Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Road Not Taken

Ever since I arrived at DePauw University a week ago today, I've been struck constantly by the thought: THIS is where I belong, THIS is where I should have had my academic career. Even if not necessarily here, somewhere like here, that is to say, a small liberal arts college rather than a large research university.

I just attended the start-of-the-year Convocation to welcome the approximately 600 freshmen. The entire faculty was there, in our regalia, standing in two long rows, applauding the students as they walked past. At a small liberal arts college like this one, this really is what it is all about: teaching the 2400 students who have chosen to come here to be educated, and also creating a rich intellectual community in which faculty and students alike can thrive. Oh, and changing their lives. And preparing them to change the world.

I love the sense of community here. I already feel as if I can recognize half the faculty at least by sight, and even some of their partners and children. Because there will be a production of The Tempest here on campus later this fall, course after course is focusing on the play, including an eight-week, interdisciplinary, team-taught course exclusively on The Tempest (which I'm going to sit in on), all so that everyone can be in a frenzy of excitement when the day of the play arrives.

This is not to say that I do not love my own university. A huge research institution like CU is a thrilling place. At CU I get to teach and mentor graduate students, and it's hard to think of anything more wonderful than being in their company. Boulder itself is paradise. And, even if it weren't, it is at CU and at Boulder that I've made my life.

Still, if I had it to do over again. . . .
I do love little liberal arts colleges so much. . . .

That said, I can't regret the path I did take. It's given me riches beyond all reckoning. Heck, it is the path that led me here, today, to the spot where I am right now. I will return to that life in a year with a grateful heart. Till then: I'm glad I have this year to savor the road not taken, a year to have the experience of taking that road, after all.

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