By Taylor Frey
Elm Staff Writer
A few weeks ago I was sitting in the library working on a project with a few freshmen classmates. After we finished working on the project I made an effort to see what the group thought about Washington College after getting through much of their first semester on campus. While they were nervous about their first set of mid-term grades, there was also an evident excitement for Greek life, Fall Family Weekend, Homecoming, and Fall Break. In addition to this excitement, my classmates had questions about Birthday Ball, May Day, and War on the Shore. A few of us at the table were sporting WC gear, and the eyes of my classmates lit up as we talked about our school.
Suddenly, I felt a rush of nostalgia. You only get one first year at WC and living it through the eyes of a new freshman class is a special experience.
As we continued talking, I asked what everyone wanted to study and I got a whole lot of different answers, double majors, awesome major-minor combinations, and one undecided who had to tell us about an amazing class he was taking and how he wanted to take more classes in the same department. I live for conversations like these where you can see WC pride and excitement for our institution grow in the course of a five minute conversation. I love Washington College and I love watching others fall in love with WC too.
The level of visible and audible school pride on a campus is an important measurement of the heath of any college or university. However, school pride cannot be easily measured on a quantitative scale. School spirit is expressed through a sense of community and belonging. While the presence of school pride is important everywhere, it is essential at a small liberal arts school like ours.
Here at WC not only do we have a small student body, but we are more divided by the extracurricular activities we participate in than we are by our major or area of study. The small community we live in and the lack of academic divides across our campus make College pride crucial to our success. Our common WC identity is what brings us together. As a community of only about 1,500 current students extended by faculty, staff, and alumni, the WC family continues to be strong over the years because we bleed maroon and black, and we love giving back to our institution. From the class gifts and the alumni donations that help us grow, to the fraternities, sororities, sports teams, and clubs that make our community bonds even stronger, it is important that we have confidence in our “little college that could.”
As we look to the future of our school, the first secular college on the continent and the first college charted in a new nation, our campus pride is just as important as the size of our endowment. An increase in campus pride makes us a closer community, raises our standing as an institution, encourages alumni to come back and give back, increases the number of applicants that want to be a part of our community, and increases our freshman retention rate, which is currently at 82 percent and in need of immediate attention.
The SGA and certain members of the college staff have never been more aware of the importance of WC pride. SGA President Connor Harrison and Vice President and Maddie Zins have been key players in this effort. A spinoff of their campaign platform, Harrison and Zins made school pride one of the goals of their administration. This semester the SGA has worked to spotlight campus organizations that demonstrate positive impacts on our community, led an effort to get more students out to sporting events even in the face of a damaged field, and has emphasized the importance of defending off-campus students as members of the community.
Even as the SGA works to increase campus pride there is still a lot of work to do. One SGA administration cannot do it all. In order to grow and develop as a community and an institution, we need to continue strengthening our commitment to WC pride and emphasize our love for our institution as we live, work, and study on and off campus. If we spend the next few years focusing on WC pride as it relates to campus life, student retention, alumni gifts and involvement, and increased first year applicants for admission, we will be on the right track as a student body and as an institution.