Not a Prize but a Calling: Winter Updates

Theda Skocpol photo

“I urge all of you to find such settings in your lives—get out of your professional bubbles, hear what others have to say in their own words about community matters, including people who harbor views you cannot share. Fight all necessary battles with unswerving commitment and energy. But also find various ways to listen to others and interact as an equal with a broad range of fellow citizens and human beings.”

           —Theda Skocpol (ΦBK, Radcliffe College)

At Harvard’s 2022 ΦBK induction, renowned sociologist and political scientist Theda Skocpol reminded us that academic achievement and accolades “are not a prize; they are a calling to do one’s utmost to serve the common good.” As ΦBK celebrates its 246th anniversary this winter, Skocpol’s words are an important reminder of the benefits of liberal arts and sciences education for individuals and communities.

The idea of college as a personal benefit has framed narratives and policies about higher education for many years. But a recent article by Karin Fischer in The Chronicle of Higher Education documents “The Return of College as a Common Good.” A new survey finds that many Americans want greater assurance that the benefits of a college degree are more accessible for their fellow citizens. Another suggests that constituents see the broad contributions of higher education to their communities. A poll commissioned by the Virginia Business Higher Education Council found that 76% of Virginians agreed with the statement that the state’s college presidents were helping challenges facing the state and the country.

On campuses and in communities, the work of the Society today attests to the lifelong value of a liberal arts and sciences education that fosters scientific inquiry, liberty of conscience, critical thinking, and creative endeavor for all. As 2023 approaches, here are some ways that new inductees, interested members, chapter volunteers, and association leaders can continue to answer Skocpol’s call.

• Now, before the busy start to federal and state legislative sessions, is a critical time for you to welcome new and returning legislators and educate them about issues that matter to you. Visit the Society’s toolkit resources section at for tips and suggestions. You can also sign up for our State of the Arts & Sciences e-alert for opportunities to engage on issues ranging from book bans to the Pell Grant program. 

• Later this winter the Society will host a best- practices webinar featuring prominent members who work in advocacy geared especially toward recent graduates. This session will introduce you to new opinion shapers building on ΦBK’s legacy of change leaders including NAACP founder W.E.B. Dubois, environmentalist Rachel Carson, pioneering social worker Jane Addams, and disability rights advocate Helen Keller. Kindly write to to receive an invitation to the event.

• Through January 23, our Key into Public Service program invites applications from liberal arts and sciences majors attending any of our 290+ chapters for a $5,000 undergraduate scholarship and educational conference exploring pathways into local, state, or federal government careers. Students may apply at

No matter what 2023 brings us in the year ahead, count on the National Arts & Sciences Initiative team for lively reading and opportunities to make a difference.