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The Dartmouth Strategy

The D has a fine interview with Government Professor Brendan Nyhan, in which he articulates better than Phil ever has done the qualities that make a Dartmouth education special and even without equivalent:

What was most attractive about Dartmouth was the combination of being able to teach really bright undergraduates in small classes and also have a top-tier research faculty. The teacher-scholar model was especially appealing to me because I went to Swarthmore as an undergraduate and I believe in liberal arts education, but I also have research aspirations and Dartmouth seemed like a place where I could fulfill both of those goals…

The Dartmouth ideal is someone who is committed to teaching — particularly to undergraduate teaching — while also being an active participant in their research field as well as a contributor to the collective knowledge that academia hopefully produces. The professional system in higher education tends to drive people toward one of those two roles. Most professors are focused on teaching while there’s a small set of people who are focused on research. It’s sometimes difficult to balance those roles or to find places that encourage you to do both the way Dartmouth does. I think the teacher-scholar model is something that is genuinely unique about the College. It’s one of the most appealing aspects of this institution to me.

I have heard the same from dozens of faculty members. To recall Steve Jobs, these virtues are in the College’s DNA. And it ain’t just talk. Over and over I have met undergrads who sing the praises of professors, and when I have a meal with the profs in question, they show that they know these same students well as individuals as well as young scholars.

Why the Trustees and the administration cannot build on these characteristics is beyond me. Are our leaders so without confidence that they cannot chart a course for the College that is different from America’s lumbering research universities, one that could restore to Dartmouth its previous special status as a research college?

Addendum: I run across examples all the time of the special success of the College’s alumni. Take, for example, my classmate Martha Pease ‘79, who on Wednesday was named a Director in the Boston Consulting Group’s Marketing, Sales & Pricing practice. BCG is a tough, serious place (almost as good as Bain), but Martha will be up to the challenge. Not bad for someone who majored in English Literature and Film History:

Martha Pease.jpg

And who never went to B-school.


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