Meredith College, Raleigh, NC (visited 3/13/14)
Meredith is a Women’s College located less than a mile from NC State University in Raleigh. Unlike some other women’s colleges, their enrollment has been going up. Although they brought in 420 new freshman last year (which is up by about 20 from the year before), they also bring in quite a few transfers, so they graduated 500 students last year, which they expect to remain steady.
Because I was visiting during their spring break, an admissions rep gave me the tour. As a 2012 grad, she had great insight from both sides of the desk. Originally from Winston-Salem, she chose Meredith because it felt collaborative instead of competitive, and it’s close enough to NC State to not feel isolated. The schools provide shuttles between the two, but it’s also walkable. I drove down the street after the tour to check out the area and to get lunch; in 10 blocks or so, I saw two coffee shops, a music store, a book store, and a lot of restaurants including Middle Eastern, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, and several chain fast-food places, pizza, and bar & grills. There’s also a Ben and Jerry’s directly across the street (“Whoever marketed that was a genius,” the rep said).
Meredith and the five other schools in the area (St. Augustine, Wake Tech, NC State, William Peace, and Shaw) allow cross-registration. Meredith allows their students to take up to 3 classes a year for free. The students can go to any other schools’ events, including athletics, for free with the other school ID (which they get even for a 1-credit PE class). Students at Meredith can get the big DI school at State feel without sacrificing the small school individual attention.
Classes at Meredith average 17 students. The rep’s smallest classes had 2 (in a research class) and 8 (in a regular class); the largest was 40 (Intro to Psych). Education is one of their strongest departments; their majors have had a 100% passing rate on the Praxis II over the last few years, and schools in the area hire Meredith grads right out of school. They also have 1 of only 11 Autism programs in the world, and the only one where undergrads can work with the kids. A Swiss family moved to Raleigh specifically to have their child in the program. They also have an AACSB accredited business program (held by 5% of programs worldwide).
Students are highly involved in designing areas on campus, often as part of their classes or independent research projects. The tile floor of the Science Building was designed by two students in 2001 as part of their undergrad research project; it’s modeled after the method developed by mathematician Roger Penrose. Interior Design students competed to have their design put into place for the commuter lounge. They put in four outdoor classrooms complete with chalkboards behind one of the academic buildings, and in front of another building, students planted an edible fruit garden with pomegranates, berries, and more.
The school has some interesting traditions. The first that the rep pointed out was the Class Doll, designed each year by a fashion design major. These are displayed in cases throughout the three-floor atrium of the main building where they also have displays of faculty-done art, photography, dresses, quilting, and more. A second tradition is Dance Works, an annual event held in the spring, and is completely student run from the choreography to the dancing to the marketing of the event. The third, and maybe the biggest tradition, is Cornhusking which is held annually during the last week of October. “It’s one of those things you have to experience!” Essentially, it’s a weeklong competition between classes. Each class is given a theme, and they make up skits and other events revolving around it, including “can art” in which the class uses cans to create artwork illustrating something about their theme; this gets done on one quarter of the quad. Students will stand on the balconies of the dorms to help direct the artwork since they have a birds-eye-view. They also have a fire pit on campus that’s used during orientation and at other times throughout the year including at the “Camping on the Quad” event (which also includes sunrise yoga).
The Chapel on campus dates back to when they were affiliated with the Baptist Church. They are no long affiliated, but they have a non-denominational chapel service at 10am on Wednesdays, although this also can be community wide speaker events (the topic being advertised for the following week was dealing with anxiety and depression). They’ve brought in big-name speakers including Nancy Pelosi, Jane Goodall, and the guy who runs Post Secret. There are no 10am classes on Monday, Wednesday, or Friday, enabling them to hold large events or allow clubs and activities to have meeting times.
Study Abroad is easy to do. Students can do direct-enrollment programs around the world, but there are also several college-sponsored trips. Meredith runs a Semester in Italy program; they bought and renovated a Palazzo complete with their own chef. “Family lunch” is served instead of a big dinner. Apparently, the chef never repeats a meal the entire semester. Current Summer Study Abroad options include Italy (Childhood Development or Opera Experience), Iceland (Environment and Lit), UK, Italy and Switzerland, China (International Business), Spain (Language and Culture), and France (Fashion).
Students must live on campus for the first two years. Even though they can move off after that, 86% of all students live on campus. They recently built new campus apartments, increasing the on-campus number over the last few years; students love the convenience, and the apartments are beautiful with hardwood floors, washers and dryers, etc. Dorms have Open Hours when males can be in rooms, but men can visit in the lounges 24 hours a day. Parking is available in “The Pit” which is never full. Passes cost $200 a year. If they don’t have cares, students can rent one of the 2 zip cars or can take the State Wolfline or city bus.