Transylvania among Washington Monthly’s top 10 liberal arts colleges for community service, soars in overall rankings

The Washington Monthly has once again recognized Transylvania University as one of the nation’s top 10 liberal arts colleges for promoting public service — and the school has catapulted 33 spots in the overall rankings in just the past two years.

National Liberal Arts Colleges ranked by public service. (Washington Monthly, 2020 College Guide and Rankings)
National liberal arts colleges ranked by public service (Washington Monthly, “2020 College Guide and Rankings”)

Released this week, the “2020 College Guide and Rankings” lists the school as ninth in community service, reflecting Transylvania’s strong ties to local nonprofits, national organizations like the Peace Corps and student voting initiatives.

“A key part of living a meaningful life is to go beyond yourself — to do things for others,” Transylvania President Brien Lewis said. “That our institution continues to be recognized as one of the nation’s leaders in community and national service is not just something to celebrate, but a call to further action.”

Echoing the university’s motto — “In that light, we pass on the light” — Lewis recently told the incoming class that it’s Transylvania’s mission to help them lead meaningful lives: “Receive the light we have to offer, and pass on the light to a world that needs it more than ever.”

The university’s Office of Campus and Community Engagement plays a major role in helping students fulfill their civic responsibility. This includes community work-study placement, which the Washington Monthly weighs when ranking schools. Serving at a wide variety of local nonprofits — from Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning to Habitat for Humanity — also provides learning opportunities for students while supporting the school’s liberal arts mission.

Returned Peace Corps volunteer Tara Loyd talks about her experiences with Transylvania students last fall.
Returned Peace Corps volunteer Tara Loyd talks about her experiences with Transylvania students last fall.

The percentage of alumni in the Peace Corps is another factor in the Washington Monthly’s service recognition — one alumnus even advocates for the agency’s mission as a government relations officer. And Transylvania has established a formal partnership with the Peace Corps through a prep program, combining coursework with leadership training and projects in the local community.

Rachel Johnson ’16 interned with Kentucky Refugee Ministries and the Carnegie Center at Transylvania before serving in Myanmar through the Peace Corps. “The resources and connections that Transy offers within the Lexington community were integral in my preparation for a meaningful Peace Corps experience,” she said.

Transylvania students also participate in alternative breaks, where instead of heading to the beach or hanging out at home, they serve others. Last fall the school was recognized by the American Civic Collaboration Awards for its efforts.

Additionally, when ranking colleges for service, the Washington Monthly considers data from the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement, which last year released a report showing increases in Transylvania students registering to vote and following through with actual voting.

Billing itself as a “socially conscious alternative,” the Washington Monthly ranks colleges on what they do for the country as a whole. “These new rankings are especially important now, with mass unemployment, the inequalities exposed by COVID-19, and the nationwide protests against racial injustice,” according to the magazine.

Tevin Monroe, assistant director of campus and community engagement, said he is not surprised by the Washington Monthly recognition. “Transylvania is a community that has always been deeply committed to service. Not only do we have a number of campuswide service events each year, but our students are truly committed to serving the greater Lexington area. Our students, faculty, staff and alumni continue to inspire a spirit of service and community.”

Last year, the publication ranked Transylvania 10th in the nation for service.

In the Washington Monthly’s overall 2020 rankings — which factor in social mobility and research in addition to service — Transylvania is 71st among the country’s liberal arts colleges.

Other recent recognitions include the Princeton Review listing Transylvania among the top 13% of the nation’s four-year colleges.