Muskingum University (visited 4/13/12)
Muskingum is a beautiful campus in the tiny town of New Concord (Ohio also has a New Lexington, just as a side note) in the middle-ish of Ohio; the admissions rep aptly described the town as having “four pizza places and a grocery store”. . . and she wasn’t really being sarcastic. Following the directions on my GPS (which of course was trying to get me to the mailing address rather than the admissions parking lot), I turned a block too soon and made my way up a hill for about a block past a few small Greek houses and then into a parking built on the hill leading up to campus. A lot of students were trekking uphill from the houses or their cars for the start of the day. I turned around and made my way back to the main street and the main entrance to the college, in past the big brick sign and winding up another hill to the fountain and flag pole where the admissions people told me that I’d find visitor parking. Although a centrally located quad (of sorts) sits behind the admissions building, the rest of the campus is spacious and sprawls over much of the hillside.
Although this started as a Presbyterian campus, it no longer is has the affiliation; there are no required services, although a “generic Christian” service is offered on Thursday mornings and a Catholic mass is offered on Saturdays. The chapel, located on the side of campus, is barely noticeable until you’re practically on top of it. However, in keeping with its beginnings, students do need to take one religion class and one ethics class, but they have several choices in how to accomplish this. For the Religion requirement, they can take comparative religion (a popular choice) or more specific classes focusing on a particular religion or an aspect of it; for Ethics, they can take such things as Biomedical Ethics or Philosophy. Although there are students of all – and no – faiths (including a large number of Buddhists and many atheists from China), there seemed to be a bit of a religious feel/Christian presence to some of the activities being advertised such as the “Jamming for Jesus” flyers. That could have be that that those groups are more active in advertising, but it did give off more of a Christian atmosphere, but that could have been because I was more attuned to it given the school I work at.
Because of the size of the town, students really have to make their own fun on campus. There were quite a few events being advertised around campus, so I’m not sure that’s much of an issue, but students need to be prepared for this environment. One of the coolest parts of campus was the large bridge that spanned the dip on campus, connecting several of the dorms to the rest of campus. Standing on the bridge gave us a great vantage point for much of campus, and the tour guide pointed out several distant points. Running under the bridge was a biking/hiking path popular with students. The bridge itself led right into the top of the Student Center, a new building meant for students only; faculty are not supposed to use the building.
My tour guide was a Junior, French major/Spanish minor, soccer player from Illinois. The one thing he said he’d like to change at Muskingum is to have more faculty/more class options. There is only one French Prof so class offerings are limited. He’d also like the college to be a little bigger (more students = more options/more profs) but recognizes that right now, there isn’t dorm space to allow for growth.
One thing I noticed is that people didn’t greet each other very often. Although the tour guide said that they had the tradition of the “Muskie Hi” in which people greeted each other as they crossed campus, I didn’t really see this. Although people were in the quad and socializing, most people I saw as we were walking around campus did NOT acknowledge each other. The administration is working hard to provide a comfortable, attractive environment (and I would say that they have succeeded) and they want students to do well; some programs are in place to reach out more to students if they are struggling. Their freshman-to-sophomore year retention rate hovers right around the national average, indicating that they’re doing ok but have some room for improvement. For the right student, this is a great option; I would probably recommend this to my solid-B type students and students who want or need close interaction with professors, and who can find their own fun by finding and joining groups on campus.