Oglethorpe University Ranked Among Top 50 U.S. Liberal Arts Colleges

Independent news magazine Washington Monthly has released its annual list of Top 100 Liberal Arts Colleges in the nation, and Oglethorpe University comes in at #49!

The magazine rates and ranks colleges in three different categories: social mobility (recruiting and graduating low-income students), research (producing cutting-edge scholarship and PhDs) and service (encouraging students to give something back to their community). Within the service category, OU was ranked #9 for providing a high number of staff supporting community service, the number of academic courses that incorporate service, and for providing scholarships for community service.

Members of the incoming class sort and pack book donations at Books for Africa.

Oglethorpe provides numerous volunteer opportunities for its students throughout the year. Most recently, 350  freshman and first-year students participated in the annual Orientation Day of Service alongside faculty, staff and community volunteers. The group was spread out across Atlanta, volunteering with nine different nonprofit organizations. Five groups’ efforts went to environmental stewardship, lending a hand to Grant Park Conservacy, TREES Atlanta, Southwest Atlanta Growers Cooperative, Crop Mob Atlanta and Park Pride. Three groups volunteered at nonprofits that focus on homelessness and hunger issues: Furniture Bank of Metro Atlanta, Senior Citizen Services of Atlanta and the Atlanta Community Food Bank.  And, one group of 80 students helped to sort and pack books at Books for Africa.

Oglethorpe freshmen assemble beds at the Furniture Bank of Metro Atlanta.

Earlier this month, Oglethorpe also was named to Forbes magazine’s list of top colleges in the nation, and for six consecutive years has been named to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, the highest federal recognition a college or university can receive for its commitment to volunteering, service-learning, and civic engagement.

Hundreds Volunteer During Oglethorpe’s Orientation Day of Service

Orientation Day at Oglethorpe is unlike orientation at any other school.  While new Petrels do rush to meet their professors and participate in the essential get-to-know-your-campus activities, they also add another stop to their list of things to do:  community service throughout the Atlanta area.  

On Monday morning,  Oglethorpe University’s incoming class volunteered at seven Atlanta-area nonprofits as part of the annual Orientation Day of Service.  In past years students have volunteered during their first week of college, but this is the first time an entering class has reached seven locations within the same day

For most, it was a way to become acclimated with the city around them, and experience hands-on learning about an an Atlanta nonprofit, its mission, and how it serves the community need.  For others, like 17-year old Parth Patel, the biggest personal impact of the project was having the opportunity to create relationships with classmates from around the world.

“[The day of service] was a great way for me to start making friends,” explained Parth, who spent his morning clearing shrubs and picking up litter at nearby Silver Lake.  “I am originally from Zambia, and it is neat to meet other international students from all over… because we’ve been working together all morning, we’ve had plenty of time to talk and learn about each other’s cultures and backgrounds.”

Parth and 19 fellow freshmen volunteered at Silver Lake in preparation for the community’s 100-year anniversary celebration.  But hundreds of other Petrels spread out around the metro area with plenty of other tasks in mind.  About 80 volunteers packed and sorted books for Africa’s youth at Books for Africa in Smyrna while 40 others worked at Medshare, sorting and preparing medical supplies for those in need the world over.  Another 50 offered their hands at Decatur’s Delano Line Park, helping to remove invasive species on its grounds, through a program called Park Pride.  At Grant Park, more than 100 volunteers worked to  prepare and beautify Atlanta’s oldest public park—just in time for next weekend’s Grant Park Summer Shade Festival.  More students visited Open Hand, packaging meals for medically-fragile patients, and more still spent time at Push Push Theatre, cleaning, organizing and painting areas of the theatre in preparation for a television show that is to be filmed there in the fall.

In recognition of their efforts, the Class of 2015 received the Phoenix Award from the office of Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed for “exemplary commitment to community service” and “for its hard work and dedication toward improving our quality of life and making our city a better place to live, work and play.” The Phoenix Award is given to organizations and individuals who have made significant contributions to the residents of Georgia.

“Oglethorpe University has expanded its Orientation Day of Service for incoming students to reach multiple nonprofit sites in the Atlanta area,” said Tamara Nash, director of the Oglethorpe’s Center for Civic Engagement. “Our goal is to make the service experience more impactful for both the nonprofits and for the students.”