April Visitors

It’s admissions season, and several hundred happy high school seniors recently got a thick packet from Middletown. After considering thousands of applications, poring over transcripts, studying reports of interviews, and reading letters of recommendation, the team in our Admission Office is gearing up to explain Wesleyan to young men and women trying to decide which school to attend. Over the next few weeks, many will visit our campus. What will they be looking for?

Students who make their way to Middletown will want to meet faculty to get a sense of whether they will have a rapport with teachers who could become their mentors. They will also want to meet current students, trying to envision whether they could be happy members of the various communities that make up our student body. I suspect that our recently admitted prospective students will be looking for that sense of fit that gives one a feeling of belonging, of being able to find friends and to make discoveries that will expand one’s intellectual and personal horizons. Many getting ready to begin college want to find a place where they will feel “comfortable.” I’d like to think that would-be Wesleyan students are also looking for an adventure that will alter their comfort zones — that will challenge them to discover more fully who they are, and what they love to do.

I’m told that for the last several years Wes undergrads have been expressing the fear that the student body is changing, and that the university is becoming more like some of the other highly selective liberal arts schools. This is such a Wesleyan concern! We pride ourselves on being different: more creative, more independent, more experimental and more progressive than many of our peer institutions. I think there is much truth in this, actually. Wesleyan continues to attract an applicant pool full of talented men and women who can celebrate difference, who have an exuberant attitude to learning (and much else in life), and who can make use of their freedom to develop qualities of originality in a rigorous, highly demanding context. Of course, the university has changed, and it will continue to do so, but in ways that make us more distinctive. That’s why it’s so cool to be part of the Wesleyan family. What hasn’t changed is the expectation of being able to learn about oneself and the world, and to develop strong personal relationships within an affectionate, open-minded community. And we maintain the expectation that as Wesleyan alumni we will continue to learn, and to have a positive impact on the world around us.

We welcome our visitors in April as they try to discover what Wesleyan is really like, and whether they can see themselves being engaged, creative and happy here. This has long been a very special place, but also one that is always changing in response to the contributions of our students, faculty and staff.

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April brings theses, final exams and papers, recitals and a flurry of theater productions. It also brings senior art exhibitions, and this week I had a chance to meet some of the artists and their teachers. The student work in the Zilkha Gallery this time of year is really stunning, and it is a tribute to our seniors and to the art faculty. BRAVO!!

Thirty years ago I wrote my own senior thesis on psychoanalysis and politics. I’m still going back to those themes, as you can see in a book review I recently published: http://www.bookforum.com/inprint/015_01/2249

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4 thoughts on “April Visitors

  1. President Roth,
    You write how we think about what differentiates us from our peer institutions. While I’m sure Wes isn’t the only school to discuss and complicate gender binaries, I do think we try to integrate gender awareness into our social and academic spheres in a consistent manner. I note that twice you mention “young and talented men and women” in your post. When you speak about Wes and attracting prospective students, please consider moving beyond this binary and acknowledging genders in addition to ‘men’ and ‘women.’
    Lillian Siegel ’08

  2. I read that charges at Wesleyan will go up 5% next year. You have more fuel costs, higher salaries, more health costs, this of course makes sense.
Unfortuately, all of us experience these higher costs, I envy you the ability to pass them on to students and their parents.
To whom do we pass on our higher costs?

  3. I remembered four years ago, our 3rd child daughter and us made the trip to Middletown as a prospective family. We knew of Wes culture and reputation before our visit, and during the visit we were assured by the enthusiastic cashier student we met in cafeteria, the style of lectures given by the faculties, and the displayed of passions and creativities of the community with all social issues and art forms. We felt our daughter belongs here, and she made the right choice. During the past four years, we were not involved with her daily life, but we can witness the even more complete person she is becoming from inside out. Best of all, she is still the same compassionate and lovely person among her family and childhood friends. I truly thank the Wesleyan community for fostering a life long learning opportunities and creating wonderful possibilities as our daughter entering the next phase of her young adult life. Best wishes and expectations to seniors, returning students, and all the incoming students!

  4. I like how your book review “Shame About That” draws attention to the types of self-sacrifice and loyalties that can ultimately lead to destruction and death instead of the good (or even just the good feelings) that they may have intended. It reminds me that the feelings of the ultimate fit can be distracting in re-defining an identity that can hopefully include the suffering that it wishes to ignore and forget. Although my connection to Wesleyan is distant, these concerns keep me drawn to its community.

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