Earlham College (visited 6/12/17)
“The pool here is too short for competition because …. Quakers!” said the tour guide. Earlham does, however, have an excellent club equestrian team and an Equestrian Center where students can board their horses.
As a CTCL school, it’s not a surprise that Earlham is known for its cutting edge integrated learning (and Money magazine has ranked them as top college in Indiana). They are vocal in their support for a liberal arts education: “You should be able to parachute into any situation and figure it out. You need to listen to others. It doesn’t mean you have to change your core values, but you need to understand what other people are talking about. They might have ideas you want to incorporate. Liberal Arts gives you the critical thinking and multi-disciplinary perspectives you need in today’s society,” said the college President.
Earlham is a Quaker-affiliated school; other than perhaps the Japanese Garden in the courtyard of the Student Center (“students like to go there to get their Zen on,” said one admissions rep), there’s no visual indication that there’s any affiliation at all. However, they do embrace Quaker values: respect for one another, integrity, social justice, simplicity, and creation of community – they work particularly hard at this. The Peace/Justice mindset was evident even on the outskirts of campus where “War is Not the Answer” signs sat on lawns of houses, many of which (we later learned) were owned by Earlham and used as an upperclassmen housing option. A professor said, “Students can learn to protest on any campus, but this is one of a few where you can learn to do it and build community, not destroy it. Students will do what they need to do, but they’ll be asking questions along the way.” One student said, “I’m not a Quaker, but it’s what I treasure about the school.” Another said, “We aren’t a quiet student body.”
This is primarily a residential campus with most students (about 95%) living on or adjacent to the 800 acre campus. “We’re unapologetic about the 4 year residency requirement.” There are 7 dorms (2 all-female, 1 all-male) including gender-neutral housing. They provide “graduated living options” where first-years are in cohorts in traditional dorms or floors. Seniors can live in one of the 20 houses on the perimeter of campus, many of which are themed housing options. About ¾ of these are consistent every year (cultural or language, faith-based, etc). The others are Friendship Houses: students petition to live with friends, and they have to explain what this group will do to contribute to campus. Applications are read without names attached by groups of other students. “Students get comfortable living in ambiguous environments. This is where self-discovery happens which can take time. We specialize in helping them do this,” said the dean of residential life.
The main part of campus sits on 200 of the school’s property; the remaining 600 acres are called “Back Campus” with trails for hiking/biking/running, educational research, horseback riding, and more. Campus is never quiet: “Students tend to get over-involved. Most people here don’t know how to say no,” said a tour guide. 30% participate in NCAA DIII varsity sports. The student-athlete experience is positive here. The town of Richmond is welcoming of students with jobs and internships.
Earlham provides an intellectually stimulating environment which is also close and nurturing. One of the students said, “Academics are so much better than I thought! Maybe also a little less fun …” although he said this good humor with a smile on his face! The stand-out program at Earlham is EPIC: Earlham Plan for Integrative Collaboration. It focuses on:
- Intellectual Inquiry through Liberal Arts explorations, the major, and Integrated Pathways combining curricular and co-curricular opportunities such as
- Medical Humanities (ethical and social aspects of medical sciences)
- Peace Corps Prep School for international development, offering courses in 6 sectors of the PC (Agriculture, education, etc). They get a notation on their transcript.
Immersion Experiences: internships, research, off-campus study
- The Border Studies Program is a unique study-away experience; students are based in Tucson but spend time on both sides of the border. This program takes a sociological, ecological, and economical approach to immigration and migration, human rights, food, indigenous cultures, and more. This is open to students from all majors as long as they have completed at least 1 year of college level Spanish.
- Other immersion experiences include semesters in India (Tibetan Studies), Jordan, Ecuador, and more.
- Integrated Learning including diverse collaboration, skill and competency development, career explorations
There are 5 Centers for students to choose from within this program:
- Center for Global Health (looking at things ranging from the degradation of natural habitats, food shortages, and health issues). Students have collaborated with Departments of State, School Districts, and more.
- Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation
- Social Justice
- Global Education
- Career Education and Community Engagement
EPIC’s purpose is to advance the schools’ commitment to interdisciplinary scholarship, innovative teaching, learning, and transformative social action by funding internships or research for all interested students. These are transformative experiences; by funding them, it addresses an equity issue. Some students are in a position to do exciting internships, but others are precluded from those opportunities due to economics. This program makes it available to everyone, not just the privileged students.
They’ve recently built the CoLab (CoLaboratory) which allows a physical space for interdisciplinary work to happen. Stemming from this type of work, a team of 4 Earlham students won the Hult Prize, a student competition for Social Good. This was an international competition against 25,000 teams; they were in the top 6. The four students created an interdisciplinary team (one of the requirements) representing majors in Econ, Business, and Peace & Justice. They had to create a project to double the income of 10 million people by 2017; they created an “UberBus” in Kenya and are now expanding it with the $1million in start-up money they won!
They’ve been named as a Top 10 Most Diverse Campus. International students are well taken care of here. There are 3 dedicated international advisors, and students will even get shuttled from the Dayton airport. 70% of students will study abroad.
Their Museum Studies program (run jointly by the Art, Biology, Geology, and History departments) is amazing! Students curate exhibits and run the museum tours. Many combine this with a business program for marketing and advertising.
The New Arts building has individual studios for the Fine Arts students. They offer Fibers and Weaving concentration and Photography (about half of the art majors have a photo concentration) as well as extensive metalworking and ceramics labs. “We used to be kind of invisible,” said the Chair of the program. “We had studios and offices and darkrooms scattered across campus. The new building changes that.” The theater and music departments are also well outfitted; Michael C. Hall (Dexter) is an Earlham alum.