Centre College was recently recognized as one of the top religious colleges in the U.S. by StartClass.com. While the national ranking acknowledges Centre’s founding Presbyterian heritage, the designation also signals the College’s strong sense of community, civility and open-mindedness as an institution inclusive of all faiths and religious studies.
“A long and rich tradition of tolerance, freedom of inquiry and community informs all aspects of life at Centre,” says H.W. Stodghill, Jr. and Adele H. Stodghill Professor of Religion and College Chaplain Rick Axtell. “This spirit of respect for diversity is central to who we are and reflective of our Presbyterian heritage.”
StartClass.com compiled the list of the country’s top religious colleges with the help of the National Center for Education statistics, which recognizes almost 800 schools in the United States as having an affiliation with a specific denomination. Centre, ranked #17, was one of eight schools named on the top-25 list that has an affiliation with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Among other schools included in the overall ranking are Davidson College, Duke University, Rhodes College and Trinity University.
While the College’s Presbyterian ties now carry more historical significance, meaning there are no expectations that Centre’s curriculum or general educational environment will be distinctly Presbyterian in nature, Axtell affirms that Centre’s foundation in the church has “shaped the campus ethos.” This tradition has not only contributed to a campus-wide emphasis on community but also has helped reiterate the College’s focus on an interconnected global community.
Vice President of College Relations Richard Trollinger, a parent of two Centre graduates and 20-year member of the College’s senior administration, agrees, describing Centre as “a place where faith matters and where the study of religion is taken seriously.”
From the classroom to campus activities, religious life plays an important role for students of all faiths at Centre, and the College’s Religious Life Office aims to foster a respectful environment for all. Approximately 25 different religious denominations are identified on campus, many of them represented by student organizations such as CentreFaith, the interfaith group that provides opportunities for different traditions to come together for dialogue.
In addition to a weekly worship service led by the Religious Life Office, organizations like Baptist Campus Ministries, Centre Christian Fellowship, Centre Sangha, Jewish Student Organization, Meditation Centre, Muslim Student Association, Newman Club and Thinking about Faith enrich religious life and practice on campus.
Centre’s study of religion is delivered through a global lens, providing the opportunity for students to learn objectively about the various faiths that exist within their campus community and across the world. The General Education curriculum’s two-course requirement in “Fundamental Questions” can be filled by classes ranging from Biblical History and Ideas, Western Religious Traditions and Eastern Religious Traditions, to introductory courses in Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism.
Beyond the classroom, students traveling abroad also gain global perspective by experiencing cultures and religious traditions worldwide. Both semester-long programs and CentreTerm courses provide such learning opportunities and range widely in subject matter. Among many study abroad options, Centre students can opt to travel the ancient pilgrimage route of the Camino de Santiago de Compostela in Spain, explore Hindu temples while studying India’s varied religious traditions, or examine the religion and politics of eastern Africa through an immersive experience in Rwanda and Uganda.
Axtell acknowledges that an “atmosphere of caring and respectful relationships among faculty, students and staff” contributes to the interconnected and supportive community to be found on Centre’s campus. This tradition also plays an important role in the College’s focus on preparing students for lives of learning, leadership and service as global citizens.
by Centre College News
March 4, 2016