The final visit of the week for our hardy group of counselors was to Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, a small, faith-based college of just over 3,000 students (2,789 are undergraduates) that has a unique and surprising balance to its liberal arts (and sciences) curriculum.
What’s surprising about the academic programs at Messiah?
At most colleges – even at most small, private, liberal arts colleges – the arts and sciences are well-balanced when it comes to course offerings and the amount of access that students have to courses and opportunities in all areas. (This is, in fact, one of the primary advantages and strengths of the modern liberal arts education.) At Messiah, however, this balance is taken to a delightful extreme. Of the college’s eighty-plus majors, the most popular are its engineering, nursing, and psychology majors – and yet, when we crossed campus and found ourselves inside the new and cavernous Calvin and Janet High Center for Worship and Performing Arts, it was clear that the arts aren’t a side program at Messiah. Instead, they are front and center beside the STEM fields.
(Indeed, as we toured the impressive facilities, I heard a choir rehearsal in one room and we were able to overlook a brass quintet rehearsal down the hall. The center also features a great hall that can seat 790!)
New majors also include the study of the Chinese language as well as Chinese business and off-campus and cross-cultural experiences are readily available to students either during the academic year or as part of a shortened January term. In fact, Messiah ranks among the top twenty colleges in the nation for sending its students abroad with 76 percent of students choosing to take the opportunity before they graduate. (And whether they travel abroad or remain right on campus, nearly all – 98 percent – of Messiah students participate in voluntary service of some kind. The college places a great deal of emphasis on giving back to its community and to the world at large.)
Unfortunately, equestrians, Messiah lacks a formal equestrian club and program, so if you find that the programs and community appeal to you, you’ll either need to start your own from scratch or find your way into greater Mechanicsburg to find outlets for your riding pursuits. Still, if there were ever a school that would provide the right type of supportive structure to a student who wanted to pursue such a course of action, Messiah would be it.