I graduated from Austin College in Sherman, Texas in 1982 after 4 pretty decent years there, filled with learning, frivolity and experimentation. Some of my firmest and most valued friendships were begun during this time, and a tight group of us now live 250 miles away in Austin. We joke that the Austin College education was worth it, because it prepares you for life in Austin.

Because it's been so long since I was there, some of my observations may be a little outdated, but I hope they will be useful anyway. The factual stuff was checked today against the AC web site (www.austinc.edu).

Curriculum

AC is a liberal arts school with a unique core curriculum. Instead of degree requirements in terms of English, History, Economics, etc., much of this is bundled into 3 semesters of "Heritage of Western Culture".(1) Incoming freshmen take "Communication/Inquiry" before starting on HWC. It is possible to get a degree at AC without ever having to take an English course! Don't think for a minute, though, that you won't have to write.

Austin College will let you craft your own degree program if you want, subject to the approval of the appropriate committee. One person I know got a triple major in Art, Psychology and Electronic Music. You can probably come up with degrees that are actually useful.

If you can't find the course you want to take, it's fairly straighforward (if your grades are OK) to get approval for a Directed Study or Independent Study.

Faculty

Currently, AC has 101 regular, active faculty members and 24 visiting faculty members. Since the whole school has only 1200 students, class sizes are usually pretty small.

Academic Year

The academic year at AC consists basically of 2 semesters, each 14 weeks long. But in between this is the month-long January Term. During "Jan Term" one takes only one course, and it's usually something experimental, fun, and/or out-of-the-ordinary. Some Jan Term classes involve travel. One year I studied solar energy in New Mexico. A friend of mine took a sociology-oriented Jan Term one year, in which they traveled to New Zealand and tried to get jobs. He almost stayed.

Housing

Austin College thinks it's very important that students live on campus. Unless you are married, over 21, or a senior, you are supposed to live in one of the dorms and eat the poor excuse for food that they serve in the cafeteria(2). However, it is possible to get an exception in special circumstances -- allergies, dietary restrictions, anti-social tendencies, ...

Other stuff

AC is the home of the "Fighting Roos". The football team had always done poorly (sports just isn't all that important!), but one of the years I was there the team confounded everyone by going to state finals. I don't remember whether we won the championship, and I have no idea how well things have gone for them after I left.

When I was at AC, there was no formal marching band. However, we did have the Roo Kazoos for halftime entertainment. Are they still active?

So what is there to do while at AC? Sherman is a tiny town; there's not much culture there. You have to make your own fun, pretty much. You can

Those of you who have spent time at Austin College will probably fondly remember a curious aroma. Just south of the campus is food processing plant that was called Anderson Clayton in the 1970s and 80s. They made "Seven Seas" salad dressing ("It's not nice to fool with Mother Nature!") and were rumored to manufacture a totally synthetic pizza cheese that was completely indigestible until melted. One whiff of the vapors from this plant will bring back so many memories....

(1) When I first got there, it was called Heritage of Western Man, but they changed the name to make it more PC.

(2) This happened to me: One day in the cafeteria, I selected one of the deep fried burritos that seemed to be the least of the evils. Normally, these were filled with a mixture of refried beans and mystery meat. I sliced into my selection, and was horrified to discover a wiener embedded in its center.

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