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Wofford Featured in Sandlapper Magazine

Tuesday, October 01, 2002

The following story appeared in the Autumn issue of Sandlapper Magazine.
The text of the article appears below. To view the story and photographs as they appeared in the magazine, follow this link to the Sandlapper Web site.

“Why does Wofford exist?” asked Dr. Benjamin Dunlap during his inauguration as the college’s 10th president last spring. “It’s our special characteristic that we embody the notion that education is about more than knowing a lot. It’s also about doing a lot.”
The people of Wofford today indeed are doing a lot. Consider this sampling of recent individual accomplishments:

Dr. Ellen S. Goldey, a biologist, was named the 2002 Outstanding Educator of the Year by the United Methodist Higher Education Foundation. The award is given to a professor at one of the 124 Methodist-related colleges, universities and seminaries who has had an extraordinary impact on students, peers, the institution, church and community

Each year, Wofford’s president personally chooses the rising senior “best fitted to benefit humankind” to undertake a year of expense-paid travel and study in the developing world. The “Presidential International Scholar” then returns to the campus for a fifth year to serve as a resource person for faculty and students. The two most recent scholars, Kris Neely of Spartanburg and Allyson Gibson of The Woodlands, Tex., have been honorable mention selections for the USA Today academic team. Neely’s on-line journal was featured in the Yahoo/Internet Life magazine.

Ben Foster of Kennesaw, Ga., (Wofford’s outgoing student body president) received the national 2002 Arthur Ashe Jr. Award. He was honored by Black Issues in Higher Education magazine as the male African-American college athlete who best exemplified the standards of scholarship, athleticism, and humanitarianism. A three-year starter and team captain for the football team, Foster is a Phi Beta Kappa biology major and a recipient of the Dave Hart Postgraduate Scholarship from the Southern Conference. He plans to attend medical school.

Wofford’s emphasis in Creative Writing, a collaborative effort of Professors John Lane, Rosa Shand and Deno Trakas, has received national recognition twice this spring. The program was featured on March 15, 2002, in The Chronicle of Higher Education as one of five “Writing Programs with Flair” nationwide. On April 23, 2002, it was highlighted in a Christian Science Monitor feature, in which Lane was interviewed and quoted extensively. The Monitor reporter and photographer sat in on a session of the Wofford Writers Series.

At student day at the 2002 annual meeting of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics in Philadelphia, members of the Wofford class of 2003 - Amanda Nave of Arden, N.C., and Kimberly McDonald of Greer - presented two of the five papers. Nave also won a competitive summer internship in computer science at the National Institute of Health in Washington, D.C.

Such achievements are the fruits of an experience that is exceedingly difficult to duplicate at a large, bureaucratic university. At Wofford, the educational process always has begun with a broad curriculum of basic courses taught not by adjuncts or graduate students, but by full-time professors. These are complimented by a campus life created day by day by students, faculty and staff, not artificially programmed by administrators. The culmination of the process, as Dr. Dunlap says, comes with “major programs that enable graduates to make connections, to cross boundaries, and negotiate a world no longer divided so neatly into categories of endeavor.”

From this Wofford tradition has emerged a new challenge from the administration to the faculty: "If you had the assurance of sufficient time and institutional support to teach the sort of course you've always dreamed of, what would you do?" Every professor had an answer.

As a first step, using grants from the Andrew Mellon and National Science Foundations together with money set aside from the President's Discretionary Fund, Wofford is launching more than 30 new courses and programs in the 2002-2003 academic year alone. More than half of the faculty has been working hard to implement these innovations, often successfully seeking grants from a variety of sources. Dozens of others await additional funding to underwrite their proposals.

Many of the new courses are "learning communities," fashioned after a brilliantly successful prototype offered in the fall 2001 semester by Professors Goldey and Lane. Learning communities leverage the impact of any one course by offering it in tandem with another. For example, a Spanish language course may be offered in conjunction with an appropriate history course, and a sociology course featuring fieldwork in the local Hispanic community.

More than a dozen other new offerings replace some lecture classes with seminars and discussion groups. To make such experiences available to all Wofford students, rooms suitable for meetings, meals, and round-table have been included in the recent renovation of the Burwell Building, and more such rooms and spaces for creative interaction are planned.

“As liberal arts colleges across the nation seek to adapt to a changing word, we believe Wofford is uniquely equipped to play a leadership role,” Dunlap says. “Our advantages are economy of scale, that is, being small enough with 1,100 students to be flexible; the stable context of our Phi Beta Kappa liberal arts tradition; the unanimity and creativity of our faculty; and even our pivotal location near the junction of the I-85 and I-26 corridors. Our other assets are able, aspiring and responsive students, 13,000 loyal alumni dedicated to preserving what is good and improving what can be better, plus still unnumbered donors and foundations concerned to nurture whatever might improve the whole of higher education.”

The story is told that Wofford Terrier athletics teams take their name from a professor's dog, which raced out of the grandstand during a 1909 baseball game and drove off an opposing runner as he tried to tie the score. That legend may or may not be true, but the sleek and handsome Boston Terrier is a good symbol for Wofford College. Terriers are small, but they are full of intelligence and energy.