Former Massachusetts Governor Jane Swift ’87 Discusses Importance of Intellectual Diversity

Churchill Institute Sponsors Event to Encourage Free Thought and Academic Debate

​Hartford, Connecticut, April 24, 2017 – Trinity alumna and former Massachusetts Governor Jane Swift ’87 returned to campus recently to discuss the importance of intellectual diversity.

​Former Massachusetts Governor Jane Swift ’87 (center) with members of Kappa Kappa Gamma. Photo courtesy of Maggie McLennan ’17.
Prior to her time as the governor of Massachusetts from 2001 to 2003, Swift was the youngest member ever elected to the Massachusetts State Senate, having served from 1991 to 1997. Since leaving politics, she has directed multiple education- and science-related organizations, including WellCare Health Plans, K12, and Sally Ride Science. Swift’s current roles include CEO of Middlebury Interactive Languages, a digital language learning platform, and as a visiting lecturer in leadership studies at Williams College. During her time at Trinity, Swift was an American studies major, a founding member of Kappa Kappa Gamma, and a member of the women’s rugby team.

Swift drew upon her past and current experiences to examine the significance of intellectual diversity in three areas: the workplace, the classroom, and in social relationships. Since much of her work experience has been in politics, she began by discussing intellectual diversity in political leadership.

Swift talked about some of the changes she has observed in politics over the years. Referring to her time as governor and state senator, she said, “Then, those with different ideas for government still listened and had respect for each other and valued each other’s idea.” She expressed discontent with the current polarization in politics and said, “Lots of debate and conversation result in better policy.” Furthering her point, Swift said, “No one knows everything about everything. Diversity of thought and mutual respect are critical to improving ideas and solving issues.”

Swift went on to discuss diversity of leadership in the business realm. She explained that the diversity that many students may have experienced in their high schools and hometowns is not an accurate reflection of the diversity in the real world. Due to this disparity, Swift asserted that colleges must strive for intellectual diversity to prepare students for the workplace and for life. Additionally, she explained how diversity in the workplace can yield positive results. For example, she referred to data illustrating the many benefits resulting from gender diversity in the workplace, including an increase in the amount and type of ideas and perspectives that inform business decisions.

In wrapping up her talk, Swift addressed the importance of intellectual diversity in social relationships. She told the audience how a fellow student at Trinity asked if her (Swift’s) admission to the College was due to her double-minority status (Italian and Catholic). Swift indicated that the question demonstrated a lack of intellectual diversity in that student’s social relationships, and that it illustrated how out of touch one can become without intellectual diversity. Acknowledging her own lack of intellectual diversity, Swift said, “I never thought that Trump had a chance to win the presidential election, and when he did, I realized I had become an elite. I had to accept that much of the population had the inability to believe upward mobility exists, and that a lack of intellectual diversity in my social relationships prevented me from realizing that sooner.”

In her conclusion, Swift emphasized how important it is for Trinity students to appreciate the opportunities they have and to embrace intellectual diversity in their daily lives. “It is our responsibility to understand other points of view,” she said.

Swift’s discussion was organized and hosted by the Churchill Institute, which was created in 2016 in affiliation with the Alexander Hamilton Institute. Trinity Professor of Political Science Gregory Smith serves as the Institute’s president and chairman of the Board of Directors. The Institute’s mission is to “encourage, in every way possible, serious teaching, learning and scholarship about Western Civilization, and to promote a vigorous discussion of its preservation and future trajectory.”

Michael Fries ’18, an undergraduate research fellow for the Institute, said, “We believe that given the current climate of higher education, without a group maintaining these traditions, it’s too easy for debates to become one-sided and for academia to become self-congratulatory.”

Written by Annelise Gilbert ’17