One of the most unique institutions in American higher education, Cottey College is the only all-women’s college owned and supported by women. Founded by education reformer Virginia Alice Cottey in 1884, Cottey was dedicated to the needs of young women from the very beginning; Cottey began the college inspired by the creation of Mount Holyoke, researching the life of Mary Lyon to learn how to start a college. In 1927, as she neared the end of her life, Cottey gave the college to the PEO Sisterhood, an international women’s philanthropic organization, and today, Cottey is regularly ranked among the best women’s colleges, best national liberal arts colleges, and best small colleges in the US.
Just as Virginia Cottey intended, Cottey College remains devoted to its seven key principles: Education, Intellectual Growth, Responsibility, Difference, Global Perspectives, Thoughtful Action, and Leadership by and for women. For that purpose, Cottey’s curriculum emphasizes both academic and intellectual rigor, and substantial community support for students, with a deep tradition of mentorship and cooperation between faculty and students. Women’s contributions to society are foregrounded, and young women are encouraged to put their learning into direct action, whether through professional careers, culture and the arts, political action, or other means.
As a liberal arts college, Cottey offer associate’s and bachelor’s degrees in a number of majors, including the traditional arts and sciences. Students may pursue bachelor’s degrees in STEM fields like biology, environmental science, and health sciences; in humanities fields like theater and music, English, or Gender Studies; or in the social sciences, such as business, international relations, or psychology. Cottey strongly emphasizes the liberal arts as a foundation for further graduate and professional schooling, whether in business, medicine, politics, or entertainment.
As in any small college more than a century old, student life at Cottey is dominated by many long-standing and unique traditions. Daisies and ducks are the two most-loved and iconic of Cottey’s symbols. Seniors greet new freshmen in a formal ceremony, giving them daisy chains to symbolize the unbroken chain of alumni throughout the college’s history. The duck is the college’s favorite mascot, dating back to Cottey’s (possibly legendary) first mascot, a duck that froze to the surface of a campus pond and was saved by a group of students. Some of the college’s traditions – like the Duck Game and the Duck Jacket – are a closely-held secret only revealed by seniors to the next rising class. In an unusual twist on tradition, each class chooses their own mascot by vote.
While the duck may be beloved (and appear everywhere on campus), Cottey’s athletic teams are officially called the Comets, and have recently joined the NAIA conference in 2018. Cottey is particularly known for the softball program, producing two regional championship teams in recent years; other varsity sports include basketball, cross country, track, volleyball, and golf.