Take an Educational Journey

Juniata College
Written by Samita Sarkar

Juniata College is private liberal arts school that has been helping its students take ownership of their destiny since its founding in 1876. Today, the learner-centric, experience-focused school is internationally recognized for its Accounting, Business, and Economics (ABE) programs.
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Juniata College’s rich history dates back to 100 years after the U.S. was founded, in the small town of Huntingdon in post-Civil War Pennsylvania. Juniata College’s founders were a group of free-thinking members of the Church of the Brethren, who broke with the Church’s official stance toward post-secondary education. Whereas the church was dismissive of higher education for purposes other than ministerial training, founders Dr. Andrew B. Brumbaugh and his two cousins Henry and John Brumbaugh wanted to help make it available to men and women seeking many different career paths while maintaining the Christian values of the Brethren.

“These leaders forged a new way forward, founding the first Brethren-affiliated college meant to teach all who sought training for the ‘useful occupations of life,’” Genna Kasun, Juniata College’s Director of Social Media and Content Coordination informs us. “Then in the early 1970s, just as the College’s Brethren founders once did, Juniata faculty began to ask their own questions, which led to the creation and adoption of a new curriculum, one that echoed what it meant to be human: reflective, interpretive, and decision-making focused.”

That curricular change created an enduring and novel approach to how students focus their education: the Program of Emphasis (POE). Available exclusively at Juniata College, the POE is a flexible, tailored system that enables students to forge their own path. Students can follow an established, designated direction (interspersing high impact experiences that suit their plan of study), or they can create their own customized program of study. While private college has a long history, its focus has always been on staying adaptive to the needs of current students.

Through Juniata’s branding efforts over the last two years, it has uncovered that surveyed students have a desire to become the author of their own powerful stories.

“Our students are innovative, and they desire to be the same reflective, intellectual, and thoughtful students for whom the POE was invented. We continue to evolve the curriculum that supports these educational journeys, and it is now time for the College to develop a new general education curriculum,” says Lauren Bowen, provost and chief academic officer at Juniata.

The goal of the new curriculum is to strengthen Juniata’s commitment to ensuring graduates earn a fully-rounded education. With that in mind, the new curriculum will focus on interdisciplinarity and civic responsibility and engagement, both locally and globally. The work emerged from goals contained in the College’s strategic plan, Courage to Act.

A recent initiative of Juniata is QUEST, a centralized space on campus designed as a place where students can question, understand, explore, seek, and transform with academic partners. “QUEST empowers students to discover the pathways and tools to help identify their calling, imagine their aspirations, navigate their challenges, and ultimately define their career in college and beyond,” says Bowen.

QUEST was borne of the College’s need to coordinate the resources it provides to students in a centralized, seamless way that is easier to navigate. This effort is a part of Juniata’s evolving Learning Commons initiative, aligning people, resources and space to be as learner-centric as possible.

“We are reimagining our library as an academic and intellectual hub, and we’re gathering our experiential educational opportunities and support resources. It is all part of this broader endeavor to respond to contemporary students in a way that makes sense to them,” explains Bowen.

An approach centered on the learner has helped the College and its students to flourish. Many students of Juniata’s rigorous programs become recipients of various grants and scholarships that allow them to study or conduct research abroad, such as the Fulbright Fellowship, the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, the St. Andrews Society’s Mutch Scholarship, and the Ernest F. Hollings Undergraduate Scholarship.

Of course, there are additional opportunities outside of studying abroad that are available at the rural school with a global outlook. Students can apply to become Juniata Associates (JA) and take advantage of a competitive and unique on-campus job experience that enables them to partner with managers of various offices in their field of study throughout campus.

“Students have used their JA experience to earn prestigious employment opportunities at Google, TE Connectivity, and Deloitte,” Kasun remarks.

Meanwhile, Juniata’s Accounting, Business, and Economics department has earned accreditation by the International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education, an international honor that gives incoming students and graduates the confidence that Juniata’s business majors are receiving a rigorous, wide-ranging and ethical education.

For example, students may be given opportunities for internships, or given investment capital to put into the market to gain firsthand knowledge of how stocks and bonds function. The business faculty is devoted to providing relevant and applicable information to students, which they can utilize immediately as they begin or advance their careers.

“A deep commitment to experiential education is what really distinguishes our ABE programs,” says Bowen. “What happens in the classroom and what happens outside the classroom is seamless. If you were to just anecdotally stop some ABE students and ask them why they love it, they would say that the faculty members make sure they have access to experiences. It’s built into the classroom, and many teachers are scholars who were formerly practitioners. They let students grapple with real-world, salient examples to make sense of course content.”

More than 96 percent of Juniata College graduates are employed or enrolled in graduate school within six months of graduation and more than 97 percent of those surveyed feel their preparation relates directly or somewhat directly to their present job or graduate program. Juniata graduates have found meaningful and fulfilling employment at companies such as Google, the NFL, the U.S. Department of State, The Wall Street Journal, and NASA, and have gone on to post-graduate studies at institutions including Harvard Medical School, Vanderbilt University, Columbia University, and Johns Hopkins University.

That being said, Juniata prefers not to measure its success in numbers. “Juniata prefers to measure success in quality. Quality, to us, means that our incoming and graduating students want to pursue and engage in meaningful and successful lives. We strive to maintain our values and deliver our mission: to provide an academically engaging and personally enriching liberal arts education,” emphasizes Kasun.

In 2012, Juniata was one of five colleges across the U.S. to be awarded the Senator Paul Simon Award for Comprehensive Internationalization by NAFSA, the Association of International Educators, due to its inclusion of international students and prestigious study abroad programs.

“We’ve been recognized as a leader in international education for forty years. Our center for international education is well resourced and has incredibly talented professionals working to ensure that the students are welcome in a variety of ways,” elaborates Bowen.

One example of this is the Global Village, created in one of Juniata’s residence halls. Within the residence (organized with a French floor, Spanish floor, etc.), international students live with domestic students, cook for one another and share their culture through programs such as guest speaking events, foreign movie nights, and dinners.

Other initiatives include an intensive English program to help international students make a smooth transition into studying in English, organized travel opportunities, and a friendship family program that sets students up with a local family who can offer support or a home-cooked meal off campus, giving an authentic experience of American life.

The learner-centric way that Juniata College designs its curriculums, its focus on new initiatives such as QUEST, and its commitment to creating a welcoming and internationally-aware campus with world-class ABE programs are all threaded together by the college’s founding principles. For well over a century, Juniata has strived to help its students take charge of their lives with experiential education so they can develop the problem solving skills that they will need to be successful and thrive – both within and outside of the classroom.

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