If you thought a 154-year-old Christian college would be staid in its approach to education, think again.

Milligan College — soon to be Milligan University — is proving to be anything but conventional while maintaining its mission as a religious liberal arts institution. Hardly a week has gone by of late that the college has not announced a new initiative, often leading the way with innovation and key research.

This week, it was the creation of the region’s first collegiate robotics team. Members will build remote-controlled robots that perform underwater maneuvers. The team will vie in Marine Advanced Technology Education competitions, which require teams to tackle problems — Milligan will focus on plastic waste in rivers, lakes, waterways and oceans.

So not only will students be involved in high-tech endeavors, they also will be contributing to society. That’s what college should be about.

Last week, the college announced key research about the importance of physical education to learning, specifically how it pertains to standardized test scores.

As the nation’s schools continue to rely on test data for accountability purposes and focus on test preparation, Associate Professor Leslie Hanneken’s findings are key to understanding what drives achievement. Our guess that good teachers have known this all along, and Hanneken’s work backs that up.

Earlier this month, Milligan announced it was fielding a competitive fly-fishing team, which is in perfect synch with the region’s focus on outdoor recreation as an economic development tool.

Milligan beat East Tennessee State University to the punch last year when it developed the region’s first “e-sports” team for competitive multiplayer video gaming.

In December, the college graduated its first set of students from its Master of Science in Information Systems program.

In 2018, the college launched a master’s program to educate physician’s assistants, an important contribution toward the region’s demand for primary health care providers.

And two years earlier, Milligan launched its engineering program with degrees in electrical and mechanical engineering. That initiative has crucial support from industry, including Eastman, TPI Corporation, Nuclear Fuel Services, Bell Helicopter and Siemens.

Six years ago, Milligan reorganized its programs into five schools — an important step toward university status. The institution now offers more than 100 undergraduate programs and 13 graduate programs. Milligan consistently lands high on lists of “best” schools among its peer institutions.

Although the name won’t change until June, Milligan has been behaving like a university quite awhile, and its students and Northeast Tennessee are better for it.

-Johnson City Press