North Central College is a great place in the middle of somewhere. The vibrant campus atmosphere, an enviable location in a great Midwestern city and connections to one of the world’s great cities—Chicago—are characteristics that transform the lives of the students every day and serve as a foundation for the College’s identity. While “location” offers different benefits to different people, students understand that it’s those transformations that are key to their four years at North Central College. They’re coming to Naperville because of the opportunities for growth they know they’ll find here. Nate Ronchetti ’08 chose North Central over Arizona State University in Tucson, AZ, because he sensed that the suburban Chicago location would pay big dividends. “I knew as a senior in high school that it would be better to be in an area where I could work and gain experience,” he says. “And it helps that Naperville isn’t just a college town, because college towns don’t have enough opportunities for realworld experiences.”
Many transformations take place with the help of programs and academic courses that faculty have thoughtfully designed to take advantage of North Central’s location. The Chicago Term, introduced in 2003, continues to challenge students to abandon their well-loved cars, adopt the lifestyle of a suburban Metra commuter and delve into Chicago’s neighborhoods. They commute into the city twice a week to study urban issues, research neighborhood changes and perform community service.
“The Chicago Term is liberating for students,” said Ann Durkin Keating, Dr. C. Frederick Toenniges Professor of History, and co-founder of the Chicago Term. “This generation of students thinks they need a car to go everywhere. Many of them grew up in areas where commuter trains are not part of their lives. Once they get into the city, they just walk and walk.”
The Chicago Term changed the life of Rachel Covarrubias ’08, an elementary education major from Geneva, IL, who interned with the Chicago Public Schools. “Through the Chicago Term, I was able to grow and understand things that made me want to be a teacher in the city,” she says. “The slogan ‘you are central’ makes me think of location. Naperville has given me chances to go in many directions with my education.”
Verandah classes give students opportunities to explore new interests and Chicago frequently serves as a classroom. These short-term courses have focused on architecture, foods in ethnic neighborhoods, opera and theatre. Brian Lynch, fine arts director, led a Verandah course called “Theatre in Chicago” in December. “There are schools downstate that make a huge deal out of a field trip to the ‘city’ to see theatre,” Lynch says. “There’s something beautiful about being able to matter-of-factly go into the city and see multiple shows in one day. I will keep offering this course as long as I am able—the students love it.”
Naperville continues to flourish with a population exceeding 140,000 and new restaurants and retail stores opening that make the downtown a popular regional destination. Naperville suits the interests of students like Nick Guido ’09, who spends his free time working at Chipotle and helping coach the speech team at Naperville Central High School to gain experience for his future secondary education career. “And a 20-minute drive to the west puts you in a high-need, low- income area for a practicum,” he says. “This is an essential experience for education students.”
When Martha Stolze travels to places like St. Louis and Minneapolis as director of freshman admission, she finds that more and more people have heard of Naperville. “It has so much more name recognition than years ago,” she says. “So many more visitors to the college fairs recognize our location.” Comparing January 1, 2008, with January 1, 2006, the number of applications from students who live out of state grew by 34 percent. “I think that shows we have a broader appeal,” says Stolze, who adds that the Class of 2012 already includes students from Pennsylvania, Oregon, Texas and California, among others.
Access to high-paying, part-time jobs in Naperville can make a huge impact on higher education expenses. Students like Courtney Ziegler ’08 have landed lucrative restaurant jobs. “Knowing early on that I was going to have to pay for college on my own, one of the reasons I chose North Central was because of the large number of restaurant jobs within walking distance of campus,” said Ziegler, a server at Heaven on Seven, one of many Chicago restaurants to open a Naperville location.
Of course, Naperville’s location along the East-West Corporate Corridor gives students and faculty access to the resources of corporate giants like Lucent Technologies, BP, Tellabs, Nalco and Nicor Gas. Also nearby are Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and Argonne National Laboratory for internship experiences.
The opportunities for work, study and recreation in Naperville and Chicago complement a more lively atmosphere developing on campus. The result is a more engaging college experience, says Laurie Hamen, vice president for enrollment management, athletics and student affairs. “Students are impacted by a sense of ‘place,’” Hamen explains. “There’s a very different sense of community developing on campus than years ago.”
A greater number of students living on campus who are engaged in sports, theatre, campus ministry and their academic work, whether on campus or off, has improved the sense of community on campus, she says. Verandah courses during December Term add to campus engagement. “Our students have an increasing pride in their community and we’re consciously building communities, whether it’s among honors students or within residence halls.”
Whitney Roberts ’08 agrees that these elements have changed the experience of attending North Central College. “Opportunities like The Union, which offers campus ministry activities every Friday night, brings an identity to our campus and also keeps more people here on weekends,” she says. “Developing the campus as a community has become important to me.”
Even ministry and service activities benefit from North Central’s location, through volunteer and internship opportunities with agencies like World Relief to assist resettled refugees, as well as access to speakers, musicians and community support at events sponsored by The Union.
“The College and Naperville continue to grow and evolve,” says Hamen. “This is an exciting place to be.”
North Central NOW Winter 2008