Wesleyan University is a private liberal arts university located in Middletown, Connecticut, approximately 16 miles from Hartford and 100 miles from New York City. It is widely regarded as one of the best and most influential liberal arts colleges in the US.
Wesleyan University offers the bachelor of arts degree in over 40 major fields of study, as well as master of arts and doctor of philosophy degrees in selected fields. Its undergraduate enrollment consists of approximately 2,700 full-time students drawn from across the United States and around the world. 53% of students in the Class of 2008 are women, and 47% are men. About one-third of class members describe themselves as students of color. Another 7% are international students.
Here is the transcript of our recent interview with Nancy Hargrave Meislahn, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid at Wesleyan University.
How would you describe the benefits of the liberal arts program offered at Wesleyan University?
One of my favorite ways to describe and characterize Wesleyan University in the context of liberal arts education is that it is an institution that has its head in the clouds and its feet on the ground.
That, for me, is a wonderful visual image. It is also a way of reminding everyone and anyone that Wesleyan is a very intellectual place. We are absolutely committed to the highest level of scholarship across the broadly defined disciplines of liberal arts and sciences.
At the same time, we think about the benefits that we hope are accruing to the education of Wesleyan students and graduates. We think about our place in the world and the effects of our decisions on others. We look to our faculty to have a very contemporary place in scholarship, to be thinking on the cutting edge in every discipline, but in a very contemporary way. A very good example of that is Martha Crenshaw, who is currently Chair of the Department of Government. Professor Crenshaw is one of the world’s leading experts in terrorism. She’s an example of someone working at, again, the highest level of intellectual and academic inquiry, but thinking about it very much in the context of the real world.
What do you see as the value of a liberal arts education in the twenty-first century?
The faculty at Wesleyan has established what we call “key capabilities” for liberal arts education. These are the skills that we want a Wesleyan graduate to head out into the world with.
Ours is a completely elective curriculum. Our advisors work with students in putting together course work that gives them balance across the academic disciplines and that, at the end of the day, has provided each student with a level of competence in quantitative briefing, in logic, and in the ability to create and design and build new knowledge – as well as a foundation in ethical reasoning, which we think is the foundation for good citizenship. We also think that the educational experience should develop cross-cultural understanding and information and technology literacy.
What kinds of students are the best match for Wesleyan?
Wesleyan students are smart. They have a very high degree of intellectual curiosity and are curious about themselves and curious about our place in the world. I think that is absolutely the common thread among students who are well matched for Wesleyan University.
Also, because of the individualized nature of the curriculum, I think it probably takes a student with a tad more self confidence to thrive here. There is nothing passive about the Wesleyan experience. Because there is no core curriculum, but rather this open curriculum, a student really does need to have a certain level of comfort and to be able to take the initiative.
There is also a degree of idealism here that I just love. I think that Wesleyan students really think that one person can make a difference in the world.