While it’s not officially on the College That Change Lives list, Augustana feels like a CTCL college. It’s a small, liberal arts school in Rock Island, Illinois, one of the five cities that make up the community called the Quad Cities, straddling the Mississippi River between Iowa and Illinois. Yep, Quad, not Quint, even though there are really five. The Quad Cities metropolitan area has over 400,000 people, with John Deere being the area’s major employer.
The area feels very much like what you think about when you think of college towns: lots of restaurants and breweries on both sides of the river, cultural, jazz and blues festivals, a year-round indoor farmer’s market and a 60-mile river bike trail. A 12,000-seat arena and two other colleges in the area help to attract solid musical acts.
Augustana College strongly encourages students to study abroad – more than half of students have some type of study abroad experience. Augustana’s trimester system (10 weeks of study, three times per year – basically a quarter system!) makes it harder for them to sync up with other college study abroad programs, but many Augustana professors put together their own study abroad programs in which an entire class spends the first five weeks of a course in Rock Island, and the last five weeks abroad.
A few things make Augustana College unique among its peers:
- All students do a senior inquiry project – a full year’s worth of research synthesized into a paper, poster or presentation to faculty helps prepare students for the working world and/or graduate school.
- Augie Choice is a guaranteed $2,000 stipend that students can use to study abroad, cover expenses related to an internship, or some other academic purpose.
- Its location in the Quad Cities area, immediately adjacent to the Mississippi River, gives students the opportunity to study the environmental, business, cultural and historical aspects of the river. Augustana has partnered with the community through the Upper Mississippi River center, asking the community to treat Augie students as consultants, to see what the issues are and what improvements can be made.
- Academics are strong here – the history, geology, communication sciences and disorders and multimedia journalism departments are notable in their respective fields. Augustana has both an NPR radio station and a student-run internet radio station.
- While there is no core curriculum, Augie students must fulfill the requirements of the Augustana General Education Studies (AGES), taking at least one course in each of six “perspectives,” and two classes in three of them, as well as courses reflecting these values: global, diversity, investigative, quantitative. Some courses can fulfill more than one requirement, and all are intended to develop a well-rounded education.
I also met with the professor with the longest tenure in the biology department – the largest department on campus – and was impressed with several things:
- Augustana has a cadaver lab available to undergraduates.
- They have a partnership with the M.D. Anderson program at the Houston Medical center, reserving 20 spots per year for Augie students to intern at this prestigious cancer research facility.
- Their grad schools (including medical school) acceptance rate is very strong, and alumni report feeling very well prepared for graduate school.
Augustana will reimburse some travel expenses for students who visit campus, and awards automatic scholarships to students who visit. The biggest organized visit day is the scholarship competition in January, when each department hosts its own competition and grants scholarships to winners. This money is stackable on top of other merit and need-based aid offered.
Both sports and music are strong here. The 2,500 undergraduates are active and vocal Vikings fans – the football stadium sure looks like a big Division I field (even though they are Division III) – and Augustana College is #6 out of 1066 colleges in the. U.S. in producing Academic All-Americans. While there are only about a hundred music majors (including music education and performance), about a quarter of the student body participates in one of the school’s musical groups or ensembles.
I met two students from the Los Angeles area at Augustana and both were thrilled with their choice. I chatted with them a bit about their unconventional choice:
Augustana is a little bit out of the way, but it’s hard not to feel right at home when you visit this very welcoming community.
Admissions Stats: TEST OPTIONAL. Average GPA 3.26.