January 31, 2008
Knox College's distinctive liberal arts characteristics -- including small classes and mentoring relationships with faculty -- are praised in the latest edition of "Looking Beyond the Ivy League: Finding the College That's Right for You," by Loren Pope, published in December by Penguin Books.
Pope is a former education editor of the New York Times and author of "Colleges That Change Lives," an acclaimed companion volume that also looks at the college search process. He writes that "Knox is a place of great intellectual ferment... a grade-A school by any measure."
Pope notes that Knox recently completed a thorough revision of its curriculum, supported by a $200,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. "Knox graduates will be well prepared for a new millennium," he writes.
The new edition of "Looking Beyond the Ivy League" is a revision of the book originally published in 1990. The New York Times called the book "smart and credible." A review in School Library Journal called it "an authoritative, carefully expressed argument for aiming at a small liberal-arts college rather than a large, impersonal university."
Pope has revolutionized the field of advising students on how to look at colleges, according to Paul Steenis, Vice President and Dean of Admission at Knox. "Loren Pope has pioneered a qualitative approach that advises prospective students to look for the colleges that fit their personality and their learning style, instead of a 'trophy' system that emphasizes status, prestige and exclusivity."
Pope contends that large, prestigious, highly selective universities that are best known for admitting only a small fraction of applicants -- what he calls "the Ivy League and its clones" -- ignore the reason students go to college, which is to learn from faculty. "The famous scholars [at large] universities... do little if any teaching and practically no advising. They are only name performers behind a lectern," Pope writes. By contrast, "in good small colleges, the teacher is a mentor, an adviser and a friend."
According to Steenis, Knox and other liberal arts colleges bring students together with a faculty of scholars who are also committed to teaching and mentoring.
"Every year, an average of 60 percent of the Knox faculty will have research or creative work published or presented," Steenis said. "More than 90 percent of Knox graduates have completed an independent study or research project, which means students are emulating the example set by faculty. And at the same time, 95 percent of Knox students report that they have been to a professor's house."
Pope writes that "College should be a place of diverse people and views and beliefs. It should be a place where faculty take an interest in campus programs outside of the classroom. It should be a place of debate, questioning and discussion. It should have a feeling of family or community."
"Those are the very experiences that Knox offers -- diversity, access to outstanding scholars, and excellence in teaching -- and I think that's why Knox resonates for Loren, and why he's continued to feature Knox in his books," Steenis said.
Founded in 1837, Knox is a national liberal arts college in Galesburg, Illinois, with students from 45 states and 44 nations. Knox's "Old Main" is a National Historic Landmark and the only building remaining from the 1858 Lincoln-Douglas debates.