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Roosevelt envisions ‘Antioch village’

Of the thousands of institutions of higher learning represented at a recent accreditation meeting, only five were looking to be newly accredited — two tribal schools, a bible school, a cosmetology school and Antioch College.

As the only liberal arts college in the country in the process of starting up, Antioch must find new and better ways of operating, and the village of Yellow Springs could play a pivotal role. That was the message of Antioch President Mark Roosevelt during a presentation to college trustees last weekend.

“There are significant ways we can break new ground in relationship with the village we call home,” Roosevelt said.

The new Wellness Center breaking ground this year is projected to strengthen town-gown ties and bring in revenue to the college, but is just the beginning, Roosevelt told the trustees. Antioch’s assets also include Glen Helen, WYSO Public Radio, Antioch Review, Herndon Gallery, Coretta Scott King Center, Riding Centre, Rockford Chapel, a renovated theater building and more.

“We’re not either a simple enterprise or simply a residential small liberal arts enterprise,” Roosevelt said. “How do we think about integrating all of these [assets] to enrich student education opportunities and to enrich the community we live in?”

Collaboration with Yellow Springs is described as the “Antioch Village” concept and is still in its nascent phase, according to Antioch chief communications officer Gariot Louima. It may also include opportunities for seniors to live and learn on the Antioch campus, but there are no immediate plans for senior housing, he said.

Accreditation, meanwhile, remains an important board goal, according to Louima, who said the college can’t conjecture about an achievement date.

During his talk, Roosevelt shared plenty of good news with trustees. It will be a banner fundraising year for the college, with $20 million expected by the end of its fiscal year in June, while annual operating expenses are around $12 million. Far more students enrolled than expected for the fall incoming class — the college’s third class since reopening in 2011. Already 104 deposits have been received. When planned renovations are complete, Antioch will have a $5.7 million dorm, $11 million science building, $8 million wellness center, a central geothermal plant and, potentially, a two-acre solar farm.

But Roosevelt said he doesn’t take much satisfaction in the college’s past fundraising and enrollment success because Antioch still needs reliable revenue sources. Even when students begin paying tuition in a few years, the college will remain reliant on donations, he said.

“When I first came here, I described it as daunting but doable,” Roosevelt said. “Then it was all-in, in order to accomplish it. We’re somewhere past that. We’re well on our way. We are past some of the major hurdles…but it’s unfortunately not safe territory.”

Roosevelt also suggested a new model for admissions. Currently Antioch is “playing the same game” as other colleges by sending out mass mail appeals and email blasts and bragging about its selectivity, Roosevelt said. But, he asked, is that how Antioch College wants to be judged?

With 158 students accepted this year out of 875 applications, Antioch remains highly selective compared to other colleges. Last year, because of a viral Internet article about the college, more than 3,000 applications were received. But with as many as 200 incoming freshman projected in a few years, selectivity might diminish, Roosevelt said. And Antioch might want to find new ways to reach its target student, who in the past has had a combination of academic prowess, grit and positivity.

“We want a particular kind of student,” Roosevelt said. “We don’t admit them just based upon test scores and GPA.”

Roosevelt proposed that Antioch could instead stake out relationships with 30 to 50 high schools in the country from which to draw a diverse student body. School counselors would be educated on the Antioch model. But that would mean ending the pursuit to be more selective.

A related matter is how the college judges its own educational experience, which Roosevelt said remains a major issue with accreditors. While Antioch students are reportedly satisfied with courses, rating them highly for everything from the attentiveness of instructors to the rigor, it’s harder to assess student learning, Roosevelt said. Co-op is notoriously difficult to evaluate, he added. Antioch could look at employability after college, job satisfaction, graduate school admissions or other ways, he said.

“People will judge us by terms they set if we don’t set our own,” Roosevelt said.

According to chief admissions officer Micah Canal, students enrolled in the incoming freshman class have an average ACT score of 26, SAT of 1160 and a GPA of 3.62. There are 33 states and three countries represented, with many students hailing from the top five states of Ohio (22), Texas (11), Pennsylvania (6), California (6) and Wisconsin (5).

Campus renovations

While the board has supported a host of capital projects in recent years, the funds allocated for them has been used up, Roosevelt said. New fundraising must begin for a third dormitory, expected to cost $10 million, which may be needed in a few years if enrollment continues as projected.

Moving ahead this year are renovations to the former Curl Gymnasium, now the Antioch College Health and Wellness Center, and to the theater building. The college may also see ground break this year on a behind-the-meter 550-kilowatt solar array on two acres along Corry Street. That project would be erected not with Antioch funds, but through a power purchase agreement with a solar development company, and is expected to provide for about one-quarter of the college’s electricity needs.

The wellness center will break ground in late spring or early summer, according to a news release last week. Once rehabbed, the 44,000-square-foot facility will have a fully-equipped fitness center, racquetball courts, multi-purpose studio spaces, and a regulation-size indoor swimming pool. The East Gym’s indoor basketball courts will be refurbished, while South Gym will continue to serve as a multi-use space. There will also be a snack bar, locker rooms and outdoor patio, according to floor plans.

The original gymnasium was erected in 1928 and the swimming pool addition built in 1964. Much of the building was in poor condition, according to a recent inspection. There was no insulation in the walls or roof, the floor in the West Gym was buckled due to flooding and the walls in the natatorium were corroded because of chlorine. In addition to fixing these problems, the renovation will be up to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, standards thanks to an anonymous donation from a villager. The wellness center is expected to be competitive in fees to area YMCAs.

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