Beginning with summer heat and ending with inchworms and pollen, by all accounts it has been an active school year. As the 2011-2012 academic year comes to a close and the seniors prepare for graduation, it’s time to reflect on what has made this year so special and memorable.
In August, the college welcomed Carol Quillen, our first female president. President Quillen, who frequently repeated her intention to listen and learn from the college community throughout the year, “is very much trying to look for the best curriculum and best pedagogical approach for students in the next ten to fifteen years,” said Dean of Faculty Clark Ross. President Quillen has especially stressed faculty-student research, interdisciplinary study and the importance of a liberal arts education.
“She has been a very articulate spokesperson for the importance of a liberal arts education—why it matters more than ever now, rather than less,” said Christopher Alexander, Associate Dean for International Programs.
Even many of the seniors who knew President Ross well are excited about the change. “It is an honor to be the first class to graduate under her watch. I know it’s special for her to have that distinction,” said Faheem Rathore, Senior Class President.
The passing of mathematics professor Robert Whitton will be a poignant memory for many students. “I think a lot of people would have wished to have him there for their graduations. But the way people came around and celebrated him, I think that means a lot to the seniors,” said Rathore.
Praise for Dr. Whitton is widespread. “What we don’t say enough is the value of relationships here. He sought hard to develop relationships with students…He really epitomized what we all hope just what a professor would do for a student,” said Dean of Students Tom Shandley.
This year was also marked by construction throughout campus. The Center for Teaching and Learning was finished over the summer, construction of the new residence hall for sophomores continues and renovation of the current sophomore apartments will begin soon. According to Associate Dean of Teaching Verna Case, the Center for Teaching and Learning is an opportunity for professors to practice “trying out new pedagogues and innovative ways of teaching.” In addition to the nearly daily tutoring sessions, forums on new teaching techniques are often held there.
The new dorm was designed specifically with the sophomore experience in mind. “It’s going to be amazing, and we don’t have anything like it at Davidson…Truly every floor will be like its own community,” said Dean Shandley. Each floor will be co-ed, housing fifteen students on each side in mostly doubles. There will be a kitchen as well as communal study and living spaces on each floor.
For the students, the open Honor Council hearing and memorable basketball seasons were especially exciting. The open Honor Council Hearing had the student body ablaze with discussion. “It’s one of those important things, but we can never see it, and for that to happen, and the conversations that followed afterwards, were intellectually speaking, very meaningful. For me, that’s one of the things I’ll never forget about my senior year. For a lot of people, it reaffirmed their commitment to [the Honor Code],” said Rathore.
Dean Shandley calls the open Honor Council hearing an “incredible opportunity for the community to see [the Honor Council] in action.”
“I think that conversations that have spurred because of that are healthy—they really are,” Shandley added. “I’m thrilled that we were able to do it, and that students were able to see what is normally sort of mysterious.”
Both the men and women’s basketball teams had extremely successful seasons this year, spurring on great student pride and enthusiasm. For seniors in particular, the men’s trip to the NCAA tournament brought back fond memories of their freshmen year when Stephen Curry was still playing for Davidson. “I know for a lot of people, including me, it reminded us of our freshmen year and how much fun that was,” said Rathore. Rathore was caught up in the student energy and the “feeling of doing the impossible.”
Academics made a great deal of impressive strides as well. After three years of work, the new distribution requirements beginning with the Class of 2016 has been approved. The requirements have been reduced and adjusted. “Instead of ten that are principally defined by department, there are eight…These are defined by modes of thinking or ways of thinking. There is a fair bit of overlap [with previous requirements] in some, but in other cases it’s broader,” said Dean Ross.
In addition, campus celebrity Hansford Epes will be retiring at the end of this year, and new registrar Angie Boyer Dewberry will take his place. “She’s very young and very Davidson,” said Ross. “We’re very thrilled to have her coming back. It’ll be very difficult to replace Dr. Epes, who has been here for many years in many capacities, but we’re excited to have her.” Many other new faculty and staff will join Davidson for the upcoming semester as well.
Dean Shandley agrees. “What people don’t know is he’s one of the most compassionate people you’ll ever meet…He’s one of those people who’s been around forever that you just can’t replace,” he said.
Several new initiatives came to fruition this year as well. We Car, a car-sharing program for student rental, was approved, so next year students will be able to rent cars cheaply by the hour. Since Enterprise sponsors the We Car program, students will have discounted access to the entire car fleet for longer road trips. This replaces the previously planned Zipcar program.
The Multicultural House director and new turf for the football field experienced their first years, too. With a new full-time director, the Multicultural House was able to fully take shape with a vision for students, according to Dean Shandley. The turf field allowed many activities to come to the center of campus, including lacrosse, flickerball and ultimate frisbee. “There’s just a lot of activity out there that didn’t exist before,” said Dean Shandley.
Although there were many large events throughout campus this year, for many the most memorable times are simple moments with friends. For the seniors, these moments often include reflecting on their experiences here, but also looking forward to post-graduation successes.
“Class of 2012 is definitely going to be represented well in the world after Davidson,” said Rathore. Hopefully this year will be as memorable to the seniors as the seniors have been to rest of Davidson’s community.