Roots & Seeds

5 March 2020
By Steven G. Poskanzer, Carleton President
illustration of people watering plants and picking fruit

Carleton seeks extraordinarily intelligent, bold, unpretentious individuals who are poised to draw the greatest benefit from an eye-opening, vista- expanding, previous-assumptions-exploding liberal arts education. And we purposefully assemble a talented and diverse incoming class that affirmatively wants to learn from each other outside of the classroom by living in a tight-knit residential community.

Finding and convincing these students to apply to Carleton—regardless of their financial circumstances—is just the beginning of what I think of as their “arc of opportunity.” This arc extends from their matriculation through their coursework, studies abroad, internships, research opportunities, graduation, and into their careers in the world.

When students first step on campus, we don’t expect they know what they will do with their lives. Indeed, I worry if they think they do! Instead, every student is encouraged to be a kind of intellectual pioneer, consciously exploring new domains of curiosity.

When students find subjects that capture their hearts and minds, they’re ready for what’s further out along the curve understanding how people who share these same interests have been able to create lives that tap their passions and lead to professional success and fulfillment. Students can make this assessment by talking with faculty members and the Career Center staff, by shadowing and seeking advice from alumni, and by otherwise learning what professionals in a prospective field actually do on a daily basis. And Carleton alumni joyfully accept the opportunity to circle back to give support to current students in this way.

Having generated exciting and intriguing ideas about career possibilities, students should next consciously test these notions. This is the point along the arc of opportunity where externships and internships are so important.

And let me note here that even if students try out a certain field and don’t like it, that’s not a failure. To the contrary, they’re still closer to figuring out what they love to do. Finding the ideal career is an iterative learning process that liberal arts students are fully equipped to pursue.

Finally, we aim to help launch our graduates into their field of choice — whether that means finding an exciting job or entering a high-quality graduate or professional school. This is how we keep faith with the promise the students showed and the wisdom they exhibited by choosing Carleton.

This issue of Inside Carleton is designed to provide you with actual examples of student-faculty research, study abroad programs, internships, and other milestones that regularly occur along this arc of opportunity. It is our hope that the glimpse will inspire you to imagine ways in which you might support current students in their intellectual journeys as our wonderful alumni community once helped to support you!