Madonna University adds sports programs to forge community


College is about more than just studying. It’s about finding your own path while being part of something bigger than just yourself — entwining yourself in a community of like-minded souls.

At Madonna University, community is taken seriously. And like other colleges, the Michigan school is doing so in part by adding athletics.

This month, President Michael Grandillo announced the addition of eight sports — men’s and woman’s bowling, lacrosse, indoor and outdoor track and field. They’re the first additions since 2005, bringing the total number of Madonna Crusaders teams to 19.

“Participation in athletics and student organizations enriches the college experience, which is why we are proud to offer Madonna students more choices for learning outside the classroom,” Grandillo said.

The announcement follows years of planning and investment at Madonna. The sports began as club activities but mushroomed in popularity. In recent years, the university has added synthetic turf field at its athletic complex and installed lacrosse lines.

The moves comes as more students than ever are playing sports in college. From 2006 to 2011, the number of schools where a third or more students are involved in athletics increased to 124 from 96, according to the Associated Press.

That’s because, unlike few other endeavors, sports forge unique bonds. And, unlike big state universities, students at smaller schools like Madonna can play on teams without riding the bench — even if they haven’t been in training since they were 2 years old.

“Kids coming here know they aren’t going to play professional sports,” one student said. “They play for fun. They play for their teammates. They play for their school.”

Passion and community are big parts of the experience at Madonna and the rest of Michigan’s top 15 independent colleges and universities. Class sizes are small enough so students not only know their professors, they form lifetime bonds. Professors pride themselves on working closely with students to help them forge their own path, buck conventional wisdom and find a new way.

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.