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In the face of a world-wide pandemic and dire predictions for college enrollment losses across the United States, Benedictine College stands out as a beacon of success. Enrollment has soared, with the largest incoming freshman class and the largest overall enrollment in the 162-year history of the college. According to the school’s Office of Academic Records & Registration, the first-day, full-time undergraduate enrollment for the 2020-2021 academic year is 1,980 and the freshman class is 581.
The college’s traditional Opening Convocation welcomed the freshmen into the Raven community.
“Freshmen, having experienced the benefits of a Benedictine College tradition, and been welcomed into the Raven family, you are now fully incorporated into the college,” said Stephen D. Minnis, president of Benedictine College. At that point, the freshmen removed the beanies they had been wearing for the past week. The beanie tradition is long-standing and serves to unite the freshman class and create a bond with all the Ravens who have passed through the college over the past 70 years or more.
Both Minnis and Fr. Simon Baker, OSB, the college chaplain, offered advice to the gathered freshmen. Fr. Simon talked to them about listening, understanding and being resilient. He advised them to pay attention to the mentors; the faculty, staff, coaches, and other students around them.
“Listen not only to their words, but to the way they live their lives,” he said.
Minnis encouraged them to strive for greatness, even in these challenging times.
“It does require you to believe that you are made for greatness,” he said. “And that greatness will be revealed if you push yourselves forward, always forward, everywhere forward.”
Of the freshman class, 51% are male. As a group, they represent five foreign countries and 42 states, with Kansas, Missouri, Colorado, Texas, and Illinois sending the most students. The class has one of the highest average ACT scores in Benedictine’s history (25) and the highest average grade point average in the school’s history (3.5). One hundred fifty-five completed high school with a 4.0 or above and 451 finished with a 3.0 or better. Many of them are participating in the college’s Programs of Distinction, including 25 Gregorian Fellows, 44 STEM Fellows, 16 Constitutional Fellows, and 23 in the Honors Program.
The college has been steadily expanding its facilities to keep up with the demand. In the past eight years, Benedictine has built six new academic buildings, including America’s finest small-college STEM facility, the Murphy Recreation Center, a new Dining Hall, four new residence halls, and updated softball, baseball, football and soccer facilities. In addition, new majors include Architecture, Engineering, Graphic Design and Classics.
“As we continue to see these large freshman classes, we will continue to want to house them on campus,” explained Minnis. “We are known for our sense of community and belonging and a big part of that is our residential nature. Our residence halls and our student life programs are a major key to our success, going hand-in-hand with our strong faith life and College Ministry programming.”
As an authentically Catholic college recognized by the Newman Guide as one of the Top 20 Catholic colleges in America, Benedictine has built four new chapels on campus, recently renewed its consecration to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and enthroned the Sacred Heart on campus, all while expanding mission trips and service opportunities.