Hampshire College Receives $5 Million Gift Honoring Alum Ken Burns

R.W. Kern Center, a net zero building at Hampshire College. Photo: hampshire.edu

Source: Hampshire.edu

Hampshire College announced, on January 4, the receipt of a new $5 million investment in its Change in the Making campaign. This second $5 million gift to the campaign, given by an anonymous benefactor, will fund the Ken Burns Initiative to Transform Higher Education, propelling implementation of Hampshire’s innovative approach to undergraduate liberal arts education.

The unrestricted operating gift supports the ongoing implementation of a new curricular model that organizes undergraduate education around the most urgent challenges of our time, instead of the traditional structures of majors and disciplines. This revolutionary way of teaching and learning will prepare students for meaningful work that can change the world. The initiative will accelerate development of innovative approaches to inquiry-driven, project-based education that enables students to master the entrepreneurial skills needed for today and for tomorrow. Key components of Hampshire’s curriculum—building courses around urgent challenges, the unique Semester Unbound program, Learning Collaboratives, and Project Teams—will all be supported by these funds.

“This is yet another historic moment for Hampshire College,” said President Ed Wingenbach, who joined the college in 2019 and is leading its transformation. “We’re reinventing the liberal arts by placing globally relevant questions at the center of our curriculum and challenging students to become agents of momentous change. This donor—who has no previous affiliation with the college—recognizes that higher education requires radical change and that Hampshire is best suited to lead that disruption. We are enormously grateful.”

I know Hampshire is transformative because I experienced it firsthand.
– Filmmaker Ken Burns

“I’m humbled that such a generous philanthropist chose to make this extraordinary gift to my alma mater in my honor,” said Campaign Co-Chair Ken Burns who graduated from the college in 1971.. “I know Hampshire is transformative because I experienced it firsthand. I saw how the originality of practices implemented at the college reverberated through higher education. Fifty years later, our nation needs fresh thinking in higher education, and Hampshire is poised to deliver on that opportunity.”  

Since its launch in January 2020, Change in the Making: A Campaign for Hampshire has raised more than $33 million toward its $60 million goal and is on track for a successful completion in June of 2024. 

About Ken Burns
Ken Burns has been making acclaimed documentary films for over 40 years. He has won sixteen Emmy Awards and had two Oscar nominations, and in September of 2008, at the News & Documentary Emmy Awards, Burns was honored by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Burns has been the recipient of more than 30 honorary degrees and has delivered many treasured commencement addresses. He is a sought-after public speaker, appearing at colleges, civic organizations, and business groups throughout the country.

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