Holidays are all about tradition. And big state schools certainly have their own. Unfortunately, they often go something like this: Cram for finals, throw dirty clothes in a bag and say hurried goodbyes to your dorm mates before hopping in a car and leaving town.
Michigan’s independent colleges and universities do things a bit different. And they’re proud of that. Built around community and cohesion, the schools embrace all the wonder and tradition the holiday season has to offer, from choir concerts and campus sing-alongs to tree decorating parties.
At Hope College, students and community members have gathered for eight decades for Christmas Vespers. The first event was held just hours before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, and held every year since. That first year, 500 people came. It’s grown every year since to the point where people start inquiring in August about tickets for the choir and symphony concert.
For more than 40 years, Albion College has gathered for the Festival of Lessons and Carols, which features several choirs and intersperses carols with readings that trace Biblical history. For decades, the popular event has begun with “Once in Royal David’s City” and ended with a candlelit rendition of “Silent Night.”
A new tradition continues at the University of Detroit-Mercy, which produced a live version of holiday classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” for the second time this month. The twist is the play is produced as a radio show, featuring a handful of actors playing dozens of characters in the Frank Capra classic before a live audience.
At Aquinas College, the college gathers every year to light a Christmas tree that was planted in 2010 by the Student Senate to reflect the school’s commitment to the environment.
Sound like a lot? We’re just getting started.
Kalamazoo College has celebrated BachFest Christmas, a concert of the famed composer, for every year since 1970. Calvin College has the Sleigh Ride Around the World, which combines Yuletide movies projected on the big screen with Christmas classics from the college’s Wind Ensemble.
We could go on and on.
Some of the events may seem similar, but what makes them different – and so special – is that they’ve become part of the fabric of the individual communities around them.
That’s because Michigan’s 15 independent colleges and universities are enmeshed in their cities and towns and realize that college is about experience almost as much as it is about learning.
National leaders in education, the schools 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.