Making the Case to Incoming Students

If Hanlon is truly committed to differentiating Dartmouth from other colleges, if he is truly committed to preparing Dartmouth students, both current and incoming, to succeed after they graduate, he should make good on his promise of an experiential education, not eschew it.

If Hanlon is truly committed to differentiating Dartmouth from other colleges, if he is truly committed to preparing Dartmouth students, both current and incoming, to succeed after they graduate, he should make good on his promise of an experiential education, not eschew it.

It seems like just yesterday. I remember it feeling too simple for a decision of such magnitude. Just a few clicks and the light-hearted smiley face popped onto my laptop screen with the caption “Congratulations, you’ve committed!” But that little yellow circle and the four years of my life it premeditated have zoomed by. Now, as transitory summer is almost upon us, it is time for the next crop of students to be ushered into the fold.

Who are these fellow academics, athletes, and soon-to-be kegs? On March 31, the admissions staff finalized their decisions, offering admission to the class of 2019 to 2,120 students. Students who chose to apply Early Decision (ED) saw an increased valuation in their pledge to attend Dartmouth over any other school. Of the 1,859 ED applicants, 483 were granted acceptance, a 10.7% increase over the 2018 figures. Admissions officers noted this processes elevated competitiveness and the resulting superb academic and diverse extracurricular backgrounds of the students accepted. While the plethora of cultural experiences among this group is unquestionable, fully half of the students admitted early decision attended high school in New England.

These young scholars will soon enter the Office of the President to shake Phil Hanlon’s hand, officially matriculating to the College. Roughly evenly hewn between public and private schools, the high average testing scores and diversity of backgrounds augurs that the Class of 2019 will come together at the start of fall term as a cultural melting pot, contributing to, drawing from, and basking in the huge communal maelstrom of experience they share.

These notable figures are no accident, however. Student groups have been actively working to attract high-caliber students to their organizations, and thus the college as a whole. The Neukom Digital Arts, Leadership, and Innovation (DALI) Lab, a unique, hands-on development lab, is one such organization. During each of the three Dimensions of Dartmouth events, DALI opened its doors to inquisitive prospies and their equally curious families, giving them insight on what it means to be a part of this one-of-a-kind community.

These events were structured so that both DALI staff and members would be available at all times to answer questions from various perspectives. DALI Lab Director Lorie Loeb was also the faculty speaker at the third Dimension of Dartmouth, where she was not only advocating for the DALI lab, but for Dartmouth as an institution. “With Computer Science being heralded as the field of the future, there is definitely a lot of enthusiasm for the DALI lab among the ‘19s,” said one DALI member. “The open houses were packed with prospies, and a lot of them were very impressed by the lab itself. I would not be surprised if we see record application numbers next fall.” He added, “I just hope there’s still room for me here in the lab.”

While it is easy to write off his closing comment as a light-hearted remark, his concern is genuine. While there is immense and rapidly growing interest in the DALI Lab, due to budget constraints and a small working space, the lab is forced to accept less than 20% of all applications for membership, and only around 10% of all applications for project proposals. “We’re not trying to improve our yield by encouraging more and more applications, but rather trying to get more and more people involved,” said Loeb. “We want people to get onto our email list so that they can find out about DALI workshops [even if they are not members of the lab]. We want to open ourselves to any and everyone.”

President Hanlon, in his inaugural address, stated, “To instill wisdom in our students, we must fully-harness the power of experiential learning—learning by doing.” He has been credited with great strides toward that end: both the Dartmouth Entrepreneurial Network (DEN) Innovation Center and the DALI Lab opened their doors during his first two years at the college and help proliferate practical knowledge that augments and complements theory learned in the classroom. Both groups, however, are entirely funded by generous alumni, not the college and its exorbitantly bloated operating budget.

Though alumni funding brought the DALI Lab off the ground and helped to make great strides toward practical education, there is no reliable source of funding for DALI. As a result, the Lab might very well need to close its doors in the fall, despite the wishes of countless students, current and incoming, for an easily remedied problem, were the administration prepared to step up to the plate. With a record and unexpected near 20% increase in the endowment this past year, and approximately an additional eight million dollars in tuition income slated for next year, there is no shortage of money that could fund Hanlon’s promised experiential learning initiatives. It is clubs like the DALI Lab that are able to help Hanlon deliver on his promise to the Dartmouth community, yet he continues to prove that his priorities lie outside the wishes of Dartmouth’s students, who each notably pay over $65,000 per year to attend the college.

I personally conversed with seven incoming ‘19s about their college choices, and three directly cited experiential learning as a major factor in decision to attend Dartmouth. “I really feel like Dartmouth… will help me learn more than just what’s in the textbook. That’s why I chose to come here,” said one ‘19. These students have been promised a truly unique education here at Dartmouth, one based in not only theory, but also reality. It would truly be a sad day should the college be unable to fulfill its promises to its own students, especially when it has the means to do so easily. If Hanlon is truly committed to differentiating Dartmouth from other colleges, if he is truly committed to preparing Dartmouth students, both current and incoming, to succeed after they graduate, he should make good on his promise of an experiential education, not eschew it.