Major Kerr Fund Grant Supports WRUS MakerSpace

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WRUS students collaborated with local artist Sue Stockman to create a permanent mosaic.

An innovative MakerSpace project at Centreville’s Wye River Upper School (WRUS), has been greatly strengthened by a $120,000 grant from the Grayce B. Kerr Fund, Inc. of Easton, Maryland. This new grant to the independent school for bright students who learn differently will augment a recent $100,000 grant for the capital portion of the MakerSpace project from Baltimore’s Middendorf Foundation by helping to support faculty who will lead the project over the next three years.

The WRUS Board of Trustees is pleased to announce this grant to the student-centered “design and build” educational experience set to launch in the 2018-19 school year.

The Grayce B Kerr Fund’s president, John Valliant said, “The Trustees of the Grayce B. Kerr Fund, Inc. are pleased to assist Wye River Upper School in this exciting addition to their dynamic curriculum. Innovative programs like this are what keeps WRUS as a leader in providing a quality education experience to those with learning differences.”

WRUS Board Chair Alexa Seip commented, “The Grayce B. Kerr Fund is a remarkable asset for the Mid-Shore community and beyond. At WRUS, the Kerr Fund has enabled many deserving students to experience transforming opportunities as they prepare to take their place as contributing citizens in the future.  We at WRUS are most grateful for this generous support from the Kerr Fund.”

The WRUS MakerSpace at 318 S. Commerce Street in Centreville, MD will be located adjacent to the school’s main structure, a historically renovated former Maryland National Guard Armory. With funding from the Middendorf Foundation, work is underway to prepare the structure to accommodate the equipment and tools needed for a MakerSpace.

WRUS Executive Director Chrissy Aull explains, “A MakerSpace is similar to what we used to call  ‘shop’, with some big differences. It is a gender-neutral space equipped with low tech and high tech “design and build” equipment and tools where students, instead of being told what to build, are encouraged to collaborate in identifying issues or needs, creating possible designs to address the need, and then fabricating the object. We will have 3D printers and laser cutters as well as more low-tech hand and power tools, and will weave design opportunities throughout the entire curriculum. We see this MakerSpace as an engaging way to prepare our students for the demands of college and careers.”

WRUS students, staff and visiting artist Sue Stockman designed and constructed a mosaic mural.

Art and Technology Instructor James Martinez, a WRUS teacher since the school’s founding, will lead the design and use of the Space.  Martinez brings broad experience to the project while helping WRUS students create a 3D Printer for the new space.  A graduate of Texas Tech University with an MFA in printmaking from the University of Delaware, he has taught at the Delaware College of Art & Design and Washington College and is a frequent participant in MakerFaires in Brooklyn, N.Y. “Projects can be simple or much more complex; the focus is on encouraging students to identify, design and build,” advises Martinez.

Wye River Upper School was founded in 2002 and leased space on the campus of Chesapeake College until 2014 when it relocated to its permanent campus in the repurposed Centreville Armory.  An independent high school educating bright high school students with learning differences including dyslexia, ADHD, autism and anxiety, WRUS is accredited by the Association of Independent Maryland Schools (AIMS) and certified by the Maryland State Department of Education.

For more information about the School contact Katie Theeke at 410-758-2922 or katietheeke@wyeriverupperschool.org

Chesapeake College: Dual Enrollment Now at Caroline Career and Tech Center

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Chesapeake College has taken its popular Dual Enrollment program to the Caroline Career and Tech Center this year to expand the partnership and offer college courses to CTE students in Caroline County.

When CCTC counselor Brad Plutschak asked for a way to give CTE students an early college experience, Chesapeake offered up an IT class aimed at providing high school students college credits and industry knowledge.

Professor Lanka Elson, through her Computer Ethics class, teaches these aspiring IT professionals the technology and theories they need for their next steps.

Learn from administrators, the Chesapeake instructor and her students talk about how Dual Enrollment is career preparation and college experience.

This video is approximately three minutes in length. For more information about the Dual Enrollment program at Chesapeake College please go here. 

Top Grad is Pursuing American Dream through Education

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Sofiah Ali’s immigrant journey began in the Philippines and is the reason behind her success.

Ms. Ali, a Stevensville resident, is a biology major and aspiring medical researcher. Tonight, she will be honored with the John T. Harrison Award, the highest student honor at Chesapeake College.

A first-generation college student, Ms. Ali will receive her associate’s degree along with 300 other graduates and will deliver her acceptance speech to them. President and CEO of University of Maryland Shore Regional Health Ken Kozel will deliver the commencement address.

A 2016 graduate of Kent Island High School, Ms. Ali has a cumulative 4.0 Grade Point Average. Since enrolling at Chesapeake, she has been on the Dean’s List every semester.  As an Honors Program student, Ms. Ali completed four Honors Contract projects during her time at Chesapeake.

Ms. Ali, 20, was a semi-finalist for the prestigious national Jack Kent Cooke Transfer Scholarship this year and was a 2017 nominee for the NCHC Portz Award. She is an active member of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and participated in recruitment drive that significantly boosted membership.

This record of success if part of a long journey that began more than 15 years ago.

Parents Farzand and Aileen Ali, brought Ms. Ali and her sister Shavanah to Maryland as very young children. This is the only home that Ms. Ali has ever known.

“I don’t remember living in the Philippines, so the United States is what I know. I’ve always had a great sense of pride in my background and where I came from. But when I was younger, because of the influences of my peers, I felt the need to quickly assimilate with those around me,” Ms. Ali said. “I tried to hide something that was an integral part of my identity, I was embarrassed of who I was and the differences I had compared to everyone else. As a result, I began to feel detached from my parents and my culture because of who I was trying to be. Now that I’m older, I realize how silly that was. My differences are what sets me apart from those around me.”

Faculty and staff at Chesapeake say that Ms. Ali’s dedication and drive set her apart.

Ms. Ali works a full schedule at Ledo Pizza on Kent Island while she maintains her perfect GPA at Chesapeake. This semester, she is taking 21 credits. She also volunteers her time with Youthline Eastern Shore Crisis Center.

She was the first-place winner in the Spring 2017 Honors Poster Exhibition and earned a trip to the National Collegiate Honors Council Conference in Atlanta last fall.

On the honors trip, Ms. Ali had the opportunity to visit the Centers for Disease Control. Ms. Ali said she was inspired by both the history and mission of CDC. She hopes to conduct medical research in the future that can be used to improve lives around the globe.

Chesapeake faculty cited, among many attributes, Ms. Ali’s extraordinary work ethic when recommending her for the Harrison Award.

“My mother and father always wanted me to achieve the American Dream. Like millions of other immigrant parents, they left their home country to establish a new life—a better life—for my sister and me. They had sacrificed everything they’d ever known—their language, family, friends, and jobs—in hopes that the new life they sought out for us would open doors to opportunities they never had. From the moment I entered Pre-K until now, I made sure I worked hard in all of my endeavors so that everything they had to give up on would one day be worth it,” Ms. Ali said. “I felt the need to prove myself and work twice as hard. I was not going to hold myself back from living a life without purpose. The tears I once shed out of hopelessness have been replaced with hope and motivation for my life-long ambitions.”

In nominating his student for the Harrison Award, Phi Theta Kappa faculty advisor Jeremy Crowe described Ms. Ali as one of Chesapeake’s great assets.

“Sofiah is an excellent student, an excellent human being and she will bring prestige to this college as an alumna. She is the daughter of immigrants who instilled in Sofiah the importance of hard work, perseverance and kindness. Her Pakistani and Filipino heritage brings diversity to our campus, and you won’t meet a friendlier student Skipjack,” said Associate Professor Jeremy Crowe.

Ms. Ali said that she hopes her Commencement will be as rewarding for her parents as it is for her.

 “I’m eternally grateful for their decision and everything that they had to sacrifice. Although at times, the obstacles we would be presented with are enough to lose hope, I will never forget the things they had to give up on just for the sake of my sister and me. All of their blood, sweat, and tears will one day be exchanged for a better life when my sister and I will be able to one day take care of them the way they did for us,” she said.

Ms. Ali will pursue a bachelor’s degree this fall at either the University of Maryland or Tufts University. She plans to major in molecular biology with the goal of earning a doctorate and becoming a medical researcher.

Just In: Kent County High Listed as One of Maryland’s Best Schools

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Kent County High has just being recognized as one of the best high schools in Maryland. The 2018 National Rankings earned Kent County High School a bronze medal.

Schools are ranked based on their performance on state-required tests and how well they prepare students for college. Read more about how the Best High Schools are ranked here.

Ranked as the 49th Best High School in Maryland and Recognized in National Rankings, higher than all Eastern Shore school’s other than North Caroline High, Snow Hill High and Stephen Decataur High.

Amelia Markosian: The Fun Teacher Becomes Teacher of the Year

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Amelia Markosian, Kent County’s Teacher of the Year, with pictures of planets behind her.   Photo by Jane Jewell

Amelia Markosian, Kent County’s Teacher of the Year, has been teaching science at Kent County Middle School for six years. But her connection to Kent County goes back well before that.

Her parents used to summer in Gregg Neck on the Sassafras River when she was in grade school. She remembers making friends in the neighborhood, visiting the Tea Party Festival, even working on schooner Sultana before its launch. But she returned for good seven years ago, with her teaching certificate in hand, and she soon found work as a long-term substitute at Galena Elementary School. A year later, a job at KCMS opened up – and the rest is history.

Amelia Markosian, on left, Kent County’s Teacher of the Year, with her 6th-grade science class.       Photo by Jane Jewell

The Chestertown Spy visited Markosian for one of her classes Thursday, April 26 – a sixth-grade class with a focus on astronomy. The students were learning about the Moon – its phases, its distance from the Earth, and other basic facts about our closest celestial neighbor.

Markosian grew up in Willow Grove, a Philadelphia suburb, graduating from Upper Moreland High School and continuing her education at McDaniel College in Westminster, Md. At the time, McDaniel didn’t offer an education major, so she majored in art with a minor in education – and enough extra credits to qualify for her teaching certificate. After teaching six months at a private school in Pennsylvania, she decided to try her luck in Maryland. She and her husband, Igor Markosian, were high school sweethearts. They now live in Chestertown and Igor commutes to his job in Middletown, Delaware.

You don’t have to watch Markosian at work for long to see why she was chosen Teacher of the Year. She is full of energy, easily engaging her students in discussion, and it’s obvious that she enjoys science. Speaking to the class about the space program and plans for a manned journey to Mars, she radiated enthusiasm. “It’ll be a really big thing,” she said, comparing it to the first manned lunar expedition. “I can’t wait to see the pictures!” She emphasized that the Mars visit would take place in the students’ lifetimes.

The students asked what the next step after Mars would be. “The moons of Jupiter,” she said, but cautioned that it was well in the future.

The students watched a video – “Earth’s Orbit Song” – that presented a wealth of facts about the Sun, the Earth, and the Moon, with a catchy rhythm and bright illustrations. Markosian drew attention to two facts from the video – the fact that the orbits of the celestial bodies are elliptical, and the distance from the Earth to the Moon is large enough for all the other planets in the Solar System to fit between the Earth and the Moon–that’s a long distance!

While much of the class involved the students working with iPads and other high-tech educational tools, Markosian was quick to use lower-tech instructional methods. At one point, she held her hand near her face to illustrate the relative positions of the Earth and Moon. At another point, she sat with several students at a table with bright lights to simulate the Sun, and small rubber balls representing the Earth and Moon. By changing the positions of the rubber balls, the students could see not only the phases of the Moon but the geometry of eclipses. “This is so cool!” said one student.

Kent County Middle School – Mrs. Markosian’s 6th-grade science class Photo by Jane Jewell

That sentiment is one Markosian shares. Asked why she chose science teaching as a career, she said she had taught every subject while substituting at Galena and realized “science was the most fun. I want to be one of the fun teachers,” the ones the students talk about when they get home.

She spoke enthusiastically about her own scientific interests – notably a teachers’ workshop  with NASA at Wallops Island, where she rubbed elbows with space scientists and got to see a launch from “about 300 feet away.” Kent County’s school system, she said, has been wonderful about providing educational opportunities for their teachers. She also told of visiting an active volcano – a cultural tour of Hawaii’s Kilauea, with a Hawaiian tribal chief as her guide. The volcano is a sacred spot in the Hawaiian religion, and visits are strictly regulated, she said.

In addition to her science classes, Markosian also coaches cheerleading and takes part in the Positive Behavior Intervention and Support program, in which students are rewarded for good behavior. She also works with the Lamont Company to give the students experience in testing water. In another class, she taught the basics of forensics – showing the students the elements of fingerprints and toothprints to identify “suspects.” The toothprint specimens are collected using candy – which adds to the students’ interest, not surprisingly.

Markosian is taking courses toward her Master’s degree at Wilmington University in Delaware, with an eventual aim of getting certified as a school administrator. That’s a ways in the future, though – for now, she’s thoroughly enjoying her role as “the fun teacher” at Kent County Middle School.

Amelia Markosian, Kent County’s Teacher of the Year, with pictures of planets behind her.   Photo by Jane Jewell

Annapolis Plan to Fix Historically Black Colleges in Maryland

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Historically black colleges and universities in Maryland would receive up to $56.9 million annually under legislation, sponsors say, that would restore years of underfunding and program duplication by the state but is unlikely to pass.

Proponents of the measure have rejected, as too little, a Feb. 7 offer from Republican Gov. Larry Hogan of a total of $100 million over the next 10 years to a coalition of historically black colleges and universities.

A group of alumni in 2006 sued the state for creating programs at other public institutions that copied and drew students away from similar programs at Maryland’s historically black schools, such as an accelerated MBA program at Morgan State University and a master’s in computer science at Bowie State University.

Efforts to mediate have failed.

In 2013, U.S. District Court Judge Catherine Blake ruled that Maryland violated the constitutional rights of students at the state’s four black institutions by duplicating their programs at traditionally white schools.

In 2015, Blake proposed that the state establish high-demand programs at the four historically black institutions to attract more diverse students and help with desegregation.

In 2016, mediation between the state and the coalition failed. In 2017, Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, a Democrat, and Hogan appealed the 2013 decision.

Delegate Nick Mosby, D-Baltimore, said this amount is nowhere near enough for the amount of funding needed for these schools.

The state’s $100 million offer “basically equates to about $2.5 million per institution for the next 10 years and unfortunately that is throwing peanuts at a very gigantic problem,” said Mosby, who is sponsoring the House legislation.

Senate bill sponsor Sen. Joan Carter Conway, D-Baltimore, told Capital News Service this would not be acceptable, because the state owes historically black institutions around $2.5 billion to $3 billion.

Conway also said if the amount had been offered as a lump sum of $100 million, then that could change the situation, but spread over time, the amount seems unjust.

A pair of matched bills was introduced in the Senate on Jan. 30 and in the House on Feb. 8 but no progress has been made since then. Conway is sponsoring Senate bill 252 and Mosby is sponsoring House bill 450.

Similar legislation has been introduced in years past, but was not approved.

Conway also introduced Senate bill 827, paired with a bill from Delegate Charles Sydnor III D- Baltimore County, House bill 1062 — emergency legislation to appoint a special adviser who would develop a remedial plan based on the lawsuit against the state.

Delegate Michael Jackson, D-Calvert and Prince George’s, with House bill 1819 and Sen. Barbara Robinson, D-Baltimore, with Senate bill 615, also introduced paired legislation to establish a cybersecurity program at Coppin State and Morgan State that could not be duplicated by other institutions in the state.

Both bills continue to work their way through the legislative session.

Altogether, these bills would require the state to ensure funding and equity so that the four historically black institutions — Bowie State University, Morgan State University, Coppin State University and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore — are “comparable and competitive” to what are known as the state’s public “traditionally white institutions.”

The Rev. Kobi Little, chairman of the Political Action Committee for the Maryland State Conference of the NAACP, who spoke at the Feb. 8 hearing, said progress in education equity is needed.

“We see this as an education issue but also as an economic justice issue,” Little told lawmakers. “This, my friends, is one of your Martin Luther King moments. It is an opportunity for you to do the right thing.

Conway said she doubted the bills would make progress in the General Assembly.

“This legislature has never been one to do the correct thing for these schools,” Conway told Capital News Service.

Morgan State President David Wilson, who testified at the Senate bill hearing on Jan. 30, said students’ ability to pay is a big issue at his school.

“Lack of financial aid is the greatest barrier to getting students across the finish line in record time,” said Wilson. “Financial aid would alleviate the barrier of students who simply don’t have the money to keep going in college.”

Wilson told Capital News Service that at Morgan State, 90 percent of students receive financial aid and 56 percent qualify for the Pell Grant, a government subsidy that helps students pay for college.

He also said that 36 percent receive the maximum amount from the Pell Grant, which means that families can’t contribute anything to their child’s education.

Wilson also said many students maintain a recurring cycle of dropping out of school to work a semester and then coming back to continue their degree.

Students like Ryan Washington, a senior at Bowie State, told Capital News Service that more money donated to historically black colleges and universities would help students to pursue careers — especially ones that don’t have the same resources as traditionally white institutions.

“More programs, more development on campus and more buildings offering more experience to students,” Washington said.

If the funding legislation passes, schools’ payments would start at $4.9 million for the 2019 fiscal year and increase annually. By the 2022 fiscal year, the four historically black institutions would receive a total of $56.9 million each year. This bill would also establish certain student and faculty ratios.

Former NAACP Political Action Chair Marvin Cheatham Sr. said he is doing everything he can to help pass the bill.

“This has to do with what is in the best interest for students,” he told Capital News Service.

Cheatham also said in his testimony on Feb. 8 that “$100 million doesn’t come close to what’s needed for HBIs.”

“I’ll never, ever stop filing it until it’s rectified,” said Conway, who named the legislation The Blount-Rawlings-Britt HBI Comparability Program Bill in honor of its original creators, former lawmakers Sen. Clarence Blount, D-Baltimore, Delegate Pete Rawlings, D-Baltimore, and Sen. Gwendolyn Britt, D-Prince George’s, who are all deceased.

“I intend to file it every year (until) we fix it.”

Hogan’s office declined to comment outside of his Feb. 7 letter, citing the pending legal matter, a representative told Capital News Service on Friday.

By Layne Litsinger

 

Mid-Shore Education: The Case to Save a Small Elementary School from Closure

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It is typically the sad case these days that small, underpopulated elementary public schools are frequently being closed by their school districts.

Through the gut-wrenching process of what is now called “school consolidation,” these districts are faced with the terrible task of closing down these cherished local assets as a result of dwindling student enrollments and the financial consequences that come with those lower numbers.

This trend may be the fate of Tilghman Island’s only elementary school, which has a capacity of 150 students but currently has only 62 children in attendance. While the Talbot County Public Schools District has not made any decision on TES yet, there was a clear warning given that the Tilghman school would either need to increase its enrollment or undoubtedly face closure down the road.

That’s a hard thing to do for a community that is thirteen miles from the nearly town.

But before that fateful decision is made, the citizens of Tilghman, the teachers and parents of the elementary school, and the active role played by the Tilghman Community Youth Association is going to make damn sure that doesn’t happen.

And one of those remarkable people leading this fight could not be better prepared to do so than volunteer Jay Shotel.

With his long tenure as a professor at George Washington University in the field of education, Jay is extraordinarily in his comfort role as he takes on the role of advocate, cheerleader, and admissions counselor to make sure that Tilghman’s elementary school not only continues to exist but eventually becomes one of most unique schools in the state.

We talked to Jay a few weeks ago at Bullitt House to understand more what Jay and his colleagues of the Tilghman School Facility Utilization Committee are doing find new students to fill those desks.

This video is approximately six minutes in length. For more information on saving Tilghman School please go here

State Roundtable for Education Adds Chestertown’s Aundra Anderson to Next Generation Scholars Team

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State Roundtable for Education Adds Chestertown Resident to Next Generation Scholars Team

The Maryland Business Roundtable for Education (MBRT), a non-profit coalition of the state’s leading employers that is dedicated to supporting excellence and accountability in education, has hired Chestertown resident Aundra Anderson to carry out Next Generation Scholars, an initiative established by the Maryland General Assembly (House Bill 1403), in Kent County Middle and High Schools.

“Kent County High School has been blessed with so many successes, and the addition of Aundra to our focused and determined team will help provide our students with the knowledge and opportunity to reach new heights,” said Nick Keckley, principal at Kent County High School. “Aundra brings tremendous energy to our school, and partnering with the Maryland Business Roundtable for Education will further enrich our students’ educational experience.”

Anderson has been working directly with school leadership and counselors to raise awareness about Next Generation Scholars and the qualifications students must meet in order to be eligible to receive the Howard P. Rawlings Maryland Guaranteed Access Grant, administered by the Maryland Higher Education Commission (MHEC). The Guaranteed Access Grant provides an award that will help cover the cost of full-time study at a Maryland college or university for low-income families.

In September 2017, the Maryland State Department of Education awarded $953,000 to MBRT, part of the state’s $4.7 million state grant program, to help enhance college and career awareness and college completion high school students with a demonstrated financial need in Allegany, Caroline and Wicomico Counties. In January 2018, MBRT received an additional grant of $368,000 to add Kent and Dorchester Counties to its roster.

Coordinating with guidance counselors, teachers and school leadership, Anderson meets one-on-one with students and also conducts classroom presentations for 7th, 8th and 9th graders to mentor them and assess their college and career aspirations. Some of those presentations feature guest speakers from the Maryland Scholars Speakers Bureau and STEM Specialists in the Classroom programs. She also holds parent and community events to ensure all those involved with students’ education are aware of the grant and understand how they can support their scholars to achieve success.

Prior to joining MBRT, Anderson worked at her alma mater Washington College as admissions counselor and later as director of admissions communications helping prospective students and families learn more about the college search and admissions process. Throughout her nine-year tenure, she managed the admissions communications plans; developed and implemented a strategy for regional recruitment in new markets; visited high schools across the country, attended college fairs as a Washington College representative; and conducted individual and small group interviews with prospective students.

She is also very active in her community. As a certified group fitness instructor, Anderson has been teaching classes around Chestertown since 2009 with the intention of leading and inspiring others to achieve their fitness and wellness goals. In addition, she served as coordinator of the Chestertown Tea Party Festival Street Party from 2014-2017 and secretary on the Colchester Farm CSA Board in Galena, Maryland 2014-2016.

“I believe everyone can be successful as long as they understand there are different ways of achieving their goals and not everyone’s path is the same,” said Anderson. “My role as a Next Generation Scholars coordinator is to work with people to help them realize their goals by finding their path forward. I’m excited to connect with students and families so they know they have options, whether that’s pursuing a college degree or jumping into a career that’s right for them.”

For more information about the Next Generation Scholars Program, visit www.mbrt.org/nextgen.

 

WC Admissions Won’t Penalize High School Students Who Protest Gun Violence

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Washington College today joined dozens of colleges and universities around the country to ensure high school students who protest peacefully against gun violence that their admissions status won’t be affected if they are suspended or otherwise disciplined for their actions.

After the tragic killings of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida on February 14, high school students around the country have rallied behind the #NeverAgain movement in an effort to force state and federal lawmakers to pass safer gun laws. Some high schools have suspended or otherwise disciplined students for walking out of class as part of their protest—all at the moment when many high school seniors are seeking admission to college or have already been admitted.

Typically, college admissions officers would look at a disciplinary action like suspension as a mark against a student, but dozens of higher-education institutions, from MIT to Yale and now Washington College, have stated that they will not rescind admissions decisions for these students.

“Washington College was founded on the principles of moral courage, civic engagement, and commitment to action. I applaud these students’ willingness to put their futures in jeopardy in order to stand up for what they believe in,” says Lorna Hunter, Vice President for Enrollment Management. “These are the students who will build upon our strong foundation and carry on the Washington College name for generations to come. We will not penalize them or rescind their admissions status due to any disciplinary action they incur for seizing this moment to peacefully effect change in their world.”

Founded in 1782, Washington College is the tenth oldest college in the nation and the first chartered under the new Republic. It enrolls approximately 1,450 undergraduates from more than 35 states and a dozen nations. With an emphasis on hands-on, experiential learning in the arts and sciences, and more than 40 multidisciplinary areas of study, the College is home to nationally recognized academic centers in the environment, history, and writing. Learn more at washcoll.edu.