If you’ve been a longtime reader of this blog, you know that, when it comes to visiting campuses, I’m a huge proponent of doing as I say and not as I do. More specifically, when I tell you that our counselors’ visit to Mary Baldwin College in Staunton, Virginia was the third visit we completed in the space of just one day, I must emphasize the fact that we are higher education professionals. We know the ins and outs of campus tours, what questions to ask, what information we need to take away, and which shoes to wear to guarantee that we don’t come away with blisters at the end of the day (!). The takeaway for you, parents and students, is not to attempt the same feat when it comes to your own campus visits.
But back to the wonderful women of Mary Baldwin:
First founded as the Augusta Female Seminary in 1842, the women’s college is still at the heart of a modern-day, twenty-first century liberal arts college, but the academic and co-curricular programs have also evolved to include an early college program and graduate programming for master’s degrees in education, theatre (performance and scholarship), health care masters and doctorates (doctor of physical therapy and doctor of occupational therapy), and the Virginia Women’s Institute for Leadership, which features the only all-female cadet corps in the United States. Students in the cadet corps are fully immersed not only in the academic and extracurricular activities of the college as a whole, but also adhere to military regulations that include uniforms, dorm room inspections, drill training, and a high academic and moral standard to uphold. After graduation, cadets can choose careers in service or civilian life depending on their goals and interests.
Like many of its liberal arts brethren (or, perhaps more aptly, sisters), Mary Baldwin is a small school with a residential campus; just under 700 students comprise the undergraduate student body and their average class size is 17. True to its roots, the school has a set of unique traditions that have been handed down from class year to class year, things like Apple Day, an annual event that features canceled classes, a carnival, and – you guessed it! – the consumption of a variety of apple dishes at the campus dining hall. Mary Baldwin students are also very service-focused and seize opportunities to volunteer in their community (the city of Staunton and the edge of the Mary Baldwin campus blur into one another so walking downtown is easy).
Equestrians need not fear that they’ll miss out on riding opportunities if they find a place for themselves at Mary Badlwin either. In fact, during our campus tour (after having seen several schools noted for their riding programs), I walked past the only student I saw attired in riding clothes in the whole week of tours!
Recently reinstated after a short absence from campus, the club rides at Grey Gables Farm in nearby Swoope, Virginia and even those who don’t wish to compete on the hunt seat IHSA team can ride for physical education credit if they wish. It’s fair to say that, while the club is small at present, it is both mighty and growing – and with the way Mary Baldwin women are encouraged to take leadership roles and forge paths, there is a big future awaiting this group of young equestrians.