Daniel F. Chambliss, Eugene M. Tobin Distinguished Professor of Sociology, Hamilton College
Dr. Chambliss is co-author, with Christopher G. Takacs, his former student, of How College Works, published in February 2014 by Harvard University Press. The book reveals the surprisingly decisive role that personal relationships play in determining a student’s collegiate success, and puts forward a set of small, inexpensive interventions that yield substantial improvements in educational outcomes.At a liberal arts college in New York, the authors followed a cluster of nearly 100 students over a span of eight years. Curricular and technological innovations mattered much less than the professors and peers whom students met, especially early on. At every turning point in students’ undergraduate lives, it was the people, not the programs, that proved critical. Great teachers were more important than the topics studied, and even a small number of good friendships—two or three—made a significant difference academically as well as socially.
For most students, college works best when it provides the daily motivation to learn, not just access to information. Improving higher education means focusing on the quality of a student’s relationships with mentors and classmates, for when students form the right bonds, they make the most of their education.
Sponsored by the Office of the President