Moravian College

Monday, March 14, 2011

Dear Men and Women of Moravian:

Greetings to you all as we begin the second half of the spring semester!  Soon the academic year will be past and graduation will be upon us!

This academic year, a new thematic programming initiative—IN FOCUS—was introduced to campus with a focus on China…its politics, economics, and culture.  I hope that you have chosen to participate in some of the offerings during the year from Rob Gifford at Fall Convocation to guest speakers in classes to Tai Chi lessons and food demonstrations to movies and films.  Still more opportunities remain on the horizon which include—

  • “The Chinese Judicial System: A Cross Cultural Comparison” by alum Judge Arthur A. Grim ’64; March 23rd
  • Moravian Intramurals Ping Pong Tournament, March 27th    
  • “China at an inflection point?” by Dr. Minxin Pei, adjunct senior associate in the Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment, the Tom and Margot Pritzker ‘72 Professor of Government, and the director of the Keck Center for International and Strategic Studies at Claremont McKenna College; April 4th
  • “My China” a faculty panel discussion, April 6th

An important outgrowth of our work this year is the recommendation from the Futures Sub Group to expand the IN FOCUS program into a broad commitment of Moravian College, Moravian Theological Seminary, and the Comenius Center.  Attention will be focused on one of four mega-problems each year—Poverty and Inequality, Sustainability, Health Care, and War and Peace—issues that our students will touch upon during the life of their careers.  These problems will be addressed in a repeating four-year cycle.

Benefits of this structure include:

  • The repeating four-year cycle recognizes the importance of these issues and realistic impossibility that we can fully plumb each in one year.
  • Time and energy in teaching and learning about these issues can be used and sharpened again and again.
  • It permits Moravian to state that it is dedicated to in-depth examination of four of the most urgent problems of humankind in the 21st century.
  • Because these four issues are closely related, it permits, even demands, multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary study.
  • These issues have both a local and global dimension and so lend them to direct student involvement here and abroad.  They can be easy opportunities for hands-on learning.
  • We will establish “Centers of Investigation” for each topic to organize work on the issue in an on-going fashion, and could take the lead every fourth year in initiating programming for that year.
  • This may be an appealing concept that would be attractive to outside funding sources to support the Centers, and hence the entire program.

Responsibility for IN FOCUS will rest in the Office of the President, coordinated by Deborah Evans, Director of Constituent Relations, who will chair the IN FOCUS committee.  Divisions of the campus community are represented on the committee which will be charged with overview, promotion, facilitation and advocacy of the IN FOCUS initiative.  It is my intent that these committee members will branch out into their respective work and teaching environments to communicate, advocate, and creatively promote IN FOCUS programming and participation.

The 2011-12 IN FOCUS theme is Poverty and Inequality.

Today close to forty percent of the people on earth live on less than $2.00 a day.  Even in the US, one of the richest countries in the world, some 43 million Americans live below the poverty line – about one in every eight people, 15 million of which are children. Closely related to dimensions of poverty, and often crucial to understanding how to reduce it, is the inequality that exists within societies and between nations. The gap between the richest and poorest Americans is now larger than it has ever been and growing, and the gap between the richest and poorest in the world is considerably greater.

These problems will challenge citizens of the globe in the twenty-first century as surely as they have challenged societies for centuries in the past. Indeed, it can be stated that the challenges must be met because they have implications for the quality of all human life, the prospects for economic growth, the imperatives of environmental sustainability, and local, national and international cooperation.

The problems of poverty and inequality are complex. They entail environmental, physical, personal, economic, political, social and cultural dimensions. Their multidimensional nature demands an interdisciplinary approach to understand the nature of these problems, and ways to alleviate them.  

The United Nations millennium development goals (a globally accepted milestone in international cooperation) have served to organize discussion and work on alleviating poverty and inequality.  Inspired but not limited by these goals,members of the Moravian College community will examine these important issues from many different perspectives over the coming academic year.

I look forward to the next iteration of the IN FOCUS program.  I am excited about the opportunities this program presents for Moravian as a whole and especially for our students who will lead our communities in the future.


Christopher Thomforde