BRANDEIS UNIVERSITY (visited 4/10/14)
The best way I can describe campus is “eclectic.” Scattered over a hillside, the buildings seem to reflect whatever style was in vogue when it was built. The Student Center, for example, is a large building covered in sheets of copper (now green). Except for the two freshmen dorm quads, nothing really goes together. The two quads look like they came out of a traditional campus; one has a pond in the middle, the other has a large lawn.
I appreciated that they had a senior speak during the info session. Rayna was able to put a bit of personal perspective on what was otherwise a fairly bland discussion.
Classes average about 15 students and are designed to be discussion based. About half of the students double major and/or minor, and it’s easy to be part of multiple academic departments. There’s a great deal of interdisciplinary work, so students could be taking a class in their major that’s taught by someone in another area. Although they have a strong Liberal Arts focus, it’s also a major research institution, recently being awarded $20 million in NIH grants. There’s a big push to help students get to know professors, although they’re already accessible, according to Rayna. One of the programs that Brandeis has instituted is “Take your professor to lunch;” the university will pay for the food.
Louis Brandeis was “the people’s justice.” He gave back to the community in various ways; this is where the university gets its mission. They sell themselves as thinking outside the box. They send several students to do study abroad and internships abroad (including in places Rwanda). There are a few ways to travel. First is through CIEE Advanced Liberal Arts. Students needed to be fluent in the language for this. The senior who talked to us went to Barcelona; she had a Homestay and enrolled directly at University of Barcelona where she took 3 classes. She had an additional class in the Study Abroad program with the 27 students in the program. She volunteered at the Red Cross there and got to travel. For students who are not fluent and therefore don’t qualify for CIEE, they can take part in one of 350 approved programs and have no trouble transferring their credits back to Brandeis.
Brandeis is now test-optional, giving students three options during the application process: 1) submit scores (they’ll superscore both exams); 2) Submit a combination of SATII and AP scores from 3 different subject areas; or 3) Submit a graded paper from Junior or Senior year, usually English or History. Students have to make a decision about which of these three options they want and indicate their choice on the application; they can’t submit everything and hope for the best. The optional supplement is, of course, encouraged, and hey do want to see demonstrated interest. Interviews are available but not required; they give a lot of options, including by a rep during a high school visit or by the Senior student interviewers.
Students seem fairly happy on campus. Several small groups of students were hanging out in the student center, but many more were simply walking alone on with one other person around campus. There was some interaction as people passed each other. Our tour guide said that there was lots of school spirit and involvement. Students enjoy going to athletic games (the mascot is the Judge and fans are called the Jury). Shuttles are easy to catch into Boston, but there’s plenty to do on campus. One of the favorite yearly traditions is the 24-Hour Musical. Students show up to audition for an unknown production about a week ahead of time; on Saturday morning, everyone shows up and are told what the musical is, what the roles are, etc. They have to learn lines, put a set together, gather costumes, etc. by Sunday when they put on the production. They do plenty of other regularly run productions throughout the year which anyone can get involved in. Students are highly involved in music, as well, here. There are plenty of practice rooms that individuals or groups can use. This is also only the 2nd university I’ve heard of who will allow students to rent art from the art museum on campus for $5 per semester (the other being Oberlin).