Zeke Elias, born in Colombia and raised in Mexico City, craved something different for college. “I wanted a challenge, and I wanted a new experience. And from the moment I walked in the door, I felt at home. I felt welcome.” Now a sophomore at Westminster College in Salt Lake City, Utah, majoring in flight operations and business management, Elias has not been disappointed.
“My favorite part of the campus is the community,” he explained. “My professors don’t just know my name; they often eat lunch with me, and there’s always something to do around here.”
Walking around the Commons at Westminster College, it doesn’t take long to realize something’s different. This isn’t what you expected, not from a school in Utah and not from college in general. On a percentage basis, Westminster is Utah’s most diverse campus – and that’s just a start to what makes the campus community unique.
Founded in 1875 as a prep school, Westminster today is a private nondenominational liberal arts college, accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities – the only accredited liberal arts college in the state and one of the few in the Intermountain West.
Westminster describes itself as an inclusive and active community of learners, with a robust array of financial aid and other programming that support on-campus multiculturalism, Hispanic students as well as students from a host of backgrounds. Students, faculty and staff represent different ethnicities, different religions, different ideologies. At Westminster, how you learn and who you learn with shapes your college experience.
The college aims for classes that are active and experiential, with professors who challenge and inspire. More than 70 academic programs, from political science to aviation, are offered through its four schools –Arts and Sciences, the Bill and Vieve Gore School of Business, the School of Education, and the School of Nursing and Health Sciences. A new pro-gram within the School of Business will offer community education, under-graduate and graduate degrees in entrepreneurship.
The Princeton Review and U.S. News & World Report have given it high rankings as an excellent educational value and for its quality of life.
As a student at Westminster, it wouldn’t be unusual to take a class on campus in the morning, be in downtown Salt Lake for an internship in the afternoon and head to Park City to do some star-spotting at the Sundance Film Festival in the evening. On weekends, there’s plenty of studying to do, but also countless service-learning opportunities and the chance to visit one of 10 nearby mountain resorts for skiing or snowboarding.
With the boom of the Hispanic population in the U.S., Western schools are especially poised to experience strong enrollment. Of the 540 fresh-men who came to the Westminster campus for the first time in fall 2010, more than 20 percent were students of color or international, and more than 10 percent were Hispanic.
Still, it’s the level of active and engaged learning that sets Westminster apart.
Westminster is Utah’s home to the McNair Scholars program, designed to prepare undergraduate students from underrepresented communities to succeed in graduate programs. Students in the program receive personalized support throughout their undergraduate years and during the transition to graduate school, with the ultimate goal of increasing faculty diversity in colleges and universities. That means McNair scholars benefit from well-funded summer research, extensive faculty mentorship opportunities and shoulder-to-shoulder support when applying to graduate programs.
Westminster’s Diversity and International Center is the campus’ home for community building, educational programming and support services for first-generation college students and students of color. It also houses the Latin@ Westminster club that promotes understanding and awareness throughout the campus of Latino/Latina and Hispanic cultures through a continual stream of cultural events, lectures and discussions that are open to everyone.
Easing the financial burden of an excellent education is a top priority at Westminster. At a time when tuition costs are pushing college further out of reach for more Americans, Westminster strives to open the door of opportunity for more young adults.
In 2008, the college began the Westminster College Somos Scholarship Award. In partnership with the Business Leadership Foundation of the Utah Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Westminster awards a full scholarship to a first-generation undergraduate student of Hispanic descent who shows great potential in high school. A second full scholarship aids one National Hispanic Scholar. Three Exemplary Achievement Scholarships are available to top students who have overcome hardships, difficult personal situations or a disability.
Hispanic students can also benefit from the college’s half-tuition scholarships, available to National Merit Semi-finalists or National Achievement Semi-finalists.
More than 98 percent of Westminster students receive some form of financial aid, and the average award is more than $22,000.
To learn more, visit www.westminstercollege.edu.