I think my love of liberal arts colleges is a pretty poorly-kept secret, so it’s really no surprise that I ventured out to one of Michigan’s beloved liberal arts institutions during my recent trek to the center part of the mitten a couple of weeks ago. Having graduated from one of their longtime rivals, I admit it felt like a bit of a trip into enemy territory – but since the younger siblings of two of my undergraduate roommates had wonderful experiences at this particular school and have gone on to become very successful in the science fields (one is a doctor and one is finishing a PhD in chemistry), my feelings of disloyalty were quickly dispelled.
Where did my visit take me? To the campus of beautiful Alma College, home of the Scots, of course!
Alma is a true liberal arts college in every sense of the word. Its 1,400 undergraduate students have over 50 programs of academic study to choose from but the majority will double major or select one or more minors to give themselves a broader and deeper curricular experience. This means that students who want to pursue their interests in the hard sciences also have an opportunity to study (or even just participate) in the college’s notably strong music programs as well and can still graduate within four years. It also means that students in the nursing program can broaden their focus outside of their selected career path and that future teachers can hone their expertise in a few fields of study so as to better impart knowledge to their future students.
A smaller student body at Alma also enables the college to run two programs geared specifically toward making sure that their students have successful post-graduate outcomes; the first is their Alma Commitment, a program that guarantees each Alma student will graduate in four years (or less!) and that if, through circumstances beyond their control, a student isn’t able to do so, he or she will receive free tuition for an additional term. The second program is the Alma Venture, an experiential learning opportunity that can come in the form of an internship, off-campus experience, undergraduate research, or a combination of all those things. Students are eligible to receive up to $2,500 to fund these experiences and typically will execute them as juniors. Also, thanks to a four-four-one calendar consisting of two four-month semesters and a shorter, one-month May term, every Alma student can take the opportunity to travel off-campus if they so choose.
Equestrians don’t have to worry about giving up their saddle time to attend Alma either; the college has a new but thriving IHSA western team who ride off campus at a nearby farm and have found success in regional competition. You can learn more about them by visiting their Facebook page or following them on Twitter (as well as keeping up with their on and off-campus adventures). Hunt seat riders are welcome to switch disciplines and join them or may find another barn in the area to ride with. Meanwhile, all horsemen (and women) – regardless of discipline – who attend Alma are within easy access of riding and showing opportunities in the Lansing area, Traverse City, and even Indiana and Ohio (which are a straight shot south on the highway).