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...
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 education prepared me to deal with people from a variety of backgrounds and perspectives as I began my adult life and career. Like most Denisonians, my Denison education was not only in the classroom. The level of expected community involvement is very high at Denison, so Denison taught me how to balance “work” with the other things I was passionate about being involved with. The quality of the liberal arts education that Denison provides is truly outstanding. The writing and researching skills that I honed at Denison keep me well above my peers both at work and when I was in graduate school. The ability to communicate clearly and efficiently in my writing has helped me excel professionally and provided me opportunities I wouldn’t naturally pursue.”
“During my time at Denison I made friends that I treasure and found passions and hobbies that I didn’t know I had, but Denison does that to everyone! Specifically I learned the importance of creating a family of friends. Since so many of Denison’s students are from out of state, and we all live on The Hill, it is crucially important to create a chosen family. Learning how to open up to people and ask for help when you need it is important, and very important as a young adult. Denison allows, and encourages, professors and staff to mentor students and create bonds with them, there for guidance and advice. Denison is full of some of the most wonderful people on earth, and creating my own chosen family while I was there taught me that you can have family no matter where you are geographically.”
“Personally, while at Denison I was lucky enough to be able to study abroad. I chose to study in Germany partially because of some amazing classes I took at Denison about German history and culture. We have an amazing faculty who are experts in their field and are eager to open student’s eyes to the “outside world.” Denison encouraged me to engage with global issues through study abroad, and those experiences really influenced the rest of my education.”
Denison prepared me for life after college by fostering connections, both among individuals, and enabling me to draw connections among ideas.
Denison is made up of exceptional people. Growing up in rural Ohio, most of my peers had a similar story to mine, but Denison gave me the opportunity to live and learn with new friends who had different outlooks on life. I grew a great deal personally because friendships and exchange of ideas with my peers pushed me to evaluate how I see the world. The faculty and staff at Denison are also top-notch. Individuals who began as supervisors or professors grew to be trusted friends and mentors. These mentors pushed me to take challenging and diverse courses, think critically, and do things I never thought possible. The idea to publish my work never crossed my mind as an undergraduate, but several faculty members pushed me throughout my research and writing process to get me there—I even co-published with my senior research advisor!
A Denison education also prepares students to make connections of ideas, a skill valuable both in the workplace, and life in general. Whether I was in a general education course, or a course for one of my majors, my experience in other courses was always applicable. Class discussions are vibrant because individuals are prepared, and encouraged to share and make connections from other disciplines. Denison also encouraged my innate desire to understand how things work, rather than simply memorizing and restating facts in a paper. Students are encouraged to delve deep into subject matter and find the “why.” My Denison experience uniquely prepared me for my current position not because of the facts I learned, but by the ways in which I learned. I didn’t study marketing, and neither did most of my peers—my company regularly employs students of the liberal arts because we are uniquely positioned to communicate and write effectively, understand complex ideas and systems, and draw connections. Denison students are the ultimate “doers,” and take the preparation traditionally offered by liberal arts schools to the next level.
“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.”
“I learned more about politics, religious differences, world events, racism, prejudice, pride, gay rights, and social justice during my time at Denison than I did in all of my other years combined. I felt safe enough to truly grapple with some of the world's (and my own) biggest issues while at Denison: the life altering conversations with peers and professors still stick with me today. That type of engagement and commitment — I haven't found it anywhere else.”
I was pleasantly surprised at how easy the transition into my first “real world” job was. The skills I learned as an orientation leader, Admissions Senior Interviewer and chair of the D-Day committee translated seamlessly into my current role in the Campus Leadership Programs department at the American Association of University Women (AAUW). At AAUW, I coordinate three programs that allow college students to use AAUW resources to implement activism and make a change on their campuses. The event coordination, volunteer management and creative marketing skills I learned at Denison gave me the professional experience that qualified me for this position.
The education I received at Denison not only made a profound impact on my ability to write and communicate well, but most importantly, taught me how to think critically. From my first “Introduction to Feminism” class to my senior research project on “The Politics of the N-Word through a White, Privileged Perspective,” my classes helped me understand issues through a global, feminist lens and challenged me to recognize my own privilege and social location. My coursework in Communication and Women’s Studies taught me how to incorporate intersectionality into everything I do, something that has proved invaluable in my work at a women’s advocacy non-profit.
My courses and professors introduced me to theories and ideas that shaped my personal growth as a student, as a writer and as a feminist, but it was my classmates, roommates, teammates and friends who helped me grow the most during my four years on the Hill. After I graduated, I began searching for a community similar to the ones I had at Denison. One of the first things I did when I first moved to DC was join the Women’s Information Network (WIN), a social and professional network for “Pro-Choice, Democratic” women. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the current Chair of that organization is a Denison graduate.
Denison helped me realize how important civic engagement was to my everyday life. Whether it was knocking on doors in Newark to help register people to vote, or planning Denison’s first ever “Equal Pay Day rally,” I sought out ways to engage my community and encourage others to take action. There are many different ways to get involved at Denison – take advantage of the classes, guest speakers and organizations that teach you how to become an active citizen, outspoken advocate and compassionate ally. I feel privileged to be able to continue advocacy work in my career and encourage other Denison students to follow their passions after they graduate.
When I started at Denison as a freshman in 2010, I had no plans to go into the private sector – frankly, I had no idea where I’d end up. Four years later, I’d had an amazing and formative experience as a student at Denison, and I knew that Nielsen – a leading global market research company – was the right place for me to begin my career journey. It was at Denison that I developed my love of research, and gained very practical real-world experience as a research assistant.
Now that I’m here at Nielsen, I find the habits and mindsets that I picked up at Denison help me every day. Since I don’t come from a business school background, I was nervous that I’d be behind the curve as I started in my new role. It turns out that my experience has been just the opposite. Sure, it took a few weeks to pick up all of the new vocabulary, but market research is, at its heart, all about analysis, drawing out insights, and communicating them clearly and effectively both internally and to clients – all skills that I developed in the classroom and in leadership roles at Denison. Additionally, the adaptable mindset that I developed at Denison comes in handy when I need to learn how to use a new platform, or build a new type of report.
One of Nielsen’s core values is openness. That’s an attitude that I learned very early on at Denison. Now, I find that I listen to new ideas with receptivity, and I don’t turn down an invitation to work on a new project because it seems unrealistic or out of reach. The ability to take risks and to push the boundaries of my comfort zone has made me much more valuable to my team, and will be important factors as I move forward both professionally and personally!
“My Denison education taught me how to think analytically and critically. It helped me hone my writing skills, both in writing long research papers but also shorter, more policy memo-like papers. These skills have been incredibly helpful as I spent three years working in various think tanks in DC—first at the Pew Charitable Trusts and then two years at the Brookings Institution. They have also served me well so far in my graduate program at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton, where I work on public policy and write a lot of memos. In addition to the critical thinking and writing skills I honed at Denison, I benefited from the small class size. I always felt that I was able to, and encouraged to, share my opinion in class. While I still get nervous speaking in front of a group of people in an office environment, my experience at Denison taught me that my opinions matter, especially when I can share them thoughtfully and analytically.”
“I have greatly benefited from the connections I made at Denison. I developed a great relationship with my advisor, and he has helped me hone in on what I want to do. I have stayed in touch since I graduated and we have gotten dinner once a year for the last three years when he has been in DC. These are the types of connections that would not be possible at other schools.”
“My experience in economics and political science at Denison helped lead me to a summer internship in DC between my junior and senior years of college. I loved DC so much that I knew I wanted to be back after graduation. With the skills I honed at Denison and recommendations from fantastic professors, I was able to secure a competitive one-year fellowship at the Pew Charitable Trusts. I actively worked on fiscal and economic policy issues and found that I was interested in this type of policy work. I then moved to the Brookings Institution and spent two years working on various aspects of health policy. When I realized I needed the data skills to advance in my career, I applied to graduate school. I knew from my educational and career experience that I wanted to go into public policy so applied to the Master in Public Affairs program at Princeton. I believe that my commitment to public service, starting with Denison and fostered throughout my career, helped get me into such a prestigious school. After graduation, I hope to continue this public service in the federal government.”
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.