Thank you for being a great generation of Denisonians. I was inspired this fall (as I am every semester) by the work you are doing across campus. This starts in the classroom and then extends across campus, to the performances on athletic fields and artistic venues, to the work you are doing both on campus and in the local community.
As we get ready to start the second semester, I want to repeat what I wrote to you in August. My hope and desire is that every student will use this semester to dive into their academics. As liberal arts students, you experience a form of education that every student deserves and far too few have the opportunity to receive. Take advantage of it by being academically engaged, getting to know your faculty, taking a wide range of courses, and diving deep into your course work. Savor every class and maximize every reading, assignment and lecture. You will look back on your life with gratitude or regret based on how committed you were to your academics.
During the break, I have been reflecting on campus life at Denison. In particular, I have been reading and thinking about three areas:
Career Exploration: A Denison education should unlock your potential to be the architect of your own life. Denison gives you a remarkable opportunity to explore three questions: what kind of life do I want to live, how do careers and professions allow people to build those kinds of lives, and how do I start to develop the skills, values, habits, networks and experiences to get started.
To help you along this path, we continue to launch and expand The Knowlton Center which is heavily focused on internships and externships, connecting students to our amazing alumni network, and offering programs that help get you ready to interview and succeed. The Knowlton Center is also partnering with our Office of Alumni and Family Engagement on Denison Connecting, which is a new platform of programs to help recent alumni find their professional path. Please pay attention to the range of programs coming out of the Knowlton Center including OnBoard, First Looks, CRISP and Bootcamp. Visit with the staff, but most important stay on top of the programs they are offering and take advantage of them.
Social Inclusion and Respect: I want to acknowledge, appreciate and respect the wide range of students who are focused on social inclusion and respect. My hope is that Denison will become the benchmark college for making social inclusion and respect a defining value and habit. For me, this means being an inclusive community where every member of our community feels valued, listened to and respected.
Our students, faculty and staff bring an incredible range of life experiences, voices, and views to campus. This makes Denison a more vibrant, relevant, healthier community. It also means being a community where sexual assault never happens and where hateful speech cannot occur because of the respect we have for each other and the ways we treat and look out for each other. Denisonians care about each other and we have an opportunity to be a campus that gets this right. This work is core to who we are and the college we aspire to be.
Developing new approaches to health: We are developing a new paradigm that helps students develop the skills, values and habits of health. There is a lot of exciting work being done around this issue across a range of disciplines. Students have been talking about it in terms of the need to manage stress and mental health.
Over the last few years, we have been piloting some new approaches, especially more integrative approaches to addressing health. Our goal is to support students in moments of crisis, while also focusing on prevention. This means helping students understand the connections between daily life habits (e.g. nutrition, sleep, stress reduction) and health. As part of this conversation we will also focus on facilities, and we are in the process of designing either a major renovation to Whisler or constructing a new building. We are also exploring ways to connect students to a range of people who can help you develop strong life skills and habits that lead to health.
Our work on these issues is wide and deep, but I want to briefly mention a few areas where we are working that you will hear more about this semester. Each of these are connected to the issues above:
Residential Communities and The Red Frame Lab: This fall we launched our Residential Communities Team with a focus on engaging students more in creating healthy, resilient and dynamic communities in our residential halls. Residential halls play a huge role in your life at Denison. We also opened The Red Frame Lab (in Slayter) with a focus on design thinking and entrepreneurial activity.
Both of these are attempts to put students front and center in driving campus life by helping you develop the capacity to engage each other in creative problem solving that is solution - rather than problem - focused. This kind of problem solving relies on asking the right question, being an astute observer and empathic listener, engaging with others to incorporate multiple perspectives, generating and testing lots of ideas (sometimes crazy, big ideas) and then testing the best to find the flaws early and make refinements, all in the service of designing solutions that work.
Renovating residential halls: We have hired an architectural firm who will be working with us on plans to renovate our residential halls. This is an exciting opportunity to also engage in a campus conversation about residential living on campus and how we want to use our spaces. This conversation will include a focus on ways to renovate rooms, bathrooms and other common areas. It will also include a conversation about how to create social spaces. Our goal will be to create spaces that bring people together, especially across differences, to learn to live together.
Taking advantage of the Columbus Metropolitan Region: We have a beautiful campus located in an idyllic village that is part of a dynamic, relevant and changing metropolitan region. We are doing more work to connect with people, organizations and initiatives throughout the Columbus Metropolitan region that strengthen our work. For example: connecting with Columbus businesses and non-profit organizations to provide internships, externships and lectures on campus, and finding more ways for students to get into Newark where interesting work is being on community development. The Denison Arts Space in Newark is one expression of that work.
This is a great college and you are a fantastic generation of Denisonians. Here is to a great semester.