On a recent road trip to the Northeast, we made a pit stop at my husband’s old stomping grounds, Providence College. Here’s his trip down memory lane…
It’s any Tuesday morning in October in the mid-1990s and flannel is king. Hootie & the Blowfish are sure to outlive The Rolling Stones and define a generation. They can’t miss. Right? These are the things I’m concerned with as I begin the trek from Fennel Hall up toward main campus and ultimately to class. But not just any class; it’s the heart and soul of the academic experience for all students who have called this institution home since 1971. I am talking about what outsiders to Providence College refer to as “The Development of Western Civilization.” What near outsiders call “DWC.” But to us, it will always just be CIV. Ah. CIV.
Any discussion of the quality or uniqueness of a Providence College education, as well as the essence of the Providence experience, must begin with an understanding of CIV. CIV truly is the lifeblood of my alma mater, and remains one of the most unique offerings of any college or university in the country. CIV is a comprehensive study of the development of Western Civilization, meeting five days a week for your first two years at Providence. Each group, or CIV team, is headed by a panel of professors representing the key areas of focus for the program: History, Philosophy, Religion, Art & Literature. Students are required to complete 16 CIV credits in their first four semesters on campus (I won’t even mention that fact that it was 20 credits when I was there and these students don’t know how easy they have it!). It’s fair to say that students at Providence have a love/hate relationship with CIV. It is demanding. It can be all consuming. But there is absolutely no question that it is an amazing program. And while 18-year old me does not want to hear this, it is the source of some of most my cherished college memories. Maybe I needed to get out more, but there was something special about that shared experience. Knowing that all 1077 of my classmates were in this with me, scrambling to find a unique angle on the relevance of Plato’s Cave to the fall of the Berlin Wall. I am certain no other college offers a program so comprehensive and so unifying to its students. To this day when I meet a fellow Providence alum, whether they graduated in 1975 or 2015, our secret handshake is CIV.
While CIV is the school’s centerpiece, it is certainly not all Providence College (affectionately known as “PC”) has to offer its 4,300 undergrads. Not even close. Providence College was the nation’s first college to offer a bachelor’s degree in Public and Community Service Studies. The college was founded by and conducted under the auspices of the Dominican Friars. The Catholic identity is hard to miss. Sunday night mass is standing room only (or at least my roommates told me they were) and service is a big component of the student experience. While at PC, I volunteered with the Chad Brown Boys & Girls Club and the Providence Plan Housing Corporation. I was certainly not alone, as almost everyone I knew was involved with some kind of organization off-campus. Students have the opportunity to serve through a number of curricular and co-curricular programs, including FriarServe which pairs Providence College volunteers with five Providence Catholic Pre-K – 8 schools.
The school is nestled less than 2 miles from downtown Providence, RI, one of the best kept secrets in the northeast. With the city as its backdrop, students enjoy limitless social and cultural activities. And with Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) a mile from the edge of campus, the entire city takes on the feeling of an extended campus.
Of course, no discussion of Providence College would be complete without a discussion of our rich sports history. In 2017, Time Magazine ranked Providence as the 28th best college in America for sports fans. The Friar Faithful ranked higher than some traditional sports powerhouses such as: Florida State, Penn State, Villanova & Michigan State. Providence College fields 19 varsity athletic teams. All are NCAA Division 1, and all compete within the Big East (with the exception of men’s & women’s ice hockey which compete in Hockey East – hockey’s Big East equivalent). Providence has enjoyed immense success in all sports but has recently flourished in men’s basketball (having participated in the NCAA Tournament each of the last 5 years under beloved coach Ed Cooley) with the future looking brighter than ever. Men’s hockey also enjoys both a storied past to match a successful present. The Friars were the founding members of the mighty Hockey East Conference, which was the brainchild of then Providence Head Coach, Lou Lamoriello, for whom the Hockey East Championship Trophy is named. Providence College has maintained the commitment to hockey excellence outlined by Lamoriello. This culminated in 2015 when the Friars won the NCAA Division 1 Hockey National Championship, defeating Boston University 4-3 in the title game.
This summer, I had a chance to revisit. It had been a long time since I’d stepped foot on the campus and while some things have changed (much less flannel and Slavin got a nice facelift, that’s for sure!), the fundamental components that make Providence College unique (its Catholic identity, rich sports history and of course CIV) remain intact. Veritas!