If you can play the bagpipes, the College of Wooster is the place for you! Wooster, Ohio is a community of 26,000 that is located about 55 miles southwest of Cleveland, 80 miles northeast of Columbus and 30 miles west of Akron. The town’s proximity to large metropolitan areas allows for easy access to air and bus transportation, while still far enough away give the town a true Midwestern feel. The campus flows into the downtown area, providing the campus with a community feel. Founded in 1866 by the Presbyterian church, this liberal arts school is truly unique amongst colleges.
|Kauke Hall and the famed Arch|
In 1947, school president Howard Lowry wanted students to choose a topic that would encompass their education at Wooster. During their last year on campus, students replace one of their four courses per semester with their I.S project. This may seem like a daunting task, but the Wooster curriculum is set up from day one to prepare students for this capstone project. Since then, every senior has participated in this yearlong coursework project.
During the process, students work one-on-one with a faculty advisor to complete a written thesis or research project. The partnership meets weekly for an hour to evaluate progress, refine research, present drafts and discuss feedback. From time to time, small groups present materials and findings to other students.
Following Spring Break, students turn in their completed thesis to the registrar’s office. In return they receive a yellow and black numbered button stating “I Did It!” along with a coveted Tootsie Roll. Although the celebration begins, students are still required to defend their project in front of a faculty examiner in order to graduate.
One day in April, the college will cancel classes and seniors will display their I.S. theses and projects to the entire school during The Senior Research Symposium. The entire student body walks and discusses the projects with the seniors to stimulate ideas for their I.S. projects.
This black and gold kilt wearing pipe band participates in many campus events. The first day of school introduces freshmen to this pipe band. The band marches all first year students through the Kauke Hall Arch as a symbolic start to their Wooster careers. It is also through the same arch as seniors, the band will lead them again. As the last student leaves the registrar’s office on I.S. Monday, the band will lead the provost and seniors through the Arch and into Kittredge Hall to have a celebratory dinner. The band also leads the seniors through the Arch on their final day, graduation.
A student at Wooster “dabbles in a little bit of everything.” All students are presented with a holistic approach to their education; blending their extracurricular interests with their studies, including their Independent Study projects. The average student at Wooster participates in four extracurricular activities and double majors. How do they handle all of it? I was informed that a Fighting Scot is someone who has great time management skills and is excited about their school, campus activities and education. The students enjoy participating in campus life and getting involved. Many of the students I talked to said the hardest thing was to be away from campus life when they studied abroad. Over 40% of the student body studies abroad, mostly during their junior year. With the adventuresome spirit of the campus, it is easily understood why nearly 70% of all Wooster students come from outside Ohio; while 98% live on campus all four years.
This small, liberal arts school was exactly what Loren Pope was looking for when he wrote his book, Colleges That Change Lives (1996). Pope visited numerous colleges that he felt offers as much, if not more than Ivy League schools. The College of Wooster was one of the 40 schools that Pope chose to include in his ‘educational college guide.’ Pope felt that the College of Wooster was his “original best-kept secret in higher education.” While visiting the school in 2012, over 15 years after he wrote his book, it is clearly evident that Pope was correct in his description of the school. From the outgoing students greeting me as I walked across the campus, to the pride each student had as they discussed their future senior thesis (I.S.) plans, this college is definitely worth a closer look for students who want an active college experience.