There’s a lot of excitement on the campus of Welch College. A large crop of freshmen arrived on August 21st, met by student leaders (who also serve as peer mentors to the new students), who’d arrived three days earlier for training. Returning students came in on the 24th, and classes started on the 26th.

This is shaping up to be another stellar year at Welch. We’re beginning to witness a trend in enrollment growth, a reversal of the doldrums we were in following the Recession, which really began to affect us in 2008. Last year Welch experienced an unprecedented 24 percent increase in dormitory enrollment, and this year we’ve gone up again, between four and five percent.

We welcome this 28 percent cumulative increase we’ve experienced since the 2012-13 academic year. The increase in numbers has created a palpable sense of excitement, but what is even better is the renewed spirit of spirituality, leadership, service, and intellectual curiosity among our students.

Our increased emphasis on academic excellence has gradually led the college to increase its scores in rankings guides such as U.S. News and World Report’s Best Colleges. In that publication, Welch outranks schools that have many times over the number of students and the endowment and budget we have. This increase has corresponded to an increase in measures like students’ average ACT scores, and the number of students in the top 25% of their high school class. So we have students who are more intellectually curious and studious. Our class attendance rates, for example, are the highest they have been in a long time.

But this intellectual curiosity and academic excellence dovetails with a renewed level of spirituality, leadership, and service among our students. This continues a trend we have witnessed growing over the last few years, with more students having very high attendance and perfect attendance in chapel and Christian service, more emphasis on the spiritual disciplines, greater stress on helping hurting people, a higher level of involvement in our eight student societies than we have witnessed in a couple of decades, and more young men majoring in preaching-oriented majors.

Let me pause here and comment on the leadership development that occurs on a campus like ours that is so hard to find on other campuses. In our tight-knit campus environment, we seek to make leadership development front-and-center. This commitment grows out of our mission to educate leaders to serve Christ, His church, and His world through biblical thought and life.

Leadership opportunities abound for students on the campus of Welch College. Because of our small, 10-to-1 faculty-student ratio, not only do students get more personalized leadership mentoring, but there are also more opportunities for hands-on leadership training. This leadership development occurs as students lead in societies, Christian service groups, student council, Spiritual Life groups, classes, athletic teams, resident assistantships, and so on.

It’s exciting to start a new year and watch these students already pouring themselves into Christian leadership and service. These are not just the leaders of the future. They are leaders today, and the gospel-centered, Word-driven leadership training they’re receiving on our campus is going to produce lasting results for Christ’s kingdom now and forever.

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