Sweet Sixteen: Birmingham-Southern College

[During the next few weeks, we will post excerpts from our new book, Sweet Sixteen: Great Colleges of the South.]

Birmingham-Southern College

If Birmingham-Southern’s academic program is the foundation for students’ success, then faculty members are the pillars upon which nascent aspirations ascend. “This place has a native genius in the way faculty, programs and departments reflexively reach out” to young scholars, says Mark Schantz, the provost. “Students learn to become more intellectually adventurous while here.”

During a comprehensive orientation program, faculty and staff introduce students to the wide array of learning experiences available to them. “Faculty help students to find their intellectual connection to the college, to begin to navigate their career path and their new passions,” says Kathleen Rossmann, an associate professor of economics and vice president for enrollment management, who maintains contact with far-flung former students enrolled in graduate programs at places like Michigan Law School, the London School of Economics and the University of Arizona. “When we write recommendation letters, it is obvious we know the student. Those letters show the depth of our interactions with [them].” …

“There is a particularly close relationship between faculty and students,” says Susan Hagen, Mary Collett Munger Professor of English and director of the Harrison Honors Program. “Faculty are generous with their time in training students to do research with them.” …

Professors routinely help students navigate academic and career pathways. Ryan Melvin came to Birmingham-Southern to study religion and philosophy before going into the ministry. As a freshman, however, he took a physics course taught by a professor who recognized in Melvin “an interest and aptitude” for the physical science. “BSC helped me to decide what I really wanted to do,” says Melvin, who declared a major in physics while continuing to nurture his original academic interests.

“Physics is what I do,” he says. “Religion and philosophy keep me up at night.” …

Professors don’t simply guide students on their academic paths. They also walk with them. In the arts, that can translate into the college’s voice teachers giving a recital on campus or Michael Flowers, chair of the college’s theatre department,  playing the role of Claudius in a production of Hamlet. “Faculty don’t just teach what they do,” he says. “They do what they teach.”

Posted in Editorial on 03/13/2012 12:54 am


  1. Getting ready to watch son David play (maybe) in his first college LAX game. Carthage vs Sewanee on TN.

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