Behind the List with Daniel R. Porterfield
president of Franklin & Marshall College
Q: How are Franklin & Marshall College and higher education in general different from 10 years ago?
A: Over the course of the past 10 years, Franklin & Marshall College has set itself on a course to compete and establish itself as one of America's leading liberal arts colleges. We have renewed the physical resources of the campus; invested in need-based financial aid; expanded our recruitment to the South, the West and international communities; and grown our faculty in important new areas like public health, computer science, Arabic and Chinese.
If you ask how higher education in general has changed from 10 years ago, it's important to acknowledge there are more than 6,000 four-year colleges, two-year colleges and for-profit institutions. Some of the changes have not been positive for higher education as a whole. For example, at many institutions, students have left direct interaction with faculty and are facing challenges in financing their education. Franklin & Marshall's strategies of increasing aid and increasing academic strength (go against) those larger, national trends.
There are two trends where Franklin & Marshall is helping to lead in the direction we think more institutions should go to respond to a changing America. First, three years ago, F&M created our office of Student and Post-Graduate Development … which has the mission of helping students leverage their liberal arts education for long-term professional and personal success. …
Secondly, America's demographics are changing quickly as more Latino, Asian and African-American students seek higher education. F&M's Next Generation initiative has allowed us to recruit very talented students from the population groups that are growing demographically, which we hope sets the example for all institutions.
What role does a liberal arts education play in today's world?
The research shows a well-rounded education that provides academic rigor, numerous leadership opportunities, the chance to do research with faculty, a close-knit campus community and opportunities for summer internships significantly enhances students' preparation not just to work as soon as they finish college, but to be lifelong leaders in business, government, innovation, science and all fields. A great liberal arts education provides the launching pad for the well-educated medical professionals, business leaders, government leaders and educators that America must have to compete well in today's knowledge-based, tech-driven global economy.
Describe what the Next Generation initiative will mean for prospective students.
F&M's Next Generation initiative is a comprehensive set of actions designed to ensure we find great talent from the full mosaic of Pennsylvania and America as a whole. Then, we provide the financial aid, outstanding education experiences and lifelong support that will allow us to cultivate that talent as well as any college in America. Right here in Pennsylvania, the Next Generation initiative has allowed us to develop stronger recruiting pipelines to Lancaster-area high schools and about 12 rural high schools between here and Pittsburgh.
If a diverse student population is achieved, what steps can be taken to retain those students once they are enrolled?
The most important step is to recruit students who are properly prepared academically. That's why we work very closely with high schools and enrichment programs around the country to identify talent that is prepared for the rigors of an F&M education. If you recruit the right students, it also is valuable to provide those students with access to faculty advisers, peer mentors, leadership opportunities on campus, work-study and a full financial-aid package.
Does Lancaster provide the opportunities needed and desired by undergraduate students?
Absolutely. We have 40 students last year who took part in the program F&M Works, in which they were paid by the college to work for people-serving organizations like the Boys & Girls Club and Church World Services. We had 300 students who did some form of community-based research or service. … The combination of a tremendous small city and a national-level research college is providing great resources for undergraduates.
About Daniel Porterfield
Daniel Porterfield earned his bachelor’s degree in English at Georgetown University, his master’s degree in English at the University of Oxford and his Ph.D. at the City University of New York Graduate Center.
He is a Baltimore native who says Lancaster has been “spectacularly successful” at renewing its economy, strengthening its culture, empowering local residents and providing strong public schools. He began at Franklin & Marshall in 2011.
A Rhodes scholar, Porterfield likes to spend time with his three daughters and his wife, Karen Herrling. He enjoys sports, music and connecting with the college’s students.