My D22 and I visited Hendrix college this week and I thought I would share our thoughts here for those interested.
For us, the visit involved about a 5 hr drive from our home in north Texas, we arrived on Sunday and spent the night at a nearby hotel. There are several options all very conveniently located for visiting the school. Hendrix is located in Conway, AR, a town about 30 minutes or so outside of Little Rock. Conway boasts 3 college campuses and so is a bit of a college town. However, the town is located in a “dry” county, meaning no alcohol is sold aside from with meals at some restaurants. I had never heard of such a thing and when I asked, indeed they mean no alcohol can be purchased within county lines. You have to go 20 miles to the county line to get it. They’ve managed to carve out a few exceptions for restaurants. Now that doesn’t mean no drinking happens in this town or at any of these colleges, just that access limitations probably subdues things.
Hendrix is located on the side of town with the historic downtown area, which is walkable from, but not directly adjacent to, campus. The area featured a typical small town vibe, with cafes, restaurants, a few shops, etc. We didn’t see many plain brick walls in town, most open walls were painted with colorful murals.
We were the only family on our tour, which began in their very nicely appointed and new looking welcome center. The info session was well done I thought, it didn’t meander too far and stuck with the points it wanted to make about why Hendrix was a special place. So here were my takeaways from that based on my notes.
- The Nuts & Bolts: Hendrix is a school of about 1100 students, with a 175 acre campus, it’s a big campus, bigger than I realized even on the tour. They get students from 37 states and 10 countries, the largest share of students do come from AR (65% according to CDS data), the next largest share come from north Texas. Students live on campus all 4 years, dorms at first, moving on to more apt style housing that’s on the outer edge of campus. Dorms are primarily single sex, though they do have a couple of buildings that are co-ed. They are renovating 2 dorms right now and those should be complete for fall 22. Our tour did not take us in to any res halls.
- “Reinvention” was a word used frequently during the presentation. Their goal is to provide an innovative education, one that combines old world liberal arts education with real world experience and practical hands on learning. They provide practical skill building in all classes, and the main component of this “real world experience” seems to be their “Odyssey” program, which all students complete a certain number of “Odyssey” experiences. These can be research projects, internships, study abroad, or even some classes. They emphasize flexibility, in being able to build your education around what you are interested in.
- Socially, they have no greek life on campus, and they emphasize that they want campus to feel like home. The tour guide, a recently graduated senior, felt that the student body was very diverse, and it was easy to find your people as there were so many different types. On the home front, for those students, like my D, who will be leaving a feline companion at home when they go to college, Hendrix has you covered. Their campus cats are an integrated part of the campus community. They are a feral colony that have been vetted, registered and are cared for by Hendrix students. They are not all sociable, but 2 of the 3 we saw were very friendly and absolutely made my daughter’s day. One even climbed into her lap!
- Like most liberal arts colleges, professors at Hendrix are there because they love teaching and working with students. The supportive nature of professors was emphasized, including that professors are willing and eager to use their real world connections to help students make connections to get internships, research opportunities and jobs.
- The great outdoors! The Hendrix campus is stunning. Lots of trees, and well maintained areas where I could see students hanging out outdoors here a lot, it’s a pretty place and they’ve utilized their space well. In addition, there are many outdoor activities nearby! Lots of natural areas and parks to explore. My D and I took a walk at the adjacent nature preserve and saw snakes and bunnies! For nature enthusiasts the sound of the freeway from this preserve may be off putting but my city girl loved the close to nature but not too close vibe of that place. Those who want more solitude will be able to find it, just not directly adjacent to campus. Arkansas is a beautiful state with plenty of natural wonders to explore.
- Finances: one thing that was emphasized, if you are comfortable paying for your in-state flagship, you will be comfortable with what they expect you to pay. They have a scholarship, and I admit I didn’t ask the deep questions about it, where they charge you in-state tuition for your flagship(for us it’s UT Austin). I believe that not all students get this but they talked it up a lot, so I think many do. They also have a *4 year guarantee. Yes with the * lol! So they guarantee you will be out in 4 or they will pay the extra term, but obviously there are rules about that too. Again, I didn’t ask for the fine print as I imagine those details are available one their website.
OK, as far as the tour, we were the only family on the tour, and it’s summer, so pretty empty campus overall. We weren’t able to go in to any res halls, but we did see in to the student life center, where the cafeteria is. Hendrix is actually known for having pretty good food, the cafeteria was closed but just looking at the facility I can believe it puts out a good product with a diverse selection. The cafeteria is on the 2nd floor, 1st floor has the cafe/coffee shop/hang out area, game room(check out board games or play pool!), radio station (have your own show if you like!), technology center with computers and various types of printers available.
We also went into some academic buildings and they all looked well maintained or new. Interesting factoid, they do not have whiteboards in classrooms at Hendrix, just chalkboards. They do have technology/digital boards, etc just no dry erase/white boards.
Throughout the tour we were frequently shown various things that had been “Odyssey” projects. Even the campus cats had been a student’s Odyssey project. It seemed like “Odyssey” was an opportunity for students to come up with an idea for a project or research they wanted to do and then do it, with the results displayed around campus. At the end of the tour I asked our guide what her Odyssey experiences had been. She seemed embarrassed but said she had just done the “boring ones”, when I asked what she meant she said you don’t have to come up with a fancy project to do on your own, the school does provide a continuous stream of available opportunities to choose from, and that was what she had done. One of hers for example, was she participated in civil rights tour and wrote an essay about her experience, she also did research (she was a science major). I honestly told her it was a relief to me (and I’m sure my D) to know that the school provides these opportunities and doesn’t require students to try to come up with something. For some students that will be awesome, for others it’s intimidating. The Odyssey program is designed it seems to provide students with the opportunity to have real world experiential learning, and seems to provide the flexibility for students to do it in whatever way works best for them.
Since the cafeteria was closed we stopped at place just off campus for lunch, my D had a wood fired pizza she enjoyed and I had a really yummy salad. They also had gelato which we didn’t get to try because the line got long and we wanted to hit the road. We did however pick up some fried pies at a drive thru on our way out of town and those were quite tasty!
Overall, it was a good visit. Previously, just visiting online, I think we weren’t sure what to think about this school. But after seeing it in person, even though it was empty in summer, I think it definitely deserves a place on the list. If you are looking for a liberal arts school and are willing to try something different geographically, check out Hendrix, it’s a good place!