Advanced Leadership and Strategic Planning

A brief look into a course offered here in fall, 2014 through our CAPA education center for the advancement of public action.

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President Coleman Speaks at TED

President Coleman delivered the closing speech at the 25th annual TED Conference in February 2009, anchoring a lineup that included Al Gore, Bill Gates, Oliver Sacks, and Herbie Hancock. TED brings together the world's most fascinating thinkers and doers, challenging them to give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes. In her talk, President Coleman delivered a call-to-arms for radical reform in higher education.

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The First Fellows

  • An Internet pioneer.
  • A global health policy analyst.
  • The chief medical officer for the state of Tennessee.
  • A communications strategist.
  • The technology advisor to the mayor of Boston.
  • What brings them all to Bennington?

The College’s Center for the Advancement of Public Action: CAPA.

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CAPA Construction: 2 Years in 2 Minutes

The Center for the Advancement of Public Action (CAPA) is a state-of-the-art, green, academic facility that morphs the studio of the artist, the laboratory of a scientist, the workshop of a craftsman, and the think tank of a policy wonk. Designed by award-winning architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, the Center opened in June 2011.

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A Bennington Legacy

Since its founding in 1932, Bennington College has been a hub for innovators in every field who want to apply their individual talents to addressing global issues of urgent concern.

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The Elizabeth Coleman Center for the Advancement of Public Action at Bennington College is a place where creative solutions to the urgent problems of our time are found and put into action.

The Challenge

Problems proliferate. From income inequality to climate change, from failing schools to failed states, from exiled histories to foreclosed futures, our present is beset by challenges. Many of these entrenched and emergent problems seem just beyond the scope of a liberal arts education. What might it mean to more directly orient the liberal arts around these complex problems, not just in contemplation of them but with a deliberate aim to intervene in them? How can artists, scholars, and scientists collaborate and contribute to finding effective solutions to these problems? How can the classroom be expanded to foster new linkages between thought and action, the classroom and the outside world? How can teaching and learning be activated in new ways to understand today’s problems and work to solve them? Moreover, how might the entangled quality of these problems—refusing neat divisions between friend and foe, near and far, fact and value, nature and society—reconfigure the basic parameters of the liberal arts? What new insights and capacities are now needed to enact meaningful change in our world?

The Response

The Elizabeth Coleman Center for the Advancement of Public Action (CAPA) at Bennington College responds to the urgent problems of our current world, discovers what one needs to know to understand them, and acts to implement solutions. Rooted in the liberal arts with a commitment to public action, our mission is to educate citizens with the skills and capacities needed to confront challenges and enact change in our diverse, complex world. Through initiatives, conversations, and curricula, CAPA brings together the Bennington College community, local residents, and visitors around a shared dedication to the public good. Working with existing public and private organizations near and far, CAPA leverages the classroom as a new kind of studio for creative problem solving and innovation.

CAPA teaches the essential capacities needed to develop an educated and emboldened citizenry. This is done in a variety of ways, from building consensus around divisive issues, to designing new structures attuned to local needs and sustainability, to analyzing and engaging in complex situations. These capacities include the ability to improvise, to collaborate, to research, to analyze quantitative and qualitative data, to communicate coherently and persuasively, to practice empathy, and to negotiate and mediate effectively. With reflexive humility, engaged scholarship, and creative determination, CAPA addresses the issues of our time from a novel vantage point: action.

With a deep commitment to collaboration, CAPA works with existing public and private organizations locally, regionally, nationally, and globally. One of the ways this is accomplished is by linking the classroom to outside agencies, think tanks, and community groups. By bringing students, stakeholders, and citizens together, CAPA aims to cultivate democratic debate and public action around specific problems. Through such collaboration, our goal is to make the world a better place and to create the replicable structures that can adapt, serve, and sustain a quality of life that all humans deserve.

Director: Susan Sgorbati | Assistant Director: Aila West
Contact information: capa@bennington.edu | 802-447-4267