Media: College’s Mission Beats Covid

In the battle of Benedictine College’s mission vs. the pandemic, the mission won.

That’s the message of Benedictine College President Stephen D. Minnis in an NPR-Kansas City report and a new article by Katie Peterson in The Leaven.

NPR interviewed student body President Liliana Pokropski who traveled from her Wilmington, Del., to campus and had to be quarantined near the beginning of the year when some COVID-19 cases were detected on campus..

“Unfortunately, I was a part of the outbreak,” Pokropski told NPR. “I was quarantined along with a huge portion of the students, and it was very shocking.”

Minnis told NPR that this early experience taught students to be careful about the coronavirus.

“They now know what happens when they get COVID,” Minnis told NPR. “They are sent to a hotel and the key is not given to them, so that is not very much fun.”

Nonetheless, Benedictine College had a record enrollment this year, The Leaven reported.

“The experts around the country started writing these articles that colleges, especially small colleges, should expect enrollment decreases,” Minnis told the paper. “We were also seeing reports that online education is the future, and it’s the way to go. This is what young people desire.”

The college’s experience with COVID put those fears to rest.

“What we’ve found is that young people hate online education. They hate being stuck in their parents’ basement,” Minnis told the paper. “They want a college experience, which means face-to-face education with their teachers in a classroom with other students that they can bounce ideas off of and have conversations with. They want a college experience, which means building community among a group of people on a college campus.

“That really told us a lot that our mission at Benedictine — educate within a community of faith and scholarship — works,” he said.

He said this may be a crucial difference between small colleges and state colleges in the pandemic.

“I don’t think the larger schools can have the mission toward their students like small schools can. We really believe in our mission,” he is quoted saying. “When you believe in it strongly, you’re able to incorporate that so much more easily into a smaller school and really have an impact on your students.”

The faith is the linchpin to this approach.

“We tell our faculty that you have a duty to love your students … as children of Christ,” he said. “When you have that kind of mission and you have that kind of charism to do that, students are going to understand that, and it also gives you a lot more incentive to want your students to be back on campus.”

This approach is stronger than the pandemic, and was stronger than previous crises.

“Benedictine has been around since 1858. This college has survived the Civil War, the Spanish flu, World War I, World War II, the Great Depression, the civil unrest of the 1960s and the financial burdens of the 1970s,” he said. “We’ve survived all that for over 160 years; we can survive this. … Ravens will rise.”

Photo: The Leaven

Benedictine College

Founded in 1858, Benedictine College is a Catholic, Benedictine, residential, liberal arts college located on the bluffs above the Missouri River in Atchison, Kansas. The school is honored to have been named one of America’s Best Colleges by U.S. News & World Report, the best private college in Kansas by The Wall Street Journal, and one of the top Catholic colleges in the nation by First Things magazine and the Newman Guide. It prides itself on outstanding academics, extraordinary faith life, strong athletic programs, and an exceptional sense of community and belonging. Benedictine College is dedicated to transforming culture in America through its mission to educate men and women within a community of faith and scholarship.