Reed means being smart. Smart, in the biggest, most complicated, inspiring, and open sense of the word. Smart in the sense of taking risks, of seeking challenges, and of seeing in any answer an infinite array of more interesting questions. Smart in taking nothing for granted, and asking every day, “What does it mean to learn, to communicate ideas, to seek understanding?”
The 1,350 students who congregate on Reed’s 100-acre campus share a singular passion for learning in an academic environment that is as known for its intense intellectual rigor as it is for its out-of-the-box, open-minded, and liberal students. For many, Reed’s mixture of classical learning and independent living seems like a contradiction in terms; for those who see college as an adventure for the mind, as a challenge for the self, and as an opportunity to learn not for profit but for the intrinsic value of knowledge, Reed makes perfect sense. What, then, of a school that seeks to capture and cultivate smartness?
Intensity can exist without senseless competition. At Reed, grades exist, but they aren’t reported on individual assignments or placed on report cards. Students produce work because they value success as a measure of understanding. Classrooms come into being as spaces for discussion, where professors, called by their first names, guide studentdriven inquiry. There are no honors programs, no dean’s lists, or any exclusive club, organization, fraternity, or sorority—no NCAA or varsity athletics, either.
Trust creates true community. Students, faculty, and staff alike are governed by the Honor Principle, an unwritten commitment that takes the place of arbitrary rules and regulations. You’re expected to act honestly and with regard for the community in all matters, academic as well as social. From the college’s founding, this has meant that tests and examinations need not be proctored; you’re as likely to take your chemistry test in the library as you are to take it on the front lawn. In all matters, students must engage disagreement rather than support divisiveness. An all-student judicial board, chosen by student representatives, provides for true peer review.
Fun exists. Reedies take learning seriously, but they also, refreshingly, remember not to take themselves too seriously. There’s a college newspaper as well as a comic book library. And each year, students celebrate the Seventh Annual Nitrogen Day, a tribute to that element’s unique triple bond.
And while Reed can’t claim responsibility for Portland, the city that hosts the college’s splendidly green campus is also known for its smartness. An award-winning public transportation system connects you to a vibrant downtown and to the city’s many neighborhoods, whether you want to eat a great meal, go to a concert, or explore Forest Park’s many miles of hiking trails.
Reed offers a distinctive liberal arts education for students who seek smartness in its many forms. First and foremost, you’ve got to enjoy academic work and find fulfillment through intellectual inquiry. Reed mixes irreverence, creativity, and a dedication to community in a way that makes education an ongoing and open question. The combination of classical learning with extensive personal freedom fuels a continuous creation of diverse and meaningful experience. Smart, liberal, and passionate, Reedies shun consumption and senseless competition and embrace production and collegiality, limited only by their imaginations.