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How George Fox has become one of Oregon's largest private universities
BY PAMELA JORDAN
On a sunny June afternoon, the quad at George Fox University is quiet, with only an occasional employee strolling across the peaceful, manicured lawns. But on the north end of campus, workers are putting finishing touches on the new Stoffer Family Stadium, where the college’s first football team since the late 1960s will take the field this fall. A 1960s-era residence hall is getting a complete makeover. And come fall, the university will be buzzing with roughly 4,000 students — its largest enrollment ever.
Hard to believe that 30 years ago this Christian college, nestled in the heart of Oregon wine country, was dying on the vine with fewer than 600 students. Today George Fox is the second-largest private university in Oregon, poised to challenge the University of Portland for the top spot.
“We expanded our graduate programs. We were the first college in the area to start an adult degree completion program, and we refocused on professional outcomes for our students,” says Robin Baker, president of George Fox.
That refocusing has resulted in 90% of students being employed or in higher education within a year following graduation. It’s a strong selling point for parents who are more concerned than ever that the investment in higher education pays off for their children.
“Colleges thought they could raise prices and people would just pay for it. We now know that’s not true. Parents are more vocation conscious and price conscious,” says Baker. “One of the reasons parents invest at George Fox is they care about where their students are placed in employment.”
With 41 undergraduate majors, 12 master’s and doctoral degrees, and six seminary degrees, George Fox ranks among the nation’s top Christian colleges by publications including U.S. News and Forbes. The school also has graduate programs for working professionals at its Portland, Salem and Redmond campuses.
Some of the most popular majors at the school include business, management, marketing, engineering and nursing. And George Fox has strong ties with a number of large employers in the area, including Intel and Providence Health and Services, giving students enrolled in professional degree programs access to internships and experiential learning. It also gives students valuable contacts — needed now more than ever to obtain their first job following graduation.
“We build a career plan with our freshmen and build on that plan,” says Deb Mumm-Hill, director of the student success-oriented IDEA Center. “A résumé is only 1/20th of what it takes to get a job now. Our career center is teaching networking, branding yourself on the Internet, and helping students understand how to build and tap into networks that will be valuable in obtaining work after graduation.”
With a student-to-faculty ratio of 13-to-1, giant lecture classes that leave students feeling anonymous aren’t a part of George Fox. In fact, the school is committed to making sure each student is more than just a number or nameless face. The school promises that its students will “Be known – personally, academically and spiritually.”
“Education is more than just an information exchange. We’re dealing with human beings, and everyone wants to be known,” says Baker. “So we’re a community of people who have a commitment to young people, to know and believe in them.”
With its roots in faith, and its focus on academic and career success for its students, George Fox is positioned well for even greater growth in the years to come.
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