Fans of the Broadway musical Hamilton and true believers in the value of a liberal arts education are cheering this week as Wesleyan University announces the establishment of the Wesleyan University Hamilton Prize for Creativity, a four-year full tuition scholarship honoring Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, Hon. ’15 and Thomas Kail ’99, who between them created, starred in and directed the hit musical for which the prize is named.
“I’m truly honored and excited that Wesleyan has created this prize,” said Miranda. “Wesleyan nurtures creativity and encourages students to make connections across disciplines. I got my shot at Broadway thanks to the start I had as an artist in this environment, and I hope this prize will help other young writers to get their start.”
The Hamilton Prize will be awarded to an incoming student (beginning with the class of 2021), who has submitted a work—fiction, poetry, song or creative nonfiction—judged to best reflect the originality, artistry and dynamism embodied in Hamilton. Miranda and Kail will serve as honorary chairs of a panel of distinguished faculty and alumni charged with judging what is bound to be an amazing competition among budding young artists who are also aspiring academics looking for a home at Wesleyan University.
And how smart is this? Capitalizing on a moment in time—the popularity of an extraordinary work of art: a multicultural hip-hop “opera,” Wesleyan has chosen to shine a spotlight on why it is so very important for students and families not to lose sight of the true value of a liberal arts education.
“When Alexander Hamilton’s generation considered higher education, many believed it was crucial that students not think they already knew at the beginning of their studies where they would end up when it was time for graduation,” writes Michael S. Roth, president of Wesleyan University, in a column for The Huffington Post. “For all those who have followed on this American path of liberal education, learning was all about exploration—and you would only make important discoveries if you were open to unexpected possibilities.”
In an era in which parents are desperate for their children to connect their academic careers with job prospects and the value of an education may be reduced to a simple cost-benefit analysis, it’s heartening to know there are still colleges and universities willing to support exploration and value the life of the mind.
“We’ve created the ‘Hamilton Prize’ to reflect our commitment to educating young people with the potential to revitalize our economy, animate our citizenry and energize a culture characterized by connectivity and creativity,” concludes Roth.
And as President Roth also points out, “Hamilton is a major event, and this is a major prize.”
Interested students will be able to submit their creative work along with their application for admission—most likely the Common Application with a portfolio submitted through Slideroom. Details will be available later in the summer.
And keep in mind that Wesleyan is now test-optional for applicants from the U.S . or Canada.