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Trinity University in San Antonio Leaves a Great Impression


Last week, I spent a few hours on the campus of Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. It’s an excellent liberal arts college located in a vibrant, culturally rich city. After having visited Dallas and Houston a few days before, I was glad for the more relaxed, informal atmosphere of San Antonio.
Here are a few of my general observations about Trinity in no particular order:
The Campus: Leafy, nice trees and fountains. The architecture is not inspiring, nor is it intimidating and aloof. This seems to be a place where students study, play, and live. The facilities are excellent, but in contrast with Southern Methodist University in Dallas, the buildings are more homey and comfortable. The older classroom buildings are built in a boxy, international style, while some of the newer buildings (the campus center, the arts center) are more jazzy. A bell tower dominates looms over the campus: it’s the highest building in San Antonio (because it sits on the top of the hill overlooking the city) and it sports a real carillon that strikes the hour. Students also rave about the dorms: students are required to live on campus for three years, and most live on campus for all four years.
The Library: Recently renovated, the atmosphere is both relaxed and bustling. I was there in mid-afternoon, and there were plenty of students studying in secluded carrels and in the common areas. A handsome coffee bar helped to make the library a hub of activity, and a enclosed terrace on the top floor is a nice way to take advantage of the Texas climate. It’s a modern facility, but it also possesses a warmth that makes it an inviting place to study.
Admission: The transcript is the most important document. The admissions office recalculates all GPAs submitted to a 4.0 scale, using only the academic solids (all fluff is stripped from the calculation). Course rigor and the quality of the student’s high school curriculum are considered. Trinity uses only the highest average scores, and when multiple scores are submitted, the computer whizzes in the office recalculate ACT and SAT composite scores based on the highest component scores. Trinity subscribes to the Common Application, but just began requiring a supplement.
Sports: Trinity is a NCAA Division III school, with intercollegiate competition in 18 sports. Men’s soccer is especially strong, and the team is now #1 in its conference. The football team is also regularly in the playoffs, and the university has distinguished itself in the conference, winning the prestigious President’s Trophy in 13 of the past 15 years. My tour guide complained, however, that fan attendance at most games was pretty low. This is not a school where the priority is on athletics—making it something of an anomaly in sports-crazed Texas.
Student Body: 65% of students hail from Texas (but remember that Texas is so big and diverse that were it on the eastern seaboard, it might comprise 10 or 12 states). Ten percent of students are international (but some of those are actually US citizens who were educated abroad, and some are foreign nationals who have been raised in the US), and fully 23% of students are “of color,” with Latinos making up the largest group.
Study Abroad: Trinity does not have any indigenous study abroad programs overseen by Trinity faculty. The University contracts out its study abroad programs with other providers.
Campus Issues: Recently the college Republicans organized a bake sale, by which students of different ethnic groups could buy cookies at different prices. Whites paid the most, while Latinos and African Americans paid discounted prices—and Native Americans paid nothing. The idea was to raise awareness about affirmative action. While the University initially approved the event, at the 11th hour the Republican group was forced to change their scheme to eliminate all mention of race preferences. So political correctness trumped free speech. And a fracas ensued. However, the community organized a sort of teach-in about affirmative action, and began a real discussion of the social implications of these policies, including college admission policies. So despite while the event was squashed by the PC police, campus Republicans succeeded in bringing the issue to the fore. My conclusion is that Trinity is a healthy, politically diverse, and active community.
Personal connections: My brother, Brad, went to Trinity in the late 1980s. I spent a few days in his dorm room sleeping on the floor. I liked the place then. I like it even more now.
And if you go there to visit, make sure to stop in at Taco Cabana. Excellent fast-food tacos with real meat grilled on the spot.  And awesome fresh salsa.  Gotta love it!
Mark Montgomery
Montgomery Educational Consulting
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