Colby is the 12th oldest independent liberal arts college in the United States. Approximately 1,800 students from 66 countries are enrolled annually; the college offers 53 major fields of study and uses project-based learning. Volunteer programs and service-learning take many students into the surrounding community. More than two thirds of Colby students participate in study-abroad programs. Together with Bates College and Bowdoin College, Colby is one of three small liberal arts colleges in Maine. Colby College competes in the NESCAC league and is considered to be among what are known as the "Little Ivies." In 2008, Colby was ranked the 15th best liberal arts college by both Forbes and Kiplingers and 22nd in the U.S. News and World Report rankings. Colby was named one of the "25 New Elite Ivies" by the Kaplan College Guide.
Although one of the oldest liberal arts colleges in the nation, Colby is in the midst of a major campus building program, including a new social sciences and interdisciplinary studies building. It will house academic departments and the Goldfarb Center for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement. The College has also created a new program in neuroscience.
In 1871, Colby College was the first all-male college in New England to accept women students. One of the buildings is named after the first woman student, Mary Low, who was the valedictorian of her class.
The original campus was located close to the center of Waterville, but the college outgrew it. In the late 1930s, in an effort to keep Colby from relocating to a different community, the city of Waterville deeded 500 acres on Mayflower Hill, near the outskirts of the city, to the college. Despite the Georgian Revival architecture and 19th century look of the present-day campus, nearly all of Colby College was constructed after 1950.
Major options include: African-American Studies, American Studies, Anthropology, Art, Biology, Chemistry, Classics, Computer Science, East Asian Studies, Economics, English, Environmental Studies, Environmental Science, French Studies, Geology, Geoscience, German Studies, Government, History, International Studies, Latin American Studies, Mathematics, Music, Philosophy, Physics, Psychology, Religious Studies, Russian Language and Culture, Science, Technology, and Society, Sociology, Spanish, Theater and Dance, and Women's Gender and Sexuality Studies. Administrative Science and Italian Studies are offered as minors.
Miller Library stands at the center of campus and houses the humanities and social science collections, the College archives, and Special Collections. Miller also contains a computer cluster and study areas that are open around the clock, and is equipped with wireless Internet access. The Art and Music Library, in the Bixler Art and Music Center, maintains a collection of art and music books, journals, sound recordings, music scores, a computer lab/listening center, and study spaces. Internet ports and wireless access are provided. The Science Library, in the F.W. Olin Science Center, houses books, journals, videos, and topographic maps that support programs in the natural sciences, computer science, and mathematics.
An open-stack system allows access to the collection with the online catalog and electronic indexes and Internet files are available on library workstations and computers campus-wide. The collection supports all curriculum areas and contains more than 1,300 currently print journals and another 8,500 electronic journals, and domestic and international daily newspapers. The Colby libraries are a repository for U.S. government and Maine state documents.
As a member of both the Colby-Bates-Bowdoin consortium of libraries and Maine Info Net, Colby provides access to a merged catalog of more than six million items and daily courier service from libraries in Maine. A new consortium, NExpress, comprising Colby, Bates, Bowdoin, Northeastern, Wellesley, and Williams, provides additional access to research materials. Ten professional librarians provide research assistance to students, faculty, and outside researchers. Instruction in the use of the library and its research materials is offered throughout the curriculum, from an introduction in beginning English classes to in-depth subject searching using sophisticated tools in upper-level classes.
Miller Library’s special collections of first editions and manuscripts have achieved international recognition. The Edwin Arlington Robinson Memorial Room, named for the Pulitzer Prize-winning Maine poet, contains his books, manuscripts, letters, and memorabilia. Colby’s Thomas Hardy Collection is one of the most extensive in the country. Other authors represented in the Robinson Room include A.E. Housman, Sarah Orne Jewett, Kenneth Roberts, Henry James, Willa Cather, John Masefield, William Dean Howells, and Thomas Mann.
The John and Catherine Healy Memorial Room contains the James Augustine Healy Collection of Modern Irish Literature, with inscribed copies, manuscripts, and holograph letters of William Butler Yeats, Sean O’Casey, James Joyce, George Bernard Shaw, and others. The Healy Collection has 7,000 primary and critical sources representing the Irish Literary Renaissance, 1880-1940. The Alfred King Chapman Room houses the College archives, which hold more than 4,000 manuscript files pertaining to Colby alumni, faculty, and staff dating from 1813 to the present. The archives include an extensive collection of books by Colby graduates and faculty members.
In 1984, following an investigation of campus life commissioned by the Board of Trustees, a decision was made to withdraw recognition from Colby’s Greek System as it was seen to be "exclusionary by nature. The day that fraternity and sorority decision was announced happened to fall on a Sunday and was known as "Bloody Sunday" by many on the campus at the time..
Students have also participated in humanitarian projects to reduce the malaria problem in the Republic of Sierra Leone.
However, Colby students remain primarily a homogeneous group with an 83% White, non-Hispanic student body and 49.5% of all students hailing from New England.
Alumni, now numbering more than 23,000, are represented in all 50 states and 75 foreign countries. Alumni remain engaged with the College through alumni programs, affinity groups, and a directory and related services online, all offered by the Office of Alumni Relations.
Colby College has also received press resulting from their beer and wine offerings in the dining hall, provided by the Student Government Association (SGA). For a nominal cost, students may consume up to two beverages during their meal. At this time, however, this program is not active at the College due to budgetary restriants.
Colby's student newspaper, The Colby Echo, has been published since 1877. The paper distributes 1600 papers weekly in academic buildings, dining halls and throughout Waterville. Colby's radio station, WMHB Waterville 89.7 FM, has been on air since March 1949. WMHB broadcasts new and diverse programming to central Maine and around the world. Colby also has a large a cappella scene. There are six groups on campus: The Blue Lights (Men), The Colby Eight (Men), The Megalomaniacs (Co-ed), The Sirens (Female), The Colbyettes (Female), and EVE (Female).
The Colby College Museum of Art has a number of collections covering a variety of different styles of paintings, sculpture, and folk art. The Museum is also notable for housing the largest collection of works by American painter Alex Katz in any single collection. There is no admission charge.
In 1975, Colby instituted their first outdoor orientation trip. From 15 first-year students, 2 upperclassmen and a professor on the first trip, the program has grown to include approximately 98% of incoming classes participating in a COOT. The program now offers 52 trips in the fall semester and an ICED COOT program for those students who spend the first semester of their freshman year abroad. Destinations for Fall semester trips include hiking trips Acadia National Park, Mount Katahdin and other locations around Maine, canoe trips on the Kennebec and Moose Rivers, along with other trips around the state. The various trips are designed to appeal to incoming students with a variety of interests and fitness levels.
The focus of COOT is not meant to be the outdoors, but the growth of a group that assists each other with the transition to campus. COOT leaders are chosen from upperclass students and are expected to help the students both during and after the trip with the adjustment to campus life.
Colby's Alma Mater is "Hail, Colby, Hail". The lyrics to the song were written by Karl R. Kennison from the class of 1906 and it is sung to the tune of "O Canada". In 1979, the second line was changed from "thy sons" to "thy people far and near.