Moravian College (visited 4/23/18)
I had no idea that Moravian is the nation’s 6th oldest college! Founded in 1742, it beats out several Ivies. The Moravians who settled in the Lehigh Valley started it as a school “for all things women” because they believed that you couldn’t have a society without educating the women. It was also the first to educate Native Americans in their own language. The college’s first President rejected Harvard when they said they wouldn’t educate women and the poor. “We have more 18th century buildings than Williamsburg and ours are real!” said Moravian’s current President. They have one of George Washington’s end tables and desks “because he was trying to get his grand-nieces into the school. It worked.”
Although still associated with the Moravian Church, the college does not have an overtly religious feel to it; there is a beautiful chapel, but other than that, if you walked on campus without knowing anything, you’d never know it was affiliated. There are no religious requirements placed on students. This is a fairly diverse campus: 27% self-identify as students of color; 42% are Pell-eligible. However, it’s still very much a regional university with many students coming from a 100-mile radius (and only ¾ of freshmen live on campus). They work hard to connect with and engage students to help make sure they’re getting support to persist through graduation. Their retention rate is close to 85%.
Moravians are big believers in practical education. Small classes and personal experiences start in freshmen year. There are a few big classes: “A&P and Intro to Chem might have 60-70 students.” They have a robust education program, and are ranked #4 in the state for nursing (with a 97% NCLEX pass rate). It’s one of the few places that put education and nursing students into their fields in their freshman year. They also offer good Rehabilitation Sciences (OT, PT, SP); students in most of these areas will shadow physicians or other specialists for 100+ hours over the course of a semester. They provide almost $40,000 in internship stipends, particularly for non-profit work. Local corporate sponsors or alumni will help pay for this. Non-profit and service work is part of the ethos here; Moravian even offers a Peace Corps Preparation Program.
All students get a MacBook Pro which they can keep once they graduate. They give everyone the same platform to even the playing field and help build cooperation. Students don’t just hear about technology in their discipline; they produce things using it. “Just because they’ve been doing something doesn’t mean that they know how to do it really well,” said the President. “They are consumers of technology but that doesn’t mean they know what they’re doing. They’ve been writing since kindergarten, but we still teach writing. Can they communicate with tech? Make spreadsheets? Publish an app?”
This is a bifurcated campus; they had separate men’s and women’s campuses that merged in 1953. There are several buildings still in downtown Bethlehem; it’s walkable (less than a mile), but there are shuttles that run every few minutes throughout the day. Students can live on either campus. “I might have to leave about 10 minutes earlier than I would otherwise,” said the tour guide. He loves living there. Freshmen can’t have cars on campus, and some often say they don’t want to live over on the downtown campus at first – but they see how cool it is. For students wanting to venture further afield outside of Bethlehem, the school runs a lot of weekend trips: Dorney Park, snow tubing, water parks, baseball games, etc.
The Gen Ed (LINC: Learning In Common) curriculum is designed to be meaningful and many are interdisciplinary such as Math and Origami or Walking in Peace and Justice (cross of sociology and religion). Since Moravian is part of the Lehigh Valley Association of Independent Colleges, students can cross-register at any of the other 5 schools. Our tour guide had a few friends who took classes at other LVAIC schools, but no transportation is provided. “I haven’t taken any because the classes I need have been here.” I asked the student panelists about their favorite classes:
- Refugee Crisis: This is a special-topics class (not offered every year). “We focused mostly on Syria. She brought in people from the counseling center because she was worried about the students processing things. There were also speakers from the area who had worked with refugees in Greece.”
- Anatomy & Physiology 2: “the professor is the smartest person I’ve ever met and was really cool to learn from her. It’s hard and a lot of work but worth it when the teacher is so excited about the subject.”
- Zoology: “The Prof worked at the Smithsonian and does a lot a research.”
- Microbiology: “We did research on e coli on kosher and conventional chicken.”
I asked a couple students to sum up Moravian – who would fit in/arrive and thrive. One said, “This is the place that people say hello and good morning; people hold doors. We have a saying, ‘When you call one hound, the entire pack comes running.’ It’s true here. It sounds stupid, it’s true.” Another one said, “I feel like they’re aware of issues around campus and they do their best to fix things.” This aligns with what the President said when he spoke to us when we first arrived on campus: “My door is open. Students come in with suggestions all the time. I have to say that I appreciate their candor and their thoughtfulness in what they tell me. They aren’t asking for frivolous things; they aren’t whining or asking for Jacuzzis in dorm rooms. They come with ideas and suggestions. We can work with that.”