Thursday, January 28, 2010

A Capacity for Self-Renewal

I didn’t make any resolutions at the start of 2010. It’s been a year of big changes and events for me – getting married tops the list – and I decided against trying to add anything else, but I’ve been thinking about my own capacity for self-renewal.

As a teacher and college counselor at Greenhills School, I found myself returning to the school’s mission statement frequently, particularly the last part: “[students]… whose lives have meaning, balance, and a capacity for self-renewal.” What an important thing for a school to aspire to nurture in its students (the more daunting part being, how do you do that?)

I find myself searching for signs of this in the applications I read, too. Driven, motivated individuals strive to pack their days. We squeeze ever last moment out of hour-23 and minute-52. There is pressure to adjust schedules to make room for just one more AP course. If you’re already president of two organizations (and captain of a team) how much difference could one more vice president post really make? (And it will look so good to those colleges and admissions officers, right?!)

Don’t get me wrong, we want to see students who seize opportunities and have an impact on their communities. We want to see that an applicant has elected an appropriately challenging set of courses and is willing to push some of his or her own intellectual boundaries and comfort zones. In my November 20 post, I listed five basic questions we ask when reviewing applications, one of them being, what choices has this student made?

Your choices are important to us. Your ability to balance that rigorous load is important, not simply with the aim of moving forward and adding more and more, but so that you can grow, impact others, and appreciate your accomplishments and activities. That capacity for self-renewal is critical, in my mind, but students don’t often let us know what that looks like for them.

This time of year – and this year in particular with Dartmouth’s new president, the events in Haiti, the economy and current political scene – I find the Dartmouth community examining its own capacity for self-renewal. We’ve been named one of the most enduring institutions in the world, and I also believe Dartmouth is a place that can realize tremendous growth over relatively brief periods of time, much of which is student initiated. Our MLK Day celebrations are an annual opportunity to take stock of where we are and where we aspire to be in the coming years (Dartmouth will turn 250 in 2019!)

The capacity for self-renewal allows for moments of reflection and renewed sense of purpose, and it can also provide the opportunity to re-commit ourselves to the values we hold most dear.

At its best, the application and admissions process can provide an opportunity to reflect back on your accomplishments, growth, and plans for the future. I hope you protect time in your busy schedules to actively reflect on your many endeavors and sustain and grow your own capacity for self-renewal. It will serve you well in college, and beyond. And I hope you will feel confident in sharing your decision-making process through your application materials and, perhaps, an interview. We value what you have chosen to take on, but we also value the process by which you arrived at a decision not to add something else to your plate.

I am interested to read how you maintain your own capacity for self-renewal (seriously, I’m taking suggestions.) Students, counselors, teachers, parents (and admissions colleagues) – what do you do?

My top seven from the last week or so:

I took my first run down the Dartmouth Skiway on Saturday at about 4PM. It was clear, crisp, and the light was beautiful on the trees and hills.

I re-discovered the great trail system that runs through the woods surrounding the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.

I was thoroughly impressed by the MLK Celebration keynote speaker, Kimberle Williams Crenshaw, and the comments of Dartmouth’s own, Jessica Guthrie ’10.

I read a bit more about my grandfather’s vision for the role of university presses in the mid-twentieth century.

I cleaned my kitchen (truth be told, we ran out of both dishes and counter space).

I am inspired by The Rev. Nancy A. G. Vogele, Dartmouth Class of 1985, of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in White River Junction, VT. You can check out some of her sermons here.

I am enjoying Richard Russo’s “Bridge of Sighs”.

I had a great dinner with a couple of friends and colleagues.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Online Discussion With President Kim: Mobilizing School Communities

I wanted to share this invitation to join in conversation with President Kim today at 5:30 EST. You can also learn more about last-minute financial aid advice in a chat today hosted by Admissions & Financial Aid at 6:15 EST.

Dear students across the nation,

Dr. Jim Yong Kim will be leading an online discussion on *Tuesday, January 26 at 5:30pm EST* on the national student response to the recent earthquake in Haiti.

To access the online discussion at 5:30pm EST, visit:

As President of Dartmouth College and a co-founder of Partners In Health, Dr. Kim will speak about the earthquake, PIH's response, why national student solidarity is critical to the response, and how students from across the country can help.

The call is open to all students (graduate, undergraduate, high school, middle school, etc) who are interested in learning more about the situation and how to mobilize their school communities to respond to the earthquake in Haiti.

Dr. Kim will be speaking via an online video stream and taking live questions through the video player's chat feature. We will also be accepting questions by email up until the talk begins. To send your question in early, email with the subject line "JYK TALK: Your name, your school"

For Jim Yong Kim's bio:

In solidarity,

Frances Vernon
Dartmouth College, Student Body President

Peter Luckow
Northwestern University and GlobeMed National Office

David Gobaud
Stanford University, Student Body President

Friday, January 22, 2010

MLK Celebrations: Dartmouth students rock my world

From January 16 - 29th, the whole Dartmouth community is engaged in our annual celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Events have included a lively concert with African-American Appalachian string-band The Carolina Chocolate Drops, the Keynote Address by law professor Kimberle Williams Crenshaw, and countless films, dinners, presentations, and discussions. The two events that most impressed me were completely student organized: the Student Conference on Global Learning, and the student performance showcase "Lifted."

The Student Conference on Global Learning featured Dartmouth students who recently pursued international internships and projects, thanks to Dartmouth's unique calendar -- the D-Plan. From researching AIDS in Vietnam, to volunteering in Cameroon, to interning with the World Health Organization in Geneva, to interviewing Iraqi refugees in Syria... (and so much more!), Dartmouth students have stretched themselves during their terms away from Hanover, and this week reflected upon their experiences. Read their presentation abstracts here. I am amazed and inspired just by browsing the summaries!

LIFTED: A Celebration of Unity and Song, the culmination of our MLK celebration, is a dinner, fundraiser, dance show, and community party all rolled into one. Students have teamed up to bring together high-energy performances from hip-hop dancers in Sheba, slam poets in Soul Scribes, rock band Occam's Razor, and more -- plus food from local favorite restaurants Gusanoz, The Orient, and Jewel of India.

One of the best parts of my job in Admissions is staying connected with students and seeing the amazing work they are doing -- across the globe and here in Hanover. This week has been a beautiful example of that, combined with a wonderful celebration of MLK's legacy.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Are we admitting applicants or applications?

Earlier this week our staff had a lively discussion with President Kim. He brought up this question about admissions in general and I thought I'd pose it to you.

Have you asked yourself this question before? How valid is the premise that an application is actually representative of an applicant? How can black-and-white forms capture a person's potential?

This question is not just for college admissions, but also for job hiring and other selection processes.

Grades, rank, and curriculum are solid measures of academic performance and potential. However, a liberal arts education is so much more than this. Accordingly, our decisions are based on far more information about the range of qualities you bring to our community. We're looking for intellectual inquiry, passion, leadership, talents, sense of humor, compassion, creativity, and much more. How can the entirety of the application accurately reflect all these more difficult-to-measure qualities?

Recommendations can be tremendously helpful. The Peer Evaluation similarly reveals intangible qualities. The Personal Statement shows us your life beyond grades and scores. But are we not still simply admitting the collection of words that have been ascribed to you?

What do you think? Are we admitting the applicant or the application? Is there a better process? What would the alternative look like?

Update: Dartmouth's Relief Efforts in Haiti

President Kim sent out a late afternoon e-mail regarding the status of our ongoing efforts to support the relief efforts in Haiti:

January 19, 2010

To the Dartmouth community:

Since last week's earthquake in Haiti, I have been astounded by our community's rapid response to this tragedy. Dartmouth people have come together, and they have reached out to their own networks. The result has been an outpouring of support from students, alumni, faculty, staff, parents, and friends.

A team of nine doctors and nurses from Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center (DHMC) is already on the ground providing direct care to earthquake victims at a Partners in Health (PIH) hospital in Hinche, Haiti. Another plane carrying 3,000 pounds of supplies landed in Port au Prince yesterday, and a second team of DHMC medical personnel departed from Lebanon, N.H., at 1 p.m. today. I am deeply grateful to these volunteers and the Dartmouth alumni and parents who provided the air transportation.

Dartmouth students have quickly mobilized, demonstrating that the world's troubles are their troubles. Through their organization, Students at Dartmouth for Haiti Relief (SDHR), they have raised more than $46,000 to date and are developing a long-term educational effort. Their vision is now serving as a national model, as students at other colleges and universities organize their own responses. I am so proud to see what our students are achieving through compassion, intellect, and hard work.

I have often commented on the unique spirit of collaboration at Dartmouth. Now, we are seeing how much we can accomplish by working together. While many other organizations are still trying to set relief efforts in motion, the alliance between Dartmouth College, Dartmouth Medical School, DHMC, and PIH has enabled us to quickly get help to where it is most needed. Regular updates on Dartmouth's response will be posted at

Many of you have given to relief agencies, including PIH . I thank you for demonstrating such generosity even as we address financial challenges here in Hanover.

Through next week, Dartmouth is celebrating the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In 1963, King wrote that, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." Our response to Haiti is focused on disaster relief, but we're also working to build social justice for a country that has been allowed to suffer without it for too long.


President Jim Yong Kim

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Engineering at Dartmouth: Some Frequently Asked Questions

Note: To begin what we hope will become a semi-regular feature on this blog, we invited Professor Erland Schulson of the Thayer School of Engineering to answer some frequently asked questions about studying engineering at Dartmouth. In the future, we hope to have similar guest posts from faculty and staff representing various areas of the college. If there are academic or extracurricular topics you would enjoy reading more about on this blog, please leave a comment on this post with your suggestions. -Brian

Guest Post by Professor Erland Schulson
Char, Engineering Sciences Department

Dartmouth and the Thayer School of Engineering believe that nothing should stand in the way of creativity, collaboration, and innovation. That’s why you won’t find departments at Thayer, and you won’t be limited to a single area of engineering. Instead, you’ll study Engineering Sciences. You’ll master broad principles you can apply in all areas of engineering as you solve real-world problems. You’ll explore a variety of disciplines before delving into a specialty of your choice.

1) How is the undergraduate program structured in the absence of engineering departments?

A single department brings together faculty with expertise in a range of engineering and science disciplines. Students are mentored by teachers who are not only experts in one or more fields but also generalists who can envision solutions that cut across traditional disciplines.

During the A.B. program, core engineering courses give students tools that are applicable to all fields while electives allow the student to investigate a field of choice.

At the heart of the undergraduate curriculum is systems analysis. Not mechanical systems or electrical systems or thermal systems. Systems. Students apply equations for lumped, discrete, and distributed systems to engineering problems from all fields.

In our “Introduction to Engineering” course, you’ll team with other students to meet a real-life challenge, such as devising a way to conserve energy, easing life for people with physical disabilities, or helping children learn. In our core courses you’ll master principles you can apply to all areas of engineering. You’ll delve into various fields — biomedical, materials science, and mechanical, to name a few.

2) I do want to work in a specific area within engineering. Is it possible to prepare for such a career at Dartmouth?

Absolutely. At Dartmouth you can select a concentration in a particular area of engineering. This coursework focus, combined with projects and/or internships in a particular field, prepares students well for launching careers in a variety of traditional engineering disciplines.

3) The A.B. degree in Engineering Sciences does not lead to professional licensure as an Engineer. What educational and career paths do students pursue with an A.B. degree?

Approximately three-quarters of engineering majors acquire Dartmouth’s professional B.E. degree, and most of the rest go into a variety of full-time employment. Opportunities for A.B.-only graduates include:
· Lab technician
· Computer design and analysis
· Technical sales, marketing, and public relations
· Financial consulting
· Technical writing
· Science and technology public policy
Of course many students also go on to Master’s and Ph.D. programs, not only in engineering but also in other fields such as medicine, business, and law.

4) What areas of concentration are available through the B.E. degree option?

Although engineering at Dartmouth is cross-disciplinary, students can also pursue interests in traditional engineering fields. Engineering sciences majors who plan to pursue the B.E. program work with faculty advisors to develop the best programs. The sample programs accessed through the list below show the typical foundation and advanced courses for specific engineering fields.

Biomedical Engineering
Chemical Engineering
Computer Engineering
Electrical Engineering
Environmental Engineering
Materials Science and Engineering
Mechanical Engineering

5) How does Thayer's approach enhance the engineering student experience at Dartmouth?

Most engineering schools advocate interdisciplinary thinking while still requiring a commitment to a specific discipline. Climb into the box first, they say, then think outside it. For Dartmouth engineers, the box does not exist.

You'll learn engineering by solving real engineering problems. Even in your initial courses, you'll be inventing things and analyzing problems using tools common to all engineering disciplines.

At Dartmouth—the smallest school in the Ivy League—you'll also experience unparalleled personal attention within a close-knit, collaborative community.

And because engineering at Dartmouth is part of the liberal arts, you'll gain the skills and knowledge that distinguish Dartmouth engineers as a breed apart. You'll know how to communicate. You'll know how to see the big picture . And, most importantly, you’ll learn how to work with people to get the job done.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Dartmouth's Response to the Haiti Earthquake Disaster

As the world continues to learn the extent of the devastation in Haiti following this week's earthquake near Port-au-Prince, the Dartmouth community is mobilizing to provide financial and medical assistance. Here is a bulletin to the Dartmouth community from President Jim Yong Kim, sent yesterday evening:

To the Dartmouth Community:

Reports on the aftermath of the earthquake that struck Port-au-Prince this week reveal the devastating extent of the damage and loss of life. At Dartmouth, we share the grief of Haitians and are mobilizing to assist in the relief effort.

As you may know, over 20 years ago I co-founded Partners in Health (PIH), the nonprofit medical relief organization that operates in several countries. My colleagues on the ground tell me that earthquake victims are streaming into PIH clinics in Haiti, which are located in rural areas that sustained less damage. Author Tracy Kidder wrote in The New York Times today that, "As a result of this calamity, Partners in Health probably just became the largest health care provider still standing in all Haiti."

Many of you have asked how you can help. The urgent need is financial support. I encourage you to donate to organizations that you know will make immediate use of your dollars for earthquake relief. I especially encourage you to consider a donation to Partners In Health, . While there are a number of organizations involved in the response, I guarantee that your donation to PIH will go directly to relief efforts. If possible, we ask that you use your Dartmouth email address when making contributions to show our community's support for the Haitian people.

The greatest threat to Haiti now is a delayed response from people and organizations of goodwill. Dartmouth is in a unique position to help, due to our close relationship with PIH and our expertise in emergency planning. The New England Center for Emergency Preparedness, which operates out of Dartmouth Medical School and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center (DHMC), has been working to improve emergency response in the Upper Valley since 1999.

Dr. John Butterly of DHMC is managing Dartmouth's efforts to send medical supplies and a team of physicians, nurses, and critical care personnel to work with PIH in Haiti as a first line of response. There are major transportation and logistical issues related to providing direct aid. While raising monetary aid is imperative, if you believe you have specific expertise, skills, or access to resources that would be helpful, please email

In addition, students across the institution are organizing to raise funds and awareness. I encourage students to attend an open meeting in Alumni Hall on Sunday, January 17, at 6:30 p.m., and to email with questions or ideas.
These are difficult financial times at Dartmouth, and we cannot lose our focus on the work ahead of us. However, moments like these are rare and challenge us to show our compassion for those who are facing unspeakable tragedy and desperation.

As John Sloan Dickey said, the world's troubles are our troubles and right now, Haiti's troubles are as horrific as anything I have witnessed. Let's show the world that Dartmouth will step up when people are truly in need.

Jim Yong Kim