Several months ago on The Education Doctor Radio Show, we met with the Executive Director of Colleges that Change Lives, Marty O’Connell. The Colleges that Change Lives is an esteemed group of 40 colleges around the US known for their life-changing success with students.
During that interview, one of our listeners emailed a question about Antioch College. Please check out that podcast to hear what Marty had to say about Antioch’s membership in Colleges that Change Lives. Our listener from Chicago may have asked her question based on some of the happenings at Antioch over the past couple of years.
Well, now in 2012, just a short time since then, there is a different story streaming from the Yellow Springs Ohio campus. Cezar Mesquita, who is Antioch’s Dean of Admissions, joined us for The Education Doctor Radio Show to provide some insight on why Antioch is such a hot application. His leadership appointment was announced in the summer of 2011 after a nationwide search. Prior to this role, Cezar had served at College of Wooster (where I first met him), at Doane College and the University of Denver. He earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of Nebraska and his master’s degree from the University of Alabama. We were delighted to have him share all the buzz at Antioch over this past year.
Below are excerpts from our show or you may listen at the link above:
Dr. Pamela: . . . I wanted to start out because we may have some listeners that are unfamiliar with the news that was coming from Antioch prior to when you joined seven months ago and I think that just hearing a little bit about the history of the campus will help them appreciate what is happening today. If you can please share with us a little capsule about what was happening at Antioch College two years ago.
Cezar Mesquita: Absolutely, the news coming out of Yellow Springs back in 2008 was not good. It was when the University has effectively managed the college. I feel like I need to even go back a little bit prior to that. Antioch College actually was the starting institution in the 1950s established by a group of Christian abolitionists. Eventually, the Antioch College model changed when we incorporated the very widely known cooperative education piece. This is now in the 1940s or so when they decided to incorporate learning theory to practice where students from Antioch would go and have full time working experiences incorporated during their learning. That model took a whole lot of interest nationally and we fast forward now to the 1960s and 1970s where it grew up to several satellite campuses around the country. Folks thought, “Hey, let’s propagate this model nationally.” So there were nearly 40 campuses nationwide in its peak, in what was then known, Antioch University. Throw a couple of law schools in there and some graduate programs. What happened was that model became unsustainable, so a series of mismanagement issues along the way caused the university of the College, which is now managing the entire institution, to focus more on graduate programs, adult learner programs, and degree completion programs and invest less in the traditional liberal arts residential college here in Yellow Springs. In 2008, the decision came from the University that they would cease operation of the college altogether. Now you have a group of alumni who are absolutely fervently passionate about their institution and who absolutely refused to let their alma mater die. Between the year of 2008 and 2009, the alumni went on a huge fundraising campaign to raise millions and millions of dollars to buy back the campus from the University. So in 2009, an exciting announcement came where Antioch College reopened its doors with the goal of enrolling and recruiting a class for the starting term of Fall 2011. Last year, we greeted our first new inaugural class, again an institution that is 162 years old, a new inaugural class of 35 students who joined Antioch College for the first time since the closure in 2008. It has been a very, very exciting time indeed.
Antioch’s Current Freshman
Dr. Pamela:. .Tell us about this current freshman class. You have 35 students there now?
Cezar Mesquita: We have 35 students and last year’s application season was very, very unique as you can imagine. The college is starting anew. We do not yet have an accreditation from the higher learning commission. We are in the process of a multi-year, multi-phase accreditation process right now, so in many ways, we needed to provide an incredible experience for students with incredible incentives. So what happened was, we decided to come out with this campaign, which has now been extended where every admitted student at Antioch College for the first four inaugural classes will be given a free tuition fellowship. What happened last year is that these students applied from everywhere. We had students and adult learners, students in their late 20s, students from outside Ohio from as far away as Florida and Seattle. 35 students selected Antioch College. We made sure that we selected students who could do the academic work as well as we’re a social fit with our institutional values. This was very, very important, talking about the element of fit. These 35 students joined us and started the class anew. Six full-time faculty members and a cadre of several administrators who are helping deliver the experience for this new class.
Free Tuition at Antioch – So what?
Dr. Pamela: I want you to talk a little bit more about fit. That is something I am very passionate about sharing with my families. I talk about in terms of three key areas, which you describes, the academic fit, the social fit, and the financial fit. I think the financial fit for you is the fact that it is free for those students who are there. Can you talk a little bit about those different areas of fit for the students that are there in terms of what their experience is like?
Cezar Mesquita: Again, those things are so incredibly intertwined as a student and his or her support system, parents, mentors and peers will be going through this process. At some point, they need to talk about those three things as well as others, but those three things will probably rise to the very top. What is the academic experience like, what is the community experience like, and what is the value that we will be associating with our resources in order to make this experience a reality for students and for the family unit? So that is huge. From the financial side, in many ways, it was relatively an easy call, if you will, where the college and again this has been extended now for the next three years, where the colleges are to invest a significant amount of its resources to take the financial consideration out of the question, i.e., we want students to be looking at Antioch and take the consideration of financial affordability out of it so they know they will be investing in you. Each college and university out there will have different resources in order to extend to prospective students, and each student, again with his family unit, will have to be discussed, okay, what are the expectations as far as our investment during school, after graduation. What kind of choices are we talking about when you speak of, perhaps an average indebtedness of $25,000 a year, which is the national average right now of graduating from your institution. So families need to have that very conversation. And they will be having that conversation somewhere along the way. So at Antioch, we decided, at least for that side, we decided to move that to a second plane and focus on the first two, which is so incredibly important. Again, the students over here are coming to an academic experience where they will be working with a very small student to faculty ratio. They will be very, very well nurtured and cared for as well as the preparation in the classroom. And a high level of expectation in a rigorous liberal arts environment, but in true Antioch College fashion, we will be pushing the envelope.
How we are doing it this year is Antioch is delivering what we call the Global Seminars Series, where we are coming from the premise that the way in which we live in the world today is unsustainable and we will be prompting students and faculty members to take this five global seminar series, that will focus on the issues of food, water, energy, health, and government. The idea here is to really propose that these students talk and discuss and break down misconceptions and barriers towards the designing of sustainable solutio0ns to address those five issues. Again, Antioch has always been on the progressive front and now we decided to fast forward our element to the 21st century and again, having this cadre of students and professionals and teachers and professors to help devise the solutions. That is on the academic side.