Tag Archives: Liberal Arts

The Turning of the Tides

The last few weeks have been busy ones for us in the office. As you saw in my last post, our decision letters have already gone out–so we’re currently experiencing a very different kind of energy. High school students from across the country have enjoyed their “spring break” over the last two weeks, making it an excellent time to go look at schools. Now, however, it’s not only the seniors who are looking, visiting many of the wonderful institutions they’ve been admitted to, but also the juniors who are out in full force (and occasionally a sophomore or two!).

I’ve been reflecting recently on why these last few weeks have been so enjoyable. As much as I enjoy a smaller, more intimate information session held in the conference room here in Penrose, there’s also something invigorating about speaking to a group of 30 or 40 visitors. (Perhaps this is just my more theatrical side talking.) But there’s something else that’s special about this time of year, I think, and it has to do with applying all that our work with the newly admitted class has taught us–or perhaps reminded us of–to this next cycle. We are sure to be reminded of things as specific as the importance of sending in your financial aid forms in on time, to more abstract philosophies about why we do the work we do. I’ve asked a few of my fellow admission officers to chime in on how our work with this class of high school seniors has prepared us for this next year.

Bruce Jones, New England Regional Officer: Spring is transitional, in the normal snow-melting/crocuses-sprouting sort of way, but also as I shift from this year’s class to next year’s. It’s 7 a.m. and I’m catching up in my Hampton Inn in White River Junction, VT after a night college fair before heading to Connecticut for more fairs. I’m writing notes to (and answering emails from) admitted students while wondering if I will be writing congrats a year from now to newbies I’m meeting on the road. Spring is slow in coming to this neck of the woods but by May 1, the national reply date for admitted students, spirits will be lifted.

Katherine Buckley, Greater Oregon, WY, and ID representative: While out on the road, I met wonderful prospective Whitman students from religious schools in Seattle, tiny schools in Boston, farming schools in northern California, and outdoor-focused schools in Idaho. It is amazing to see how Whitman is accessible, welcoming, and the right fit for students from so many walks of life.

Tillie Gottlieb, Canada, CO, and the Mid-Atlantic: I think this cycle has made me so much more aware of the resiliency of our young applicants. This year in particular their struggles seemed more numerous and difficult, but I was so impressed by the maturity and clarity of their perspectives regarding hardship. I thank them for inspiring me and reminding me that there is always hope and always the possibility of positive change.

Tony Cabasco, Dean of Admission and Financial Aid: It’s a privilege, truly it is!
In finishing my 20th admission cycle, I reflected on the thousands of applications that have come through the admission office (over 50,000) and the hundreds of thousands of essays that have been read collectively by admission staffs during that period. Each cycle and group of applicants amazes me with the variety of backgrounds, experiences, and stories that they share with the admission staff. These stories of childhood memories, hardships overcome, personal battles won or lost, hopes and dreams for the future, study abroad experiences, epiphanies of many varieties, etc., all delight and move the admission staff. It’s inspiring to see such wonderful energy, creativity, spunk, and sparkle. Whitman is blessed with a wonderful group of applicants every year. It’s truly been a privilege getting to know these young people who are on the verge of coming into their own.

I would be remiss if I did not end on a note to our newly admitted seniors, however. As you move through these next few weeks–likely the last few weeks in your college search process–we hope that you’ve had an opportunity to visit our campus, speak with current Whitties, and visit with professors (or perhaps you’ll be joining us for Admitted Students’ Day on April 20, which will provide an opportunity to do all this and more!). We’ve welcomed each one of you into this community because we know you will have a lasting impact. These next few weeks are certainly full of decision-making and discussions about financial aid packages, program offerings, and locations. Just as we, as admission officers, are poised to begin seeking out a new class of Whitties, you all–the members of Whitman College Class of 2017–are poised to begin to contribute vastly to this community and education. We sincerely hope you choose to do so.

So why go to a liberal arts college anyway?

I could go on and on about the diverse skill set of critical analysis, problem-solving, written and oral communication, and collaboration Whitman grads bring to the table every moment of their lives, whether it’s Simeon Osborn ’80, trial lawyer of the year, stepping into the courtroom, or Curt Bowen ’07 developing new sustainable agricultural practices in partnership with Guatemalan farmers. However, given my obvious bias, I’ll refrain and humbly pass along a more independent testimonial.

Here is A.G. Lafley, longtime Chairman of Proctor & Gamble, explaining why he believes the liberal arts are so valuable: “A Liberal Education: Preparation for Career Success

If you’re still not convinced, or would just like to take advantage of this great opportunity to learn more about Whitman, check out the Ask a Parent and Ask an Alum pages. Parents of prospective students are encouraged to use this great resource as well!


If you’re an accounting major what you study can be defined. Liberal arts is a different animal (and as I type this Word indicates I should be typing liberal arts are). I’ve read a lot of good statements about liberal arts, usually by college presidents who apparently have some need to describe and defend, but for me it’s not about what it is but what it does.

My wife and I have a standing joke: When she asks me something (What’s hirsute mean?) and I provide the answer she says, “How do you know that?” I always reply, as she rolls her eyes, “I went to a liberal arts college.”

I was a good student at a good public high school. At Whitman I became a history major because I fell in love with the study of history. It was about discovery, new ways of looking at old news, considering cultures rather than distilled facts. I became an engaged intellectual, someone interested in ideas.

The residential context of the small, liberal arts college demands interaction with diverse peers who find their own intellectual and activist passions. Late night conversations are the norm. And it’s no surprise that Whitman turns out a disproportionate number of Teach for America and Peace Corps volunteers. The liberal arts is about involvement and engagement, about joyful living and having an impact.

I think of my Whittie friends: Tom, a philosophy major who’s a psychiatrist; Terry, the first of his family to graduate high school, now a PhD physicist; Wendy, a sociology major with a PhD in Italian Lit; Wes, an English major who works as a criminal defense attorney; Evan, my fellow history major, now a journalist.

An admission: I’m the old guy in Whitman’s Admission Office. The above mentioned friends and I graduated from Whitman 43 years ago. We all continue to be passionately involved in our careers, relationships and avocations. Whitman’s liberal arts environment nurtured that.

Hirsute: covered with hair