By Susan C. Thomson Of The Post-Dispatch
St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)
When William Woods University went scouting for a few top women students to pioneer a showcase academic program, a number of would-be male applicants said they'd like a shot at it.
Sorry, guys. The university held fast to its 126-year tradition as a women's school and let only females into its first group of Century Scholars - students on a fast track to get their bachelor's degrees in three jam-packed years.
But the men had planted the kernel of an idea that got a lot of discussion this past year. A few weeks ago, without fanfare, the university decided to open all its programs to men and women. Coeducation comes to campus in the fall of 1997. Meanwhile this fall, the Century Scholars have come, 10 handpicked young women clear-sighted and determined about their educations and careers and urgent to get on with both. Jamie Huffman of Rogers, Ark., aims to follow up a degree in psychology with a law degree and to go to work for the FBI, doing personality profiles of hard-core criminals such as serial killers. "I've been interested in this since I was little," she says. Getting her bachelor's in three years means "a year earlier that I will actually start doing what I want to do." For Emily Fletcher, a biology major from Marshall, Mo., an und ergraduate year saved means getting out of medical school at age 25 instead of 26. Others among the group are just as firm in their plans for futures in business, teaching and journalism and as impatient to get there without wasting time. Time is money, of course, and the Century Scholars save that, too, although most mention the financial advantage only as an afterthought. Because the university lowers fees for summer school and has pledged this group academic scholarships averaging $8,626 a year, these students will get their degrees for less than half list price. The university figures they'll pay about $32,400 in tuition, room and board at this year's prices. By the same measure, their four-year, full-price classmates will ante up $67,400. And like all students, Century Scholars showing financial need can shave their costs still more. But when it comes to effort, the Century Scholars' degrees won't come cheap. The university has laid out a relentless schedule, including two full summers, for the group. In addition to all the credits for their various majors, each scholar must: Meet regularly with a staff member to custom design a fitting program of outside-of-class activities. As much as grades, each student's extracurricular record will be part of her transcript. Spend six weeks in the first summer living in and learning about another culture. Options include study at Nagoya Women's University in Nagoya, Japan, or Espiritu Santo University in Guayaquil, Ecuador, or with the Loyal Shawnee people of eastern Oklahoma. Spend part of the second summer in independent study, possibly a research project with a faculty member or an internship. No problem, says Fletcher: "I've had summers off for the last 12 years." Nor are these students having second thoughts about giving up one of those undergraduate years, often called the best of a young person's life. Huffman, for instance, says she'll make up for that by living her three years here "to the fullest." It Starts At The Top Of course, nothing stops most college students from graduating in three years if they wish. …