While I never lacked for imagination, the entrance of my now 9-year-old daughter into my life has brought that part of me into sharp focus. I’ve delighted in playing games with her, speculating on why or how something happens, and projecting into the future about events to come. What I didn’t expect was seeing how much our imagination dictates the direction and course of our life.

To give you a small example, my partner and I have been taking our daughter to our workplace since she was very small.  Her first visit to DePaul was at the age of six weeks, when we both had to attend a meeting of the personnel committee in the spring quarter of her birth.  Our generous colleagues were her first babysitters as we met with tenure-track faculty for their reviews. More recently I’ve taken to bringing to her my classes at least once a quarter.  She hears about my students almost daily, and she enjoys it a lot more when she’s had a chance to meet the students directly.  She bravely introduces herself to the class and then sits and watches me interact with the students. She’s been to the campus so often that people recognize her by sight. She, of course, often doesn’t remember them, which has led her to believe that she’s a sort of celebrity at DePaul.  I’ve never tried to dissuade her from that idea.

Not unrelated to the campus visits, I have long encouraged her to attend college.  I know that girls face pressures that boys don’t regarding family life.  Those pressures can have a negative impact on their education, and I wanted to make sure that she envisioned herself attending and graduating from college, regardless of what it is that she ends up doing.

I was reasonably confident that I had instilled the idea of college in her, but I learned today just how much she’s fixed it in her imagination. She had an event hosted by her Brownie troop in the suburbs, and I ended up talking to the mother of another 3rd grader at Erin’s school. We were discussing school, when the topic of college came up. The mother informed me that my daughter tells all of her classmates that she’s going to attend DePaul.  While I would certainly be happy to have her attend a university free of charge, I’ve also made it clear to her that her college choice is up to her.  I shared that with the mother, who appreciated the story.

When I talked to my daughter about it later, she told me that she regularly asks her classmates where they plan to attend college. When they say they don’t know (as is expected for an 8 or 9 year old) she said she encourages them to consider DePaul. After all, as she explained to me, the teachers are quite good, there are a variety of majors, and everyone at the place takes education very seriously. It may well be that in another decade DePaul will have a spike in applications from students in the Chicago Public Schools who attended my daughter’s elementary school. That idea makes me smile. It also has me wondering how things might be different if more 3rd graders were already convinced that they were going to attend college.