Fall 2018 Welcome Letter to Students
by

Adam Weinberg

August 30, 2018
Group photo of students

Dear Students: Welcome back!  

As I start my sixth year at Denison, I am deeply proud to be a Denisonian. There are many reasons, but it starts with you. Denison is defined by the people and the relationships we form with each other. You are a fantastic generation of Denisonians. I admire the work you are doing across campus, from work in classrooms, to performances on athletic fields, artistic venues, and in campus organizations. I also have tremendous respect for the way students form friendships with each other — increasingly across differences. Thank you for being a great generation of Denisonians.  

The Class of 2022 has arrived. At the Induction Ceremony, I asked them to do five things:

  1. Take control of your education. College is not a spectator sport. To get everything you can from your education, you need to engage actively and participate fully in every aspect of the experience.    
  2. Cultivate meaningful relationships. Be open to and seek out relationships with faculty. A close relationship with a faculty member dramatically increases the odds of performing well in college, professional success, and well-being throughout your life. Do the same with student development professionals and other staff across campus. And embrace peer-to-peer learning. In particular, forge friendships across difference. Colleges bring students with a wide array of life experiences together into the same physical spaces. It is incumbent upon all of us to take advantage of this opportunity.    
  3. Push yourself to explore new subjects and activities without being afraid of failure or getting embarrassed. Take classes in subjects that are new and might be difficult or uncomfortable for you. Try some activities outside the classroom that are new to you. Your education will always benefit from challenging yourself to expand the boundaries beyond what feels safe or easy.  
  4. Commit yourself to developing self-awareness and a healthy and balanced lifestyle. If you are prone to over-extend yourself, then use college to learn to narrow and sharpen your focus. If you are apt to be less involved, use college to develop ways of being more engaged.     
  5. And my last piece of advice to the Class of 2022 was to make good social choices. Choose to act in ways you can feel proud of and that correspond with your best self. Values matter. Use them to guide your actions. Likewise, look out for those around you. Step up and speak up when you see other people getting ready to make bad decisions for themselves or others. We are Denisonians. We care about and support each other.

My remarks to the Class of 2022 are part of some more extensive comments that I published a few weeks ago. You can read the longer piece here. I would be interested in your thoughts. What did I get right? What would you add and/or change? I would be happy to meet with any student, or group of students, who want to discuss this piece.  

Moving the college forward: Great colleges are always striving to be better. Over the last few years, we have done a lot of work in a few key areas, including:   

Expanding the curriculum with new liberal arts academic programs in Global CommerceData AnalyticsNarrative JournalismFinancial Economics, Middle East & North African Studies, Denison Seminars, and Health Exercise and Sport Studies; a new writing program; an expansion of global programs; and a deeper commitment to the arts with the construction of the Michael D. Eisner Center for the Performing Arts and the Denison Art Space in Newark.  

Focusing on careers by launching The Knowlton Center for Career Exploration: Check out the Knowlton Center website. I would encourage every student to visit the Knowlton Center and to pay attention to emails and announcements. Lots of great work is happening. Not surprisingly, we have found students who use the Center are doing much better in terms of finding internships and post-Denison jobs and graduate programs.  

Engaging students as co-creators in moving us forward on important campus issues: Among the issues we need to work on as a community, I want to mention and comment on the following, which are important to our community and to me personally:

  • Diversity and social inclusion- Denison should be a place where every student feels listened to, valued, and respected, and where students are learning the skills, values, and habits of living and working across differences.  
  • Respect- Denisonians care about each other, and a core value of this campus is treating each other with respect. This is obviously related to the issue of social inclusion. Another core area is sexual respect. We need every member of our community to step up and into this space, making Denison a campus where sexual assault never happens.  
  • Globalization- This year, just under 300 international students will be part of our student body. This means slightly more than 12 percent of our students come from outside the United States. We have an incredible opportunity to internationalize the experiences we all have on campus. This means working harder to learn from each other in classrooms, residence halls and a variety of other places.  
  • Wellness- College is a place to develop good life habits. We are working to provide more health education and support, so students can make the decisions and find the resources to stay on track with their educational goals. We also want to provide more access to off-campus resources that meet the varied needs of our students.   
  • Mentorship- We have more and more data to suggest that being open to and finding mentors is a core attribute of a transformational college education. This is something Denison faculty and staff do well. I would encourage every student to seek out mentors who can catalyze you.  

I want to draw your attention to a few efforts that we hope will draw a lot of student conversation and engagement:

  • Reimagining residential life: Last year, we launched our Residential Communities Team (ResComm), with the goal of giving students a stronger sense of ownership and investment in residential halls to create living spaces that meet their needs. While that work continues, we also are creating a master plan to upgrade every residential hall on campus. We started this summer with extensive work in Brown Hall. This year, we will be engaging students as co-creators in developing the master plan for residential halls. There also may be a conversation about building a new set of senior apartments to ensure every senior has an opportunity to live in an apartment.
  • Enhancing dining: Bon Appetit has spent time over the summer reviewing student feedback and planning some changes in their services. They’ll be seeking additional student input in the months ahead.
  • A new wellness center: We are working on architectural plans to build a new integrative health center that will replace Whisler. We should have draft drawings and plans to share by late October. The goal is to create a wellness center that will allow us to better meet the integrative health needs of students.

Quick word on summer construction: We are making good progress on the A Quad, which should be done by mid-October. The Eisner Center is moving along at a good pace and should be done by mid-March. Connected to the Eisner Center project, Monomoy is being painted. A huge thank you to the Facilities Team for all the hard work done this summer. These are large and complex projects. You also will notice a lot of smaller projects completed over the summer. Check out the 4th floor of Slayter, as one example.  

The President’s House has moved: Over the summer, Anne and I made an unexpected move across the street to 131 West Broadway. This letter from Board Chair John Faraci explains why the President’s House has moved. This was a decision made by the Board of Trustees and is related to the opening of the Eisner Center. The goal is to tie Monomoy and the Eisner Center together as part of the creation of a true Arts Quad. The space between the two buildings will be landscaped into a performance and reception space, and the first floor of Monomoy will become a reception space for the Eisner Center, among other purposes. This is a good long-term move for the college. Anne and I are excited to host students in the new space.  

I want to end where I began- thank you for being great Denisonians. Thank you for being committed to the college and for all the ways you contribute to our community. Here is to a great year!  

Read more of Adam Weinberg's speeches and writings.