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What is the Benton Scholar Program?

By bentonscholars on April 16, 2013

The Benton Scholars Program was developed as a model for how a liberal arts education can be shaped to fully prepare students to think, act, and create in a world that is increasingly diverse and global.

Colgate University has a long and proud history of graduating students who lead in all aspects of their lives.  In the spirit of that great tradition, this program has been designed to infuse leadership and global themes into the Colgate experience by providing its members with activities and selected courses that will enrich and bring new perspectives to their experiences on campus and throughout their lives.

Each year, as part of it admissions process, Colgate identifies a number of applicants who, through past experience and/or expressed interest, have demonstrated the potential to focus with particular emphasis on the complex global issues that will challenge them not only academically as undergraduates but also professionally and personally once they have graduated from Colgate.

A carefully selected group of 15-18 First Year students are then invited to join a vibrant community of upperclass students who have already chosen to target their individual commitments and to expend their collective energies on raising the profile of global issues among their fellow students.

Throughout their four years at Colgate, Benton Scholars support and motivate each other as they develop into thoughtful, creative, and well-informed leaders both at Colgate itself and beyond the gates of the university’s campus.

Read more about the Benton Scholars Trips

Trip to South Korea
Trip to Argentina
Trip to India
Trip to China
Trip to Uganda


Benton Summer Project: Reflections, Part I

By Peter Tschirhart on September 2, 2014

A small group of Benton Scholars took MOOCs during the summer of 2014. Participation was voluntary, and no Colgate course credit was granted. After finishing, we asked each student to write a response capturing their thoughts and reactions to this experience. Selected responses are reproduced below. Please note: the opinions expressed here are those of students–not the Benton Scholars program or Colgate University more generally.

Click here to find out more about the project behind these posts. Click here to learn more about the upcoming Online Education Symposium being sponsored by the Benton Scholars program.


Ellen Rodowsky ’15:

I had never taken an online class prior to this summer, so I didn’t exactly know what to expect. I’m admittedly skeptical about the idea of an online platform replacing legitimate classrooms and real-time contact with professors and other students, but I can’t deny that I was extremely impressed by the variety of courses available for free online. After much debating, I enrolled in a course called “Representaciones Culturales de las Sexualidades”(Cultural Representations of the Sexualities) offered by the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona.

The structure of the course seemed pretty straightforward: four weeks, four different topics presented via powerpoints and reading assignments, one short quiz on each topic, and an 800-word essay that would be graded by our fellow classmates. There were also forums available for students who wanted to expand upon topics that were touched on during the lectures. The lectures covered a lot of material very rapidly; at times it was almost overwhelming how quickly we moved through complex topics. The idea that “the body is a representation of the body, and can be interpreted as a text” was covered in 10 minutes — I can’t even imagine how long that point would be discussed in a Women’s Studies class at Colgate! The benefit to a video/powerpoint style of class, on the other hand, was that I could take as much time as I needed to make sure I understood a concept before continuing on with the lecture. I could pause and replay a portion if I didn’t grasp the full meaning the first time around, or I could stop and look up a concept on Google if I wasn’t satisfied with how it was presented by the professor.

Despite the benefits to a video-style lecture, my most adamant criticism of online classes (or at least, of this online class) was the lack of critical and in-depth discussion. The forums, although they aim to create a space for class-wide discussions, fall markedly short of achieving this. In classes, if a student asks a question, at the very least one student or the professor will respond. Additionally, if an argument or heated debate breaks out during class, I believe there are a lot of skills that students must use to respond respectfully in that moment. Online, these types of discussions do not happen; many questions had zero responses posted, and although none of the forums I read had very heavy debates, I think the anonymity that comes with posting online to strangers and the ability to simply stop answering does not foster the same kind of environment as a classroom.

I would have much preferred to study this topic in a classroom setting, but that’s not to say that I am opposed to all online education. I very much enjoy in-class discussions and talking about complex issues with my classmates, but for some classes I can see how it might be preferable to do them at one’s own pace. Introductory classes, for example, might be a better place for an online course. Lectures can be slowed down and repeated as many times as possible, so what would be a 150+ person, one-speed-fits-all class becomes more accessible to people who may need to hear things repeated multiple times. Some of my friends whose universities offer online courses say their schools try to better bridge the divide between online courses and full-time student life. Their online classes include one or two in-person meetings, where students can discuss material that has been covered in the class and ask questions of the professor that may be complicated to address through computers. It is undeniable that online education is gaining popularity (largely due to its cost versus costs of college tuition) and legitimacy, but I believe that for them to be truly successful they must learn how to fill the space left by removing the physical, real-time discussions.


Jungmin Kang ‘16:

For my summer project, I decided to take a German language class. However, when I arrived at the place I was to do my [summer] internship, I realized I did not have a stable internet connection. But I was able to find the youtube version of the lecture videos and download them at the office where I worked. It was an interesting observation – that online lectures do not necessitate a continual internet connection, but rather only enough to get the videos loaded onto a device. Of course, this means there may be limited or no interaction between the maker of the video and the student, or between students. For my German classes, though, I didn’t find this to be a problem, as the largest component of understanding the videos was just me sitting in front of the computer repeating the phrases and trying to get the pronunciation right.

Another thing I noticed was that, since I had all the videos downloaded and in one place, I could view any number of them at one time. There were days when I went through several, but then periods of many days when I didn’t see even one. For a language, I found this a little problematic, because on several occasions after these long pauses I had to go back to previous videos to review basics that I probably would have remembered had I not taken such breaks. However, the fact that this going-back-to-review process was possible and easy says something, I think. Also, it was nice that when I felt into it I could go as far as I liked. It was motivating and exciting to know that my educational intake was not being limited by an external force. Of course, in reality, there were limitations (my limited time, having only certain videos and therefore content to choose from, etc.), but there was an illusion of freedom that was nice. I’m not saying this is totally different from what is possible with a conventional medium such as a book (I can read as much of a textbook as I like), but knowing there was not someone who would be verifying that I had done a minimum amount of learning was liberating.


Benton Summer Project, 2014: Revisted

By Peter Tschirhart on September 1, 2014

Predictions are everywhere: online education, and MOOCs specifically, will reconfigure the 21st century university. For some analysts, change is positive, even liberating, because it promises to reduce costs while increasing access to higher education. For others, it is worthy of concern. While digital classrooms seem transformational, they might also consolidate the production of new knowledge, or commoditize face-to-face human interactions.

But many such conversations take for granted the insight and opinions of the very people most likely to encounter change: students themselves. To remedy this scotoma, the Benton Scholars identified a group of fourteen students who expressed interest in taking an online class during the summer of 2014. Participation was voluntary, no Colgate course credit was granted, all students had to register their interest in advance (and have their course proposal approved by a team of faculty and staff), and their time and insights were compensated modestly with a small stipend. After completing their course, students were asked to provide a brief written response as a way to reflect both on the delivery of content (as it compared to a more conventional class) and on the experience of taking classes online: What was it like? Did you feel a sense of community? Did you interact with faculty and learn from other students? Would you do it again?

From the outset, students articulated diverse reasons for participating. Some were curious about the course material, while others wanted to learn new technical skills, especially computer programming. Several even hoped to shore-up previously acquired knowledge or to prepare for an upcoming class at Colgate. In the end, however, our results stood apart from many MOOC statistics. A disproportionate number of our students, over 85%, ultimately completed their course — compared to a MOOC completion rate estimated at under 7%. (This number can perhaps be explained by the incentive structure built into our project and the high level of motivation among Benton Scholars generally.) Additionally, 93% of our participants were domestic students — contrasted with early data suggesting 74% of MOOC students register from abroad.

Over the next several days, we will begin to publish post-project reflections written by Benton Scholars. Indeed, as we prepare to host an Online Education Symposium during the fall of 2014, we hope these voices will serve as a provisional trace of the student experience while simultaneously grounding an informed discussion about MOOCs and the future of academe.


Benton Scholars: Online Education Symposium

By Peter Tschirhart on August 29, 2014

In the coming weeks, The Benton Scholars will present a series of lectures on the future of higher education. Fiona Hollands (Columbia University – Center for Benefit-Cost Studies of Education), George Siemens (University of Texas-Arlington – LINK Research Lab), and Marc Bousquet (Emory University – Assoc. Professor of English and author of How the University Works) will each address the capacity of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) to re-shape the 21st-century university–and the implications for education policy, curriculum design, labor practices, and face-to-face relationships.

All lectures are free and open to the public, and most will be live-streamed or recorded for future reference. Please follow this blog for more information and direct questions to Peter Tschirhart, Asst. Dean for Undergraduate Scholars Programs, at ptschirhart@colgate.edu.


TBS - online ed symposium 2014


Welcome, Class of 2018!

By Peter Tschirhart on August 25, 2014
Class of 2018 Benton Scholars visit Letchworth State Park near Mt. Morris, NY during Benton Scholars Orientation, 2014.

Class of 2018 Benton Scholars visit Letchworth State Park (near Mt. Morris, NY) during Benton Scholars Orientation, 2014.


From “Korea” to “Corea:” Hannah O’Malley and the ’17 Benton trip

By Peter Tschirhart on August 11, 2014

Hannah O’Malley ’17 has created a blog to chronicle, contemplate, and process her experience on the Benton Scholars’ trip to Korea. Apart from explaining why the country’s name might be spelled “Corea” rather than “Korea,” Hannah encourages us to view travel through a self-critical lens. She writes :

I think it easy to notice and criticize flaws in and make generalizations about other systems without really critically looking back at one’s own system. Over the course of the trip, I tried very hard to think about ways in which we pretty much have the same, or worse, flaws in the US and about what the US can learn from Korea.

She also poses a series of questions inspired by Prof. John Palmer‘s FSEM for the Benton Scholars (fall of 2014):

  • In what ways can the US education system learn from the national curriculum that applies to both public and private schools?
  • How would the US benefit from rigor of the cram schools?
  • Given that K-12 education in both South Korea and the US is driven in part by the university systems in both countries, in what ways might colleges be able to manipulate testing or entrance standards to influence the ways in which K-12 students learn?
  • How can both countries make higher education more accessible and a less elite system?
  • Is there corruption, whether manifest or latent, in our educational system? And if so, where?
  • Who does our educational system serve?

You can see and read much more directly on Hannah’s blog by clicking here.


Benton Scholars in Korea: more from Hannah O’Malley ’17

By Peter Tschirhart on July 23, 2014

Hannah O’Malley ’17 recently wrote about her experience visiting a UN safe-site built in the demilitarized zone that separates North from South Korea. She says:

The building was surrounded by tourists lining up to buy souvenirs like shot glasses, jewelry, and snacks from the shops. I was unnerved that the DMZ has been made into a spectacle that distracts more than it educates visitors about North Korea. My disbelief grew as we were taken to three movie theaters where we watched films about the biodiversity and history of the region and military strategies. With all of the distractions, there was very little attention given to the human rights abuses happening nearby that we had learned about through readings and in class.

Hannah traveled to Korea during May-June 2014 as a member of the Benton Scholars program. You can read Hannah’s post in its entirety by clicking here.


Benton Scholars in Korea: Erin Huiting ’17

By Peter Tschirhart on July 22, 2014

The following pictures and text were provided by Erin Huiting ’17, who returned from the Benton Scholars’ trip to Korea in June, 2014.


At the table in Korea.

At the table in Korea.

Food is such an integral part of the Korean culture. When we first entered a restaurant we would be led graciously to our table, and then we would remove our shoes and sit down. Slowly, but surely, our servers would begin to present us food. We would be given bowels of vegetables, rice, noodles, fish, meats, soups… the food was never-ending, but that kept the conversations and laughter never-ending. By the end of our meal, we would have an array of dishes spread across the table – we could mix and match the different flavors and try so many new foods. Every meal brought something new.

Huiting 2

At Seokgulam Grotto.

The lanterns in the background are a part of Seokgulam Grotto, which is a cave temple that houses a Buddhist shrine. The reason it was built – a young boy’s newfound karma. The story goes: A young boy and his mother worked for a wealthy family, however, they lived in utter poverty. One day, a Buddhist monk visited the estate and the wealthy family gave the monk some donations. After that, the boy assumed the family was so well off because they were charitable towards the Buddhist monk. The next time the boy saw the Buddhist monk, the boy and his mother gave him what little rice they had. A few days later the boy passed away.

However, before the boy passed away, he foretold to his mother that he would be reincarnated in another body. His name would be Kim DaeSeong. Nine months later, the mother gave birth to a baby boy. The baby boy held his fist closed for a whole week, but when he opened up his fist “Kim DaeSeong” was encrypted in Chinese onto his palm – he was her son reincarnated. Eventually, Kim DaeSeong grew up and became a minister. In order to thank the monk for his life, he built the Buddhist temple.

A cable car into the mountains.

On the cable car, heading to Daechongbong.

The Seoraksan National Park was a testament to Korea’s geographic beauty. South Korea isn’t just urban, but the country also has amazing mountains covered with lush forests. We took a cable car up near the peak of Daechongbong, and we climbed the rest of the way towards the very top.

At the peak of Daechongbong.

At the peak of Daechongbong.


Video: Benton Scholars in Korea

By Jason Kammerdiener on July 16, 2014

Professor John Palmer put together the following video slideshows of images capturing the amazing journey of Colgate’s Benton Scholars in South Korea during the summer of 2014.


Benton Scholars in Korea: Hannah O’Malley ’17

By Peter Tschirhart on July 9, 2014

Hannah O’Malley ’17 provides the following pictures and captions from the Benton Scholars’ trip to South Korea.


Colgate hasn't been around nearly as long as Gyeongbokgung Palace, which was completed in 1395.

Colgate hasn’t been around nearly as long as Gyeongbokgung Palace, which was completed in 1395.

Rice farms, like this one in the Hahoe Village, covered the countryside. Even though it is a relatively small country, the South Korean landscape includes mountains, cityscapes, rural expanses and seasides.

Rice farms, like this one in the Hahoe Village, covered the countryside. Even though it is a relatively small country, the South Korean landscape includes mountains, cityscapes, rural expanses and seasides.

Though media outlets may have stopped coverage of the Ferry Accident, homages like this one demonstrated that the memories of the children live on in the hearts of South Koreans.

Though media outlets may have stopped coverage of the Ferry Accident, homages like this one demonstrated that the memories of the children live on in the hearts of South Koreans.

“Named spaces bear witness to history and provide a glimpse into the future.” -John Syme The Sungnyemun Gate was erected in 1398 and embodies significant history—it has been repeatedly repaired after damage by natural causes, colonial rule, the Korean War, and a more recent attempt to burn the structure. Today, it is a national treasure of Seoul that speaks to South Corea’s resilience, an attitude which is behind its push to be a global power.

“Named spaces bear witness to history and provide a glimpse into the future.” -John Syme The Sungnyemun Gate was erected in 1398 and embodies significant history—it has been repeatedly repaired after damage by natural causes, colonial rule, the Korean War, and a more recent attempt to burn the structure. Today, it is a national treasure of Seoul that speaks to South Corea’s resilience, an attitude which is behind its push to be a global power.

It was election season while we were there so political campaigns were everywhere, especially in the more residential areas.

It was election season while we were there so political campaigns were everywhere, especially in the more residential areas.

We had the opportunity to visit an all-boys private middle school and speak to them about their educational experience. Our conversations with the students there sparked reflection and debate about both South Korea's and our own educational system.

We had the opportunity to visit an all-boys private middle school and speak to them about their educational experience. Our conversations with the students there sparked reflection and debate about both South Korea’s and our own educational system. Thank you so much to Dan Benton, Professor John Palmer, Woolim Cho, Peter Tschirhart, Sarah Ficken and the many others who made this experience and continue to make experiences like this possible!!


Benton Scholars in Korea: Brittney Dorow ’17

By Peter Tschirhart on June 23, 2014

Brittney Dorow ’17 recently returned from the Benton Scholars’ trip to South Korea. In this reflection, she discusses her youthful fascination with Asian cultures and her more recent interest in the vibrant mixture of “old and new” in contemporary Korean cityscapes–an interest that has lead her to the International Relations program at Colgate.


Growing up as a young girl with two brothers was a blessing.

I lived a life essentially free from gender. Yes, I was a female who loved dresses and tea parties and dress up dolls, but I was not limited to exploring one side of a culture many find to be split by sex. I played with cars, liked to wrestle and mess around, and I was equally as pleased to get the Pokemon Card as I was the Polly Pocket toy with my Happy Meal.

I think the greatest thing that came about being raised so openly centered on film and television.

One of my fondest memories was coming home from school on Friday’s to find my brothers down in the basement and a Japanese monster movie plugged in the VHS. I grew up watching these foreign films, moving from Godzilla movies with the boys, to dramatic and adventurous anime as I entered my teen years.

Overtime, my love for Asian culture developed. Entering into high school, it was safe to say I was obsessed. Watching anime and Korean Dramas with my friends while I picked at my meal with a pair of plastic chopsticks, I allowed myself to fall in love with it all, the people, the food, the fashion and so on.

More than anything else, I was enamored with the Asian city. Particularly in anime and film, I became fascinated with urban structure, a melting pot which combined the urban landscape of New York with the culture of traditional life. When I first discovered I could travel to Korea, I saw the perfect opportunity to finally see for myself if the culture I’d grown to idolize had been portrayed accurately or not.

A street market in South Korea.

A street market in South Korea.

I am happy to say, it had.

My picture shows one of the first markets we the Bentons explored in South Korea. Even from a glance, you can see the blending of new and old culture which I had hoped to find on this trip.

Tall industrialized buildings lit up with electric lights and neon signs.

Inside, traditional fans, bowls, street foods and cloth are sold.

Overall, I was not disappointed, but rather, in awe of the cultural phenomenon that is an Asian city, particularly a marketplace. I found a place of acceptance, of peaceful cultural blending, and well a preservation.

Most importantly, seeing a place like this reminded me why I love the study of culture and how I truly want to pursue my major in International Relations. I want to fall in love with all the cultures of the world, and feel this amazement for the rest of my life.

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