DAVIDSON COLLEGE (visited on 3/17/13)
I wish I had visited Davidson sooner. I was highly impressed with the campus and the opportunities available to students. It’s unfortunate that it isn’t on more people’s radars. I had heard a lot about it after moving to the state, and I finally had a chance to bring some students for a visit on the way to a College Fair. This selective school of just under 2,000 students sits on a beautiful sprawling campus in the city of Davidson, about 20 minutes outside of Charlotte, NC.
We visited on a Sunday when the admissions office was closed, so a student from Hillel gave us a tour and took us to brunch. Although there weren’t a lot of students in the dining hall when we first arrived a little after 11, it was getting busy by the time we left a just before noon. The food was excellent and there were plenty of options. The student we were with said that the line to swipe in can be long during the busiest times, but it moves quickly. The “make your own” stations can take some time to get through because the food is made fresh to order. The most popular stations are the noodle and the omelet bars, but any of the hot food is good because of the variety offered. They’ll hold international theme days (Singapore, Russian Culture Night – including dancers, Peru, etc) which students really like since it’s different. The Thanksgiving Dinner is also well attended and tends to be a highlight of the year. Since the campus is small enough, they only have one main dining hall, but there are a few other dining options on campus. The Davis Cafe in the Union is available for late-night food (it’s open until midnight), and the Cats Den in Sports Center is open for lunch (mostly sandwiches and other “grab and go” options). Also, instead of fraternities or sororities, they have “Eating Houses” which give students a group to join. There are several small houses with kitchens where members can go eat, giving them a small social group to connect with. The multi-cultural House also has a kitchen which groups can reserve, but it has to be educational or part of a recognized group on campus.
The sense of community is strong here. Although it’s a smaller school, there’s something for everyone. There’s a lot to do on campus: parties in the quad, movie nights, speakers, clubs that sponsor events (often with food!). A regular email gets sent to students called the “Cryer” which lists the upcoming events including deadlines for grants, internships, summer opportunities, and other similar things. Tables get set up across campus to provide information about everything from clubs to special events to offices (such as Religious Life) on campus. It’s easy to get off campus since the college runs shuttles. Wi-fi is everywhere so students can work outside. Tables and chairs are everywhere, and students were all over on campus utilizing them. They even had tables with umbrellas for shade near the large outdoor stadium. I image those are highly sought-after on game days! Their entire athletic complex is impressive. Davidson is a DI school which surprised me since they’re so small.
Their freshman dorms are traditional style with bathrooms down the hall, but each room has its own sink. People work hard to create a feeling of community within the dorms, both formally and informally. Our tour guide said that during orientation week, one of the activities was a cake race. Everyone in the hall brought back the cakes they won and had a social. After the first year, students can choose from a variety of dorm styles, including suites. There are also other types of living halls, including “Sub (substance) Free” halls in which residents pledge not to bring in alcohol or come back drunk. New sophomore dorms have kitchens on each floor which other students can use, even if they don’t live there. Most students live on campus, but there are apartments right across the street from campus in which about 100 students are granted permission to live through an application process. All students are allowed cars on campus allowed; parking costs $50 for unlimited parking or $25 for the lots far away. Cars aren’t necessary, though, since campus is in town and things are accessible. The college will run shuttles to the Lake Campus daily and to the Charlotte airport before and after breaks for $30. Lots of students will bring bikes on campus, especially those living in the upperclassman dorms located on the outskirts of campus.
Classes are kept small here; even as a freshman, our tour guide’s largest class (a music class) had 23 students in it; her smallest (Chinese) had 8. Even though this is a small campus, students are not limited to the academics which they can take. The Charlotte area has a consortium of colleges (including UNC-C, Queens, and Belmont) at which students can cross-register with the approval from the Registrar. This is easy to do if the class isn’t offered at Davidson, but harder for more popular subjects like History. Additionally, students can do independent studies for some languages that are less common and aren’t offered – although Davidson does offer a lot, including Chinese and Italian. Students do have a language requirement in which they have to successfully complete three semesters (through 201) of a language, but they can place out if they come in with enough competency. Other requirements include a class in Cultural Diversity, Religion and Philosophy, Social Science, Math, Science with Lab, and English. All freshmen take a Writing Comp class that has some sort of theme (Memory, Gender, Music and Literature, Revisiting the Library – about history and archives), and they’re taught from professors from all disciplines (history, religion, anthro, etc).