How two institutions with historic ties (and the same name) still confuse the crap out of us…
By Caroline Shannon-Karasik and Tim Walker
Antioch. What comes to mind when you hear that word? For some, it’s the Antioch Shrine Center in downtown Dayton on East First Street. For most, it’s the famed Antioch College in Yellow Springs, which served as the face of progressive liberal arts colleges in the 1960s and 1970s. And still for even others, it represents that other university down the road in Yellow Springs, Antioch University Midwest.
This is the heart of our question, “Will the real Antioch please stand up?”
One can definitely agree that the name Antioch is synonymous with education. The history of Antioch as a learning institution is both long and dynamic. Historically, Antioch College was the first in Yellow Springs with that moniker. After an evolution that yielded national satellite university campuses, there are now two entities currently residing in Yellow Springs that both go by “Antioch.” Although both sides share a name, in addition to historical ties, they’re very different. Yet both lay claim to the same historic roots.
Hence our question, “Will the real Antioch please stand up?”
— Nicole Wroten
Antioch College: Back amongst the living
By Caroline Shannon-Karasik
Google the word, “Antioch” — go ahead, do it.
When the search engine’s results pop up, you’ll find encyclopedia entries for Antioch on the Orontes, an ancient Mediterranean city that sat in what is now present-day Turkey.
Scroll down a bit farther and you will also discover listings for colleges and universities in Seattle, Los Angeles and New England, all boasting various strengths for those looking to obtain an undergraduate or graduate degree.
There will also be a handy dandy map that points out local churches that boast the namesake, a common designation to Catholic and Baptist religious organizations.
But nestled about halfway through the search engine’s findings, you will also spot a link for Antioch College, the well-known liberal arts school in Yellow Springs, “noted for its cooperative education programs,” and most recently receiving buzz for its reopening, a comeback that comes three years after the school closed as a result of financial problems.
“Our specialty at Antioch College is providing students with broad knowledge and experiences so that they can either go on to graduate school or embark on careers,” said Gariot Louima, chief communications officer at the college. “We believe in the inherent value of a liberal arts education to expose students to an array of knowledge that they will need in order to function in the world, but also in order to be change-agents in the world.”
Led by their new president, Mark Roosevelt, who was previously the superintendent of Pittsburgh Public Schools, the school plans to continue the long-standing tradition that began in 1853 with its first president, Horace Mann, a leader who Cezar Mesquita, Dean of Admission and Financial Aid, calls an “educational visionary”.
“In the spirit of Horace Mann, Antioch College believes a healthy democratic society requires institutions that act as catalysts for change and laboratories for invention,” Mesquita said. “This is a role that Antioch College has played throughout its history; the effort to restore it is among the most significant and compelling opportunities in higher education today.”
And what a “history” it has been. Civil rights leader and widow of Martin Luther King, Jr., Coretta Scott King, calls the school her alma mater, as do Nobel Prize and Academy Award winners, in addition to Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling and D.C. Congressional Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton. The Huffington Post has included the college in its list of “Top Non-Traditional Colleges” –– amongst the likes of Brown University, the New School of Social Research in New York City, Sarah Lawrence and Wesleyan University — an accomplishment that came in 2010, when the school had zero students.
“When it was up and running, Antioch provided students with a smorgasbord of interdisciplinary majors founded on the basis of the school’s “Three C’s”: classroom, co-op and community,” according to the Huffington Post website.
Antioch has also been regularly included in the popular guidebook and non-profit organization Colleges That Change Lives, whose mission boasts a dedication to “the advancement and support of a student-centered college search process.”
But its reputation for providing “a rigorous liberal arts education on the belief that scholarship and life experience are strengthened when linked” has been met by a series of challenges. The school has closed four times — in 1863, 1881, 1919 and, most recently, in 2008.
Still, the college and its staff are not wasting time mending its wounds. Instead, soldiering forward is the name of the game.
In September 2009, the college was transferred to an alumni group and re-opened as an independent liberal arts college. Students — a tight-knit group of 35 — begin classes on October 4, the beginning of the 2011-2012 school year that will include six full-time, core faculty members, in addition to members of the college’s support staff.
Each member of that group, Roosevelt explained will have a hand in, not only the management of the school, but what its future will look like. For example, Louima will not only be fulfilling his position as chief communications officer at Antioch, but he also will be running the college’s writing institute, where he will work on setting up co-curricular activities around writing, in addition to working with students who want to advance their writing in a particular genre.
“We really want to sort of break down what we consider to be fairly artificial academic boundaries,” said Roosevelt, emphasizing the cyclical nature of the school’s way of thinking with the example that, while administrators will be teaching, faculty will also have a say in administrative decisions.
Roosevelt said the same policy of reciprocity will extend to the school’s students.
“We knew very much that this would be an unusual circumstance for students to be coming into,” he said. “We are seeking our accreditation back — you automatically lose it when you close. We have a campus where most of the buildings are not up and running, so we also want very much to have a group of students with us who are cognizant that we want them to be an integral part of reinventing Antioch.
“We’re not pretending that we have all the answers, in fact we’re being open and saying ‘help us through this.’ This is a very mutual enterprise that we are engaged in.”
That experimental nature lies at Antioch’s core where Louima said the school’s base is an undergraduate, residential, liberal arts education. This includes a cooperative education element where students engage in a cooperative work program that alternates between full-time study and the actual practice of a skill set the student is working to develop.
“As an educational institution, Antioch College has prepared students for lives of significance and service, and for engaged and effective citizenship,’” said Hassan Rahmanian, vice president for Academic Affairs. “In its rich, long history, Antioch has a legacy of repeated educational innovations. It instills and develops in its students values, skills, and habits of mind that foster creativity, capacity to innovate, self-discipline, ability to learn quickly through experience and experiments.”
Mesquita explained further: “In the 20th century, Antioch College redefined liberal arts education by initiating an entrepreneurial and experiential curriculum through the development of its hallmark cooperative work program (co-op). Many of the now-common elements of today’s liberal arts education — self-designed majors, study abroad, interdisciplinary study, and portfolio evaluation — had an early start at Antioch College.”
The school also believes in an active engagement in the community and to social justice.
“We connect social justice to issues of sustainability, and have constructed a series of global seminars that are a core component of the general education program,” Louima said. “All students attend seminars on water, food, health, energy and public policy as part of their studies.
“These seminars create campus-wide conversation on issues, with the general agreement that the way we live today is not sustainable — this speaks not just to environmental sustainability, but also economic and cultural sustainability. We hope to create critical thinkers with the skills, capacity and moral bearing to address issues head on — change agents if you will.”
Roosevelt added: “We start with the premise that the way we live in America is not sustainable — we start with an understanding that America is having some very significant economic difficulties right now. That means that, while the nation as a whole cannot really focus on the underlying issues of sustainability, places like Antioch College can do a great service by focusing on it. So, when the nation is ready to turn its attention to it, either because a crisis commands it or because other circumstances arise, there will be a model.
“Antioch will be a place where the faculty and students, and others come together to explore how to live better, and that is something this community has always been good at.”
This development of the modern Antioch College, of course, requires a plan. Mesquita said the immediate goals surrounding Antioch’s reopening are centered around four main areas:
•To gradually increase the college’s enrollment.
•To sustainably bring back the campus’ physical infrastructure.
•To sensibly develop academic, co-curricular programs in line with the college’s mission and purpose.
•To carefully craft meaningful connections between the college’s experiences and those whom we serve, locally and globally.
“The hopes and aspirations are many, and the expectation is that we bring this storied institution back to prominence — a place where differences are valued and community members are empowered to be agents of change in a world that craves creative and compassionate solutions to its problems,” Mesquita said.
Deeply intertwined within Roosevelt’s attitude about the college’s future are, perhaps, two of the most important qualities within the possession of every great leader — modesty and a willingness to learn.
“We recognize there are a lot of changes to starting a liberal arts college, in fact it isn’t being done as far as we know anywhere else,” Roosevelt said. “Now, it’s also true that we’re not starting one, we’re re-starting one, so that also is complicated. But our balance is that we believe that there was a great deal about Antioch College that was spectacular and we fully intend to recreate that.”
A modern mission that is surely the embodiment of another one Horace Mann’s great thoughts: “Seek not greatness, but seek truth and you will find both.”
For more information about Antioch College, please visit www.antiochcollege.org.
Reach DCP freelance writer Caroline Shannon-Karasik at CaraolineShannonKarasik@DaytonCityPaper.com.
Antioch University Midwest: All grown up
By Tim Walker
What’s up with Antioch?
Venerated, respected … the Antioch name is well-known to just about everyone who lives in the Miami Valley. But that same name often gives rise to a series of familiar questions and opinions, ones we’ve all heard over the years, and perhaps even harbored ourselves from time to time.
“Antioch? It’s that college out near Yellow Springs, isn’t it? Liberal arts school. They’ve been around for 100 years or more.”
“I know it’s a very progressive school, very big on student activism — I think they had their heyday back in the ‘60s and ‘70s. They’ve been having some financial problems, haven’t they?”
“There’s Antioch College, and Antioch Midwest, and then I’ve also heard the name Antioch McGregor. But I don’t know the difference.”
“Bunch of damn radicals. I remember they were all over the news back in ‘93 over that Sexual Offense Policy, the one where you had to ask before you kissed someone, then again before you touched them. They even did a skit about it on Saturday Night Live. Do you remember when they changed the spelling of ‘women’ to ‘womyn’?”
“Antioch? Didn’t they close a few years ago?”
It’s a tale of two campuses, and there are actually two correct answers to that last question; yes and no. Which brings up another contributing factor to all of the confusion; the two separate and, at this point, unrelated schools in Yellow Springs which both carry the name of Antioch: Antioch College and Antioch University Midwest.
“I know this notion of ‘Will the real Antioch stand up?’ is catchy, but it also does us both a disservice, because we’re both Antioch,” said Dr. Michael Fishbein, president of Antioch University Midwest. Fishbein spoke to me in his office recently about the relationship between the two schools. “It’s not a question of the ‘real Antioch’ — we’re both the ‘real Antioch.’”
Antioch University Midwest’s story begins on the same campus as Antioch College. During the 1970s and 1980s, Antioch College was offering distance learning to adult students through two programs, the Individualized Master of Arts program and the Center for Adult Learning. In 1988, those two programs combined, then separated from the college and became an independent school which fell under the umbrella of the Antioch University system. At that time Antioch had satellite schools dedicated to teaching adult students in cities all across the country. Even though the new school, called SAEL, and Antioch College were two separate entities, they shared the same campus, and the newer school remained focused on non-traditional students, later changing its name to the McGregor School, and then Antioch University McGregor, before moving into a brand new facility in Yellow Springs in 2007. In 2010 the school began operating under its current name — Antioch University Midwest.
Upon first visiting the campus of Antioch University Midwest, I was immediately struck, not just by how friendly and pleasant everyone was, but by their dedication. The neat, orderly hallways and classrooms of the new facility sparkle, and the people — both students and faculty — seem genuinely passionate about the educational process, and excited and happy to be taking part in it.
Oscar Robinson, director of Enrollment Services for the school, is one of those people who loves his job and is excited about the chance to help other adult students meet their goals. He has been employed there since 1994 and reiterated the school’s mission, to serve non-traditional students, when he said, “What we do here … that’s what adults need.
“Our average student, who is pretty much like ourselves,” he continued. “We’re seasoned … we’re doing the family thing. We’re in our careers or we’re re-careering. Some of us are kind of revisiting that big picture question about ‘Now where do I want to be two to three years from now?’ So when I look at it and I think about it, it’s those same or similar conversations we’re having. It’s those same or similar experiences. And there’s that connection that brings the adult learner, that experience that brings any students together, that experience that brings the adult learners together to say, ‘Hey, you know what, they’re talking like I’m talking, they’re looking like I’m looking, and I’m a big person.’ It’s the right fit.”
Antioch University Midwest serves its nearly 1,000 adult learners by helping them achieve their educational goals through programs designed to effect social change. Students there have an extraordinary degree of responsibility for shaping their education in small classes and online study through coursework that is collaborative and experimental.
One very exciting and unique program that Antioch University Midwest offers is the Individualized Master of Arts (IMA) program, which offers qualified students a unique opportunity to pursue graduate education through an individualized, limited residency program. Students from all over the country, all of whom have undergraduate degrees, come to Yellow Springs for three short, intensive residencies at the beginning, midpoint, and end of the program, but the bulk of the work is done on an individual basis wherever they may reside. Students pursue their individualized course of study, which is planned out between themselves and the faculty, through a combination of individualized coursework and online work.
Glendon Jones is one current student who is pursuing his IMA degree at Antioch University Midwest. He is a pastor in Xenia — somewhat unusual, as students in the IMA program come from all over the country and, indeed, the world to complete their degrees.
“I’m enjoying the process of the Individualized Master of Arts because it’s given me a voice. It’s taken me awhile to engage in a master’s program because I was trying to find my niche, where my master’s program could go,” he said. “My focus is going to be on African American and Minority Males in Education, and how to help in the education field with the achievement gap. And so my emphasis is going to be on studying curriculums that will help minorities be able to catch up with what we would call their white or European-American counterparts in the education system. And I really could not find a program that would really allow me to focus in on that being my study until I spoke to Oscar and Seth about the IMA program. I’ve been in contact with Oscar since probably three years ago and because, at that time, I wasn’t really sure about where I was going with my life, I engaged in another masters of divinity program at another university and was not happy. So therefore, I withdrew from that particular program and decided to wait until I found what I really wanted to do … one of my passions is education and so that path is leading me towards not only my Masters, but now I’m thinking Ph.D. … Antioch University Midwest is allowing me that avenue to get there.”
Individualized Master of Arts programs are available in a number of categories, including the Social Sciences, Humanities and Creative Writing.
Leading by example, the school’s president, Fishbein, embodies the passion for education as much as anyone I met at Antioch Midwest.
“To understand the university and to understand Antioch University Midwest, you really have to go back to the 1960s,” he said. “It was at that time that Antioch, like other universities and colleges in the United States, began to recognize that there was another market that nobody was serving. Up until that time, the only people who were regularly in college, with rare exceptions, were traditional 18-year-old men and women, full-time residential students. There were some part time students — as early as the 1950s you had some programs that were in the evenings and some programs that were working with returning veterans due to the GI Bill and so on — but by and large, college really was still a young person’s game.
“By the 1960s, colleges and universities more broadly recognized that there was a role to be served for working adults, for part-time students, for non-traditional students … and so began to develop adult divisions,” he continued. “Antioch decided that it was going to provide opportunities for working adults and non-traditional students, but they were going to be in separate locations. And so the first adult campus of Antioch College was established in Vermont in 1964. Sometime later, that campus moved to its present home in Keane, N.H.
Over the course of the next two decades, the college established campuses across the country.
“… At one time there were some 35 or 40 of them,” said Fishbein. “At one time, the Antioch University system even included a law school which was located outside of Washington, D.C. Then, in 1988, the college decided to open an adult unit with the same mission as these other satellites, but co-located on the campus of the college. It was called, initially, the Center for Adult Experiential Learning. Then it became the School for Adult Experiential Learning. Then it became the McGregor School of Antioch University, and eventually it became Antioch University Midwest.”
When asked about his opinions on the rebirth of the nearby Antioch College, Dr. Fishbein couldn’t have been clearer or more positive.
“We cheer them on,” he said. “We are looking forward to their success.”
So which one is the real Antioch? Obviously, both. Both schools are committed to educating their students, and each school embodies that ideal, first spoken by Horace Mann, the first president of Antioch College, so long ago, when he spoke the words that are to this day repeated at every Antioch commencement:
“Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity.”
For more information on Antioch University Midwest, visit www.midwest.antioch.edu.
Reach DCP freelance writer Tim Walker at Tim Walker@DaytonCityPaper.com.