The Denison experience is unlike any other. We prepare our students for lives of professional, personal, and civic success. Data from our 2014 administration of the National Survey of Student Engagement reveal ways in which the Denison curricular and co-curricular experience prepares students for successful lives after college.
Denison provides an intellectually rigorous curriculum. Denison seniors were significantly more likely to report that their coursework emphasized higher-order thinking than seniors at similar institutions, which are represented here as the Carnegie classification. Specifically, Denison students were more likely to report:
A Denison education is not about rote memorization of facts. In fact, Denison students are significantly more likely than students at similar institutions (represented here as Carnegie) to report that their coursework prompts reflective and integrative learning. Specifically, Denison seniors were significantly more likely to report having:
Note: These graphs compare Denison data to “Carnegie” and “National.” As classified by the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education, Denison’s Carnegie Classification is Baccalaureate Colleges—Arts & Sciences, thus comparing Denison to a group of similar institutions, mostly comprised of small, private colleges. “National” represents the data from all 983 institutions participating in the National Survey of Student Engagement in 2013 or 2014.
Denison students are highly engaged in the co-curriculum, and 75% of Denison seniors report having held a formal leadership role in a student organization, which is significantly higher than students at similar institutions.
The Denison curriculum places a high emphasis on students’ ability to write well. Denison students reported writing significantly more than students at peer institutions (measured in number of pages).
Denison professors are scholars in their fields but also are masters in the crafts of teaching and advising. Denison seniors rated the quality of their interactions with their faculty advisors significantly higher than students at other Carnegie institutions.
Denison is a pluralistic community. The Denison experience provides opportunity to dialogue and learn from others. Denison students report dialoguing with others who are different than them (in terms of race, economic background, and political views) significantly more often than students at similar institutions.
Denison students actively engage in the opportunities offered by Denison. In comparison to seniors at Carnegie institutions, Denison seniors were significantly more likely to have conducted research with faculty, completed an internship or field experience, or studied abroad.
In comparison to seniors at other Carnegie institutions, Denison students were significantly more likely to say that their college experience contributed to knowledge, skills and personal development in: writing clearly and effectively, speaking clearly and effectively, and thinking critically and analytically.
Students indicated how their experience at Denison has contributed to skills, knowledge and personal development in ways that connect to our core student learning outcomes. (Sources: National Survey of Student Engagement 2014; EBI Resident Survey 2014)
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My Experience at Denison...
My liberal arts experience at Denison has really helped me to adjust to law school. Denison’s small classroom sizes and emphasis on student participation prepared me for the classroom demands of law school. Through my years at Denison, I learned how to articulate my thoughts and contribute to meaningful discussion, which eased the anxiety that comes with class participation at times. Moreover, the abundance of leadership opportunities at Denison provided me with the ability to feel comfortable in those types of roles at Moritz. More specifically, my time as a Resident Assistant built the foundation for a lasting commitment to leadership roles at the school that require a lot of responsibility. Not only did my Denison leadership positions make me feel prepared, but they also made my employers and advisors feel as though I am qualified for new responsibilities.
Denison’s emphasis on involvement in civic activities planted a commitment in me to work in furtherance of others and not just myself. With law school comes loads of debt, but making money has never been my end goal upon graduation. After my involvement in Legal Aid Society through Denison Community Association, I knew that I wanted to provide my services to those most in need. This was solidified even more after my time abroad in Santiago, Chile. Thanks to this wonderful opportunity provided by Denison, I learned more about my passions and decided to pursue a career in immigration law. Through connections made at Denison, I currently clerk for an immigration firm in Columbus, helping others follow their dreams in the United States. As an added bonus, I get to put my degree to good use and practice my Spanish every day.
“A Denison education is truly invaluable. It may sound like a cliché MasterCard tagline, but I do believe that it's impossible to measure the many ways that Denison has shaped my life. I attribute my success in graduate school and in my first professional position to the great instruction and opportunities in the classroom. Denison helped me meet people from very different backgrounds, and to appreciate difference. It helped me take a myriad of interests and find a common theme to connect them all. Denison challenged me to be comfortable with ambiguity and complexity in situations lacking clear answers. Furthermore, it taught me that most situations, in fact, do not have one clear truth. My education helped me challenge the status quo, feel empowered to impact the larger community, and take risks.”
“A Denison education is an extreme “best value”: never could I have expected to form such long-lasting and deep relationships, to have life-changing conversations with brilliant professors, to take on a real-life leadership position managing 100 volunteers (which would get me not just one but two jobs post-graduation), or to be pushed so far out of my comfort zone that I don't even recognize myself at the end.”
This past year I taught the English language to 8th through 12th-grade students in eastern Bulgaria, a challenge for which Denison most certainly helped me prepare. In addition to leading students in speaking and writing exercises, I was also expected to teach about my own “American experience,” an experience significantly shaped by my time at Denison.
My four years at Denison helped me sharpen the intellectual tools and practical skills to appreciate other cultures and global narratives. My Geography classes with Professor Frolking, and courses in my two majors, History and International Studies, piqued my curiosity about how other people live and think. My senior research projects in History and International Studies pushed me to analyze a subject inside and out and consolidate what I had learned into a (not so short) cumulative paper and final presentation to faculty and fellow classmates. Winter break trips to Washington D.C., Atlanta, and Birmingham introduced me to the complexities of education and immigration outside of Ohio and my native Minnesota. I have Denison to thank for introducing me to classmates hailing from Granville, Ohio to Seoul, South Korea. These assorted intellectual and social opportunities that Denison has offered me have ultimately strengthened my planning, writing, speaking, evaluating, and coaching skills which have been key responsibilities as a teacher in a foreign community.
Denison helped me prepare tremendously for the post-graduate chapter of my life by emphasizing the values of life-long learning, embracing and succeeding in uncomfortable situations, and demonstrating compassion regardless of my profession.
My Denison experience has prepared me exceptionally for the engagements that I am currently involved in relating to sustainability, food justice, and social justice advocacy. My curricular, as well as co-curricular activities at Denison exposed me to the complexity and intersectionality of global systems, as well as deepened my interests in food, ecology, and agriculture. Serving as a 2015-2016 AmeriCorps VISTA Member at Tremont West Development Corporation in Cleveland, Ohio coordinating food access initiatives after graduation, and now as a Program Fellow at The Food Recovery Network in College Park, Maryland supporting West Coast colleges and universities in fighting waste and feeding people, has made me realize ever more the power of the Denison experience. Ironically, it was at Denison where I first heard of The Food Recovery Network (where we have a chapter!) and now where I work to support my alma mater, as well as 190+ chapters across the country in food justice initiatives. My gratitude for the college is immense, and it is especially clear to me now as it was during my admission journey, that choosing to attend Denison was the best choice for my personal, as well as professional development.
“I believe my Denison experience has definitely prepared me well for my professional journey, especially in three aspects:
1. Never just say “I don't know.” Say “I'll look into it” instead. In other words, attitude matters. In my first official job review, my boss told me that my attitude is my biggest asset. When tasked with something new or daunting, I said, “I don't know how to do it, but I'll look into it.” My employer was a young entrepreneurial company. We were just launching a new open source CRM system. Nobody wanted or had the time to study the 600-page admin manual. So I said, “I'll look into it”, and I finished reading the whole manual in a week and started practicing what I learned. When the company was looking to streamline our core business process, I built a new module with our CRM so that two teams can connect with each other seamlessly. I never knew I'd become an IT guy. It's my research experience at Denison that makes me more prepared to take on new challenges. Teaching myself new things from scratch is not daunting to me, because that's how I learned when doing research or taking research classes at Denison. It's just different subjects in professional life.
2. Work with people. I worked a lot and did a lot of extracurricular activities at Denison, most of which involved interacting with other people. I worked in groups with other students in some classes, with professors and peer researchers to complete semester-long research projects, and with fellow RAs and HRs when I was on the Residential Education staff. I learned a good team is so much more than the sum of all the individuals in it. So when I started my professional life, it's very comfortable for me to work with other people: co-workers, bosses, clients, or external contractors. This makes me very effective in leveraging bigger projects. Working well with people is very important because projects at work take more than one individual to complete. You have to work with other people to get it done. If you enjoy that and know how to make people work better as a team, then you are in a very good place. There are self-help books that teach you how to do better teamwork, but it's nowhere near the experiences I've had from the four years at Denison.
3. Follow your heart. After working full time for less than a year, I was offered partnership by my employer but decided to quit my job instead to start my own company. I saw a need and envisioned a better solution for communication and collaboration between companies engaging in international trade. They need something better than email to orchestrate the complicated processes to get their products across the ocean and borders. I think I came up with one such tool that could do just that. Staying longer with my previous company wouldn’t necessarily help me in getting that tool built and tested, so I decided to quit my job and return to China to give it a try. I call this following my heart. When I was at Denison, I picked most of my classes following my heart; applied for jobs and clubs that interested me the most, and talked with great people who followed their heart and never regretted it. Those experiences turned out to be very influential in the way I think, behave, and treat people. So when I faced a tough decision, the Denison experience made the decision-making process much easier. So I followed my heart. In that sense, my Denison education supported my professional effectiveness.”
“Denison taught me to take initiative in my own growth and learning. I learned to ask questions and do my own digging when I want to understand more about a subject. I learned that my learning is in my hands. There are so many resources available post-graduation these days for you to expand your professional skills and understanding. The sports and entertainment business is always changing - so for me, it's critical to grow and develop with it. You must know how to learn.”
“Denison taught me to prioritize. I used to be a perfectionist, but Denison taught me that it's impossible to do everything perfectly. You have to pick what's important to you. A friend once told me that life is a juggling act. You are juggling glass balls and rubber balls. You are eventually going to drop some of the balls. Just make sure that you keep the glass ones in the air. I love that! And what constitutes a glass ball is different for everyone. I see a lot of other women like myself who want to do everything perfectly. And that's impossible - especially if you want to have both a career and a family.”
“At Denison, I was a part of Amnesty International. It taught me to have a global outlook and a sense of social awareness. It's easy to get overwhelmed with all the issues of the world and to think ‘there are so many huge problems in the world and I'm just one person, I can't make a difference.’ But Amnesty International club taught me that you can make little changes that have an impact. For example, you can write a letter or make conscious decisions about what you buy. There are so many affordable, sustainable, fair trade products out there now. I recently decided to switch out all my soaps, shampoo, and lotion in favor of more biodegradable products without Parabens, BHA, TEA, Siloxanes, Sulfates, and other harmful chemicals - better for the wildlife, the higher paid factory workers, and for my health!”
“My training in math and physics at Denison (including summer research opportunities) prepared me well to handle graduate coursework and research. The liberal arts curriculum at Denison also strengthened my interpersonal skills. And in academia, relational skills are just as important as research skills.”
We encourage students to explore and to take full advantage of the liberal arts. The very core of the liberal arts is that we prepare students to be successful in whatever profession they choose to pursue by providing them with skills in critical thinking, effective written and oral communication, leadership and civic engagement, and individual agency. Through these core outcomes, we prepare students to live and lead in a complex, global society.