In addition to understanding the unique and specific (and quite visible) attributes of Colgate — those features that contribute to its distinctiveness in American higher education — it is important, as one thinks about the future of Colgate, to understand other intangible factors that define Colgate University.
A notable characteristic of Colgate is its size. The university has long had a larger student body and faculty than those institutions to which it is most often compared. Its cultural feel — based on this scale and the activities of the campus, including its athletics program — can often make Colgate seem less like Williams or Swarthmore colleges and more like Dartmouth College or Duke University.
We should recognize that, due to this scale and the array of activities on the campus, the university has the possibility, unavailable to smaller colleges, to be excellent in multiple ways, whether in the classroom, on the athletics fields, or in artistic production.
The Energy of the Campus
Whether because of its size, its history, or its traditions, Colgate has a sense of energy. This, too, if developed in thoughtful ways, can be a powerful source of possibility for its future.
Colgate students are passionate. They engage deeply in their endeavors and they work together easily. They are not passive in their beliefs or their aspirations. This energy can be channeled into fruitful means, both academically and socially. It can also be a source of engagement as students seek to enter the leading graduate and professional programs, as they seek prestigious post-baccalaureate fellowships (such as Rhodes, Marshall, Watson, Truman, and Fulbright), and as they consider how best to use their time between semesters and in the summers.
A Sense of Place
Finally, and importantly, Colgate has always been a beautiful place. The beauty of the campus is, and has always been, a defining feature of the Colgate experience. Visitors notice the striking beauty of the campus immediately, students are affected by it, and alumni recall with emotion the beauty of the campus set in the Chenango Valley of central New York.
The quality of the campus shapes the experience of Colgate, and has been a central ingredient in the campus experience since the university’s founding. One arrives at Colgate’s campus. Driving from either the south or the north, the campus emerges strikingly in the valley, with large buildings set on a hill, arrayed above a small lake. The campus sets the stage for students, faculty, and staff and leaves its mark on Colgate graduates who speak emotionally of their experiences on a striking campus that has long had a sense of place.
There are, of course, many other college campuses that are beautiful and dramatic. Very few, however, engender the impact that Colgate’s does. This sense of place should be understood as a source of possibility, in that it can support a sense of community and serves as a powerful connection of alumni to their university.