The morning dawned sunny and mild in Dallas, Texas on the second day of the “Magic in the Metroplex” counselor tour and the mood was cheerful as we made our way just outside of the city proper to Irving, Texas, home of the University of Dallas, a truly unique college that offers students a one-of-a-kind liberal arts education the likes of which aren’t to be found many other places anymore.
Described by university president Thomas Keefe as “a throwback school,” U Dallas is deeply rooted in the teachings of the Catholic church as well as the great books of history. As such, the core requirements for each student are not only extensive (each of the school’s nearly 1,400 undergraduate students complete 19 core requirements), but also require deep thought and a lot of reading. Standard for each U Dallas freshman is a complete reading of The Iliad – a book they will then read two more times before graduation – and then as they work their way through the rest of the core curriculum, they’ll encounter the works of Homer, Plato, Aristotle, Shakespeare, and many others, all as a means to deepen their understanding of the current modern world. (As one faculty member put it, the students’ understanding of and relationship to Shakespeare’s famed plays changes dramatically when they’ve read the actual source materials from which he drew during the writing process.)
Though the core curriculum may seem intimidating to many students upon introduction to the university (indeed, faculty members say that students “lose themselves” in the core requirements during their first two years before they “find themselves” again as they settle into their majors as juniors and seniors), the small, close-knit campus community offers tremendous support and a surprisingly broad series of opportunities for students to branch out and explore. Chief among the U Dallas experiential offerings is the school’s famed Rome semester, wherein students travel to the university’s satellite campus just outside the Italian capital (and within view of the Pope’s centuries-old summer residence). While there, they’re able to see and study in the very places they’ve read so much about in the ancient texts in the core and those who have been describe it as a wholly life-changing experience.
Equestrians won’t find a formalized club or team at the University of Dallas (admittedly, the fact that students can check the president’s dog Shiloh out of the library during the stress of final exams is phenomenal, but one expects that Shiloh is still a poor substitute for a horse), but the school is far enough outside the hustle of the Metroplex that a search for boarding stables might prove fruitful and those who love learning about the ancient history of the human-horse relationship will find more than enough fodder to fulfill their curiosity. (Xenophon anyone?)