With the goal of achieving higher national prominence, will DePauw start to be thought of as similar to Notre Dame?
In the early 90s, Davidson College in Charlotte, N.C., underwent a fundamental renewal of its campus with a price tag of well over $200 million.
DePauw President Brian Casey said a lot of people point to that rebuilding as the moment the institution entered the upper ranks of liberal arts colleges.
Casey said such reconstruction can lead to surges in applications and elevate the institution’s reputation.
“I think the appearance of a campus actually can affect its reputation,” he said.
The campus at the University of Notre Dame serves as a good example. Its appearance reflects and complements the history of the institution.
Professor Peter Graham said he wasn’t sure what effect Notre Dame’s physical appearance had on him while he studied there from 1981-1984.
“It was this wonderful, leafy place,” Graham said. “You wanted to go there and you wanted to hang out there. It just sort of encouraged ideas, and thoughts and philosophy.”
Jordan Gamble, a senior at Notre Dame, has worked as a tour guide for the university for the past two years. She said that even though students won’t admit that an attractive campus plays a contributing role in their college decision, it has an impact.
“I appreciate that. It makes learning and studying here really nice when the campus is beautiful,” Gamble said. “It definitely contributes to community.”
When choosing between schools Gamble took notice of the feeling of campus community.
“I was unimpressed by Northwestern’s lack of community,” Gamble said. “But then I really liked the schools like Grinnell and [Indiana University] and Notre Dame that have green spaces and centered around quads. You want it to be about academics, but if it’s not a fun place to live, you’re not going to want to spend four years there.”
A sophomore from Dallas, Texas, DePauw’s Sara Scully also applied to and visited Notre Dame. Scully said she found Notre Dame to be prettier, but the people at DePauw made the difference in her decision.
“I walked around DePauw’s campus and people here were really friendly,” Scully said of her campus visit. “They were much more friendly than they were at Notre Dame. People would say ‘hi’ to me and obviously they had no idea who I was. I think that played a big factor into it.”
Meg Kowieski, a junior at Notre Dame, noticed similarities between the two schools on visits when she was applying to colleges.
“Where a lot of college campuses are spread out among acres upon acres, Notre Dame and DePauw are very close to each other — all the classes, the housing — so it’s easier to get around and see people while also go to class,” Kowieski said.
The availability of a more specific major in graphic design influenced Kowieski’s final decision to enroll at Notre Dame. Looking back on her DePauw visit, Kowieski remembers the campus’ lack of a main entrance. Establishing one at DePauw, she said, would help in recruitment.
“I didn’t really necessarily know where to begin when I did my walking tour [at DePauw],” Kowieski said. “Whereas Notre Dame, there is a huge main entrance and you know exactly where you to go. I guess just because of the iconic buildings that are on campus you know exactly where to head to.”
Others, like DePauw senior Ryan Edelen, see few similarities between DePauw and Notre Dame. Edelen chose DePauw over Notre Dame after visiting both campuses.
“I guess the size is a little bit comparable and not even that really,” Edelen said. “They’re both really pretty campuses, they’re both really different schools.”
A campus plan, he said, has little to do with most student decisions.
“I feel like there are many other things that weigh in much more than that. At least that’s how it was for me,” Edelen said. “It was sort of a comfort level and a financial thing as opposed to what exactly the campus looks like.”
Having now spent more time as a professor at DePauw than his four years as a student at Notre Dame, Graham said there isn’t any comparison between the schools. Even if parts of their campus plans start to mirror each other, Graham said, “It’s apples and oranges.”
“Look at East College,” Graham said. “This makes us unique. Notre Dame doesn’t have anything like that. They have the Golden Dome. But that’s almost tawdry.”
The influence of religion in all aspects of campus life at Notre Dame versus the parallel influence greek life at DePauw creates a totally different atmosphere, Graham said. Nonetheless, he said it would be wise for DePauw to steal some ideas from Notre Dame’s campus.
“It’s a gorgeous campus,” Graham said. “I think it’s a good idea to take some of the best things from there and try to work them into our campus. I think that’s a great idea.”