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Top Schools for Conservatives, Old-Fashioned Liberals, and People of Faith
Intercollegiate Studies Institute
Copyright © 2006
Intercollegiate Studies Institute
All right reserved.
Wilmore, Kentucky asbury.edu
Asbury College proclaims in its bulletin that "every college student should have a well-balanced
general education. This prepares a person for living, regardless of vocation or
professional interests." Unlike other colleges that wax eloquent about the importance
of a liberal education without actually providing one, Asbury takes its idea of balance
seriously. By requiring students to spend half of their academic credits studying the
liberal arts and the other half meeting requirements for one of a variety of majors, Asbury
College helps students prepare not only for careers, but also for lives enriched by a liberal
arts education-and by the spirituality of the Methodist Holiness tradition. Christened
Kentucky Holiness College at its founding in 1890, the school was later renamed
Asbury College to honor Bishop Francis Asbury, the founder of American Methodism.
Today, the college would be a strong choice for any student in the region who shares its
evangelical Christian faith, and particularly for one who aspires to teach at the secondary-school
Academic Life: Setting Standards in Kentucky
Asbury College,unlike many of the Methodist colleges named for John Wesley, remains
dedicated to its Wesleyan-Arminian origins, and its student body has traditionally been
drawn from the Methodist-Holiness churches and the Salvation Army. This last connection
is especially strong; the school notes with pride that
"[more] members of the Salvation Army in the USA have
attended Asbury College than any other college or university
in the country ... [including] a large number of high-ranking
Salvation Army Officers." In fact, the current president
of Asbury, alumnus Dr. Paul A. Rader, formerly served
as general of the Salvation Army, the highest office in the
worldwide organization. Dr. Rader has recently announced
his decision to retire, but he has pledged to continue his
involvement with the school to ensure a smooth transition
to the leadership of successor William Crothers.
Asbury College offers nearly fifty majors, from art
to youth ministry, and additional minors. Education and
ministry are emphasized, but a number of science and
humanities majors are also included. Regardless of major,
each student is required to complete the core curriculum of forty-eight to sixty credit
hours. This core curriculum includes
twelve credit hours in English;
twelve in a foreign language (or demonstrated proficiency to the end of the
twelve in theology, and philosophy;
three in physical education;
nine in Western tradition:
six in science;
three in mathematics; and
six in the social sciences.
The required classes include surveys of the Old and New Testaments, research and communication
classes, a biology and a physical science class, a music and art appreciation
class, and a psychology, sociology, or anthropology class.
The most substantial foundation in the liberal arts, however, comes from two
yearlong courses in English and history. The two-semester sophomore sequence in
English, "Masterworks: Western Classics" I and II, covers Western literature from the
ancients to the present, while the two-semester freshman sequence in history, "Western
Civilization" I and II, is a "survey of western social, intellectual, aesthetic, religious, and
institutional development from antiquity ... to the present." While some students
regard these requirements as hoops through which to jump, others appreciate the value
of comprehensive liberal learning. Some faculty (according to a student, "especially
philosophy and history professors") are eloquent advocates for the importance of such
Not surprisingly for a school that emphasizes the liberal arts, many of Asbury's
strongest majors are in the humanities. According to both faculty and students, particularly
strong departments include communications, education, history, psychology,
English, and Bible/theology. Education traditionally has been the most popular
major at Asbury, which offers bachelor of arts, bachelor of sciences, and master of arts
degrees in the subject. The education department, according to a professor, is "long
established as a high-quality small-college program, a standard-setter in Kentucky, with
a national reputation." While the education major remains a strong choice for students,
the communications department is now the largest at the school, and the media
communications major is also popular. Students in the communications department
enjoy, the opportunity, to break real news, including the chance to assist James Owens,
the director of the media communications program, in covering the Olympics every
The English program at Asbury is also highly recommended by faculty and students.
As one professor in the department notes, "our requirements include a mostly
traditional curriculum for our students, a fact which leads to our majors' very high
scores on national tests. In the area of electives, we have a good number of nontraditional
classes on subjects such as detective fiction, J. R. R. Tolkien, and so on." Students
warmly commend a number of teachers in this department, particularly Dan Strait,
Marcia Hurlow, and Devin Brown, a leading C. S. Lewis
Another strong humanities department at Asbury is
history, which offers a wide range of electives in addition to
the "Western Civilization" courses. Burnam Reynolds and
Edward McKinley are recommended as scholars and teachers.
The history department has a reputation for sound academics
and is popular with students planning to go on to
law or graduate school.
As at many other small liberal arts colleges, Asbury
professors focus on teaching, taking on as many as four
classes each semester. Despite this heavy course load, the
faculty strive to remain active in academic research and
publishing. As one professor explains, "teaching is paramount
at our college, and in the past it has been the exclusive
emphasis. In recent years there has been an emphasis on
professional standing, with some increase in resources....
Our faculty have done a very good job at professionally competitive
academic production over the past twenty years.
Even so, the main responsibility for the faculty is to teach
small undergraduate classes, and this remains the largest
part of the work for almost all of us." Another professor
adds, "Teaching is highly valued at Asbury College. Scholarship
is, too. And the goal is that these activities should be
directly related: that teaching should lead to scholarship
and that research should then contribute to teaching."
For the most part, students praise their teachers as
dedicated and helpful. As one recent graduate reports, "The
professors want to be here; since we are a small college, the
pay is not great, so professors who stay here do it because
they care about the students and the college itself. They are accessible and helpful.
Many provide extra study sessions outside of class time. I have been to many professors'
homes. I have never had a hard time getting in touch with professors, and they
have always been gracious about phone calls received at home. They really are superb."
A current student notes that he finds his teachers approachable even about nonacademic
concerns: "I would go to one of my professors if I had a problem before I would
go to Student Services," he says.
Off campus, Asbury offers students the opportunity to participate in several special
academic programs. In the American Studies Program, junior and senior students
may earn credit through internships in Washington, D.C. The Oxford Honors Program
allows students to experience tutorial study in a variety of fields while attending
Oxford University for a semester. Students may also spend a semester abroad in Egypt,
China, Russia, or Latin America.
The college's religious commitment has no negative ramifications for academic
freedom. One professor reports that "faculty members are committed to a
nondoctrinaire approach to teaching. They do make a concerted effort to integrate
faith and learning, but in ways that stimulate rather than stifle inquiry." Another faculty
member adds, "There is a kind of orthodoxy, but it is neither pervasive nor oppressive,
and is not imposed." Students feel free to ask questions and present various perspectives;
one student remarks, "if somebody has an opinion, the professors respect it;
if they disagree, they will explain why, but they still respect it." A former student explains:
"Campus politics intrude into the
classroom at times, but it depends on the
professor and whether the class asks questions.
Many professors open up time at the
beginning of class for students to ask questions
about anything, [and] the Collegian,
the school newspaper, often presents dissenting
views as well."
Thus, without curbing academic inquiry
or imposing a uniform religiosity,
Asbury remains a place where traditional,
religious, and conservative students can
have their intellects challenged without
having their values assaulted. "There are no
departments in which conservative young
people will feel uncomfortable," a professor says. "Some of our faculty and students are
less conservative than others on this or that point, or in general, but even those who
are liberal by Asbury standards would seem no more than slightly right of the middle
anywhere else-and the very large majority of faculty and students are conservative by
every standard except taste in music and casual dress."
Student Life: No Dancing Here
Located in scenic Wilmore, Kentucky (population circa 5,000), Asbury College offers
students a small-town setting, one situated some two hours from larger cities such as
Lexington and Cincinnati. The school's twenty buildings range from the historic Hager
Administration Building, which dates from 1910, to the new Dennis F. and Elsie B.
Kinlaw Library, which opened in 2001 and includes a computer lab and a media center.
Because the school is relatively small, with an undergraduate enrollment of 1,218,
the sense of community is strong. There is a good deal of class spirit at Asbury. As one
graduate explains: "Each incoming class is given a name, class colors, class hymn, etc.
These create a huge sense of identification with the others in your class. I have never
seen anything like it at any other school; in the fall semester of your freshman year, the
class votes on their class hymn. For the rest of their time at Asbury, whenever that
hymn is sung in chapel, the class gets to stand and sing by
themselves for the first verse.... There are also competitions
between classes [and] ... class prayers once a month,
class cabinets, and class retreats."
Asbury College takes as its motto the phrase Eruditio et
Religio (Learning and Religion). While the school is dedicated
to providing a high-quality education, it remains concerned
with the spiritual as well as the academic development of its
students. To this end, the college sets forth a number of
"lifestyle standards" for the community that address the topics
of Morality, Honor (including rules about church and
chapel attendance, and bans on alcohol, drugs, pornography,
tobacco, and, yes, dancing), Propriety, (including a dress
code), and Civics (including regulations regarding college
property, registration of vehicles, and the like). In short,
Asbury's not a big party school.
Because Asbury College holds "the firm belief that
significant learning occurs outside of the classroom," it
requires single students to reside on campus in order to
foster "an integration of faith, learning and living." A curfew
is enforced at the campus residences-eleven o'clock on
weeknights and later on weekends. The men may visit the
lounges in the women's dorms at regularly scheduled hours;
lounges in the men's dorms are open to women only on
special occasions. Open houses scheduled throughout the
year give men and women the chance to admire the posters in each others' dorm rooms.
Although Asbury College sees its Methodist-Holiness heritage as essential to its
mission "to equip men and women, through a commitment to academic excellence
and spiritual vitality, for a lifetime of learning, leadership, and service to the professions,
society, the family and the church," the school welcomes students from outside
the Wesleyan-Arminian religious tradition, provided they are willing to live within community
guidelines and respect the school's unique mission and history. This means
joining the believers in chapel at least three times a week. The college mandates attendance
at chapel for three fifty-minute services, held on Mondays, Wednesdays, and
Fridays. Seats are assigned and attendance is taken. In addition, the Handbook for
Community Life states that "members of the community are expected to attend Sunday
worship services and encouraged to attend class and campus prayer meetings on
One former student says, "Since Asbury is a conservative school, I don't believe
that [traditionally-minded] students would feel uncomfortable or unwelcome here.
There are community standards at Asbury which may make some people feel stifled,
but it doesn't have to do with political correctness; it has more to do with living a life
according to Christian principles."
The rules and regulations of the college certainly do not stifle the social lives or
extracurricular activities of the students. Asbury offers a variety of athletic opportunities,
both intercollegiate and intramural, and has dedicated 118 acres of campus land
to a large equestrian center. The college offers many opportunities for involvement in
musical ensembles, both instrumental and choral, as well as special-interest clubs and
academic societies, the college newspaper and yearbook, a pro-life group, political clubs,
drama groups, and societies focused on particular majors such as history and business.
Students may also become involved in a variety of service clubs and mission trips.
Although there will always be students not drawn by the moral and academic
standards of a place like Asbury, the fact that the school attracts students who do seek
such standards is key to its success. Indeed, Asbury appears to be taking its moral and
academic heritage even more seriously than it did in the past. One student, comparing
the present state of the college to what he observed when his older siblings were attending,
states, "I'm very positive about the future. I think Asbury will continue to
refine its focus. The leadership at the college is really working in the direction of standing
up for what we believe."
Both the campus and the town offer a safe environment in which students may
pursue their studies and social interests. Statistics reveal that Asbury enjoys a very low
crime rate. The most common reported crime is burglary, of which there were five
cases reported in 2004, the most recent year for which statistics are available. One motor
vehicle theft was also reported that year. Otherwise, there is no record of other
criminal offenses, nor have there been any reports of hate crimes or arrests on campus.
The surrounding community of Wilmore is also reported to be a safe place.
The basic price tag of one year at Asbury is less than $23,000 (room, board, and
tuition). The school offers a variety of financial aid programs, including honors scholarships,
state and federal grants, loans, and work-study opportunities. In awarding aid,
the school takes the need of the student into consideration. More than 90 percent of
Asbury students receive some type of financial aid.
Excerpted from All-American Colleges
Copyright © 2006 by Intercollegiate Studies Institute.
Excerpted by permission.
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