Washington and Lee University

Washington and Lee University

December 4, 2019 5 By Kody Olson


When I was looking at colleges, I didn’t really pay attention to the things I should have paid attention to. Ask yourself, will I fit in here? And most importantly, is this place gonna push me to grow? If you come to a place that wants you to be your best, then you’re gonna be way ahead of everybody else. One of the main reasons why I love W&L is because, to me, it feels like family and it feels like home. I could sense immediately that this was a great place, a great community and a very friendly community. That is a community that you wanna be in, one that you’re surrounded by people who inspire you, who respect you, and who know and believe in your ability to succeed. In the classes at Washington and Lee, we have a really close, very tight relationship with our students. There are many professors in the STEM fields who do great research and can have a one-on-one conversation with me over a cup of coffee about what they’re doing. I’ve been consistently impressed, not only with the quality of teaching, but the level of engagement that my professors have had, not only in my education but in everyone else’s I know. One of the things that caused me to fall in love with W&L was the honor system. We trust each other in all walks of life. In the classroom and out, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You’ve got this culture of trust with your students. The student comes to you with a problem, you don’t have to ask, you don’t have to follow up, you’ve got that student’s word and it means you can respond with that same level of trust. The liberal arts education, I think, is the best college education you can get, and I think that W&L is one of the best. Liberal arts is so important because you have sort of a background in almost everything. Your major is the least important decision you’re gonna make. What we really wanna do is, not so much look at our offerings in business administration and accounting and econ as pre-professional, but as ways to kind of broaden the concept of what a liberal arts education needs to be for the 21st century. So we have a lot of double majors, and what’s great is they bring something new to the table in every class they come into. We require our students to go out to the different schools, the different departments to take different courses so their minds are augmented with knowledge in a variety of areas. In any class that you take, you’re gonna get, sort of, coming at it from all different sides, even if it’s a dance class, you’re gonna get some scientific and mathematical and computer science. It’s super cool. I will be taking some of the stuff I’ve learned in my geology classes, including the modeling and the quantitative skills, and to apply it to accounting and some accounting policies. I learn how to connect the science that I chose to study with life at large through the humanities. When I came in to Washington & Lee my freshman year, I was really struck by the number of opportunities. The campus is so vibrant. There’s so much going on constantly, and I think a lot of that is part of our education, not just within the classroom. Every single time I’ve wanted to do something here, I’ve gotten funding for it. I’ve just had to go up to the right people and be like, I have this really cool opportunity. Can you help me make this happen? And they said, yes, go for it. This is an entrepreneurship center. Students have the ability to interact with real businesses, getting hands on experience. So this summer, we’re actually starting a company. We have an opportunity with our television news show that we do twice a week here. Everybody gets a chance to be an anchor, a producer, a writer. When they leave, they can step right into the profession and it will be seamless. I will actually be an assistant director next year for student consulting. It’s a really cool program and we try to mimic what real management consulting would be like. The way that the school semesters are set up at Washington and Lee, you have a 12-week semester, 12-week semester, and then a miniature 4-week spring term. We’re taking the students abroad or we’re sending students out to domestic sites to do work. I took the natural history of Rockbridge county course my freshman spring term, and I think that was the course where I really found that sciences were something that I wanted to keep pursuing. My sophomore year, I had the opportunity to shadow an orthopedic surgeon, an MDVIP physician, a cardiothoracic surgeon, and then a urologist. Being able to study abroad, especially my first year on campus was incredible. I think an opportunity that not very many first year students get. We’re internationalizing the learning experience as much as we can. With the expanded classroom, we’re thinking about all the ways, in addition to the traditional ways we learn in the classroom. For example, since 2011, every summer I’ve been to Belize. I love working with the students there. Many of these students will use the research that they’ve collected to do a senior thesis project. I became really attached to the town. Like, even when I come back into town after leaving for a few weeks, it’s just like coming home. I think it’s very important to get involved in the Lexington community. Every W&L student in their four years here will have one, if not many opportunities to interact with the community. We’re bringing some snacks to the kids. It’s an after-school program. It’s always a highlight of my day. The students come to this remarkable place that really nurtures the sense of community and learning that’s really at the heart of a W&L education. One thing that’s really cool about W&L is the outing club. I did the Appalachian trail pre-orientation trip as a freshman, having never slept outside before, and now I’ve rafted both upper and lower Gauley rivers. We have so many speakers, so many known scholars coming to campus that it’s actually difficult to go to all these events on campus. Between the school, the city of Lexington itself, and just the things that the students do on their own, there’s never a dull moment at all. I think one of the greatest things about W&L is the personalized college experience you’re going to get. You can show up here freshmen year knowing that you don’t quite know what path you might take but at every turn you’ll find professors that are eager to help you. I will definitely miss Washington and Lee with every fiber of my being. It’s been an amazing place and it’s been a vital part of creating who I am now. We educate the students to take their place in a global and diverse society, and that’s exactly what they’re doing. They get out there and they start changing the world in ways that we never could have predicted, never could have anticipated, but we see it every day.