When their car crashed on Interstate 285, Matt Claiborne, now a senior, and two friends were stranded and lost. Remembering that Prof. Kendra King normally attended a nearby church, they sent a text to her cellphone, seeking help. Immediately, she responded with directions and helped the guys get back to campus safely. At Oglethorpe University, students and administrators say, the divide between budding scholar and professor is often just as easily bridged.
About a five-minute car ride northeast of Atlanta's trendy Buckhead district, Oglethorpe's campus, with its castle-like stone facades and forested surroundings, is walkable from end to end in about 10 minutes. As freshmen quickly discover, it is very nearly impossible to hide or seclude oneself among the school's 1,000 undergraduates—not that they necessarily try.
Named for the state's founder, Oglethorpe embodies the traditional private liberal arts school, yet with an urban edge. While more than 60 percent of students are Georgians, Oglethorpe draws from big public high schools as well as small private academies and, with an accommodating financial aid office, from all socioeconomic levels as well. Minorities comprise 43 percent of the student body and 37 percent of OU students come from Pell grant-eligible households.
President Lawrence Schall has worked to build a sense of community since arriving in 2005. He's known to bring pizzas into dorms for chats with residents and has even tagged along on students' winter break service trips to build houses in New Orleans.
One of Schall's contributions, the Center for Civic Engagement, provides what junior Clair Carter calls "a buffet of service." Students are required to earn points for their involvement in civic activities, such as volunteering in disadvantaged local neighborhoods or simply viewing nearby art exhibits, and most surpass the requirements with ease.
Students say the tightknit feel means high turnouts at campus performances and the Stormy Petrels' Division III athletic events.
As for education, even math and science majors should expect to be skilled writers by graduation. The rigorous core curriculum requires students to write well and often. Classes are designed with a practical, firsthand type of experience in mind. A partnership with AirTran Airways allows professors to take classes on day trips—to Miami, for example, for a close-up look at Cuban art or to Washington to visit the Smithsonian Institution—at no extra charge for students.
Some students say the faculty and administration are what set the university apart. Professors are willing to collaborate with students, and students often have a say in their own studies. Given such close student-teacher relationships, class attendance and participation are a must. "Because they know me, my professors judge me against me, not against other students," says Jasenka Besic, a recent grad.
More About Oglethorpe University:
Fact: The Oglethorpe University Museum of Art features the work of masters like sculptor Auguste Rodin and surrealist painter Salvador Dali.
Undergrad enrollment, 2009: 1,000
Est. annual cost, 2010-2011: $37,940
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