Friday, Aug. 22, 2014
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A meaningful college education is not a downloading of facts from one brain to another. It involves developing relationships, learning new skills, cultivating new ways of looking at the world, stretching in new ways, and making connections. As Plutarch wrote in De Auditu, "The correct analogy for the mind is not a vessel that needs filling, but wood that needs igniting . . . and then it motivates one towards originality and instills the desire for truth."
That kind of meaningful education happens best . . .
Our name highlights each of those three emphases. Virginia Wesleyan College stands at the intersection of three contexts: one geographical, one related to our values, and one shaped by our distinctive focus on education.
First, we are shaped by our geographical context, specifically by Virginia and Hampton Roads. The College is located on 300 beautiful, heavily forested acres, yet the campus also is squarely in the nation's 36th largest metropolitan area (with 1.7 million people in 2007).
Students become connected to the history, culture, ecology, and politics of the region through courses, internships, and community service projects that provide practical know-how and skills leading in many cases to jobs after graduation.
Some student athletes might be drawn to the opportunity both to have access to a more urban area and, at the same time, to compete in the College's athletic conference, the competitive Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC).
Some students might be drawn to the world's largest naval base, the presence of NATO, the Chrysler Museum, the Virginia Symphony, the Virginia Zoo, or Norfolk Tides baseball. Some students might find themselves in the ocean on the College's research boat or working in an internship at Norfolk Southern Railroad. Other students might make time to visit D.C., Colonial Williamsburg, or Busch Gardens, or take advantage of the beach and the Atlantic Ocean, just miles away.
Located within a few miles of the place where John Smith first landed in America, Virginia Wesleyan uses its location to help students see new beginnings within their lives.
Second, the College is shaped by Wesleyan religious heritage and values. Because of that, as our mission statement emphasizes, we aspire "to be a supportive community that is committed to social responsibility, ethical conduct, higher learning and religious freedom."
All of our students will find themselves involved with different communities, some within the classroom, some outside. Some students will find themselves active with community service, maybe helping children read, gleaning food in fields, assisting senior citizens, working at a homeless shelter, or reaching out in other ways.
Some students will find themselves active in weekly worship, in Bible studies, or in the religious studies honor society. Some students will have the unique opportunity to study and be a part of faith and music. Some students will find themselves involved in active debate on campus on conflicting values or the challenges of religious freedom. All students will be called to live honorable and respectful lives.
John Wesley (the founder of Methodism) once said, that "Without love all learning is but splendid ignorance, pompous folly." His own life emphasized charity, civic engagement, and service to others.
Our Wesleyan background means that we recognize that WHO you are matters more than HOW you do or WHAT you do. Honor is important. Community service. Integrity. They matter. The word "Wesleyan" emphasizes that our goals need to be greater than our own self-interest.or they are not worthy of us. A meaningful education is one grounded in that understanding of the world.
Third, we are a college, not a community college, an on-line college, or a university. The deliberate, active mentoring here intentionally creates educational opportunities very different from those found at the other three kinds of institutions. Faculty here know students' names. They want each student to succeed,. They take students from wherever they are beginning. How students do matters to them.
That approach to education grows out of a recognition of the importance of the breadth of education. A liberal arts curriculum encompasses study across the disciplines, from mathematics to literature, from philosophy to biology, from history to foreign languages. With a broad foundation in the liberal arts, Wesleyan students choose from among 39 majors.
A small college creates not just the opportunity but sometimes also the expectation that students will be involved in campus life outside of class. That is seen as an important part of your education. You will be involved. You will find opportunities to grow in many ways.
Many students find that athletics is an important part of their time at VWC and the College's tradition of excellence in sports creates excitement. Students also are involved in campus life in many ways, through drama, music, fraternities and sororities, through the newspaper, radio station, and literary magazine, through Model UN, Ethics Bowl, and study abroad, or through many of the other clubs and organizations on campus. There are many opportunities to be involved.
Whatever sparks you may bring, you also will have the opportunity to broaden your horizons in ways you likely never anticipated. This last January, Virginia Wesleyan students were taking photographs in New Zealand, visiting film studios in Hollywood, doing biology experiments in Belize, experiencing theater in New York, studying ecotourism in Maui, and doing service learning in Ghana. You may work at a homeless shelter, or take a math course in which you use Barbie dolls and bungee cords. You even may take an apiary science course, a course on bees, in which you learn to tend the campus hives and collect the honey (which is sold in the college bookstore). Four years from now, you may be like our most recent graduates, who are looking at great jobs, or going into the Peace Corps, or even spending the summer in a Taiwanese Buddhist monastery. Some of our graduates have full-ride scholarships to graduate schools at Yale, Duke, and Vanderbilt, and others have been admitted to graduate programs at such schools as the University of Michigan, University of Pennsylvania, Temple, Virginia Tech, and Florida.
Providing the foundation for a good career is only a part of a Virginia Wesleyan education. First and foremost, Wesleyan seeks to prepare each student to be a Renaissance citizen—an honorable, caring, and culturally literate person who will lead a good and reflective life in service to family and community. This is the transformative Wesleyan experience