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Whitworth's 2005-2010 strategic plan charts an ambitious course for expanding student opportunities for research, international study and service; building new facilities in the arts and sciences; and elevating Whitworth's distinctive commitments to academic excellence and faith-learning integration. To illustrate how the plan will shape the Whitworth experience, we offer the following journal of a fictitious but representative student who is considering enrollment at the college now and will graduate in five years.
I've narrowed my list of prospective schools down to Seattle Pacific University, University of Puget Sound and Whitworth. All three have strong science and education programs, my potential majors of choice at the moment. They also have great choir and track programs, which interest me. I like the idea of attending a Christian college, but I'm most concerned about academic quality and being at a school where I'll learn how to think rather than what to think. The final decision will probably depend on my campus visits and financial aid.
After visiting all three schools, I'd say that SPU and UPS have some newer facilities, especially in the sciences, but Whitworth has a beautiful campus
and is planning new buildings that may be done before I graduate. And I was really turned on by Whitworth's mission. I loved what the president said about Whitworth's commitment to Christ making the college more, rather than less, open to tough questions and the pursuit of truth. What surprised me is how hard it is to get into Whitworth. The average SAT score for last year's freshman class was over 1200 (1800 under the new scoring). A friend of mine got in with an 1150, but I'm going to re-take it just to be safe.
I got my financial-aid packages, and Whitworth is neither the most nor the least expensive. I've had calls from both the track coach and the choir director at Whitworth. They seem to really want me to go there. And, really, I think it's the best place for me. So, Whitworth it is.
I didn't get into the main freshman dorm – Baldwin-Jenkins – so I'm living in a hall in The Village. It's not bad, but I don't think any of us will be upset when they tear it down. And it does offer a great view of Duvall Hall, the new dorm that just opened that has four-bedroom super-suites and great common areas. My roommate and I hope to get in there next year.
I really like my freshman seminar with Kamesh Sankaran. He's a brilliant physicist who came to Whitworth two years ago from Princeton. We're talking about how science has affected – and has been affected by – religion, politics and society at large. Kamesh also is helping us think about our majors and career choices as callings – where we can use our greatest gifts to meet the world's greatest needs. I'm still pretty sure I want to go pre-med, but this class has me thinking more about other majors and grad-school options.
Our track team won the conference championship and sent three athletes to nationals. I didn't do as well as I had hoped, but somehow our coach, Toby Schwarz, has made us a team of mostly individual competitors who share in each other's successes. It's nothing like my high-school team. What's cool is that Whitworth is in the lead to win the all-sports trophy for the third year in a row.
Well, we're Whitworth University now. Not much seems to have changed, but I guess the new name is supposed to avoid confusion with two-year colleges that are dropping "community" from their titles and to make it easier for Whitworth to recruit international students.
I'm taking Core 250, which is supposed to be "the hardest class you'll ever love" (or the greatest class you'll ever hate, depending on who you ask). So far, it's a lot of reading and studying. We had a cool lecture on Blaise Pascal today by Leonard Oakland, who has been teaching the class for 30 years but still gets so excited by the ideas that you can't help getting sucked in. What I love about Pascal is that he was brilliant and used his intellect to make major discoveries in geometry and number theory. But he also said "The heart has reasons that reason knows not of," and it's knowledge of the heart that leads to God. I don't know if he's behind Whitworth's motto – an education of mind and heart – but this connection between faith and reason keeps coming up, and Pascal makes a lot of sense to me.
Our choir is gearing up for the Christmas-festival concerts. The material is really challenging, but the director, Marc Hafso, is amazing, and I've never been surrounded by so many great voices. The only downer is that the rehearsal space is cramped and has lousy acoustics, so it's a real challenge not to over-sing and strain my voice. They're talking about building a new performing-arts center, which can't happen too soon.
Whitworth is really pushing intercultural study. It has expanded its number of exchange-partner institutions around the world and is talking about opening an international center in Africa, Central America or Europe. I'm thinking about studying next fall at the Center for Intercultural Studies in Spain. The college has been sending students there for more than 20 years, and my friend who went last year had a great experience.
I was one of eight students selected for a summer science fellowship, which includes a $3,500 stipend plus a housing grant. I'm working with chemistry professor Kerry Breno on developing water-soluble catalysts for the production of polyethylene, which is the most widely used plastic in the world. Water-soluble catalysts would be more environmentally friendly and energy-efficient and also less hazardous than the catalysts currently used in industry, so it's pretty important research that could have a huge impact on human health, pollution and energy consumption. We hope it will lead to a published research paper or two, which would give me a leg up if I decide to go to med school.
I'm learning as much this semester about myself, my faith and my country as I am about Spain. We just got back from visiting Granada, where Muslims, Jews and Christians got along great until the Muslims were expelled and the Jews were forced by the Inquisition to convert or meet Yahweh. A lot has changed, but the intersections among religion, society and politics are still a big deal here and, I think, in the U.S. too. That stuff from Core 250 really comes in handy for context. Of course, the bus broke down on the way back, and we wound up spending four hours eating tapas and talking in a village in the middle of nowhere. But Spain has taught me that keeping a schedule has got to be one of the least interesting ways to fill one's life.
I put off taking my required art class until the new visual-arts building opened this year. Good call. The old building was built a million years ago and was, well, old. I'm taking sculpture, and have even surprised myself with some of my creations. It sounds like they're going to break ground on the new science building as soon as enough funds are donated. That'll be great, because even though enrollment growth has slowed down overall, it's booming in the sciences, and the science center is bursting at the seams. My labs are scheduled until 10 p.m.
I took the MCATs and collapsed for the next 12 hours. I'd feel more relieved if I didn't have to finish applications to four medical schools. The University of Washington is really competitive, but it's my first choice, and Whitworth has a good track record of getting students in there.
My class has been doing a service-learning project with a homework-helpers program tutoring low-income children, and I found out today that one of our kids was beaten by his mom's boyfriend. Tyler was born with about 17 strikes against him but is all heart and hope. He's a walking argument for and against God. I think I should give serious thought to whether I might do as much good as a teacher as I would as a doctor.
I was accepted into the UW Medical School, but before I commit the next eight years of my life to studying medicine I want to make sure it's my calling. I'm thinking about applying to Whitworth's Master's in Teaching Program – just to explore the sound of that call. The MIT program offers enough classroom experience to give me a clear picture of teaching and also has an outstanding placement rate.