January 11, 2017 10:30:17 AM
To the casual observer, Mississippi University for Women might seem a redundancy, and a small one at that.
With few exceptions, the fields of study offered at The W can be pursued at any number of larger, better funded universities in our state or neighboring states.
But to make that assumption is to seriously misunderstand the unique and important role of this small, yet historic, institution.
When it was founded in 1884, the little campus in Columbus became the nation's first public university for women in an age when higher education for women was devoted to preparing teachers and little else.
Certainly, that landscape has changed dramatically over the past 150 years as opportunities for women extend to virtually all fields of study and all campuses throughout the nation.
Even so, The W continues to fill an important role in higher education, a point MUW President Jim Borsig drove home forcefully Tuesday during his appearance at the Columbus Rotary Club.
Each of the state's eight public universities have a unique role, Borsig said, The W is no different.
Borsig noted that while MUW's enrollment includes students from 81 of the state's 82 counties as well as students from 25 states and 11 foreign countries, The W is, in essence, a welcoming place for small-town kids and the challenges that often accompany those with that background.
"Many of our students come from small rural high schools in north Mississippi," Borsig said. "They may be college-able, but not college-ready, especially in mathematics. We are set up for those students. We are that niche."
The small, familial atmosphere The W affords is a place where those students can grow and thrive.
"Our students are here because they want to be here," Borsig said.
Yet the cozy atmosphere is hardly The W's only appeal.
Over the years, MUW has proven itself in academics. Its nursing program is the equal to -- and in some cases -- superior to those found at larger universities such as Southern Miss and UMMC in Jackson. Its culinary arts program has no peer in our state.
Across the board, The W offers high quality education at a reasonable cost. Borsig can point to a laundry list of ratings that make the case for his university's success.
He is not alone in that assessment. Everywhere you look, the signs are obvious. Enrollment, now at about 3,000, has grown steadily. New programs, both undergraduate and graduate, continue to be added. Next fall, athletics will return to campus, which Borsig feels will serve to further enhance the student experience.
Many, if not all of these trends have emerged over the past five years and it is no coincidence that the growth roughly coincides with Borsig's arrival as president at the beginning of 2012.
He has and continues to be the perfect leader for The W. His ability to clearly define, communicate and promote the university's special role in higher education has provided groundwork for The W's success.
Borsig's vision and leadership cannot be underestimated.
The W is, indeed thriving, even at a time when higher education seems under siege and under-funded.
The casual observer may not grasp this.
The informed certainly do.