Sure, we all know that Carleton is one of the best liberal arts colleges in the country. But too often, Midwestern modesty keeps us from blowing our own horn. It’s time that changed. We are one awesome college. Say it loud. Say it proud. Here are some things that make Carleton
so great! [Read more in "Bragging Rights"]
Alumni Giving: We’re Tops!
Carleton has been among the top three liberal arts colleges and universities in terms of alumni participation for more than for 10 consecutive years, according to annual rankings produced by U.S. News and World Report.
To get your head around the generosity of Carleton alumni, consider a few facts: About half of all alumni contribute to the college’s Annual Fund. In some classes participation exceeds 80 percent, and this past year the Class of 1964 hit 92 percent. . That's a crazy high number for class participation.
Carleton’s fundraising program also is unusual because so many recent graduates contribute. “Our youngest alumni are some of our most enthusiastic volunteers and donors,” says Becky Zrimsek ’89, assistant vice president for alumni and parent relations and director of the Annual Fund.
A little healthy competition hasn’t hurt Carleton fundraising, either. In 2002 the Class of 1952 made history by raising $28 million for its 50th Reunion gift. A decade later, the Class of 1962 upped the ante with a $30 million gift.
What drives alumni to such levels of generosity? “When I ask people why they’re giving to the college, they typically respond that Carleton gave them their career, their friends, and sometimes even their family,” says development officer Rob Herrick. “They want to give back to the place that has given them so much.”
Financial Aid: Investing in Tomorrow
A Carleton education doesn’t come cheap. The sticker price for tuition, fees, room and board in 2013–2014 is $58,149. But if prospective students and their parents blanch at Carleton’s cost, Rhemi Abrams-Fuller ’08 has a confident response: “The experience you’ll get at Carleton is different from the experience you’d get at another school,” says Abrams-Fuller, assistant dean of admissions. “You really do get what you pay for.”
A native of Washington state, she remembers comparing financial aid packages when she was deciding which college to attend. “Carleton was the most expensive school among my options,” says Abrams-Fuller, “but after financial aid was factored in, it was also the most affordable.”
Indeed, the majority of Carleton students receive some financial aid. Carleton distributed more than $9.9 million in need-based grants this fall to the incoming class—aiding 311 individuals. The average need-based Carleton grant for freshmen was $31,848; and the average award per student in the Class of 2017, including grants, scholarships, work study, and loans, amounted to $40,569. Further, Carleton promises to meet the full financial needs of all admitted students.
Abrams-Fuller points out that the college maintains its commitments over time. “We aren’t going to give you $40,000 one year and nothing the next year, unless your family’s financial situation changes drastically,” she says. “We’re investing in you, too.”
Location: Small Town, Big City
With just 7,000 households, Northfield is indeed a small town. But nobody lacks for things to do. Carls take advantage of many local amenities, from a thriving arts scene to numerous outdoor recreational activities.
Northfield’s economy is robust—Malt-O-Meal is an industry cornerstone, and small startups also succeed here. Division, the main commercial street, is packed with shops and eateries—a rarity in many small towns.
There’s also a booming music scene. Most nights, local bars feature homegrown talent, but the town’s student population is a big draw for regional and national acts, too.
Northfield’s rolling hills attract scores of cyclists, cross-country skiers, and geocachers. Other nearby draws include canoeing the Cannon River and camping in Nerstrand-Big Woods State Park.
And when small-town life seems too, well, small, the Twin Cities are just 45 miles away.
Mentoring: Mutual Respect
Seven years ago, history professor Susannah Ottaway and her family visited a former student and his family in his hometown in Ireland. During the visit, Ottaway realized that mentoring is reciprocal and it’s often for life. Here she reminisces on this notion and some memorable student relationships:
“Carleton’s small class sizes and personal advising allows students to get to know faculty members in the broader sense. My students have seen me struggle with work and family balance. They gain a sense of who I am as a whole person, not just as someone they encounter in an academic context. In a community as small and tight as Carleton’s, this must give them a sense of how they might handle their own lives outside of work.
“Faculty members also truly respect students’ opinions. Music professor Andy Flory talks about how fulfilling it was for him to mentor a sophomore who became deeply engaged with Andy’s research and offered useful feedback.
“One of my former students recently Skyped into my Irish history class. She had worked on a topic similar to her Carleton comps for her PhD dissertation. My students read a chapter of the dissertation for our class. Their feedback was helpful for her, and she showed the students that their work at Carleton could feed directly into graduate work. I also gained a new perspective on Irish history from reading her dissertation, and she now has entered my professional sphere.
“Carleton students, in general, are highly intellectual and curious. They truly engage with their professors and they know that they can reach out to us for their entire lives.”
Facilities: Pride of Place
Over the years, Carleton has acquired an enviable collection of capital assets. Here, from A to (almost) Z, are some of them.
A is for the Arb. With 800 acres to explore and plenty of paths for skiing, hiking, and biking, the Cowling Arboretum is a hit with recreationists—and an unparalleled outdoor classroom for biology professors, art students, and environmental studies majors.
C is for Creativity. Completed in 2011, the Weitz Center for Creativity was a creative endeavor in itself—a major renovation and restoration of the former Northfield Middle School. Now a hothouse for ventures ranging from dance to theater to filmmaking, the Weitz Center has numerous spaces that encourage interdisciplinary collaboration and cross-pollination of ideas.
G is for Goodsell Observatory. It’s essentially a time machine, capable of taking a person back to the 1880s, when railroad timetables depended on the observatory’s time-keeping experts, or farther. Monthly open houses allow students and townspeople to gaze at the heavens through the observatory’s telescopes.
M is for Mass Spectrometer. Acquired a year ago, this technological jewel was acquired with a $351,622 grant from the National Science Foundation. Shared with St. Olaf, the instrument enables faculty members and students to conduct research on topics ranging from dopamine levels in the brains of rats to the makeup of compounds in organic aerosols.
S is for Skinner Memorial Chapel. Even if you’re not religious, this impressive Gothic building and its peaceful interior inspire reflection and reverence. It’s also the site for Carleton’s weekly convocation series, which brings the Carleton community together to learn from speakers on a wide range of subjects.
X is for X-ray Diffractometer. X-ray diffraction is a powerful tool for analyzing crystalline materials like powders and thin films. With a grant from the National Science Foundation, Carleton acquired this instrument in 2011 and uses it to support research in chemistry, geology, and physics.