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I’m a new graduate. Here’s why I’m glad I chose a small Catholic college

OPINION: I did not attend an elite university – and that made a positive impact on my education

When I was deciding where to study for my undergraduate, I knew I wanted to attend a university that would challenge me academically and that would form me as a whole.

Now as I end my time at Franciscan University of Steubenville, I know I made the right choice.

After all, these would be some of the most formative years of my life and I wanted to study at a university that would teach me how to think rather than force me to adopt “diversity, equity, and inclusion” or gender ideology. I also wanted to play women’s sports with only females.

To this end, I chose to attend Franciscan University of Steubenville, a small Catholic liberal arts school.

Fifty minutes west of Pittsburgh, Franciscan University is known as the shining city on the hill for its authentic and unapologetic Catholic identity and liberal arts education.

Since the fall of 2020, the school has stood out against Ivy League and other universities when the school decided to resume in person classes only months after the COVID-19 outbreak. That year, the school broke its record for its incoming freshmen class. While other universities mandated masks and forced students to take classes online, my classmates and I gathered for Mass, ate dinner together, and played sports.

In the subsequent years, Franciscan continued to break its incoming freshmen class record and continued to stand out against more prestigious institutions.

When other universities and their presidents reacted poorly to protests after Hamas attacked Israel, our president, Fr. Dave Pivonka, invited all Jewish students to transfer to the university.

When other universities were trying to build their DEI and gender studies programs, my alma mater was focusing on building courses to introduce freshmen into the classical liberal arts education through its Franciscan Quest program.

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This program was built on top of a liberal arts core that requires every student to take foundational theology, philosophy, literature, history, art, and sometimes language classes.

In these classes I learned the foundation of a classical liberal arts education as well as received the tools to think. I was taught learning techniques as simple, but as forgotten, as how to read and outline a book.

These learning skills served me in higher education classes where breaking down and articulating arguments in books like Plato’s “Republic” was the norm.

It was not just the liberal arts education that drew me to a small Catholic school, but also its vibrant Catholic culture.

You see Catholicism bursting everywhere on campus.

Most schools might try to hide their Catholicism or Christianity in an attempt to reach more students, but not my alma mater. Instead, Franciscan University proudly displays its Catholicism and continues to attract hundreds of students because of it.

While studying at Franciscan University, I saw how Catholicism contributes towards the liberal arts education because each was built upon the other.

During a semester abroad through the school’s Gaming, Austria study abroad program, I saw the integration of the liberal arts with Catholicism.

While staying in a 14th century Carthusian monastery, I studied Christian moral principles, ethics, Victorian literature, and art.

I then had the opportunity to see these things come alive in the European cities and churches I visited. There I saw how the liberal arts formed the foundation of many of these European sites.

Through my education, I saw some of the heights of what liberal arts can do for society in Rome and saw the devastating effects that happen when liberal arts and Christian morality are ignored while at Auschwitz.

Thanks to the Catholic liberal arts education I received at Franciscan University, I not only learned how to think but saw the importance of a classical curriculum and how it cannot be taken for granted or ignored.

MORE: This small Catholic college produces priests and other religious vocations

IMAGE: Franciscan University of Steubenville / YouTube.com

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About the Author
Gigi De La Torre -- Franciscan University of Steubenville