Messiah College (Visited 11/21/14)
If you walked onto campus knowing nothing about the college (including its name), you would never guess that this was a religiously affiliated college. There are no statues, crosses, paintings – but in spirit, this is one of the most religious campuses I’ve ever visited. “If you aren’t interested in Faith, in exploring your Christian identity, you won’t be happy here. Our identity is right up front starting with our name. It doesn’t stop there,” said student panelist. Even professors sign an affirmation of Apostle’s Creed.
The students live the school Mission: education towards maturity of intellect, character, and Christian faith in preparation for lives of service, leadership, and reconciliation of church and society. What happens when seemingly opposite ideals such as faith and intellect co-exist? One outcome is a discerning spirit. For example, in a philosophy class, they look at a problem and identify the longing for meaning. “They grapple with ideas from all angles in order to see the world’s realities in a much deeper way.”
They have 3 main focal points:
- Sharpening Intellect: They prepare students to make a difference in addition to preparing for the workplace.
- They offer over 80 majors, 11 new since 2011 including Chinese Business, Digital Media, Economic Development, Public Relations, and Musical Theater.
- About 9% study engineering, almost 8% study nursing, and about 5% each in psych, Business Admin, Education, and Applied Health Science.
- Several students have been awarded Rhodes, Fulbrights, etc
- 95% graduate with a job, in grad school, or doing service like the Peace Corps.
- I spoke with a music professor about the arts; they aren’t cranking out “starving artists.” Based on information from the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project, 85% of graduates are employed professionally as artists.
- Deepening Faith: They work towards a unity of faith, learning, and life seeing the importance of the person with an ethos for mutual respect. Everyone is honored in the community with high standards for student conduct.
- Inspiring Action:
- Messiah is in the Top 20 US undergrad institutions for sending students to study abroad (76%).
- 98% participate in voluntary service. “Service has been part of the DNA of the college since its founding.” Students foster justice, empower the poor, reconcile adversaries, and care for the earth.
- Washington Magazine ranked them 5th nationally for commitment to research and public service in 2014. Students solve real-world problems, partnering with organizations like World Vision.
- An Experiential Learning Requirement starts in the fall of 2014. Students must complete at least 1 Internship/practicum, off-campus study, service learning, leadership development, or research project.
Students attend at least 24 Chapels a semester, 12 of which must be Common Chapel. These 45-minute events are held Tuesday and Thursday mornings. Elective Chapel, which could be sponsored by a variety of departments or groups, is held on Thursday morning. Alternative Chapels are held in the evenings. Students have things to say and this gives them a voice. The variety of options acknowledges the different ways to engage in worship and allows students to decide what works for them.
There are no church services on campus; students worship at the location of their choice in the community. Volunteers from churches pick up the students. Several students said that their favorite meal was chicken cordon bleu which is usually served for lunch after church (and of the nearby churches serves free dinner on Wednesday nights: “free food goes over well with college students!”).
Messiah has 2800 undergraduates: 60/40 female to male, 39% from 38 states, 11% underrepresented populations, 3% international. They’ve developed partnerships with Malaysian churches and recently enrolled their first Chinese students. The president is engaged with students: “Friend me on Facebook!” She talked about the motto, “See Anew,” and showed a picture of stained glass. Each piece represents the students. The value system is the foil that holds the pieces together. They embrace diversity through curricular and co-curricular activities.
They did a good job selecting students for the panel, representing a spectrum of involvement in ministries, athletics, student government, Honors, study abroad, etc. The Student Body Chaplain puts together Elective Chapels and works with students to encourage outlets and initiatives students are interested in. He spent a semester in Uganda at a Christian university. The athlete had gone to a Christian high school and originally wanted to get out of the Christian School bubble but got recruited for basketball. She has worked on diversity committees here. The Engineering student has been working with pumps on latrines to assist people with disabilities.
Campus life is thriving (which is good since there’s not much in walking distance, and freshman can’t have cars unless they’re from more than 300 miles away). Sports are a big deal. Students go to all games, “even swim meets.” Messiah is ranked 3rd in country for soccer fans, and the soccer teams have won 16 national championships since 2000. There are several traditions that students spoke about:
- Marshmallow Bowl is the game against E’town, the big rival.
- Midnight Scream: During the 24-hour Quiet Hours around finals, all bets are off for 1 minute at midnight.
- Duct Tape Wars: a “battle of epic proportions” is held during Spring Reading Day.
Accepted students have an average of 1127 SAT/24 ACT and a 3.7 GPA. 100 students with 1300+ SAT and in the top 10% of their class are invited to the Honors program; they interview on campus to compete for largest scholarships. 40-50 students are conditionally accepted each year; they tend to have under 1000 SAT and less than a 3.0 GPA.
87.5% of freshmen return for sophomore year; 71.6% graduate within 5 years. Students leave because they change their majors, because of the distance from home, or they want less of the Christian atmosphere. 86% of students live on campus; there is an expectation that students will uphold the ideals of student conduct which includes not drinking while school is in session.