Ask students earning a liberal arts degree to sum up their college experiences, and they are bound to describe them as life changing. Liberal arts colleges think outside the box when it comes to teaching. They take students beyond the classroom to learn important skills that will carry them into the future.
Unique on and off-campus programs, groups and activities provide an opportunity for college students to interact with others, explore new interests, build confidence and make connections. Because of these experiences, students enter the classroom – and the workforce – with newfound courage, self-esteem and drive.
Some colleges provide programs that go far beyond the typical classroom and club offerings. With hands-on programs that challenge students, these schools can take new high school graduates who lack confidence and transform them into self-assured young adults.
One such program is the Equestrian Club at Randolph-Macon College (R-MC) in Ashland, Virginia, an inclusive club that allows students of all skill levels to participate in different ways. Some students opt to take weekly lessons, while others choose to join the Eventing team or compete as members of the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) team. Regardless of whether they choose to compete or simply learn more about the sport, the program is making a difference in students’ lives. Plus, it counts as a college credit.
Program Director Dana Lesesne says that the growth she sees among her students is remarkable.
“I have one [student] who came not knowing how to ride at all and was painfully shy,” Lesesne recalls. “When we felt she was a strong enough rider to attend her first show, her parents came to watch. Her mom took me aside and said, ‘I don’t know what you have done, but she is a completely different child.’ She [had] just returned from a January term trip to Jerusalem, something she would have never done 18 months ago.”
Lesesne describes R-MC’s Equestrian Club as close-knit, and notes that the program enriches students’ overall college experiences: “They learn about resilience, teamwork, disappointment and rolling with what life hands you.” Lesesne adds, “Students are really there for each other. We had a student suffer a tragic death in her family her first year, and I honestly believe she would have dropped out of school if it were not for her team members.”
Randolph-Macon College recently completed the purchase the state-of-the-art equestrian facility where students have been riding, which is within proximity to the campus. This will expand the Equestrian Club’s reach to include camps and clinics, as well as programs for high school riders.
While the Equestrian Club impacts their lives during the college years, students take those skills and experiences well past graduation. Equestrian Club members have gone on to receive scholarships for PhDs at esteemed institutions, including Dartmouth College, Tufts University, Johns Hopkins University, and the University of Virginia. Graduates have succeeded in a variety of post-graduation endeavors, such as landing positions at Facebook and spots at top law schools.
Lesesne has faith in all her riders and has seen the results of the program firsthand. “R-MC students, and especially those who have gone through the riding program, are amazingly successful in whatever direction they want to go,” she shares.
As colleges continue to witness the positive outcomes that result from unique on and off-campus experiences, more institutions are following suit and offering programs and activities students wouldn’t otherwise have access to.
These beyond-the-classroom programs make for a smooth transition onto campus and into the workforce.