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Welcome Brock Blomberg: A New Leader for a New Era

President Brock Blomberg, former dean at Claremont McKenna College and notable scholar of the economics of terrorism, has been traveling across the country meeting alumni and students. Learn more about his views. 

A widely published political economist who has held positions in such policy-driven agencies as the Federal Reserve and the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, President Brock Blomberg is a proponent of global education and an advocate for the liberal arts. Blomberg, who served in the military, was on the faculty at Wellesley College and was a visiting scholar at Harvard University before arriving at Claremont McKenna in 2003. He is a magna cum laude graduate of the University of Tampa and received his master’s degree and doctorate in Economics from Johns Hopkins University.

He has been crossing the country meeting alumni, faculty, staff and students. The following questions and answers are excerpted from the Summer issue of Ursinus Magazine:

In explaining the worth of a liberal education we often refer to such considerations as the acquisition of skills or the opportunity for frequent contact with faculty members. But these seem to be means to some other, greater aim. We sometimes even speak of this aim in terms of a transformation. What is your conception of this transformation? What is the change in our students’ intellects and characters that should be our ultimate aim? - Paul Stern, professor of politics

The transformation is something I’ve seen in my students at Wellesley, Claremont McKenna College, and with my own children during their experiences at liberal arts colleges. I personally experienced this through my undergraduate education. I think it’s something related to skill acquisition and is indeed best executed in a residential setting. But it is something much more. Ursinus’s motto is ‘on a firm foundation’ and I believe it is this foundation that begins a journey to a well-examined life. This is the transformation that may begin at Ursinus, but hopefully doesn’t end here. It is not defined by discipline, nor is it restricted to a set of courses, but instead it is a set of values imbued that equip the community for an ever-changing and dynamic world.

At the end of your first five years, what do you hope to list as your top three accomplishments as Ursinus’s 17th president? - Rebecca Jaroff ’81, Associate Professor of English

I love the fact that you began the question with ‘your first five years!’ One of my priorities is raising public awareness about the wonderful accomplishments of the Ursinus community. There are so many great stories here to be told and so many compelling narratives. I would like to try to remove any roadblocks that may impede the faculty and students from reaching their aspirations. Finally, I would like to continue to encourage the culture of philanthropy here at Ursinus so that there is a greater footprint of time, treasure and talents. We should make grand plans and work to achieve and surpass them whenever possible. Imagine what we could accomplish if we had more resources to leverage.

The conversation about return on investment (ROI) and value of higher education has never been more prominent. What role does the Career and Professional Development (CPD) office play in this discussion? - Carla Rinde, Director of Career and Professional Development, parent of a 2012 graduate

Students enter college not far removed from sleeping in their childhood beds and thinking like a high school senior. They leave as grown men and women ready to take on the world. This transformation is one of the most striking that humans make and we recognize this with a curriculum that builds as the student ages, and student activities that provide support during these transitions. Too often, colleges and universities do not recognize that students need to grow personally as well as professionally. This means that as students educate themselves through the Common Intellectual Experience, and then major graduation requirements, they should also educate themselves about the environment outside our gates. I think we do a good job of providing that in the curriculum with the Independent Learning Experience, but I would advise students to consult with their academic advisors early and visit the Career and Professional Development office often so that they can continuously educate themselves throughout the four-year college lifecycle process

Do you think there is a connection between liberal arts education and social justice? If so, what is it and how do you see Ursinus fitting into that? - Axel Gonzalez ’16

My gut suspicion is that there is indeed a link. After all, isn’t it interesting to note that as the world tends toward specialization and relying on experts, presidents, prime ministers and other heads of state often seem to make choices that appear to be at odds with fair and just decisions? It seems to me that there are more decisions made that result in engaging in what appears to be avoidable conflict, rather than decisions that result in conflict resolution. I do wonder if the advisors to leaders, and the leaders themselves, were better equipped with liberal arts values – thinking critically, communicating effectively, working collaboratively, making just decisions – if we would find ourselves in a different place. It would be an interesting experiment, don’t you think?

In a world dominated by corporate wealth and money in politics how do you cultivate a social conscience in Ursinus students? - Jack Gould ’66, Issues chair, Common Cause Nebraska, retired cattle rancher, 2015 Alumni Award winner.

At Ursinus, developing our social conscience is one of our central values.It is fundamental in liberal education that we make just and ethical decisions and this begins by understanding the world around us and the challenges that we all face. One may take a pessimistic view of our ability to extend these values, given what polls say about our trust in Congress and corporate America. I would like to believe we can find hope, with leadership, and we as a community can demonstrate our commitment to philanthropy and the common good. Business titans of the past have helped advance notions of a social conscience: corporate wealth and money politics do not necessary have to limit our concepts of social justice.

I would like to believe that we at Ursinus can begin educating leaders to see the value of giving back to their community. It begins with important classes that demonstrate a commitment and understanding to this ideal – courses like the Common Intellectual Experience. It is reinforced in student life and within the many co-curricular opportunities offered to our students. It can be amplified by developing a culture of philanthropy, which should begin with students and be reinforced to young alumni. Then, when the next generations of Rockefeller, Carnegie and Gates emerge, they will do a remarkable job of changing the world for the better.