The Denison Experience
December 20, 2018
Denison Magazine
Three students walking around campus

Denison recently held its first ReMix Entrepreneurial Summit. Over the course of two days, 65 alumni and 120 students met to discuss entrepreneurship and design thinking. Our alumni ran a series of workshops for each other and for students on a range of topics, including “Disruption,” “Life Hacks of an Entrepreneur,” and “Designing Your Business.”

A lot of the sessions addressed effective story-telling. Greta Berger Dirsel ’96 talked about designing a narrative that captures core purposes and values. Jack Tankersley ’72 gave a talk on knowing the “Three Uniques” that define your organization.   

I have been thinking about ReMix in the context of Denison. What do we want our alumni, students, parents, college counselors, and others to say about the Denison experience? So, here it goes. This is what I hope others say. I would welcome the views of others. 

A supportive and engaging community. This is a college where students arrive and quickly make friends, connect with faculty, get their academic footing, and become involved on campus in ways that accelerate a successful transition into college. 

Over the last few years, we have enhanced these relational qualities. We expanded our First-Year program. Our faculty has been deepening our work on mentorship. We have also renewed our focus on residential halls where students form friendships, often with people who come from different backgrounds. And we are focused on supporting students as they immerse themselves in a challenging curriculum.

An education for the whole brain and whole person. We offer a robust liberal arts education. We take students both deep into and wide across the curriculum, ensuring that they develop a range of attributes, from creativity and intuition to analytical and logical skills. This learning extends across campus as students immerse themselves in athletics, the arts, and a range of other campus activities. 

Denison alumnus David Howitt ’90 talked about this at ReMix, quoting from his fantastic book Heed the Call, where he talks about the “Power of And” vs. the “Tyranny of Or.” We embrace the “And.”

Data analytics, for example, requires students to connect it to another discipline. We are getting ready to open the new 108,000-square-foot Michael D. Eisner Center for the Performing Arts. We are expanding global programs in ways that encourage students to integrate their learning. And we are focusing on our exceptional athletics program as a key place for liberal arts learning.

At Denison, I am always inspired by the combination of things our students do and the way these combinations develop interesting and engaging people, like the student I met with recently who is a global commerce major, a studio art minor, and a star field hockey player. 

We are also focused on good life habits. James Clear ’08 talked about this at ReMix and in his recent book Atomic Habits as learning to perform at a high level by developing good habits. And our new emphasis on wellness and integrative health is exposing students to ideas and ways to develop good life habits. 

A college that unlocks the potential of students to be the architects of their lives. Over the last few years, this has taken on new meaning with a focus on career exploration, which we define around three questions: What kind of life do I want to live? How do careers and professions allow me to build that life? And how do I use part of my time in college to start to develop the skills, values, habits, networks, and experiences to get started?

The Knowlton Center for Career Exploration is our most public expression of this growing work. It is a state-of-the-art center that is redefining how liberal arts colleges prepare students for the professions through seven core programs. But, in truth, this is just one expression of work that is going on across campus in myriad ways.

We don’t prescribe a life, any more than we prescribe how students should think. Rather, we unlock the potential of our students to think for themselves, to define the lives they want to lead and to prepare themselves to launch professionally, so they can build those lives. At Denison, our students learn and balance art and analytics, purpose and profit, intuition and intelligence.   

We attract—and we nurture—whole people. We are excited by who they are when they arrive and proud to call them Denison alumni when they graduate. 

Read more of Adam Weinberg's speeches and writings.