By David Adams | Echo
By now, you've heard the news. Taylor is the No. 1 Regional College in the Midwest for the eighth consecutive year,according to U.S. News and World Report's "Best Colleges 2015" survey. U.S. News has placed Taylor in the top three colleges in the region for the past 18 years.
Taylor's consistently stellar rankings are a mark of excellence. Among the 105 schools in Taylor's peer group-Midwest colleges that focus on undergraduate education but award less than half their degrees in liberal arts disciplines-Taylor ranked first in graduation rate, freshman retention (the proportion of freshmen returning for their sophomore years) and peer assessment (how administrators at other colleges rated Taylor).
The compendium of data points U.S. News collects from the 1,800 colleges and universities participating in the survey paint an objective picture of each participating school. But missing from the reams of statistics are community voices-the perspectives of those the statistics claim to evaluate.
The Echo spoke to eight members of the community and asked them to share what Taylor's eighth No. 1 ranking means to them. In other words, we asked them to make tangible the intangible rankings data. What follows are edited interviews with each of them.
Katie Schantz, sophomore public health major
"I think it's great for Taylor's name to be put out there with a positive ranking. I hope it's something that leads to God's work being done here. If it leads to more donations or more students attending Taylor, I hope those gifts are well-stewarded."
Gary and Laura West, parents of senior Zach West
"For Taylor to receive high rankings from external sources further validates our assessment of the total desire of excellence for which Taylor strives. While the ranking provides a sense of accomplishment, it also provides a goal for continuous improvement to further enrich the lives of the Taylor community."
Drew Neuenschwander, '13
"Why do I care that Taylor is still No. 1, now that I've graduated? Because Taylor is so much more than four years-it's family. And family is something you never stop having a stake in. People come and go, but Taylor will always be Taylor as long as love and godliness permeate everything we do. That's my best explanation for why Taylor is No. 1: Love is the X factor here. A simple little word, but essential-because it's as big as the God we serve."
Matt Long, senior biblical literature major
"I think it's really cool. My future career (in ministry) doesn't look at the rankings, but it's nice to be able to point people to the rankings. To at least a part of the student body, the ranking doesn't mean that much, but it should be more appreciated. It verifies what we're doing here."
Roger Ringenberg, associate professor of biblical studies
"The ranking confirms in my own mind what I'd say is true of Taylor. I think it accurately reflects what Taylor is-a very good academic institution, and I'm happy for it coming into that place. In a sense, it's kind of like when somebody in your family gets an award: You're happy to be a part of that family, especially if you've been a part in contributing something."
Meg Jeffers, Chef de Cuisine, Taylor Dining Commons
"Taylor's continued high rankings attest to the beautiful community that exists here. The love and support these students are given is absolutely remarkable. I have worked in multiple university settings, and never have I witnessed a community as strong as this one. Clearly, there is a widespread sense of pride that resides within those who call this place home."
Chaslyn Sheppard, freshman social work major
"I chose to go to Taylor after many nights of prayer and conversation with God. It was my dream to be here, mainly because of how wonderfully integrated classes are with both faith and education. Seeing that TU is ranked highly makes me proud to go here. Taylor is not only providing an environment for us to grow in our faith and flourish as human beings, but they are educating us so well."
Brady Schaar, MAHE '14
"I think the ranking says a lot about the high quality of the experience of Taylor University. Not just the academics, but the whole package. For me personally, it serves as a bit of exterior validation for something I know: I know that Taylor is an exceptional place because of my experiences there. But, seeing Taylor recognized by outside sources is special as well. It tells me that I'm not the only one who feels that way."