OGLETHORPE UNIVERSITY (visited 3/4/13)
One of the best things I learned about Oglethorpe is its collaboration with Georgia Shakespeare festival. This company is located on campus so students have access to all of the benefits from participating in the production to seeing the end product. Because they have this fabulous resource, Oglethorpe offers a Shakespeare and Renaissance Minor which is interdisciplinary and allows students to work on multiple aspects of the productions. Each year, they give two Georgia Shakespeare scholarships which are awarded for Academics and Acting; recipients also get an internship with the Georgia Shakespeare Festival and a trip to Oxford. In addition to the Shakespeare scholarships, they also give three Civil Engagement Scholarships which pay full tuition and provide a stipend for an internship with a non-profit, and Oglethorpe considers all Early Action applicants for a full tuition scholarship.
Approximately 2/3 of the 1,000ish undergrads live on campus. This may go up since they’re building new suite-style dorms for upperclassmen. Additionally, the college is looking to increase the undergrad population to about 1,200 students. On the edge of campus, just beyond where the new dorms are located, are some Greek Houses. Although 25% of the campus is involved in Greek life, not many people live there (each of the seven houses holds fewer than 20 students), but that is an additional housing option. Dorms get generally good reviews, but the general consensus of the students on the panel is that the food is just bad! They were almost unanimous with this answer when asked what they would like to change about campus. It’s repetitive and not cooked particularly well.
They have several things that they like about the school. First, faculty members are highly regarded. The students like the academic options and feel challenged in their classes. However, the Core got mixed reviews. It’s writing intensive, interdisciplinary, and has a “four-year arc with a holistic theme” which involves interesting things. They generally like that they can take classes from professors they wouldn’t have taken classes from in their majors, but the classes don’t transfer in or out of the college, so that can make it difficult. Second, they love the location. They feel like they have the best of all possible worlds. The campus is beautiful with lots of green space and buildings made of gray stone. It’s located in a residential area of Atlanta, but there’s still a lot to do immediately around campus, and downtown is easily accessible. Although all students are allowed to keep cars on campus for $50 a year, they’re not necessary. The MARTA stop is less than a mile from campus. They can get an unlimited monthly pass for $68 or pay $2.50/ride. They can get a free shuttle from campus to the MARTA station between the hours of 10pm to 6am. Additionally, there’s a bus stop on campus. The opportunities are “mighty because of the partnerships in ‘A Lab’” (Atlanta Laboratory for learning). As part of the ARCHE (Atlanta Regional Consortium of Higher Education), students can cross-register at many other schools, and Oglethorpe has a formal 3-2 engineering program with Mercer and Ga Tech, so the students have extensive educational options.
The students on the panel described the student body as “kind and fluid. You’ll see all the stereotypes here.” Students are very accepting of each other. “Be as weird or as normal as you want.” There aren’t any typical students, but those who don’t stay at Oglethorpe are the ones who aren’t involved. Students are active, vocal, and work hard.” There is a lot to do on campus. A third of the students participate on one or more of the 16 athletic teams. A group of students are involved in building 300 square foot homes for Atlanta’s homeless population – the panelists said that this is just one of many ways that they put the “Make a life, Make a living, Make a difference” motto into action. Clubs are abundant and well-funded. 100% of the student activity fee goes directly into Student Activities. There are a lot of traditions that help form community among the students. Two of the favorite traditions are Boar’s Head and Zombie Week. The Boar’s Head Celebration (inspired by the College Seal) happens before winter break. The faculty, dressed in regalia, carry in a stuffed boar’s head. They have a big dinner, bands play, etc. Zombie Week happens before Halloween. There are lots of activities, and there’s a campus-wide game of Assassin.
At the end of our visit, Oglethorpe held a reception for us in the museum on the third floor of main building. The space is beautiful, and they have a curator who runs it. The President of the college came to speak with the group, and he made a point to have conversations with us in smaller groups throughout the night. He’s personable, invested in expanding the social-justice opportunities for the students, and is outspoken on points of social justice. I’m impressed that he’s so willing to put his money where his mouth is, so to speak – he was asked about his stance on gun control and whether he got backlash on being outspoken. He said that if we, as educators, are asking students to go out and change the world, to put words into action, then we can’t NOT be examples of that. We can’t ask them to do what we’re not willing to do ourselves.