Alumnus Describes “Scenic Route to Self-Knowledge”

Daniel Carpenter ('11)A graduate student in political science at Claremont University, Daniel Carpenter (’11) has written a thoughtful essay for The John William Pope Center for Higher Education about his time at the College. Having previously attended a conventional modern university, Mr. Carpenter initially found the College’s unique academic program “disconcerting,” but soon came to love it:

“I thought, per my experience at University of Alaska-Anchorage, that education should be oriented predominantly around what I wanted. There, except for a few minor requirements, I could pick and choose my classes according to the whim of the moment.

“That’s not how it was at Thomas Aquinas, not by a long shot. Everyone got the same degree, took the same classes, and studied and discussed with the same section of students (although sections are mixed each ensuing year). The program was based on the classical model of the Trivium and Quadrivium. There was also a strong emphasis on character, both in and outside the classroom.

“This approach made a big difference. I realized that true education involves surrendering. Instead of fighting the demands of my professors or the structure of the program, I needed to adopt an attitude of prudential humility in the face of the challenges and possibilities before me. Some of the philosophy and literature classes were outside of my comfort zone, but I soon came to appreciate, and ultimately relish the challenges. It was an educational leap of faith, and yet also an exercise that instills ethical and intellectual excellence.”

The full story is available via the Pope Center website.

In addition to his studies, Mr. Carpenter serves as a research assistant at the Henry Salvatori Center for the Study of Individual Freedom in the Modern World at Claremont McKenna College. After graduating from Claremont University, he intends to pursue work in public policy, consulting, or government.


“I was moved and edified by your remarkable fidelity to St. Thomas Aquinas. Your academic program proposes an original way of training men and women capable of reading, thinking and interpreting tradition correctly.”

– Marc Cardinal Ouellet

Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops