LINFIELD COLLEGE (visited 7/18-19/13)
I had never heard of Linfield until I signed up for the Counselor tour; then this summer, I worked with someone whose son had graduated from here. He couldn’t say enough great things about the school; he even had a picture on his office wall of his favorite place on campus – a plaza next to one of the coffee shops on campus and told me to try to find it because it was a great place to hang out.
We arrived on campus to an incredible welcome; the admissions staff was well organized and genuinely friendly. The students were articulate and down-to-earth. The program they organized for us highlighted what was distinctive about the college rather than giving us the canned spiel that a lot of schools provide. The tour of campus was split into short sections as they took us to areas that showcased something unique.
Our first stop was the library which houses both the Wine Archives (with 20 collections from all over the state) and General Archives from the school. Five students at a time intern in the archives, giving them professional development opportunities, including working in donor relations, archiving, and exhibiting – normally stuff they would learn in graduate school. One group of students is currently working on collecting oral histories of wine makers in Southern Oregon. One of the interns wants to go to law school and become an Art Lawyer specializing in Intellectual Property; she would ultimately love to work for the Smithsonian.
The second stop was a presentation about their Oregon Wine Industry Experience; Linfield is located in the middle of Oregon wine country with 60 wineries within a small radius. They take advantage of that (and they also host the International Pinot Noir Celebration which attracts people from all over the world). Five students from majors ranging from marketing to creative writing got a grant through the Kemper foundation to be trained in everything from growing the vines to marketing of wine. One of the students told us that it made her “become passionate about sustainability in addition to art.” Another student said, “We meet people with sociology and history and zoology backgrounds. It’s great to see how the liberal arts is shining in the wine industry.” They complete 4 parts in the program: The Summer Wine Institute, the Fall harvest experience (sorting and picking grapes), the January Term Career Exploration (they meet people making the barrels, designing labels, writing copy, the lawyers representing the wineries, and then spend 2 weeks in France to hear about experiences there) and the Spring Winery Internship.
Linfield is located less than a mile from downtown McMinnville, a city with just over 30,000 people about 30 miles away from Portland. The downtown area has about “10ish blocks of interesting stuff” according to a professor, and town-gown relations are good. The campus is sprawling with the academic buildings split into two sides. All the Arts buildings are on one side, including: Communications Arts (interaction and rhetoric), Mass Media, and Fine Arts like woodworking, ceramics, painting, and drawing. The BA in Studio Arts program is small but mighty with four to six Fine Art graduates a year. They have a good track record for MFA acceptances. There are also many opportunities to participate in music on campus, such as through pep bands, orchestra, and choral groups. The Taiko Drum Group performs in the community. The theater department puts on about 4 performances a year which are open to anyone to participate in.
A professor said that Linfield students are “earnest” and take academics seriously. The professors I spoke to at dinner (from the math and Japanese departments) said that the students are as invested in learning as the professors are in teaching. The professors develop the sense that they’re all part of the same process. Teachers will share failures and how to move beyond them. They pay personal attention to the students. Professor’s offices, departmental tutoring, and classrooms are clustered in the same area for each department so it’s easy to collaborate. Clearly, Linfield is doing something right: they boast an 88% retention rate from freshman year, 96% students graduate in 8 semesters OR LESS, and an average of 2 Fulbrights have been awarded to Linfield students every year for almost the past 30 years.
Linfield offers iFocus: Interdisciplinary First-year Orientation Camp for Undergraduate Sciences. Students come to campus for about a week before classes start to get a taste of all different disciplines. Students can come in as pre-nursing majors and spend two year at Linfield before transferring over to the Portland campus to finish the nursing degree. All departments have writing-intensive courses and an Inquiry Seminar which emphasizes ongoing scholarship. One of the students just got hired at OHSU to do scientific research, including cancer research.
Students can major or minor in Francophone-African Studies at Linfield; this is the only place I’ve heard of that offers this major. Intercultural Communication is another unusual major, and they also offer quite a few majors, minors, or classes in a variety of languages including German, Spanish, French and Japanese majors and minors, a Chinese minor, and classes in ASL (but no major/minor yet). They host a Japanese Summit in conjunction with Pacific and Willamette during which they have presentations, workshops, and talk about research.
Linfield wants students to study abroad so much that they pay for their first round-trip airfare, and 68% of students study abroad at least once. Students majoring in another language must study abroad for at least a semester. For students who don’t want to spend an entire semester or year abroad, there are options to travel during the January Term: beer-brewing in Belgium, Education in Scandinavia, Type 2 Diabetes research in the Bahamas, History of Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, Creative Writing in England, and Traditional Math Practices in China.
We asked several people how they would differentiate Linfield from Lewis and Clark and from Reed, two other liberal arts schools in the area. One professor said, “Lewis and Clark kids tend to be more socially conscious, politically active, and likely to join an NGO. Reed kids are more likely to be a professor or intellectual/theorist. Linfield kids are more well-rounded and more traditional (but not in a liberal/conservative sense).”
Students rave about campus life. Athletics are a big deal on campus. They’ve had 57 football wins and won the 2012 basketball championship. There’s a three-year residency requirement, and almost half of seniors stay on campus. There are beautiful new suites on campus with 4 single rooms, 2 bathrooms, a small kitchen, and a washer-dryer in the unit. There are 12 units per building and about 8 buildings clustered around a couple courtyards. The tour guide told us that the buildings closest to the central area tend to be louder. There are a wide range of clubs and activities, and all types of students are accepted and find their niche. For example, a third of the students are American (self-identified) students of color (the average in Oregon is 11%). The “Jew Crew” is small but mighty, and the Rabbi comes from Willamette on a regular basis.
The admissions office will break down an applicant’s core GPA by subject area since that tells them more than a composite, and they superscore both the SAT and ACT. They have a solid scholarship program with 98% of students getting Financial Aid or scholarships (the largest scholarship is 75% tuition), and even students without need can work on campus (as can international students). They have 3 scholarships that are a little different:
- Leadership Scholarship is available to students who have exhibited strong leadership ability in high school, but they cannot use team captain for leadership because of DIII status; they are unable to give scholarships based on any athletic status.
- Diversity Grant (worth up to $8,000) takes into account race and/or ethnicity, leadership and activities, and need.
- Music Grant (worth up to $10,000) is available for students who major or minor in music.
- Competitive Departmental Scholarships: Students apply by 12/1 and rank up to five subjects that they would like to compete in. If qualified, they get invited to come to campus in February to compete for one of three scholarships awarded by each department worth between $12-20,000.