Olivet The Magazine | Making the Most of Your College Experience

Olivet is a place where students can establish a sense of belonging through the blending of shared adventures and celebrated diversity.

Lauren Beatty

October 13, 2023 Campus Life, Olivet The Magazine

Students sitting in the Quad

Believing and belonging are critical in the formation of young adults as they prepare for lives of service to God and humanity, and while the University seeks to shape its community, that community continually shapes the culture of the University. After all, a campus community is only as strong as the individuals who comprise the group.

In 1999 Olivet’s marketing office added an unofficial tagline to traditional undergraduate recruiting materials: “We believe. You belong here.” The phrase simply re-framed Olivet’s mission of providing an “Education With a Christian Purpose” by connecting the University’s purpose and vision with its community.

The tagline is more than just a catchy phrase. Olivet is a place where students can establish a sense of belonging through the blending of shared adventures and celebrated diversity.

In seeking to create a vibrant campus environment, Olivet offers a wide variety of opportunities for students to grow personally, spiritually and professionally as they make the most of their college experience.

Exploring Personal Faith

At the core of the Olivet experience is a Christian emphasis. The student body represents more than 40 denominations and world religions and an array of faith backgrounds, but the foundation of the University remains “Education With a Christian Purpose.” The Office of Spiritual Development exists to foster belonging in the life of every student and to equip spiritual leaders to partner with God in shalom. The office strives to achieve this through Belong Groups, Discipleship Huddles, chapel services, Upper Room, student ministries, ministry trips and community engagement.

Spiritual Development encompasses the discipleship and evangelism initiatives to engage in seven abiding habits: God’s Word, prayer, worship, fellowship, servanthood, stewardship and witnessing. Freshmen are encouraged to join a Belong Group to gain community support as they transition into college life. Huddles offer an intentional space for sophomores, juniors and seniors to delve deeper into discipleship and theological discussions as they foster accountability among their peers.

Twice a week, students, faculty and staff gather in the 3,000-seat Betty and Kenneth Hawkins Centennial Chapel to participate in corporate worship and hear from renowned pastors, authors, business leaders, professional athletes, artists and other skilled guest speakers.

As part of their Christian liberal arts education, Olivet students complete courses that unpack the relevance of Scripture and Christian traditions. Faculty incorporate devotionals into their curriculum, and they become mentors as they create an environment for asking questions and seeking answers.

Outside the classroom, opportunities abound for students to further their faith journeys through student ministries and community engagement projects. Many of the student spiritual life activities are wrapped into the Shalom Project, which seeks to inspire, empower and equip the campus community in the creative act of restoring broken relationships.

Examples of campus ministry groups include Prayer Warriors, a group that empowers and encourages the campus community through prayer and Scripture study, and Heart4Missions, which provides a space for students to learn more about missional service. Off-campus volunteer opportunities include groups like Life Support, which partners with the local Living Alternatives Pregnancy Resource Center; Manna, which serves the local homeless population; Kingdom Builders, a ministry that uses building and construction projects to benefit families in Pembroke and Kankakee; and Aspire, which partners with the City Life Center to provide tutoring and mentoring for local middle and high school students. Each year, the entire campus community is encouraged to participate in Serve Day to support the work of local community organizations.

Students at Olivet also benefit from exposure to faith in action in different parts of the country and the world on yearly mission trips through the Shalom Project. These cross-cultural encounters help to expand students’ worldviews and perspectives on how people live around the world. In the past, students have traveled to the Gulf Coast, New York, Chicago, Denver, Hawaii, Indianapolis, Los Angeles and El Paso, and around the world to countries including Argentina, Peru, Panama, Guatemala, Honduras, Dominican Republic, Haiti, France, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, Kenya, Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, India, Papua New Guinea, South Korea, China, Mexico, Thailand, Cambodia, Australia and Taiwan.

Getting Involved on Campus

The on-campus, residential nature of Olivet facilitates many opportunities for students to connect socially. Each semester the Office of Student Development plans a full program of social activities across campus for students to have fun and build inclusive relationships.

Olivet offers more than 90 academic department service clubs, organizations, multiethnic affinity associations, interest groups and honor societies to cater to the wide range of interests and passions represented in the student body. A sampling of these include Capitol Hill Gang (political science); Enactus (business); Equestrian Club; Green Room (theatre); ONU Investment Club; MuKappa (for students from international and military homes); Multiethnic Student Services (promoting diversity and inclusion through three affinity groups); Spoons 4 Forks improv comedy team; Tabletop Games Club; Society of Women Engineers; Animal Cares; and Diakonia (social work). Olivet students enjoy a wide variety of yearly traditions and special activities, including Ollies Follies class competitions, the Rock and Glow silent disco, an annual Christmas party, live band karaoke, the Mr. ONU skit and talent show, plays and musicals, outdoor movies, contemporary music concerts provided by Shine.FM, and other gatherings that encourage students to connect with their peers. Students also oversee the annual publication process of the Aurora yearbook.

male student climbing rock wall

There are a multitude of additional recreational options for students to enjoy on campus. The Perry Student Life and Recreation Center houses a swimming pool, four-story climbing wall, fieldhouse, fitness facilities, weekly exercise classes, study spaces and gaming areas — all of which are available for students to use for free. Olivet also boasts a robust intramural program with 20 sports offered at a variety of levels. On average, more than 1,400 students participate in at least one intramural sport each year.

Winning Championships and Developing Champions

Students who want to play sports at an intercollegiate competitive level can go through the recruitment process for any of the University’s 21 varsity athletic teams or the men’s club ice hockey team. Coed sports include cheerleading and varsity esports.

Olivet athletic teams compete nationally through affiliation in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and through conference play in the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference (CCAC), Mid-States Football Association and Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference (swimming). Multiple alumni have built on their college training to compete professionally with teams including the Chicago Cubs, the New York Yankees, the Chicago Fire, and USA Track and Field.

The University’s athletic teams perform at high levels athletically and in the classroom. For 13 consecutive years, Olivet’s athletic program has won the CCAC All-Sports Cup, which is based on championships and rankings across CCAC-affiliated sports. In addition, when it comes to success in the classroom, hundreds of Olivet athletes are consistently named to the CCAC All-Academic Team each year.

Scholarships are available for many student-athletes. For more information about the athletic recruitment process, visit ONUTigers.com.

Engaging in the Arts

From its inception as a liberal arts higher education institution, Olivet has supported creative growth through performances and exhibitions that feature student accomplishments in the areas of drama, art and music. ONU Theatre produces a full season of musicals and plays ranging from Broadway favorites to Pulitzer Prize winners to original productions. Many shows are student-directed, and all productions allow for student involvement beyond the stage, including costuming, choreography, set design, set construction, sound design, lighting design and production assistant roles.

Students who are interested in artistic exploration may take courses within the Department of Art and Digital Media. Rotating exhibitions are displayed in gallery areas around campus throughout the year to showcase student work. There are also a variety of on-campus student photography, videography and graphic designer roles that allow students to gain work experience as they hone their craft.

More than 600 students are involved annually in the over 20 vocal and instrumental ensembles offered through the School of Music. Regardless of major, all students who are musically inclined are encouraged to get involved. Groups include the Tiger Marching Band, University Orchestra, Jazz Band, Wind Ensemble, Orpheus Choir, Proclamation Gospel Choir, Concert Singers, Apollo Choir and Piano Ensemble. These and many other ensembles offer some merit-based and participation scholarships.

The School of Music offers a variety of performance opportunities, including annual performances of Handel’s Messiah and the holiday favorite Sounds of the Season concert, and it partners with the Department of Theatre to produce the spring musical. Additionally, many music ensembles travel throughout the country and around the world to minister through music. The Tiger Marching Band has performed in London, in Rome and at the U.S. Presidential Inauguration; Concert Singers has traveled to Greece, Paraguay, Brazil and Bulgaria; and Orpheus Choir has taken trips to Kenya and Puerto Rico.

Expanding Horizons Through Academic Investment

Most of the more than 140 areas of study at Olivet require a practical, mentored learning experience, such as clinical rotations, student teaching, job shadowing or an internship. These opportunities allow students to apply what they have learned in the classroom directly into the industry in which they are pursuing a career. Students have completed internships with employers including NASA, the Grand Rapids Museum of Art, the Mississippi Aquarium, the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Nucor Steel and Caterpillar Inc. as well as local churches, hospitals, school districts, political campaigns, nonprofit organizations and more.

A strong educational foundation sets up students for success beyond the classroom. Whether studying on or off campus, Olivet students can pursue research projects through faculty mentorship and class activities or in a more formal capacity through the University Honors Program or industry-related internships. Professors also frequently employ outstanding students as teaching assistants, notetakers and tutors.

Students who are interested in exploring internationally for an extended time may spend a semester or summer studying off campus. The University has more than 15 established partnerships with higher education institutions that promote interactive scholarship in different locations, including Honduras, Jordan, the United Kingdom, Uganda and Ecuador. As they travel, students gain insight into and appreciation for the varied cultures, languages and traditions that exist elsewhere in the world.

Regardless of what students choose to study, there are endless opportunities for growth while experiencing life at Olivet. The mission of the University strategically sets the vision for a higher education institution that is full of community, culture and ways to connect.

We believe. You belong here.

Lauren Beatty

Lauren Beatty ’13 is a freelance writer, author, editor, artist and an adjunct professor in the Department of Communication at Olivet. She earned a Master of Arts degree in cross-cultural and sustainable business management from the American University of Paris in 2014. Her thesis explored the evolution of socially responsible business practices in America.

Student on main campus wearing pink sweater and holding water bottle.

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