College Cousins: Wake Forest and U of Richmond

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In this issue, we feature Wake Forest University of Winston-Salem, North Carolina and the University of Richmond, located in Richmond, Virginia. Both are small universities located in mid-sized communities, but don’t kid yourself: there’s nothing small or mid-sized about the education and collegiate experience they offer their students.

Wake Forest’s 5,000 undergraduates represent a diverse group. Nearly 30% are non-Caucasian, and students come from 40 countries and 48 of our 50 states. When not studying, students can check out 194 clubs and organizations. When it comes to academics, Wake Forest holds its own. Students can earn bachelors’ degrees in 44 fields of study and select from 60 minors.

The University of Richmond has a similar profile. Of its 3,000 students, about 30% are non-Caucasian and 9% of its students come from abroad – in fact, from 71 countries. UR’s suburban campus is minutes away from Virginia’s state capital and only an hour and a half from our nation’s capital. It offers opportunities in 17 Division 1 varsity sports and is home to student organizations of all kinds, from African dance to rock climbing to Habitat for Humanity.

Academically, the University of Richmond can also hold its head high. It offers more than 60 undergraduate majors, and students perform well in them. Perhaps that has something to do with UR’s small class sizes and strong student-faculty ratio. Part of its secret may also lie with its living and learning programs, which bring together students who share similar interests. UR has had success with several, and this fall the school will launch the Richmond Endeavor, a living and learning experience designed especially for freshmen. UR students are also globally minded; 60% study abroad at some point during their collegiate years.

UR makes the most of its small size. A high percentage of students (87%) live on campus, which encourages opportunities for student interaction and camaraderie – although UR’s highly regarded dining services may contribute to that level of success. Students nevertheless study hard, and it shows in one particularly impressive stat. In 2018, UR tied for the university with the most Fulbright U.S. Scholars, an impressive achievement indeed.

Wake Forest can do some bragging too. It ranks very high for undergraduate teaching (tied for 5th in 2016) and has had its share of Rhode Scholars and Fulbright recipients. Wake Forest’s students consider the school to be the perfect size – big enough to have a degree of academic breadth and top-flight research centers, yet not so big that it can’t offer small classes where students have opportunities to engage with their professors. Don’t get the idea, though, that classroom settings are all that the school offers. Wake Forest encourages students to study abroad, and either operates or maintains affiliate relationships with numerous programs abroad. It also has a robust research identity due to its Centers and Institutes that explore key issues relating to our society today. They include the Eudaimonia Institute, the Pro Humanitate Institute and a number of centers that delve into issues relating to politics, science and business.

These two universities are stellar examples of institutions that “do it large” while staying small. Although both are proud of their lengthy southern heritage (both were founded by Baptists in the 1830s), no one could accuse them of reflecting the stereotypical images of the “Old South.” These successful universities have found a way to meld the best of their history with the best of today.

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