Wooster, the College of
College review by Lisa Bleich
I have always heard great things about The College of Wooster, so I was excited to see what all the hype was about. I was not disappointed.
A student playing the bagpipe, dressed in full Scottish regalia, greeted us. (Wooster is one of the few schools that has a bagpipe in their marching band and offers a scholarship specifically for students who play it.)
We heard from professors across multiple disciplines. Each one was very enthusiastic and oozed affection for their students and their ability to mentor them and bring out their strength. Professors are very hands on and their goal is to help students develop critical thinking and writing skills starting with a Freshman Year Seminar (FYS). The FYS is writing intensive and engages students in analytical thought. The topics of the FYS range from a class on S. Asian natural disasters taught by a geology professor to theater and film in India taught by a Theater Arts professor.
The hallmark of the Wooster education is the Independent Study or IS which all students do both junior and senior year. The program started in 1948 when the former president of Princeton came to Wooster and modeled the program after Princeton’s senior research projects. The IS was designed to be both aristocratic (all students are pushed to reach their full potential) and democratic (all students must do it, not only honors students).
The independent studies range from a Communications major analyzing the first four seasons of Mad Men and how the role of masculinity is persuasively communicated through the episodes to a Chemistry/Archeology major who combined the two majors to look at the chemical composition of relics found on a dig and how they could be used to predict travel patterns. Students can also produce a creative, original work. One English major who was planning to work for a wedding planner after graduation created a Wedding magazine and interviewed someone from Say Yes to the Dress as a lead story. The goal is to find something that you are passionate about, identify an original idea, create a research hypothesis and defend it both orally and through writing. No wonder that Wooster produces the second largest number of PhD students.
The student body is very diverse from both a multi-cultural standpoint as well as a socio-economic standpoint. 20% of students are eligible for a Pell grant (families earning <$40K). Students are bright, willing to try new things, and not competitive at the expense of others. Wooster focuses on the delta or change in a student, not where they started out. Most students were dressed in sweats and t-shirts, down-to-earth without pretense. Students are also very athletic with 70% of students participating in intramural or varsity sports and 30% are varsity athletes.
Our student panel represented a wide range of interests. A senior from Delaware was a history/political science major involved in Greek life, Kiwanis club, and the Democratic club where she helped register voters and bring Joe Biden to campus during the 2008 election. A freshman biology/math major from San Francisco was very involved with student government and diversity outreach. He was also conducting research in the biology department.
The campus itself was very pretty. The buildings had been recently upgraded throughout in a craftsman, mission style in the common areas. They are in the process of renovating the gym, which will be completed by January of 2012.
Wooster also has two new initiatives on diversity and global engagement as well as in social entrepreneurship. These are both led by the same professor who is from India and is able to incorporate trips to India into the curriculum to help students understand how to succeed in a global economy as well as how to effect change through social entrepreneurship. Another strategic initiative is to include more collaborative learning.
Wooster is an excellent place for an intellectually curious, well-rounded, athletic student who values education and wants to develop outstanding critical thinking, writing, and communication skills in a strong, nurturing community.