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Friends’ name, mission reflect care, concern for students

  • Published Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2012, at 10:56 a.m.
  • Updated Friday, Feb. 24, 2012, at 9:51 a.m.

If I’ve learned anything in the nearly nine months I’ve served as president at Friends University, it’s this: Friends University is a place that truly embraces its students. Based on my past experiences, very few educational institutions foster and nurture their students quite like Friends University does.

This concern for our students traces its roots back to the university’s founders, who believed in developing well-rounded students who influence others to live meaningful lives. They believed in equality for all and fostered a genuine appreciation for our fellow citizens. They believed learning takes place outside the classroom as much as it does inside the classroom. Our care and concern for students, alumni, faculty, staff, parents, donors and others is even an integral part of our name. While Friends University is named after the Society of Friends (better known as the Quakers), the name also reinforces the value of treating people with the care and concern we extend to our friends.

Today, Friends University reaches out to three populations seeking higher education in Wichita: the traditional student aged 18-24; the employed adult, aged 24-plus, who’s ready to finish a degree; and professionals with an undergraduate degree who are looking for a graduate degree. Each of these three groups at Friends numbers about 1,000, for a total enrollment nearing 3,000.

Friends University is known among traditional college students for its signature programs such as fine arts, the sciences and business. However, we also offer a wide range of other undergraduate majors to meet just about any interest. Some of our regionally and nationally known programs include zoo science, the only undergraduate program of its kind in the United States, and our Bachelor of Fine Arts in ballet that attracts dancers from across the nation.

For our adult students, we offer two associate degrees and five bachelor’s degree completion programs that allow them to earn their degrees while maintaining work, family and community responsibilities. Our 13 graduate degrees include MBAs, environmental studies, and marriage and family therapy, a program that not only holds the highest accreditation nationally, but regularly serves the Wichita community through our Center for Family Living.

Serving these diverse student populations has been an important part of our past and will be critical for the future. The face of education is changing demographically, technologically and globally. Higher education is no different, and institutions like Friends University can respond to these changes quickly and strategically.

In our near future, we look to spotlight programs which will do two things: one, connect vitally to the future of Wichita and, two, resonate more deeply with a regional and national audience. We want not only to keep our brightest students in Kansas, but to attract great students from out of state and keep them here after graduation.

No matter what changes come our way, we believe the future of education remains rooted in that care and concern for our students – regardless of whether they are sitting in a classroom on our beautiful campus or sitting at computers around the world.

With more than 30,000 alumni of record, many of them living and working locally, you can find the proof of a Friends University education just about everywhere nearby. Now and in the future, we’re a proud part of Wichita.

T.J. Arant is president of Friends University. Reach him at president@friends.edu.

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