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Alumni > Knox Magazine > Knox Magazine & More > Knox Magazine Archives > Spring 2015

Spring 2015 Letters

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Megan Scott

Editor, Knox Magazine

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309-341-7760

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Editor's Note

Lessons at 40

Knox Magazine Editor Megan Scott '96

I turned 40 this past summer, and after reaching this oft-celebrated (or dreaded) milestone, I've spent a lot of time thinking about other milestones that I've experienced. It didn't take long for me to realize that most of these moments are associated with Knox College.

I'm a third-generation legacy, so Knox has always been a part of my life, but my relationship with the school changed when I became a student 18 years ago. I took courses in philosophy, women's studies, and Black studies for the first time; lived with a roommate from Japan; read Moby Dick; studied abroad in London; completed an Honors project; met my husband; and built life-long friendships.

Almost a decade after I graduated, I returned to Knox, this time as the advancement communications coordinator. I had the opportunity to do things I've never done before -- write annual reports, edit this alumni magazine, interview alumni of all backgrounds, and understand more closely how the College works. Each year since then, I've been given opportunities to stretch and grow my professional skills, learning something new about myself and Knox along the way.

But this year has been different. While I don't feel much older than current students, I do feel a profound difference between myself and students for the first time in my Knox career. And that's made me think. A lot. I've realized that it's not just my age but my position at Knox that contributes to this new feeling. Over the last year, through walkouts and protests and in campus conversations, our students have pointed out the gaps between Knox's values and rhetoric and their lived experiences. My job is to help the College respond to their concerns, which, at times, has been professionally and personally challenging. But that's OK. Whether I'm a student, alumna, or staff member, my connection to this college is always, at its heart, about my education. Knox challenged me to confront and challenge my beliefs as a student. Why should it be any different as an employee?

I learn from my colleagues, from our alumni, and, most important, from our students. I am constantly encouraged to keep an open mind, to challenge my assumptions, to cultivate my curiosity, to acknowledge and correct my mistakes, and to grow as an individual. And this isn't easy. It wasn't easy 18 years ago, and it's especially not so today. I may be older and wiser (I hope), but, thanks to Knox, I'm still learning and growing. And that's always a good thing.
---Megan Scott '96

From the President

The Value of our Prairie College

Knox College President Teresa Amott

Exorbitant tuitions, unemployed graduates drowning in debt, useless liberal arts degrees -- this is the picture of higher education painted in the national media. As a liberal arts college graduate and current president, as well as a labor economist, I find these accounts painful and, sometimes, infuriating. I imagine you may feel the same way.

My training as an economist has taught me that the only way to combat such inaccuracy is with facts, and so, I share some facts with which you could rebut these myths.

Tuition: We are very mindful at Knox of the impact of tuition increases on our families and have made every effort to make them our last resort as we seek to provide enhanced services and facilities to our students. (The growth in tuition between 2014 and 2015 will be the lowest increase in 40 years.) Some of the factors contributing to the rise in education costs nationwide and at Knox are enhancements, such as the growing sophistication of technology and scientific instrumentation, safety requirements like dormitory sprinklers, and growth in the quality and scope of services in areas like career services, counseling, and study abroad. But it is incumbent upon us at liberal arts colleges to be relentless in our pursuit of appropriate cost-efficiencies. At Knox, for instance, we have saved many thousands of dollars through implementing open-source technologies and cloud-based software. As a result of these and other economies, U.S. News & World Report named Knox one of the top 10 most cost-efficient small colleges in the country (9 of the 10 are in the Midwest!).

Debt and employment: The astronomical debt burdens you read about are naturally a cause for concern, but it is important to recognize that the debt figures usually cited include graduate school debt, which accounts for the lion's share of the total. The figures also include debt incurred by students at for-profit institutions, as well as those who fail to earn a degree. One quarter of students who graduated with a bachelor's degree from a four-year private college or university did not have any educational debt, and nearly half had less than $20,000 in debt. Moreover, the difference between the median debt levels for graduates who borrowed at public versus independent institutions is only $4,375. The average Knox student graduates with approximately $26K in debt, less than the national average, but many of our students go on to earn master's, professional, and doctorate degrees. To help them avoid incurring burdensome debt, we need to work hard to replace loans with grants in our financial aid packages. Knox's Above & Beyond fundraising initiatives (www.knox.edu/aboveandbeyond) have set a goal of $5 million in endowed scholarships to help us lower our graduates' indebtedness, and we are poised to achieve that goal in the coming year. I hope you will help us raise even more!

The liberal arts degree: There is widespread confusion about what, exactly, a "liberal arts degree" really means. Some have even asserted that science degrees are not liberal arts! At Knox, with our remarkable history of preparing students for careers in science, medicine and technology, we know better, but the misinformation continues. We also know what employers say: more than 80 percent of employers state that every student should have a broad foundation in the liberal arts. The success of our graduates -- who lead Fortune 500 companies and nonprofits, conduct major research, teach at leading educational institutions, found startups, argue cases in front of the Supreme Court, and more -- speaks for itself. But for a fuller picture, I refer you to the website of the Council on Independent Colleges (www.liberalartspower.org) or to Fareed Zakaria's new book, In Defense of Liberal Education.

I believe that there is no better preparation for a 21st-century world than a liberal arts education. Thanks to my position, I am able to see this belief realized every day in the accomplishments of our students and graduates. I encourage you to visit the Knox website regularly or follow us on social media to learn more about those accomplishments. That, together with the facts I've shared above, should provide all of us with enough fodder to convince anyone of the value of our prairie college.
---Teresa L. Amott


Letters to the Editor

Knox Connections

I was looking through the most recent issue and came across Film & Everyday Eco- Disasters, co-authored by Knox alumnus Joseph K. Heumann '71. As it so happens, I worked on that book as a typesetter at the University of Nebraska Press -- you'll find my name on the copyright page. But I thought it was especially hilarious because, while I worked on the book, I found myself thinking, this book is very Knox-y, the sort of thing we'd have a class about. And I was oblivious to the Knox connection until I saw the magazine. Knox is such an amazingly talented and small world, and once you become a part of it, you recognize those values in others without realizing it. I thought I'd share this story with you all at the magazine, that you'd get a kick out of it as much as I did.
-Renni Johnson '13

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Printed on Wednesday, November 22, 2017

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