• Beth & Tim Manners

Bates: A Curriculum for ‘Purposeful Work’

Updated: Sep 20, 2019

Quartz: Clayton Spencer “has been head of Bates, a small college in Lewiston, Maine, founded by abolitionists, since 2012. Since she arrived, she’s made it a priority to embed the idea of ‘purposeful work’—broadly defined as work that both has personal meaning and societal relevance—into as many aspects of college life as possible. While she is romantic about the liberal arts mandate, she understands the importance of finding practical applications for what students learn in school.”


“During a five-week ‘short term’ in May, Bates offers practitioner-taught courses: One digital marketing course was taught by a digital marketing consultant, while a dancer educated students on the business concerns involved in pursuing a career in the arts. Students can also shadow workers in various fields for a day (many of them Bates alumni) and funding from the school is available for internships in fields that don’t pay, such as non-profits and the arts. Importantly, purposeful work seeks to give students who don’t have networks the skills and the experience to build them.”


Spencer comments: “The source of personal happiness and fulfillment has to be around meaning, and not the psychology of happiness. You find meaning by thinking and acting in the world in a way that aligns with your talents and interests and brings you joy, and makes a social contribution of some kind.”

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