By George Cornelius
I attended a large public university. Both my sons attended small colleges. One attended a liberal arts college, and the other attended a small, top-ranked engineering school. My alma mater has a liberal arts college and a highly ranked engineering school. Notwithstanding my strong affinity for my alma mater, I am glad my sons went elsewhere. Here is why:
When I graduated, I did not know a single professor, and not one knew me. I was scared to attend my one seminar class because I knew I would have to participate. Participation is not a strong point in most universities. I pretty much got through four years without participating. In most cases, that was not a problem because there were few opportunities for participation. That was fine with me; I was there to get a degree. I was too immature and naïve to appreciate the other opportunities that stood before me, or to appreciate the competitive nature of the world that awaited a new college graduate. As a result, I came out pretty much the way I went in, albeit a little more mature and developed.
My sons, on the other hand, grew tremendously during their college years. I vividly recall my one college-age son addressing a large public gathering, with amazing confidence and poise, speaking in ways, both in content and style, well beyond where I was at his age. There was one simple reason: his superb education at a small liberal arts college where nonparticipation was not an option. Consequently, he grew far more than I had at his age and was much better prepared for life. This remarkable growth was evidenced in his writing and thinking as well. He writes incredibly well, and his capacity to think and reason, and to gain a deeper level of understanding, reflects the extraordinary undergraduate education he received.
My other son was not the liberal arts type, although he is one of the best-rounded people I know. His small college transformed him. It took a kid who had relied on his innate intelligence and advanced math and computer knowledge and stretched and grew him. His college engaged his capacities fully and held high standards and expectations before him. It demanded a lot, and he responded. A strong work ethic developed that serves him well to this day. Today, he has a successful career and his own website on the side that gets about 10,000 hits each day and 20,000 on weekends and generates significant supplemental income.
People who attend large universities can have a successful, rewarding life. My own situation is illustrative. I did not grow much in college. But I was fortunate in being able later to attend law school. That experience was everything I did not have in college. It was engaging, highly participatory and extremely challenging. It was there I grew.
Bridgewater students have an opportunity that I suspect many do not fully appreciate: an opportunity to have a highly personalized, engaging, participatory learning experience. I also fear many do not appreciate how competitive the world is that awaits them following graduation. The best opportunities will go to those who are best prepared. But that should work to the advantage of a BC Eagle, for at BC one can grow in extraordinary ways. One can graduate as a poised, confident thinker and writer, or an entrepreneurial minded computer guy with multiple job offers. In short, one can prepare oneself to live life fully and productively, and be much farther down that road than I was at that age.
When I walk across campus and see students wearing tee shirts with other universities’ names and logos, I think, if only they knew. If only they knew how good and remarkable this place is. If only they knew the opportunities they have here. If only they felt the pride in their school that the situation warrants. I recall my college years, and then I think about my sons. And I become even more passionate about this place called Bridgewater College.