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Antioch admits first students

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James Russell first heard of Antioch College several years ago when, as a young man living in Texas, he read Colleges That Change Lives, in which author and education writer Loren Pope wrote of Antioch, “There is no college or university that makes a more profound difference in a young person’s life, or that creates more effective adults.”

Though Russell was unable at the time to attend Antioch, he still fantasized doing so, and kept close tabs on Antioch news.

So it was “devastating” when the college was closed and his hopes of someday being an Antiochian were dashed, Russell wrote in an e-mail this week. At that point, he moved to Yellow Springs to become a part of the Nonstop community, then later moved back to Texas, where he’s currently a freelance blogger and writer who works as an intern for the progressive news site Truthout. He plans soon to move to Chicago, where he will serve as communications co-ordinator for the peace group Voices for Creative Nonviolence.

And next year, Russell’s dream will become reality. He recently learned that he is one of the first students accepted into the revived Antioch College.

“I want to go to Antioch to support and sustain an institution that gave me so much through the past few years. I want to go to Antioch, too, to finally realize my only dream of the past few years, to be an Antiochian,” he wrote. “I want to go to Antioch, then, for what the college represents: not just the vital three C’s, that is co-op, classroom and community, but also the kind of person it creates.”

Russell is among the first four young people — two from Texas and two from Ohio — to be accepted by the college during its early admissions process, according to Special Assistant to the President for Enrollment Kristen Pett in a recent interview. The college received 17 early admissions applications, and accepted four, or 22 percent, Pett said. The college recently notified those chosen of their admission.

While not identifying the new students by name, Pett stated that the initial group is “strong, intellectually inquisitive and from a range of educational backgrounds.” They are also diverse in race, gender and background, she said.

Antioch plans to have 25 students in its first class next fall, college leaders have stated. The remaining 21 students will be selected during the regular admissions process, which has a March 1 deadline for applications. During March, Pett, President Mark Roosevelt and other members of the admissions staff will make final decisions, and prospective students will be notified by April 1. Students then have until May 1 to let the college know of their decision.

“Applications are coming in at a steady pace,” Pett said recently. She declined to give the exact numbers of applicants, as the process is ongoing. However, she said she feels excited by the quality of student that the new college is attracting. Applications are coming in from “all over,” she said, with about 20 percent of applicants from out of state, including especially strong representation from New York and California.

“We continue to attract some of the most talented and community-minded [high school] graduates,” Pett said.

The college’s initial 25 students will be attending college tuition-free during their four years, partly because these students will be taking a risk by attending a college that is so far not accredited. (Gaining accreditation is a multi-year process, with the catch-22 that before becoming accredited the college must first graduate a class of students, who will receive retroactive credits if the college becomes accredited.) Antioch College is making progress in moving forward in that process, accreditation consultant Len Clark stated at a recent college board pro tem meeting.

In recent weeks, Antioch leaders announced the establishment of Horace Mann Fellowships, which all members of the first class will receive. The fellowships will include additional opportunities for the first group of students, including mentoring by college alumni and the opportunity for grant money to cover college room and board costs, according to Pett.

In general, according to Communications Director Gariot Louima, it’s an exciting time to be at the college.

“We’ve been working toward something for many months,” he said. “Now it seems tangible.”

Antioch alumni volunteers are also working to help ready the campus for its first class next fall, according to Volunteer Coordinator Julian Sharp this week.

“Volunteers are playing a key role in a variety of ways in readying the campus for students,” he said.

A core group of both local and out-of-town alumni, who call themselves VAMP, or Volunteers for Antioch Maintenance Projects, have committed one week a month for work projects, beginning in January with creating a workshop in the former Maples building. This month they have been working in the McGregor building on campus, which will serve as the main academic building next fall, Sharp said, housing classes and academic offices. The first group of students will live in the Birch dormitory on Corry Street.

All six Antioch College tenure-track faculty positions have been advertised, according to Louima, who said the college has received about 200 applications for its position in philosophy, and a lower number for the other positions, which include literature, art (sculpture and drawing), anthropology, chemistry and Spanish. The college also recently began advertising for the new position of dean of community life. Advertisements have been placed in standard venues for higher education positions, including the Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Education Web sites.

No finalists for the tenure-track positions have been chosen yet, according to Louima, who said that finalists will be interviewed on campus through March and April.


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