Trustees | General Education

Captains Ascending

Christopher Newport University is making its mark.
US AIRWAYS MAGAZINE   |  December 1, 2014 by Nancy Oakley

The reviews are in: Christopher Newport University (CNU) in Newport News, Virginia, is a rising star. In its recent rankings of Up-and-Coming Schools and regional universities in the South, U.S. News and World Report rated CNU second (after Elon University in North Carolina). “These schools are worth watching,” the review says “because they’re making innovative and promising changes,” particularly in academics, faculty, and student life. As is that weren’t enough, the American Council of Trustees and Alumni gave CNU an unheard-of perfect “A” rating for its strong core curriculum.

“Our reach and influence are spreading, our applications are exploding, the quality of our students is soaring,” notes Paul Trible, who took the helm of the 54-year-old institution in 1996 and set its current path to success. “CNU is different because we care about minds and hearts, forming good citizens and leaders so students can live lives of meaning, confidence, and purpose.”

The goal of a life of significance, as Trible calls it, is the underpinning of everything that takes place at the university. And it starts in the classroom. CNU students or “Captains” get a complete grounding in arts and sciences. As for that core curriculum that’s turning heads? It consists of seven required courses: American history, mathematics, natural science, foreign language, composition, literature, and economics. At first glance, the program might seem ordinary—until you consider that only 18 percent of American colleges and universities require American history; only 4 percent require a foreign language, and an astounding 3 percent, economics. A rich offering of student organizations, a full arts calendar, and thousands of hours of community service enhance CNU’s comprehensive education of the individual.

Trible doesn’t stop there. “We want our students to set the world on fire,” he explains, pointing to the President’s Leadership Program (PLP). Nearly 25 percent of CNU students participate in the PLP, which examines leadership theories, great leaders in history, and ethical decision-making. Students also learn from guest speakers, such as the late Truett Cathy, CEO of Chick-fil-A, and Barbara Kellerman, professor of public leadership at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

And what good is leadership if you don’t put it into practice? Previous CNU outdoor adventures have allowed Captains to sail the Chesapeake Bay, navigate whitewater rapids, and scale rock-climbing courses.

“They gain new insights about their own strengths, teamwork, and overcoming challenges,” Trible explains. Study abroad is the fourth pillar of PLP, so students “develop a global perspective and have knowledge of other cultures,” Trible says, and more important, “so they can better appreciate the genius of our country and what a special place America is.”

That speaks to CNU’s larger reach beyond applications and rankings. Rigorous academics combined with honor and civic engagement, says Trible, “are not spontaneously apprehended. They must be consciously passed down from generation to generation.” With CNU’s Captains as their guardians, the future is bright for all. 


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