By Kenneth Glidden, Head Culture Writer
Photos taken by Phoebe McCutcheon, Photographer and Designer
McKendree University has been around for nearly 200 years, and for a university to thrive for this long it has to be doing a lot right. With that being said, nothing is perfect and always being on the lookout for ways to improve is how good things become great things. After interviewing upperclassmen, lowerclassmen and professors, there have been some amazing ideas gathered about what McKendree might want to look into implementing for its future students.
After interviewing two seniors and two freshmen here at McKendree, there are a few things they believe McKendree is missing. The first question asked was, “In terms of academics, what is Mckendree missing?” Freshman Caitlyn mentioned, “I would love to see more language classes i.e. French, sign language or others. We have a ton of international students at our school and it would be really cool to learn more of some of their languages.” She then spoke about how she, like many other students, would love to learn a second language, but often doesn’t have the opportunity to do so.
Claire, a fourth-year student finishing her MBA, had an amazing idea that is not necessarily something missing here at McKendree, but more of something that can be improved upon. She stated, “The 4+1 program, when it was introduced to students [in her upper-level business courses], I feel like at that point whenever they did come into those classes it felt like it was a little late [to endeavor into the program].” She thinks more students would be willing to commit to that program if they were introduced to it earlier in their college career, for example, during the lower-level courses rather than upper-level.
On the topic of business courses, senior lacrosse player Kat had a brilliant idea regarding an upper-level marketing course, Marketing 320 (also known as Personal Selling). She was talking about what the class is about (resume building, selling yourself to employers, etc.) and she mentioned, “[Personal Selling] could be useful for every student, not just the business students.” She then brought forward the idea that this class could potentially be transformed into a lower-level general education credit for all students.
Moving on from academics, the focus shifted towards facilities and services. Freshman Alireza, one of the many student-athletes, had this to say about the facilities available here: “We really need two performance centers for Bearcats.” He then went on to explain, “One facility is not enough because there are several sports and many athletes on campus, our performance center is always busy and many sports just get 55 minutes of workout there.” Though a new performance center may not be feasible in the near future, this may speak more so to how the current performance center is used. Alireza is not wrong; many sports here on campus would flourish if they had the opportunity for more time in a well-put-together training facility like the performance center.
One possible solution to this was brought forth by both Caitlyn and Claire. When asked about the facilities, they both mentioned how the on-campus fitness center could use some TLC. Caitlyn suggested, “…mainly just a good clean and some new equipment.” Claire stated, “I feel like it could get a lot of use…it’s not well-taken care of.” She then went on to talk about how simple of a fix this is. Claire mentioned how if McKendree simply put more focus into the maintenance of the fitness center, it could even become a profitable entity on McKendree’s campus. She also talked about how revamping the on-campus fitness center would be great for the non-athlete population at the school who don’t have access to the performance center.
The third question asked was about recreational activities. Alireza had some fun ideas saying, “1828 should be open on weekends and I wish there would be free fun tours each month to play something, like bowling.” The idea of fun tours would be something really interesting for McKendree to add to its list of recreational activities. Though as nice as free would be, it would likely have to be a paid endeavor. Something like this wouldn’t be super hard to coordinate – it could be as simple as posting a sign-up in an email blast saying “There are X amount of seats on the Bogey Bus, be quick and get your tickets for Bogey’s Bowling Trip.”
Another fantastic idea for recreation was brought to light by Claire. Her idea was to start an art club for students who want a creative outlet without having to take a credit class that may affect their grade. She said, “It could be led by students with the possibility for a federal work-study opportunity. It could open more jobs for students who need it and it could also open up jobs for students in more creative ways. It also brings art to McKendree and the community around it and I feel like it could be a program that McKendree could market.”
She then went on to talk about how funds could be raised by hosting art shows on campus featuring the work that those in the art club made – that way they can build funds for supplies for the art club’s continuation. “Then students have an outlet to do art and crafts because honestly, taking up a hobby in different art areas is really challenging. Whether it be painting, knitting or paper collaging, a lot of it takes resources you don’t have….not every student has the money to be spending on those extracurricular activities [art classes].” She also had brilliant ideas such as having the art professors at the school host workshops every once in a while for the art club, that way the school doesn’t have to use a lot of external resources and the members of the art club can learn a variety of art skills.
As valuable as the student body’s opinion is, inclusive and general input of how to make the University better is most important. For that reason, I wanted to get the opinions of a couple of professors here at McKendree University. When asked “What is McKendree Missing?” Dr. Alan Alewine gave an unexpected answer: more students. “Students are the soul of any university,” he states, “the energy that we get from students really feeds McKendree’s aura.” It’s fairly obvious that you have no university without the student population, but that’s not the point Dr. Alewine was getting at. He mentions, “They create a sense of vibrancy and a sense that what we’re doing is significant.”
Dr. Alewine then goes on to talk about how the student population, not only at McKendree, but across America has had “less than ideal enrollment.” A mixture of effects from COVID-19 and the general decrease in population size from the previous generation to the current one are some factors Dr. Alewine mentioned that fed into this decline in student enrollment.
He then went on to mention a few initiatives McKendree is currently taking to not only attract more students but to allow them to use McKendree to work towards success. These initiatives are not only well thought out and brilliant but will also be mentioned in next week’s article, “What Makes McKendree Great” – a follow-up piece regarding what is already amazing about our university.
Dr. Sara Frank (who most know as Dr. Trask) took a different approach when answering this first question with this: “Counseling services is a service that we need more people to staff.” She then goes on to praise those that spearhead the counseling department and talk about the great work they have been able to do, while at the same time mentioning how understaffed they are for the number of students that use this extremely helpful service. She also had a second response to this question, which most everyone will agree with: “The second thing I would say is our facilities. Piper [Academic Center] is phenomenal but if you have class in Carnegie, Clark, Old Main, or Voigt you’re going to battle some type of issue.” Frank goes on to explain this, “It seems like, outside of Piper, our classrooms just aren’t conducive to learning.”
A McKendree alum herself, she has first-hand experience of the classroom environment from both perspectives. She also mentioned that she has discussed this issue with her students before and they all agree that in classrooms outside of PAC, there is usually something (HVAC issues, broken desks, lighting, etc.) that distracts from learning.
After asking Dr. Alawine what McKendree is missing, a more fun and hypothetical question were asked: “Given ample resources, what would you renew or add to McKendree?” His response was spot on saying, “If I won the lottery tomorrow, I would give enough to renew the science building!” He then went on to say, “We need a space that is as awesome as the instructors that teach in that space.” Alewine then went on to talk about how crucial science is when building a bright future and how important it is to know about the natural world.
This may sound familiar to a lot of students, as talks of a renewed Voigt have been going around for years now. Unfortunately, due to the ever-present pandemic, efforts towards Voigt’s renewal have been slowed, but that doesn’t mean it is not happening. What is happening, however, is that McKendree is growing and improving where and when it can. Frank of course said she would pour her infinite imaginary money towards what she mentioned previously, but also something that has been an issue here at McKendree for some time: accessibility issues. “Wheelchair accessibility for upper campus, I would really love to see money towards not making individuals with differing physical abilities have to go around and then up just to get to 1828….I would like to see us be a little more differing ability friendly,” she says.
Frank was just absolutely brewing with ideas for ways to improve the school and one of those ways was brainstorming classes McKendree might consider bringing to the school. “Within Comm[unications], I would say I have a couple classes I would like to see offered. To appeal to our 37 sports, I think it would be great to have a sports broadcasting and a sports journalism class.” She went on to explain, “I would love to see those taught on our campus because I think we would fill the classes and I think students want to do that when they graduate.”
She had ideas for classes outside of the Communications major too, “I would love to see a diversity and inclusion class offered or integrated into UNI-101 or something along those lines.” As the discussion with Frank continued, the idea of a sequel of sorts to UNI-101 was brought to light. This would be a class very similar to UNI-101, but instead of focusing on how to be successful within the university setting, it would focus on useful life skills, such as personal selling or diversity and inclusion.
All in all, the students and professors here have a great eye for the future of McKendree University. No prompts other than a few simple questions were able to spark such highly imaginative and feasible suggestions for our beloved university, which goes to show how limitless the potential is for not only the school but the Bearcats within it.
The final question asked to everyone interviewed for this piece was “Can you list some things you think McKendree does right?” and their answers were astounding. So astounding that they will be getting their own piece next week! As a follow-up to this article, “What Makes McKendree Great” will focus on what students and professors here at McKendree love about our school!