Paul Quinn College is making waves thanks to their President Michael Sorrell. Since coming to the campus nine years ago, President Sorrell has completely changed the college for the better. Formerly a lawyer and White House special assistant, this was his first time serving as president of a college. His background hasn’t stopped him from moving the campus forward, and many will say that it’s what has helped save the school. From the creation of a think tank to becoming the first urban work college, Paul Quinn is building a new legacy for itself.
When President Sorrell arrived the school was facing financial troubles and had an extremely low graduation rate, one percent. To top it off, the school also had a football program that they could not continue to financially support. Facing these obstacles and an urgent need to save the school, President Sorrell did the unthinkable — he turned the football field into an urban farm. In an episode of Rethinking College, part of PBS’ Spotlight Education initiative, Sorrell says: “There’s more than one field of dreams, all right? Why should we tie everyone’s future to athletic success?”
The farm produces more than 20,000 pounds of organic vegetables every year. These vegetables make their way into restaurants in Dallas, and even into the Dallas Cowboys stadium! Students are assigned to work the farm and are taught valuable lessons in business. It’s more than just farming. Students are able to learn about supply and demand, as well as how to handle the financial side for business. Students are paid for their work but not in a traditional sense. All of the students at Paul Quinn College spend their first two years working on campus jobs. The money earned from those jobs goes directly to their tuition. This program helps make college more affordable for those who depend heavily on federal financial aid.
To make things even more interesting on campus, President Sorrell has a strict dress code. Unless you are working on the farm you are expected to wear business attire everyday. If you fail to do so you, you risk being fined. Students have the choice of doing 400 prayer squats or paying a $200 fine for failing to do so. The purpose? To teach students what the expectations of what a career is.
Sorrell is making sure that all of his students are equipped to go into the real world and be successful at whatever they decide to do, even if that doesn’t include working on a farm.
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