Denison University’s plan to grow with the Columbus metro
In a Q&A with Denison President Adam Weinberg (excerpted below), The Business Journals shine a light on the impact of Denison Edge, a new 10,000-square-foot office in downtown Columbus focused on giving liberal arts students career-specific skills and networks.
Here’s an excerpt from the article published on March 7, 2022.
Denison University in Granville, Ohio, recently opened a 10,000-square-foot downtown Columbus office focused on helping liberal arts students and graduates pick up career and professional skills.
The university’s President Adam Weinberg sees the new concept, which is called Denison Edge, as having the potential to “move the talent needle” in Columbus by attracting history, philosophy, English and other liberal-arts majors from around the country to upskill for professional careers. He’s convinced they will stay and start lives in Columbus once they see the career potential and quality of life the area provides.
Weinberg recently spoke with The Business Journals about the future of a liberal-arts education and how the university intends to keep growing with the city of Columbus. The following is an edited transcript of the conversation.
Why launch Denison Edge?
My view as a college president is that we unfortunately force millions of college students each year to make a false choice between a life-shaping liberal arts education that can really launch them into lives and the professional training they need to launch quickly into careers. A great college education should do both. We wanted to be known as a college that launches students quickly and successfully into lives and careers. (To do that), we did a lot of different things. We pivoted our curriculum. We developed a whole new generation of liberal arts programs that are also focused on where the world’s going. Our data-analytics students can crunch numbers but they can actually go to dinner with a client and carry their end of a conversation, (for example).
We launched the Knowlton Center for Career Exploration, and it’s a fresh look at what a career center on a college campus should look like, but rarely does. If you walk on most college campuses, the career service center is small, underfunded and located on the fringes of campus. We located the Knowlton Center right in the middle of campus. We raised a lot of money; it’s well staffed. We’ll spend a million dollars this summer supporting students in careers and internships. We located it in the middle of downtown Columbus to send a strong message to the business community that we want to move the talent needle for large businesses and startups in Columbus. And we want to do that by closing skills gaps for our own students so they’re ready but we’re also opening this up to students from any liberal arts college in the country so that we become a magnet for attracting talented college students to Columbus, who then fall in love with our city and stay.
Do you anticipate more undergraduates participating in this, or do you think this could attract working professionals looking to come back to school and pivot careers or upskill?
Our lane in all honesty is liberal arts students from the moment they matriculate to college to really their fifth reunion. We work with that age cohort remarkably well. So, originally, that’s what we thought we would focus on. It’s really three buckets of programs: Short-term career bootcamps to close skills gaps that are hyper focused on sales, marketing, logistics, project management. The second is longer programs that offer students certifications. So, you can come to Denison major in history or philosophy, but still pick up a certificate in marketing or sales. Third is what you might call mini-masters for recent college grads to make their first career pivot or upskill. What we’ve been surprised by is the number of companies that have come to us and said, “This is really cool. We have some older professionals who could really benefit from the expertise you’re developing at the Edge. Can we be a part of this?” And we’ve said, “We’re in startup mode and this is supposed to be good for Denison and good for Columbus so yeah, let’s try some things and see what works.” We’re super entrepreneurial.