“A liberal arts curriculum teaches students to think independently.”
Rick Rolfes is in the middle of delivering a lecture, and he can sense that his students are getting it. They’re asking questions. They have good responses when he asks for their input. They’re alert, occasionally smiling.
Later that week, in the laboratory, he has an opportunity to talk with the students one-on-one. He helps them work through problems. He challenges them to dig a little deeper. Once again, he can see the progress they’re making and he knows they’re learning.
It’s during those interactions with his students that Rolfes feels most satisfied as an educator. He knows “the best way to learn physics is through close reading of the textbook and working problems at the end of the chapters.” But he also understands that his connection with the students as an advisor and mentor seals the deal. Without his probing and cajoling and insisting, the students wouldn’t grasp the material as thoroughly.
Transylvania’s small class size makes this sort of individual attention possible. Students learn to work independently, but they also know they can take risks, tackle bigger challenges. Rolfes and the other faculty are nearby to steer them if they get off course.
This collegial atmosphere builds student confidence and prepares them for the rigors of graduate school. Rolfes has seen these outcomes, and he knows the value of this type of program. The fact that several of his former students have earned a Ph.D. in physics makes him proud.
It is, quite simply, an environment that leads to success.