Synopses & Reviews
Samuel Schuman examines the place of religious colleges and universities, particularly evangelical Protestant institutions, in contemporary American higher education.
Many faith-based schools are flourishing. They have rigorous academic standards, impressive student recruitment, ambitious philanthropic goals, and well-maintained campuses and facilities. Yet much of the U.S. higher-education community ignores them or accords them little respect. Seeing the Light considers, instead, what can be learned from the viability of these institutions.
The book begins with a history of post secondary U.S. education from the perspective of the religious traditions from which it arose. After focusing briefly on nonevangelical institutions, Schuman next looks at three Roman Catholic institutions — the College of New Rochelle, Villanova University, and Thomas Aquinas College. He then profiles evangelical colleges and universities in detail, discovering the factors contributing to their success. These institutions range from nationally recognized to little known, from rich to poor, with both highly selective and open admission requirements. Interviews with key administrators, faculty, and students reveal the challenges, the successes, and the goals of these institutions.
Schuman concludes that these schools — Baylor University, Anderson University, New Saint Andrews College, Calvin College, North Park University, George Fox University, Westmont College, Oral Roberts University, Northwestern College, and Wheaton College — and others like them offer important and timely lessons for the broader higher-education community.
"Tell people that you graduated from a Christian college, and you can expect a common series of reactions. First they express wonderment at the exotic customs of these institutions. (At Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, Georgia, from which I graduated a few years ago, these included daily praise and worship before classes, mandatory pledges to abstain from drinking and sexual activity, and a performance of Neil Simon's play 'The Odd Couple' from which most of the profanities and references to extramarital sex were excised.) Next comes the suspicion that you are a closet fundamentalist, secretly harboring the belief that homosexuals are eternally damned, or that Adam and Eve kept pet dinosaurs. Finally, there is a confession of relief that you graduated as someone 'so normal.'
In Seeing the Light
, a brisk survey of 10 U.S. Protestant colleges -- ranging from tiny New Saint Andrews College in Idaho, with a student body of 200, to Texas's Baylor University, with 14,500 -- Samuel Schuman attempts to correct some of the misconceptions. A chancellor emeritus at the University of Minnesota, Morris, Schuman is the author of Old Main (2005), a study of small liberal-arts schools much like his own. Noting that enrollment at religious schools is booming (the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities reports that during the 1990s its member campuses grew by nearly 50 percent), he turned his attention to these institutions, which, he found, are buoyed by "a strong sense of focused mission," since administrators don't have to worry about pleasing a wide swath of constituencies. But he also observed a tension between the aspiration to academic respectability and the effort to maintain an unwavering commitment to church doctrines, a paradox ubiquitously referred to in school curricula as 'the integration of faith and learning.'" Aaron Mesh, The Wilson Quarterly (read the entire Wilson Quarterly review)
About the Author
Samuel Schuman is chancellor emeritus of the University of Minnesota, Morris. He is the author of three literary studies and of Old Main: Small Colleges in Twenty-First Century America, also published by Johns Hopkins.