What Makes Ambrose Different?

Ambrose Professor Jonathan Goosen

A Professor’s Perspective

After teaching at Ambrose for the last five years, I am consistently struck by how different the education our students receive is from the one I got at a large mainstream university. I certainly had some excellent professors who inspired me and guided me in my learning and career path. But the large class sizes they faced sometimes made it hard for them to give me personalized guidance and training. I was too often left on my own to figure out how to improve my writing, do research and plan for my career. While I was a successful student, I could have done much better if I had worked more closely with my professors.

In contrast, because Ambrose is a small school, professors teach smaller classes and fewer students. As a result, we are able to get to know students’ interests and abilities, and this allows us to tailor our teaching to those qualities. For example, at the beginning of a course, I will regularly offer my senior students choices about what books we will read and what sorts of assignments they will do – this makes a difference in how deeply we learn because students inevitably work harder on things they care more about.

Ambrose’s small size also allows me to get to know individual students’ strengths and weaknesses over the course of four years: I remember how students wrote and thought in their first year, and as a result, can personally track and guide their development in later years. As an example of this, we have an extraordinary English literature graduate who is going to Oxford University for a master’s degree in the fall. She consulted with me on every major paper she wrote for my classes, and this meant I was able to help her develop her thinking and writing step by step, year after year. As a result of her hard work, she recently won Canada’s top entrance scholarship for Master’s studies (an award several other recent English grads have also won), and she has been accepted to present a research paper at a conference meant for university professors.

While most Ambrose graduates don’t go off to grad school, the fact that we consistently turn out students who go on to excel at universities like Oxford, Dalhousie, and the University of Alberta shows that an Ambrose education can be truly first-rate. Indeed, students regularly report back that they feel better prepared for advanced studies than many of their grad student peers.

With that said, Ambrose allows profs to help not only exceptionally gifted students, but also those who have difficulty with academics. I regularly spend time one-on-one with students who struggle with essay writing, for example, explaining how sentences work and how they can write more clearly and persuasively. In this way, students who might fall between the cracks at a mainstream university can succeed (with hard work) at Ambrose.

I have to add, though, that Ambrose is about more than readings and assignments. I regularly enjoy profound conversations with students about ideas of all sorts – spiritual, philosophical, literary – and how those ideas ought to make a difference in our lives. Even as we challenge students to explore new understandings of God and the world, we never merely cut them loose on a sea of relativity, but, instead, we show them how deep personal faith relates to complex intellectual questions and concepts.

So give Ambrose a shot: I think you’ll be impressed with how it can develop your mind and prepare you for success.

Faculty