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Wyoming Catholic College
Lander, Wyoming

There may be no more beautiful place for faithful Catholics to pursue an undergraduate education than the brand-new Wyoming Catholic College in the Rocky Mountains. Situated by the Wind River Mountain Range and the Popo Agie River, the college will be a delight for outdoor enthusiasts. It’s such an impressive site that the 42-year-old National Outdoor Leadership School is located nearby. But there is more here than an idyllic setting. When it opened its doors to the first class in September 2007, Wyoming Catholic embraced a Great Books and classical curriculum strongly permeated by orthodox Catholicism. It aspires to provide the quality of education evident at Thomas Aquinas College in California. To do so, the college is emphasizing seven key objectives: Catholic community, spiritual formation, liberal arts education, integrated curriculum, great and good books, immersion in the outdoors and excellent teaching. One administrator told us, “The Catholic identity is the main reason we are here. John Paul II in Ex corde Ecclesiae says that the purpose of Catholic education is to serve the Truth, and to bring students to the Truth.” “Since the vast majority of schools are no longer even attempting to do that,” he added, “and since it is not a mere question of ‘culture’ but of salvation and happiness, we feel justified in founding a college dedicated above all

quick facts
Founded: 2005 (first students in 2007) Type of institution: Micro liberal arts college Setting: Rural Undergraduate enrollment: 35 (2007–08 academic year) Total undergraduate cost: $19,500 (tuition, room and board for 2007–08) Undergraduate majors: One

five key Points
1. Strongly orthodox Catholic. 2. Emphasizes a Great Books and classical liberal education. 3. Located in a beautiful setting in the Rocky Mountains. 4. Seeks to capitalize on wilderness environment. 5. As with all new colleges, accreditation takes time.

The Newman Guide


Wyoming Catholic College

to joyful and wholehearted pursuit and passing on of natural and supernatural truth.” This mission in the wilderness is located in Lander, which has a population of 7,000 people in west-central Wyoming. The area, as perhaps befits its western image, is sparsely settled; the nearest large city is Billings, Montana, about 200 miles north. Denver is the closest major metropolitan area, and it is a five- to six-hour drive. The college’s initial location is Holy Rosary Church, which provided religious, classroom and dining facilities. The six-credit equestrian program is offered at Central Wyoming College, a half-hour away. A 14-square mile parcel of land has been acquired nearby which will eventually serve as the permanent campus. A breathtaking rendering of the future campus is shown on the WCC website. At the entrance will be the chapel followed by academic, recreational and residential precincts. The first-year class has 35 students, 16 males and 19 females housed in separate apartment facilities. They come from 23 states ranging from Vermont and Georgia to California and Washington. The college expects to eventually enroll 400 students. These students will study a prescribed four-year program. Eight Catholic theology and five philosophy courses are required. Many of the other courses have Catholic overtones. Graduates will all receive the same Bachelor of Arts degree. All new colleges need to go through an accrediting process, which takes several years. Wyoming Catholic is applying for accreditation from The American Association for Liberal Education. Among colleges pre-accredited or accredited by the AALE are Ave Maria University, Magdalen College, Thomas Aquinas College, The Thomas More College of

Liberal Arts and the University of Dallas. The college is also exploring accreditation with the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement.

Wyoming Catholic is a lay-run, independent college with a strong connection to the local bishop who will always be chairman of the six-member board. Bishop David Ricken of the Diocese of Cheyenne, Wyoming, helped start the college and bestowed his Apostolic Blessing in 2005. Also on the board is Father Robert Cook, the college president, who has been a practicing attorney, pro-life advocate and monk. Among the members of the academic advisory board is Father James Schall, S.J., a noted scholar and professor at Georgetown University.

Public Identity
Everyone associated with building the college is a strong Catholic, committed to vigorously promoting its religious identity. Father Cook told us, “We will encourage full participation in the liturgical celebration of Mass, Rosary and Adoration by all students all the time. We intend to do everything we can so that upon graduation, the students will leave stronger in the faith than when they came.” The first year of the college was launched with a Convocation Mass concelebrated by Bishop Ricken on September 3, 2007. Classes began the following day, and former U.S. Secretary of Education William Bennett visited the campus on September 5. In general, there will be four outside speakers per academic year, making their presentations on Catholic feast days: All Saints; ImThe Newman Guide


Wyoming Catholic College

maculate Conception; Our Lady, Seat of Wisdom—the patroness’ feast day (February 4); and Annunciation. All speakers will be faithful to Catholic teachings. The speakers for this 2007–08 Guest Lecture Series have been announced. The series will begin with Father Frederick Miller of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, who will speak on “Sedes Sapientiae: Our Lady, Seat of Wisdom,” and end with Dr. Dominic Aquila of the University of St. Thomas, who will talk about “What Music Can Mean to Our Living: The Rise and Fall of Classical Music in American Radio.” Bishop Ricken sees the college fitting in with the missionary role of the diocese, which is only 10 percent Catholic. He told us, “We hope that some of the graduates of Wyoming Catholic College, with good formation there, will consider staying in Wyoming and become trained catechists and teachers for our diocese.”

Catholicism in the Classroom
All faculty members must agree not to undermine Church teaching or the pope’s authority. Catholics will profess their faith and recite an Oath of Fidelity. The five-paragraph oath, drafted by the Vatican’s Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, includes this statement: “I shall follow and foster the common discipline of the whole church and shall look after the observance of all ecclesiastical laws, especially those which are contained in the Code of Canon Law.” All faculty members are reported to be supportive of WCC’s spiritual vision. Two of them are non-Catholics, but one has already announced she will enter the Church. Twothirds of the faculty will be Catholics. Theology professors will have the mandatum. And, according to Father Cook, all professors “have been advised and will teach in such a way that the teachings of the Magisterium will permeate their teaching, regardless of subject.”

Spiritual Life
The religious life for the foreseeable future will take place at the Holy Rosary Church. Daily Mass attendance is encouraged, for, as theology professor Peter Kwasniewski said, “the Mass is the center of all that we are and will be.” The parish’s pastor, Father Randall Oswald, also serves as chaplain of the college. A full range of religious activities will be offered. In addition, students will be taught about prayer through the study of Lectio Divina, St. John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila.

The Newman Guide


Wyoming Catholic College

In addition to the large complement of theology and philosophy courses, students will take eight courses in humanities; eight in trivium or reading, writing and speaking; four in Latin; four in art history; three each in science and mathematics; and two in music and in horsemanship. The goal of this study is a classical education. According to Father Cook, “We want our students to graduate being able to find joy in learning, able to learn, think critically and clearly in speech and writing, being good people that will have joy in life with these skills being led by our Lord, and doing it well. We want a fully educated human being.”

The Community
Lander is a small town that might be challenging for students used to the hubbub of urban areas. The obvious appeal is to young people who have a passion for outdoor activities, including hiking, fishing and horseback riding. The crime rate is below the national average and reflects property, rather than violent, crime. One statistic that is well above the norm is snowfall; Wyoming winters are severe but they do provide for an abundance of winter sports, including skiing. A notable ski resort is Jackson Hole, which along with the Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks, is less than 200 miles from Lander. The town has an 81-bed Lander Valley Medical Center that is supplemented by the Riverton Memorial Hospital, about a halfhour away. Riverton, only slightly larger than Lander, also has a regional airport with two daily flights into and out from Denver International Airport. The Denver airport is one of the largest and busiest in the world and will likely provide the best access to out-of-state students traveling to campus. For road travelers, the east-west Interstate 80 is not far from Lander.

Student Activities
Student activities will develop with the college. Significant emphasis will be placed on outdoor activities, taking advantage of a nearby wilderness area, state park and national forest. Horseback riding opportunities and programs with the National Outdoor Leadership School will be available. The college also is going to have two student religious musical groups, a liturgical choir and the WCC Chorale. Classic movie nights and traditional dances also are envisioned. Other informal social activities are expected.

Residential Life
Until the permanent campus is built, students will reside in gender-separated apartments. Opposite-sex visitation will be prohibited, as will drugs and alcohol. The college will have a strict technology policy: No cell phones, Internet or television will be allowed in the residences. Internet access will be provided in certain areas. 152

The Bottom Line
The motto of the fledgling Wyoming Catholic College is “Wisdom in God’s Country.” This college, which seeks to provide a classical Catholic education under the wide-open skies of the West, is likely to appeal to students seeking a different kind of undergraduate experience. One faculty member there perhaps best characterized to us the issue to be posed to The Newman Guide

Wyoming Catholic College

high-school college seekers. She said, “I would say that this is an opportunity to be a pioneer, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. If I were 18 years old now, I would be very interested.” She continued, “The opportunity to get in on the ground floor of an institution is really something to be seized upon. The students

who come now and in the next few years are going to be the co-creators, actively involved in something that is going to make a significant contribution to Catholic colleges in America.”

The Newman Guide


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