Pilgrim Pathways: Notes for a Diaspora People

Incarnational Discipleship

Hidden Gems, IV: Upper Mid-West

The upper Mid-West is largely rural. IL, IN, MI, & MN , & Wisconsin, have some large urban centers, but remain mostly rural. Iowa doesn’t  really have anything that could be considered an “urban center” by either East Coast or West Coast standards.  So, with lower populations, the number of higher education institutions drops. Do the “hidden gems” stick out from the “usual suspects” in higher education when the overall number of colleges and universities is smaller? I think so, but you decide. Again, the purpose of this series is simply to say that in each state and region of the United States there are colleges and universities that deserve the attention of prospective students beyond those on every guidance counselor’s list.  My list is suggestive, not exhaustive.  Covers: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin.

1. Illinois: Illinois has a number of “usual suspects,” anchored by the flagship University of Illinois system, but also including a number of other state-supported, land grant public universities including the stand-out Chicago State University, Governors’ State University, and Illinois State University, the oldest public university in the state.  The state also has some fantastic private research universities in its “usual suspects,” including The University of Chicago (universally referred to by everyone in Chicago as “THE University” as I learned one weekend there several years ago–despite the presence of a number of other universities in the Chicagoland area), DePaul University, Loyola University-Chicago, Northwestern University, University of St. Francis (Joliet), The Illinois Institute of Technology, and Illinois Wesleyan University. More could, perhaps, be added. With few exceptions, the vast majority of IL’s famous institutions of higher education are found in the Greater Chicagoland area.  The “hidden gems” of the state are more geographically diverse:

Augustana College (Rock Island): Founded in 1860 by Swedish Lutherans and today still closely related to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), Augustana College is a church-related college of liberal arts and sciences. It sits next to the Mississippi River.  Augustana is academically challenging, ranking among the top 40 U.S. colleges whose alumni go on to earn Ph.D.s in the natural sciences.  60 academic programs including 8 interdisciplinary programs and 9 pre-professional programs.  Augustana has had a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa (the national honor society) since 1950.

Elmhurst College (Elmhurst):  Founded in 1871 by the Evangelical and Reformed Church and today affiliated with its successor, the United Church of Christ.  Elmhurst College is a liberal arts and sciences college located 30 minutes by train from Chicago. The campus is a 40 acre arboretum. Elmhurst offers over 50 majors, 15 pre-professional programs, 9 graduate programs, and a well-regarded honors program.  This was the college that produced the famous theologian brothers, Reinhold & H. Richard Niebuhr–and which, in turn, H. Richard enhanced during his term as president of Elmhurst. Today, one of the features of Elmhurst is its Niebuhr Center for Religion and the Common Good.

Wheaton College (Wheaton, IL):  Founded in 1860, Wheaton College is the Harvard of evangelical Christian liberal arts colleges.  Its first president, Jonathan Blanchard, combined a commitment to orthodox theology with a radical social passion: working for the abolition of slavery, for women’s suffrage, workers’ rights and an end to child labor, and for peace. With Wheaton’s 3rd president, during the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy of the early 20th C., Wheaton adopted the more conservative social atmosphere it has known for most of its history–the alma mater of evangelist Billy Graham and conservative theologian Carl F. H. Henry.  But Wheaton is slowly remembering its radical social roots–and its academic reputation is greatly improved from the 1960s and 1970s–consistently ranked as one of the best liberal arts colleges in the nation.  One of 40 Colleges That Change Lives. Not for everyone: Mandatory chapel three (3) times per week. Alcohol-free campus. Not friendly to LGBT students.

Knox College(Galesburg):  Another of the Colleges That Change Lives , Knox College was founded by radical abolitionists in 1838.  It was made famous as the site of the 5th of the Lincoln-Douglass Debates in 1858.  In 2010, The Huffington Post listed Knox as one of the “10 Best Kept Secrets: Colleges You Should Know.” It is one of the few small, liberal arts colleges to produce two or more Fulbright Fellows and it consistently ranks in the top 3% of alumni who go on to earn Ph.Ds. In the early 2000s, Knox began a major curriculum overhaul aimed at preparing students for a 21st C. world. In 2003, Knox partnered with Howard Hughes Medical Institute to create an undergraduate major in neuroscience.  In 2005, Knox entered into partnership with George Washington University to allow advanced pre-Med Knox students to gain early admission to GWU’s Medical School. The same year, Knox partnered with The University of Rochester to allow qualified students direct admission into the MBA program of Rochester’s Simon School of Business.  Always a leader in alumni who volunteer for the Peace Corps, in 2007 Knox College partnered with the Peace Corps to create the first Peace Corps preparatory course in the nation.  Knox has a stringent Honors Program and is known for student research. It is needs-blind in admission and works diligently through both needs-based and merit-based financial aid to make certain that cost is no barrier to attendance.

Roosevelt University (Chicago and Schaumburg):  Founded in 1945 as a protest against the quota systems to limit the number of Jews, African-Americans, immigrants, and women in American academic life that was typical of the day, because Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt died within a few weeks of the new college’s founding, permission was given by his widow, Eleanor, to name the new school in his honor. It was dedicated to both Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt in 1959. Roosevelt University is a private, non-sectarian, institution specifically dedicated to principles of human rights and social justice. It houses an Institute of New Deal Studies, the St. Clair Drake Center for African and African American Studies, and the Mansfield Institute for Social Justice and Transformation, among others. The New York Times has said that RU has one of the most diverse student bodies in the nation and U. S. News and World Report claims that it has the 2nd most diverse student body in the Midwest.  In addition to its College of Arts and Sciences, RU includes the Chicago College of Performing Arts; College of Education; Evelyn T. Stone College of Professional Studies; the College of Pharmacy; and the Walter E. Heller College of Business.

2. Indiana:  The usual suspects in Indiana include the large University of Indiana system (9 campuses) with its flagship campus in Bloomington, Purdue University (4 campuses), and 4 other state-supported universities.  The premier private research university in IN is The University of Notre Dame du Lac. Other private “usual suspects” would include Butler University, Indiana Wesleyan University,University of Evansville, University of Indianapolis, DePauw University, and Valparaiso University.  Hidden gems:

Earlham College (Richmond):  Founded in 1847 by the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) and still closely related to Friends United Meeting.  One of the 40 Colleges That Change Lives.  With a General Education curriculum designed to lead students to prepare for a life of critical knowledge and informed action, Earlham has 40 disciplinary and interdisciplinary fields including an acclaimed Peace and Global Studies Major.  Rooted in the Quaker values of tolerance, equality, justice, respect, and collaboration. 29th (99th percentile) in alumni who go on to earn Ph.D.s, 10th in Ph.D.s in the biological sciences, and 14th in the life sciences.  Study abroad in more than 40 countries.  Students and faculty renowned for community service. Themed housing, including language houses.

Goshen College (Goshen):  Founded in 1894, Goshen College is a 4 year liberal arts college of the Mennonite Church (USA), but with many non-Mennonite students.  Built around the core Mennonite Christian beliefs of simple living, struggling for justice and equality, seeking peace and reconciliation, and caring for God’s creation.  Goshen has top ranked programs in international study.  It is one of the best small to mid-sized liberal arts colleges for Hispanics/Latinos.  The extended campus includes a nature conservatory and a marine biology lab in Florida.  The school motto is “culture for service” and mutual service is built into the campus culture.  Goshen’s Christian identity is central, but it welcomes persons of all faiths and no particular faith.  Has a Department of Peace, Justice, and Conflict Studies.

Saint Mary’s College (Notre Dame). St. Mary’s College is an all-women’s Catholic liberal arts college next door to the University of Notre Dame. During the days when Notre Dame was all-male, Saint Mary’s was the women’s partner school.  Today, it remains a single-sex institution, but all students have complete access to all classes and facilities at Notre Dame. If you want all the resources of a major Catholic research university (all the drama of the Fighting Irish sports teams, etc.), but want the intimacy of a small liberal arts college, and the empowerment to women of an all-female campus, Saint Mary’s might well be the place for you. (Full disclosure: One of my friends taught for a time at Saint Mary’s so I’m not completely unbiased.)

Wabash College (Crawfordsville). One of only 3 remaining all-male liberal arts colleges in the United States, Wabash College was founded in 1832 by Presbyterian ministers from New England, but always independent and non-sectarian from the beginning.  With a student body of under 900, Wabash is an intensive learning community with about 75% of each graduating class going on to law school, medical school, or graduate studies.  A large endowment that would be the envy of many much larger universities has allowed Wabash to build state of the art labs in biology and chemistry and a $ 2 million Malcom X Institute for Black Studies–one of the few such institutes in schools whose history and heritage have been overwhelmingly white.  Wabash has a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.  Has a nationally-ranked Center for Career Development.  One of 40 Colleges That Change Lives.

3. Iowa:  Iowa’s rural nature is nowhere so evident as in the presence of only three (3) public universities: The University of Iowa, Iowa State University, and The University of Northern Iowa.  Major private universities include The University of Dubuque, and Drake University.  Hidden Gems:

Coe College (Cedar Rapids):  Founded by Presbyterians in 1851 and given several name changes until in 1875 it was called Coe College in honor of early financial benefactor Daniel Coe.  Coe is an independent, co-ed, private liberal arts college related by covenant to the Presbyterian Church (USA).  One of only 5 colleges in IA to be granted a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, the nation’s oldest honor society and a mark of an institution’s serious commitment to the liberal arts and sciences.  Every Coe student participates in an internship, does student research and publishing, completes a practicum, and/or studies abroad during their 4 years at Coe. 98% of Coe graduates are either employed or in graduate school within 6 months of graduation.  Coe is known nationally for its strong academics, but especially for its Writing Center and for its Department of Music.

Cornell College (Mt. Vernon): Not to be confused with the Ivy League’s Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, but the similarity in names is not coincidental. Cornell COLLEGE in Mt. Vernon, IA was founded in 1853 by Methodists and named in 1857 for William Wesley Cornell, a devout Methodist layman and prosperous merchant who was an early benefactor of the school. He was also a cousin to industrialist Ezra Cornell who, a decade later, founded Cornell UNIVERSITY in Ithaca, NY.  Cornell College today is famous for its “one course at a time” curriculum. Students follow a unique school year divided into 8 semesters of 3 1/2 weeks apiece. During each such semester, students take only one course and concentrate their full attention on that course.  Cornell College is one of the Colleges That Change Lives.  Classes are capped at 25 students each and the average class size is 16.  Students take as many as 60 courses per year and 95% finish within 4 years–2/3 do so with double majors.

Grinnell College (Grinnell): Founded by Congregationalists in 1846, Grinnell is a private, 4 year, co-ed, residential, liberal arts college.  It is highly competitive and offers the B.A. It uses individual curricular planning, having no “core” requirements beyond the First Year Tutorial.  Grinnell is known for its history of strong social justice activism by students and faculty.  Both the college and town were named for Josiah Bushnell Grinnell, a Congregationalist minister and abolitionist.  It is 8th in the nation for number of graduates who go on to earn Ph.Ds.  Highly competitive, Grinnell offers no remedial courses, but has extensive free help for non-credit in science, math, writing–usually with students helping students. Most graduate in 4 years.  Grinnell practices needs-blind admissions and pledges to meet 100% of demonstrated financial need of all admitted U.S. students. International student admissions is not needs-blind, but considerable scholarship aid is available for international students, too.  No sororities or fraternities, but considerable means of involvement.  “Alternative Spring Break” service projects began at Grinnell and Grinnell has the highest percentage of Peace Corps. volunteers per capita of any college campus in the nation.

Luther College (Decorah):  Founded in 1861, Luther College is a private, co-ed, residential college of liberal arts and sciences related by covenant to the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA).  Has a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa and a very high volunteer rate for the Peace Corps.  Luther College is part of the Annapolis Group of colleges and universities that refuses to release data to U.S. News and World Report because of concerns about its misleading rankings methodology. Nevertheless, LC has a national academic reputation of high standing.  It is internationally famous in its music department and is highly regarded all around.  LC spawned a museum of Norwegian-Americans (now separate from the college), but has a very strong African and African-American Studies Department–in one of the whitest states in the nation.

4. Michigan:  Michigan rivals Ohio and Illinois as portions of the original “Northwest Territory” to have been pioneered, in part, by New England missionaries with strong ideals in education.  Public universities include the  University of Michigan system (3 campuses with flagship @ Ann Arbor), Michigan State University (East Lansing), and 11 other state universities. Private research universities:  Andrews University (Berrien Springs), Finlandia University (Hancock), Kettering University (Flint), Spring Arbor University, and University of Detroit Mercy. “Usual suspects” among liberal arts colleges include Adrian College, Albion College, Aquinas College, Hillsdale College, and Siena Heights University. Hidden Gems:

Calvin College (Grand Rapids): As an Anabaptist who was raised a Wesleyan Arminian, the prospect of 4 years on a campus named for John Calvin would have frightened me silly. In no way do I suggest that this 4-year, co-ed, college of the Christian Reformed Church (Dutch Calvinist immigrants founded it in 1876) is for everyone. Students who are LGBT should be especially wary–but no more so than at most evangelical colleges.  But neither should it be lightly dismissed. The resurgence in Christian philosophy that began in the 1980s and continues today was launched mainly by graduates of Calvin College–some of whom were also, at least for awhile, also on faculty here.  Yes, chapel is mandatory and 5 days per week. If you want to be part of a wild college party life, look elsewhere. But you should also look elsewhere if you are a parent who just wants to send your kid to a fundamentalist indoctrination factory. Calvin takes VERY seriously the integration of faith with the life of the mind. Classes are as challenging here as anywhere–probably more challenging than in many Ivy League schools.  It’s liberal arts philosophy is inspired by that of the Dutch Calvinist statesman, Abraham Kuyper.  (Nor should one assume that Calvinist orthodoxy leads to rightwing politics. When George W. Bush gave the commencement address in ’05, he was greeted with protesting students and faculty, deeply disturbed by policies of “preventive war,” “unlimited detention,” and torture.)  Calvin’s core curriculum is larger than most–comprosing about 45 classes.  The science opportunities are especially rich at Calvin, too.

Hope College (Holland):  Founded in 1866, Hope College is another Christian liberal arts college founded by Dutch Calvinist immigrants, but Hope belongs to the Reformed Church in America, which is somewhat more “liberal” than the Christian Reformed Church and its Calvin College.  Hope is one of the Colleges That Change Lives.  Undergraduate research is the norm here and at a very high quality. Further, faculty rank 4th nationally for academic publications at liberal arts colleges –and 14th overall for highest impact of those publications as measured b the Science Index.  Hope is among the top 5% of students who go on to earn Ph.Ds.  The atmosphere is still distinctively evangelical Christian, even Reformed, as at Calvin, but with a more relaxed atmosphere.  All students must take at least 4 years of a foreign language.  Hope is one of the highest rated colleges for Hispanic/Latino inclusion.  Hope is one of the few schools to achieve excellence and national recognition in all four areas of the fine arts: visual arts, dance, music, and theatre.  Hope has produced such notable alumni as A.J. Muste, pacifist and nonviolent activist who led first the Fellowship of Reconciliation and then the War Resisters League for years; Nobel Prize winning chemist, Richard Smalley; Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Annette Ziegler.

Kalamazoo College (Kalamazoo): Founded by Baptists in 1833 and still loosely related to the American Baptist Churches, USA, Kalamazoo College is a private, independent, co-ed, college of liberal arts and sciences.  It is located in the thriving metropolis of Kalamazoo, half-way between Detroit and Chicago.  It is world-renowned for its curriculum called the K-Plan which guarantees the opportunity to study abroad, have an internship, do hands-on research, and complete a major in 4 years.  All students, even locals, required to live on campus all 4 years (except when studying off campus). No sororities or fraternities, but very active student life. Campus ministry is vibrant, but voluntary and K’s commitment to multiculturalism includes interfaith dialogue.  Has an Office for Social Justice Involvement.  Honor Code; Career prep; Senior project for graduation.  Strong focus on experiential learning and service learning.  One of the 40 Colleges That Change Lives.

Marygrove College (Detroit): In the 19th C. in Monroe, MI, a group of Catholic nuns founded a new religious order, Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mercy (IHM) dedicated to service and to education, especially the education of women. In 1927 that resulted in the founding of Marygrove College in Detroit.  Originally a women’s college, it is now a private, co-ed, Catholic liberal arts college with a progressive mission.  Marygrove is dedicated to the urban environment of Detroit and is committed to producing progressive leaders in all walks of life who are competent, compassionate, and committed to forging a more just and humane world.  Grounded in the liberal arts with pre-professional training and limited graduate programs.  Marygrove has a curricular focus on leadership development. It stresses excellent teaching in a personalized learning environment. In has a beautiful campus, but is part of the city.  Close student/faculty collaborations and interdepartmental cooperation and interdisciplinary approaches to learning.  The College is deliberate about building a multi-racial, multi-ethnic, and multi-cultural faculty, staff, and student body.  Religious values broadly, and Catholic ideals in particular, animate the campus learning environment.  There is a campus-wide focus on social justice and a commitment to the people of Detroit and to urban renewal.

5. Minnesota:  There are nearly 200 institutions of higher education in MN, which has one of the highest rates of education of any rural state in the U.S.  Among the usual suspects are the public University of Minnesota system with its flagship campus in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis-Saint Paul; The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system comprises 31 public colleges and universities on 54 campuses.  The largest private research university is the University of St. Thomas and the oldest is Hameline University.  Other private “usual suspects” include Augsburg College, Carleton College, College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University [the two function in a unique partnership]. Hidden Gems:

College of St. Scholastica (Duluth): Founded in 1912, this is a Catholic university in the Benedictine tradition.  The only private, independent college in Northeast MN, the College of St. Scholastica is also the home of The St. Scholastica Benedictine monastery, the home of the Benedictine Sisters.  It awards mostly baccalaureate and masters’ degrees, but also a doctorate of nursing practice and a doctorate of physical therapy.  Known for its “Dignitas” program that requires students to explore broad questions from several divergent perspectives.

Gustavus Adolphus College (St. Peter):  Founded in 1862 by Swedish-American Lutherans, Gustavus Adolphus College is a private, independent, liberal arts college closely related to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and named in honor of King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden (1594-1632). The college values its Swedish and Lutheran history and is guided by 5 core values: community, excellence, faith, justice, and service.  It has a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa. It has an annual Nobel Conference in which Nobel laureates gather on campus and give lectures.  Has a Peace education program and a Mayday Peace Conference.  Stresses writing “across the curriculum.”  An impressive 93% retention rate from first to second year and 87% graduation rate within 4 years.

Macalester College (St. Paul):  Founded by a Presbyterian minister in 1874, and loosely connected to the Presbyterian Church (USA), but non-sectarian in curriculum and openess to all students, Macalester College has been called a “hidden Ivy,” i.e., an extremely competitive, top-flight college of the liberal arts and sciences which could easily compete with the undergraduate programs of any Ivy League school.  It has produced alumni such as Walter Mondale (U.S. Sen. [D-MN], VP to Jimmy Carter, & U.S. Ambassador to Japan under Clinton) and Kofi Anan (UN Secretary General & Nobel Peace Laureate).  A participant in Project Pericles, Macalester promotes civic responsibility and pursuit of social justice by faculty and students.  Through recruiting and study abroad, Macalester promotes an internationalist view of the world.  It is one of the best co-ed colleges for women and one of the top-rated campuses for LGBT students.  Ranked with the Colleges With a Conscience, Macalester combines rigorous academics (students spend a large percentage of their time studying), and amazing opportunities with a campus spirit that reinforces service for others.

St. Olaf College (Northfield):  Founded in 1874, St. Olaf is a liberal arts college of the church in the Lutheran tradition. Related closely to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). This is a demanding college known for its high caliber academics in a deep faith tradition. St. Olaf’s mathematics and music programs are rightly famous, but it also has a an Honors Program that is based on the Great Books of the Western World.  It has innovative programs in science education and its commitment to sustainability is shown in its wind-driven electricity.  St. Olaf has a Peace Studies program, is a leader in study abroad programs, and its students win an impressive number of Fulbright, Watson, and Rhodes Scholarships, and produces a very large number of Peace Corps volunteers.  It is one of the most diverse campuses of any church-related college.

6. Wisconsin: Like MN, Wisconsin has a much higher education rate than most largely rural states. In popular culture, WI is known for cheese, brewing beer, and the Greenbay Packers football team. Those with a better knowledge of history, know WI as the first state where organized labor won the right to organize and bargain collectively. But WI has also invested in higher education and it shows: The University of Wisconsin sytem has 13 campuses, including two comprehensive doctoral research universities, the flagship UW-Madison  (considered a “public Ivy”) and also UW-Milwaukee. The premier private comprehensive research university is Marquette University, a Catholic and Jesuit university of the highest caliber.  Hidden gems:

Alverno College (Milwaukee). Founded in 1887 by the School Sisters of St. Francis, Alverno College is a private, Catholic women’s liberal arts college. (Men are admitted to the limited masters’ degree programs.) Alverno has adopted an “abilities-based” curriculum in which the liberal arts core is structured develop in students 8 key skills or abilities:  communication (in writing, speech, and electronic media), critical analysis, problem solving, valuing, social interaction, developing a global perspective, effective citizenship, and aesthetic engagement.  Alverno uses narrative evaluations on its transcripts rather than traditional letter or number grades.  Alverno’s nursing, teacher education, and business programs have received special recognition, but its overall academic strength consistently leads it to rank very high among regional liberal arts colleges.  It is also considered a “best buy,” since it is committed to having one of the lowest tuition rates of any private college in WI and to providing generous financial aid to all incoming and transfer students.

Beloit College (Beloit).  Chartered in 1846, Beloit is WI’s oldest college. It was founded by Yale College graduates who had a dream of bringing top-flight higher education to the old frontier for the rapid changes of life in mid-19th C. America.  One of the 40 Colleges That Change Lives, Beloit has a flexible curriculum designed to provide a “living and learning environment” that cultivates students who are at home in the world of ideas, value learning for its own sake, and are ready for intelligent and effective participation in the worldBeloit has won awards for its environmentally-sustainable campus, with several LEEDS-certified green buildings including a top-flight hands-on Center for the Sciences. It also hosts a Center for the Liberal Arts in Practice which enables students to practice outside the classroom skills and concepts learned inside it.  The Hendricks Center for the Arts houses Beloit’s dance, music, and film programs.  Nearly 50% of Beloit’s students study abroad. Beloit strives to be affordable with a robust financial aid package that includes both merit-based and needs-based financial aid.  Two national science programs in curricular reform BioQUEST and ChemLINKS are both based at Beloit and run by Beloit faculty.

Lawrence University (Appleton)  Founded in 1847 by 2 Methodist ministers and an Episcopalian lay philanthropist (Amos Adams Lawrence), Lawrence University is a private, non-sectarian, institution that is a “university” by virtue of being a top-flight 4-year liberal arts college and a nationally-ranked music conservatory on one campus. It was the 2nd college in the United States to be co-educational from its very founding.  Believing that the best indicator for college success is the high school transcript, Lawrence is “test optional” for both admissions procedures and scholarship applications. That is, students may choose to submit scores from the SAT, ACT, or neither without such omission negatively impacting either chances for admission or consideration for academic merit scholarships. Governed by a strict honor code, timed, closed-book tests are often taken unproctored in students’ dorms, with faculty trusting students not to cheat.  Lawrence is one of 40  Colleges That Change Lives and is a Great Books College.  All entering first year students are required to take Freshman Studies, a two-semester sequence based largely on the Great Books of the Western World.  Lawrence is also part of the Oberlin group of Midwestern liberal arts colleges which arranges to share library resources.  It is known for being especially strong in the sciences and also has one of the finest undergraduate mathematics programs in the nation.  Lawrence also has a deserved reputation for encouraging interdisciplinary work and self-designed majors, student-faculty collaboration and independent research, honors projects, and study abroad.  For domestic students, Lawrence is needs-blind in admission policy, and committed to making certain that all qualified students can attend, but it is not loan-free in its financial aid package.  About 25% of students are enrolled in the music conservatory pursuing a Bachelor of Music and it is possible to pursue a double degree (B.A./B.Mus.) with the liberal arts college.


March 31, 2012 Posted by | colleges/universities, education | 1 Comment

Hidden Gems, III: New England

The New England region is, along with California, the most populous in the United States and some of the first colonized by Europeans.  As a result, New England is DENSE with institutions of higher education.  Even weeding out the marginal cases and only looking at those colleges and universities that all agree are good schools still leaves a huge number.  The “usual suspects” list is large and, thus, the decisions about what to include in “hidden gems” is difficult. In each state, many more institutions could be named.

This section will cover:  Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont.

1. Connecticut:  The usual suspects begin with the public land-grant universities of the University of Connecticut system anchored by its flagship campus at Storrs.  At the federal level, there’s the United States Coast Guard Academy (New London).  Private  research universities include the Ivy League superstar of CT: Yale University (New Haven), but also includes Quinnipiac University (New Hamden); University of New HavenUniversity of Bridgeport (which, after financial trouble in the ’90s, has been heavily financed and influenced by the Unification Church), and the University of Hartford.  Hidden Gems:

Connecticut College (New London). Founded as Connecticut Women’s College in 1911 and changed its name when it began admitting men in 1969.  Considered a “Little Ivy,” it is one of the most expensive liberal arts colleges in the nation, but most students receive considerable grants in financial aid which usually lowers the cost by 2/3 or more. 48% of students receive needs based financial aid.  Connecticut College is “test optional” in admissions, meaning that if applicants are good students but do poorly on standardized tests like the SAT or ACT, they can omit those scores and substitute other metrics in the application process.  Connecticut College is a top producer of Fulbright Fellows and of Peace Corps volunteers and has won awards for campus internationalization and environmental sustainability.

Fairfield University (Fairfield).  Founded in 1942, FU is a Catholic and Jesuit University with a focus on undergraduate teaching.  Women admitted to all programs beginning in 1970. Achieved a Phi Beta Kappa chapter in 1995.  All freshers are housed together and participate in a core First Year program which greatly aids in student retention.  More than 200 sophomores participate in the Ignatian Residential College.  Has a Peace & Justice Studies minor.  Over 50 study abroad possibilities. The Jesuit emphasis on education of the whole person pervades the campus.

Trinity College (Hartford).  2nd oldest college in CT after Yale, Trinity was founded in 1823. Although founded by Episcopalians (Trinity’s first president was and Episcopal bishop), the charter created a non-sectarian school which has never been permitted to impose particular religious views on either students or faculty.  A “little Ivy,” Trinity is an innovative liberal arts college and one of the top “feeder schools” of students into graduate programs in the sciences.

2. Maine: The usual suspects include the University of Maine system with its flagship campus at Orono.  While ME does not have a premier, private, comprehensive research university, it does have The University of New England which is a high quality, private, masters’ level university.  ME also has a number of famous “little Ivy” liberal arts colleges including Bates College (Lewiston), founded by abolitionist Christians in the Free Will Baptist tradition, though non-sectarian today. One would also include Colby College, another secular “Little Ivy” originally founded by Northern (American) Baptists.  Despite Maine’s smaller population, there are some “hidden gems”

Bowdoin College (Brunswick)  Founded in 1794, when Maine was still part of Massachussetts, and given its first charter by Gov. Sam Adams of MA. It was named for another MA governor who was an early beneficiary.  Famous alumni include one U.S. president (Franklin Pearce) and the acclaimed authors Nathaniel Hawthorne and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.  Consistently ranked among the top liberal arts colleges of the nation, Bowdoin tends to be overshadowed in ME by Bates and Colby. Bowdoin has become part of the “no loan” financial aid movement which is designed to curb massive student debt. All financial aid is awarded on a needs-basis, admission is needs-blind, and the financial aid is loan-free, meeting 100% of demonstrated student need through grants and work study.

St. Joseph’s College of Maine (Standish).  The only Catholic college or university in Maine, St. Joseph’s was founded as a women’s college by the Sisters of Mercy but has long been co-ed.  It flies “under the radar,” even under the CATHOLIC RADAR, but has excellent academics on a beautiful campus and is more affordable than many of its peers.

Thomas College (Waterville).  Founded in 1894 as a co-ed, private, non-sectarian liberal arts college, Thomas College specializes in business, education, and technology. It offers both undergraduate and masters’ degrees and guarantees alumni job placement upon graduation.

Unity College (Unity).  A young institution founded in 1965, Unity College is a private, non-sectarian, co-ed, liberal arts college. It is renowned for its environmentalism, winning awards as “greenest” college in the nation.  It emphasizes ecological responsibility and stewardship of natural resources throughout its entire curriculum.

3. Massachussetts: The Commonwealth of MA has an embarrassment of  educational riches with over 100 institutions of higher learning.  The “usual suspects” include the University of Massachusetts system, with its flagship campus at Amherst and additional campuses in Boston, Dartmouth, and Lowell, and the UMASS Medical College at Worcester. It includes numerous private research universities, anchored by Harvard University (Cambridge), the oldest institution of higher education in the United States (founded in 1636) and leader of the Ivy League.  Others in MA’s private research universities include:  The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) (Cambridge), Boston College (Jesuit), Boston University (founded by Methodists), Brandeis University (founded as a “Jewish-supported non-quota university”), Clark University (Worcester), Tufts University (Medford) , and Worcester Polytechnic  University.  There are a number of “Little Ivy” elite liberal arts colleges that would also be among the “usual suspects,” including Amherst College, Hampshire College, Mount Holyoke, Smith College, Simmons College, Wellesley College, and Williams College.  Hidden gems in MA have to be institutions which are not quite as elite, but which provide an excellent education. I include:

Bard College at Simon’s Rock (Great Barrington), an “early college,” which enrolls bright students still in high school. Some transfer after receiving an Associate’s degree, but many stay on to achieve a baccalaureate.

College of the Holy Cross (Worcester), oldest Catholic college in New England and one of the oldest in the U. S. Holy Cross has a cross-disciplinary core leading to the B.A. It has the largest Classics Department in the nation with 10 faculty members.  As of  2010, Holy Cross is in the top 3% of U.S. liberal arts colleges whose graduates go on to earn Ph.D.s.

Eastern Nazarene College (Quincy). Chartered in 1919 but with a pre-history into the late 19th C., ENC is the oldest Nazarene liberal arts college in the nation, established to offer a Christian liberal arts education with a “Wesleyan holiness” perspective.  Although the Nazarene college in longest continual operation, from the beginning ENC was to be open to all students (no religious tests) and, while faculty are required to be Christian, they are not required to be Nazarene.  Academics at ENC is more challenging than at many evangelical liberal arts colleges. ENC’s first academic dean, Burtha Munro, was an alumna of Boston University, Radcliffe College, and Harvard University, and she articulated the ENC philosophy that there need be no tension between being a committed Christian and a first-rate scholar.  ENC has won a Templeton Award for its “science and religion” classes and encourages students to explore the tensions between Christianity and Western culture.  ENC’s alumni acceptance rate into medical school is an impressive 94% (national average is 45%) and acceptance into law school is 100%.

Gordon College (Wenham).  Baptist evangelist A. J. Gordon founded this Christian liberal arts college in 1889 as a Bible School for the training of missionaries to what was then the Belgian Congo.  It has evolved into an interdenominational, evangelical, Christian liberal arts college.  In 1970, Gordon Divinity School separated from Gordon College and merged with Philadelphia’s Conwell School of Theology (once a part of Temple University) to become Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.  With graduate degrees in music and education, Gordon College offers the B.A., the B.S., the B.M., M.A.T., MEd., and MMEd. degrees.  GC is not for everyone since it requires both faculty and students to be evangelical Christians prior to attendance. Chapel attendance is mandatory.  But GC is not a Bible College or a fundamentalist diploma mill–discussion and debate over the life of the mind and the life of discipleship are carried out with a high degree of freedom, fostering an attitude that it calls “critical loyalty.” GC is consistently ranked high for its academics.

4. New Hampshire: The land grant public universities are anchored by the University of New Hampshire with its flagship campus at Durham and  an additional campus at Manchester. Other public institutions among the “usual suspects” include Plymouth State University , Granite State College and Keene State College.  Private research universities include Antioch University–New England (Keene), and, of course, NH’s Ivy League member, Dartmouth College–which, despite its name, is a comprehensive research university. Other “usual suspects” include Franklin Pierce University (Rindge), Southern New Hampshire University (Manchester),  & New England College (Hennicker).  Hidden Gems:

Colby-Sawyer College (New London).  Founded as a private academy in 1837, Colby-Sawyer evolved into a private, independent, liberal arts college by 1928.  The core curriculum (Pathways Program) brings together small groups of students and faculty to explore theme based questions with critical thinking and interdisciplinary tools.  Almost all students participate in internships related to their field during their college education.  All seniors participate in a capstone course including a written thesis.

St. Anselm College (Goffstown).  Founded by the Order of St. Benedict in 1887, St. Anselm is a Catholic college of the liberal arts and sciences,

The College of St. Mary Magdelene (Warner).  Founded in 1973 by Catholic laity, this college was a response to the call of the Second Vatican Council for the greater education of Catholic laity–in both the liberal arts and sciences and Catholic theology.  The College is a “Great Books” college with two tracks, both leading to the B.A. and both grounded in a structured reading of the “Great Books of the Western World.”  Track I, “The Great Books Program,” relies on Socratic questioning, discussion, and writing papers. There are no majors or minors in this track. In Track II, “The Cowan Program,” the Great Books are still the foundation, but there is greater reliance on lectures and students may major or concentrate in their junior and senior years in Literature, Political Science, or Philosophy.  In both tracks, students spend a semester in Rome.

5. New York: New York has an incredible number of institutions of higher education–even more than MA.  There is the large State University of New York (SUNY) system (64 campuses) and the City University of New York (CUNY) system (23 institutions). Two federal military service academies are in NY:  The United States Military Academy (West Point) and The United States Merchant Marine Academy (King’s Point).  New York’s vast collection of private universities and colleges is anchored by the state’s TWO members of the Ivy League: Columbia University in the City of New York  and  Cornell University. Other “usual suspects include The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and ArtFordham University (Jesuit); Hofstra University; New York UniversityPace University; Rensselaer Polytechnic University; Rochester Institute of Technology; The University of Rochester; The Sage Colleges; St. John’s University; St. Bonaventure University; Syracuse University among others. NY’s “Little Ivies” include Bard College, Vassar CollegeHamilton College, Colgate University, and Barnard College.  Hidden –or negelected–gems:

Hobart and William Smith Colleges. (Geneva). These twin colleges (Hobart for men and William Smith for women) function as one liberal arts college with a unified administration–and all students can cross-register at the other school.  Though still written in the plural, what was once a partnership of two institutions is now effectively one “coordinate system.” There is one president for both colleges, but separate deans and faculty and men still graduate from Hobart and women from William Smith. Yest the classes are completely intertwined.  Also called the “Colleges of the Seneca.”  Three degrees are offered: the B.A., the B.S. and the M. A. T.  Known for rigorous academics and environmentalism and for the large percentage who study abroad.

Houghton College (Houghton). Located in upstate Western New York, Houghton College was founded in 1883 by the Wesleyan Church, originally as a high school. It is a Christian college of the liberal arts and sciences, providing an academically challenging education in a Christian spirit to students of diverse economic and cultural backgrounds.  Offers the Bachelor of Arts (B.A.), Bachelor of Science (B.S.), Bachelor of Music (B.Mus.), Master of Arts in Music (MA), and Master of Music (M.Mus.) degrees.  Popular majors include computer science and a dual engineering degree.  Houghton College also has an adult education program for non-traditional students.  It has 3 Honors programs: East Meets West explores interaction of the Catholic/Protestant West, Islamic culture, and Eastern Orthodoxy.  Science honors leads students to design their own experiments, hear from leading scientists, publish experiments in science journals.  Contemporary Contexts is an honors course that explores the rise of Modernity since the Enlightenment, the Romantic and Postmodern reactions, and explores questions of ethics, knowledge, and faith in contemporary contexts.

Marist College (Poughkeepsie).  A Catholic college of liberal arts and sciences founded by the Marist Brothers order in 1929 in the Hudson Valley midway between New York City and the capital city of Albany.  Marist is dedicated to the development of the whole person in a way that will prepare graduates for an enlightened, sensitive, and productive life in the global community of the 21st century. Marist is renowned for its pioneering use of technology to enhance the educational experience.  43 B.A. programs, 12 Masters programs, and with off-campus study centers in Florence and cooperative study abroad centers in 31 programs.  The College runs a Center for Ecosystem Studies.

Roberts Wesleyan College (Rochester).  Founded by B. T. Roberts, first bishop of the Free Methodist Church in 1866, Roberts Wesleyan College is a Christian liberal arts college dedicated to education according to the ideals of its founder (who was an abolitionist, a champion of labor and small farmers, and an advocate of the rights of women) with three dimensions: scholarship/investigation; spiritual formation; service to God and others.  International programs include a sister college, Osaka Christian College, in Osaka, Japan.

The New School (New York, NY). Founded in 1919 by progressive intellectuals, located mostly in Greenwich Village.  It is renowned for its teaching, for housing the World Policy Institute, and hosting the prestigious National Book Awards.  The New School has a reputation for faculty and students being “left of center” politically (The New School was repeatedly investigated during the McCarthy-era Communist witch hunts.).  The Graduate School began in 1933 as an emergency rescue program for Jewish intellectuals in Nazi Germany.  Today, the New School university system is divided into eight (8) separate schools: Eugene Lang College: The New School for Liberal Arts (the basic undergraduate college for traditional undergraduate students); Mannes College: The New School of Music (founded in 1916 and integrated with the New School in 1986); The New School for Drama (founded in the 1940s with a graduate program for actors, writers, and directors begun in 1994); The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music (Established in 1986); The New School for Public Engagement (Embodying the progressive social ideals of The New School’s founders in 1919, this newest school was formed in 2011 through the merger of The New School for General Studies, which contains the adult  & continuing education programs, and Milano:  The New School for Management and Public Policy created in 1975 to offer graduate study in management, public policy, and engagement in civic life.); The New School for Social Research (Grew out of the 1933 emergency rescue program for exiled Jewish scholars escaping persecution in Nazi Germany and Austria; NSSR is a graduate school of the social and political sciences with many interdisciplinary programs and approaches.); Parsons: The New School for Art and Design (Founded in 1886 and integrated with The New School in 1970, this is one of the world’s preeminent schools for architecture, industrial design, interior design, and lighting design as well as the more traditional visual arts. It is one of the most highly competitive art schools around.) The founders of The New School wanted a university education where students and faculty could challenge the present world order. During WWI and its aftermath, U.S. culture had entered a period of censorship, loyalty oaths, nationalism, and suspicion of foreigners. The New School was founded to challenge all that and it has remained true to its founding mission so that, in various similar periods, its students and faculty have come under suspicion by conservative forces in our culture.

6. Rhode Island:  Tiny Rhode Island is still mighty in higher education for its size and population base.  It’s excellent public research university is the University of Rhode Island (Kingston).  It’spremier  private research university is it’s Ivy Leaguer, Brown University (Providence).  Among the “usual suspects” is also the New England Institute of Technology (Warwick), and the U. S. Naval War College (Newport). Hidden gems:

Providence College (Providence).  Founded in 1917 as a Catholic liberal arts college with joint responsibility to the diocese and the Order of Dominican Friars of St. Joseph.  Highly regarded academically.

Rhode Island College (Providence).  Founded in 1854, Rhode Island College is a public liberal arts college that began as a land-grant teachers’ college.  It has often served as the “college of opportunity” for first generation college students in Rhode Island.  It has a well regarded Early Enrollment Program that allows bright, motivated high school students to take college level courses in their familiar high school setting. It also participates in a nationwide college student exchange program that allows RIC students to spend a semester at another college or university in a different part of the country. RIC’s Honors Program is very highly regarded, as well.  RIC is known for having one of the most “disability friendly” campuses in the country.

Roger Williams University (Bristol).  Named after the founder of Rhode Island (and of the first Baptist congregation in North America), RWU is a private, independent, co-ed university founded in 1919 and focused on undergraduate teaching, although offering some strong masters programs, as well. RWU is also home to Rhode Island’s only law school.  It promotes education based on the values of its namesake: freedom of thought and conscience, democracy, cross-cultural dialogue (Williams got on well with the Narragansett Indians and wrote the first English-language textbook to their language), and rigorous scholarship.

Salve Regina University (Newport).  Founded by the Sisters of Mercy in 1947, Salve Regina University, is a private, independent, co-educational university offering an innovative and comprehensive liberal arts education in the Catholic tradition.  It has 3 components: The Core Curriculum, courses related to the major, and elective courses.  Offers one Ph.D. (Humanities), 9 masters’ degree programs, and

7. Vermont:  Vermont is a small, rural state. It has one  public research university, the University of Vermont.  VT’s other public institutions are organized as the Vermont State Colleges system. It has no private research university, but Middlebury College, a “little Ivy” is globally famous for its language program, for its environmental studies, and for its international character. One would also have to include in the “usual suspects,” Norwich University, the oldest of the 6 Senior Military Colleges in the United States and recognized by the Defense Department as the “birthplace of Reserve Officer Training Corps [ROTC] programs.”  Hidden gems:

Burlington College (Burlington).  Founded in 1972 as an experiment in community involvement, BC is a private, independent, liberal arts college in which students are given enormous freedom to design their own majors and programs of study. All students and faculty are expected to participate in community involvement. BC’s “study abroad” program involves a very wide range of options throughout the European Union and, BC is one of the very few colleges in the United States that has a study abroad option in Havana, Cuba, despite the travel restrictions imposed by the U.S. State Department.

Saint Michael’s College (Colchester).  Founded in 1904 by priests of the Order of St. Edmund, Saint Michael’s is a Catholic college of the liberal arts and sciences.  Academics are challenging, classes are small, and hands-on learning is emphasized.  St. Michael’s has several honors societies including Phi Beta Kappa.  For the last 6 years, a member of St. Michael’s faculty has been chosen the CASE/Carnegie Foundation Vermont Professor of the Year.  International students are given extra English as a Second Language in the Department of Applied Linguistics.  A vigorous liberal arts program is emphasized for undergrads, including emphasis on independent study, independent research, internships, and study abroad (in a very wide range of choices). Study abroad costs the same as study on campus and all financial aid is transferrable.  There are 5 masters degree programs.  Among the notable alumni is the current senior U.S. Senator from VT, Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Class of ’61.

Marlboro College  (Marlboro).  One of 40 “Colleges That Change Lives.”  A private, co-ed, residential college founded for returning veterans of World War II and initially funded with money from the G. I. Bill.  Marlboro College requires all students to participate in the planning of their own programs of study and to act responsibly in a context of self-government.  Marlboro is one of the colleges which makes SAT or ACT scores optional when applying, but which does require them in assessing merit scholarships.  Students undergo two years of intensive core liberal arts and sciences curriculum, including completing a requirement in an intensive “Clear Writing” course. Then junior and senior students work closely with faculty advisors to complete a Plan of Concentration (that students helped create) in a field/department offered at Marlboro.  Nearly 70% of Marlboro alumni go on to do advanced graduate work.  Marlboro offers both the B.A. and B.S. in International Studies through its World Studies Program which has placed students in working internships in over 50 countries.  Its academics have received the highest score (99%) by The Princeton Review.

March 28, 2012 Posted by | colleges/universities, education | 1 Comment

Hidden College Gems, II: Mid-Atlantic Region

I’m breaking the rest of the U.S. into smaller sections so that the rest of the installments in this series are briefer than the first post.  In this section we’ll cover Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, & West Virginia.

1. Delaware:  One of the smallest states in the Union, geographically and in population, Delaware has a very limited number of accedited institutions of higher education.  The “usual suspects” are few:  The University of Delaware (Newark)  is a private, research university with public assistance. Delaware State University (Dover) is the only completely public research university.  There is little room to hide gems in DE’s narrow shores.

Wesley College (Dover, DE).  Founded in 1873, this is DE’s oldest private college. Named for John Wesley, founder of Methodism, and related to the United Methodist Church, Wesley College was founded to provide a values-based education for both sexes and people of all races and faiths.  Consistent with its Methodist heritage, Wesley College affirms meaning and purpose in life through justice, compassion, inclusion, and social responsibility that enhance community and respect for the environment.

Wilmington University (Newcastle, DE).  This is a private, non-sectarian university. It is “open access” and student centered with considerable mentoring programs and support networks.

2. District of Columbia: Even smaller than DE or Rhode Island in geography, our nation’s capital is still home to more than 500,000 people. It also houses no less than 6 accredited, not-for-profit, colleges and universities.  But, like Delaware, it is difficult to hide any gems in an area this small. Most of these institutions are well known. The others are not so much “hidden” as “neglected.”  Anchoring the “usual suspects” is the federally-chartered University of the District of Columbia. There are several large, private, research universities with national reputations in the District, including: Georgetown University (Jesuit); The Catholic University of America;  and George Washington University.

Howard University is the nation’s only federally-chartered, publicly supported,  private, non-profit, HBCU.  Founded in 1867 for the education of Freedmen, Howard has always been open to students of all races, but remains focused on its historic mission of educating African-Americans.  Today, it is a full-fledged research university and, along with Morehouse, Spelman, and Fisk, the HBCU with the most thorough reputation for excellence.  In addition to its large undergraduate program, Howard has a graduate school and professional schools in law, business, medicine,  dentistry, and divinity.  Faculty and students at Howard have played huge roles in U.S. history:  In the 1920s, Alaine Locke, Chair of the Department of Philosophy helped to usher in the Harlem Renaissance.  Ralph Bunch, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and the first Nobel Peace Prize winner of African descent, served as the Chair of Political Science at Howard.  The faculty and students of Howard’s Law School forged the heart of the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund and formulated the approach to challenge the Constitutionality of the various underpinnings of segregation.  Thurgood Marshall, first African-American to become Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, was an alumnus of Howard University Law School.  Charles Drew, M.D., who pioneered the storage and shipping of blood for transfusions, was a member of the faculty of Howard’s medical school.

Gaulledet University, a private, co-ed, research university, is the nation’s only institution of higher education specifically for deaf and hearing impaired persons.

American University is a private, co-ed, university closely related to the United Methodist Church.  It is very strong in international relations and in peace studies. AU educates more than its share of career Foreign Service professionals and State Department employees. (To a lesser extent, this could be said about all the universities in the District.)

Trinity Washington University, formerly Trinity College, is a Catholic women’s university founded by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur.  It is well-known for its academic rigor and for promoting a culture of service and economic justice.  Among its notable alumnae are House Minority Leader (and former Speaker) Nancey Pelosi (D-CA) (’62), Sec. of Health and Human Services (and former Kansas Governor) Kathleen Sebellius (D-KS) (’70), BBC International Correspondent Amy Costello (’92), Cyber-Crime prosecutor Carol Crawford (’82), Pulitzer Prize winning journalist for the Washington Post, Caryl Murphy (’68), and many others.

3. Maryland: The only one of the 13 original British colonies in America to be founded by Catholics, and, with Rhode Island, the first colony to practice religious liberty, MD was once a center of the slave trade and a “border state” that stood with the Union during the Civil War but largely empathized with the South’s “peculiar institution.”  During the Jim Crow era, MD often seemed to present merely a milder version of the segregation of the Deep South. During recent decades, however, MD has become a fairly progressive state–and it has long had a deep commitment to education, including higher education. The “usual suspects” includes, of course, the University of Maryland (College Park), the leading public research university in the state which attracts nearly 50% of the state’s high school valedictorians.  Private research universities are led by Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore), the first U.S. institution to be a German-style research university from its founding. Others among the usual suspects include The U.S. Naval Academy (Annapolis) Notre Dame of Maryland University (Baltimore, MD), St. Mary’s College of Maryland (St. Mary’s City–This is the public honors college of MD), Frostburg State U. (Frostburg),  Towson University (Towson), and Bowie State U.   Amidst this wealth of treasures, hidden gems worth a good second look include:

Goucher College (Towson, MD) Founded in 1885 by Episcopalians as a women’s college, today Goucher is non-sectarian and co-educational, a private, independent, liberal arts college with an emphasis on the individuality of each student and on the global context of education: “Education Without Borders” is the motto.  Toward this end, Goucher became the first college or university in the U.S. to require  study abroad (for 6-weeks or  a semester or a year) for every student in every degree program–and to set aside college endowment money in order to provide the financial aid which would make such a requirement possible. They have over 60 study abroad programs.  Goucher also recruits students heavily from overseas and has a generous financial aid program (both needs-based and merit-based) in order to make a Goucher education affordable to students from all walks of life.  Goucher is strong in the arts and fine arts, but also in its 3-2 dual engineering program in partnership with nearby Johns Hopkins University. Other popular majors include Environmental Studies, International Relations, and Peace Studies.

Loyola University of Maryland (Baltimore, MD) Founded by Jesuits in 1852, Loyola University of Maryland was the first institution of higher education in the United States to be named after St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuit order).  The Jesuit educational ideals: centrality of the liberal arts, rigorous standards of academic excellence, and education of the whole person (mind, body, spirit,–in community) are integrated throughout Loyola’s curriculum.  Loyola is a Catholic university–and that identity informs everything–but it is open to persons of all faiths or no faith. Campus ministry is strong and Loyola has a strong Center for Community Service and Justice.

St. John’s College (Annapolis, MD).  There is also a campus in Santa Fe, NM and students can transfere back and forth. I will profile that campus later in this series.  Founded in 1784 by some of the signers of the Declaration of Independence  and named after St. John the Evangelist (a favorite of the Freemasons who were influential in the founding of the United States), St. John’s is a private, independent liberal arts college that is not–and never has been–connected to any church or religious group.  St. John’s claim to (deserved) fame is it’s “Great Books” curriculum.  There are no majors, minors, or electives. ALL students study the exact same courses, built around the Great Books of the Western World. All students take 4 years of seminar, reading original sources in philosophy, theology, political science, literature, history, economics, and psychology. All students take 4 years of mathematics:  reading original classic sources in algebra, geometry, calculus, astronomy, and relativity.  All students take 4 years of languages:  2 years of Ancient Greek, and 2 years of Modern French.  2 years of English composition and 2 years of English poetry.  All students take 3 years of the sciences:  biology, chemistry, atomic theory, and physics. All students take 1 year of music:  half a year of theory and half of music composition.  There are no “textbooks.” Instead, students all read classic original sources.  Except for vocabulary quizzes in Greek and French, there are no tests, just Oxbridge style tutorials and papers. No letter or number grades, but narrative reports that prospective employers often find more helpful.  Beginning with the Bible and the Ancient Greeks, St. John’s students work through the classic Great Books of the Western World systematically in 4 years time.  The result is graduates who have some of the most well-rounded education that exists anywhere.  St. John’s College refuses to participate in the “rankings” game of U.S. News and World Report.  To foster equality in a community of learning, there are no rankings of instructors. All students and instructors are addressed as “Mr.” or “Ms.” And all instructors take turns teaching all subjects–not just their areas of specialty.  St. John’s offers one undergraduate degree: The B.A. in Liberal Arts and one graduate degree: The M.A. in Liberal Arts.  All students live on campus–and so do instructors. There are no fraternities or sororities–or anything  that would create social divisions.  All extra-curricular activities (clubs, intramural sports, theatre, bands, etc.) are organized by the students themselves–with financial and other support from the college.  St. John’s College is one of the 40 “Colleges That Change Lives.”  Alumni are accepted into law schools and graduate programs at a much greater average than the national average. With regard to medical schools, St. John’s students usually take a class in organic chemistry from another college–and then the reaction of medical schools depends on whether or not the admission’s officer has heard of the school. If not, they tend to be skeptical, but if they know of the school, they tend to wave all other requirements and grant admission immediately.

4. New Jersey: The Garden State is also one of the strongest states in higher education.  Anchoring the large state university system is Rutgers: The State University of New Jersey with campuses in Camden, Newark, Piscataway, and New Brunswick.  Newark is also the site of the New Jersey Institute of Technology. Eight (8) health sciences schools form the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, the largest institution of its kind in the nation.  The usual suspects also include some major  private research universities, anchored, of course, by New Jersey’s member of the Ivy League: Princeton University, but also including Drew University, and Seton Hall University.  Hidden Gems:

Centenary College (Hackettstown, NJ) Founded by Methodists (and still closely related to the United Methodist Church), Centenary College of NJ is a church-related liberal arts college with a limited number of graduate programs.  With all the superstar universities in NJ, it would be extremely easy to overlook a small liberal arts college like Centenary, but this would be a mistake. It has a diverse student body, a dedicated faculty, and stimulating educational opportunities. Centenary’s educational approach is student-centered, personalized, and individual. It is a leader in internationalizing its campus, student and faculty bodies, and programs.  Centenary strives for innovation in integrating career preparation with commitment to the liberal arts and it is a leader in community service programs.

College of St. Elizabeth (Morris Township, NJ). The College of St. Elizabeth is a private, Roman Catholic, liberal arts college for women. Founded in 1899 by the Sisters of Charity of St. Elizabeth and is the oldest women’s college in NJ and the one of the first Catholic colleges in the nation to award degrees to women.  The college is named for St. Elizabeth Ann Seton (1774-1821), canonized after her death as the first Catholic saint born in the United States.  It remains a women’s college at the residential and undergraduate level.  About 50 men attend classes in the graduate programs–and they are all commuters.  The College offers 25 baccalaureate degrees, 14 masters programs and a doctor of education in leadership.  It hosts a Center for Theological and Spiritual Development and a Center for Catholic Women’s History.

Georgian Court University (Lakewood, NJ).  Founded in 1908 by the Sisters of Mercy, Georgian Court is a Roman Catholic university composed of Women’s College and University College. It achieved university status in 2004 with the addition of graduate programs.  Open to students of all faiths, Georgian Court University provides comprehensive liberal arts education combined with professional training in a Roman Catholic tradition with a special focus on the education of women.

5. Ohio: Ohio is not on the Atlantic, but I include it here to keep other divisions from being too large.  Usual suspects include the large Ohio state university system anchored by Ohio University (Athens) and including numerous other stellar public institutions such as Ohio State U. (Columbus), Kent State (Kent), Miami University (Oxford), among others.  Case Western Reserve University is a major private research university. Originally populated by pioneers from New England who were used to exclusive liberal arts colleges, Ohio has numerous such liberal arts colleges, including some so prestigious that they are referred to as “The Ohio Five:” Oberlin College (Oberlin), Kenyon College (Gambier); Denison University (Granville); Ohio Wesleyan University (Delaware); and The College of Wooster (Wooster).  There is also an extensive system of Catholic colleges and universities, the most famous of which are Xavier University (Cincinnatti),  Franciscan University (Steubenville), and the University of Dayton (Dayton). “Hidden” or “underestimated” gems include:

Bluffton University (Bluffton, OH) Founded by Mennonites in 1899 and still closely related to the Mennonite Church (USA), Bluffton is a Christian liberal arts college. In 2004, the addition of a limited number of masters’ level programs led to a name change from Bluffton College to Bluffton University.  Bluffton has an “honor lifestyle” rather than an “honor code.” This is consistent with Mennonite Christians’ attempts to live consistent lives of discipleship, centered in the Sermon on the Mount. They take seriously Jesus’ injunction against swearing oaths, but to always live honestly.  Open to students of all faiths since its founding, Mennonite students are now a minority at Bluffton, but the Anabaptist-Mennonite heritage of nonviolence, peacemaking and reconciliation, simple living and economic justice, voluntary service and ecological stewardship, and work for social justice are all integrated into both the curriculum and the total atmosphere at Bluffton.  There are no fraternities and sororities and no ROTC programs.  Bluffton organizes itself around 4 foundational values:  Discovery; Community; Respect; and Service.  In addition to a “Peace and Conflict” minor, Bluffton has attempted to teach nonviolence “across the curriculum.”  Bluffton emphasizes “cross-cultural” experience, usually with study abroad or service abroad opportunities and also with service learning.  The university also has an excellent “arts and lecture” series which gives academic credit for cultural events beyond the classroom.

Heidelberg University (Tiffin, OH) No relation to the Ruprecht-Karls-Universität in Heidelberg, Germany which is commonly called “Heidelberg University” or “University of Heidelberg.”  Founded by the German Reformed Church in 1850 and today related to the United Church of Christ.  A church-related liberal arts college, Heidelberg achieved university status in 2009 with the addition of some limited masters level programs.  Heidelberg boasts a unique honors program called The Life of the Mind which focuses on the student in 4 component roles: the artist, the citizen, the scholar, and the scientist.  The American Junior Year Program at the German Heidelberg University is the oldest American-German exchange program in higher education.  Heidelberg is also the host of the renowned National Center for Water Quality Research and the Center for Historic and Military Archeology.  The Patricia Adams Lecture Series introduces students twice a year to women leaders who have made a transformative impact on their field.  Student leaders created Heidelberg’s Women’s Leadership Initiative.

Wilberforce University (Wilberforce, OH).  Founded in 1856 collaborately by the Methodist Episcopal Church (now the United Methodist Church) and the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church.  The  oldest Historic Black College and University (HBCU) in the nation (the only one founded prior to the Civil War), and one of the few outside the Southeastern United States, Wilberforce University is also the first institution of higher education to have been completely own and operated by African Americans. (Most other HBCUs were owned and opereated by whites for black education for the early periods of their history–and there was often a struggle to get the first black president. This was not true at Wilberforce.) Founded by abolitionist Christians, the college is named for William Wilberforce, the British Christian politician who worked tirelessly and successfully to ban slavery and the slave trade throughout the British empire–without war and decades before slavery was abolished in the United States.  All students must engage in cooperative education to graduate.  In 2006, Wilberforce became the site of NASA’s Science, Engineering, Mathematics, and  Aerospace Academy (SEMAA) and its related Aerospace Education Laboratory.  Wilberforce is open to students of all races and ethnicities, but its mission is to focus on the education of African-Americans, especially bright-but-underprivileged African-Americans who are often not-fully “college ready” as entering freshers because of inadequate school systems.  When the same students graduate, they do so prepared to lead.

Wittenberg University (Springfield, OH).  Founded by Lutherans in 1845 and still related by covenant to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). In the last decade, Wittenberg Professors have won 11 Fulbright Fellowships, an extremely high percentage for a small liberal arts college.  WU is strong in Communications, and in its interdisciplinary studies programs in Russian and East Asian Studies.  It has a thriving campus ministry and is welcoming to all.

6. Pennsylvania:  As one of the original 13 colonies and with Philadelphia as the original capital city of the nation (before the city of Washington was built and the District of Columbia carved out of the edges of Virginia and Maryland), PA is another education powerhouse.  The “usual suspects” are many.  The state land grant universities are anchored by Pennsylvania State University (College Station), University of Pittsburgh, Temple University (Philadelphia), and Cheney University (Thornsbury Township), among others.  Private, premier, research universities include PA’s Ivy Leaguer, founded by Ben Franklin, The University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia).  Other private research universities of  fame include: Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh); Temple University (Philadelphia), and two of PA’s Catholic institutions, LaSalle University (Philadelphia), and Villanova University (Radnor Township). There is also the Tri-Co consortium of Quaker-founded premier liberal arts college which must be included in the “usual suspects,” located in small towns in the Greater Philadelphia area: Bryn Mawr College (women’s only); Haverford College; Swarthmore College.   Additional liberal arts colleges that are famous enough to be “usual suspects: include: Franklin & Marshall College (Lancaster), Lincoln University (Chester Co.) , Albright College (Reading), Dickinson College (Carlisle), and Bucknell University (Lewisburg). Others might be mentioned, too. Hidden Gems:

Eastern University (St. David’s)–A Christian liberal arts college founded by Baptists and still connected to the American Baptist Churches, USA, Eastern University is focused on undergraduate education in the College of Arts and Sciences. But it also contains Palmer Theological Sewminary (in nearby Wynnewood, PA), Esperanza College (a two-year college program with a focus on educating Latinos), a limited number of graduate programs (especially in education) and the Templeton Honors College focused on the “Great Books.”  Many Christian colleges and universities emphasize faith and reason, but Eastern’s motto emphasizes “Faith, Reason, & Justice.”

Allegheny College (Alleghney) Founded by Methodists in 1815 and still related to the United Methodist Church, Allegheny College is a private liberal arts college that stresses “unusual combinations.” It is one of the few institutions of higher education to require that students choose a minor as well as a major–and that these must be in different academic departments.  It is not unusual at Allegheny for a chemistry major to have a minor in music education or a history major to have a minor in physics.  Double-majors are also common, and students taking double majors and double minors are not unknown.  The emphasis on “unusual combinations” makes Allegheny graduates stand out in the marketplace in our global economy and rapidly changing world.  One of the 40 Colleges That Change Lives, Allegheny College also stresses environmental sustainability and is one of the “greenest” colleges in the nation.

Elizabethtown College (Elizabethtown) Founded in 1899, Elizabethtown College is a Christian liberal arts college closely connected to the Church of the Brethren (a denomination that combines the Anabaptist tradition with the tradition of German Pietism). EC’s mission is “Education for Service” and it emphasizes the collaborative, cooperative nature of education instead of pitting students against each other in competition.  With a core curriculum emphasizing critical thinking, cooperative problem solving, and decision-making, EC has 50+ majors and 80+ minors.  Offers 4 degrees: The B.A., B.S., Bachelor of Music, and M.S.

Gettysburg College (Gettysburg) Founded in 1832, the campus overlapped the battlefield of one of the bloodiest battles of the U.S. Civil War and many of the colleges buildings were used as hospitals for the wounded.  It is, therefore, not surprising that this Lutheran liberal arts college has always had a strong sense of history.  A strong academic reputation, GC is known for experiential and service learning, a 4-year career prep program with strong internships, and resources often found only on much bigger campuses, including a music conservatory, professional performing arts center, state of the art science center, the Eisenhower Public Policy Institute, and much else.  64 majors with a strong interdisciplinary tradition. Alumni include 3 Rhodes Scholars, a Nobel laureate, and a Newberry medalist.

Moravian College (Bethlehem) Founded by Moravian Christians in 1742 (originally as a secondary academy for girls), Moravian is a Christian liberal arts college related to the Moravian Church, although a majority of students and faculty come from other faith traditions.  With a holistic curriculum that stresses the education of the whole person–as individuals in community, and learning in common–Moravian believes a well-rounded education stresses not only the life of the mind, but also physical health and fitness, service and social justice, and the life of the spirit.

7. West Virginia: As with Ohio, I include WV here because it won’t fit easily elsewhere.  A poor state, WV’s “usual suspects” are few–in stark contrast to PA. The state university system is anchored by West Virginia University (Morgantown) and West Virginia State University (Institute) and Marshall University (Huntingon). The major private research university is University of Charleston (not to be confused with the College of Charleston in SC).  The “hidden gems” are:

Alderson-Broaddus College (Phillipi, WV) The result of a 1932 merger of two older institutions (one for men and one for women), Alderson-Broaddus College is a 4-year Christian liberal arts college closely connected to the American Baptist Churches, USA. A-B pioneered the first 4-year degree for Physician Assistants and still has the only M.A. for Physician Assistants.  A-B is considered a “best value” for the region and has a well-recognized honors program.

Davis-Elkins College (Elkins, WV).  Founded in 1904 through the efforts of Presbyterians and 2 U.S. Senators (Henry Davis and Stephen Elkins), Davis-Elkins is a Christian liberal arts college related by covenant to the Presbyterian Church (USA).

Wheeling Jesuit University (Wheeling, WV)  Founded in 1954, this is WV’s only Catholic university.  The youngest of the 28 Jesuit colleges and universities in the United States, WJU represents a unique partnership in education between the Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston and the Society of Jesus.

March 25, 2012 Posted by | colleges/universities, education | 1 Comment

Hidden College Gems, I: The Southeast

This begins an education series that highlights a few (no more than 5 per state) overlooked, “hidden gems” of excellent colleges and universities in the U.S.–beyond the flagship state universities and the major private research universities. I will work state-by-state with a single post per geographic region.  My purpose is simply to get students and parents to think beyond the U.S. News and World Report college rankings and their clones.  College/university is expensive and getting more so (costs rising at double the rate of inflation, faster than even pre-reform healthcare costs), and even if there is a major (and successful) campaign to make college/university education more affordable for most people, this is likely to remain the case for some time.  Success beyond college is far more related to getting the right “fit” between student and institution than it is with rankings or reputation.  Put another way, not everyone who can get into Harvard (or even Oxford) should go there.  Different people do well in different contexts.  Yes, challenging academics is important, but some people do better with small classes in a supportive atmosphere while others like stiff competition with other students in large lecture halls.  Geography plays several roles in school selection:  How close to home or distant does the student want to be?  Are their states, or portions of states, where the student would not want to live? Does the student prefer four seasons, and possibly bitter winters, or mild weather year-round? An urban or rural setting? Oceans, mountains or prairies nearby? Does the student want a college sports program that gets national attention with thousands of cheering fans or one in which nearly everyone interested gets some opportunity to participate–even if only in a club or intramural capacity? Nor should all students from religious families go to faith-based institutions.  Some would do better at “non-sectarian” institutions while being very involved in campus ministry programs (e.g., Inter-Varsity, Newman Club, Hillel, Baptist Student Union, Wesley Fellowship, Muslim Student Association, Interfaith dialogue groups, etc.). But faith-informed institutions should not be automatically ruled out, either, even by students who do not consider themselves religious or not of the same religion.  Many a Protestant or Jewish student has found a welcoming, supportive, and challenging environment at a Catholic college or university, for example.  Some worry that going to a school related to a religion which is not there’s may lead to conversion– but conversion from one worldview to another (including from unbelief to faith or from faith to unbelief) is ALWAYS a possibility in any context, especially any educational context that exposes one to other views than what one already holds.  My only purpose in this series of posts is to give greater visibility to some worthwhile institutions which are not on all the usual lists that parents and prospective students see constantly.

In a future post, I will explore the strengths and weakness of community colleges for those who are not prepared (either academically or financially) to go directly from high school to university–or who are older, non-traditional students.  Full disclosure:  I believe in the potential of community colleges. I, myself, had an uneven educational experience in high school and earned an A.A. in a community college. It did me no harm–I eventually earned a Ph.D. I have also taught in such settings on numerous occasions.  Community colleges are a vital component of preparing this nation for the economies of today and tomorrow.  But they have weaknesses that need correction as well as strengths that should be exploited and reinforced. I hope to comment on those in this blog at a later date–but I will not list any in this series of “hidden gems.”

In this post covering the Southeast, we will look briefly at schools in: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, & Virginia.

1. Alabama:  Everyone knows about the flagship state university, The University of Alabama, and the major private research university, Auburn University. Both are excellent schools.  Here are some hidden gems:

Alabama is home to several HCBUs (“Historic Black Colleges and Universities”) founded after the Civil War for the education of freed slaves and during the era of segregation when African-Americans were legally barred from most “white” institutions (and not just in the South, either).  Because racist assumptions still exist in educational institutions, there is still great value in these HCBUs and all should be considered, both the state-supported and the private ones.  I highlight one that is  of exceptional academic quality:

Tuskeegee University in Tuskeegee, AL was founded by Booker T. Washington 1885 as a private institution that originally focused on bringing freed slaves from out of the near-slavery of the sharecropping system into a solid working class and lower-middle class by educating for skilled blue-collar industrial jobs.  Today, Tuskeegee U. is a private, small research university with a focus on undergraduate teaching in all fields. Washington Monthly Review which grades colleges and universities not on their prestige, but on service to the wider community, ranks Tuskeegee U. the #1 undergraduate institution in the nation.  Not only were the famed Tuskeegee Airmen of World War II educated and trained here, but the students of this university played huge roles in the Civil Rights movement. TU produces more black Ph.D.s in engineering and materials sciences than any other institution, is the only HCBU with a Vetinary School offering a doctorate, the only HCBU with a National Center for Bioethics, and has a NASA-related program for growing food in space.

Two other “hidden gems” in Alabama are Church-related colleges:

Judson College in Marion, AL is an all-women’s liberal arts college founded by Baptists (named after the Baptist missionary Ann Hasseltine Judson, America’s first female foreign missionary) and is still closely-related to the  Alabama Baptist Convention.  It is the nation’s 5th oldest women’s college and is home of the Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame.  Admission to Judson is not as difficult as some other all women’s colleges, but the academic curriculum remains challenging.  18 majors and 24 minors and 11 pre-professional programs.  The college lives up to its motto of “knowledge and faith for a life of purpose.”

Samford University in Birmingham, AL was also founded by Baptists (in 1841) and is related to the Alabama Baptist Convention.  Although often the center of the struggle between conservative and “moderate” Baptists, this has seldom spilled over to the student population.  In addition to the undergraduate college of arts and sciences, Samford has several professional schools, including a divinity school, a business school, a law school, a school of education, a school of nursing, and one of pharmacy.  138 undergraduate majors and a tradition of faith-based community service.  The core curriculum emphasizes communication arts, exposure to biblical perspectives, broad knowledge of the Western cultural tradition(s), but also dialogue with Muslim and Buddhist dialogues.  The core curriculum also includes physical health and fitness.  The campus ministry is both Baptist and ecumenical (including both Catholic and Episcopal support groups) but is somewhat lacking in formal structures for interfaith dialogue.  Costs of attendance is higher here than in any of the other Alabama institutions we’ve noted, but there is also a very generous financial aid program.

2. Florida: Traditionally, Florida has traditionally been known for some very high profile academic institions, including the flagship state university system, led by the University of Florida (Gainesville) and Florida State University(Tallahassee) (Full disclosure: I earned an M.A. in political science at FSU and loved my time there, unlike my experience at the small Christian college where I was an undergraduate–and which I almost never mention by name), but also including the major private research university, the University of Miami (Coral Gables).  But these high-profile schools have eclipsed some excellent hidden gems–in fact, far more than I can profile here. I mention only 4 but could include others. Studying anywhere in FL is, almost by definition, multi-cultural, far more so than in the rest of this Southeast region (though global diversity affects nearly every place in our country to some extent these days) and each of these hidden gems works hard to support and further a context of education in a global community.

Florida A & M University (FAMU) in Tallahassee is one of 4 HCBUs in FL.  It is an 1890 land grant college originally focused on agricultural and mechanical education.  A doctoral research institution which, because it is state-supported, is considerably less expensive than others of similar quality.  FAMU’s satellite campus in Orlando houses its law school and there is also a College of Pharmacy in Tallahassee.   It embraces every culture, racial, and ethnic group, but still focuses on its historic mission of educating African-Americans.  Top undergraduate programs are architecture, journalism, computer information sciences, and psychology.

Stetson University in Deland is a church-related university founded by Baptists in 1883 and is loosely related to the Florida Baptist Convention. Stetson had the first law school of any private university in the state and was the first to admit women and African-Americans.  It has a focus on education in an international context, small classes with no teaching assistants, and hands-0n learning.  It had the first chapter of Phi Beta Kappa in FL, the oldest honor society in the United States. Voluntary non-denominational chapel services are held every Thursday.  Although founded by Baptists, Stetson has spiritual support programs for Catholics (Newman Club), Episcopalians (Canterbury House), Muslims, Jews (Hillel), Methodists (Wesley Fellowship), evangelicals (InterVarsity) and an Interfaith Dialogue Council.  The costs are consistent with most private colleges/universities, but considerable financial aid is available, as well as student employment.

Eckerd College in St. Petersburg on FL’s Gulf Coast is an elite, small, liberal arts college related by covenant to the Presbyterian Church, USA.  It is one of the 40 “Colleges That Change Lives” and its motto is “Think Outside”–a reference to the many ways in which Eckerd uses its numerous natural resources related in a beautiful setting. A fairly young school founded in 1958, Eckerd has a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, and ranks very high in number of students who study abroad. A very environmental campus (including school-owned yellow bikes that students can borrow to get around campus without using cars), Eckerd is also one of the most pet-friendly of college campuses.  Both the National Aeronotics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Oceanographica and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) cooperate in programs at Eckerd and heavily recruit Eckerd students for internships. The student culture is very service oriented. Campus chapel is voluntary and the context welcomes students of all faiths and no particular faith to explore spirituality–their own and others.

New College of Florida in Sarasota was founded as an experimental, private, liberal arts college in 1960, but it was later adopted into the state university system and now it is the public Honors College of Florida.  For several years The Princeton Review has listed New College as one of the top “Best Value” colleges and in 2012 they list it as the #3 “Best Value” college in the nation.  Especially if you live in Florida and can receive “in-state” tuition, room and board rates, New College is very affordable.  There is also generous financial aid, both academic based and needs-based.  Admission standards are very selective, and prospective students should be very self-motivated since there are no “out of the box” majors or programs. ALL students design their own majors in consultation with faculty advisors–including tutorials, off campus programs and study-abroad, and independent research and collaborative research with faculty. Students govern themselves in “town hall” direct democracy fashion. Enrollment is deliberately kept below 1,000 students. Yet students and faculty produce numerous prestigious awards and honors (including more Fulbright Fellowships per capita than most Ivy League schools).  Because of its individual, and collaborative approach to education, New College students do not receive standard grades, but long narrative evaluations, and all must write and defend a senior research thesis to graduate.

3. Georgia:  The state university system is well known, anchored by the prestigious University of Georgia, but also including the Georgia Institute of Technology.  The most prestigious private research university is Emory University (Atlanta).  But there are also some great “hidden gems” which get overshadowed by these impressive “usual suspects.”

Georgia is home several HCBUs, most in the Atlanta area. I list two that should be world famous–and should NEVER be taken for granted.:

Morehouse College in Atlanta is one of only 3 remaining all-male institutions of higher education in the U.S.–and the only one whose mission is the education of African-American men.  Founded by Baptists in 1867, just two years after the end of the U.S. Civil War, Morhouse maintains a loose relationship with several Baptist denominations.  It is the alma mater of such famous African-American leaders as theologian Howard Thurman (’27); Lerone Bennett (’49), the founder of Ebony magazine; Samuel Nabrit (’25), the first African-American to earn a Ph.D. (physics) from Brown University, former head of the Atomic Energy Commission; numerous elected officials, judges, and ambassadors, filmmaker Spike Lee (’79), numerous academics and presidents of universities; Actor Samuel L. Jackson (’72), conservative businessman and Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain (’67), and, most, famously, minister and human rights activist, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (’48).  Chapel is voluntary and Morehouse presents a welcoming and supportive context for persons of all faiths and no particular faith. It recruits students globally.  The focus is on creating “Renaissance Men” who are educated to lead and serve larger communities, especially the African-American community.  Both the curriculum and extracurricular activities are designed to build oral and written communication skills; critical and analytical reasoning; interpersonal relationships; foster an understanding and appreciation of world cultures, the nature of the physical universe, and artistic and creative expression; promote understanding and appreciation of the specific knowledge tools and skills needed for the pursuit of professional careers and/or graduate study; cultivate the personal attributes of self-confidence, tolerance, morality, ethical behavior, spirituality, humility, a global perspective, and a commitment to social justice.

Spelman College (Atlanta) is the only liberal arts college in the world focused solely on the education of African-American women.  An all-women’s college that is open to students of any race and culture, Spelman is an HBCU founded by Baptists in 1881. It retains a loose affiliation with several Baptist groups.  During the Civil Rights era, Spelman students played at least as many leadership roles as did Morehouse students.  Famous alumnae include:  Janet Bragg (’31), first African-American woman to obtain a commercial pilot’s license; Ruth A. Davis (’66), 24th Director of the U.S. Foreign Service and twice recipient of the President’s Award for Distinguished Federal Civil Service; Christine King Farris (’48), eldest and only living sibling of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., an educator and public speaker; Marion Wright Edelman (’60), civil rights activist, attorney, and founder of the Children’s Defense Fund; Evelyn Hammond (’76), current Dean of Harvard College; Tanya Walton Pratt (’81), U. S. District Judge; Keisha Knight Pulliam (’01), actress; Bernice Johnson Reagan (’70), civil rights activist; former curator of the Smithsonian Institutes; founder of the a capella singing group, Sweet Honey in the Rock; Alice Walker (’65), award winning author.  Bill Cosby has made major donations to Spelman College, including endowed professorships.

Agnes Scott College (Decatur is an all-women’s college founded in 1889 and located in metro-Atlanta area.  It is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA) and is the only women’s college to be part of the “Colleges That Change Lives.”  Agnes’ Scott’s mission is to educate women to “think deeply, live honorably, and engage the intellectual and social challenges of their times.”  Committed to diversity, 40% of ASC’s students are women of color.  A Presbyterian college, ASC encourages spiritual exploration and cultivates an atmosphere of respect for persons of all faiths.  The campus ministry includes most Christian groups as well as Jewish, Muslim, Wiccan, and Buddhist support networks.  In the most recent graduating class, 91% of those who applied were accepted into graduate programs.  ASC is the only baccalaureate liberal arts college to have its own internship program at the Centers for Disease Control.  It is among the top 10% of institutions whose graduates go on to earn Ph.D.s.  Notable alumnae include Ruth Janet Pirkle Berkeley (’22), one of the first female psychiatrists in the U.S.; Illa Burdette (’81), Georgia’s first female Rhodes Scholar; Mamie Lee Ratliff Finger (’39), head of the organization which funds Ewha Women’s University in Seoule, Korea (largest university for women in the world); Rachelle Henderlite (’28), first woman ordained in the Presbyterian Church; Jean Toal (’64), current Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of South Carolina.

Mercer University(Macon, GA) is a medium-sized, regional university founded by Baptists in 1833, but is no longer formally affiliated with any denomination.  Mercer’s primary focus is on undergraduate education (with 31 majors and an Honors Program organized around the Great Books of the Western World), but it also has several professional schools including a school of business and economics; a school of engineering; a school of education, a law school, a school of theology (at the Atlanta campus), a school of music, a school of nursing, a medical school, and a pharmacy school.  A faith-based university with a Baptist heritage, Mercer University maintains a very active chaplaincy program that is ecumenical, but not interfaith.  All students participate in Mercer’s First Year Experiance, and a common course on scientifica inquiry. Mercer has two Honors Programs, one for the College of Liberal Arts and one for the School of Engineering.  Seniors complete a capstone course or a senior design project.  Students may choose to pursue the Great Books Program in place of the core curriculum.  Mercer is seeking to become a major private research university and, so, will soon be part of the “usual suspects” in a post like this rather than a “hidden gem.”

Wesleyan College (Macon, GA).  Founded by Methodists in 1836, Wesleyan is the world’s oldest liberal arts college for women and it’s motto is “First for women” since it is the first institution of higher education to grant degrees to women.  A liberal arts and sciences college, Wesleyan offers 30 majors leading to the A.B. degree. It also offers an engineering degree jointly with the Georgia Institute of Technology, Auburn University, and Mercer University.  “Firsts” among Wesleyan alumnae include:  the first woman in Georgia to earn a Doctor of Medicine degree (Mary McKay, 1878); first woman elected to the Tennessee state legislature (Sara Ruth Frazier, 1894); first woman to argue a case before the Georgia Supreme Court (Viola Ross Napier, 1901); first woman ordained Bishop of the Southeastern Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church (Charlene Payne Kammerer, 1970).

4. Kentucky:  The “usual suspects” include the flagship state university, the University of Kentucky, the University of Louisville, and regional universities in the state system. Kentucky does not have a major, private, research university like Georgia’s Emory, Florida’s University of Miami, or even Tennessee’s Vanderbilt. Bellarmine University, which I list below as a “hidden gem” is seeking to grow to fill that void.  However, Kentucky does have several educational “hidden gems.”

Berea College (Berea, KY).  Founded in 1859 by radical Christian abolitionists, Berea College is a non-denominational Christian liberal arts college whose mission is to educate the poor, especially poor students from Appalachia. Berea is the first institution of higher education in the South to educate whites and African-Americans together and women and men together as equals.  All students are on full tuition scholarships and all also engage in work-study in manual labor.  Students whose families make enough money to afford college elsewhere are not admitted.  The Washington Monthly Review ranks Berea College #1 in the nation for “social mobility” (educating the poor), # of students who go to do graduate work, and community service by students and faculty.

Centre College (Danville, KY)  Founded in 1819 and related by covenant to the Presbyterian Church (USA), Centre is Kentucky’s premiere liberal arts college.  It is one of 40 “Colleges That Change Lives.”  Two-thirds of KY’s Rhodes Scholars in the last 40 years have come from Centre.  82% of students study abroad during their 4 years at Centre.  In fact, if students meet academic and social expectations, the Centre Guarantee is that all students will have the opportunity for an internship, to study abroad, community service, and graduate in 4 years–or the 5th year’s free.  Campus participation is very high: 80% participate in some form of community service; 40% participate in varsity athletics; 25% participate in some form of the performing arts.  Chapel is voluntary and ecumenical. There are support networks for many faith groups.  In 2012, for the 2nd time (first in ’04), Centre will host the Vice Presidential debate in the U.S. presidential campaign.

Bellarmine University (Louisville, KY) Founded in 1950, Bellarmine University is an independent, medium-sized, Catholic university with an emphasis on undergraduate teaching and a limited number of graduate programs. Although independent, rather than related to any particular Catholic order, Bellarmine is named after the Jesuit scholar-saint Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621) and its educational philosophy is mostly in the Jesuit tradition.  Bellarmine is striving to become Louisville’s answer to Notre Dame–a premier Catholic research university–so, in a few years, it won’t be listed in “hidden gems.”  Open and welcoming to persons of all faiths and no particular faith, yet enfused with Catholic Christian values and faith perspective, Bellarmine’s mission to educate for the service of God and humanity.

Transylvania University (Lexington, KY)  Founded in 1780 as the first U.S. institution of higher education west of the Allegheny mountains (when Kentucky was still a very large county of Virginia!), the university is named after the Latin for “through the woods.” It has nothing to do with Dracula novels or the Transylvania area of Romania, although students do dress as vampires for Halloween! Related by covenant to the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Transy (as it is called) is an undergraduate liberal arts college, despite it’s name.  (In its early years, Transy had a medical school, law school, and theological seminary.  These no longer exist, but the term “university” is preserved for historical reasons.) 70% of Transy students study abroad.  18% of students come from outside Kentucky–a number that surely increase if the school were better known.  Double majors and self-designed majors are common:  all built on a liberal arts core.

5. Louisiana:  The “usual suspects” in higher education in Louisiana include the flagship public university, University of Louisiana (Lafayette) and Louisiana State University (Baton Rouge) as well as two major private research universities: Loyola University of New Orleans and Tulane University (also in New Orleans).  Here are a few “hidden gems” in the land of Jazz, Cajun and Creole cooking, and bayous:

Centenary College (Shreveport, LA). Founded by Methodists in 1829 as the College of Louisiana and the name changed in 1845 (the “centenary” of John Wesley’s launch of the Methodist movement), Centenary College is a Christian liberal arts college related to the United Methodist Church.  Centenary is the oldest liberal arts college west of the Missippi river.  There is a strict honors code at Centenary and a 3-pronged experiential education program (career, community, and culture) known as “The Trek.”  The weekly chapel is ecumenical and student-led and there are numerous ecumenical religious support networks, but not interfaith.

Dillard University (New Orleans, LA) Founded in 1869, Dillard University is a Historic Black University with a higher than average % of white, Asian, and other students, though remaining majority African-American. It is one of the top 10 HBCUs academically. Historically and currently, Dillard is related to both the United Methodist Church and the United Church of Christ. It has rebuilt 32 buildings in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, all of which have become environmentally sustainable.  Since 2010, Dillard partners with LA’s public schools in a revolutionary new teacher education program. Concentrating on undergraduate education, Dillard is a major “feeder school” to top graduate programs at places like Harvard, Yale, Columbia, and Oxford.

6. Mississippi:  The poorest state in the United States, with the highest public school drop-out rate, the highest teen-aged pregnancy rate, Mississippi has no premier, private, research university worthy of the name. The jewel of the “usual suspects” in MS is “Ol’ Miss,” The University of Mississippi and Mississippi State is another state-supported public research university.  But even MS has a couple of hidden gems:

Millsaps College (Jackson, MS).  One of the 40 Colleges That Change Lives, Millsaps College was founded in 1890 by Ruben William Millsaps, a MS native who had needed to work his way through college in Indiana and Harvard Law School since, at that time, MS had no institution of higher education.  Millsaps is closely related to the United Methodist Church and is dedicated to liberal arts education in a progressive Christian context.  It was the first institution of higher education in MS to earn a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, the national honor society.  Millsaps is known for community service, national caliber faculty, and academic strength.  Among its notable alumni is the theological ethicist Paul Ramsey, one of the founders of biomedical ethics.  It has a Faith and Work Initiative that is fairly unique.

Mississippi College (Clinton, MS). Founded by Baptists in 1826, Mississippi College is the oldest institution of higher education in MS and the 2nd oldest Baptist college or university in the nation.  Today, MC is actually a Christian university with several graduate programs, but because the name “Mississippi University” would invite confusion with the (public) University of Mississippi (“Ol’ Miss”), MC retains its older name.  Closely related to the Mississippi Baptist Convention, MC offers 80 undergraduate degrees, 14 graduate programs a Juris Doctor degree through its law school and a Doctor of Education in Leadership.  It is nationally ranked by several major publications as a regional university “best buy.”

Tougaloo College (Tougaloo, MS). Founded in 1869 by the American Missionary Association (an organization of the Congregational Church which focused on missionary and educational work with freed slaves), Tougaloo is an HBCU associated with the United Church of Christ.  It works to prepare students to forge the “next new idea” and to be servant leaders of society.  Tougaloo College played a major role in MS during the Civil Rights struggle of the 1950s and 1960s and a disproportionate amount of MS’s elected black leaders were educated at this small liberal arts college.

7. North Carolina: In sharp contrast to Mississippi, NC has long been a higher education powerhouse and the “Research Triangle” (the cities of Raleigh, Durham, & Chapel Hill ) creates a virtuous cycle of rising education and economic growth.  Because of this, the list of “usual suspects” is larger in NC than in much of the Southeast.  NC’s excellent state university system is anchored by its “Public Ivy,” The University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill. But UNC–Asheville and UNC–Charlotte are also excellent state universities, as is North Carolina State University (in Raleigh).  NC has two top-flight private, research universities in its “usual suspects” list:  Duke University (Durham) and Wake Forest University (Winston-Salem).  The shine from all this gold–and gold it is–can blind folk to NC’s growing list of hidden gems:

Davidson College (Davidson, NC) Davidson is growing quickly and may not be very “hidden” much longer. If I update this column in a year or two, I may need to list Davidson with the “usual suspects” and highlight another “hidden gem.” Founded by Presbyterians in 1837 and related by covenant to the Presbyterian Church (USA), Davidson College is a highly selective, national liberal arts college. It is located just north of Charlotte in the town of Davidson.  Governed by a strict Honor Code (which, in turn, fosters self-scheduled and unproctored exams), Davidson is alma mater to 23 Rhodes Scholars.  A leader in affordability efforts, Davidson was the first liberal arts college to eliminate student loans from its financial aid package, adopting a “needs blind” admission policy and meeting 100% of demonstrated student need in all financial aid packages.  Student retention is very high, with 96% of first year students returning for sophomore year.  With a core curriculum based on the Great Books, a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, and an emphasis on faculty-student collaborative research, Davidson is a challenging academic environment.

Meredith College (Raleigh, NC).  Founded by Baptists in 1891, but no longer related to any denomination, Meredith College is one of the largest private liberal arts colleges for women.  It remains single-sex in undergraduate programs, but also has a few graduate programs and they are all co-ed.  Meredith students also have an honor code and are mentored by professors with an average class size of 17.  With 32 undergraduate majors, Meredith has a student population of about 2,000 representing 32 U.S. states and 47 foreign countries.  Offers an engineering degree in cooperation with North Carolina State University.  Meredith’s alumnae are among the most satisfied with 95% saying they would choose Meredith again.  90% of students receive some form of financial aid.

Shaw University (Raleigh, NC). Founded in 1865, this is the first HBCU of the South.  Shaw was founded by missionaries from the American Baptist Home Mission Society for the education of freed slaves, especially African-American ministers.  It is still closely connected to several Baptist bodies and, consistent with its motto, Pro Christo et Humanitate, seeks to create a context in which religion and learning go hand in hand and character increases with knowledge.  Open to persons of all faiths and no particular faith, Shaw’s mission is still informed by its Christian and Baptist heritage.  In addition to its undergraduate College of Arts and Sciences, Shaw has an Honors College and a graduate divinity school.  A leader in the Civil Rights movement, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC or “Snick”) officially began at a conference on Shaw’s campus in 1960.

Salem College (Winston-Salem, NC).  Founded by Moravian Christians in 1772 as an academy for the education of young girls, Salem College is a private, Christian liberal arts college for women, still closely related to the Moravian Church and deeply informed by the Moravian heritage that says that with education comes responsibilty for others.  Salem College was an early leader in the education of Native American women and African-American women and still works hard to have a diverse student body.  The 13th oldest college by date in the U.S., and the oldest college for women, men are admitted into the graduate program in education and the adult learning program, but the undergraduate liberal arts college remains single-sex.  The value of Salem’s education can be seen in a law school acceptance rate by alumnae of 100% (national avge. is 55%) and a medical school acceptance rate of 85% (national avge. is 50%).  The Templeton Foundation lists Salem College as one of the top 100 Character Building Colleges in the nation.  The Salem Signature Leadership Program is a 4-year comprehensive program celebrating the leadership of women and preparing students to assume leadership roles–even prior to graduation.  Open to persons of all faiths, Salem is a church-related college which seeks to support the spiritual growth of students and involve them in local communities of faith as well as the campus chapel.  The academic study of religion is a part of the core curriculum, but only a minority of faculty or students are Moravian these days and no particular faith commitment is necessary for graduation or community acceptance.  An Interfaith Council implements these ideals, along with the campus chaplaincy and student religious organizations.

8. South Carolina:  SC does not enjoy the academic reputation of some other states in this region, but is actually home to an impressive array of strong institutions of higher education.  The “usual suspects” include the extensive University of South Carolina system anchored by the flagship campus at Columbia, South Carolina State University, Clemson University, The College of Charleston, and Winthrop University. (If one does not share my pacifist opposition to military institutes, one would also include The Citadel in this list.)  SC hidden gems:

Benedict College (Columbia, SC). Founded by Baptists in 1870, Benedict College is an HCBU and is ranked as one of the top 100 institutions in graduating African-American scholars by Diversity magazine.  Benedict is a private, co-educational, liberal arts college and the vast majority of its students come from the African-American community, but it is open to all people.  Since the 1990s, Benedict has experienced tremendous growth in enrollment and is the home of the national Honors Team Debate Champions and a nationally ranked Gospel Choir.  Benedict works to recruit international students, especially from Haiti, offering a chance at education that would otherwise be denied.

Furman University (Greenville, SC).  One of the oldest institutions of higher education in the South, Furman is a private, co-educational liberal arts university founded by Baptists in 1826.  It’s campus was the original site of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (in Louisville, KY since the end of the Civil War), the mother seminary of The Southern Baptist Convention.  Today, Furman is independent of all denominations, but still values its original Baptist heritage of freedom.  It has a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.  Environmental sustainability is integrated throughout the curriculum.  The academics are challenging, the opportunities to study abroad, and get internships are considerable, and there are over 40 majors in 25 departments.

Wofford College (Spartenburg, SC).  Founded by Methodists in 1854 and still related to the United Methodist Church, Wofford College is a private, co-ed, liberal arts college offering well-rounded academic excellence in a “values-based” context of inquiry.  The campus is co-terminous with a nationally famous arboretum.  Spartenburg is quite the college town, being home to no less than 6 diverse institutions of higher education. (The other five are Converse College, Spartenburg Methodist College, Spartenburg Community College, Spartenburg Technical College, and the University of South Carolina–Upstate.) Wofford has a considerable retention rate, fostered by programs like its Success Initiative, and Community of Scholars program.

9. Tennessee:  The “usual suspects” in the Volunteer State are anchored by the University of Tennessee system with its flagship campus at Knoxville. (Full disclosure: UT–Knoxville is my wife’s alma mater.)  Other prominent public institutions include the University of Memphis, Middle Tennessee State University and Austin Peay State University.  TN’s major private research university superstar is Vanderbilt University in Nashville.  There are a number of private institutions that play prominent roles in the state and the region. Out of many possibilities, I highlight the following hidden gems:

Fisk University (Nashville, TN)  Founded in 1865, barely 6 months after the end of the Civil War, by 3 former slaves and the director of TN’s Freedmen’s Bureau (General Clinton B. Fisk), Fisk University is an HBCU with a storied history and which today is one of the top “feeder schools” for African-Americans that go on to earn Ph.D.s, especially in the STEM fields (Sciences, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) in which they have been historically underrepresented.  The early history of Fisk U. was supported by the efforts of the American Missionary Association and Fisk remains connected to its successor institution, the United Church of Christ.  In the 1960s, Fisk students played outsized roles in the Civil Rights movement, forming the backbone of the Nashville Student Movement which, in 1960, successfully desegregated the city in a classic campaign of Gandhian nonviolent direct action.  Fisk students became leaders in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Council (SNCC) and in Dr. King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).  Fisk alumni include W.E.B. DuBois (class of 1888), the sociologist and social critic who was the first African-American to earn a Ph.D. at Harvard University.  DuBois’ great philosophical adversary, Booker T. Washington, founder of Tuskeegee University (see above under Alabama) was a Fisk trustee, married a Fisk alumna and sent his own children to Fisk.  Current retention rate is 91% and Fisk is one of only 3 HCBUs ranked as “Tier One” by U.S. News and World Report.  Based on social mobility, research, and service to the wider community, Washington Monthly ranked Fisk among the top ten colleges and universities in the nation for contributions to the wider society.  In 1952, Fisk became the first HCBU to earn a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, the national honor society. 8 graduating students were inducted into Phi Beta Kappa in the Class of 2011.  Fisk is also very affordable, being ranked as a “Best Buy” in education by both Forbes

Carson-Newman University(Jefferson City, TN)  Founded as a Baptist seminary in 1851, Carson-Newman is a Christian liberal arts institution with limited master’s level programs.  It strives to be Christ-centered and open and welcoming to all, academically challenging and committed to the integration of faith and knowledge in a spirit of open and free inquiry.  Ranked by The Daily Beast as the number 1 institution of higher education in community service and the 2nd overall in Most-Service Minded Schools.  62 undergraduat majors and 4 undergraduate degrees.  Strong commitment to international study.

Rhodes College (Memphis, TN) Founded by Presbyterians in 1848 (and still related by covenant to the Presbyterian Church (USA), Rhodes College is an elite liberal arts college set in the city of the blues.  What Centre College is to KY (see above) and Davidson to North Carolina (see above), Rhodes is to TN.  For more than a century, Rhodes Honor System has been at the center of campus life. Stressing the classic liberal arts and sciences, Rhodes also places great emphasis on collaborative research and hands-on experimentation. It also stresses global education, both through student recruiting from around the world and through numerous study abroad opportunities.  Students of color make up nearly 20% of the campus and women outnumber men 58% to 42%.  74% of students come from outside of TN.  75% live on campus (100% of first year students) and 80% of students are involved in community service.  Over 80% of students receive some form of financial aid.  Much of the campus religious and community service life is channeled through the Bonner Center for Faith and Service.

Christian Brothers University (Memphis, TN) Founded in 1871 by the Institute of the Brothers of Christian Schools, CBU is a Catholic university in the LaSallian tradition, the largest Catholic order dedicated to teaching.  Originally a single-sex institution (male), CBU became co-ed in 1970. Though Catholic faith and the LaSallian perspective are integrated throughout the campus, CBU is open to persons of all faiths and no particular faith. Only about 50% of students and faculty are Catholic.  The majority of students are undergraduates, but CBU became a university in 1990 with the introduction of a limited number of master’s degrees.  It has a focus on social transformation and CBU was the original home of the M. K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence (now moved to the University of Rochester), founded and directed by Arun Gandhi, one of the grandsons of the Mahatma.  The LaSallian tradition of education is built around core values of faith, service, and community and leads to the following educational principles:  Respect for each individual as a unique person; A Christian perspective on all knowledge; a striving for academic excellence; a spirit of community and collaboration; a life of service to others; a quest for peace and social justice.

The University of the South (Sewanee, TN)  Popularly known as “Sewanee,” The University of the South is a Christian university in the Anglican tradition and related by covenant to the Episcopal Church in the U.S. It is largely focused on undergraduate education in the liberal arts and sciences, but also has a graduate level “School of Letters” (offering masters’ degrees in English and Creative Writing) and a graduate School of Theology which is both ecumenical and an official Episcopal seminary.  Located in the Cumberland plateau between Nashville and Chattanooga, The University of the South was founded in 1857 by priests and laity from the Southern dioceses of the Episcopal Church.  Its size is kept deliberately small in order to facilitate close-knit community and a supportive educational network.  Sewanee has produced 26 Rhodes Scholars and dozens of Fulbright Fellows. In an era of specialization, it continues the ideal of the well-rounded liberal arts education as the key to lives that are “successful” in more than monetary terms.  55% of students go on to pursue graduate education. Sewanee’s alumni gain law school acceptance at a rate of 90% and acceptance into medical, vetinary, and dental schools at 85%, both well above national averages.

10. Virginia:  VA rivals NC in educational superstars. The usual suspects lead off with “Mr. Jefferson’s university,” The University of Virginia (a “Public Ivy”) and include the College of William and Mary (also a “Public Ivy” and, despite the name, a public research university) and the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (“Virginia Tech”).  Other public research universities include: George Mason University, Virginia Commonwealth University and James Madison University.  Private research universities include: George Washington University, Washington & Lee University, and the University of Richmond.  The hidden gems include:

Eastern Mennonite University (Harrisonburg, VA) Located in the Shenandoah Valley of VA (with a satellite campus in Lancaster, PA), and founded by Mennonite Christians in 1917, EMU is a unique Christian liberal arts college, with an attached theological seminary and graduate programs in business, education, and peacebuilding. Closely connected to the Mennonite Church (USA), EMU offers a Christian liberal arts education in the Anabaptist-Mennonite tradition, with an emphasis on nonviolence, peacebuilding, compassion, and service, and justice-seeking as integral to faithful Christian witness. EMU’s alumni include 2011 Nobel Peace Prize-winner, Leymah Gboyee of Liberia. About 50% of students come from other faith traditions and EMU has one of the most culturally diverse faculties and student bodies of any institution of comparable size. EMU’s M.A. in Peacebuilding is world-renowned.  Long before service education was fashionable, Mennonite educational institutions emphasized both global education and service-learning. Faculty regulary spend their sabbaticals in service to the poor, globally or in the United States, rather than in furthering their own academic careers. Students and faculty at EMU and its sister Mennonite schools pioneered in “alternative Spring Breaks” spent in service rather than in drunken parties and such hands on global service remains a hallmark. Cross-cultural education is also at the heart of an EMU education–students here learn to see the world from other than “American” perspectives.

Hampton University (Hampton, VA) Nestled along the banks of the Virginia Peninsula, by the Chesapeake Bay, Hampton University is an HBCU founded in 1868, out of begininings in 1861 by Mary Peake, a “Free Negro.”  Booker T. Washington, founder of Tuskeegee University (see above under AL) is among Hampton’s notable alumni (class of 1876). In 1878, Native Americans began also being educated at Hampton.  Hampton faculty and students played significant roles in the Civil Rights movement and the school was threatened with bombings in the 1960s. Today, Hampton offers 68 undergraduate degrees, 27 masters degree programs, 6 doctoral degree programs, and 2 specialist programs in education.  Undergraduate women outnumber men 63.7% to 36.3%.  91% of students are African American.  The school has a dress code and a code of  conduct.

Hollins University (Roanoke, VA) Founded in 1852 as Virginia’s first chartered liberal arts college for women, Hollins remains single-sex at the undergraduate level, but when it added a limited number of graduate programs in the 1980s, men were also admitted to them. In 1998, in recognition of these masters level programs, Hollins officially became a university.  Hollins remains deliberately small: 759 undergraduate women and 259 co-ed graduate students this year; from 46 states and 13 countries; 52% of students from VA; 20% underrepresented minorities; Avge. high school gpa: 3.5.  In the most recent graduating class, 50% of students had studied abroad and 75% of students had held internships.  Hollins has a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.  Among the distinguished alumnae is the award winning author, Annie Dillard (’67, M.A. in English, ’68); Influential photographer Sallie Mann, (’74, M.A., ’75); Pamela Slutz, ’70, U.S. Ambassador to Burundi appointed by Pres. Obama; Mary Ostill Lott, ’00, Coastal Director of the Nature Conservancy of Alabama; Ann Compton, ’69, White House correspondent for ABC News; Rev. Cynthia Hale (’69), is Pastor of Ray of Hope Christian Church, Decatur, GA; Linda Koch Lorimer (’74), Vice President of Yale University.

Mary Baldwin College (Staunton, VA) Founded in 1842 by Presbyterians, and still related by covenant with the Presbyterian Church (USA), Mary Baldwin College is a private, residential, liberal arts college for women. It’s mission is to lead women to become “confident, compassionate, changemakers,” to be “Boldly Baldwin.”  Mary Baldwin’s undergraduate residential college remains single sex, but it offers graduate programs in health sciences, Shakespeare and Performance, and Graduate Teacher Education and all of these programs are co-ed.  MB also offers an Adult Degree Program for Women and an “early college” summer academy for gifted high schoolers of either sex.  Mary Baldwin also has a singular program promoting leadership for women, including military leadership in its ROTC program. (Oddly, MBC has both an ROTC program and a minor in peace studies!) A common curriculum core is personalized for each student, undergraduate original research is expected, and study abroad is common.  Changemaker Internships are paid.  MBC has institutional connections with the American Shakespeare Company; The Clinton Global InitiativeWomen for Women International; The Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum; The International Institute for Beliefs and Values.   Another singular feature of MBC is its Global Honors Scholars Progam.  MBC has numerous Honors Societies, including Phi Beta Kappa.  Campus ministry includes The Quest Program inviting students in any major to explore questions of spirituality and ethics.

Lynchburg College (Lynchburg, VA) For too many people, Lynchburg, VA conjurs up only pictures of the late Jerry Falwell’s Thomas Road Baptist Church and the fundamentalist degree mill he founded, Liberty “University.”  But Lynchburg is also the site of an excellent church-related liberal arts college, Lynchburg College.  Founded in 1903, LC is a residential college affiliated with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), a denomination with a tradition of welcoming persons of all faiths and denominations.  39 undergraduate majors, 49 minors, 14 pre-professional programs, four (4) masters’ degress, and 2 doctoral programs: an Ed.D. in leadership and a Doctor of Physical Therapy.  One of 40 “Colleges That Change Lives,” in 1998 LC launched the Claytor Nature Study Center on a 470 acre farm in nearby Bedford County.  LC’s president is a signatory of The American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment and this commitment to sustainability shows itself in numerous Green Initiatives.  (Environmental Studies (B.A.) and Environmental Sciences (B.S.) are two of LC’s most popular majors.)  Lynchburg’s Westover Honors Program was launched in 1987.  A dozen spiritual groups exist on LC including Christian, Buddhist, Jewish, and Muslim students.  One of only 50 colleges to participate in the Bonner Scholars’ Program for community service.  It is also profiled in The Templeton Guide: Colleges That Encourage Character Development. 

March 22, 2012 Posted by | colleges/universities, education | 1 Comment

Nine (9) Years After Bush Admin. Lies Took Us to War in Iraq: Remembering Some Who Said “NO!”

Monday, 19 March 2012, will mark the 9th anniversary of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq: A war of pure choice based on lies and deception–lies mainly told by the Bush administration, but aided by lies from the Blair government, and by some in the mainstream media, especially at The New York Times and The Washington Post.  They lied about Saddam Hussein’s complicity in the attacks on 9/11 (He was an evil dictator, but had nothing to do with that attack, whatsoever); about “connections” between Hussein’s government and Al-Qaeda; about Iraq posessing “weapons of mass destruction,” including chemical weapons and the pursuit of nuclear weapons; lied about Iraq as a threat to the U.S. (it was under tough economic sanctions and TWO “no fly zones.”).  The vast majority in the United States Congress and the public were, at least initially, fooled by these lies and a majority (a slim majority at the time of the invasion which, as always happens when the nation rallies around the flag, quickly grew into a large majority for the first year) supported the invasion.  But not everyone.  I was among the many who said “no,” and I, along with many in the peace movement, did everything we could to make our objections loud and clear.

It is worth remembering the public figures who also objected and did what they could to prevent this national crime and international disaster.  I begin with the 156 Congresspersons and Senators who, in October 2002, voted AGAINST the “Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against Iraq” Resolution.  This is not a blanket endorsement of all their actions, before or since, but simply an acknowledgement that, on that day, these elected officials were right when so many were wrong:

The U.S. Senate:  These are the Senators who refused to authorize the invasion: Daniel Akaka (D-HI), a veteran of WWII, who is retiring this year at 87; Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) a Vietnam war veteran, who is retiring this year; Barbara Boxer (D-CA); the late Robert Byrd (D-WV) (1917-2010), who pleaded against the rush to war on the Senate floor; Jon Corzine (D-NJ), a U.S. Marine reservist during Vietnam, who left the Senate in 2005 to become Governor of NJ and has since returned to his previous career in finance; Kent Conrad (D-ND), who is retiring this year; Mark Dayton (D-MN), the current Governor of Minnesota; Dick Durbin (D-IL), who is now the Senate Majority Whip; Russ Feingold (D-WI), lifelong fighter against money and corruption in politics, who was defeated for reelection in 2010 and who now heads Progressives United, a movement that seeks to overturn Citizens United and work for electoral reform; Bob Graham (D-FL), who had been Gov. of Florida from 1979-1987, and who retired from the U.S. Senate in 2004 (after a brief run for U.S. President) for heart trouble; Daniel Inouye (D-HI), a veteran of WWII who lost an arm in combat while his family were in Japanese-American internment camps “guilty by reason of race;” the late Edward M. “Ted” Kennedy (D-MA), (1932-2009) who served in the U.S. Army from 1951-1953, but who has been a strong voice for peacemaking since the days of the Vietnam War;  Patrick Leahy (D-VT); Carl Levin (D-MI), Chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee; Barbara Mikulski (D-MD); Patty Murray (D-WA), who gave a Senate floor speech against the invasion warning “you break it, you buy it;” Jack Reed (D-RI), a West Point alumnus, and U.S. Army Reserve Officer; Paul Sarbanes (D-MD) who retired from the senate at the end of 2006; Debbie Stabenow (D-MI); the late Paul Wellstone (D-MN), (1944-2002), a liberal icon who died in a tragic plane crash in 2002; Ron Wyden (D-OR); Lincoln Chafee (R-R.I.), the only Republican Senator to vote against the authorization to invade,  who switched from Republican to Independent in 2006 and, who, as an Independent, is now Gov. of Rhode Island; Jim Jeffords (I-VT), who had been a Republican, but switched to Independent in 2001 and then caucused with the Senate Democrats.

House of Representatives:  .

Neil Abercrombie (D-HI 1st), Tom Allen (D-ME 11st), Joe Baca (D-CA 42nd), Brian Baird (D-WA 3th), John Baldacci (D-ME 2nd), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI 2nd), Xavier Becerra (D-CA 30th), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR 3rd), David Bonoir (D-MI 10th), Robert Brady (D-PA 1st), Corrine Brown (D-FL 3rd), Sherrod Brown (D-OH 13th), Lois Capps (D-CA 22nd), Michael E. Capuano (D-MA 8th), Ben Cardin (D-MD 3rd), Julia Carson (D-IN 10th), William Lacy Clay, Jr. (D-MO 1st), Eva Clayton (D-NC 1st), James Clyburn (D-SC 6st), Gary Condit (D-CA 18th), John Conyers (D-MI 14st), Jerry Costello (D-IL 12th), William Coyne (D-PA 14th),  Elijah Cummings (D-MD 7st).

Susan Davis (D-CA 49th), Danny K. Davis (D-IL 7th), Peter DeFazio (D-OR 4th),  Diana DeGette (D-CO 1st), William Delahunt (D-MA 10th), Rosa DeLauro (D-CT 3rd),  John Dingell (D-MI) 15th, Lloyd Doggett (D-TX 25th), Mike Doyle (D-PA 18th), John James Duncan, Jr. (R-TN 2nd)Anna Eshoo (D-CA 14th), Lane Evans (D-IL 17th), Sam Farr (D-CA 17th), Chaka Fattah (D-PA 2nd), Bob Filner (D-CA 50th), Barney Frank (D-MA 4th), Charlie Gonzalez (D-TX 20th), Luis Gutierrez (D-IL 4th), Alcee Hastings (D-FL 23rd), Earl F. Hilliard (D-AL 7th), Maurice Hinchey (D-NY 22nd), Ruben Hinojosa (D-TX 15th), Rush Holt (D-NJ 12th), Mike Honda (D-CA 15th), Darlene Hooley (D-OR 5th), John Hostettler (R-IN 8th), Amo Houghton (R-NY 29th).

Jay Inslee (D-WA 1st), Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL 2nd), Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX 18th),  Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX 30th), Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-OH 11th), Marcy Kaptur (D-OH 9th), Dale E. Kildee (D-MI 5th), Carolyn Kilpatrick (D-MI 13th), Jerry Kleczka (D-WI 4th), Dennis Kucinich (D-OH 10th), John LaFalce (D-NY 29th), James R. Langevin (D-RI 2nd), Rick Larsen (D-WA 2nd), John Larson (D-CT 1st), Jim Leach (R-IA 1st), Barbara Lee (D-CA 9th), Sander Levin (D-MI 12th), John Lewis (D-GA 5th), William Lipinski (D-IL 3rd), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA 16th).

Other prominent opponents of the invasion included:

U.S. Marine Lt. Col. Scott Ritter, a registered Republican, decorated veteran of Gulf War I and former United Nations weapons inspector. Ritter was critical of the Clinton admin. over Iraq’s possible cheating on sanctions. But he stood up to the Bush admin., too, risking his reputation by stating (correctly) that by 2002 Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction and no ability to create or purchase any. Ritter was openly derided in the media. Many claimed that he must be in the pay of Saddam Hussein. He marched in his first peace march in London.  None of those who trashed his reputation EVER offered an apology when he proved to be right. The Obama admin. should’ve given him a Medal of Freedom to publicly rebuild his reputation.

Brent Scowcraft, a Republican who was National Security Advisor to the first Pres. Bush, wrote an article in the 15 August 2002 edition of The Wall Street Journal entitled “Don’t Attack Saddam!” laying out the case against invasion and occupation–and correctly predicting the length and cost of the occupation against Bush admin. claims that the invasion and reconstruction would “pay for themselves” and take no more than a few weeks.  Scowcraft also correctly predicted that the invasion would distract from efforts against terrorism and from the urgent need (then much more possible than now) of forging a just peace between Israel and Palestine. (Wow. These days it’s hard to find DEMOCRATS who prioritize Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts, never mind Republicans who care about it at all.)

U.S. Army General Wesley Clark, who would run as a Democrat for U.S. President in ’04 (and campaign for Sen. Hillary Clinton for president in ’08), repeatedly questioned the evidence that Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11. As a career military officer, Clark was no dove, and willing to invade Iraq (or anywhere else) if he thought it warranted, but he publicly continued to point out that the Bush administration case was weak to nonexistent.

U. S. Marine Corp General Anthony Zinni repeatedly threw cold water on the Bush admin. fantasies that “regime change” in Iraq would be easy. He mocked their lack of historical perspective and predicted a long, messy, occupation that would be costly in money, lives, troop morale, and U.S. reputation. He also stressed that an invasion of Iraq would drain focus and resources from efforts to destroy Al-Qaeda and work against terrorism.

Ray McGovern, a retired high-ranking intelligence analyst for the Central Intelligence Agency (responsible for giving the first Pres. Bush his daily intelligence briefing), constantly exposed the lies leading to the Iraq War. He formed Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), which I often joked was “Spooks Against War,” and, in 2004, publicly accused then-Defense Sec. Donald Rumsfeld of war crimes. (Note: McGovern has also been very critical of the Obama administration, including Obama himself, on war, indefinite detention, keeping Gitmo open, and other related matters intertwining civil liberties, national security, and foreign policy.) McGovern became a Christian pacifist about the time of his retirement from the CIA in the late 1990s and today works with the publishing arm of Washington, D.C.’s famed Church of the Savior. I have met and talked to him at several peace conferences and been very impressed with him.

Joseph Wilson, a career diplomat with the U.S. State Department who had been U.S. Ambassador to Iraq prior to the first Gulf War. Wilson was decorated with the Medal of Freedom by the first Pres. Bush for standing up to Saddam Hussein face-to-face and making sure that ALL Americans in Iraq were able to leave the country before the start of Gulf War I.  Wilson had been asked to go to Africa by the CIA to check out part of the Bush admin.’s claims about Saddam Hussein’s attempts to get a nuclear weapon. (Wilson had the necessary contacts from his long career to easily check this claim.) He told the Bush folk that the claims were bogus and when W gave a State of the Union (in January 2003) address which repeated the erroneous claims, Wilson wrote an article, “What I Didn’t Find in Africa” that exposed the lie in this part of the case for war. In retaliation the Bush administration illegally outed Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame, as a covert operative for the C.I.A.–ruining her career and, even worse, putting numerous American and allied lives at risk all over the world. (Dick Cheney’s aide, Scooter Libby, was the only one ever charged with a crime in this matter, but I am among the many who believe that Libby acted on the direct orders of Cheney, who should be in prison for this, among other, crimes.) It is widely believed that Plame was involved in counter-proliferation work to stop the spread of nuclear weapons, especially in Iraq and Iran and that her exposure set back major efforts to keep nuclear weapons from Iran. The smear campaigns against Wilson and Plame continued for years.

Pres. Barack Obama, then a little-known state senator from IL, spoke out against the invasion, calling it “the wrong war at the wrong time for the wrong reasons.” Many peace activists, including myself, have been disappointed in the Obama presidency for not doing more for peace and, even on Iraq, ending the war slowly, on a timetable negotiated with Iraq by Pres. G. W. Bush in the closing days of his presidency, instead of much faster. But, it is worth remembering that Obama spoke up when it counted, showing real political courage, in trying to prevent the start of the war.

Social Justice advocate and entrepeneur Medea Benjamin, had been the founder of Global Exchange, an organization that used the principles of “fair trade” (rather than “free trade”) to work for human rights, global economic justice, and environmentalism. By 2002, it had become major success and many urged Benjamin to stay neutral in the debate over the planned invasion of Iraq. She refused (since the tragic events of 9/11, Benjamin has tried to work for a U.S. foreign policy guided by principles of peacemaking and respect for human rights) and risked her entire organization at risk to form Code Pink: Women for Peace.  Benjamin and Code Pink have used very confrontational forms of nonviolent civil disobedience to confront architects of U.S. foreign policy–not only in the Bush admin., but also in the Obama admin.

Ignored by U.S. conservative Catholics (even some of the hierarchy in the U.S.) on this matter, both the late Pope John Paul II and the current Pope Benedict XVI spoke out firmly against the invasion and occupation of Iraq, against torture, indefinite detention of terrorism suspects, against detention without (civilian) trials and against the Islamophobia of the “war on terrorism.”

Others could be mentioned. I invite readers to name others who spoke out and tried to stop the rush to war that resulted in a 9-year disaster and crime(s).  Many “went along to get along,” but these stood up when public, political courage was needed. We need to honor them–and promote such “speaking truth to power” no matter what political parties are in power and no matter what the context.

March 17, 2012 Posted by | History, peacemakers, U.S. politics, war, war resisters | 2 Comments

Women in the History of Science

Celebrating Women’s History Month with Top 10 Lists. The Science Channel provides this list of the top 10 women in the history of science.

  10. Maria Mitchell (1818-1889 Astronomer. Discovered “Miss Mitchell’s Comet,” plus first to detect that sunspots were a distinct astronomical phenomenon and not a type of cloud.  First woman inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, but still paid less than her male colleagues at Vassar College until she stood her ground. When not behind a telescope, this Quaker woman was campaigning against slavery and for women’s suffrage.



9. Hypatia of Alexandria (c. 370 C.E.-415 C.E.) Philosopher, Mathematician, Astronomer, Physicist.  Had her own students in a time when women were not exactly encouraged to become scientists.  A pagan in increasingly Christian Alexandria, Hypatia was killed by an angry mob stirred up by the preaching of Bishop Cyril of Alexandria against women who fail to know their “place.”  In the 19th C. she was often painted as the “Patroness of the Sciences.”



 8. Jane Goodall (1934-)  English primatologist.  A student of the famous anthropologist, Louis Leakey (1903-1972), Goodall has done more to increase our knowledge of the life and habits of chimpanzees than anyone else. She has also been a leading voice for the ethical treatment of animals, especially primates. She has worked to stop hunting and poaching chimps for “bushmeat,” turning their hands and feet into ashtrays, encroaching on their habitats, use in laboratories for animal testing, etc.


 7. Elizabeth Blackwell (1821-1910 Pioneering physician in U.S. and U.K.  We all know that getting into medical school is really tough, but Blackwell’s many rejection letters were not from poor grades or test scores, but solely because of her sex.  ).  But Blackwell had known opposition her entire life. Born in London to a family of dissenters (i.e., they rejected the established Church of England), the Blackwell children were denied public education and had to pay for private schools. They moved to America where they became strong abolitionists, but the girls in the family still faced obstacles in seeking higher education. Blackwell was finally accepted into the medical school of Geneva College (Geneva, NY Despite serving as a field doctor for Union forces during the Civil War, Blackwell still was rejected by hospitals. Eventually, she founded her own teaching hospital and medical college for women in London.  Blackwell campaigned in two countries for women’s education, especially in medicine and for the acceptance of women in the medical field. Her autobiography continued that campaign.


 6. Ada Byron (Countess Lovelace) (1815-1852). .British mathematician, analyst, and pioneer for what became computer programming. Proposed a “calculating engine” and demonstrated its potential.  Yes, the first “computer programmer” was a woman, techno-geeks.



 5. Barbara McClintock (1902-1992) . Pioneering U.S. geneticist.  McClintock’s work with genes in maize (corn) in the 1940s was so far ahead of its time that it was dismissed by the scientific community for decades–but in 1983 they finally gave her the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.  The daughter of a physician, McClintock earned a Ph.D. in Botony from Cornell University in 1927.  She was the first to discover that genetic material is not always fixed, but can “jump” or be transposed quickly to another part of the chromosome. Today, this is basic to understanding why bacteria become resistant to antibiotics and why evolution, usually so slow, can also have leaps forward.  But the scientific community was initially very resistant to McClintock’s findings. She just kept working and publishing her findings until others finally started reproducing her experiments and discovered that she was right all along.  At the time of her death, some of her ideas were still very controversial, but many were confirmed by the Human Genome Project’s mapping of the human genome in the 1990s. Had she lived to be 100, she might have received a second Nobel, this one for her insights into the working of the genome.


 4. Rachel Carson (1907-1964). American biologist, writer, and pioneer in ecology.  Studying the effects of pesticides such as DDT, Carson discovered that these chemicals were not only killing the insects they were used to control, but also other wildlife, especially fish and birds. Her wake-up call, Silent Spring, was so titled because she feared a spring without birdcall. Her early death from breast cancer meant that she never saw the environmental movement that her book helped to spawn.


 3. Lise Meitner (1878-1968).  Austrian  physicist and pioneer in nuclear fission.  Earning her Ph.D. in physics from the University of Vienna in 1907, Meitner took a position with the University of Berlin in order to work with the chemist, Otto Hahn, who was also pioneering work in nuclear physics. Together, they discovered in 1939 that splitting the atom had the potential to create an enormous explosion.  Meitner named the process, “nuclear fission” and, together with her nephew, Otto Fisch, published the explanation. Meitner was Jewish and had to flee Hitler’s Germany for Sweden (she later retired to Cambridge, England) Meitner’s published work led several atomic scientists to recruit Albert Einstein into warning Pres. Roosevelt of the potential threat this implied–thus leading to the Manhattan Project. Meitner continued to correspond with Hahn and publish work on nuclear fission.  Hahn was later awarded the Nobel Prize (Physics, 1944) for his work in nuclear fission and Meitner’s role was completely overlooked and the Nobel committee never acknowledged this sexist error. In 1964, Meitner was jointly awarded the Enrico Fermi prize in nuclear physics together with Hahn and Fritz Strassmann.


2. Rosalind Franklin (1920-1958).  British biologist and geneticist.  It was Franklin who took the careful x-rays that allowed Watson and Crick to discover the double-helix structure of DNA.  She also found that RNA was a single helix and where it was located. Her early death from ovarian cancer probably cost her a share of the 1962 Nobel Prize in Chemistry that was jointly awarded to Watson and Crick.  Then again, as we saw with Meitner, sexism might have cost her any recognition, anyway.


1. Marie Curie (1867-1934).   Polish chemist and physicist. Curie studied at the Sorbonne and settled in Paris. She made the study of radiation her life and eventually died of radiation poisoning. 78 years after her death, her personal papers are still so radioactive that they must be handled by special gloves while wearing protective clothing.  In 1903, she won a share of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry and in 1911, she won (unshared) the Nobel Prize in Physics. She was the first person to win two Nobel Prizes–and remains the only person to win two Nobel Prizes in scientific fields.

Most people probably know Curie, Carson, and Goodall, but, sadly, the others in this list are mostly unknown. Tell your daughters.

March 10, 2012 Posted by | biographies, women | Leave a comment

Endangered Moderate Republicans

March 7, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

International Women’s Day: U.S. Ranks 78th (!) in World for Women in Government

Today is the 101st International Women’s Day.  Women have certainly made progress the world over in the last century, but the disheartening thing for this father of daughters is how far they still have to go–globally and here in the U.S.A.  Britain’s newspaper, The Guardian has the hard data.  Women are 51% of the global population, but there are only 2 countries where women have at least 50% of the national legislature: Andorra and Rwanda!  The U.S. has never had a woman president or even nominee by a major political party. And both times that a major party nominated a female Vice Presidential candidate (Democrats nominated U.S. Rep. Geraldine Ferraro of NY as former VP Walter Mondale’s running mate in 1984 and Republicans nominated Gov. Sarah Palin of AK as Sen. John McCain’s running mate in 2008)–24 years apart(!)–she was briefly a boost, but ultimately a drag on the ticket which led that party to defeat. Currently, there are only 17 countries where women are head of government, head of state, or both.  The good news is that this is nearly double the situation in 2005.  The bad news is that women are very poorly represented in government everywhere.  The global average is only 19%.  The Nordic countries do the best, with Sweden and Finland at 42% represenation in their respective parliaments.  The United Kingdom, which has had one female Prime Minister (Margaret Thatcker, a Tory, from 1979-1990, the longest serving PM in British history), is currently a dismal 53rd in female representation in parliament. But the U.S. is even worse, 78th in percentage of women serving in Congress (either chamber).

This isn’t to deny the progress made in other areas.  One third of the U.S. Supreme Court is now composed of female justices –which is still below many other countries. Canada, for instance, also has a 9-member Supreme Court, but 4 of them are female and one is the current Chief Justice.  3 of the last 4 U.S. Secretaries of State have been women.  Women head more Fortune 500 companies than ever before, though still a minority.  But the percentage of women in Congress actually DECREASED in 2010, for the first time in decades. And now we have a major candidate for U.S. president who believes that women should NOT be employed outside the home, but should stay home and homeschool the children.  (As an individual choice that some make, I support this, where it is economically feasible. In a world where one income seldom keeps a family of four in even the lower middle class, however, this is unrealistic for the vast majority of families.  And even where it is feasible, I support it only if it is something chosen equally by the couple, not something imposed by law or social pressure.) What’s next? Arguing that women be denied the right to vote? To drive cars (as in Saudi Arabia)? To own property in their own names?

Meaning no disrespect at all to the many men who champion the rights and wellbeing of women, but it seems to me that this lack of proportional representation is DIRECTLY related to the suppression of women’s rights globally and in the U.S.  Would we seriously be debating whether or not insurance should cover birth control if the number of women in Congress (and state legislatures) represented their 51% of the population? Would anyone DREAM of having an all-male panel to debate the subject? Is there any way that the average pay for women would STILL be only 77% of male pay for the same job if women were even close to 50% of our state legislatures and Congress? Would sexual harassment penalties go unenforced or rape underreported if women were proportionally represented?  Would misogyny be openly defended as “freedom of religion” or “free speech” if women were 51% of legislatures? I highly doubt it.

I am not putting women on a pedastal. I do not believe in their moral superiority.  Alas, when they are elected, they seem to vote for wars and injustice as often as their male counterparts, more’s the pity.  They can be just as blinded by race and class as men.  Electing a woman for president will no more automatically usher in a golden age than electing the first African-American did.  The system is rigged to keep the most progressive from ever getting that far, it seems.  But the injustices that are heaped on women AS women would almost certainly decrease with greater representation BY women.  And proportional representation is central to democracy.  Electing more women to all levels of government is simply more just.  That doesn’t make any woman X better as a candidate than any man Y. Character, platforms, etc. still make all the difference.

But women have had the right to vote in this nation since 1920. So, why are we still 78th in the world in female Congressional representation in 2012?  We need more women in all levels of government and I hope both major parties in the U.S. nominate female candidates for president in 2016.

101 International Women’s Days. So far come, but, O, so far to go.

March 7, 2012 Posted by | civil rights, feminism, human rights, justice, U.S. politics | Leave a comment

I’ll Miss You, Dennis Kucinich!

Ohio was one of the states which lost population in the 2010 census, which meant it also lost 2 members of the U.S. House of Representatives. Since Republicans captured both houses of the OH state legislature and the OH governorship in 2010, they merged Democratic House Districts–forcing fellow members to campaign against each other in primaries if they wanted a chance to continue in the U.S. Congress. Two Democrats pitted against each other this way, were favorites of mine, Marcy Kaptur and Dennis Kucinich–in a merged district that included more Kaptur territory than Kucinich territory. The result: Last night U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) lost to Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), which means that his Congressional career will end this year.

I’m saddened by this since Dennis Kucinich, although he had quirks (a vegan diet; befriending some “New Age” personalities; belief that he had once seen a UFO), was also one of the few progressive champions throughout his political career. We often say that we want more politicians with real convictions, who will vote their consciences and not be swayed by special interest lobbies or career asperations–and Kucinich was that kind of person.

Kucinich was elected to the Cleveland City Council in his 20s and became mayor of Cleveland at 33 from 1977 to 1979, the youngest mayor of any major city in the U.S. Big money special interests wanted him to privatize the Cleveland power company (Muni Light) so that they could charge higher rates. Kucinich, who had grown up very poor and had watched his parents have to choose which bills to pay, refused to privatize the company. So, the big money special interests deliberately put Cleveland into default, leading Kucinich to lose reelection in a landslide. (They also had the mafia put a hit out on him, but cancelled it when he lost the election.) His political career was seemingly over. He was in political Siberia in the 1980s, except for a short term on the City Council, a failed House bid, and a failed run for OH governor.   But as privatized power companies raised rates throughout the nation during the 1980s, Cleveland continued to have some of the lowest electricity rates in the nation–and Ohio’s newspapers started to notice and wrote stories saying, “Dennis Was Right.” In 1998, Clevalnd honored Kucinich for refusing to sell Muni Light, a decision that saved the city an estimated $185 million just in the years between 1985 and 1995.

In 1994, Kucinich won a seat in the OH State Senate and in 1996 narrowly won election to the U.S. House in OH’s 10th District. He has served that District from 1997 until now–and no other election was close.  In 2004 and 2008, he ran for the Democratic presidential nomination. In neither case, did he get very far, but he pushed the right issues and forced candidates to talk about things they’d rather have ignored.  I was proud to work for his campaign in ’04.

Informed by the “Dorothy Day/Catholic Worker” strand of Catholicism in his upbringing, by a childhood of poverty and hard work, Kucinich’s political principles have been that of an old-fashioned liberal Democrat.  He has been a champion of economic justice in the tradition of FDR’s New Deal and LBJ’s Great Society. A near-pacifist, Kucinich has also been a strong peacemaker who was one of the few voices to speak out against the Bush invasion of Iraq.  Kucinich proposed a cabinet-level Department of Peace which would operate with 1% of the military budget and work to solve both international and domestic problems nonviolently. He wanted to bring the Fairness Doctrine back to broadcasting so that news would no longer be propaganda.  Kucinich was a champion of the environment, of gun control, of public education, and of single-payer, universal healthcare.  He fought against torture, unlimited detention, and the erosion of the bill of rights.

When Democrats gained control of Congress in 2006, Kucinich tried to stop the Iraq War by impeaching first VP Dick Cheney and then Pres. G.W. Bush.  When Pres. Obama authorized NATO air strikes on Libya without Congressional approval, Kucinich was consistent–saying that this was clearly an impeachable offense since the Constitution never allows for the president to go to war without Congressional approval.  He opposed the expansion of the war in Afghanistan and would cut the military budget in half, using 50% of the savings to pay down the national debt and the rest to fight poverty here at home.

Kucinich’s political career seems to be over, but that was true once before. Perhaps he’ll run for Governor of Ohio in 2014 or for the U.S. Senate in 2016.  But, if this is the end, Kucinich can be proud of his record of service.  I wish him well.

March 7, 2012 Posted by | U.S. politics | Leave a comment

To the Radio Gasbag: THIS is How One Apologizes!

Ed Shultz’ Apology to Laura Ingraham


Ed Shultz, a liberal commentator on radio and on MSNBC, had called conservative radio host, Laura Ingraham (“Dr. Laura”) a “media slut.” That VERY DAY, he issued the above apology, called her and apologized personally, and was suspended without pay for one week. No weasel words. No, “I’m sorry if you were offended,” garbage. He called his own words “vile and inexcusable.” He said that he had embarassed his family and brought harm to his company. He took full responsibility and did not attempt to shift the blame. He didn’t wait until he started losing advertizers or after THREE DAYS of personal abuse for hours at a time. He admitted wrong, took responsibility, asked for forgiveness, and accepted consequences. That’s how it’s done, Gasbag.

Oh, and to conservative columnist, George Will, we liberals do, indeed, “police our own” and the above is only one example. (For another, look how fast Democrats called on Rep. Anthony Weiner to resign for sexting while Republicans continue to support Sen. David Vitter, who loves to dress up in diapers for prostitutes!)

March 5, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment