About Campus Life

campuslife2At a residential college, students learn and develop in all aspects of their lives, in classes and out. Colby 360, the College’s plan for student life and 360-degree learning, has five specific learning outcomes:

  1. development of life skills
  2. appreciation of and engagement with diversity and human difference
  3. understanding democracy and civic responsibility
  4. promoting wellness and healthy lifestyle choices
  5. leadership education for the 21st century
Colby 360 provides opportunities for students to learn and practice important life skills such as self-governance, independence, personal accountability, civic responsibility, and respect for themselves and others. Details are available at the student affairs Web site.


The 714-acre campus is a hilltop overlooking a small Maine city. Colby has classic brick architecture, acres of lawns and playing fields, and woods that include a sizeable arboretum. And, yes, for several months, it glistens under a blanket of snow. Regardless of the season, Colby often is mentioned among the most beautiful college campuses in the country.


More important than Colby’s singular location and superb facilities are its people. There is an energetic and collaborative spirit in the labs, classrooms, and residence halls. Faculty members and fellow students revel in shared successes and pull together when a project deadline looms. While academic life at Colby is rigorous, students collaborate far more than they compete against one another.


Quality of place, quality of work, and quality of life are hallmarks of Maine. The state offers natural beauty, a spirit of independence, a rich tradition of creative endeavor, and unique access to government, nonprofit, and business institutions. Maine’s people have welcomed Colby students into their communities for almost two centuries, and Colby students respond—through volunteerism, civic engagement, and a lifelong affinity for Maine.


State-of-the-art information technology is integral to academic life, and it keeps Colby and Maine wired to the world. About 98 percent of students own a computer, mostly notebooks, and there are public computer clusters in numerous locations on campus. Many academic departments have specialized computing facilities, advanced systems are available in the Schupf Scientific Computing Lab, and technology is used extensively in the Language Resource Center. Students have free network access and a variety of licensed software, and they get assistance from Student Computer Services technicians.

Environmental Commitment

Colby is committed to practices and policies that respect the environment and promote sustainable living. Pioneering environmental academic programs and a historical commitment to green values made Colby a leader in environmental initiatives, and success is evident—in its dramatic reduction of carbon emissions, the effectiveness of the Environmental Advisory Group, innovative environmental initiatives, and regional and national awards and recognition. College colors are blue and gray, but Colby is green.

Valuing Difference

One of Colby’s precepts is to educate humane, thoughtful, engaged individuals who are prepared for the challenges of a diverse and global society. Part of that education involves exploring issues of justice that arise in communities like Colby’s as well as in society. Colby is committed to fostering an inclusive community and appreciates the ways that people of different races, ethnicities, nationalities, economic backgrounds, ages, abilities, sexual orientations, gender identities, and spiritual values enrich the community. We work hard to recognize, to confront, and to overcome actions and attitudes that discourage full participation in community life.

An International Community

You might not expect to find one of the more international college communities in Waterville, Maine. But the international diversity of the student body and faculty, the high percentage of students who go abroad, and the international content and global perspectives of the academic program entitle Colby to that claim. Colby’s student body represents almost 70 countries—literally from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. Weekly international coffee hours and the annual International Extravaganza bring students together and showcase the range of cultures and backgrounds. Colby was one of the first schools in the nation to win the Association of International Educators’ Senator Paul Simon Award for Campus Internationalization.


The expansion of religious and spiritually oriented organizations at Colby reflects the increasing diversity of the student body and faculty. Student organizations explore major religious faiths, staff chaplains provide support for a range of religious activities, and student groups come together around Native American spirituality, Wicca, and other spiritual paths as well.

Residential Life

Colby is a residential college where almost all students live on campus, where some faculty members live in the residence halls, and where students regularly take professors to lunch and professors invite students to their homes for dinner. These interactions foster close relationships that pay off in academic student-faculty collaboration as well as in lifelong friendships between students and mentors.

Health Center

The mission of the Garrison-Foster Health Center is to enhance the academic environment at Colby by providing quality health care, health education, and preventive services to students in a caring, cost effective, and convenient manner. The health center provides a bridge for the health-care needs of students as they transition away from home, and it emphasizes preventive and outpatient care. Routine office visits are available to all students at no cost.

Residence Halls

The residential experience at Colby is designed to extend and integrate intellectual inquiry and discourse into the residences and dining halls. Students are expected to live in College housing and are required to subscribe to an on-campus board plan. Individual residence hall sizes range from 30 to 166 students per building. Students from all four class years are housed in each hall except the Harold and Bibby Alfond Residence Complex, which houses only seniors. Housing choices include Dialogue Housing, substance-free, and quiet living. About 95 percent of students live on campus.

Faculty in Residence

In a program unique among Colby’s closest peers, faculty members live in many of the residence halls. The presence of professors, their partners, and families contributes to the richness of dorm life and helps bridge academic and residential life.

Dialogue Housing

Dialogue Housing, a residential program based on students’ shared interests in broad academic topics or themes, was started in 2005. Dialogue houses help to link the academic and residential experiences. Some examples have been the Green House (environmental and sustainability theme), a music and art house, and a Spanish house.

Social Life

The list of things to do at Colby on any given day or night is impressive. There are more than a dozen vocal and instrumental ensembles that students can join; a cappella concerts, Colby Improv performances, and Broadway Musical Revue are perennial favorites. The Student Programming Board is organized into five committees that sponsor events and performances, and academic departments offer lectures and readings covering a huge range of interests. Besides 32 varsity athletic teams, Colby fields about a dozen club teams and offers an ambitious and popular intramural sports program. There is always something to do, and students almost always have choices.

Cotter Union

Colby’s student center, Cotter Union, was transformed with the addition of the spacious Pulver Pavilion and the new Colby Bookstore additions in 2007 and 2008. The project, which renovated much of the existing facility, earned the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Gold certification for environmental and energy design. Cotter Union is now the hub of social interaction and serves as a living room for students.


Colby has three dining halls, each with its own personality. Overall the quality of food at Colby is rated among the best in the nation. Foss<> is known for vegetarian options and stir-fry; Dana offers a food court atmosphere, with cooked-to-order omelets and burgers as well as pizza and pasta entrees; and Roberts (known to students as “Bobs”) offers exhibition-style food preparation. All three dining halls have been completely remodeled, and surveys show that student satisfaction with the quality of food and service is extremely high.

Leadership Opportunities

At Colby, students have an uncommonly strong voice in the governance of the College. Voting student representatives sit on virtually every official College committee, including committees of the Board of Trustees. The Student Government Association president and vice president attend trustee meetings as official representatives. Through the committee structure, students have a role in selecting new professors and reviewing academic affairs. With approximately 100 clubs and organizations Colby offers a broad range of leadership opportunities, and a formal leadership development program is part of the campus life program.

Volunteer Opportunities

Community service—on and off campus and around the world—is a tradition at Colby. The Colby Volunteer Center (CVC) matches students who want to help in the community with individuals and programs that can use assistance, from special-needs children to local soup kitchens and the homeless shelter. Hundreds more students mentor local schoolchildren through the Colby Cares About Kids program, which has been used as a model for similar programs throughout Maine. Civic engagement is a formal part of studies in a wide range of academic departments, and internships near and far match students with business, government, and nonprofit organizations.


Colby offers students a wide range of athletic opportunities—on varsity teams, intramural teams, clubs that play against other colleges, or as individuals interested in recreation. At the varsity level, Colby is a member of the highly competitive New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC), which holds that member schools are “committed first and foremost to academic excellence and believe that athletic excellence supports educational missions.” Most of Colby’s 32 varsity teams compete in Division III of the NCAA. I-PLAY, the intramural sports program, has popular leagues for soccer, field hockey, flag football, broomball, basketball, and softball—some with separate competitive and recreational divisions. Clubs focused on outdoor recreation, like the Outing, Mountaineering, and Fly-fishing clubs, are among the most active and most popular.