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Fall 2013 (December 2, 2013)

Point of Pride

By President Steve Poskanzer

_B9A4165_F_print_.jpg“It ain’t bragging if you can do it.”

So said famed St. Louis Cardinal’s pitcher Dizzy Dean when he predicted how many games he’d win in the 1934 season. His team went on to win the World Series that year.

This issue of the Voice includes an important article about some of the wonderful things Carleton does best and values most [see “Bragging Rights”]. Carls have an amazing story to tell, and we should be proud to tell it. But one of our key characteristics is our lack of pretension. We are genuine. We are comfortable in our own skin. We don’t feel the need, or even have the capacity, to put on airs. In its own way, this honest integrity is and should be a point of pride for us, as well.

But with that said, at times our Midwestern modesty doesn’t always work in our favor. I’ve heard loyal Carleton alumni tell me that when asked where they went to school, their standard response is something like, “Oh, I went to a small Midwestern college you’ve probably never heard of.”

I’d say that’s carrying modesty too far.

Carleton is one of the best liberal arts colleges in the world. There are ways of saying that fact truthfully, honestly, and with genuine happiness and pride. And there are ways to appreciate the importance of the good things others are saying about Carleton, too.

The fact is, we live in a world where comparison shopping and accountability, even for colleges, is here to stay. We must be mindful of how we are viewed and evaluated, even as we try assiduously to convey our own preferred messages about how we should be perceived. This challenge applies with particular poignancy for colleges like Carleton that aren’t located in regions where the largest number of potential students reside.

Indeed, Carleton competes for students, new faculty, and charitable funding not only with institutions in our own geographical region, but with institutions across the nation and increasingly worldwide. In due course, our graduates compete with graduates of other premier colleges for admission to graduate and professional schools.

One of the recommendations put forth in our recently completed strategic plan is to raise awareness of Carleton among several key audiences: prospective students and the parents, guidance counselors, and others who influence them; opinion leaders; and prospective employers of our graduates.

To that end, among other efforts to raise Carleton’s profile, we are reaching out to key volunteers among parents and alumni to polish our message and our methods of getting it across. However, every member of our community has their own “Carleton story” to share. Many of those tales can help increase our visibility in good ways, too. We encourage you to tell your stories whenever you get the chance—because together they make up our story.

Carleton is never going to be full of itself, take its excellence for granted, or seek to attract students, faculty, or staff who revel in privilege. But we must never forget that we are among only a handful of schools in the world that change students’ lives and send forth graduates who have the type of impact our alumni do. We want people to know this.

So the next time somebody asks you where you went to school, try this answer:

“Carleton. It’s an amazing college in Northfield, Minnesota. If you don’t know about it, I’d be happy to tell you.”

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