Maximize Your Intellectual Experience at Denison
by
Adam Weinberg
February 6, 2018
Students in a classroom talking in pairs

Dear Students:

I hope your semester is off to a great start. As we head into the busy stretch of the semester, I want to offer some advice on ways to maximize your intellectual experience at Denison by diving into your courses, getting to know your professors, and taking advantage of opportunities to participate fully in the intellectual life on campus.   

1. Seek opportunities to do independent academic research. The Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) has recognized Denison as a leader in undergraduate research with the organization’s 2017 Award for Undergraduate Research Accomplishments (AURA). This annual award recognizes institutions that have developed exemplary programs providing high-quality research experiences to undergraduates. I encourage you to look for ways to delve into topics that you are curious about under the individual guidance of a faculty mentor. Work in a lab or pursue a directed study, make a plan to conduct senior or summer research.   

2. Engage in events featuring visiting scholars and artists. We are incredibly fortunate to have such an exciting array of lectures, panels, and exhibitions coming up in the next few weeks. Learn about your professors' intellectual passions at one of the Lisska Center's Monday Musings. Join the conversation at a Philosophy Coffee, a Beck Series literary reading, or the Global Studies Seminars (Mondays 7:30 to 9:30 pm). Check out the artwork of Emory Douglas, the former Minister of Culture for the Black Panther Party, at the Denison Museum. Come hear Denison professors tell true, personal stories about science with the Story Collider (Feb 28). Go listen to talks by religion scholar Kambiz GhaneaBassiri (Feb 28), former White House Chief of Staff Reince Preibus (March 5), or activist Gabriele Civil (April 19). You can't do it all, but pick a few. Learning doesn't just happen in the classroom.   

3. Ask a professor about their research and scholarship. Our faculty members are constantly writing books and articles, presenting papers at conferences, and/or creating works of art. Congratulate Andy Katz (Political Science), Diana Mafe (English), Doug Spieles (Environmental Studies), and Hollis Griffin (Communication) on their recently published books. Ask Sandy Mathern-Smith (Dance) about her semester as a Fulbright Scholar in Sri Lanka. Check out Erik Klemetti's (Geosciences) volcano blog or Jack Shuler's (English) online journal, Between Coasts. Or talk to Dan Gibson and Wes Walter (Physics) about the NSF grant they won to study the structure and dynamics of negative ions — just to name a few.  

4. Seek connections between your academics, extracurriculars, and other activities. College isn't just a list of courses on your transcript, but the connections you make across your academic work, off-campus study, campus leadership roles, community service, athletics, jobs, and internships. It's the story you tell about your interests, the questions you want to ask, the things you want to explore or change in the world. Talk about these connections with your academic advisor and other mentors, with the Knowlton Center, OCS, and Lisska Center staff. We're here to help.  

5. Give yourself time to think and connect. Intellectual engagement requires quiet time and space to think: unplug, deprogram, turn off the screens, go for a walk, peruse the newspaper, read a book (or three). Intellectual life also thrives on good company. Talk about your coursework or research with other students, form a reading or writing group, or explore a topic of interest in an Experimental College course or with your friends.   

6. Pay attention to the Lisska Center. We launched the Lisska Center for Scholarly Engagement two years ago, as a way to deepen intellectual life on campus. There is a lot of good work being done in the center.   

Our faculty are fantastic and the intellectual opportunities at Denison are vast. In my view, you are receiving the kind of liberal arts education that every person deserves and far fewer receive. The more you take advantage of it, the more you will get from your Denison experience.

Thanks for being a great generation of Denison students.

Read more of Adam Weinberg's speeches and writings.