- - - - - - - - - -
Exploring ethnicity and identity
Opening Convocation this September invited the Skidmore community to ask “Who are we now?” both as citizens of an increasingly multiethnic nation and as members of a college community that is also increasingly diverse. Entering freshmen came prepared, having read Growing Up Ethnic in America, an anthology of short fiction focused on evolving concepts of American identity. The book plays a recurring role in this fall’s Liberal Studies 1 course, coordinated by Ross Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies Terence Diggory. In his summer message to incoming students, Diggory had asked them not just to read but to explore their own concepts of ethnicity and American identity.
In the spirit of such explorations, Scope looks back at who we were then—in particular, at the freshman classes in 1925, 1950, and 1975—to see how Skidmore’s student community has evolved. Back in the fall of 1925 Skidmore enrolled an all-female class mostly from the northeast and mid-Atlantic states. The single foreign freshman in 1925 and 1950 came from Canada. By 1975 male students enlivened the mix, and the geographic base of the student body was expanding south and west and even abroad. This fall the class of 2004 represents thirty-six states and thirteen foreign countries, from Canada to Bahrain to Thailand. (See the box at right for more data from 1925, 1950, and 1975.)
This year’s freshmen (the results of a 43 percent acceptance rate, from the largest applicant pool ever) bring to the college a potpourri of cultural backgrounds and diverse accomplishments and interests. Many of them were born or have spent time abroad. Several are bilingual or trilingual, and languages spoken at home include Hebrew, Spanish, Japanese, Korean, and Polish. High school activities for these global villagers range far and wide: raising money for a school in Pakistan, dog-sledding in Quebec, cleaning up after Hurricane Hugo in Puerto Rico, living on a kibbutz in Israel, teaching English to Tibetan refugees in India, and studying at France’s famed Cordon Bleu cooking school. While the majority are Caucasian, 24 identify themselves as Asian-American, 21 as Hispanic/Latino, 15 as Black/Nonhispanic, 10 as Puerto Rican, 4 as Asian-Indian, 2 as American Indian/Alaskan Native, 2 as Mexican/Chicano, and 1 as Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, for a total of 14 percent students of color. The categories themselves suggest how truly multiethnic the population has become.
These 599 first-year students have now officially “immigrated” to Skidmore, where they will doubtless challenge and enhance the community’s sense of who we are now. —KG
Who were we then?
Fall 1925 (class of 1929)
Opening Chapel, September 26, 1925: President Henry T. Moore addressed the evolution of the education system and stressed the need for education to be usefully connected with other phases of life.
Fall 1950 (class of 1954)
Opening Convocation, September 24, 1950, in College Hall: President Moore discussed the importance of vigorous and purposeful education in preparing the American citizenry for the challenges of the atomic age.
* not classified as freshmen were 133 military veterans—most of them men in Skidmore’s Glens Falls Division—as well as 6 foreign students
Fall 1975 (class of 1979)
Opening Convocation, September 7, 1975, on the New Campus Green: President Joseph Palamountain urged students to get involved with and commit themselves to the Skidmore community and the broader community of human beings.
Fall 2000 (class of 2004)
Opening Convocation, September 5, 2000, on Skidmore Hall Green: Six Skidmore students, four of them freshmen, gave readings from Growing Up Ethnic in America in response to the topic “Who Are We Now?”