As some of you may have heard, Dordt was recently ranked by the Wall Street Journal as the #1 most engaging school in the country. When word got out to the students, we all kind of brushed our shoulders and thought, "Yeah, this is, after all, a pretty great school." You could say it was nice to have some official validation for going to a school no one has heard of in the middle of Iowa. (Can't you just picture the conversation? "Why did you choose a school in Iowa? Well you see, if you look up the WSJ rankings of the top most engaging schools..." Etc.)
I did look up the qualifications for what the top most engaging schools are, but you will have to look them up on your own, because I honestly don't remember what they are. However, I decided to reflect on my own experience and how (and if) I see Dordt as being truly engaging. Because most days you don't think to yourself, "Boy, I'm glad I go to such an engaging school."
The first thing I thought of was my professors. I've written about them before, and I'll probably write about them again: they care about their students. Sure, not every professor will have you over for dinner (which means supper for non-Midwesterners) and become friends with your parents, but there's not a bad chance some of them will. Okay, the becoming friends with your parents is a little less likely.
I have a professor who just took English students on a field trip to meet people in careers relating to English to give his students ideas and contacts for after college. I have another professor who basically skips her lunch time on Fridays to meet with me for my independent study. My roommate was having a rough day a while ago, and she had three different professors find her to see if she was alright. Another friend has three classes with a professor and he moved all of her finals because she needs to get home earlier.
Did I mention that these people actually teach us, too? Of course some professors are more exciting than others, but I know the vast majority of them love their fields and their love makes us love them too. That is engaging.
The second thing I thought of was from my experience as an RA. After being an RA, I learned that you have to very intentionally bury yourself in a remote hole to avoid being sought out and cared for by at least somebody (aka, your RA) at some point. It is simply (almost) impossible to just exist by yourself at Dordt.
I also know that RAs are just the first line of people waiting to help students. A huge part of Student Services exists because they realize that students aren't just students--they are people who are living their lives on campus and they have real needs. That is engaging.
The third thing I thought of was our administration. Really, it isn't an accident that we have such engaging people who work for Dordt: engaging starts from the top down.
Did you know that President Hoekstra makes it a goal to know every student's name by the time they graduate? There is nothing particularly outstanding about me to make him remember me, but he still asks me how soccer is when he sees me. When he walks around campus there's nothing pretentious about him--he genuinely loves talking to students. That is engaging.
The fourth (don't worry, there's only five) thing I thought of was how my family has become involved at Dordt. You have to understand that I come from a family of five siblings, and all three of my older siblings went to the same college that my mom went to which is the same college that my grandpa went to. (I'm sure many families at Dordt can relate to the whole family college thing). So when I came to Dordt I really liked it, but it could not claim the same loyalty that that other college had from my family and even from me.
Yesterday, my parents came out for Defender Days. When I told them to pick me up in "Covey lot" they knew where that was. That may not sound like a big step, but compared to when they first came to campus and had no idea that Covenant was a dorm, let alone what Covey was, it was huge. Oh, and I can't forget to mention that the amount of my family's Dordt gear increases with every visit. More seriously, they love coming here--to see me, yes, but also to see my friends and my coach and other parents they've met. And now my younger sister is looking at coming here next year. That is engaging.
The fifth and last thing I thought of was the students. When I was helping show some visitors around the dorms, we asked some of the Dordt students we came across why they liked Dordt. Without fail, all of them included "the people" in their answer. When I look at all the alumni that are here this weekend, I am pretty convinced that it was their fellow classmates that brought them back, for the most part. You see, we all just really like each other here.
No, I am not saying there aren't annoying people here, and that we have no problems, and that there aren't cliques and drama and broken friendships. No, there are all those things here. But there are many more genuine people who care about each other and about the Lord--even the skeptics bring an aspect of realness to Dordt. That is engaging.
In conclusion, I would have to say that yes, Dordt is quite engaging.
However, that doesn't mean Dordt is perfect--as I've just said above. It certainly has flaws. Why do I include that? To make sure you know that we don't pretend to accept perfect students, nor do we pretend to hire only perfect faculty and staff, nor to we pretend to produce perfect kingdom citizens. Actually, it is only by God's design that we received such accolades, and he can take that away whenever he wants; we are at his mercy. So, by his grace, we accept flawed people, hire flawed people, and produce flawed people. And that is engaging.