Dickinson Matters: Imagining Our Futures

President Nancy A. Roseman

Intentionality and imagination are present in the choices and journeys of our graduates

by Nancy A. Roseman, President

I have participated in more than two decades of commencements, and although I always have been moved by the emotions of the day, there simply is nothing that can prepare you for the moment when, as president, you get to hand each student his or her diploma. At that moment, they are flooded with so many mixed emotions: joy, sadness, trepidation and pride. It is an honor and a privilege to share that moment as our students become our alumni. They not only are the future of our world, but they also hold the future of Dickinson in their hands.

There is a world of boundless opportunity ahead for our graduates. There is so much they can and will achieve beyond these limestone walls, and the evidence speaks for itself. Many members of the class of 2015 will continue their studies and will work among scholars and peers at premier institutions such as Oxford, Columbia and Duke universities, as well as the London School of Economics and Political Science, to name a few. Five of our graduating seniors were accepted into the Fulbright Program, garnering research grants and teaching assistantships in Germany and Kazakhstan. While many of our graduates will move into the corporate world, I am equally delighted to see how many considered the nonprofit sector, through the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, Teach for America and many other organizations with missions ranging from sustainability to international relations. The class of 2015 has much to be proud of—we certainly are proud of them.

Commencement marks the conclusion of one’s undergraduate experience, and it also points to the beginning of a new academic year and incoming first-year class. While the summer is a time for students to finalize their decisions and the college to determine its enrolled class, I can tell you that, from where we sit today, the class of 2019 has the potential to be the largest and the most ethnically, racially and geographically diverse class in Dickinson’s history.

Like many of our peer institutions, Dickinson creates opportunities for access to a high-quality, distinctive liberal-arts education by offering financial aid, scholarships and a robust support system. From 2010 through 2014, the college provided financial aid to between 63 and 71 percent of the five incoming classes. While we strive to open the doors of opportunity for our incoming students, we also work to keep the doors open throughout one’s undergraduate career. It is possible—even likely—that a student’s financial need will change over the course of his or her four years at Dickinson. In fact, the amount of financial aid offered to the student body as a whole increased from 62 percent to 68 percent during this same five-year period.

These are challenging figures, but they reflect a new normal in the higher-education landscape. We allocate a substantial amount of our annual operating budget to financial aid, and we take great pride that the college’s endowment, alumni, friends and foundations offset almost 20 percent, or $13,000, of the actual cost of educating each of our enrolled students. As these numbers suggest, our ability to support current and future Dickinsonians is not possible without the generosity of our community.

Commencement is an annual reminder that our unique journey allowed us to think differently and more broadly about where we were going then and where we are now. A liberal arts education encourages both intentionality and imagination, and we see the presence of both in the choices and journeys of our graduates. I often tell students that their time at Dickinson will shape them in ways they cannot begin to predict—that their undergraduate experience will demand more of them than they ever dreamed possible and will inspire them to step fearlessly into the world.

Our goal as a community should be to expand this opportunity to as many deserving students as possible, regardless of one’s background or ability to pay, and I hope you will continue to support these efforts. As a society, we  cannot afford to leave talent untapped, and at Dickinson, we know how to nurture potential and turn it into reality.

Read more from the summer 2015 issue of Dickinson Magazine.

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Published July 28, 2015