Illinois College Road Trip: Knox College

Located in western Illinois, about 200 miles from Chicago, Knox College is rich with history and community. Old Main, a collegiate Gothic building at the heart of campus, was the site of one of Abraham Lincoln’s famous 1858 senatorial debates with Stephen A. Douglas. The old Knox County jail has been refurbished to hold classrooms, offices and a student-run bike repair shop.

Knox was founded more than two decades before the Civil War by anti-slavery advocates. Today, just over a third of the college’s 1,300 or so undergrads are people of color, and international students make up 17 percent of the population.

The diverse mix of students forms a close-knit campus, in part thanks to an 11:1 student-faculty ratio and classes that average 14 undergrads.

“You’re able to have a personal connection with professors,” says Jordan Anderson, a senior from Paxton, Illinois, studying sports management and communication, who says his academic adviser frequently texts him good luck before or congratulations after his varsity football games.

[Read: Identify Success Programs at Your Top-Choice College.]

Faculty also frequently collaborate with undergrads on research. During Pumphandle, on the day before classes begin in the fall, students, faculty and staff gather on the lawn near Old Main in winding lines to shake hands and greet each other one by one.

Knox’s academic calendar is broken into three 10-week trimesters, and students take three classes at a time. Everyone must complete one of the college’s 40-plus majors and either a minor or a second major.

Preceptorial is an interdisciplinary class required of all first-year students that aims to prepare them to think critically and see diverse perspectives around topics like The American Dream or The Challenge of Sustainability. From there, undergrads fulfill requirements in the arts, humanities, the sciences, writing and more.

Students also complete at least one experiential learning opportunity with a beyond-the-classroom component. Options include internships, study abroad experiences and community service.

[Read: How Volunteer Work Can Pay Your Student Loans.]

Sam Tatum, a 2018 psychology graduate from Atlanta, interned at Tri States Public Radio, an NPR affiliate near campus. Atithya Ghai, a 2018 grad in education and economics from India, worked as a student teacher at a local elementary school.

In 2017, Knox also began offering every incoming student a $2,000 Power of Experience grant to fund a learning experience during their junior or senior year.

One can also opt to take an immersion term, during which an entire trimester focuses on one field of study. Those interested in entrepreneurship, say, can enroll in StartUp Term, where small teams work with faculty mentors to develop a business plan and pitch their ideas to a panel of alumni and local business leaders. In Green Oaks Term, students do field work and take cross-disciplinary classes at the Green Oaks Biological Field Station, a 700-acre nature preserve about 20 miles from campus.

[See: 2019 Best Undergraduate Entrepreneurship Programs.]

Knox is located in the center of Galesburg, a city of about 30,000, where students speak highly of the locals’ Midwestern hospitality and several downtown spots. “There’s a lot to do in Galesburg if you’re willing to break out of the Knox bubble,” Tatum says. The area also offers many opportunities to camp, fish, hike or otherwise enjoy the outdoors.

On campus, there are more than 100 registered student clubs, including several fraternities and sororities, which count about 30 percent of students as members. There are 20 NCAA Division III varsity sports teams, plus club and intramural options. About 90 percent of students live on campus all four years, another means of fostering community.

“I can’t walk two minutes here without seeing a person that I know,” says Kelsie Pos, a 2018 biology grad from Salt Lake City. “You really feel like you belong here.”

More From the Illinois College Road Trip:

Northwestern University

University of Chicago

University of Illinois–Urbana-Champaign

More from U.S. News

2 Major College Tour Mistakes to Avoid

10 Key Places to See on College Tours

Don’t Ask These Ineffective Questions While on College Tours

Illinois College Road Trip: Knox College originally appeared on usnews.com