The University of Chicago Magazine

October-December 1996


Interview with the President:
Hugo Sonnenschein on how
the University's plan will
involve Chicago alumni

QAs the University embarks on its effort to make the College more frequently the school of choice for the kind of students that Chicago has always prided itself upon, how would you like alumni to be involved?

A First, by taking the time to consider the goal: a stronger University. Next, alumni--of the College, especially, but also of the divisions and the professional schools--have a unique role to play in our efforts.

As former students, they know better than anyone what their Chicago education has meant in their personal and professional lives. The ability to think analytically and logically, to synthesize and integrate ideas and information, to write effectively, and to identify moral and ethical issues are all intellectual skills that our alumni value highly--and skills that they feel have been dramatically enhanced by their education at the University.

I would like alumni to share their belief in the quality and importance of that education with prospective students and to help current students and recent graduates with their own career choices. Both are effective, one-on-one ways to spread the good word about Chicago.

Q Is it true that you're planning to increase the size of the College's enrollment?

A What we plan to do is to strengthen and deepen our applicant pool. When, and only when, we have been successful in getting more of the best students to apply to Chicago, then I would like to make room for more of those top-flight students in the form of slightly larger entering classes.

Q If demand for the College goes up, and the size of the undergraduate class consequently is increased, what would that mean for the quality of the overall student experience?

A First, the intellectual rigor of the curriculum and the seriousness of purpose with which we approach scholarship, teaching, and learning must not--and will not--change. Let me also note that, under any scenario, the College would remain relatively small in size.

We need to plan carefully, and at the center of our planning process must be a belief in the value of Chicago's institutional culture--one that is truly dedicated to ideas, to discovery, and to intellectual community.

Q What does the plan to place special emphasis on the College mean for the University's graduate and professional programs?

A A stronger College will benefit all the graduate and professional programs by helping to draw applicants. It's a fact of life in American higher education that the selectivity of a university's undergraduate college adds to the prestige of the institution's graduate and professional programs.

And let me add that focusing on the College does not mean that graduate and professional education programs are being de-emphasized. Through the work begun by the Task Force for Graduate Education, as well as in the individual divisions and schools, the University continues to improve those programs. Indeed, the focus on the College is meant to complement those efforts.

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