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wyoming catholic college

wyoming catholic college

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Published by: Center for the Study of Catholic Higher Ed on Sep 02, 2009
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Wyoming Catholic College

Lander, Wyoming

There may be no more beautiful place for faithful Catholics to pursue an undergraduate education than the brand-new Wyoming Catholic College in the Rocky Mountains. Situated in Lander, by the Wind River Mountain Range and the Popo Agie River, this new college is a magnet for outdoor lovers, from experienced enthusiasts to novices wanting a unique college experience. One of the college’s trademarks is its Freshman Orientation Program, which involves a three-week backpacking trip in the pristine Wyoming wilderness in August and a one-week winter adventure in January. The vast outdoor possibilities of the area inspired the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) to make Lander their international headquarters 44 years ago, and Wyoming Catholic College choose NOLS to administer the August adventure. But there is more to this college than an idyllic setting. When it opened its doors to the first class in September 2007, Wyoming Catholic embraced a Great Books and classical curriculum strongly permeated by orthodox Catholicism. Its goal is to provide the quality of education evident at Thomas Aquinas College in California. Overall, the mission of the college is to educate the whole person: mind, body and spirit. To do so, the college emphasizes seven key objectives: Catholic community, spiritual formation, liberal arts education, integrated curriculum, great and good books, immersion in the outdoors and excellent teaching.

quick facts
Founded: 2005 (first students in 2007) Type of institution: Very small liberal arts college Setting: Rural Undergraduate enrollment: 62 (2008–09 academic year) 97 (2009-10) Total undergraduate cost: $21,500 (tuition, room and board for 2009–10) Undergraduate majors: One

five key Points
1. Lay-run, strongly orthodox Catholic. 2. Emphasizes a Great Books and classical liberal education. 3. Located in a beautiful setting in the Rocky Mountains. 4. Seeks to capitalize on wilderness environment. 5. Spiritual life is vibrant.

The Newman Guide


Wyoming Catholic College

One administrator told us, “The Catholic identity is the main reason we are here. John Paul II in Ex corde Ecclesiae says that the purpose of Catholic education is to serve the Truth, and to bring students to the Truth.” “Since the vast majority of schools are no longer even attempting to do that,” he added, “and since it is not a mere question of ‘culture’ but of salvation and happiness, we feel justified in founding a college dedicated above all to joyful and wholehearted pursuit and passing on of natural and supernatural truth.” In pursuing its goals, the college eschews the excessive use of technology. The purpose of this policy is primarily to foster direct, actual—rather than virtual—human contact and communication between students and faculty. This mission in the wilderness is located in a town which has a population of 7,200 people in west-central Wyoming. The area, as perhaps befits its western image, is sparsely settled; the nearest large city is Billings, Montana, about 200 miles north. Denver is the closest major metropolitan area, and it is a five- to six-hour drive. A four-square mile parcel of land has been acquired nearby which will eventually serve as the permanent campus. A breathtaking rendering of the future campus is shown on the WCC website. At the entrance will be the chapel followed by academic, recreational and residential precincts. Until then, the college’s interim location is Holy Rosary Church, which provides religious, classroom and dining facilities. Offices, additional classrooms and a library have been created at the historic Baldwin Building, which is a 15-minute walk into downtown Lander. The six-credit equestrian program is offered at Central Wyoming College, a halfhour away. The first-year class in 2007-2008 enrolled 35 students, and the overall enrollment was boosted to 61 the following academic year.

From the Financial Aid Office
“Wyoming Catholic College is committed to making its program available to qualified students regardless of their financial need. WCC will try to meet the needs of each student through its program of financial aid, which includes Merit Scholarships, loans, work study and grants. Prospective applicants and their families may request a preliminary evaluation and the financial aid they cane expect (should the applicant) be accepted, by submitting the financial aid application and supporting documents. WCC also awards a number of scholarships of varying amounts based on academic merit. The applicant must have scored at least 1800 on the SAT or at least 27 on the ACT, and must show substantial achievement and a willingness to work and to succeed in an academic curriculum. Aptitude and zeal for learning, as demonstrated in the required essays and other materials, will play a significant role in determining the amount awarded. The Merit Scholarship application should be submitted at the same time as the admissions application or shortly afterward. For more information visit our website at www.wyomingcatholiccollege.com, call toll-free 1-877-332-2930, or e-mail admissions@wyomingcatholiccollege.com.” In the 2008-2009 year, there were 33 women and 28 men who came from 30 states ranging from New Hampshire to Georgia to California to Washington. The college will welcome 37 freshman in September 2009 boosting total The Newman Guide


Wyoming Catholic College

enrollment to 97 and expects to eventually enroll 400 students. These students study a prescribed fouryear program. Eight Catholic theology and five philosophy courses are required. Many of the other courses have Catholic overtones. Graduates will all receive the same Bachelor of Arts degree; the first class will graduate in 2011. All new colleges need to go through an accrediting process, which takes several years. Wyoming Catholic is applying for accreditation from The American Association for Liberal Education. The college is also exploring accreditation with its regional accreditor, the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement. Families can rejoice that the published price for attending Wyoming Cat holic—already quite reasonable—is significantly higher than what the average student actually pays, thanks to generous financial aid packages as the college builds. Tuition, room and board were bargain priced at $21,500 in 2009-10.

Also on the board is Father Robert Cook, the college president, who has been a practicing attorney, pro-life advocate and monk. In April 2009, Father Cook was the first college president to publicly criticize the University of Notre Dame for inviting pro-abortion President Obama to be its commencement speaker and honorary degree recipient.

Public Identity
Bishop David Ricken, while the bishop of Cheyenne, Wyoming, helped start the college and bestowed his Apostolic Blessing in 2005. Pope Benedict XVI also has given the college his Apostolic Blessing. Everyone associated with building the college is a strong Catholic, committed to vigorously promoting its religious identity. Father Cook told us, “We will encourage full participation in the liturgical celebration of Mass, Rosary and Adoration by all students all the time. We intend to do everything we can so that upon graduation, the students will leave stronger in the faith than when they came.” The first year of the college was launched with a Convocation Mass celebrated by Bishop Ricken on September 3, 2007. Classes began the following day, and former U.S. Secretary of Education William Bennett visited the campus on September 5. The 2008-2009 academic year was ushered in by a Mass celebrated by Bishop Michael Sheridan of the Diocese of Colorado Springs, Colorado; the homilist was Arch251

Wyoming Catholic is a lay-run, independent college with a strong connection to the local bishop, who will always be chairman of the 10-member board. Among the board members is Dr. Dominic Aquila, a scholar and administrator at the University of St. Thomas in Houston. The Newman Guide

Wyoming Catholic College

bishop Charles Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., of the Archdiocese of Denver. In general, there will be four outside speakers per academic year, making their presentations on Catholic feast days: All Saints; the Immaculate Conception; Our Lady, Seat of Wisdom, the patroness’ feast day (February 4); and the Annunciation. All speakers have been faithful to Catholic teachings. The speakers for the 2008-2009 Guest Lecture Series were Dr. Jeffrey Bond, who spoke on The Odyssey; Gil Bailie, president of The Cornerstone Forum, on Christian disci-

pleship; Dr. Denis McNamara, on church architecture as a sacramental reflection; and Dr. John Freeh of Hillsdale College on T.S. Eliot. Bishop Ricken sees the college fitting in with the missionary role of the Cheyenne diocese, which is only 10 percent Catholic. He told us in 2007, before he was named Bishop of Green Bay, Wisconsin, “We hope that some of the graduates of Wyoming Catholic College, with good formation there, will consider staying in Wyoming and become trained catechists and teachers for our diocese.”

Message from the President
Dear Parents and Prospective Students: College applicants are faced with so many choices when it comes time to pick a college. Here are three powerful reasons for selecting Wyoming Catholic College: First: You are immersed in the beauty of Creation—God’s “First Book”—backpacking, horseriding, skiing and participating in outdoor adventures throughout your four years here not only as a way to learn leadership skills and practical wisdom, but to come to know and understand yourself better. Second: Learning directly from the Great and Good Books of Western Civilization is an educational experience that will prepare you for any future. You will learn how to think critically, how to learn quickly yet thoroughly and how to communicate your thoughts with crystal clarity. Armed with these skills, you will be able to pursue any path in life, no matter what that path may be. Third: By accepting an in-depth formation of Christian and Catholic spirituality, you will be a true disciple of our Lord, participating in His work of salvation, finding Truth, Goodness and Beauty. Come to Wyoming Catholic College, where you will be authentically formed in body, mind and soul, learning what it means to be fully alive and truly free. Yours in Christ,

Rev. Robert W. Cook


The Newman Guide

Wyoming Catholic College

In addition to the large complement of theology and philosophy courses, students take eight courses in humanities; eight in trivium or reading, writing and speaking; four in Latin; four in art history; three each in science and mathematics; and two in music and in horsemanship. The goal of this study is a classical education. According to Father Cook, “We want our students to graduate being able to find joy in learning, able to learn, think critically and clearly in speech and writing, being good people that will have joy in life with these skills being led by our Lord, and doing it well. We want a fully educated human being.” Part of that “fully educated human being” goal includes the strong outdoor orientation of the college. Mario Coccia, director of admissions, said, “Our literature discusses the created world as ‘God’s First Book.’ We are of the opinion that a Great Books program should also include direct and frequent encounters with God’s First Book.” All faculty members must agree not to undermine Church teaching or the pope’s authority. Catholics profess their faith and recite an Oath of Fidelity. The five-paragraph oath, drafted by the Vatican’s Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, includes this statement: “I shall follow and foster the common discipline of the whole church and shall look after the observance of all ecclesiastical The Newman Guide

laws, especially those which are contained in the Code of Canon Law.” All faculty members are supportive of WCC’s spiritual vision. Two of them are nonCatholics, but one has already announced she will enter the Church. Even as the college grows, the school’s bylaws require that at least two-thirds of the faculty will be Catholic. The Catholic faculty brings to the college sterling reputations as Catholics as well as excellent academic credentials. For example, Dr. Kwasniewski is an Aquinas scholar and was the 2008 Newman Fellow of The Cardinal Newman Society’s Center for the Study of Catholic Higher Education. Theology professors have the mandatum. According to Father Cook, all professors “have been advised and will teach in such a way that the teachings of the Magisterium will permeate their teaching, regardless of subject.”

Spiritual Life
Holy Rosary parish serves at the center of the college’s religious life. Daily Mass attendance is encouraged, for, as Dr. Peter Kwasniewski, an associate professor of theology and philosophy, said, “The Mass is the center of all that we are and will be.” The college has a chaplain and leads daily spiritual practices which include Masses, Adoration, praying of the Rosary and confessions. In addition, students are taught 253

Wyoming Catholic College

about prayer through the study of Lectio Divina, St. John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila. In January 2009, 14 students bore witness to the sanctity of life at a Roe v. Wade protest in Cheyenne, and eight students did the same in San Francisco, 1,500 miles away.

Greek Olympic games and is held toward the end of the academic year.

Residential Life
Until the permanent campus is built, students will reside in gender-separated apartments; women are housed at St. Scholastica Residence and men at St. Benedict Residence. Opposite-sex visitation is prohibited, as are drugs and alcohol. The college has a strict technology policy: cell phones are prohibited; there is no wireless internet, but there is wired internet in the computer labs; and the use of electronic devices are not permitted during class.

Student Activities
Student activities continue to develop with the college. Significant emphasis is placed on outdoor activities, taking advantage of a nearby wilderness area, state park and national forest. Horseback riding opportunities and camping are available. The class schedule is arranged to minimize Friday classes and maximize weekend time, for students to pursue outdoor activities. Students can join the Wyoming Catholic College Choir, which recorded a CD titled Christmas in God’s Country in 2008. Classic movie nights, dances, intramural sports and informal social activities round out the freetime opportunities. A tradition has begun which includes several days of festivities in early February, which is largely a tribute to Our Lady Seat of Wisdom, the college’s patroness. Activities include a game-show competition between the students, who are divided into teams called the Philosophers, Cowboys and Poets, representing the three dimensions of man: mind, body and spirit. There also is a formal dance and one of the Guest Lectures. Another celebration, called Ludi Mariales (“Marian Games”), is styled after the ancient

The Community
Lander is a small “old-West” town that could be a welcome change for students used to the hubbub of urban areas. The obvious appeal is to young people who have a passion for outdoor activities, including hiking, fishing and horseback riding. And the town, where the legendary Butch Cassidy once lived, celebrates its western heritage, especially during the annual Pioneer Days in July. The crime rate is well below the national average and reflects property, rather than violent, crime. One statistic that is well above the norm is snowfall; Wyoming winters provide for an abundance of outdoor sports, including ski-


The Newman Guide

Wyoming Catholic College

ing. A notable ski resort is Jackson Hole, which, along with the Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks, is fewer than 200 miles from Lander. The town has an 81-bed Lander Valley Medical Center that is supplemented by the Riverton Memorial Hospital, about a half-hour away. Riverton, only slightly larger than Lander, also has a regional airport with daily flights into and out of Denver International Airport. The Denver airport is one of the largest and busiest in the world and is one choice for student travelers. Also, Salt Lake City International Airport is 4-5 hours away, and reasonably priced shuttle service is offered to students at the beginning and end of the academic year. For road travelers, the east-west Interstate 80 is two hours from Lander.

The Bottom Line
The motto of the fledgling Wyoming Catholic College is “Wisdom in God’s Country.” This college, which is providing a classical Catholic education under the wide-open skies of the West, is likely to appeal to students seeking a different kind of undergraduate experience. One faculty member there perhaps best c h a rac t e r i z e d to us the issue to be posed to high-school college seekers. She said, “I would say that this is an opportunity to be a pioneer, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. If I were 18 years old now, I would be very interested.” She continued, “The opportunity to get in on the ground floor of an institution is really something to be seized upon. The students who come now and in the next few years are going to be the co-creators, actively involved in something that is going to make a significant contribution to Catholic colleges in America.”

The Newman Guide


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