For more than 50 years, the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies program has advanced post-secondary teaching and learning. In 1999, under the leadership of Donald Pease, the Ted and Helen Geisel Third Century Professor in the Humanities, the Guarini School of Graduate and Advanced Studies program began offering interdisciplinary concentrations in globalization studies, creative writing, cultural studies, and general liberal studies.
Now, for the first time, MALS is partnering on a pilot project with a group of independent prep schools in northern New England, known as the Lakes Region Consortium. The schools’ goal is to recruit promising candidates from underrepresented populations and help them prepare for successful high school teaching careers. The project is called the Dartmouth Fellowship for Aspiring Educators.
“Our graduate school faculty are particularly keen to teach teachers at the secondary level because they know that they go right back into their classes and use what they’ve learned in MALS to nurture younger minds,” says MALS Director Wole Ojurongbe, a 2008 MALS graduate. “It’s also an opportunity for these schools to make their faculty and staff more reflective of a diverse student body.”
Project fellows will join the faculties of the participating secondary schools while enrolling in MALS full-time for at least three summer terms, earning their master’s degrees from Guarini. Each member of the consortium will host at least one fellow for a two-year period, paying a base salary with benefits, providing room and board, and covering half the student’s MALS tuition. Dartmouth will cover the other half and provide access to the Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning, which helps faculty members develop teaching tools and strategies.
If the pilot is successful, it will be broadened to interested public schools and other employers, says Pease. Workplaces could sponsor employees in the MALS program as a way to enhance their skills, and the program could help employers recruit and retain a more diverse workforce.
The fellows will benefit from the “intensely interdisciplinary” nature of the graduate courses, especially during summer term, says Pease.
“MALS holds a symposium each summer in which we engage an issue from disparate perspectives. This year the topic is ‘Abolition Democracy,’ a term used in the 1930s by W.E.B. Du Bois, which has been re-animated to engage conversation about systemic racism.”
Inaugural teaching fellow and third-term MALS student Jordan Ferreras is looking forward to that symposium, and to meeting faculty and fellow students this summer.
Over the past two years, MALS classes have been largely virtual, owing to the COVID-19 pandemic; this year the plan is to resume in-person classes. Ferreras, who was born in Harlem, graduated from Bowdoin College and teaches statistics at the Dublin School, his alma mater, in southwestern New Hampshire.
At MALS, he is studying creative writing, which, he says, is making him a more thoughtful math instructor.
“What I am learning from MALS is that the study of statistics isn’t just about numbers,” he says. “Anyone who does data analysis has to understand how to make ethical decisions around using that information. I am also learning from my professors how to structure a good class, and to build a framework for students by putting up guideposts and letting them work independently within them.”
As a Dublin student, Ferreras says he was grateful for a scholarship and “loved every minute” of the experience. “I felt safe there, and always supported,” he recalls.
At the same time, he says, “There were no Black teachers, so it was hard to see my identity represented.”
Dublin School Head Brad Bates ’91, Guarini ’00, who helped spearhead the Dartmouth partnership, says the Lakes Region fellowships will help diversify faculty in a way that strengthens the entire school community.
“It will be transformative, with talented people like Jordan coming to our school and bringing their own perspectives from a variety of backgrounds. It’s getting all of us to think differently about the student experience, especially for an underrepresented population that is, happily for us, growing.”
So is the Lakes Region Consortium, which includes, in addition to Dublin School, Cardigan Mountain School in Canaan, N.H.; Holderness School in Holderness, N.H.; Kents Hill School in Kents Hill, Maine; Kimball Union Academy in Meriden, N.H.; New Hampton School in New Hampton, N.H.; Proctor Academy in Andover, N.H.; and Vermont Academy in Saxtons River, Vt.
Several other schools are considering joining the group. Nine teaching fellows are expected to attend MALS this summer, and program leaders say they can accommodate at least 12. The project has support from the Edward E. Ford Foundation, which is helping with fellows’ housing in Hanover during the summer and travel between participating campuses for professional development during the academic year.
At Kents Hill, Rene Davis, assistant head of school for student life, says partnering with Dartmouth will bring new faculty to her campus at a time when excellent teachers are in short supply.
MALS, which currently has 165 students in its programs, offers need-based financial aid and scholarships for qualified students.
“There’s an exodus around teaching for a number of reasons,” she says. “This program prepares people for difficult work, but I’m hoping we can do it in a joyful way, an inclusive way, that can be modeled across the country. We hope to inspire individuals who may not have imagined themselves as educators to see the value they can bring to a boarding school, both inside and outside the classroom.”