SPELMAN COLLEGE (visited 3/4/13)
Spelman looks like a typical small liberal arts school with lots of brick and open spaces with 25 buildings on 42 acres. I was surprised that this is a gated campus. Access to campus is restricted after about 11 pm, and students have to show ID to get onto campus at that point. Men must also be off campus by midnight.
Ninety-two percent of Spelman’s 2100 students are of African descent but come from all over the world. The top five U.S. states represented are GA, NY, CA, MD, and IL. The tour guide said that 30 students is a “huge class.” Spelman boasts a 92% freshman-to-sophomore year retention rate and an 82% graduation rate – the highest of the HBCUs.
They are part of the largest HBCU consortium in the US. Morehouse is right across the street, Clark Atlanta is also “next door,” and they’re connected to the Interdenominational Theological Center and Morehouse School of Medicine. Although there are more than 100 clubs on campus, they can and do join clubs on the other campuses. Additionally, Spelman is part of the ARCHE program (Atlanta Regional Consortium of Higher Education) which includes all these schools, plus Oglethorpe, Emory, Georgia Tech, Kennesaw State University, and more. Finally, they also have a “domestic exchange” with NYU, Grinnell, and Duke among others. Although first year students cannot have cars on campus, that doesn’t stop them from getting around to other campuses or into Atlanta itself. Public transportation is very easy to use.
US News has ranked Spelman #1 for sending women of color to med school, #1 of the schools of their size for graduates joining Teach for America, and top 20 for Best Buys. They have 27 majors, 10 pre-professional programs, and 6 minors (Anthropology, management and organization, Dance, Japanese, Child Development, and Film & Visual Culture). The Pre-professional programs add 10 or 11 classes to the student’s program of study to prep for graduate programs. They also offer a 3-2 engineering dual-degree program with GaTech.
Spelman is big on tradition and history. The students on the panel talked over and over about the feelings of sisterhood (this word was used A LOT) on campus. Students aren’t allowed to leave campus during orientation which raised a few eyebrows when the students first told us, but none of the women seemed to think that was a real restriction. They talked about how much of a community it created and how many friends they made during that time. Community is also built because all first and second year students live on campus; 1500 out of 2100 total live on campus. There is a lot of good-hearted competitions between dorms, and all the students say that their dorm is, of course, the best! Only about 10% of students join Greek Life; the students on the panel said that there wasn’t much need because they got the same community and sisterhood feeling just on campus and from the dorms. If they decide to join, they can rush after earning 30 credits. The panelists said that other favorite things about the college were the little things like getting a ‘good morning’ from others on campus, even if they didn’t know the person; a feeling that they’re all in this together; and that faculty have open door policies. With a 12:1 student to teacher ratio, they feel like they have good access to the professors. There is very little they said they wanted to change; one thing mentioned was that they’d like to change the communication through the departments.
The administration is deliberate about goals they have for the institution, and even use the acronym of GOALS to list what they’re working on and they type of experience they want every Spelman woman to have: Global Involvement, Opportunities (Internships, etc), Alumni/student connections, Leadership Development, Service Learning. They are phasing out their DIII athletics in favor of intramurals and a wellness program. They were spending a lot of money on very few athletes, and this allows them to spread the money more evenly to be used by more students.