Monday, October 10, 2005

Lycoming

I am nearly 30 years removed from college. But Lycoming College has never been removed from me.

I was recruited for the Alumni Association Executive Board seven years ago. At first, I was driven by nostalgia and sentiment. But that soft sense of the past was quickly replaced by a much stronger belief in the present: today, Lycoming College is an even stronger educational institution. The school has weathered the doubts that have been raised about liberal arts education, and has overcome the retrenchment that most smaller schools went through during tight fiscal times in the past 20 years. Lycoming has raised the bar and is a different place: high education values, strong experienced faculty, sound fiscal practices. In the past ten years, the school has added a recreation facility, rebuilt a neighboring building into an Honors Hall, and tripled its endowment -- all while reducing the debt load of the school. Thanks to national exposure (partially because of a winning football team, partially because of the use of the internet by students searching for schools), nearly 40 percent of this year's freshman class is from out-of-state -- a turnaround from the 1980s, when it became primarily a Pennsylvania school.

I sound like a marketing brochure.

I spent the past weekend at Homecoming, and presided over the my last AAEB meeting as president. But what struck me the most this weekend were conversations with faculty. The educators I spoke with all speak the same message: Lycoming is a strong environment for learning, and the faculty is a supportive and caring community. One long-term professor spoke of the number of faculty who turned out to help him move into a new house, on short notice. When I asked another long-tenured prof if he was considering retirement, he replied, not for another few years -- they treat him well at the school, and he still enjoys it. A new professor described how he was attracted to the place by the sense of community, and it bore out in his first few weeks there: when he returned from presenting his doctoral dissertation at another school, people who he had only know for a short time were inquiring how it went and expressing support. A recently-retired professor said that the school's leadership seemed to be making the right decisions.

Yup, still reads like an admissions glossy, huh?

But if someone Googles 'Lycoming College' and lands here, my words are not driven by sentiment: I do believe in Lycoming. Strong leadership, experienced and skilled faculty, good programs. The school can compete with any other college.

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