In the fall semester of 1983, current Macalester math professor and Director of the MAX Center Dave Ehren met Chris Oinonen over a game of Dungeons and Dragons with some floormates. It was a simple social gathering, facilitated by a mutual friend named Bob. Many of Dave and Chris’s friends lived in the same section of the Dupre Residence Hall and soon, a group was formed. Not too long after that, Dave and Chris started dating on and off. They continued to see each other throughout their time at Macalester College and married in 1990.
It seems hard to hear such a story and not chalk it up to serendipity. College is generally associated with a nauseating combination of immaturity, high stress levels and piles of homework, not romance or love. Finding your future spouse is unlikely in such conditions. However, rumors circulating around the Macalester campus seem to contradict that idea. A statistic that many students bring up in conversation claims that almost 50 percent of Macalester alumni marry other Mac students they met during college.
While the percentage sounds outrageous, some students, like first-year Maddie Gerrard, find it easy to believe. Her own parents are Macalester alums and, as she added, “out of my parents’ 10 close college friends, only three of them aren’t married to Mac grads.”
One anecdote alone does not prove much, but the Macalester climate may explain this high proportion of married alumni.
“People who go to Macalester tend to have similar values,” Gerard said, “and very similar ways of looking at the world.” Macalester draws together a large number of passionate students. Most students are involved in extracurricular activities that express their interests, which could partially explain this number.
Chris Oinonen Ehren’s experience as a Macalester student demonstrates how social environment for the students here is centered on the campus. When she was a student, “there was no parking…there’s not much space to put a car and not any good reason to leave campus.”
The situation hasn’t changed much since 1980. While Macalester is right in the Twin Cities, few students regularly venture outside of campus for social reasons. Whether that is due to the cold weather, work load or laziness is hard to tell, but campus is the ultimate social center.
Another important factor is where Mac alums choose to live. “There’s a shocking number of people who live less than two miles from Mac after they graduate,” Dave Ehren said. This influences whether the long-term relationships many students form in college will continue. “Others of us went to graduate school immediately in other parts of the country,” he said, “and that would put a damper on relationships.”
Despite plenty anecdotes that support the aforementioned statistic that many students have heard, it does not ring true when compared to the data that’s been collected on the subject. Macalester Anthropology professor Dianna Shandy conducted a survey of married Macalester alumnae, who graduated between 1970 and 2007. Of those interviewed, 31.4 percent met their partner or spouse in college. This isn’t quite the 50 percent that the campus rumor claims, although it should be noted that Shandy’s survey only involved female Macalester graduates. However, while this may disprove the 50 percent statistic, the number is still somewhat high compared to the rest of the country. The one third of Macalester marriages is higher than the 2006 national average, where a study of 3,000 adults concluded that 32 percent of those married met their partner through school and at work combined. In this informal comparison, Macalester does appear to have a relatively large number of alumni marriages.
Professor Shandy agreed. She has been a Macalester professor since 1999 and has stayed in contact with a large number of her students, and from what she’s seen, “Macalester students go through life as a cohort that stays connected.”
Even students who may not have met during their time here can meet with “Macalester friends serving as a point of connection.”
Despite the numbers, some still dismiss these romantic ideas. First-year Alexander Jenson was not convinced.“I have not found my future soulmate and I have been here at least four months,” he said. But for those who do have hope, Professor Ehren had a few words of wisdom to offer: “Mac is not a big school, but even at Mac people tend to be in the same circles… stretch your boundaries and just see who else you can meet.”
Chris Oinonen Ehren agreed, adding, “Don’t rule people out because they’re quiet or because they seem strange. Bother to get to know people.”