If you spent a half hour with DePauw University President Mark McCoy as my counselor group did, you’d send your child to a liberal arts college, and you’d probably send him/her to DePauw. McCoy makes an impassioned case for the liberal arts experience: “You’re going to spend the rest of your life learning more and more about less and less. We can’t teach you what to think, but we can teach you how to think. We’re going to teach you how to write well, speak well, think critically.”
McCoy also drills down immediately to what makes DePauw different: this college isn’t just committed to its students as a whole, but to each student individually. They do something I’ve never seen before: beginning with the class that entered in fall, 2019, DePauw guarantees that if, six months after graduating, a DePauw alumnus doesn’t yet have a job (or isn’t in graduate school), DePauw will reach out to its employer contacts and find that student a job. This is DePauw’s Gold Commitment.
Interestingly, current and former CEOs of a number of large companies are DePauw alumni: General Mills, Edward Jones, Teach for America. No one here is surprised by that, because leadership is emphasized both in and out of the classroom. A recent gift from the former head of General Mills has endowed the Sanger Leadership Initiative. Many people are surprised that the Greek system is quite large at this small school – nearly 70% of students join fraternities or sororities. Implemented well, though, a large Greek system is an excellent leadership development tool.
Academics at DePauw
DePauw’s College of Liberal Arts & Sciences is home to 45 majors and 52 minors, many of them interdisciplinary, in 21 departments. About 2000 DePauw undergrads call this their home base. There are another 200 students in the Conservatory of Music, and anyone can take music classes. Experiential learning required for everyone, which could be study abroad, research with a professor or an internship. About a third of DePauw students do research with professors, and about 70% go abroad at some point. A quarter of DePauw students participate in one of the specialized fellows programs in management, environmental, media, science research or the honor scholars program, whose participants must write a thesis.
Our student panel had four seniors. All had at least a major and a minor, and in the first week of May, all four had either a job or a research fellowship lined up after they graduated.
Here are a few comments from these seniors, when we asked them to sum up their DePauw experience:
- “Everything I was looking for in a school that I didn’t know I was looking for – resources, alumni connections, study abroad, community – this was exactly where I needed to be.”
- “I was able to become more independent – being away from home but also people pushed me to to do different things than I thought I was capable of doing. It’s my home away from home.” (Student from New York)
- “I’ve had serious interaction and connection with my professors. You see them in the community, go to their houses, meet their families.”
- “The professors want to know what you define as your life success and then they help you get there.”
These all struck me as ways I would like the students I’ve worked with to characterize their college experience.
DePauw has a beautiful campus – clearly its alumni are generous as many buildings are new and all are well-maintained – in Greencastle, IN, about 50 miles away from Indianapolis.
I visited in spring, 2019, and you can scroll through all the photos from my visit below.