amara Geffen (art), Scott Wissinger (biology/environmental sciences), Alec Dale (psychology), Jeff Cross (neuroscience), and Alec Chien (music) described their research and creative work with students. These kinds of intense collaborative efforts have long been a hallmark of an Allegheny education.

Members of our Board of Trustees who attended this presentation were visibly enthusiastic about what they witnessed, and all of us left the session determined to spread the word about what we had seen and heard. Professor Wissinger commented that those particular presenters were representative of many others on the faculty who also do great work with students, engaging them in scholarly and creative pursuits as part of an extraordinary undergraduate learning experience.

Allegheny’s faculty are highly active scholars and expert mentors who draw students into their work as fully integrated and respected members of research and creative teams. Our record of scholarly productivity, and of winning foundation and government grants to support that work, places us among the highest quality undergraduate institutions in the nation. This collaborative student-faculty scholarship is one of the reasons that Allegheny ranks near the very top in both academic challenge and quality of student-faculty relationships in the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE).

These types of learning opportunities—part of the distinctive quality of an Allegheny education—set us apart from less personal or less intensive undergraduate experiences and are a source of pride for the entire college community. But academic performance at these high levels deserves more than just our enthusiasm. It also deserves—and needs—support from those who understand Allegheny’s important role in higher education. All great colleges depend on investments by individuals, foundations, and corporations who know their support is essential for a better future not only for students but also for society.

By supporting faculty and students through the Tradition & Transformation campaign, donor-investors become part of a dynamic process of teaching and learning that is based upon active investigation and exploration. They become partners themselves in the great educational enterprise that Timothy Alden began almost two hundred years ago.

Let me express my sincere appreciation to everyone who has already invested in this endeavor and appeal to those who are contemplating such an investment. Every one of you can experience the satisfaction and excitement of playing a part in accomplishing the Allegheny College mission. You may not be with us in the research labs or the art studios or any of the other myriad places on campus where exceptional work is being done, but you can still be a valuable partner in some of the most exciting and innovative work being done on any college campus today.

President Cook welcomes questions about the Tradition & Transformation campaign and what it is accomplishing on campus. He can be contacted by e-mail ( or by regular mail: President Richard Cook, Allegheny College, 520 N. Main Street, Meadville, PA 16335.

This article was featured in the Fall/Winter 2003 Issue of Allegheny Magazine.