The Aims of the University
Valparaiso University is dedicated to superior teaching based on excellent scholarship. As a scholarly community, it actively engages in the exploration, transmission, and enlargement not only of knowledge but also of the cultural and religious heritage of human society, and it is proud to prepare men and women for professional service. This community values respect for learning and truth, for human dignity, for freedom from ignorance and prejudice, and for a critically inquiring spirit. The University aims to develop in its members these values, together with a sense of vocation and social responsibility. It holds that these values receive their deepest meaning and strength within the context of the Christian faith.
These basic commitments enable Valparaiso University to graduate students whose individual achievements and aspirations are linked invariably to larger social, moral, and spiritual horizons of meaning and significance. Proud of all its alumni who have carried its values into leadership roles in their communities, the church, social institutions, the nation, and the world, it aims to continue graduating such potential leaders.
A Distinctive Institution
All American colleges and universities bear a family resemblance to one another as they come from a common set of ancestors in Europe and colonial America. Within that larger family, Valparaiso University belongs to a small and distinctive group. It is neither a large research university nor a small liberal arts college. At the same time that it promotes a basic liberal arts curriculum, it features strong undergraduate colleges of Engineering, Nursing and Health Professions, and Business, a professional direction lacking in the conventional liberal arts college. Conversely, the University is not a cluster of professional colleges which merely pays lip service to the liberal arts. Education in the liberal arts is the foundation of every academic program, and the College of Arts and Sciences, the largest unit in the University, carries on many vital programs of its own.
This combination of liberal and professional studies of such variety within an institution of modest size is rare in American higher education. Broad enough in curriculum and in variety of programs to be a university, still Valparaiso University emphasizes undergraduate teaching in the manner of the traditional small college, with many small classes and strong individual guidance. Valparaiso University is also a founding member of the New American Colleges and Universities, a national consortium of small to mid-sized colleges and universities that are committed to the ideal of integrating liberal and professional studies.
Valparaiso University’s unique status as an independent Lutheran university supplies the rationale for this special combination of liberal and professional studies. No church body has control or authority over the University, which is owned and operated by the Lutheran University Association. Valparaiso University is therefore both free and responsible to realize an educational ideal informed by the best traditions of Lutheran Christianity and of liberal and professional studies.
Faith and Learning
The University’s concern for the personal and intellectual development of each student is rooted in its Lutheran heritage. This Christian philosophy of education guides both the design of its curriculum and the approach to learning that it fosters. Beyond the courses in theology that the curriculum provides, the University emphasizes a Christian freedom that liberates the scholar to explore any idea and theory, a vocation freely uniting faith and intellectual honesty. In its residential life, the University leads students to accept personal responsibility for their development and encourages a sense of caring for one another. Standing together at the center of the campus, the Chapel of the Resurrection and the Christopher Center for Library and Information Resources express the University’s belief in the creative relationship between faith and learning. The University’s motto, too, points up this relationship: In luce tua videmus lucem, “In Thy light we see light.”
The chapel is the focal point for worship, the proclamation of the Gospel, and many cultural events. Both Sunday and daily services bring together members of the University community who choose to worship together. Students and professional chapel staff offer a broad and creative ministry to the whole community. As the University welcomes students of varied denominations and religious traditions, so it welcomes the involvement of community churches in those students’ lives. A Roman Catholic student center, for example, is located next to the campus, and some churches of other denominations offer transportation to their services in the town.
The Setting of the University
The spacious campus of 350 acres contains more than sixty academic and residential buildings, many of them built within the past two decades. The campus is located in the small city of Valparaiso, attractively situated in a rural setting at the edge of the busy industrial district of Northwest Indiana. Fifteen miles to the north, on the shore of Lake Michigan, are the Indiana Dunes. The city of Chicago with its vast cultural resources, an hour’s drive from the campus, can be reached easily by train and bus. The University often charters buses so that students and faculty can take advantage of the theatres, museums, and other educational benefits of this great city. Many programs of the University use the region–rich in natural, urban, and industrial opportunities for field trips and investigative activities.
Profile of Students and Faculty
The heart of an academic institution is its students and faculty. Valparaiso University’s student body is selected from a large number of applicants from all states in the nation and from many foreign countries. Unlike most American colleges, which draw the majority of their students from their immediate location, Valparaiso University enrolls 42% of its undergraduate students from Indiana; another 48% of undergraduates come from Great Lakes states. Major contingents come, too, from both East and West coasts. National and diverse in its student body, the University is still a distinctively Midwestern institution which enjoys the friendliness and hard work characteristic of the region. Over 57% of the students come from the upper fifth of their high school graduating classes. Approximately twenty National Merit Scholars are enrolled at the University in any given year.
A rich diversity characterizes the University faculty (312 full-time and 102 part-time professors), but they share important skills and attitudes as well. Educated at leading research universities, they are competent in their fields. They care about students, an attitude made visible by the frequent individual consultations they invite. Above all, they enjoy teaching and believe that their work enriches not only their students’ but their own lives. At Valparaiso University there are no teaching assistants; senior faculty members and newcomers alike can be found teaching introductory and advanced courses. The University embodies in its faculty an ideal of the teacher-scholar, one who recognizes that teaching is based on continuing scholarship. Many members of the faculty have achieved significant reputations in their particular fields and are pursuing, with marked success, grants from government and private foundations to promote research and improve instruction. In addition to The Cresset, a periodical review of literature, the arts and public affairs, published by the University, faculty edit from the campus two other national learned journals.
University governance, too, reflects campus-wide involvement. Through the University Council, composed of faculty, students, administrators, and staff, students share in the development of University policy, including academic programs. Final responsibility for all academic programs, especially those which require certification, is vested in the faculty.
The modest size of the University, its organization into five small undergraduate colleges, and a school of graduate studies and continuing education, and especially the strong personal commitment of the faculty enhance its teaching effectiveness. In a school like this, with its concentrated residential focus and the immediate relationships it fosters between faculty and students, educational life is more vital and more intense than would be possible at massive institutions or at commuter colleges. Valparaiso University consciously fosters this tradition in the selection of both its students and its faculty and in the development of its educational programs.