Award-Winning Essayist & Critic
William Deresiewicz is an award-winning essayist and critic, a frequent college speaker, and the best-selling author of Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life. He was a professor of English at Yale for ten years and a graduate instructor at Columbia for five. His essay “The Disadvantages of an Elite Education” has been viewed over one million times online. “Solitude and Leadership,” an address at West Point, has been taught across the military and corporate worlds. Read More >
2013 Hiett Prize Recipient Dr. Willian Deresiewicz
What Education Is For
Finding Truth In the Humanities
What You Get Out of a Liberal Arts Education
Building on his controversial and inspirational best-seller, Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life, Deresiewicz talks about the true purpose of college. What are the liberal arts, and what are they supposed to do for you? What gets lost when college is understood in exclusively practical terms? What are the forces that are acting on students and institutions today, and how can they best be resisted?
Creativity is all the rage these days. Everybody wants to be creative, and every company wants creative people on its team. As business and the arts draw closer together, how are they changing each other? Expanding on his viral assay for the Atlantic, "The Death of the Artist—and the Birth of the Creative Entrepreneur," Deresiewicz talks about our changing understanding and practice of creative work and the creative life.
Deresiewicz’s 2009 address at West Point, "Solitude and Leadership," has become a modern classic of leadership literature, taught across the military and the business worlds. What does leadership really mean? What alternative models of leadership may be available? In today’s hyperactive and compulsively interconnected world, why is the inner life more important than ever for leaders to cultivate, and how can they go about doing so?
Deresiewicz is the author of A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship, and the Things That Really Matter. “I finished the book with two strong impulses," Michelle Wiener said in her Associated Press review, "one, to immediately reread everything Jane Austen wrote, with Deresiewicz's book at my side, and two, to invite Deresiewicz over for more Austen talk.” Deresiewicz shares the wisdom of this timeless author.
"Bill's talk was a huge success; we received overwhelmingly positive feedback from attendees. He was provocative, and quickly drew the audience into the presentation. His eloquence and passion ignited real interest and we were eager to hear his perspective. After the talk, he encouraged us to ask questions, responding honestly and with empathy for high school kids facing the maze of higher education in America. It was one of the most important presentations we will attend this year."
"Bill Deresiewicz has spoken twice to our Honor students and each time he has shaken them to the core with his insights and charm. Bill knows how to challenge our fundamental assumptions with a persuasive argument filled with powerful moments from the human drama. We might as well speak of the 'Deresiewicz residual effect' because we faculty, staff and students find ourselves contemplating his words months after his departure. You will enjoy Bill immensely!"
"Bill Deresiewicz was an excellent speaker and visitor. Not only did he present two different lectures, each equally challenging, inspiring, and illuminating, but he sat down for a fascinating half-hour TV interview, held two hour-long meetings with a group of students and a group of humanities faculty and university administrators, and fielded questions from enthusiastic members of the lecture audiences for nearly an hour after each of the two lectures. Simply put, he was terrific."
"Bill Deresiewicz's message certainly resonated with students. These kids often sacrifice the very habits of heart and mind that a liberal education is meant to foster--and their own well-being, curiosity, intellectual and spiritual vibrancy in the process. His words certainly engendered reflection in our community. And the truth he spoke inspired courageous countercultural choices for students."
"Bill is an inspirational speaker who has visited my campus on multiple occasions. His talks on higher education and on the value of the liberal arts have been followed by lively and engaged discussion sessions, and the conversations continue well beyond his time on campus. He raises important questions and resists the urge—his own or his audience's—to provide simple answers. We will definitely bring him back again!"
"Bill Deresiewicz makes a powerful impression on any college campus. His visits to Stanford are among the most memorable in the past decade of the Center for Ethics in Society. His provocative, learned, and witty presentations guarantee conversations among attendees long after he departs campus."