GOUCHER COLLEGE (visited 12/10/13)
“There’s an interesting mix of students here. Put ten of them next to each other and they won’t look or sound alike,” the Director of Admissions Corky Surbeck told me. This rang true as I walked through campus; people all had their distinct styles. Despite this diversity, there’s a real sense of community and pride in the school. Although there is no residential requirement, 85% of students choose live on campus. The big question they’re looking to answer when admitting students is, “Are you willing to step up?” The individuals look out for the whole, and the unit looks out for the individual. The school is built on inclusion and cooperation; students integrate from Day 1 (and they’re doing something right; last year, they had an 87.3% retention rate between freshmen and sophomore years). First semester, students take two required classes: a writing class and Frontiers (basically a FYE class). It’s capped at 15 students and the professor is the initial advisor. Topics are meant to be interests of exploration and interest and can range from Freedom of Speech to Biodiversity.
I asked Mr. Surbeck what distinguished Goucher from other CTCL schools. He listed two things:
- Study abroad is required, and “127% of students study abroad.” About 15% go for a full year, and maybe 40% for a semester. Many do at least one 3-week intensive trip; many others will do more than one or the 3-week intensives plus a semester abroad. This year, they’re bringing back an International Business class in Cuba. One of their more popular classes is The Art and Science of Glass co-taught by a science professor and an art historian; they go to Romania for three weeks, but also do two weekends in Corning, NY before and after the trip.
- Location: very few other CTCL schools are in such proximity to a major city (Lewis & Clark and Rhodes are the others that comes to mind). They are 2 blocks from I-695 (Baltimore Beltway) but you’d never know it. The highway gives easy access to several areas, and students can be in downtown Baltimore in very little time. However, shopping, dining, movies, or work all located within a couple blocks of campus. Towson University, a large state school, is only 1.5 miles away.
Goucher students can cross-register at classes at eight affiliated schools in the Baltimore area – Notre Dame, Loyola, JHU, Towson, MICA, UMBC, and Morgan State. Freshman cannot take academic classes on other campuses, but can take advantage of any extra-curricular offering; after that, they can register for two classes in each of the following years. Technically, 15% of space is set aside for cross-registration but that rarely becomes an issue. Mr. Surbeck estimates that 15-20% of students will cross-register and wishes that more students would take advantage of that. Most are happy with the offerings on campus or are taking advantage of study-abroad options so they don’t go to other campuses.
I got to talk to several students before going on tour:
- A junior philosophy and sociology major from NJ. He is studying abroad in Prague soon. He said he found Goucher “serendipitously” when he got a postcard in the mail.
Yashe, a Junior from just outside of Pittsburgh, who is majoring in Psychology and Russian. He’s hoping to spend a semester in Russia next term and is waiting for his final visas and other paperwork to come through. He was looking for a small school with a Hillel.
- Liz, a sophomore from Virginia, who wanted a school with a good dance program. She came up to audition and then again for admitted student day. She loved the people here and made his final decision after meeting everyone.
- Blake from NH was looking for a Dance program. He’s hoping to do the Dance Intensive program in Taiwan. He loved the location and the opportunities.
- An international business and Spanish student from Atlanta. She originally did NOT like the school and wasn’t going to come here, but her mother made her come back for admitted student day; she loved the interactions with students she had when she visited and that changed her mind.
The students’ favorite classes have been: Distress and Disorder (psych); 3 Frontiers classes (Surveillance in Cinema, one on Shakespeare in which it was related to today, other movies, etc., Apocalypse (looking at fears); Existentialism and Theater; Social Deviance; Art and Activism (the Beat poets, Woody Guthrie, etc).
Things they would like to change would be to get AC in freshman dorms, adding Greek life, scholarships, providing scholarships for study abroad programs, and perhaps making the student body a little bigger. “There isn’t a lot of personal time here; it’s good in some ways, but because there are always people around, there’s not much privacy.”
They have a “small but fabulous theater major and minor.” They put on 3-5 shows each semester. Playworks, which is put on every fall, is completely student run. The black box theater is a great space with chairs and platforms that can be moved around to create any configuration they want. It’s clearly easy for students to get involved in any activity without majoring in a particular field: the Head Tech guy is an English major and the Head of Student Government (and he gets paid for his work in the theater!). Sports are DIII except the Equestrian program which is DI. Students can bring their own horse or use one of the college’s horses. Students who want to learn to ride can take horseback riding as one of their PE requirements. There are two a capella groups (one coed and one all women), and musicians take advantage of the non-denominational chapel which has great acoustics and a full organ. Performers also can showcase talent at the student-run Gopher Hole Café (open 9pm-2am) where thy have music and open mic like a club space. The library (Anthaceum) is a Gold LEED certified building with a Forum which seats 800 plus additional standing room.