Periodically our blog posts receive responses that just seem too important–and too helpful–to simply relegate to the Comments section of our blog. In response to a recent post on faith based colleges and Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California, Mr. Silvio Vazquez, the Dean of Admission there, wrote to offer his perspective on the important questions to ask about attending a college or university that maintains and nurtures a strong Christian character.
Mr. Vazquez graciously offered this guest post to continue the conversation about the role of faith-based colleges and universities generally, and about Westmont in particular.
Religion in America, specifically Christianity, has played a central and historic role in founding and developing institutions of higher learning. Certainly one need not read far into any college guide to even see some school names that have religious connections such as Methodist University, Notre Dame, St. Mary’s, Presbyterian College, etc.
Even some of the most prestigious and oft-cited universities with selectivity ratios in the single digits have their roots in America’s early church denominations such as Congregational, Presbyterian, etc. And while there are close to 4,000 colleges and universities in the United States, both public and private, there are several hundred privates (I would venture to guess as many as 900) that have some connection to Christianity, either Catholic or Protestant.
While all share a historic and traditional connection to the past—in other words, may be Christian in name only—some are still actively and vibrantly celebrating faith in daily living—and learning. Of all these religious institutions, there are 118 that are part of a consortium of schools known as the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. Westmont is one such institution, and one of only two ranked in the top 100 for both U.S. News & World Report and Forbes for being a best national liberal arts college. Many are ranked in among the top in their respective categories.
So while I appreciate the important questions you pose for students who may consider a Christian college, I would like to add a few of my own that I have found useful with students and families considering a school like Westmont, which is non-denominational (Westmont enrolls students from more than 50 denominations) and is academically quite competitive.
How important is it to be challenged to grow in your faith?
If this is an important part of who you are, would you want to be in an environment that nurtures this part of you and helps you make connections between faith and academics? Or, how about being around students and faculty who would respect this very important part of your life and help you celebrate this through the gifts and talents you possess, while helping you discover new skills?
Would you like to have opportunities to see your faith lived out through service projects or off-campus studies both locally and abroad?
In my more than 30 years of studying and working at Christian colleges, I have witnessed countless students grow into outstanding men and women who learned to incorporate their faith in their workplaces and are serving in communities around the world.
Thanks again for your consideration.
Silvio E. Vazquez