News that Loyola College might change its name to Loyola University brought to my mind a conversation I had not long ago with Sarah Susanka, author of The Not So Big House series of books. We were talking about the truism that "bigger isn't always better" in the context of McMansions, and their effects on families and neighborhoods.
Ms. Susanka observed that big houses let the families inside have enough space that they can go for long periods without seeing or interacting with each other, and that the attached garages in bigger homes let owners come and go without getting to know their neighbors through casual front yard conversations. In other words, the benefits of large homes come with substantial trade-offs.
Similarly, the word "university" connotes something larger and more impressive than a mere "college." But such a change would come with substantial drawbacks.
One of Loyola College's great strengths is the bedrock liberal arts foundation that every student receives regardless of major course of study. Every student must complete coursework in English literature, philosophy, writing, foreign language, social science, fine arts, history, theology, and ethics, along with math and science. The long list of requirements may seem onerous to the student working toward a degree in business or engineering, but the goal is clear. One graduates Loyola both holding a degree in one area, and as a well-rounded, thinking person in the Jesuit tradition.
That liberal arts foundation is a hallmark of top institutions that have "college" in their names, including Boston College, Wellesley, Dartmouth, Vassar, College of the Holy Cross, Bates, Oberlin, and others. Many well-respected universities have remained colleges in name despite their varied curricula and strong academic prowess. Loyola, which grants advanced degrees in a number of disciplines, and has a highly regarded business school, strong math and science department, and outstanding college of liberal arts, is certainly among those.
A sense of campus community is also inherent in the term "college." By definition, universities are larger institutions that house individual schools that, in turn, educate students in specific courses of study.
Students on these larger campuses often say they know few people outside of their own majors. By contrast, students at Loyola enjoy meeting and working with their peers across the invisible lines that majors can draw.
Combine Loyola's varied list of core courses with a long list of individual majors and its small size - 3,500 undergraduate students - and it's no wonder that it boasts a strong sense of community. Despite its growing national reputation, Loyola College remains at its core a small institution where professors - not teaching assistants or researchers - teach classes and get to know each of their students, and where students know their teachers and their peers. As its own Web site says, Loyola "retains the name 'college' to emphasize the nature of the academic community - a close-knit, student-focused living and learning environment."
A Loyola College education served my father well throughout his life and has done the same for me and countless others.
There are three Loyola Universities in the United States but only one Loyola College. I hope the Loyola trustees will respect the school's proud tradition, and retain its name.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kim Hitselberger Fernandez, a freelance writer in Bethesda, graduated from Loyola in 1992, and was editor of The Greyhound. Her father graduated from Loyola in 1960.
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