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Higher Education and the Common Good

Seminar Center for Global Humanities Lecture/Seminar Series

Charles Dorn

Charles Dorn

Associate Professor and Chair, Education Department, Bowdoin College

Over the course of two centuries, as Americans established colleges and universities across the nation, they stridently declared higher education’s commitment to advancing the common good. Yet as distinguishing a characteristic as this has been, we know surprisingly little about how higher education institutions actually achieved this goal. Examining the founding decades of ten very different colleges and universities, this lecture will address such questions as: Why, historically, did higher education leaders extol promoting the public good as a central purpose? What forces, on campus and off, influenced its adoption? How did students respond, if at all, to assertions that they were obliged to use their higher educations for the benefit of the public good rather than their own private advantage? And — perhaps most importantly — what challenges have colleges and universities confronted in maintaining a commitment to the common good over time?


Charles Dorn is Associate Professor and Chair of the Education Department at Bowdoin College. He earned his B.A. in American Studies from The George Washington University, his M.A. in Education from Stanford University, and his Ph.D. in Education from the University of California, Berkeley. His work has appeared in the American Journal of Education, Diplomatic History, Teachers College Record, and History of Education Quarterly and he is the author of American Education, Democracy and the Second World War (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007). His Center for Global Humanities lecture is drawn from research for his current book project, For Common Ends and for the Common Good: A New History of Higher Education in America and is forthcoming from Cornell University Press.


WCHP Lecture Hall in Parker Pavilion
716 Stevens Avenue
Portland, ME 04103

Assigned Reading

Charles Dorn, From “Liberal Professions” to “Lucrative Professions”: Bowdoin College, Stanford University, and the Civic Functions of Higher Education (Teachers College Record Volume 113, Number 7, July 2011, pp. 1566–1596)


(207) 221-4435

Charles Dorn CGH Event Poster
6:00 PM
WCHP Lecture Hall in Parker Pavilion

Portland Campus

Free and open to the public