As one of the world’s great universities, the University of Chicago has been shaping higher education—and the intellectual lives of undergraduates—for more than a century. A private institution chartered in 1890, Chicago’s 203-acre campus on the shores of Lake Michigan has been home to 78 Nobel Laureates, the largest number affiliated with any American university. Chicago scholars were the first to split the atom, to measure the speed of light, and to develop the field of sociology.
I was going to begin: ‘When I look back on my four years at the University of Chicago, they seem to me like a blissful dream.’ But that is precisely wrong. I should say: ‘When I look back on my four years at the University of Chicago, they seem to me years of waking up and of being intensely awake.’ I say ‘awake’ because the University of Chicago, especially its college, is a community committed to the life of the mind, so that inquiry, whether in laboratories or libraries, tends to be intertwined with life.
Carrying on this tradition of innovative and provocative thought, Chicago’s 4,515 undergraduates form a community of learners who have discovered the pleasure of exploring, taking risks, immersing themselves intellectually, and determining the direction of their own education. They choose Chicago because they want an undergraduate liberal arts curriculum taught by a faculty of renowned scholars and teachers; they seek small classes and spirited discussions (eighty-three percent of classes have fewer than twenty-five students, and the studentfaculty ratio is 4:1); they participate in opportunities on and off campus that take their professional and recreational interests to a higher level; they want preparation for the most challenging careers and best graduate schools; and they look to learn outside of the classroom from some of the brightest minds around—other Chicago students.
Even the very brightest students do not run out of challenges. The university really has a liberal arts college housed within a world-class research university. The great resources of the research university are in most departments at the students’ disposal, and students often have close contact with the world of graduate students. The intellectual diversity of the students and faculty sustains endlessly stimulating debates. The wealth of diversity in the university is complemented by the wealth of diversity in the city: music, theater, shopping, dining, museums, movies, parks, ethnic neighborhoods, night life, and Lake Michigan.
These surroundings enrich and enliven the concentrated atmosphere of the university campus, where learning, discovery, hard work, and thoughtful conversation create an atmosphere that, for an intensely curious student, is exhilarating and inspiring.