Small-town college offers big city education

MUENSTER, Sask. — St. Peter’s College has been open for almost 100 years and its rural feel is still attracting students making the transition to city life.

The college, barely visible from the highway that passes the small village of Muenster, is set amidst 500 acres of mixed forest and organic farmland.

Built in 1921 by Benedictine monks and offering high school classes until the 1970s, it has been affiliated with the University of Saskatchewan since 1926.

The students, 90 percent of which are from rural regions, are U of S students who have chosen to take their classes at the smaller college.

Courtney Adams, a second year student in the writing diploma program, said it’s like a community or family environment.

“You can go ask anyone, anywhere in the school, for help and they’ll help you,” she said.

The school accepts 100 to 150 students each year, which includes those in first and second year.

Lorelle Holowaty, St. Peter’s student services administrator, said they get the best of both college worlds.

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“It’s a no brainer. They can come to St. Peter’s College, they’re a University of Saskatchewan student yet they get the benefit of the small class sizes and all the personal attention from the professors,” she said.

Many staff members also come from rural areas.

“We grew up with the same backgrounds, we understand how overwhelming it is at big campuses.… There’s a lot to think about your first year away from home. Here that’s taken out of the equation because you’re somewhere where you’re comfortable,” said Holowaty.

Students mostly come from the surrounding community, but the school’s new criminology and addictions certificate and first year engineering program have attracted out of province students this year.

Kagen Newman of New Sarepta, Alta., an engineering student, wanted to relocate but retain a rural community feel.

“We had a graduating class of about 28 kids, so I chose St Peter’s because it’s kind of the same rural thing and I didn’t want to get culture shock going to a big university, but I did still kind of want to explore so I wanted to go out of the province,” he said.

“Well we’re going to see how I like it here, see if I can stay away from home or if I get overly homesick, but I think I might go to the University of Sask-atchewan just because I like the adventure,” Newman said.

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This year, St. Peter’s also accepted international students, including one from China.

Rob Harasymchuk, St. Peter’s president, said the college’s smaller size is an attraction.

“(There’s) a lot less distractions here at St. Pete’s then there is in the big cities. That’s a very appealing thing for us to welcome in students from abroad,” he said.

Holowaty said a student residence is attached to the main building.

“All the students go to their classes in one building. When its -40 out, they don’t even have to go outside from their room, they just walk through the hallway,” said Holowaty.

Other amenities on campus in-clude a fitness centre, natural ice hockey rink and recreation room with a host of games.

Students also have the opportunity to attend mass prepared by monks, who still own the college and make their home there while playing a role in everyday life.

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Students can go to St. Peter’s for up to two years with certain programs, after which they have the choice to continue at the University of Sask-atchewan or other colleges.