Blog - Category: Campus Life

Hillsdale College Proud to Go Its Own Way

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Quick: Name a college with statues of not only Abraham Lincoln but also Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher.

Or one with free online courses that teach the U.S. Constitution? That refuses to accept federal funding.

It can only be one: Hillsdale College, the so-called “shining city on the hill” for political conservatives, who unabashedly revere the founding fathers and don’t apologize for a core curriculum that revolves around books by so-called Dead White Men.

Tucked away in central Michigan, the school is attracting attention yet again in the first few weeks of President Donald J. Trump’s administration. The New York Times and others are shining a light on the Michigan jewel in part because it underscores the debate within conservative intellectual circles about what to make of Trump.

Proudly different, Hillsdale attracts students from throughout the country because it provides world-class education at a bargain. Even though it eschews federal money — making students ineligible for Pell grants — 95 percent of its students received grants of more than $17,000 this year, dramatically lowering its advertised $35,000 cost of tuition, room and board.

The education is without parallel. Unlike other schools that seem ashamed of teaching liberal arts, Hillsdale embraces it. For two years, students study the classics, taking more than a dozen mandatory classes on topics from western heritage, American heritage, biology and chemistry.

The classes help students forge tight bonds with faculty and administrators. Heck, the New York Times noted the school president, Larry P. Arnn, “has been known to swoop down on hapless victims in the cafeteria and pose the core question of the Classics: “What is The Good?”

Is it for everyone? Perhaps not. But what makes Hillsdale awesome is that, in this day of trying to please everyone, it’s proudly unique and charts its own path.

That’s something of a specialty at Hillsdale College and Michigan’s 15 independent colleges and universities.

Proudly small, their students don’t get lost in the crowd like those at big state schools. And unlike public universities, students actually graduate in four years, not only saving a year of tuition but also giving them an extra year of earnings in their careers.

They have a deep and committed network of alumni who help after graduation. It’s an experience that simply isn’t available at traditional universities.

Be bold. Be different. Go independent.

Alma College Reaches Peak Fun with Bagpipes & Nintendo

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Somewhere, in that rare, elusive air between nerd and cool is peak awesome. Call it alchemy or old-fashioned magic, but sometimes, mixing radically different mediums captures pop perfection.

It happened with Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Pop Tarts. And it happened again at the end of football season at Alma College, when — prepare yourselves — bagpipes met old-school Nintendo.

The Alma College Pipe Band and Winter Guard joined the school’s legendary Kiltie Marching Band for their annual indoor concert. This year’s concert featured themes from Super Mario Brothers, the Legend of Zelda and other 64-bit hits. It was retro wonderful. Princess Peach even made an appearance. And bagpipes. Lots of bagpipes.

A little background: Bagpipes are a big deal at Alma. They’re played when first-year students step on campus and walk through a gauntlet of faculty members at Welcoming Convocation. They’re played at sports games and college traditions like Burns Dinners and Tartan Day.

And Nintendo? Well, duh.

“I chose this music because it was always with me growing up” says band director David Zurbe. “The more video games I played, the more that I realized what impressive music it was. This music needs to be heard by everyone, and I am excited about how fantastic the musicians are doing with it.”

Making it even better: Students performed in full costume.

Offbeat selections aren’t usual for the band. In 2014, it performed a selection of Van Halen hits.

Is it wacky? Maybe a little. More importantly: Why not? It’s pretty darn amazing and a full heart container of fun.

That’s the way they roll at Alma College and Michigan’s 15 independent colleges and universities, where taking chances, mixing stuff up and letting ideas take wing is a way of life.

Purposefully smaller, the colleges offer a vastly different experience than big public schools. Class sizes are small. Award-winning professors actually teach classes, get to know students and help them chart their own path to rewarding careers.

Often less expensive than public institutions, the independents boast higher four-year graduation rates for a truly unique and affordable experience.

Be bold. Be different. Go independent.

Mystery Meat? No Way. It’s Gourmet all the Way at Aquinas Cafes

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Talk to your parents about dorm food. Chances are, they don’t have happy memories.

After all, back in the day, tater tots were a big deal.

They’re still great, but cafeterias have come a long way since then. Don’t believe it? Take a peek at the Aquinas College Dining Services menu any day of the week.

Pork BBQ sliders. Popcorn chicken. Beef and vegetable curry. Specially made deli sandwiches. Pizza from scratch. Pumpkin dessert bar for your all-spice, autumnal goodies.

And, of course, Taco Tuesday.

The food is prepared under the expert eye of Chef Andy Schultz. Known as Chef Andy, he’s determined to end college dining stereotypes of mystery meat.

“I just like to bring in fresh, local ingredients,” he said. “Ninety percent of the ingredients for dishes we provide in the kitchen are from scratch. I can tell a difference, and the students and clients we’re serving can tell the difference.”

You probably don’t want to know, but Chef Andy knows where the turkey lived that’s now in your sandwich (the West Michigan Turkey co-op); who mixed the ranch dressing on your salad (Litehouse in Lowell); and where the oregano grew for Sunday’s spaghetti sauce (Michigan Fine Herbs in Shelbyville).

Nothing against your parents, but we bet they didn’t know where their tater tot grew.

The differences don’t stop at food at Aquinas College and Michigan’s 15 independent colleges and universities. Proudly different, the schools march to their own beat, emphasizing community over crowds and experience over the latest passing whim.

Despite what you may have heard, the private colleges are among the most affordable in the Midwest. That’s because more than 93 percent of students receive financial aid, lowering advertised tuition and bringing actual costs on par with many public universities.

That means education is not only priceless. It’s affordable too — one of many differences with traditional universities.

Unlike big state schools, class sizes are small and taught by incredible faculty who help students forge their own path. They have a deep and committed network of alumni who help after graduation. It’s an experience that simply isn’t available at traditional universities.

Be bold. Be different. Go independent.

Love “A Christmas Story”? Thank Hillsdale College

Merry Christmas! You’ll shoot your eye out.

You don’t need to own a Red Ryder, carbine action, 200-shot range model air rifle to know the line is from “A Christmas Story,” the 1983 movie that’s become a staple of the holidays. Played on constant rotation starting Christmas Eve, the movie is so quotable that most know its dialogue by heart.

Fra-GEE-leh! It must be Italian!

I double DOG dare you.

It’s a pink nightmare.

Less well known is the genius behind the classic is one of Hillsdale College’s own, director and co-writer Bob Clark. He attended the Michigan college in the 1960s on a football scholarship and starred in several productions of the Tower Players.

Clark also directed another, less family friendly classic, “Porky’s,” during a career that spanned four decades and began shortly after he left Hillsdale in 1963. He got his start directing zombie flicks and eventually helmed productions including Jack Lemmon, Sylvester Stalone and some of the biggest Hollywood stars.

But he’ll forever be known for “A Christmas Story,” a project he loved so much he forsook his salary.

The inspiration struck when he was on a bad date and listened to a broadcast of writer Jean Shepherd’s recollections about growing up in Indiana in the 1930s and 1940s. He ended up driving around the block until the program was over.

“My date was not happy,” Clark said in an interview.

Clark is one of many creative luminaries who got their start at Michigan’s top 15 independent colleges and universities. The schools pride themselves on attracting students who do things differently and pairing them with dedicated faculty who help chart their own path.

So it’s probably no surprise the schools’ alums include diverse talent from singer Sufjan Stevens (Hope College) and funnyman Keegan Michael Key (University of Detroit-Mercy) to Martin Scorsese collaborator Paul Schrader (Calvin College) and “Walking Dead” star Steven Yeun (Kalamazoo College.)

All the schools emphasize community over crowds and help students forge their own paths.

It’s an experience that simply doesn’t exist at big state schools.

And despite what you may have heard, independents are often less expensive and boast higher four-year graduation rates that big universities.

Be bold. Be different. Go independent.

Kalamazoo College Student is a Star at Rocket Contests

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By day, Emma Kristal majors in psychology and biology at Kalamazoo College.

By night, she’s a Rocket Queen.

Her super-power: Making awesome, high-powered rockets that consistently blow away the competition at national and international competitions.

Kristal’s most recent triumph was winning individual and team gold medals with the USA World Space Modeling team in the Space Modeling Championships in Lviv, Ukraine. Her hobby has taken her to Serbia, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Austria and other countries.

“Most of the competitions are in Eastern Europe because that’s where most of the competitors are from other than the U.K. and China,” said the junior from Royal Oak, Michigan.

“We’re the fiercest competitors on the field, but afterward, we can still sit down and play cards together. I’m making connections with people from all over the world. Sometimes I can scroll through my newsfeed (on Facebook) and not see a single thing in English.”

She holds 10 records. One of her rockets is on display at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. And she’s recognized as one of the best in an event called the S2P Precision Fragile Payload, in which participants launch rockets 300 meters in 60 seconds without cracking an egg inside them.

Not too shabby for someone who attends a school that’s known as a liberal arts college and doesn’t have a rocketry program. Nor does Kristal plan to make a career out of rocketry.

That’s a testament to Kalamazoo College and Michigan’s 15 independent colleges and universities. All provide world-class educations. And all help students forge their own paths — even if it ventures into space.

“My dad is an emergency room doctor and when we asked his colleagues where I should attend college, they all said K. Honestly, we thought (Kalamazoo College) put something in the water to make them all rave about it,” she told the school.

The independents pride themselves on attracting different students. Ones unafraid of trying new things, venturing outside comfort zones and finding passions that don’t necessarily show up on transcripts.

Purposefully different than big state schools, the independents emphasize community over crowds. Classes are taught by award-winning faculty rather than TAs, allowing students to forge tight bonds with professors.

And despite what you may have heard, independents are often less expensive and boast higher four-year graduation rates that big universities.

Be bold. Be different. Go independent.

Albion College Makes Equestrian Center Dream a Reality

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College is where dreams, no matter how fanciful, find a way.

So more than a decade ago, when an Albion College student wrote a thesis with a crazy suggestion — hey, wouldn’t it be great if there was a place to board horses near campus? — she wasn’t laughed off college.

Instead, her idea was embraced, massaged and worked until it became reality. The super-cool Nancy G. Held Equestrian Center opened in 2004. The $1.8 million facility accommodates 79 horse stalls.

Now, it’s expanded again, as crews put finishing touches on a new indoor area, the largest of any kind among colleges nationwide. About 200-1,000 people are expected each weekend for competitions.

“It started as a joke and then turned into something more serious,” Randi Heathman, a 2003 Albion graduate, told WWMT-TV 3.

“My thesis projected that we would get approximately 15 new students per year that we wouldn’t get without this here and I think in the first year we got 30. It’s been a substantial enrollment booster ever since the day it opened.”

What’s even more remarkable: Albion College doesn’t even offer an equestrian degree. But administrators green-lit the project because they saw students had passion. And, as often the case in life, if you have passion, almost anything is possible.

“Albion prepares students for whatever career they want to go into,” Heathman, who is now the college’s equestrian adviser, told MLive.

“We want students to come here to be academically challenged and to continue or start riding if they love to do so. Those who want a career in equine usually get there one way or another.”

The project probably wouldn’t have happened at big state schools. But there’s unique bond between students and faculty at Albion and Michigan’s 15 independent colleges and universities.

Faculty know students because they actually teach classes, rather than sloughing them off on graduate assistants. Professors not only help students chart their own path and pursue their passion, but encourage them to take a wild idea, tie it to a string and see if it can fly.

Proudly different, purposefully small, independent colleges teach students to say “why not?” rather than “why”?

Often less expensive than public institutions, the independents boast higher four-year graduation rates for a truly unique and affordable experience.

Be bold. Be different. Go independent.

Passion Propels Siena Heights University Prof to Map City Architecture

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Passion isn’t just a vogue buzzword at Siena Heights University and Michigan’s top 15 independent colleges and universities.

It’s a way of life, infusing everything from cafeteria menus that don’t taste like dorm food to professors whose love of their fields is absolutely contagious.

So when Siena Heights broke for summer, art history professor Peter Barr didn’t hit the beach. He hit his backyard, walking the streets of Adrian and cataloguing its rich architectural history for a website, adrianarchitecture.org, that offers “walking tours” of its downtown.

A quintessential small Midwestern college town, Adrian offers a periscope through a century of style. Homes built from the 1850s to 1960s are lovingly preserved and showcase more than a dozen architectural styles, from Greek revival to Colonial revival.

“It’s compact, remarkably well preserved and wonderfully serene, away from the hubbub,” Barr told told The Adrian Daily Telegram.

His website offers incredibly rich descriptions of all architectural styles and city history, along with photos, essays and other information about dozens of houses. Even for those with only a passing interest in architecture, it’s easy to lose track of time perusing the site.

“If you want information on a building, you have to come to archives and look in four, five places for all the information,” Jan Richardi, archivist at the Lenawee County Historical Society Museum, told The Telegram.

“Peter’s information is so comprehensive.”

Barr got interested in the town’s history after beginning to teach at Siena Heights 19 years ago. It’s since become a passion — and of course he’s involved his students who helped him research the homes and neighborhoods.

Such close collaboration is a hallmark of Siena Heights and Michigan’s other top 15 independent colleges and universities. Students don’t merely sit in lecture halls. They work closely with award-winning faculty, who help students find their own passion and chart their own path.

It’s a sense of community and cohesion that simply isn’t available at big state schools.

And despite what you may have heard, independents are often less expensive and boast higher four-year graduation rates that big universities.

Be bold. Be different. Go independent.

Adrian College Daycare Doubles as Learning Lab

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Doing good for students. Doing good for the community.

It’s a way of life so ingrained at Adrian College and Michigan’s 15 independent colleges that it’s practically second nature.

So it shouldn’t have been a surprise this month when Adrian announced the creation of the Baby Bulldog Center, a daycare designed to help both working parents in the Michigan community and education majors at the college.

The center on the first floor of Valade Hall is full-fledged daycare, accommodating up to 12 children from birth to 3 years old. But it’s also a lab for Adrian College students pursuing early childhood education certificates.

“As schools are increasingly under pressure to do more with less, they will look for teachers who have credentials, such as the early childhood endorsement, beyond the basic certification,” Andrea Milner, Adrian’s director of the Institute for Education, told the Adrian Daily Telegram.

“We want to provide all our students — babies and undergraduates — the best start we can.”
Rather than seek jobs outside the college, students will work in the daycare alongside licensed childcare professionals. That will help them meet the 60 hours of internship required for an early childhood education certificate.

And it will help ease a childcare crunch in Lenawee County, where an estimated three quarters of youths under 5 have two working parents.

It’s Adrian College’s second venture into childcare. Its first, a collaboration with Little Maples Preschool for toddlers, was so popular it had to open a second location in 2014.

“We’re glad we can address that need while helping our students become the best teachers they can be,” Agnes Caldwell, Adrian dean for academic affairs, told the Daily Telegram.

A daycare might not be the first thing that comes to mind when considering colleges. But it’s the sort of detail and dedication to both students and surrounding communities that make Adrian and other Michigan independent colleges unique and truly special.

National leaders in education, the schools recognize that college is about both preparing students for careers — and experience.

All emphasize community over crowds and a spirit of togetherness and cohesion that just doesn’t exist at big state schools.

With low class sizes and award-winning faculty, the schools are proud that students forge lifelong bonds with professors.

Often less expensive than public institutions, the independents boast higher four-year graduation rates for a truly unique and affordable experience.

Be bold. Be different. Go independent.

Alumni Flock for Coda of Spring Arbor Prof’s Career

There’s a great line for anyone who plays or appreciates music in the ‘90s movie “Mr. Holland’s Opus.”

“It’s about heart. It’s about feelings. Moving people and something beautiful,” Glenn Holland, a high school music teacher, tells his class.

“It’s not about notes on a page. I can teach you notes on a page. I can’t teach you that other stuff.”

Chuck Livesay taught both for 41 years at Spring Arbor University, directing choirs at the college and touching countless lives. Only about a quarter of the students in his choirs actually majored in music, but Livesay struck all the right chords.

“I really can’t think of anything else I would be doing, other than music. It’s been a passion,” Livesay told SAU in MLive.

So, as they did for the Richard Dreyfuss character in “Mr. Holland’s Opus,” old students of Chuck Livesay came from near and far for his last concert.

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Seventy-one alumni came from as far as Texas for the last performance in May, which Livesay called a highlight of his career.

All came up and sang two songs at the end of the concert. They knocked it out of the park after all those years.

What made Livesay different? Why would so many want to thank him one last time?

“(Students said) we could tell as you worked with us that you were very passionate about the music. It really touched you in a deep way and it helped to touch us in a deep way,” Livesay said.

Passion. Community. Dedication. Bonds that last a lifetime. That’s the difference at Spring Arbor University and Michigan’s other top 15 private colleges and universities.

Livesay only planned to stay at Spring Arbor for two years. He made it a career. That’s not unusual because it’s easy to fall in love with Spring Arbor and the other independents.

Unlike big state schools, class sizes are small and taught by incredible faculty who help students forge their own path.

They have a deep and committed network of alumni who help after graduation. It’s an experience that simply isn’t available at traditional universities.

And despite what you may have heard, independents are often less expensive and boast higher four-year graduation rates than four-year institutions.

Be bold. Be different. Go independent.