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Lots of organizations claim to be a “family” or a “community.” A community comes together around common values and beliefs. A community supports its members, and helps them to fulfill their God-given potential. In a community, individuals may be different, but they are not alone; nobody is overlooked; nobody gets lost. Members of communities care about each other.
It’s hard for colleges and universities to be caring communities because of their sheer size. That’s why PacRim is intentionally small.
The size of the group is a major factor in achieving a caring community. How big can a community be and still be a caring community? Estimates vary, but are usually between 150 and 300 people. Yes, you can recognize the names and faces of more than three hundred people, but can you know, interact with, and care about more than three hundred people on a regular basis? Probably not.
I have had the opportunity to study at a number of universities, including Harvard, Oxford, Waseda, University of Hawaii, and University of Southern California. They all had big campuses and they all had good people, but they were just too big to be caring communities. Today, Harvard University has 20,000 students; Oxford University in England has 23,000; Waseda University in Tokyo has 51,000; the University of Southern California has 43,000; and the University of Hawaii at Manoa has 19,000.
Of course, I made friends at each university, and I am blessed to still be in touch with some of those friends. I also appreciated the attempts made by several universities to create small communities within their large campuses.
For example, in my graduate program at USC, I was in a cohort group, and we formed a small informal community of a dozen students. Oxford and Harvard have done their best to support smaller communities through their colleges and residential “houses.” Oxford University consists of 38 small colleges. I attended Oriel College, which today has 300 undergraduates and 200 postgraduate students. The “houses” at Harvard were based on Oxford colleges. When I was at Harvard, I lived at Eliot House, which was designed for 294 students and today has 454 students. Living together and eating together are a good start, but when classes and most activities are university-wide, the sense of community is still weak.
Overall, these universities were too big, and the students too competitive, to be the kind of caring community we have here at PacRim.
PacRim has approximately 160 students, 22 staff, and 30 faculty members. We know each other, we care about each other, and we pay attention to each other. We are not perfect, but we are together. We see each other every day, in and out of classes, and we worship together once a week. It’s what a Christian learning community should be.
PacRim is the best community I have ever been part of. It is not something I take for granted. It’s not something that you should take for granted, either. Will your son or daughter be part of a caring community like ours?