Macalester: Hot, but not warm

By Emily Smith

But it’s cold there!

Macalester students come to expect this reaction whenever they tell someone that they go to college in Minnesota. Even those from similarly frigid climates (upstate New York, for example) report that friends and family respond far more animatedly to Minnesota’s climate than to Macalester’s excellent reputation.

With any luck, Macalester’s increasing popularity and ever-climbing place in the rankings will change the rote response.
Does anyone warn incoming Harvard first-years that Cambridge is cold? Probably not, considering the awed silence invoked by the mere mention of the school’s name.

Macalester students from outside the heartland tend to experience three phenomena: First, the likelihood that anyone will have heard of Macalester decreases proportionally with distance from the Twin Cities. Second, international students, who have the incredible cool factor of attending college overseas, are more likely to encounter a favorable response. Third, the Class of 2010 (the first class to choose Macalester while aware of its “Hottest Liberal Arts College” and “New Ivy” rankings) encountered more people who had heard of their new school than did previous classes.

A variety of first-years and sophomores were interviewed regarding how people reacted to the news that they were going to Macalester. Special note was taken of their grandparents’ reactions, as Granny and Pop-Pop tend to have the greatest pride and most outlandish worries about their grandkids’ lives.

Clara Hill ’10, from Idaho, commented that, “People at home either thought Macalester was in Wisconsin or said, ‘Have fun on the East Coast!'” Her grandfather, a Harvard graduate, was okay with Mac because he got a sense of small liberal arts colleges from his friends at Colgate.

“My grandpa was pumped because he’s Scottish,” said Dennis Olsen ’09, of Illinois. “He’d probably never heard of the school, though.” Also, because a relative is president of Ohio’s Wittenberg College, “they were down with the liberal arts college,.” he said.

Ben Glickstein ’09, said that his grandfather simply asked why he chose such an expensive school — a reasonable reaction as he pays part of Glickstein’s tuition.

In addition, the interviews revealed that proximity to Macalester does not necessarily guarantee a knowledge of the college.
James Malleck ’10, of nearby South Dakota, remembers that his grandmother reacted to his deciding on Macalester with an e-mail titled “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!” Most of his friends, however, didn’t even know where the school was.

Courtney Jones ’10, is from Minnesota, but she commented that people said, “Macwhere?” and only sighed in recognition at the phrase “liberal arts college.”

Kevin Johnson ’10, from British Columbia, said that his grandmother in Middle of Nowhere, Oklahoma, has two neighbors who are Mac Alums.

Johnson may be an exception, though, as students from farther away mostly received the banal “It’s cold!” reaction.
Peter Lam ’10, from Texas, heard the same comment in a far more interesting form. He commented, “I was told to stop going commando and start wearing underwear, or things would freeze off!”

Henrich Hakonsen ’09, says that his friends hadn’t heard of Macalester, but that’s perfectly logical as he comes from Norway. He remarked that going to school overseas “definitely gives some cool points.” Still, Hakonsen fielded the question, “If you’re going to the U.S., why not go somewhere warm?”

Nora Catolico ’10, said that “Most people hadn’t heard of it. Everyone who had, thought it was awesome.”

Catolico’s response echoed other hopeful responses. Perhaps most people haven’t heard of Macalester, but those who have seem to admire it.