What makes learning different at Cornell College in Mount Vernon

Published: Jun. 6, 2019 at 12:52 PM CDT
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Our Town Mount Vernon just wouldn't be the same without Cornell College.

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

That's because Cornell College offers its students interested in really immersing themselves in a topic. They take just one course at a time.

"Students are really interested in really immersing themselves in a topic," said Dee Ann Rexroat, Cornell's communications director. "And then you finish 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 means the traditional method of students enduing 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."

Today, Cornell is not only the oldest but it's also the largest employer in Mount Vernon. It's an extremely 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."

Students come from 42 states and 17 different countries. They attend a college that dates back to 1853, and a campus that's one of only two in the country on the National Register of Historic Places.

There's a great relationship between the town and the college.

"People seem really welcoming to our students. Our students really like that," Rexroat said. "They can walk downtown. It's just five blocks from the edge of campus to the middle of downtown. So you often see students mingling in the community in that way."

"A lot of us live in Mount Vernon and take place. 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."