Cornell College and Mount Vernon fit together perfectly

Aerial view of the Cornell College campus in Mount Venon, Iowa (KCRG)
Aerial view of the Cornell College campus in Mount Venon, Iowa (KCRG)(KCRG)
Published: Jun. 3, 2019 at 8:43 PM CDT
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Mount Vernon just wouldn't be the same without Cornell College.

Founded in 1853, the four-year liberal arts college is one of only two campuses in the country that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is both the oldest and largest employer in Mount Vernon.

Unlike most of its peers, Cornell offers students a different way to learn.

Students at the college only take one course at a time instead of the usual full load of classes at once for an entire semester. This keeps students on their toes, as the condensed schedule keeps things moving at a quick pace.

"I think the joke around here is that students in a semester plan can procrastinate for a few weeks," Craig Tepper, biology professor, said. "Here you can procrastinate for a few hours."

WIth a smaller time frame on a calendar to work with, both professors and students must keep a tight focus on one area at a time.

"Students are really interested in really immersing themselves in a topic," Dee Ann Rexroat, Cornell Communications Director, said. "And then you finish [it] in 18 days. You have a four-day break, and then you start all over again with a fresh course the next Monday. It's really exhilarating."

It also means the traditional method of students enduring long faculty lectures doesn't work at Cornell.

"Faculty members are going to get bored, and so are the students," Tepper said. "So, you have to mix it up with group projects, discussion groups, and for us, it's mostly laboratory working, into the lab off and on."

The uniqueness of the learning experience at the college brings an element to the otherwise typical Iowa town that it probably would not attract alone. Students come from 42 states and 17 different countries. The variety of backgrounds on campus is an important part of the community.

"We have over a thousand students living here, which is about a quarter of the population of Mount Vernon," Rexroat said. "And they bring a lot of diversity to this small town in Iowa."

The relationship between the town and the college is close, with either being associated with one another when you hear them named.

"A lot of us live in Mount Vernon," Tepper said. "A lot of faculty have been on various boards and things for the city. And it's sort of a two way street for us. At least the 30 years I've been here, it's been very enjoyable."

For more information on Cornell College, see