Students return to Hanover College this weekend with classes set to commence on Monday, September 2. This time of year always affords me the opportunity to reflect and consider what makes Hanover distinctive. This is also the first time since 2016 I will not be in the classroom teaching students. My additional administrative responsibilities have pulled me away from the awesome opportunity to work with young adults in the classroom, so I wanted to take a deep dive on why I think Hanover is so special.

Having worked at Hanover since 2005, what amazes me about Hanoverians is their level of engagement, maturity and constant drive towards excellence. Hanover is a place where a student—no matter where they come from—has a special opportunity to chart their own unique path forward. Hanover gives students space to explore and discover what matters most to them in their college experience; providing support, counsel, advice and guidance to achieve what they previously thought might not have been possible. For some, college is about “finding your passion” and thinking critically about a major academic area of interest. I, however, prefer to ask students to consider challenges they want to work on; to look at the problems they want solve as means of finding their path. When advisors ask students to select a major in which they are passionate, there is an automatic assumption the student knows their passion—this is challenging. I find the question seems to look backward and does not force the individual to progress from where they are—to focus on where they see themselves post-Hanover. When you ask someone about a problem they want to work on or challenge they want to solve, you are helping them define a path forward, or at a minimum, provide boundaries. Hanover gives students their unique path forward, grounding their education in a way that prepares them to pivot and adapt during their career. Furthermore, students can complement their educational pursuits with high impact practices such as research, travel abroad, internships, externships and co-ops, comprehensive exams, senior capstone projects, service-learning and community-based learning projects. Not to mention extracurricular activities that develop Hanoverians in mind, body and spirit, e.g., music, art, athletics, Greek Life and campus employment.

Hanover College is a small, intimate learning environment by design, but it is also a place with immense opportunities—where students can be “big fish in a small pond”. Faculty, coaches, staff, alumni and mentors all contribute to and help shape the transformative experience all Hanoverians share. And yet, despite this shared experience, it is unique to each individual student. Is this a more expensive process of delivering undergraduate education? Yes, but Hanover is not merely attempting to deliver routine undergraduate education. It is an institution designed to deliver transformative experiences—experiences that allow Hanoverians to make a life, make a living and make a difference.

As vice president for strategy and enrollment, Chris Gage serves to guide the institutional enrollment objectives and strategic plan in consultation with all stakeholders. Gage is an experienced enrollment professional with progressive leadership responsibilities at Hanover College.