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.