Among the seven colleges sprinkled throughout Rhode Island’s capital city, sits the pretty and spacious (105-acre) campus of Providence College. I was pleasantly surprised by how friendly, happy, and honest the students I met on campus were when I visited in June (2019) and asked them to share insights into their school.
Providence College’s 4,000 undergraduates are proud of their Catholic affiliation (over 50% of students and faculty are Catholic) and the fact that they are the only Dominican University in the U.S. The importance of faith is hard to miss on campus, with 40 friars visibly engaging with students or teaching classes, St. Dominic’s Chapel centered in the middle of campus, and crucifixes adorning classroom walls and offices. The key focus of their Dominican affiliation is their believe that, “faith and reason are compatible, complementary, and point to a single truth,” in contrast to the view of many that faith and reason are mutually exclusive.
Even with this overarching theme, there are no religious requirements on campus. However, students are required to take classes in theology and philosophy, and the Sunday evening mass is always standing room only. Providence College welcomes students of every faith or none, and it has a long relationship with Rhode Island’s Jewish community; in fact, a number of teachers and alumni are Jewish.
Providence College’s most popular majors are Finance, Marketing, Management, Accounting, Psychology, Biology, and Health Policy & Management. Students enjoy small class sizes with 25-30 students on average (the largest class is General Biology, with 50 students). They even record lectures for students to re-listen to after class, and they host a major and minor fair each fall. Providence recently completed a new science complex and offers lots of mentored research for undergraduates (37% participate) as well as funding for independent research. Their Center for Engaged Learning gets students out of the classroom with service, internships, research and abroad programs (94% participate in at least one engaged learning experience). Providence also works hard to ensure students (and parents) have a strong return on their investment with career planning integrated throughout students’ four years; freshmen are given a Strengths Finder assessment, and alumni offer informational interviews, shadow days and internships to sophomores and upperclassmen. As far as results, 97% are employed or in grad school within six months of graduation and 87% are employed in their major; they have a 90% acceptance rate for medical school.
There is a three-year on campus living requirement, with most seniors moving off campus but nearby, and parietal rules governing freshmen and sophomore-year dorms that some complain about, but most learn how to work within or around. All residences have a Champlain. There is no Greek life, but there are activities on campus almost every night including weekends, and students often explore nearby Federal Hill for great Italian food, College Hill for its beauty and history, or Thayer Street near Brown University for hip shops and cafes. A quick bus ride (less than one hour) is all it takes to get to Boston for bigger city life and athletics.
Another signature trait of Providence College is the core curriculum, called the Development of Western Civilization (DWC), which is a foundational course in intellectual history and the liberal arts centered on the Western Tradition. These four courses (spread over four semesters) begin with a 3-semester historical sequence starting in ancient Greece proceeding to the current world, and culminate with a team-taught, four-credit colloquium. Students choose from a variety of colloquia according to their interests. My tour guide acknowledged that the core curriculum (DWC plus fine art, natural science, social science, quantitative reasoning, philosophy and theology course requirements) seems daunting but students appreciate it when they are through it. So much, in fact, that at midnight on the eve of DWC final examinations, students let off steam by rushing outdoors onto the Aquinas Hall quad to engage in the “Civ Scream.” At the end of their sophomore year, students wear “Done with Civ” T-shirts; although students state, “No one is ever really done applying Civ to real life.”
Providence College loves its D1 athletics and showing school spirit during basketball, volleyball, and hockey games, in particular. As the smallest school in the Big East Conference, the Providence College Friars field eight men’s and 11 women’s varsity sports, as well as 20 popular club sports including hockey and lacrosse. Students are open about the lack of diversity (80% of students are white; 13% are from Rhode Island but most are from the Northeast). Both the students and the administration are working to expand the mix of students on campus with multicultural programs for minorities and 1st generation students.
Providence College is a great place for students desiring education grounded in the liberal arts that is not separate from their faith, or at least one that provides an understanding of the role faith and critical thinking play in the world. As their mission explains, “While humanities help us in all our professional lives their deepest purpose is not to help us earn a living but to know how to live.”
College Bound & Ready students: click here to learn more about Kristen’s visit to Providence College, or contact her for a consultation.
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