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The purpose of Pillar #1 is to construct a bold new "thematic backbone" that creates powerful, reinforcing linkages across and among Earlham curricular and co-curricular programs, offerings, and activities in a way that credibly and compellingly differentiates Earlham from peer institutions. While other Pillars of the Earlham Strategic Plan are designed primarily to help Earlham "clean up current offerings and practices" or "catch up with competitors," Pillar #1 aims to leapfrog the competition, establishing a clear and sustainable long-term identity for Earlham as an institution that produces graduates uniquely equipped to navigate the challenges of an increasingly complex world. Gaining clarity and focus and developing clear interconnectedness among programs will also enable the College to develop a powerful marketing campaign and to attract and retain a significantly larger pool of highly qualified right-fit students.

At the heart of Pillar #1 lies EPIC, which will serve as a “hub” for multidisciplinary, project-based, thematic scholarship, coursework, and related activity and thus is the central vehicle for creating the integrated thematic backbone around which Earlham’s curricular and co-curricular programs will interact. Pedagogically, the Institute is intended to amplify “high-impact practices” shown by research (e.g., Kuh, 2008) to increase student engagement, strengthen intellectual connections, and significantly aid in both retention and matriculation.