By: Ben Anderson
Warren Wilson College is one of 12 institutions nationwide profiled in “Old Main: Small Colleges in Twenty-First Century America,” written by Samuel Schuman and published by The Johns Hopkins University Press.
Schuman, chancellor of the University of Minnesota’s Morris campus and former chancellor at UNC-Asheville, underscores the singular nature of Warren Wilson in “Old Main.” “Rather like Orwell’s barnyard menagerie, all small colleges are unique, but some are more unique than others,” Schuman writes. “Among twelve very different institutions Warren Wilson stands out as especially distinctive…. “Its program, emphases, population, and atmosphere are unmistakably its own. And, in a way that commands respect from admirers and detractors of its vision alike, the college practices what it preaches.”
The book also includes a lengthy interview with Warren Wilson alumna Olga Milenkaya, a 2003 graduate of the school’s highly regarded environmental studies program. “I came here because I did not want to debate whether or not we had an environmental crisis,” Milenkaya is quoted as saying. “I wanted to debate how to fix it.” She also says, “One of the most valuable things that I got out of my WWC experience is the development of my ethic. This ethic resonates in everything I do….”
Milenkaya reserves her highest praise for the college’s work program. “If I had to pick the most valuable component of WWC, it would definitely be the work program,” she says. “I learned countless things about myself and the world through the work program.”
Warren Wilson is one of only six “work colleges” in the United States – four-year institutions at which all residential students work in campus jobs. The college is further distinguished by its Triad of liberal-arts academics, work and service-learning, along with strong environmental and international emphases.
The publisher’s description of “Old Main” notes: “Defined as institutions that enroll between 500 and 3,000 full-time students, small colleges number about six hundred in the United States. Informed by his own experiences as a teacher and administrator, Samuel Schuman sketches the history and development of these institutions, then focuses on their current conditions and future possibilities.”
Warren Wilson College currently enrolls about 830 undergraduate students, highest number in the school’s 111-year history.