Christopher Newport University
Written by Beth Cassie.
Christopher Newport University (CNU) is the newest public university in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Established 50 years ago as a two-year, primarily commuter school, with a refocused vision, it is now a competitive, residential university. President Trible (appointed in 1996) has led this transformation and his hands-on approach has clearly been successful at attracting both students and capital to CNU. Trible describes CNU as being a private school experience at a public school cost, comparing CNU to Washington & Lee University.
Ninety percent Virginians, the students we saw and met were clean-cut, preppy, and polite. Holding doors open for each other, making eye contact, and saying hello when passing each other is part of the speaking tradition that’s been established at CNU. The administration is continuously looking for ways to establish traditions at this new up-and-coming school.
In addition to the speaking tradition, an honor code and bell ringing at graduation are “new” traditions that have been established. D3 sports (including football and hockey) and a marching band add to school spirit. There was a more conservative vibe here than at any of the other VA schools we visited.
The 260-acre campus is pristine with red brick buildings built-in a “new Jefferson” style. Much of the campus seems to be a replica of the University of Virginia, including the rotunda that was under construction when we visited. The dorms are described as “palaces” by the administration. (The first-year residence hall that we toured was very nice, but not palatial!) Students are required to live on campus for their first three years. The campus is situated in the urban crescent between Richmond and Washington. There are village shops across the street from campus.
The classroom building we toured had a state-of-the-art trading room for business students with multiple computer screens installed at each seat. The I.M. Pei designed Ferguson Center for the Arts hosts over 70 performances each year drawing crowds from the community.
There is a strong focus on creating citizens and leaders who live meaningful lives of significance. One-third of the class participates in the President’s Leadership Program, which includes leadership courses (resulting in a minor in Leadership Studies), scholarship money, and a study abroad stipend. There is also an Honors Program (which can be combined with the President’s Leadership Program) for top applicants.
Classes are small and continued investment in faculty ensures that this will continue.
Admissions and cost
Leadership potential and demonstrated interest are big factors in admissions. For the honors program they are looking for a 1250 SAT (CR + M)/28 ACT and 3.75 GPA. CNU does not recalculate GPAs. They are test-optional if you have a GPA of 3.5 or higher. They accept 200 transfers each year.
CNU is actively looking to bring in more out-of-state students and they are using generous merit aid to entice students. They do track interest and the required interview is evaluative.
If you’re looking for a college with a strong focus on leadership, new facilities, and the opportunity to be part of creating new traditions, Christopher Newport is worth a look.