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The Quality of the Faculty
Faculty and Students Working Together
The Curriculum-A Guiding Structure
The Diversity and Energy of Student Life
Facilities and Resources
An Education for Success
An Education for the 21st Century
The paramount obligation of a college is to train its students to develop the ability to think clearly and independently. This ability will enable them to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
- Ellen Browning Scripps Knox Class of 1859
Knox College was founded in 1837 by a colony from upstate New York who came to western Illinois to build an educational institution. The founders were led by the Reverend George Washington Gale, a renowned Presbyterian minister and a national leader of the manual labor movement, after whom Galesburg is named. The Illinois legislature chartered the Knox Manual Labor College on February 15, 1837. The name was officially shortened to Knox College in 1857.
A private, independent college for its entire history, Knox’s traditions have shaped those who have become a part of the College. At its core, the College is a community of teachers and students, working closely together and dedicated to the values of independent thought, personal integrity, and community responsibility. These values, rooted in Knox’s early history, continue after 176 years to guide the College and its educational mission. The College is proud of its heritage as one of the first colleges open to both African-Americans and women. Knox’s founder, Reverend Gale, was indicted for harboring fugitive slaves, and its first president, Hiram Huntington Kellogg, opposed discrimination against women. It was at Knox that Abraham Lincoln, in 1858, spoke out publicly to condemn slavery in his historic debate with Stephen Douglas. Two years later, the Knox College Board of Trustees awarded Lincoln his first honorary degree to aid him in his fateful campaign for the presidency. Knox graduated one of the first Black students in Illinois, Barnabas Root, and the first Black U.S. Senator, Hiram Revels, was also educated at Knox. S.S. McClure, founder of the influential McClure’s Magazine, was a Knox graduate, as was John Huston Finley, long-time editor of The New York Times. It is no accident that Knox was, in 1916, the first liberal arts college in Illinois to receive a Phi Beta Kappa charter.
In a lighter vein, Knox is also proud of its past as the inspiration for the rambunctious and lively college immortalized in George Fitch’s humorous stories about "Good Old Siwash," which were hugely popular in the 1920s, 30s and 40s. Fitch, a Knox graduate of 1897, published his stories in the Saturday Evening Post, fondly depicting a college of high-spirited young men and women making the most out of the extracurricular, athletic and social aspects of a residential college. Knox students were delighted to find themselves parodied in stories that grew into several books and eventually a Hollywood movie (Those Were the Days, starring William Holden, filmed on the Knox campus in 1940). They adopted "Old Siwash" as a cherished College nickname, symbolizing for generations the deep affection and attachment to friends, professors and the College they carry with them for a lifetime after graduation. The memory of "Old Siwash" may have faded in the public mind, remaining now only as a somewhat obscure and controversial addition to the English language, but for generations of Knox alumni it lives on as the beloved nickname for their alma mater.
Today, as throughout its entire history, education at Knox is not passive. Classes are small—the average size is 18—so professors can engage students directly and, equally important, encourage students to engage with each other. Discussion—often impassioned—is the common way learning proceeds at Knox, and it frequently spills over beyond the classroom into residence halls, dining halls and faculty living rooms. Students test their knowledge and understanding through independent research, writing, or artistic and creative work, mentored by members of the faculty.
The independent, often solitary acts of research, artistic creation and writing and the collaborative, shared engagement in intellectual conversation are twin poles of Knox’s active education. But these could not assure an education of high quality without additional preconditions. There are six key features of a Knox education that help this ideal become a reality:
For teachers to inspire their students, they must themselves be alive with ideas.
Knox is proud of its faculty as one of the most distinguished bodies of college teachers anywhere, not only well-educated at the nation’s leading graduate universities but working at the forefront of their disciplines.
For example, a Knox biochemist is pioneering research on biochemistry and cell molecular biology, which has been sponsored by the National Science Foundation. A political scientist served as a United States Supreme Court Fellow. An English professor's book on Emily Dickinson has won a national award. A theatre professor recently produced several award-winning plays in Chicago. In the past few years Knox faculty have received major grants and fellowships from the National Institute of Health, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Endowment for the Arts, Research Corporation, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, National Science Foundation, and the U.S. Department of State Fulbright Program.
However, even with such national recognition for their scholarship and creativity, Knox faculty are teachers, first and foremost. While they take pride in their achievements in research, exhibitions, performances and publication, they are equally excited—and energetic—about their classrooms. Many have found ways to incorporate new technologies into their courses. Groups of faculty regularly discuss teaching methods and many bring new styles of teaching to their classes, such as collaborative learning and workshop formats.
All Knox faculty are teachers and scholars, dedicated to their students and actively engaged in the pursuit of knowledge.
All the scholarly distinctions in the world would not matter much if it were not part of the Knox tradition that each professor be involved with students—not only in class, but outside as well. The close association of a distinguished, energetic faculty with students is a crucial feature that helps set Knox apart.
The College’s three-term academic calendar is designed to promote this interaction. Knox professors teach only two courses at a time and students enroll in only three courses each term—a schedule that provides opportunity for students and their teacher to meet and talk. Faculty serve as academic advisors for all students, frequently direct them in independent study and often become research mentors for advanced student work. Collegial relations between faculty and students may be visible in informal situations, as groups gather for a cup of coffee or share a meal in the dining hall; these interactions are an outgrowth of the relationship as co-learners and collaborators that develops between students and their mentors.
Academic integrity is at the center of student learning. The Knox Honor Code places students, not faculty, in charge of maintaining the academic integrity of their own work. There is no proctoring of exams at Knox. As one student put it recently, the Honor Code means she thinks carefully as she puts her name onto her exam or research paper.
Right at the start of their college career, Knox students are immersed in a course, First-Year Preceptorial, designed to engage them in talking and writing about some of the most important and influential ideas of the past several thousand years. Students report they find the course unsettling at first: they cannot simply take their cue from their instructor to arrive at a "right answer." Then, as the term proceeds, they discover that working out what they think for themselves is in reality a more rewarding goal.
Each Preceptorial section is a small discussion group of one professor and about 16 students. The issues, ideas and challenges of a course are debated not only in class, but also in dining halls, residence suites, locker rooms and coffee shops. Students share papers, pore together over difficult texts, and wrestle with tough questions late into the night. In this way, students learn to take responsibility for their own education.
This focus on self-reliance extends to other parts of students’ lives through the learning that occurs as part of the residential experience. Residence at Knox involves more than the halls where students live. From a system of self-governance and establishment of community standards through the Student Senate, to the participation of students on faculty governance committees, living within the Knox community provides challenging experiences through which students learn to take responsibility.
The Curriculum—A Guiding Structure
Rooted in more than a century and a half of experience, yet continually evolving, the Knox curriculum provides breadth and depth of learning. The curriculum is organized in ways that yield the following outcomes for students:
Through the advising system, students are encouraged, particularly during the first two years, to follow their interests and explore widely in the curriculum. By the end of the sophomore year, students sharpen their focus to arrive at a major field of study. The major provides the core of studies during the junior and senior years, and it is through work in the major that students learn to master a body of knowledge and methods of inquiry, to understand the principles for sorting the significant from the spurious and to stand on their own intellectually.
Knox’s liberal arts curriculum is the product of years of reflection and experience, but the real test of its value is that it leads students to a level of accomplishment few may have thought themselves capable of when they started their studies. For many students, the major culminates when, with faculty advice and guidance, they carry out a significant research, scholarly or creative project, presenting the results to their peers and mentors in a formal setting. Outstanding seniors undertake College Honors, preparing a substantial thesis or portfolio and submitting it for evaluation to a select committee including a distinguished scholar from outside the College. Through the Honors Program and other special research support, many students prepare presentations for scholarly conferences, so that their work becomes a demonstration to graduate and professional schools, employers and national fellowship competitions of their capacity for significant achievement.
The Knox curriculum is enhanced through the opportunities the College provides for study elsewhere in the country and around the world. Almost 50 percent of all Knox students take advantage of the wide array of off-campus programs the College makes available. Its own programs in Spain, France and Argentina draw students not only from Knox but from other leading colleges and universities as well. Moreover, the Associated Colleges of the Midwest, a consortium that Knox helped to found, as well as several other organizations operate programs open to Knox students in Latin America, Africa, Asia, and Europe, as well as domestic programs in Chicago and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
The Diversity and Energy of Student Life
The fifth factor that ensures that Knox students are not just passive learners is the students themselves. Knox students are remarkably diverse. They are drawn from many different ethnic groups, and from all across the country and over forty other nations around the world. They come to Knox from a wide variety of economic backgrounds, from rural farms, small towns, affluent suburbs and the heart of bustling cities. This rich variety of backgrounds and perspectives brings an energetic cosmopolitan atmosphere to the campus.
A hallmark of life at Knox is the imagination students bring to extracurricular activities. Participation, service and leadership are long-standing traditions, and the wide range of activities going on at any given moment bears witness to their continued vitality. These include academic clubs, political and social service organizations, intramural sports, club sports with competition against other schools and organizations and varsity competition. In addition, Knox students staff an FM radio station, several student publications and an award-winning student literary magazine. The College choir, jazz ensemble, dance troupe and various musical combos provide additional opportunities. Finally, students organize and run their own entertainment programs, including the booking of outside artists. They plan events, schedule concerts, and, via the Student Senate, allocate funds to the myriad Knox clubs and organizations.
In living arrangements as well, there is a great deal of autonomy and a wide array of choices. Living on campus, whether in the residence halls, apartments, special interest houses or fraternities, gives students the opportunity to have fun together, share ideas, widen perspectives and make lasting friendships.
Facilities and Resources
Knox has worked hard to ensure that, in the course of their educational explorations, students are provided with the resources necessary for success. The College has outstanding, modern academic facilities and resources. Spread across the nearly 90-acre campus are 58 buildings, spacious greens, tennis courts, lawns and five athletic fields.
Old Main, home of the history, English and philosophy departments, is one of the most significant pre-Civil War buildings in the Midwest and the setting in 1858 for an historic Lincoln-Douglas debate. Old Main also houses the Gerald and Carol Vovis Center for Research and Advanced Study, which coordinates and funds many of the College's student research programs.
In Seymour Library, Knox is fortunate to have one of the most gracious undergraduate libraries in the country. Built in 1928 and renovated in 1991, it is a wonderful place to study; its oak paneling, wing chairs, fireplaces and leaded-glass windows provide an inviting space for concentration and contemplation. Seymour Library has more than 325,000 book and periodical volumes. The library’s digital collections, including major disciplinary indexes and more than 15,000 periodicals, are accessible on the campus network through the library’s website (http://www.knox.edu/library.html). The library’s extensive Special Collections of rare books, manuscripts, and Knox archives provide many opportunities for students to base major research projects on primary source materials. The rare book collections include the Finley Collection on the early exploration and settlement of the Midwest, the Smith Collection on the American Civil War, the Hughes Collection on Ernest Hemingway and the Lost Generation, and the Strong Collection of maps, photographs, and scientific reports of 19th century explorations of the American Southwest.
In addition to the usual laboratories and classrooms, the Sharvy G. Umbeck Science-Mathematics Center houses the College’s science library and special laboratories equipped for student-faculty research in all the sciences. These labs are furnished with electron microscopes, an NMR, spectrometers and chromatographs, darkrooms, X-ray equipment and instrumentation for experimental psychology. Thanks in part to a series of major grants from the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Health and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Knox is continually adding new scientific equipment, all of which is regularly used by students. Students also make use of the 704-acre Green Oaks Field Study Center, 20 miles from campus, which has areas for ecological research as well as one of the oldest prairie restoration projects in the Midwest.
The Eleanor Abbott Ford Center for the Fine Arts is a spacious, modern building fully equipped for teaching and performance in all the arts. It houses the 600-seat Harbach Theatre, with a revolving stage that changes from proscenium to thrust; the 350-seat Kresge Recital Hall; the 100-seat Studio Theatre; instrumental and choral practice and rehearsal rooms; and spacious ceramics, printmaking, sculpture, drawing and painting studios. The Auxiliary Gymnasium provides dance facilities.
Knox guarantees students open access to its computer resources. The entire campus—all academic and residential rooms—is linked through either wireless or fiber optic connections to the Internet. Every student with a compatible computer can log on from his or her residence hall room. In addition, the College provides four computer facilities across the campus which are open to students. The Founders Lab, located in Seymour Union, provides 50 workstations available 24 hours a day. In the Umbeck Science-Mathematics Center, the Stellyes and Caterpillar Classrooms provide nearly 50 high-end computers for general use. The newly re-designed Dorothy Johnson '39 and Richard Burkhardt '39 Language Center, located in Davis Hall, also houses 20 Mac workstations. The Office of Instructional Technology Support, located in the Umbeck Science-Mathematics Center, provides assistance to students for printing posters and for the use of other digital technologies. Additional assistance is provided by the Help Desk in Information Technology Services.
The College also has excellent facilities for athletics and recreation. Recently renovated Memorial Gymnasium is an outstanding 1000-seat hardwood gymnasium for varsity basketball and volleyball, a swimming pool, weight and Nautilus facilities, as well as exercise and practice rooms. The campus contains six outdoor tennis courts, five playing fields, and a new outdoor track for recreation and intercollegiate competition in soccer, softball, baseball, tennis and track. In addition, the T. Fleming Fieldhouse houses a 200-meter, six-lane running track and additional courts for tennis, volleyball and basketball. The E. & L. Andrew Fitness Center (2006), the Turner Track at Trevor Field (2007), and the recently renovated Knosher Bowl football stadium (2008) complete the athletic facilities. Almost one-third of all Knox students engage in intercollegiate athletic competition in 21 NCAA Division III sports, and over half of the student body takes part in intramural sports. In addition, there are numerous opportunities for biking, jogging and other individual recreational pursuits.
Knox is a college with a proud tradition of independence and integrity, where students learn to take responsibility for their own lives.
Knox is nationally known for the caliber of research carried out by our students. In recent years Knox students have presented their research at national conferences in biology, physics, computer science, chemistry, mathematics, philosophy, English, theatre, psychology and anthropology.
Many Knox students have distinguished themselves in national graduate fellowship competitions. For instance, Knox students have received Mellon Fellowships in the Humanities, Jacob Javits Fellowships, Fulbright and National Science Foundation fellowships. Leading research universities also have awarded fellowships in order to help attract Knox students to their graduate programs. A recent sample includes: the University of Chicago (medicine, biology); Princeton University (theology); University of Toronto (philosophy); Purdue University (composition, rhetoric); University of California-Berkeley (chemistry, ethnic studies); John Marshall School of Law; Yale (psychology, medicine); New York University (creative writing, theatre); Notre Dame University (history, economics); Stanford University (creative writing); Cornell University (physics, human development); University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill (economics, city & regional planning, anthropology, sociology); Massachusetts Institute of Technology (psychology, business, chemistry); University of Michigan (history, political science, law, mathematics); University of Texas (biopsychology); Georgetown University (strategic studies); Carnegie-Mellon University (public policy); Emory University (psychology); and Harvard University (American Studies).
Students who enter the world of business are equally noteworthy. In three Standard & Poor’s surveys of the colleges attended by leading business executives, Knox has consistently ranked among the top 50 colleges and universities in America in the preparation of the nation’s corporate leadership. An examination of the members of the Knox College Board of Trustees shows that many of those successful corporate leaders have remained actively involved in the life of the College. A very brief sample of the employers of recent Knox graduates would include Abbott Laboratories, State Farm, Hewitt Associates, Genentech, Micron PC, Caterpillar, Sprint, ABN-AMRO, Maytag, R.R. Donnelly, Allstate, Nextel, Goldman Sachs, Mitsubishi Corp., Citibank, and Pharmacia Upjohn.
Knox students succeed around the world. The College has been identified as one of the 50 most important colleges in the country in graduating people who go on to eminence in international affairs. Knox alumni with international credentials range from corporate executives, to ambassadors, to Peace Corps volunteers.
An Education for the 21st Century
Knox students succeed because they take responsibility for their own education. Knox graduates have been nurtured and challenged along the way by a talented, demanding, yet supportive faculty; they have mastered a curriculum that has given both breadth and depth to their learning; and they have had the benefit of outstanding educational resources. Crucial also is the fact that they have lived in a remarkably diverse and active campus community, where people from around the world learn from one another.
Knox graduates can speak and write coherently and with insight; they can think and create for themselves; and they are prepared to grasp the initiative, in active collaboration with others of diverse backgrounds. Knox graduates have the education they need to flourish amidst the challenges of the 21st century.