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The Importance of Civic Engagement at Bard College

This article was written based on the information and opinions presented by Chase Williams and Elias Miller in a CollegeVine livestream. You can watch the full livestream for more info.


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When considering applicants, Bard College is looking for a few key traits, including civic engagement. This is because these traits are key to success in Bard students, and are major components of the Bard experience. In this post, we will discuss Bard colleges’ focus on acting in public interest, examples of civic engagement opportunities, and advice for future students.


A Private College Acting in the Public Interest


Bard College prides itself on being a private college acting in the public interest. In practice, this means that Bard operates under an agreement to promote education as a social enrichment tool to better the lives of every person. 


At Bard, this mission takes precedent over the profit-driven agenda that some think of when thinking of a private college or institution. One of the main examples of this philosophy at Bard are the civic engagement opportunities available through the Bard Network.


The Bard Network and Civic Engagement


The Bard Network


For civic engagement in particular, students not only have many opportunities available to them on campus, but also through the Bard Network, which consists of Bard’s cross-cultural and global partnerships.


The Bard Network includes a variety of different partnerships and initiatives, examples of which are discussed below, as well as programs such as eight high schools across the country that allow high school students to earn associate’s degrees for free. 


Bard Prison Initiative


The Bard Prison Initiative was designed by a Bard student in the Trustee Leader Scholar Program (TLS). This initiative aims to provide educational opportunities in partnered correctional facilities, with Bard students who are 21 years of age or older serving as tutors. For more information on this particular program, you can watch the documentary “College Behind Bars.”


Globally Affiliated Partnerships


Bard has four globally affiliated partner schools located in Berlin, Vienna, Palestine, and Kyrgyzstan that provide students with unique opportunities for civic engagement. The partnerships are unique and offer experiences that differ from other more traditional study abroad opportunities. For example, while studying abroad during the first semester of college can be a relatively rare opportunity, some Bard first-year students are able to do just that at Bard’s Berlin campus.


Advice to Future Bard Students


For students interested in attending Bard, one main piece of advice is to be curious. While this may sound easy to do, or even a bit vague, it is an important aspect of Bard’s culture, and something that admissions officers are really looking for when evaluating applicants. Bard students should be excited about their educational journey on campus, embodying their mission of using education as a social enrichment tool, rather than just the job that they may get after graduating. 


When considering your own curiosity as it relates to Bard, try reflecting on what you  will be doing or studying and most importantly why. Additionally, keep in mind that your four years at Bard will be a time when you will be socially and educationally enriching your life. For example, when speakers come to campus, such as past speakers like Stephen King, Edward Snowden, or Claudia Rankine, it is important to Bard that their students are the types of people who are curious and have thoughtful, socially conscious, questions to ask that look at the big picture.