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A New Kind of University: An Interview About Augustine College

AUGUSTINE COLLEGE claims to be “an alternative to the norm in higher education – an alternative that aims higher.” A one-year, distinctly Christian liberal arts program, Augustine is certainly unique. In fact, I think it’s safe to say there are only a handful of colleges like it (at most). With only around 20-25 students on campus in any given academic year, Augustine is an intimate community and that intimacy lends itself to profound intellectual training and moral development. Indeed, to Augustine, education is about more than getting a job or securing a degree; to Augustine College education is about the development of the soul, the acquisition of virtue, and the accumulation of wisdom.

Recently, I had the privilege of being able to chat with former Augustine student and current employee, Landon Coleman, about what makes Augustine unique. Here is what he said.

First of all, what drew you to Augustine College in the first place? What stood out about it when you were considering your college choices?

I was drawn to Augustine College because I sensed that their vision of education was an alternative to the education being pursued by my peers and encouraged by my high school teachers. When I heard that Augustine College was founded and taught by Christian university professors who were dissatisfied with the secularism, relativism and plummeting standards of post-secondary education I knew that Augustine College must be an interesting place.

How was your experience there different than what most college students would know?

I’ve found that most students follow one of two paths during their post-secondary education: either they use their time in university solely as a training ground for their career and become super-specialized technicians. Or they indulge in the educational buffet set before them at university, learning little bits of knowledge that don’t quite fit together and walk away from their degree with a bad case of relativism and no job prospects.

Neither of these paths have much to do with a Christian understanding of education (or the original intent of the university). My education at Augustine College was important for me because it bore fruit in my life. It was useful, and not only in helping me pursue a career. I read the classics and through that (often grueling) experience learned to think about concepts like virtue, evil, love, sex, justice, community and truth. Those are all concepts that I actually have to apply in my life. I learned to read and think critically, how to love God with my mind by being intellectually honest, and how to live in community. Compared to the two institutions I had attended before and the one after, it was by far the best, most challenging, and most Christian post-secondary educational experience.

What were your favorite courses at Augustine?

One of the unique aspects of Augustine College is that everyone follows the same curriculum (except they can choose between Latin or Greek) over the 8-months. Within that set curriculum, my favorite courses were “The History of Philosophy” and “Art in the Christian West”.

Are there any things about Augustine that you think perspective students should know that might not show up in a marketing document or campus visit?

The student body at the College is quite small (20-25) and one aspect that might not be evident even on a visit is the quality of the relationships that develop throughout the year, not only amongst the students, but between our faculty, staff, alumni and students. The staff, faculty, and many of the alumni are quite involved in the lives of the students and vice versa. These relationships are essential for further discussion of the topics broached in class, the personal development of the students and the strength and integrity of the College community.

From your perspective, what does the future of Augustine look like?

We pray for God’s will to be done at Augustine College. From my perspective the College will continue to serve the 20-25 students that come to Ottawa each year, but I would like to see the College have a more active and robust presence on the web in the next few years. Augustine College lectures have recently been put up on Youtube and that type of work seems to be quite relevant.

To learn more about Augustine College visit their website.

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