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Dartmouth Celebrates the Melding of the Liberal Arts and Technology

May 23, 2022   |   Dartmouth Call to Lead

The Innovation & Technology Festival marked the opening of the new West End District, where students and faculty will shape interdisciplinary solutions to complex challenges.

Photo by Shawn G. Henry

Thousands of students, alumni, parents, faculty, staff, and Upper Valley residents attended the Dartmouth Innovation and Technology Festival, held May 12–14 to celebrate the grand opening of the West End District of campus.

Dartmouth developed the West End to enhance the College's already vaunted liberal arts program by making computer science and engineering courses available to every undergraduate — providing them with the technological literacy necessary in nearly all professions today — and to create a crossroads where students and faculty from all disciplines will meet, share knowledge and perspectives, and transform ideas into products and services with broad impact.

"The question is, how do we make change? How do we get people to be in that we-must-disrupt-ourselves mentality?"

Kristen Morrow Johnson '92 Th'94

An exploration of issues, ideas, and new buildings

Over the festival's three days, dozens of thought leaders shared insights into many of the world's most pressing issues, from female-driven innovation in health care and the ethics of artificial intelligence to combatting climate change and the role of cryptocurrency in global commerce.

Visitors explored two new West End buildings: the Class of 1982 Engineering and Computer Science Center, which the community dedicated on Friday, and the Arthur L. Irving Institute for Energy and Society. They watched a student start-up competition and celebrated the awarding of the first McGuire Family Prize for Societal Impact.

Guests also took in student presentations, gave virtual reality a try, checked out student-made hybrid and electric racecars, and enjoyed a Friday evening light show.

Photo by Chris Turner

A gift that comes with responsibility

US Senator Rob Portman '78 and Dr. Freeman Hrabowski III served as keynote speakers. Senator Portman emphasized the need for the US to remain at the forefront of technological advancement as it competes with China, and he lauded the power of a liberal arts education.

Hrabrowski, who in 30 years as president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County has transformed his institution into a nationally recognized hotbed of innovation, stressed the importance of diversity in teaching and research, including the benefits of having a socioeconomic mix of students and faculty and the value of focusing multiple disciplines on complex challenges.

On Saturday morning, featured speaker Dave Girouard '88 Th'89, cofounder and CEO of Upstart, an artificial intelligence lending platform, recounted his career from Apple to Google and then Upstart — and he cautioned guests that launching a business often means days filled with one difficult problem after another.

"Entrepreneurship isn't fun in the moment. But it's meaningful, it's impactful, and it feels great."

Dave Girouard '88 Th'89, cofounder and CEO of Upstart

Speaking at the festival's concluding event — the One Dartmouth Start-Up Competition Finals presented by the Magnuson Center for Entrepreneurship — Trustee Jeff Crowe '78 asked students and faculty to appreciate how alumni and friends had committed nearly $200 million to construct the Class of 1982 Center.

"This is a gift to all of you, but it comes with a responsibility. We have a vision that you all can change the world."

Jeff Crowe '78, Trustee

Photo by Michael Manning

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