Austin College recognized in book

By: Christine Nicholson Email
By: Christine Nicholson Email

SHERMAN, TX -- A local college is being recognized for it's capacity to change lives. Austin College is included in the updated edition of an influential book released Tuesday.

It's called "Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About Colleges", a title many students like Austin College senior Sameen Wajid agree with.

"Austin College has definitely changed my life as dramatic as that may sound," said Sameen. "But it has because you get such a person feel for the professors. Like I just saw my professor out there and she ran and gave me a hug. And you just feel like everyone really cares about you and are passionate about your success. And if you're passionate about something, they do everything they can to empower you."

*According to the press release from Austin College:

Austin College is included in the updated edition of the influential book Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About Colleges, released today.

The College was included in the original edition of Colleges that Change Lives, published in 1996 and written by Loren Pope, former education editor of The New York Times and longtime education consultant.

Revised editions of the book, also including Austin College, were published by Pope in 2000 and 2006. After Pope died in 2008, his family hired Denver-based education writer Hilary Masell Oswald to compile an updated edition of the book. The writer conducted all new school tours, conducting in-depth interviews, and built on Loren Pope’s original work to create a completely updated, more expansive work. There were some changes in the schools included, set at a total of 40 by design.

“We are very pleased that Austin College is included among these 40 exemplary schools,” said Austin College President Marjorie Hass. “We work very hard to provide an education with challenging academics supported by expert faculty members whose first priority is their students. The residential community of our campus emphasizes an engagement beyond the classroom, providing opportunities for leadership, collaboration, faculty-directed research, and personal growth. Austin College is a place for students to see themselves and the world with new perspectives – indeed, changing lives and creating possibilities.”

In writing the original book, Pope wanted to help high school students find colleges where they could develop a lifelong love of learning and build a foundation for a successful and fulfilling life beyond college. The colleges Pope suggested to students were not necessarily well known, but offered specific distinguishing attributes, including:

Low student-to-faculty ratios that foster collaboration, engaged learning, and personal attention and classes taught by professors, not graduate students
Faculty who are dedicated and passionate about teaching, advising, and mentoring undergraduate students
A commitment to undergraduate education that focuses on the liberal arts and sciences, with multiple opportunities for undergraduate research
A living and learning environment that is primarily residential and emphasizes the benefits of community, personal growth, participation, and involvement
Smaller student enrollments that allow students to be known and recognized as individuals
Out-of-classroom learning opportunities that provide students with an added perspective about themselves, their interests, and the global community. Participation in internships, study abroad, service to others, and special interest activities is common and expected.
Consideration of everything about an applicant—not just numbers on an application—in making admission decisions
Alumni networks that help graduates with professional and career development opportunities as well as foster lifelong friendships based on an involved and engaged undergraduate student experience

Many Austin College graduates agree that the educational experience did, in fact, provide those foundations. “At Austin College I received an excellent liberal arts education that has served me well in my legal and political careers—and helped me solidify my identity and my priorities,” said Ambassador Ron Kirk, U.S. Trade Representative since 2009 and a 1976 graduate of the College. “Learning in an environment with faculty who are dedicated and passionate about teaching was a life-changing experience for me. The things that were attractive to me about Austin College are still the same—the strong academic focus and the sense of community on campus.”

Kirk served two terms, 1995-2002, as mayor of Dallas, the first African-American in the role. Prior to taking that office, he served as Texas Secretary of State under Governor Ann Richards. He also has practiced law as a partner in the international law firm Vinson & Elkins and was named one of "The 50 Most Influential Minority Lawyers in America" by The National Law Journal in 2008. He also was named one of the nation’s top government relations lawyers in The Best Lawyers in America from 2007-2009. He received the University of Texas Distinguished Alumni Award in 2001, the Woodrow Wilson Center for Public Policy’s Outstanding Public Service Award in 2000, the Young Texas Exes Award in 1995, and the Austin College Distinguished Alumni Award in 1994. Kirk received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters Degree from Austin College in 2006 and is a senior member of the Austin College Board of Trustees.

After the original edition of Colleges That Change Lives was published, the schools featured in the book joined together to form an organization by the same name. That organization sponsors college fairs around the country that invite students to meet with representatives from all the participating colleges.

The revised edition, available from Penguin Books for $17, includes details about admissions standards, the curriculum, extracurricular activities, and educational philosophies—as well as comments on the look and feel of the campus, the quality of dining hall food, the percentage of students who study abroad, average SAT/ACT scores, the percentage of students who go to graduate school, and what professors have to say about their schools. The new book also offers a chapter about how students with learning disabilities can find schools that fit their needs.

*Press Release provided by Austin College.

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