Pilgrim Pathways: Notes for a Diaspora People

Incarnational Discipleship

Index: Hidden Gems: U.S. Colleges & Universities Making a Difference

I. The Southeast.

II. Mid-Atlantic Region.

III. New England.

IV. Upper Mid-West.

V. South Central Plains.

VI. Non-Coastal Northwest.

VII. Non-Coastal Southwest.

VIII. West Coast

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May 21, 2012 Posted by | blog series, colleges/universities, education | Leave a comment

The Case for Women’s Colleges

There’s a myth that women’s colleges are no longer necessary; that they are a relic of the past and have no place in today’s higher education.  One can easily see how the myth would spread.  Women’s colleges began in the U.S. (and, to a lesser extent, around the world) in the 19th C., at a time when the very idea of women’s education was controversial.  In most cultures throughout most of human history, women were denied education. By the end of the 19th C., less than 1% of women in the U.S. had any education beyond what we would today call “high school” (secondary school).  It was widely believed (even by medical doctors) that too much education would make women sterile or in other ways less female, less able to fulfill the roles of wife and mother that were nearly universally believed to be the primary roles that God and nature had assigned.

It was the cause of missions, in the United States and internationally, that allowed the opening for women’s education.  Most of the women’s colleges founded early in the 19th C. began as what were called “Female Seminaries.” Now, today, a seminary (at least in the United States) is a theological college or divinity school, sometimes freestanding and sometimes attached to a university. In the U.S. context, a modern seminary is a professional school (like a law school or medical school) that presupposes the prior completion of a baccalaureate degree at an accredited institution. It’s purpose is to educate priests, ministers, chaplains (civilian and military), and related ministers such as youth ministers, pastoral counselors, etc.  The “Female Seminaries” of the 19th C. did not presuppose a baccalaureate and they certainly did not expect the young women who matriculated there to become clergy.  They were to train women to share the gospel in strange cultural settings (often in ones where male missionaries would not be allowed to talk to women) and this involved educating them more than women had ever been educated previously.  Even the push for the first women physicians (or, at least, the first in centuries) was initially so they could become medical missionaries.

These “Female Seminaries” evolved into liberal arts colleges and some began to offer graduate degrees, too. As 19th C. “First Wave Feminism” gathered steam, some institutions of higher education (e.g. Oberlin College, Cornell University) were co-educational from their founding and others that were once all-male began to admit women, especially the state-supported land-grant universities, but most elite universities stayed all-male (at least at the undergraduate level) until the 1960s.  In the 1960s and 1970s, elite, formerly-all-male, institutions began the transformation into co-ed institutions. This led many women’s colleges to merge with their male, elite partners:  Radcliffe College (founded in 1879) merged with Harvard in 1977; Pembroke College (1891) merged with Brown University in 1971). When Princeton University decided to go co-ed in the late 1960s, it sought to merge with Sarah Lawrence College (1926), but talks broke down and Sarah Lawrence College remained independent, but went co-ed in 1968 with Princeton following in 1969. The same pattern played out between Yale and Vassar College (1861): Yale started negotiations in 1966, they broke down and both campuses independently went co-ed in 1969. (Across the pond, the same pattern also played out at Oxford and Cambridge: At first all the colleges of both universities were all-male and stayed that way for centuries. In the 19th C., women’s colleges were established first as “private halls” and then as full colleges of the universities. Then, in the mid-20th C., male-colleges began admitting women and, later, women’s colleges began admitting men. Today, there are no single-sex colleges remaining at Oxford and only 3 women’s colleges remaining at Cambridge (Murray Edwards College, Newnham College, and Lucy Cavendish College).

The co-educational movement put huge economic pressure on most women’s colleges. They were now competing with co-educational institutions for students.  Many closed and many others went co-ed.  In 1960, there were over 200 women’s colleges in the U.S.  There are now only about 60 as the same economic pressures continue:  In 2005, Hurricane Katrina ended the independent existence of Newcomb College and its remaining assetts were merged with nearby Tulane University.   Even many women’s colleges that have remained single-sex at the undergraduate level have had to admit men to graduate programs or weekend programs.

It is clear that economics could end women’s colleges in the near future, at least in the United States.  Which leads back to the question of whether or not women’s colleges have any distinctive mission in the 21st C.–any reason they should continue as single-sex institutions? After all, the context is very different now from the 19th C. which birthed the women’s college movement:  With only 3 remaining all-male liberal arts colleges in the U.S. (Wabash College in Indiana, Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia, and Morehouse College–which also an HBCU or Historic Black College/University–in Georgia), and no remaining all-male research universities, practically all the doors are now open to women educationally that were once closed to them.  Further, women have walked through those doors.  In 1960 the majority of U.S. women were still not educated beyond high school.  Of those which did matriculate in college or university, about 50% dropped out when getting married (obtaining their “M R S degree” as the saying went). (They were also expected to drop out of the work force and give up their own careers–a pattern which continued until the early 1970s, when stagnating wages and rising prices made a middle class lifestyle on 1 salary increasingly rare and difficult.)  When many women, inspired by the second wave feminist movement to reclaim dreams not subordinated to their husbands’, went back to college/university in the late 1960s and early 1970s, it resulted in much marital discord and many divorces.  But today 55% of all college/university students are women–and the percentage is even higher in most graduate programs, business schools, seminaries/divinity schools, and even in many law schools and some medical schools.  Although the Equal Rights Amendment failed to be ratified, Title IX gave, if not yet equality, certainly much progress toward equality in women’s collegiate sports–offering parity in gymnasium locker rooms, equipment, scholarships and recruitment, etc.

So, is there a good rationale for the continued existence (and good health) of women’s colleges in the 21st C. U.S.?  Are there reasons that one would wish a daughter, a granddaughter, a niece or some other young woman in one’s life to at least consider a women’s college when deciding where to apply for admission?  Yes. Despite the enormous gains of women in the last 35 years, this is still a patriarchal, sexist society–and sexist assumptions and attitudes are still firmly interwoven into American higher education, although usually in more subtle forms than previously.  As recently as January of 2005, the economist Larry Summers, then the President of Harvard University, spoke at an academic conference and gave the opinion that the reason women are underrepresented in the STEM fields (Sciences, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) was because of biological differences that mean that, according to Summers, most women are simply not good at math and science!

Most teachers and administrators are not so openly sexist (and, to be fair, some have said that this speech did not reflect Summers’ true record on promoting women’s equality), but in co-ed institutions, the expectations often remain sexist.  Women who graduate from women’s colleges are better prepared for life after college:  Women who graduate from women’s colleges are accepted into law schools, medical schools, and graduate programs at a higher rate than women in co-ed colleges. They go into the STEM fields and other male-dominated fields at higher rates than women who graduate from co-ed institutions.  In general, women at single-sex colleges are more engaged (academically and socially) than women at co-ed institutions.  Seniors at women’s colleges are more likely to be engaged in higher-order thinking activities than women seniors at co-ed institutions.  They see more female role models in both professors and fellow students. This makes a radical difference.   The results are seen in the alumnae produced by women’s colleges: Today, Harvard’s president is a woman, Dr. Drew Gilpin Faust, an alumna of a women’s college (Bryn Mawr College, class of 1964).  The U.S. has had 3 female Secretaries of State and two of them (Madeleine Albright and Hillary Rodham Clinton) went to a women’s college (in fact, the same one, Wellesley College–Albright, class of ’59, Clinton, class of ’69). Other leading women in politics are also women’s college graduates including House Minority Leader (and former Speaker of the House) Nancy Pelosi (Trinity College–now Trinity Washington University, class of ’62); Secretary of Health and Human Services (and former Governor of Kansas) Kathleen Sebelius (Trinity Washington University, class of ’70). 12 of the 77 women in the U.S. House of Representatives are alumnae of women’s colleges, as are 2 of the 17 women in the U.S. Senate.  Of the very few women to become U.S. astronauts, only 3 have been shuttle pilots and one of them, Pamela Melroy, is a Wellesley College alumna (’83).

The alumnae networks are often major resources for jobs, internships, interviews to graduate programs, etc., providing an alternative boost to the “old-boys’ networks” that still thrive in academica and the professions.  This adds to the success rate of women’s college alumnae after college.

And, now, women’s colleges are also continuing their original mission of providing education to women who would otherwise have no opportunities for education:  Recruiting international students, especially from areas of the world where the very idea of women’s education is still controversial. Also, some women’s colleges in the U.S. are sponsoring or partnering with women’s colleges in some of these same patriarchal places, especially Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Now, I am not saying that every woman should go to a woman’s college. Obviously, most will go to co-ed colleges and universities.  But bright, high-achieving, and ambitious young women should at least be exposed to such colleges. They should be part of the mix in the college search and application process. Because, until sex and gender equality is achieved globally, our world and our daughters need such institutions to thrive and continue to lead.

On a purely personal note, my oldest daughter is in the college search process and while she has definitely looked beyond women’s colleges, I am glad they have been part of the search process. Three women’s colleges will probably be among those to which she applies early in the Fall of 2012:  Bryn Mawr College (Lower Merion Township, PA), Agnes Scott College (Decatur, GA), and Wellesley College (Wellesley, MA).

If a young woman of high school age in your life might profit from exploring the women’s college option, introduce her to the website of The Women’s College Coalition.

May 5, 2012 Posted by | blog series, colleges/universities, education, women | Leave a comment

Hidden Gems, VIII: West Coast Region

Our final region in our state-by-state examination of U.S. higher education for “hidden gems” beyond the “usual suspects” which should be given serious consideration in any college search is the West Coast region.  It consists of 5 states:  Alaska, California, Hawai’i, Oregon, & Washington.  California is the most densely-populated state in the nation, while Alaska is one of the most rural and least populous.  The entire region is very diverse racially & ethnically as well as religiously.  AK is mostly conservative in political culture, whereas the other 4 states range from just left of center to very liberal–although each has conservative regions or “pockets.” Until the economic meltdown of ’08, most of the region had very strong economies, though a shrinking middle class and wide gaps between rich and poor characterize all 5 of these states.  All these features influence the number, range, and quality of institutions of higher education in these states.

1. Alaska:  The 49th state of the USA, AK is the largest in land area, stretching a total of 570, 640.95 square miles with only 722,718 persons living in that state–only 1.8 persons per sq. mile! Yet, AK population is growing at roughly double the national avge.  It is comparably wealthy, with a median income of $66K per year vs. the national avge. of $51k per year.  The poverty rate is also lower than the national avge, but the contrast between rural poor and prosperous city dwellers is stark.  High school graduation rate is higher than the national average, but the college education rate is slightly below the national average.  The “usual suspects” in AK higher education include the University of Alaska system with 3 campuses, the flagship campus at Fairbanks, the largest enrollment in Anchorage, and the Southeast branch at the capital of Juneau.  There are also 5 community colleges spread throughout the state.

It seems to me that AK would be greatly served if the state govt. invested in an honors liberal arts college that would attract the many who graduate in the top 10% of their high school class. Why? Because no matter how good the University of Alaska system is, there are many very bright students who thrive better in the atmosphere of a liberal arts college: small campus, significant student-teacher interaction & mentoring, no teaching assistants, small classrooms, significant opportunities for extracurricular participation and/or leadership, etc. If students go outside a state for this kind of education, a significant percentage will not return–and that percentage is larger if the home state is rural. This creates a brain-drain and talent-drain that damages a rural state like AK.  A public liberal arts honors college would be affordable to a greater percentage of those talented high schoolers who might look out of state.  An investment in such an institution has benefitted other states (e.g., Truman State University in Missouri; Keene State College in New Hampshire; Fort Lewis College in Colorado; New College of Florida; University of Science and Arts in Oklahoma) and I think it would for Alaska, too.

Alaska Pacific University (Anchorage).  Because Alaska Pacific University is the only private college or university in AK, it cannot be considered a “hidden gem” in the normal sense of this series–worthy educational institutions eclipsed by the shadows of more famous institutions in the same state.  But I do think that APU is often overlooked both nationwide and in AK generally.  If AK residents consider enrolling in some other institution than the University of Alaska, they tend to look immediately out of state–either in “the lower 48” or in Canada.  APU was founded in 1957 by the United Methodist Church, the youngest of the more than 1200 colleges and universities founded by Methodists in 200 years.  It has exceptionally strong programs in Environmental Studies and related programs.  It also offers high school students an “Early Honors” program of college-level courses during their senior year that can lead them to finishing B.A. or B.S. degrees in 3 years.

2. California:  CA, the most populous state in the USA, one of the wealthiest, and most diverse, has also, historically, been a state that has heavily invested in both public and private institutions of higher education.  The University of California system has 10 campuses, 3 of which rank in the top 15 public institutions of the world (UC-Berkeley, UCLA, & UC-San Diego).  The California State University system is even larger with 23 campuses–educating 60% of the state’s teachers and 40% of the state’s engineers. Others among the California’s many “usual suspects” include The California Institute of Technology , Stanford University, The University of Southern California, The Claremont Colleges, among others.  California is host to a number of nationally-recognized Catholic colleges and universities including: Loyola Marymount University, The University of San Francisco, The University of San Diego, Notre Dame de Namur University, and Santa Clara University among others.  Mainline Protestant and Evangelical Protestant colleges and universities are also plentiful. Amidst all this wealth, these “hidden gems” should not be missed:

California Lutheran University (Thousand Oaks).  CLU or Cal-Lutheran is a Christian university founded in 1959 by immigrant Norwegian Lutherans and still closely related to the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA).  The school also continues to celebrate the Scandinavian heritage of its founders.  With limited masters and doctoral degrees, CLA’s undergraduate programs encourage diverse programs of study, well-rounded student learning outcomes, and a commitment to learning about social, economic, and political justice.  Encourages inquiries of faith and reason.

Mills College (Oakland). The first all-women’s liberal arts college west of the Rocky Mountains, Mills College was founded in 1852 under the leadership of Mary Atkins, a graduate of Oberlin College (Oberlin, OH). In 1865 it was bought and “re-founded” by Susan Tolman Mills (an alumna of Mt. Holyoke College, a prestigious women’s college in MA) and her husband, Cyrus Mills.  The school is still single-sex on the undergraduate level but co-ed in its graduate programs.  Mills is notable for its high academics, but also for its community service and tradition of “social mobility” (i.e., educating students from the poor and working classes) with over 16% of students classified as “resumers,” older students returning to college after an interrupted education. Notable alumnae include:  choreographer Trisha Brown (’58), journalist Elizabeth Crow (’68), U.S. diplomat April Glaspie (’63), U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA, ’73), Dixie Lee Ray, first woman governor of Washington state (’46, ’47).

Mount St. Mary’s College (Los Angeles).  Founded in 1925 by the Sisters of St. Joseph, Mount St. Mary’s College is a Catholic women’s college of the liberal arts and sciences, the only one on the West Coast.  It is noted for its service for persons of color, its award-winning nursing program, and for a unique degree in “Film and Social Justice.”

Occidental College  (Los Angeles).  Founded by Presbyterians in 1887, “Oxy” is one of the oldest liberal arts colleges on the West Coast and one of the first to achieve a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.  It’s beautiful campus is a frequent movie location and it was one of the founders of intercollegiate athletics in the West–fielding 21 Olympic athletes since 1904 and having a fierce football rivalry with Pomona College (one of The Claremont Colleges) 30 years before the famed USC-UCLA game.  Oxy’s “Upward Bound” program assists bright & talented low-income and minority students to become ready for college or university work.  31 majors including 6 that are interdisciplinary.  About 75% of Oxy’s students receive some combination of needs-based and merit financial aid helping it to have one of the most diverse student bodies in the nation.  Faculty is equally diverse and so is the multi-cultural “Eagle Rock” neighborhood in which the campus is located.  Oxy gives students the resources of a major metropolitan city with the small campus and close-knit community of a liberal arts college.

Sonoma State University (Rohnert Park).  Founded in 1960 as part of the California State University system, Sonoma State University (SSU) is the public liberal arts university of California.  In addition to its strong standing in the liberal arts, SSU is also known for its programs in nursing, business, and economics.  Located in the heart of the CA wine country (one can earn a B.A. in wine business), SSU is part of the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges (COPLAC). It recruits bright and talented students from all backgrounds and offers a mentoring approach to education that fosters ethical exploration, community service, civic engagement, social responsibility, and global awareness.

University  of the Redlands (Redlands) Founded by Baptists in 1907, this private, masters-level university still has a loose connection to the American Baptist Churches, USA.  Redlands has several Centers of Distinction, including the Johnston Center for Integrative Studies, the Banta Center for Business, Ethics, and Society, the Truesdail Center for Communicative Disorders, and Center for Educational Justice.  It has strong community service and study abroad programs.  It has an endowed lecture series known as the Cummings Annual Lecture on World Peace.  Redlands is known for collaborative research between students and faculty.  Although student diversity is high, Redlands is a tight-knit community with over 75% of all students, including graduate students, live on campus.  Redlands has a number of innovative degree programs, but business remains the most popular major, followed by psychology.

Westmont College (Santa Barbara)  Founded in 1937 as a Bible Institute by Ruth Kerr, president of Kerr Mason Jars, Westmont College is an ecumenical and evangelical Christian liberal arts college originally located at the intersection of WEST Moreland and VerMONT in Los Angeles.  It is an undergraduate, residential, Christian liberal arts college serving God’s kingdom by cultivating thoughtful scholars, grateful servants, and faithful leaders for global engagement with academy, church, and world.  Of the 9 CA liberal arts colleges listed in the top-tier rankings, Westmont is the only evangelical institution among them.  The avge. entering high school student has an unweighted GPA of 3.7, a median ACT score of 26 and a combined SAT score of 1200 (math and writing). 47% graduated in the top 10% of their class and 72% in the upper 5th.  First year students come from all over the world, but the greatest numbers come from CA, OR, CO, & AZ.  Students not only have study-abroad options, but exchange options with 12 other Christian liberal arts institutions in the Consortium of Christian Colleges.  The college has its own observatory and teaches astronomy to high school students during “science summers.”  The Templeton Foundation honors Westmont as one of the Colleges That Shape Character, especially through community service.  More than 80% of students receive some form financial aid.  Among the new constructions are the Adams Center for the Visual Arts and the Winter Hall for Science and Mathematics.  Westmont tries to be a safe place for GLBT students while still holding to traditional evangelical teaching that accepts heterosexual marriage as the only moral option for sexual expression. Needless to say, it is difficult to walk this tightrope, but Westmont continues to make the effort.

Whittier College (Whittier)–Founded by members of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in 1887, and named after the famed Quaker poet and peace activist, John Greenleaf Whittier, Whittier College is today a private, nonsectarian liberal arts college in Southern California located between West Los Angeles and Orange County. It’s athletic teams are called “The Poets” in honor of the school’s namesake.  It has one of the most diverse student bodies of any liberal arts college with 49% of students identifying as either international students or from racial/ethnic minorities. Students also come from very diverse socio-economic backgrounds.  Whittier College is part of the Annapolis Group of colleges refusing to give information or cooperate with the various college/university rankings, especially U.S. News & World Report.  It values its Quaker roots and still bases its educational philosophy on Quaker ideals, and is considered a “Hispanic Serving” educational institution.  Whittier is often unfairly looked at with suspicion by those on the political left because its most famous alumnus is still Richard M. Nixon (’34), 37th President of the U.S. (R), but this is ridiculous. No one writes off Yale or Harvard for producing George W. Bush, yet he graduated from both institutions.  Stanford produced both Herbert Hoover and Condaleeza Rice, yet it was also the alma mater of Chelsea Clinton.  It is only smaller, often church-related, colleges that somehow get blamed for notorious alumni.

3. Hawai’i:  Our 50th state, which is a very large chain of islands,  has a population of 1, 374, 810 over 6, 422. 63 sq. miles, or 211.8 persons per sq. mi.  So, it’s population is not all that large, but it is very dense.  It has had a population increase of 12.3% since the previous census, well above the national avge.  The median income is over $66k per annum which is above the national avge. and a poverty rate of 9.6% which is below the national avge., but the poverty rate among Native Hawai’ians and other Pacific Islanders is far higher.  In addition to several community colleges, Hawai’i has the University of Hawai’i system with 4 campuses, 2 doctoral-level, research universities ( the flagiship UHawai’i at Manoa and U Hawai’i at Hilo) and 2 baccalaureate universities (U Hawai’i-West Oahu & U Hawai’i Maui College). As with Alaska, I think the people of Hawai’i would be well-served by the creation of a public liberal arts college, a top-flight, state-run honors college that would nurture talent among all socio-economic classes and prevent a brain-drain and talent-drain.  I also think the foundation of a women’s (single sex) liberal arts college would pay dividends. For now, those seeking such educational opportunities must go to the mainland.  Hidden gems:

Chaminade University (Honolulu).  Founded in 1955 by members of the Society of Mary (Marianists) and named after the founder of the order, Chaminade University is the only Catholic institution of higher education in Hawai’i.  It is also one of the most diverse campuses in the nation: There is a Marianist brotherhood living on the campus and 40% of students are Catholic.  60% of the student body comes from Hawai’i, 27% from the mainland U.S., 11% from other Pacific Islands, and 2% from other countries.  Chaminade is listed as a Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander serving institution as 67% of students identify as either Asian or Pacific Islander, 17% white (non-Hispanic), 6% Hispanic, 4% African-American, 0.7% Native American or Alaskan Native.

Hawai’i Pacific University (Honolulu).  A non-sectarian, private, college of liberal arts and sciences (with some masters’ level programs), Hawai’i Pacific University (HPU) was founed in 1965.  Bloomberg News identifies HPU as providing a better “return on investment” than any other institution of higher education in Hawai’i.  Tuition is about 50% of the national avge. for private liberal arts colleges. This, coupled with a generous financial aid program, has led to a very diverse student body at HPU.  HPU uses a skills-assessment and learning-outcomes approach to general education requirements.

4. Oregon:  Oregon is a rural state, but more densely populated than several other Western states.  In an area of 95, 988.01 sq. miles, there lives a population of 3, 871, 859 or 39.9 persons per sq. mi.–just about half of the national average.  OR has enjoyed more population growth than the national avge.  The median public income is slightly less than the national avg. and the poverty rate is slightly more., but this is a recent trend. For much of OR’s 20th C. history, it has been wealthier than the national avge. and has wisely invested some of this wealth into higher education.  In addition to 17 community colleges, OR’s public universities are anchored by the 7 members of the Oregon University system.  OR also has numerous private institutions. Among the “usual suspects” is the national, private research university, Pacific University (Forest Grove), Willamette University (Salem). and the famous, elite, liberal arts college, Reed College (Portland).  Hidden gems:

George Fox University (Newburg) Founded by Quakers and still related to the Northwest Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends.  GFU hosts an evangelical interdenominational seminary.  Only 5% of the student body is Quaker, today, but GFU houses a strong collection of peace and nonviolence literature and a Center for Peace and Justice.  Faculty are expected to be Christian and sign a doctrinal statement, but students do not, although they do have to conform to behavioral norms.  One notable alumnus is the Quaker biblical scholar and theologian, Daniel L.  Smith-Christopher who teaches Old Testament and directs the Peace & Justice Minor at Loyola Marymount University.  GFU’s students do community service in alternative Fall and Spring Breaks.

Gutenberg College (Eugene).  A new college established in 1994, which grew out of a ministry to students at the University of Oregon,  Gutenberg College is a non-denominational Christian College which uses a curriculum centered on the Great Books of the Western World (as, more famously, does St. John’s College and some others do so to lesser degrees). It offers one degree, the B.A. in Liberal Arts, and all students take the same courses and must complete identical requirements to graduate.  In some courses, students will do close readings or “micro-exegesis” of the texts in question.  All students study 2 years of Classical Greek and modern German.  Students take courses in Western Civilization, Great Conversation, Writing, Art, Microexegesis, Biblical Philosophy, Ancient Mathematics, Modern Mathematics, Science, and Senior thesis.  Unlike St. John’s College which avoids tests and uses narrative evaluations of course work, Gutenberg has comprehensive tests and letter grades.  While I am skeptical of the concept of “biblical philosophy,” I would think this is a hidden gem of education worth exploring.

Lewis & Clark College (Portland).  Originally located in Albany and chartered as the Albany Collegiate Institute in 1867, the school moved to Portland in 1938 and in 1942 changed its name to Lewis & Clark College to honor the Lewis & Clark expedition to the West Coast.  In addition to the College of Arts & Sciences, L & C has a Law School and a Graduate School of Education and Counseling. L & C is a member of the Annapolis Group of colleges that opts out of the college/university rankings and refuses to give information to U. S. World & Report.  Founded by Presbyterians, Lewis & Clark is not formally connected with any church body these days, but still values its Presbyterian heritage.  23% of L & C’s students are persons of color.  72% of students receive financial aid.  53% of entering students come from outside OR and 75% are women.  Sincwe 1997, L & C students have won 45 Fulbright Fellowships, 22 Goldwater Scholarships, 1 Hertz Foundation Fellowship, 1 Howard Hughes Medical Institute Fellowship, 2 Madison Fellowships, 1 Mellon Fellowship, 13 Graduate Research Fellowships from the National Science Foundation, 1 NCAA Post-Graduate Fellowship, 1 Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship, 2 Rhodes Scholarships, 9 Truman Scholarships, 3 Udall Scholarships, & 2 Wilson Fellowships. It has a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, the nation’s oldest honor society.   As a Division III NCAA school, L & C believes in scholar-athletes–no athletic scholarships and all sports programs are designed to develop the whole human being.  L &C ranks 5th among small colleges in number of students who volunteer for the Peace Corps.

Linfield College (McMinnville). Founded by Baptists in 1848, Linfield College is a private, independent college of liberal arts and sciences in one of the most beautiful parts of Oregon. (Full disclosure: I have been to a conference of the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America held on Linfield’s campus, so I can testify firsthand to the campus’ beauty.  I was not there during the school year, however, so all I know of its academics is secondhand.)  The college retains a loose connection to the American Baptist Churches, USA but neither faculty nor students are bound by any religious requirements.  In 1956, the Linfield Research Institute was established to help in science education and in using endowment money for student research and collaborative research between students and faculty. In 1975, the Division of Continuing Education was established to help working adults and older adults continue their education.  In 1976, Linfield College began a student exchange program with Kanto Gakuin University in Japan. Today, it is one of several study abroad programs offered by the college. By the time they graduate, over 50% of Linfield College students will study overseas or be involved in an overseas internship.  On Linfield’s satellite campus in Portland, students can earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree in cooperation with Good Samaritan Hospital and Medical Center.  Linfield has produced 22 Fulbright scholars in the past 12 years.  Linfield College is home to the Oregon Nobel Symposium (one of only 5 in the entire world) which brings Nobel laureates to campus for discussions.  Linfield has excellent outreach to Hispanic students, is one of the most eco-friendly campuses in the nation, and does exceptionally well in financial aid support for lower income students.  Linfield’s most notable alumnus is Kenneth Scott Latourette (1884-1968), class of 1904, the great historian of missions and of the Orient who taught World Christianity, Missiology, and Chinese History at Yale University.

5. Washington:  The last state in our survey is the state of Washington.  It has a population just under 7 million, a 14% increase in the last decade (during which the nation as a whole grew only by 6.4 %).  That population is contained in a land mass of 66,455.52 sq. mi. or 101.2 persons per sq. mi. So, although the general perception of Washington is that it is a rural state, the population density is actually slightly higher than the national average.  The median income is slightly higher than the national average and the poverty rate slightly lower, too.  We would expect all this to be reflected in Washington’s offerings in higher education–and we would be right.  In the usual suspects, in addition to a huge number of community colleges, Washington hosts a number of public universities anchored by University of Washington (Seattle), and Washington State University (Pullman).   The usual suspects also include a number of nationally famous private universities, including:  Gonzaga University (Spokane), a top-ranked Jesuit Catholic university; Pacific Lutheran University (Parkland); Seattle University (Seattle); University of Puget Sound (Tacoma).  Hidden gems:

The Evergreen State College (Olympia).  Founded in 1967, Evergreen is a public honors college, founded to be an experimental and nontraditional college. It uses narrative evaluations rather than grades and places great emphasis on interdisciplinary study.  Evergreen offers a B.A. in Liberal Arts, a B.Sc., an M.A. in Teaching, a Master of Environmental Studies, and a Master of Public Administration.  It is noted for its Native American programs, too.  Listed as one of 40 Colleges That Change Lives.  Foundation of current curriculum is based on team teaching and collaborative learning.  All majors and academic pathways are student designed.  18% of students are from underrepresented groups.  50% of full-time faculty are female and 23% are persons of color.  74% of students receive some form of financial aid and tuition is lower than average for either in-state or out-of-state public schools of this caliber.

Saint Martin’s University (Lacey).  Founded by Benedictine monks in 1895, Saint Martin’s University is a private, Catholic, co-ed liberal arts university named after St. Martin of Tours.  (Note: St. Martin is often called the patron saint of soldiers, but he should rather be known as the patron saint of conscientious objectors since his Christian faith led him to refuse to kill even when the Roman commanders threatened his life.) Originally single-sex (male), it became co-ed in 1965.  There is a Benedictine monastery on the grounds and some of the monks are also professors at the university.  It has “sister university” agreements with several Asian institutions, including 4 in South Korea, 5 in Japan, 3 in China, and 1 in Taiwan.  In the Benedictine tradition, Saint Martin’s believes in preparing students for a life of purpose, service, and compassion.  Professors believe that listening is the key to learning and understanding.  50% of the student body is Catholic, 33% are racial or ethnic minorities and 55% are female.  Students come from 18 different countries and all 50 states.

Seattle Pacific University (Seattle). Founded in 1891 by Free Methodist pioneers, SPU is a Christian university of liberal arts and sciences whose focus is for students to engage the cultures of the world with the gospel.  SPU welcomes students from all faiths, but the atmosphere is distinctively Christian: orthodox, evangelical, Wesleyan, and ecumenical.  Students are expected to abide by behavioral norms that include refraining from tobacco and alcohol, as well as sexual relations outside of heterosexual marriage.  SPU’s academics are rigorous and its most popular undergraduate majors are psychology, business administration, nursing, communication, English, integrated studies, political science, physiology, biology, and sociology.  Among its notable graduates are the evangelical New Testament scholar, Gordon Fee, and Eugene H. Peterson, translator/editor of The Message paraphrase of the Bible.  SPU’s Honors Program offers a 4 year alternative to the core curriculum based on the Great Books of the Western World.

Whitman College (Walla Walla).  Founded in 1882, Whitman College is an independent, co-ed, non-sectarian college of liberal arts and sciences.  In 1919, it became the 2nd college in the state to win a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, the national honor society.  The bywords at Whitman are “balance,” and “community.”  Visiting prospective students are told by resident students not to come if they don’t want to be involved. Whitman’s emphasis is an education in the liberal arts that produces ethical leaders in all fields.  The entire campus reads the same book(s) during the Summer Reading Program and discusses them at the beginning of each year.  Whitman wants to cultivate both the life of the mind and a spirit of adventure.  Their 88% graduation rate per year is one of the highest west of the Mississippi.  Located in the Southeast corner of the state (one of the sunnier parts of Washington) in Walla Walla, voted “friendliest town in America.”  42 majors and 48 minors, but also a number of combined programs, including:  a 3-2 program in engineering (with Caltech, Duke, Columbia, Washinton University in St. Louis, and the University of Washington), a 3-2 program in computer science (with University of Washington), oceanography (U. of Washington), forestry (with Duke), environmental management (with Duke), and education (with University of Puget Sound).  In 2011, 39 “Whitties” won prestigious academic scholarships including 5 Fulbrights, 1 Watson Fellowship, and 5 Princeton-in-Africa-and-Asia Fellowships.  Both needs-based and merit-based financial aid is available and nearly 74% of students receive some form of financial aid.  In addition to standard dorms and Greek (fraternity or sorority) houses, Whitman has “Interest Houses,” i.e., residences focused on a common interest, including Asian Studies, Community Service, Das Deutsche Haus, Environmental Studies, Fine Arts, Global Awareness, La Casa Hispana, La Maison Francaise, Multi-Ethnic Center for Cultural Awareness [MECCA], Tekisuijuku (Japanese House), and Writing.  Although Whitman is a non-sectarian (secular) college, it has an Office of Spiritual Life and there are numerous student-run interest groups centered on faith and spirituality, including Catholics on Campus, Hillel-Shalom, Whitman Christian Fellowship (a chapter of InterVarsity Fellowship), Namaste (A meditation club using disciplines familiar to Eastern spiritual traditions), Muslim Student Association, Unitarian-Universalist Community, and even Whitman College Atheists, Humanists, and Agnostics (!).  Whitman College is one of the 40 Colleges That Change Lives and it is part of the Annapolis Group of liberal arts colleges that resists the “rankings game,” especially pushed by U.S. News and World Report.

Well, that’s my survey of often-overlooked “hidden gems” of higher education which should be considered by prospective students in addition to the “usual suspects” in respective states or regions.  Readers are encouraged to present their own lists–anywhere in the world.

April 30, 2012 Posted by | colleges/universities, education | 1 Comment

Hidden Gems, VII: Non-Coastal Southwest

The five states of the non-coastal Southwest, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Texas, all carved out of territory that was once Northwest Mexico, are mostly rural and sparsely populated, but not as much so as some other regions.  All have seen a huge increase in their Latino/a populations, both through immigration and very high Hispanic birthrates.  Prior to the economic meltdown of ’08, all the states in this region also saw significant population increases from relocations from the Northeast and from California, due to cheaper prices, lower taxes, and what was a booming tech industry. The Great Recession/Lesser Depression slowed, but did not stop, this process.  And most of these states have long invested in both public and private higher education–many from before the days when they were legally states.  So the educational options in this region are considerably broader than in the non-coastal Northwest and even some portions of the South Central Plains region or the poorer, more rural, states of the Southeast.

1. Arizona:  Arizona is a rural state, but one that is growing quickly. It has just under 6.5 million people in over 113K square miles for an avge. of 56.3 persons per square mile–hardly a dense urban environment when compared with NY or CA, but downright crowded compared to most of the non-coastal Northwest states. And AZ’s population is increasingly diverse, with nearly 30% Latino/a and other non-whites comprising an additional 13%. (Because many Latino/a persons also identify as “white,” totals come to more than 100%.) More than 14% speak another language than English at home, over 85% have at least a high school education and nearly 30% have a bachelor’s education or more.  The median income is slightly lower than the national median ($50, 448 per yr. to the national $51, 914 per yr.), but this is well above the median for many other rural states.  So, with all these resources, the relative scarcity of insitutions of higher education in AZ is surprising, to say the least.  To be sure, the state govt. has invested in a very large community college (two-year) system, but it only has 3 public institutions granting baccalaureates and higher degrees. Each of these three public universities (Arizona State University–Tempe; Northern Arizona University–Flagstaff; University of Arizona–Tucson), is a comprehensive, doctoral, research university with excellent national reputations (although these have been harmed somewhat by the recent AZ laws forbidding the teaching of “ethnic studies”). There is no private research university and very few private universities or liberal arts colleges of any kind.  Hidden gem:

Prescott College (Prescott).–In 1966, the Ford Foundation gathered top educators from around the U.S. and challenged them to create a college “for the future” using the best available learning theories to prepare students for a rapidly changing world. Prescott College was the result of that gathering. Despite a dedicated faculty, administration, and enthusiastic student body, Prescott College went bankrupt in 1974.  (It’s original campus is now the campus of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.) Prescott students and core faculty refused to let the college fold and after a series of emergency meetings forme the Prescott Center for Alternative Education and holding classes in the basement of a downtown hotel.  This made headlines as “the college that wouldn’t die.” Since that time, PC has again grown developed a new campus (and a satellite campus in Tucson) and has concentrated on combining three emphases: the original Prescott College emphasis on cutting edge teaching and learning theories to educate students to be adaptable for an ever-changing world, strong commitment to a broad liberal arts core, and an ethical concern for the environment in every aspect of college life.  Thus, the Prescott College motto, “For the liberal arts, for the environment, and for the future.”  Prescott College offers an on-campus B.S. in Environmental Studies, 4 limited residency B.A. degrees, a limited residency M.A. in 6 areas and an on-campus M.A. in Social Justice and Human Rights, and a limited residency Ph.D. in Sustainability Education. It also offers teacher education programs.

2. Colorado:  CO is another rapidly growing and changing Southwestern state that is moving from being mostly rural to more evenly split between rural and urban populations.  It has just over 5 million people in 103.6 K square miles for a pop. density of 48.5 persons per square mile, slightly smaller and less-dense than AZ.  The Hispanic or Latino/a population is just over 20% and slightly more than 16% of the population speaking some other language than English at home.  89% of the population has at least a high school education and over 35% have a baccalaureate or higher.  The median household income is a little higher than the national median and the percentage below the poverty level slightly less than the national average.  CO has invested in higher education, both publicly and privately.  The “usual suspects” must include the United States Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs, the youngest and most technology-oriented of the nation’s federal military academies.  For a rural state, CO hosts an impressive 14 public colleges and universities, including the Colorado State University system (3 campuses) and the University of Colorado (4 campuses)–and both the CSU flagship campus at Fort Collins and the CU flagship campus at Boulder are comprehensive, national-level, research universities that lead CO’s “usual suspects.” One should also highlight the University of Denver as a private, independent, national, comprehensive, research university.  Hidden gems;

Fort Lewis College (Durango).  Highly selective, public liberal arts college that began as a military fort and then became a boarding school for Native Americans before becoming a liberal arts college in 1911.  Fort Lewis College offers free tuition, room, and board to Native Americans and has done so since 1911.  FLC combines challenging academics with extraordinary personal attention from faculty, freedom of academic exploration, and once-in-a-lifetime experiential learning opportunities. Believing that a well-rounded education includes physical education, FLC takes full advantage of its mountain setting to create a physically active and highly athletic campus.  FLC has just under 4,000 students including students from 47 states, 139 Native American tribes & Native Alaskan villages, and 19 countries.  FLC combines a liberal arts education with professional training and career placement.

Colorado College (Colorado Springs).  Founded in 1874 by Thomas Haskell, it was modelled after Ohio’s Oberlin College: ecumenically Christian, thoroughly grounded in the liberal arts, and socially progressive and reformist.  Like Oberlin, Colorado College has lost its Christian identity, but retained the rest of its 19th C. heritage.  Along with an across-the-curriculum writing emphasis, CC is known for its “block plan.” The school year is divided into 8 mini-semesters called “Blocks,” and in each Block students take only one course at a time. Class sizes are capped at 25 students, or 32 if the class has 2 professors.  It has recently initiated several sweeping environmental sustainability programs.  CC’s First Year Program teaches students how to learn so that they don’t waste 4 years just memorizing facts.  All college requirements include competency in a second language, critical thinking, at least 2 sciences courses and at least one science lab, a physical education requirement, writing, historical knowledge of the Western tradition along with critiques from other diverse cultures.

Naropa University (Boulder). A private liberal arts university founded in 1974 by Chögyam Trungpa, a Tibetan Buddhist teacher and  Oxford University scholar.  It is a unique university that is  Buddhist-inspired, ecumenical, interfaith, and non-sectarian.  Naropa University promotes “contemplative education,” combining the rigorous liberal arts and sciences education of the Western heritage that began in ancient Greece with the meditative approach to knowledge of the East that came from classical India.  Promoting self and other awareness, compassion, and ethical responsibility, all of Naropa’s studies include both traditional Western academics and practices of sitting meditation and related disciplines–seeking a wholistic approach to knowledge.

3. Nevada:  No hidden gems (only 2nd state like that). Only research universities are University of Nevada at Reno (UNR) and University of Nevada at Las Vegas (UNLV).  No private colleges except branches of universities from other states and no public liberal arts colleges.  27% of state is under 18. 35% population increase between 2000 and 2010. So, it appears that changing demographics will lead soon to a demand for more educational opportunities.

4. New Mexico:  New Mexico is a rural state of just over 2 million people in a geographical area of around 122K square miles, or 17 persons per square mile.  It is not a wealthy state;  the median income is $43, 820 per annum, well below the national median of $51, 940.  18.4% of NM is below the poverty level, which is much higher than the national level of 13.8%.  Again, this translates into a relatively sparse number of institutions of higher education, but New Mexico has invested in more public universities than other states in that same condition. Usual suspects:  New Mexico has 17 state universities led by 2 major public research universities:  University of New Mexico ( 5 campuses, with the flagship campus at Albuquerque).   The New Mexico State University system is the only public, land grant, university classified as “Hispanic Serving” by the U.S. government.  The flagship campus (out of 4) is at Las Cruces.  No private research universities. Hidden gem:

St. John’s College (Santa Fe). This is the Western campus of the St. John’s College in Annapolis,MD.  One of the “Colleges That Change Lives,” St. John’s College is a private, non-sectarian, liberal arts college built around The Great Books of the Modern World.  On the undergraduate level there are no majors and no electives.  All students take the same curriculum: No textbooks, students all read original sources from the Great Books, beginning with the Ancient Greeks and the Bible and moving chronologically to the modern era. With no tests (except vocabularly quizzes for the 2 languages), students write papers for seminars and tutorials. No letter or number grades, student transcripts contain narrative evaluations that prospective employers find much more informative.  4 years of mathematics (geometry, astronomy, calculus, relativity);  2 years of ancient Greek; 2 years of modern French; 4 years of English composition, poetry, and fiction; 3 years of science (biology, chemistry, atomic theory, physics); 2 years of music (choral singing, composition, & music theory); 4 years of seminars (philosophy, history, theology, political science, literature, economics, and psychology)–all using original sources of the Great Books.  The Santa Fe campus also has 2 graduate degrees: The Master of Arts in Liberal Arts (MALA) that focuses on the Western “canon” of Great Books and the Master of Arts in Eastern Classics.

5.  Texas:  Texas has a huge number of both public and private universities, many of them dating from before statehood.  There are 6 major public university systems in TX, anchored by the University of Texas system (13 campuses with flagship at Austin), and including Texas A & M University (12 campuses with the flagship at College Station, and the University of Houston.  Texas is also hom to several private, national, comprehensive research universities among the “usual suspects,” including Baylor University (Waco); Rice University (Houston); Southern Methodist University (Dallas); Texas Christian University (Dallas); and Texas Wesleyan University (Fort Worth) among others.  Hidden Gems:

Austin College (Sherman). Located just north of present-day Austin and founded in 1848, Austin College is the oldest institution of higher education in Texas still operating under its original name and charter.  It is an independent, co-ed, college of the liberal arts and sciences related by covenant to the Presbyterian Church, USA.  One of 40 “Colleges That Change Lives,” Austin College is particularly strong in study-abroad programs. In the last decade, 70% of all students have participated in at least one international experience, studying in 99 countries from Argentina to Zimbabwe.  3 times in the last 5 years, Austin College has been ranked #1 in the U.S. for international study by the Institute for International Education.  Austin College is one of the top institutions in TX for producing Fulbright Fellows and 6 students won Fulbrights in 2011.  Austin College students have also won Mellon, Truman, Rotary Ambassador, and Madison awards. Austin College is also well-known for community service by both students and faculty.

University of Dallas (Irving) Founded in 1956 (with a pre-history dating to 1910), the University of Dallas is a private, co-ed, Catholic university related to the Diocese of Dallas.  The only Catholic institution in Texas to have a Phi Beta Kappa chapter (and one of only 16 Catholic colleges/universities with Phi Beta Kappa chapters nationwide), UD also has an enormous amount of National Merit scholars.  It’s Pre-law and Pre-Med students are accepted into law schools and medical schools at much higher rates than the national average.  UD’s Core Curriculum is based around the Great Books of the Western World with a special emphasis on the Catholic intellectual tradition.  This is supplemented by strong requirements in the natural sciences, complete with laboratory research, requireed of all majors.  An Office of Academic Success enables each student to strive for excellence and leads to most students graduating within 4 years.  UD is home to several centers and projects, including, The Center for Christianity and the Common Good; The Center for Thomas More Studies; Center for Cybersecurity Education; Center for Professional Development; Dallas Area Network for Teaching & Education (DANTE) Project; Dallas Medieval Texts and Translations.  Although open to faculty and students of all faiths, and promoting a continual dialogue between faith and reason, UD also serves the Catholic Church. Among UD’s alumni are 6 Catholic bishops, 225 priests, 70 brothers and sisters, and even more alumni employed as chaplains, youth ministers, and other faith-based professions.

McMurray University (Abilene) Founded by Methodists in 1923 and still closely related to the United Methodist Church.  Although welcoming students of all faiths, and though only 27% of students are Methodists, McMurray values its Christian identity and Methodist tradition. It’s core values include: Christian faith as the foundation for life, personal relationships as the catalyst for life, learning as the journey of life, excellence as the goal of life, and service as the measure of life.  The Washington Monthly has honored McMurray as one of the nation’s top universities that serve the common good through: Social Mobility (recruiting and graduating low-income students), Research (faculty & student research & producing future science Ph.D.s), and Community Service.

Southwestern University (Georgetown) Founded by Methodists in 1840, Southwestern University is the oldest institution of higher education in Texas.  It remains closely connected to the United Methodist Church, but is open and welcoming to students of all faiths and no particular faith.  Located in Georgetown, just north of Austin, the state capital, and within 3 hours drive of 3 of the 10 largest cities in the U.S.  Southwestern is a university because it houses both the Brown College of Arts and Sciences and the Sarofim School of Fine Arts, but the core curriculum, known as the Paidea Program, is required in both and there are no graduate programs.  Southwestern’s core purpose is to foster a liberal arts community whose values and actions contribute to the wellbeing of humanity.  It is one of 40 “Colleges That Change Lives.” The core Paidea Program fosters civic engagement, diversity and intercultural experiences, collaborative or guided research and creative works.

Trinity University (San Antonio) Founded by Cumberland Presbyterians in 1869, and today related by covenant to the Presbyterian Church, USA, Trinity University adds limited graduate programs to a undergraduate program in the liberal arts and sciences.  The core curriculum includes First Year seminars, writing workshops, proficiency in at least one foreign language, computer literacy, mathematical skills, fitness education, and a senior capstone experience.  The university is student-driven, faculty-inspired, and community-connected.

April 21, 2012 Posted by | colleges/universities, education | 1 Comment

Hidden Gems VI: Non-Coastal Northwest

The Non-coastal West covers a very large, sparsely-populated, territory and the non-coastal Northwest is more sparsely populated than the non-coastal Southwest.  It was difficult to divide these two sections. I eventually decided to include Utah in the Northwest, which is arguably part of the Southwest, because Texas dominates the Southwest and these posts are already too large.  The sparse population and lower average incomes of the Northwest leads to fewer colleges and universities–and, thus, correspondently fewer “hidden gems.” In this post, I cover the states of Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, and Utah.

1. Idaho:  Idaho is an extremely rural state and low-population state. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, it had just over 1.5 million people in 2010–or less than the Borough of Manhattan in NYC. It has over 89 million square miles of real estate, but only 19 persons per square mile! It is also one of the poorer states, though richer than some others because of the early history of mining. Still the median income for a family of 4 is only $43.5k per annum.  These demographics explain the sparsity of Idaho’s institutions of higher education.  The “usual suspects” include three (3) public research universities: The University of Idaho (Moscow), Idaho State University (Pocatello), which is attempting to open the first medical school in the state, and Boise State University (Boise), which is becoming well known in technology-related fields.  There is no private research university, but among the usual suspects one must count Brigham Young University-Idaho, which is its own institution and not a branch of Utah’s more famous BYU. Idaho has the nation’s 2nd largest Mormon/LDS population and BYU-Idaho is well-regarded academically even outside Latter-Day Saints’ circles.  Hidden gems:

College of Idaho (Caldwell):  Founded by Presbyterians in 1884, the College of Idaho opened it’s doors in 1891, and by either date it is the oldest private institution of higher education in the state.  With a small enrollment of just over 1,000 students, nearly 10% are international students and 11% are persons of color–which in an extremely “white” state like Idaho translates into more diversity than most of the student body has ever seen before arriving on campus.  C of I is known for its “Peak” curriculum in which students map out individual plans of study that allow for each student to graduate with a major and 3 minors in 4 years.  C of I’s alumni include 6 Rhodes Scholars, 3 Marshall scholars, 10 Truman and Goldwater scholars, 4 governors, a Pulitzer-prize winning historian, and an Academy Award-winning composer.  C of I leads all Idaho institutions of higher education in freshmen retention, graduation rates, and alumni giving.

Northwest Nazarene University (Nampa):  Organized as a Bible college in 1913, it became a liberal arts college in 1917 and by 1927 was the first accredited liberal arts college of the Church of the Nazarene.  Select masters’ degrees were added in the 1960s and 1970s, leading to the 1999 name change from Northwest Nazarene College to Northwest Nazarene University.  Regularly ranked as one of the best colleges or universities in the Northwest, NNU’s campus atmosphere is distinctively evangelical Christian and its approach to education is thoroughly rooted in the Wesleyan-Holiness tradition of the Church of the Nazarene, although only about 45% of students claim “Nazarene” as their faith.  The campus is not interfaith welcoming and has strict moral codes for faculty and students.  But its graduates include one astronaut, the current administrator of U.S.AID’s Bureau of Global Health and several Nazarene theologians.

2. Montana:  Montana is an even larger rural state, with an even smaller population.  As of 2011, less than 1 million people live in MT. It has 145 million square miles of land and only 6.8 people per square mile! The median income is nearly identical with Idaho’s.  But the people of Montana have invested more in public higher education.  The University of Montana system has 4 campuses with a flagship research campus at Missoula and The Montana State University system also has 4 campuses with a flagship campus at Bozeman.  There are no private, comprehensive research universities. Hidden Gems:

Carroll College (Helena). Founded in 1909 by John Patrick Caroll, the 2nd Catholic bishop of the Diocese of Helena, MT. Originally named St. Charles College in honor of St. Charles Boromeo, it was renamed to honor its founder in 1932.  Founded as a single-sex men’s college for the purpose of training men for the priesthood and for lives of service in law, medicine, teaching, and engineering, it is now co-ed. The college observatory is the oldest astronomical observatory in the state of MT.  60% of students are Catholic and 2/3 come from the state of MT.  It is ranked well academically.  Known for its Environmental Studies major and for a civil engineering degree with an environmental focus, Caroll is also strong in philosophy, public policy, and the biological sciences.  The Honors Scholars Program is centered on the Great Books of the Western World, but also includes a senior thesis, a community service component, and a cultural component.

Rocky Mountain College (Billings).   RMC traces its history to 1878, but its contemporary form came from the 1947 merger of two smaller liberal arts colleges.  RMC is related to several mainline Protestant denominations including the United Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A., and the United Church of Christ.  In 2011, RMC’s total enrollment was just over 1,000 students, including part-time commuters. RMC promotes the core values of academic excellence rooted in the liberal arts, transformational learning based in experiential learning and service learning programs, shared responsibility, and stewardship.  It houses an Institute of Peace Studies which gives an annual Jeanette Rankin Peace Award. (Jeanette Rankin was the first woman elected to Congress in the U.S., elected from MT before women even had the right to vote nationwide.  She voted against U.S. entry into WWI, along with a large minority. She was later the ONLY member of Congress to vote against entry into World War II saying, “You can no more win a war than you can win an earthquake. She was from that now-extinct species, “liberal Republican.”)  But RMC also has an Army ROTC program which shows an institutionally divided mind.  In addition to traditional majors, RMC also offers Equestrian Studies, Aeronautical Sciences, and Aviation Management.

3. North Dakota:  Another large, rural state with very few people–less than 700,000 total. The other demographics are very similar to what we’ve seen in this entire region.  North Dakota’s public universities and colleges are all organized together as the North Dakota State University system which includes 6 universities 1 4-yr. public liberal arts college, and 4 2-yr. community colleges. The public universities include 2 doctoral-granting, research universities: the flagship University of North Dakota, famed for its aerospace programs and which hosts the only medical school and the only law school in the state; and the North Dakota State University of Agricultural and Applied Sciences (more commonly known as North Dakota State University or NDSU). Hidden gem:

Jamestown College (Jamestown).  Founded by Presbyterians in 1883, six years before North Dakota statehood, and still related by covenant to the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.  It is a private, co-ed, comprehensive college of liberal arts and sciences with just over 1,000 students from 31 states and 13 countries. Student-teacher ratio is 13:1.  Listed by the Templeton Foundation as a “Character-Building” college.  Because of its “Journey to Success” program, Jamestown has a graduation rate of 99.5%, a job placement rate of 99% and a graduate school placement rate of 96%.  All activities, in and out of the classroom, are built around the “Journey to Success,” including self-assessment, personalized advising, mentoring, career counseling, a 4-year graduation guarantee, and a guaranteed internship.  Nearly 100% of students receive some form of financial aid, and usually this covers more than half of tuition, room & board costs.

4. South Dakota:  South Dakota has nearly identical square miles as North Dakota and is just as rural, but has a slightly larger population of less than 900,000 people. The median income is nearly identical as well. Despite this, SD has only 6 state universities and 3 tribal colleges. It has no private, doctoral-granting, research university.  Of the public universities, 2 are research universities, The University of South Dakota (Vermillion), which houses the state’s only accredited business, medical, and law schools, and South Dakota State University (Brookings). Hidden Gems:

Augustana College (Sioux Falls).  There are two liberal arts colleges by this name in the U.S., one in the Chicagoland area of IL and this one in Sioux Falls, SD. Both are co-ed, liberal arts colleges related to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).  This Augustana College, nicknamed “Augie,” was founded in 1860. It is a top-ranked liberal arts college featured in Harvard Schmarvard and the Templeton Honor Roll of character-building colleges.  It’s 5 core values are: Christian identity, liberal arts, excellence, community, and service.  About 46% of students are Lutheran and another 20% are Catholic, with various other Christian denominations filling out the rest of student population. Few students on campus identify as “secular,” “agnostic,” “atheist,” or “other religious,” despite the college’s insistence that “all faith groups are welcome here.”  The honors program, Civitas, is focused around responsible citizenship based on the life and thought of the German Lutheran theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  It has an excellent study abroad program with numerous options–including numerous financing options.  There is no Greek Life to divide students into cliques, but numerous campus organizations and service opportunities are available.

Dakota Wesleyan University (Mitchell).  Founded by Methodists in 1883, driven to build “a college of stone while living in houses of sod,” DWU is, despite a name dating from 1909, a 4 year liberal arts college rather than a university as defined in the 20th C.  It averages about 800 students and is well known for its programs in Native American culture and history.  DWU’s most famous alumnus is former U.S. Senator George McGovern (D-SD) who was the 1972 presidential nominee of the Democratic Party.  DWU’s library is named for George and Eleanor McGovern as is its 2006-founded McGovern Center for Leadership and Public Service.  Divided into 4 colleges: College of Arts and Humanities, Donna Starr Christen College of Health Sciences, Fitness, and Science, College of Public Service and Leadership.  Every student organization and athletic sport must adopt at least one service project.

5. Wyoming:  Wyoming has the reputation of being the most politically conservative state in the union–more conservative than Texas, Oklahoma, Alabama, Mississippi, Kansas, or even Utah! I don’t know if that reputation is deserved (past a certain point, is it possible to determing the most politically conservative or liberal states?), but, if so, it could explain the lack of investment in higher education.  The state is as rural and as sparsely populated as its neighbors, having barely half a million residents, but it has a slightly higher median household income ($53,802) than its four neighbors listed above.  Wyoming’s entire public higher education system consists of the University of Wyoming and 7 community colleges(!). There is no private, research university.  It’s only private college was not founded until 2007 and is a Catholic liberal arts college that has not yet won accreditation.  This is the only state in the union (so far) in which I have not found any educational “hidden gem,” public or private, although Wyoming Catholic College may grow into one.

6. Utah:  Utah  has the largest population of the very sparsely populated states of the non-coastal Northwest, with just under 3 million people. With a land area of slightly over 82 million square miles, Utah has 33.4 people per square male–which is positively dense compared with its neighbors.  It is also more prosperous with a median income for a family of 4 of $56, 330 per annum.  The citizens of Utah have invested some of that money into higher education. There are 9 public, state-supported universities, of which 2 are public research universities: The University of Utah (Salt Lake City)(which includes not only the most respected law school in the state, but the state’s only medical school), and the flagship campus (Logan) of the Utah State University system. Also included in the “usual suspects” in Utah higher education is Brigham Young University, the only private, research university in Utah–founded, owned, and operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormons). BYU is the largest religious university in the country and the 3rd largest private, research university of any type.  Hidden Gem:

Westminster College (Salt Lake City).  Located in the Sugar Hill neighborhood of Salt Lake City, Westminster College was founded in 1875 as Protestants flocked to Utah to convert Mormons. Today, the anti-Mormon atmosphere is gone, but not the Protestant identity.  The only private comprehensive liberal arts college in Utah.  It has a limited number of masters’ degrees, mostly business-related, but over 34 undergraduate majors leading to the B.A. or B.S. degree.

The low population of this region limits the number and variety of higher educational opportunities, as does the smaller incomes of both citizens and state governments.  A conservative social and political outlook may, and, in the case of Wyoming, probably has, limited those opportunities further.  But in most of the states of this region there is still at least one “hidden gem,” an alternative to the warehouse education of most state university systems and most private research universities.  If some hardy souls want to plant some other alternative gems in this region, I think they might flourish.

April 14, 2012 Posted by | colleges/universities, education | 3 Comments

Hidden Gems, V: South Central Plains

The South Central Plains region is, if anything, even more rural than the North Central Plains/Upper Mid-West region.  Yet the educational investments and opportunities vary widely, and this is as much due to political culture as it is to population.  There are exceptions, but, generally, there are less educational opportunities in this region than in any section of the U.S. we’ve yet covered.  The states I’m including in this section are Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and Oklahoma.

1. Arkansas:  Arkansas regularly competes with Mississippi over who has the least educated populace in the nation, including the most illiteracy, the most high school drop-outs, and the lowest percentage of the population going beyond high school to college or university.  Some of this improved during the Bill Clinton’s years as governor of AR (1979-1981; 1983-1993), but since that time, things have regressed. (This also happened in my adopted state of KY. We made great improvements in the ’90s under Gov. Paul Patton, even became a nationwide model for public school reform, but have regressed since that time.) The “usual suspects” in Arkansas higher education are pretty bland, too. There is no national-level, comprehensive, private research university.  The public institutions including the University of Arkansas system (6 campuses, flagship at Fayetteville) and the Arkansas State University system (5 campuses, flagship at Jonesboro) are fairly pedestrian in quality.  The same could be said for the other four (4) state-supported universities.  The one real bright spot, and it is a genuine bright spot, is the University of Arkansas’ Clinton School of Public Service, a graduate school in Little Rock training leaders in public and civic life.  All of the private colleges and universities are church-related and most of those are just as mediocre in quality.  Hidden gems:

Hendrix College (Conway). Founded in 1876, Hendrix College is a private, 4-year, college of liberal arts & sciences, closely affiliated with the United Methodist Church.  It combines a rigorous academic community with an open, warm, atmosphere and strong attention paid to students as individuals. It’s strong commitment to the liberal arts is evidenced by its chapter of the national honor society, Phi Beta Kappa.  One of the 40 Colleges That Change Lives, Hendrix is known for its outstanding and innovative curriculum known as “Odyssey,” which combines serious faculty-student collaboration with independent research and hands on-experiential learning. Funding is made available for student experiments and student publication in outstanding journals. Hendrix is part of Project Pericles which stresses community and civic leadership from students.  100% of students receive some form of financial aid.  Hendrix is 28th in the nation for alumni going on to earn PhDs within 6 years of graduation.  Acceptance into law school is at 90% (national avg. is 55%) and medical school acceptance is twice the national avge.  No sororities or fraternities to divide the campus into cliques.

University of the Ozarks (Clarksville). Not to be confused with the similarly named College of the Ozarks in Missouri, the University of the Ozarks is a private, 4-year undergraduate institution founded in 1834 by Cumberland Presbyterians, but today affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA). It is the oldest institution of higher education in AR and one of the oldest West of the Mississippi River. In 1875, “Ozarks,” as the school is known, became the first institution of higher education in Arkansas to admit women. In 1959, Ozarks became the first historically white college in Arkansas to admit African Americans.  Ozarks is consistently ranked highly among college in the region.  It also has one of the most LGBT-friendly campuses in this region or for church-related colleges.

2. Kansas: Kansas is in a similar, but slightly better, condition as Arkansas.  Probably because of the heavy military presence in the state, which has increasingly meant higher technology, the KS public schools have been much better–but this was before the anti-evolution crusade of Gov. Sam Brownback (R-KS).  Like Arkansas, Kansas has no national-level comprehensive private research university. It actually has fewer public universities, but most are a cut above the ones in AR.  The “usual suspects” in Kansas higher education:  Kansas has 6 state-supported public universities led by the University of Kansas, a space grant university, and Kansas State University, a land grant university founded during the Civil War. There is also a municipal public university, Washburn University (Topeka) which is ranked high academically for this region.  Hidden Gems:

Baker University (Baldwin City).  Founded in 1858, the oldest university in Kansas,  Baker University is named for Osmond Cleander Baker, a bishop and biblical scholar with the Methodist Episcopal Church. Today, it is closely related to the United Methodist Church. It is regularly ranked among the top universities in the Midwest.  Alumni include a Pulitzer Prize winner and 4 Rhodes Scholars.  With a total enrollment of about 4,000 members, Baker’s several schools concentrate on undergraduate teaching, but offer a number of masters’ degrees as well.

Bethel College (North Newton). Founded by Mennonites from the Russian immigration wave of the 19th C. in 1887, Bethel College is the oldest institution of higher education in North America associated with Mennonites, founded at a time when many Mennonite groups were still suspicious of higher education.  It is a private, Christian, liberal arts and sciences college in the Anabaptist-Mennonite tradition and closely associated with the Mennonite Church, USA. Bethel’s first president, Cornelius H. Wedel, was one of the earliest theologians or scholars among North American Mennonites.  The college’s student body is mostly Mennonite, but is open to students of all faiths. It’s campus culture is rooted in the Christocentric Mennonite culture of service, simple living, peacemaking and reconciliation, and nonviolent struggle for justice.  All students must engage in some off campus cross-cultural experience, mostly outside the U.S., but with some offerings in the U.S. in very different cultural settings.  The core curriculum, called Common Ground, is rooted deeply in the liberal arts and in shared experiences which not only enhances the academic value of Bethel’s education, but also aids in student retention.  Bethel is home to the Kansas Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (KIPCOR) and offers a minor in Peace, Justice, and Conflict studies to be added to any major.  A Templeton Character Building College, Bethel is one of only 8 schools to be listed in Mother Jones as combining “good values with good value.”

Ottowa University (Ottowa). A private, co-ed, 4-year liberal arts college founded in 1865 by Baptists and still closely connected to the American Baptist Churches, USA.  Ottowa’s beginnings stemmed from a desire to provide education to Native Americans and this idealism has always characterized the campus. (As of 2008, the university still provides free tuition, room, and board to any enrolled member of the Ottowa Nation, but, as acknowledged on the university website, not all of the actions of the early university leaders were noble. In the 1880s, some members of the board of trustees swindled the Ottowas of land and ran the school for white people, violating a treaty signed by Pres. Lincoln himself. There have been efforts to correct this over the years.) The university mostly concentrates on undergraduate teaching, but has some masters degrees and expects to expand these in the near future.

3. Missouri:  Missouri may be the home of the last U.S. president to not have a college/university education (Harry S. Truman), but it has built a very credible system of higher education, especially for a rural state. The “Show Me” state has 2 national-level private research universities: The non-sectarian Washington University in St. Louis and St. Louis University, which is a Catholic, Jesuit institution. There are 13 state-supported universities, including The University of Missouri system (4 campuses with the flagship at Columbia) and several regional state universities.  Hidden gems include:

Truman State University (Kirkwood):  Founded in 1867 as a private college for training teachers, it became state-supported by 1870 and renamed Northeast Missouri Teachers’ College in 1919.  The school continued to grow and achieved university status in 1970. In 1985, the legislature again expanded the school’s mission so that it became the state’s only public, state-wide, liberal arts and sciences university. In 1995, the name was changed to honor Harry S. Truman, the only U.S. President from Missouri. Since Truman himself was too poor ever to attend college, part of TSU’s mission is to make academic excellence affordable to all.  TSU is regularly ranked at or near the top of Midwestern public universities in terms of academic rigor, but it is also noted for its affordable cost (even for out of state students) and extremely generous financial aid, combining merit and need based aid for nearly 100% of students.  It is also ranked high for “service to the wider community,” and for “social mobility” among students.  Admissions is highly selective based on high school transcript, class standing, standardized test scores, extracurricular activities, and a mandatory application essay. A core program in Liberal Studies grounds all majors and minors as TSU works to become the nation’s premier public liberal arts and sciences university. TSU’s “McNair Program” actively works to increase the number of Ph.D.s among minorities and underrepresented groups. Has a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa as well as several other national honor societies in specific fields of study.  I predict that if TSU stays on its path, it will not long remain “hidden,” but will rank as one of the “public ivies,” i.e., places where one can get an Ivy League caliber education for a public university pricetag.

Culver-Stocton College (Canton) Founded in 1853 by ministers in the Stone-Campbell movement and today related to the more liberal branch of that movement, The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). The mission of Culver-Stockton College is to provide students of promise a superb education within an active learning community founded upon integrity and the best values of faith and the human spirit.   The typical 15 week semester is divided into 12 week and 3 terms, in the latter of which students generall take only one intense course or they can use this pattern for internships, clinical training, or courses that involve travel domestically or abroad.  The college is known for interdisciplinary majors and for self-designed majors. It also has a Guided Pursuit for Success (GPS) program to help undecided majors decide their paths of study.  Has a well-regarded Honors Program, too.

Drury University (Springfield). Founded by Congregationalists in 1873 on a model of Northern liberal arts colleges, Drury officially became a university in 2000, though it continues to focus most of its efforts on the education of undergraduates in the liberal arts and sciences.  It is officially related to both the United Church of Christ and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), but the campus ministry is multi-faith and the atmosphere and curriculum non-sectarian.  Drury’s core curriculum, called Global Perspectives 21, combines professional training with broad grounding in the liberal arts and sciences, engaging diverse cultures, communication skills, critical analysis and reasoning.  More than 94% of Drury students receive some form of financial aid and Drury brags that its students incur less debt than do most students at MO’s public universities, including Truman State U.

William Jewell College  (Liberty): Founded by Baptists in 1848 and named after William Jewell, M.D. (a Baptist layperson and philanthropist), who donated the initial funding and led efforts to get the institution started, William Jewell College is a church-related liberal arts and sciences college with rigorous academics. It is deliberately Christian in identity, but open to persons of all faiths or no particular faith–and there is a support network for interfaith dialogue on campus.  It has a an Oxbridge Honors program centered around the Great Books of the Western World, with tutorials and seminars modeled after those at Oxford and Cambridge and which includes a semester in Britain, as well as a rigorous Senior Capstone course.  Jewell is also strong in study abroad and internship programs generally.  Jewell’s Harriman-Jewell program brings world class performing arts to campus which are open to the general public.  Jewell’s Core curriculum +3 program allows many students to double major. The campus’ Center for Justice and Sustainability works to transform both the college and the world to social justice and environmental sustainability.

4. Nebraska: The very rural state of Nebraska has a fairly good public school system, but it’s population is simply too small to  host very many colleges and universities.  The University of Nebraska system has 5 campuses anchored by the flagship campus at Lincoln.  There are 3 other state supported baccalaureate colleges.  While there is no national-level comprehensive private research university, Nebraskans are well-served by Creighton University (Omaha), a Catholic and Jesuit university with an excellent law school and medical school, excellent masters’ level programs, and a few doctoral degrees.  Hidden Gems:

Doane College (Crete).  Founded by Congregationalists in 1872, Doane was the first liberal arts and science college in Nebraska and is today related to the United Church of Christ.  It is a private, independent, co-educational college nationally recognized for innovative programs and a results-centered approach to marriage.  It focuses on forming ethical leaders and its four-year graduation guarantee makes it a good buy.  For 4 years, Doane has made the President’s Honor Roll for colleges and universities which give back to their communities in volunteer service.  Doane pioneered the idea of integrating internships into 4 -year liberal arts education curricula.  It has produced more than 600 All-American student athletes over the years and more Fulbright winners than any other college in Nebraska.  Doane provides a $1000 travel scholarship for study-abroad opportunities in junior and senior years.

Hastings College (Hastings).  Founded in 1882, Hastings is a Presbyterian-related, private, co-ed, residential college of liberal arts and sciences.  Hastings students have two curricular options:  The standard, rigorous core in the Liberal Arts, or an equally-rigorous, individualized and interdisciplinary curriculum.  The campus is coterminous with an award-winning arboretum.  Hastings offers 3 degrees: the B.A., the B. Mus., and the Master of Arts in Teaching (M.A.T.). For the B.A., Hastings offers 64 majors in over 30 areas of study w2ith 12 pre-professional programs.

College of St. Mary (Omaha).  Founded by the Sisters of Mercy in 1923, the College of St. Mary is a Catholic liberal arts college for women, the only all-women’s college in the South Central Plains region.  Many studies over the years confirm that women who attend all-female colleges:  Achieve higher career levels and earn higher salaries; Develop measurably larger amounts of self-esteem; Are more likely to choose and succeed in male dominated fields such as law, medicine, and engineering; Have more opportunities in leadership positions; Participate more in classroom discussions; Are 6 times more likely to be on the boards of Fortune 1000 companies; Are more likely to receive doctoral degrees; Tend to more involved in philanthropy after college.  CSM is a small school of about 1000 students.  Among CSM’s notable programs include award winning nursing programs at both the Associate’s and Bachelor’s levels, including a program to train bi-lingual nurses to serve the growing Hispanic-Latino population; A 2+3 engineering program in conjunction with the University of Nebraska in which students earn two degrees–a B.A. in science or math from CSM and a University of Nebraska engineering degree in civil engineering, electronics engineering, architectural engineering, or computer design; the region’s only approved 4-year Paralegal program approved by the American Bar Association; A Master in Leadership program dedicated to exploring and strengthening the unique leadership qualities of women.

Nebraska Wesleyan University (Lincoln):  Founded by Methodists in 1887 and closely connected today to the United Methodist Church, Nebraska Wesleyan is a Christian university of liberal arts and sciences which has a select few masters programs to add to its concentration on undergraduate teaching.  Experiential learning and service learning are at the heart of Nebraska Wesleyan’s personalized educational focus.  Offers an “Honors Academy” for bright and highly motivated high school students.

5. Oklahoma:  The “usual suspects” in Oklahoma include a medium-sized state university and state college system anchored by the flagship University of Oklahoma (Norman).  Although there are no national-level comprehensive private research universities, Oklahomans are well served by the Presbyterian-affiliated University of Tulsa a masters-level regional university with an excellent academic reputation.  Hidden Gems:

University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma (Chickisaw).  Founded in 1908 by order of the Oklahoma legislature at the leading of then-Gov. George Haskell (D), the first Gov. OK after it became a state. Initially a technical institute for women, by the 1930s, USOAO had evolved into the state’s only public institution devoted entirely to an undergraduate liberal arts education.  It functions as the public honors college of Oklahoma.  It has won awards for its interdisciplinary core and for giving bright and creative students an excellent and unique education at a great price.  If I lived in Oklahoma, this is the school to which I’d advise my daughters to apply.

Oklahoma Baptist University (Shawnee).  Founded by Baptists in 1910, and still owned by the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, Oklahoma Baptist University is a private, co-ed, Christian colleges of liberal arts and sciences.  Although it’s conservative cultural atmosphere would not be for everyone, OBU has an excellent academic reputation has many notable alumni:  William R. Pogle (’51), Col. USAF (Ret.), NASA astronaut and pilot of 4th and last Skylab mission; Dr. Sunday O. Fadulu (’64), Professor of Microbiology and Chair of Biology @ Texas Southern University; Patent holder of a drug that treats sickle-cell anemia; David E. Garland (’70), New Testament scholar; Dean, Truett Theological Seminary; Interim President, Baylor University; Molly T. Marshall (’72), theologian; President, Central Baptist Theological Seminary. Offers 10 Bachelor’s degrees with 84 majors.  2 Masters degrees: a Master of Business Administration and Master of Science in Nursing.  More than 95% of all students receive some form of financial aid.

Saint Gregory’s University (Shawnee). Founded in 1910 (with a prehistory as the Sacred Heart Mission School to Native Americans that dates to 1875) by Catholic missionaries, Saint Gregory’s University is a Catholic university in the Benedictine tradition. Originally a junior college, it’s name was changed in 1997 when it became authorized to award Bachelors’ degrees.  SGU has a College of Arts and Sciences and a College of Working Adults.  About 50% of SGU’s students are Catholic, but the university welcomes persons of all faiths. There is a Benedictine Monastery adjacent to the university and it’s Abbey and Chapel are also integral to the university.  “St. Gregory’s University promotes the education of the whole person in the context of a Christian community in which students are encouraged to develop a love of learning and to live lives of balance, generosity and integrity.” SGU’s Common Core Curriculum focuses on Four Ways of Knowing:  Faith and Reason; Creative Expression; Social Knowledge; Behavioral Science, Mathematics, & Natural Science.  This Core Curriculum is built around the Great Books of the Western World in a series of seminars known as “Tradition and Conversation.”  Small learning communities meet each week to debate and discuss the likes of Homer, Plato, Aristotle, St. Augustine of Hippo, St. Benedict of Nursia, St. Thomas Aquinas, Dante, Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Flannery O’Connor, and Martin Luther King, Jr., among others.  The 25 majors in five (5) academic departments build on this Common Core Curriculum.

April 7, 2012 Posted by | colleges/universities, education | 1 Comment

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