Goshen College (visited 11/20/19)
Goshen is a hidden gem. If you’re looking for an “interesting, eclectic place,” this might be for you! It’s a warm and welcoming community with a socially and environmentally aware mindset and a globally-focused curriculum. Students are happy and engaged; academics are rigorous but not overwhelming; the social life is active – all on a beautiful, brick-filled campus. Fun fact: new college Presidents get dunked in the fountain in front of the library.
Global awareness and competency is a key part of life on Goshen’s campus. All students complete at least one Study-Service Term (SST) abroad, although there are alternatives for students who are unable to go. For example, nursing students can go to Nepal as part of their program without losing clinical hours. The programs focus less on the popular Western cultures and emphasize both cultural immersion and service. This has been ranked at the #4 best study abroad program in the nation. Not surprisingly, a lot of students will do a service year after graduating.
Although campus is cut in half by the railroad, it’s accessible and very walkable. There are also lots of bikes and long boards around (and the Trail along the canal right off campus that even gets plowed!). The have a Native Landscape Garden running alongside the train tracks; an annual Burn is done in the spring by students in the Sustainability Major.
“Walking through campus, it was a feeling I could only describe as peace,” said the tour guide. “It may sound cheesy, but that’s what we’ve got.” It’s a fairly residential campus, but not entirely. Students must live on campus until they earn 90 credits or are 22 years old. About 30% of students true commuters (living at home with family) with maybe 45% total living off campus. That being said, campus is active: we visited campus from about 5-7:30pm, and students were out and about around campus. The dining hall was full. People were taking advantage of spaces. The tour guide said that there’s a lot to do on and around campus – a couple things worth mentioning were Slip-n-Slide kickball and Bad Karaoke Breakfast Bash.
The city of Goshen has a population of 32,000 which helps support lots of things to do. “Night life in downtown is really good,” said the tour guide. The students we ate dinner with said that there was a lot to do and that First Fridays in town were popular. Many business owners are alumni who didn’t leave town. They support the students with discounts, hiring them, etc, and the college supports them in return through placing orders (t-shirts, etc). There’s also an interurban trolley between Elkhart and Goshen for students wanting to go a little further afield without too much effort.
Although this is a Mennonite school, they are open and welcoming to people of all or no faith. The rep said that they have students from 41 Christian and 12 world religions on campus. Students of any level or denomination of faith will be comfortable here. Acceptance is the primary goal: “It’s an interesting, eclectic place.” For some people, this would be too much in terms of individual differentness. “Here it doesn’t matter. We’re do inclusiveness on purpose.” The rep, who grew up in nearby Angola and got her Masters here at Goshen, told me that some local churches have stopped giving scholarships to students if attended Goshen because of the colleges inclusiveness towards the LGBTQ community (who are very safe and welcomed on campus).
Their Mennonite numbers have been dwindling from about 48% to 28% over the years, reflective of the general population in the church. They’ve been popular with students from similar denominations such as Quaker. Students do need to earn 12 convocation credits per term. Convos can be whatever the students want them to be: it could be students presenting about their SST experiences, an author speaking, etc. “Sometimes they’ll offer it for campus events like bbqs, sports, or theater performances,” said the tour guide. “These aren’t faith-based. You can also get credit by going to chapel, but there are enough other options that you can completely fulfill it without ever doing something religious.” As Mennonite institution, they do house the Mennonite Historical Library, one of the largest collections of primary source material. “You can do genealogy there.”
I’m really impressed with the range and quality of academics offered here:
Not surprisingly, they are strong in areas such as Peace, Justice, & Conflict Studies, Criminal Justice & Restorative Justice, and Social Policy & Advocacy (minor). Their religion options include Anabaptist-Mennonite Studies (Minor).
- Their music programs provide incredible resources, including a major concert hall with recording-quality acoustics. There are a few strong minors or tracks like Piano Pedagogy, Musical Theater, and Music for Social Change.
- Sustainability is a strong focus of the colleges as a whole, and they offer a variety of programs with that, including Sustainable Food Systems, Sustainability Management, Sustainability Studies, Environmental & Marine Science, and Agroecology (minor).
- Nursing students almost always have jobs before graduation.
- “The education dept was a pleasant surprise,” said the tour guide.
- Goshen is one of the few colleges in the state to offer ASL programs, particularly with the number of options such as ASL, ASL Education, and Sign Language Interpretation.