A Visit to Roanoke College

As our students hit the road each fall to continue (or begin) visiting the schools they’re interested in, we counselors too get a bit of wanderlust and hit the road in search of new and interesting campus we haven’t seen before – or would love to see again.  That’s how I (and 39 of my colleagues) found myself on a tour bus in western Virginia last week as we headed off to visit eight colleges in three days.**

The Roanoke College library is housed in a beautiful historic building.
The Roanoke College library is housed in a beautiful historic building.

(**Disclaimer – Students and parents:  We are professional campus visitors who are fully certified, trained, and practiced at conducting this amount of visiting within the short time span allotted.  When it comes to visiting multiple colleges on your search for the one that is the right fit, please do as we say and not as we do and only visit one campus per day!)

Our first stop on the tour (hosted by the wonderful folks at the Council of Independent Colleges of Virginia (CICV)) was Roanoke College in Salem, Virginia.  (Yes, you read that correctly; Roanoke College is not actually within the city of Roanoke, but instead is 10 minutes away.  For all of you hikers out there, it’s also just 10 miles from the Appalachian Trail.)  Here, we were treated to lunch and tours of this fantastic and growing liberal arts college.

Thanks to a recent enrollment boom, the college currently boasts an undergraduate enrollment of around 2,000 students and have recently built or renovated an additional 700 residential spaces for them to occupy.  Forthcoming renovations to the school’s science facilities were highlighted during our time there, as well as their ongoing commitment to educating students for the jobs that will be necessary tomorrow rather than just worrying about the jobs that are available today.  To that end, the curriculum at Roanoke is what’s known as inquiry-based; that is, students must take a certain set of courses as part of their graduation requirements, but what specific versions of those courses they actually enroll in is based on the particular student’s interests and future goals.  So while every student at Roanoke is required to take statistics, they don’t all have to take cut and dried statistics with no practical application – they can take statistics for weather forecasting or insurance adjusting, etc.

How about this for a great view of the athletic fields?  Go Maroons!
How about this for a great view of the athletic fields? Go Maroons!

The ultimate goal for each and every Roanoke College graduate, then, is that the students emerge from their four years as agile, creative, and skilled thinkers who can engage in active problem-solving, research, and analysis on the job with strong written and oral communication skills and experience working in small groups.  As such, every senior at the college must take a required capstone course wherein they are asked to design a solution to a presented problem while working in a small group.  The group must then stand and present their solution in the form of an oral defense – not a situation to be taken lightly!

The campus is beautiful with its brick walkways and tree-shaded lanes and it’s adjacent proximity to the small town of Salem (population 25,000) means that students can safely and easily walk downtown for a cup of coffee or just to explore.  With a location that puts students so close to outdoor activities like hiking, biking, and canoeing, the outdoor programs at the college are also hugely popular, including an outdoor pre-orientation program for first-year students.

Riders need not fear that they’ll miss out if they attend Roanoke either; the school has a club team that is student run and rides at a nearby barn.  They also often take the opportunity to trail ride into the mountains for a chance to explore the world outside of the arena.

Could Roanoke’s inquiry-based approach to higher education be your perfect fit?  Contact me and we’ll find out!


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