Current Issue

Measures of excellence

This issue of the University of Denver Magazine contains articles about some of our wonderful current students and graduates, about some of the important research projects being pursued at the University and about our engagement with the Denver community. We read often these days about different definitions of academic quality, and these pieces say a lot about what that term means at DU, how we are “walking the talk,” and about how we are moving to become one of the great universities in America.

Our principal definition of excellence is associated with the qualities of our students and alumni. With nearly five applicants for every slot in this fall’s first-year class, we’ve become much more selective in our admissions, and the result is an astonishingly capable group of new students. A very similar situation holds for most of our graduate programs.

Academic talent is surely important, but we’re really looking for much more in prospective DU students. We look for extraordinary men and women who are not only talented but who also are able to engage productively with other such people, from many different backgrounds, to collectively build an intense and satisfying intellectual community within which all can grow as human beings. We look for people who are committed to using their talents for the good of communities of people far beyond the University. These are the sorts of folks for whom, and through whom, a DU education can have an enormous impact.

Alumni like Ernie Stroud, who is profiled in this issue, exemplify the impact our graduates can have on the world beyond DU. Ernie has been working on behalf of military veterans for more than 50 years, most recently serving as a veterans’ advocate for the American Legion and the South Carolina chapter of the Disabled American Veterans.

This issue of the magazine also contains a feature article on Down syndrome research being conducted at DU’s Eleanor Roosevelt Institute. This research is an example of great scholarship that also has the potential for very high impact. It has drawn tremendous accolades from the academic community and solid grant support from the government, but it also could have a very direct impact on the quality of life of the many, many people with Down syndrome and related conditions, as well as their families.

This is scholarship that really matters to real people, and there are many more examples of this sort of work at DU. We believe that the best measure of excellence in scholarship and research is its ultimate impact on people or ideas, rather than the broad measures of activity favored by many other universities.

There also are several articles in this issue that speak to the wonderful level of engagement between the University community and the people of Denver. Whether it is the Enrichment Program at University College, our 125 year-old astronomy program or a host of other such programs, there is little doubt that our University is having a large and positive impact on the city. This, too, is a part of excellence at DU.

Ours is a finely honed, intense intellectual culture that continuously bubbles and percolates with new thoughts and ideas, where teaching and learning occur 24/7. We work hard to engage that culture with real people in real communities and the sometimes very difficult issues that they face. This engagement often provides solid grounding for what might otherwise be purely academic discourse, simultaneously creating the best possible learning environment for our students and faculty and having a positive impact on people’s lives.

That’s what we call academic excellence.

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