Norwich University (visited 4/14/14)
I knew that Norwich had a military component, but I didn’t know that it was the birthplace of ROTC or that a third of the students were “civilians” and not at all involved in the Corps of Cadets. This is a residential campus; all students must live here except those who grew up in town. However, the two sides of campus are pretty well separated: “Civilians know that the cannon goes off at 5 am, but don’t want to hear it. The Cadets know that the civilians can have an x-box, but don’t want to see it.” One of the admissions rep is a Norwich graduate who was on the civilian side; when asked why she choose to go to a school with such a strong affiliation to the military when she had no interest in joining the Corps, she said she came for the academics and the community. She liked that the college was different.
Norwich, now located in Northfield, was founded in 1819 in Norwich, directly across the river from Dartmouth. It burned in 186; the rumor was that the fire was started by Dartmouth students when they couldn’t get dates (all the Dartmouth women were supposedly dating Norwich men). They moved to their current location at that point.
Students in the Corps of Cadets are not obligated to go into a military career upon graduation. One of the admissions officers said that this is a good way for them to “Take a military career for a test drive before they sign on the dotted line” by giving them a good taste of the life. The first year is called “Rookdom.” The first week in the corps of cadets is “a little rough,” said one tour guide. They’re separated from the civilians and it’s very much like boot camp. For the first semester, they only get one 10-minute phone call a week and 30 minutes on Facebook. They march everywhere facing forward. Doors to their dorm rooms must be kept open any time they’re in there except during lights-out. Things start easing up during second semester (more access to their cell phones, doors can be shut for more time). “If you can’t be responsible for yourself, you can’t be responsible for others,” said one tour guide. Students are able to move to the civilian side if they can’t handle the rookdom – as long as there are beds available. However, there’s a definite pride in making it through: “If you can get through Rookdom, you can do anything.”
Corps students have to choose a branch of the military and take that ROTC class. They can get an ROTC scholarship towards tuition and need 6 semesters of ROTC to graduate with that distinction on the diploma. One student wants to be an AF officer. He had Jr. ROTC experience, but this is not necessary to be part of the corps.
Several things that make them stand out from other military institutions. It was the first military school to admit black students (in the early 1900s) and women (in the 1970s). They’re the only one with a US National Guard facility on a campus. There’s no live ammo on campus, but they do have a simulated rifle range. There are 12 buglers on campus (West Point, VMI, the Citadel, and others use recordings). They have the oldest collegiate marching band, and they have the largest collegiate ring – 44 pennyweight. If it were 45, it would be a weapon, although they still have to register it as a weapon in several states, including Massachusetts. It’s already had 2 confirmed kills in Iraq, although I’m not sure how.
This is a diverse campus in all senses of the word. Many states around the country are represented, and there are many women in the Corps (and in the Civilian side, although that’s not news-worthy). The student we talked to said that they have a strong bond. She’s a nursing major so she studies with a lot of women on both sides. She feels that she has the best of both worlds: guys look out for them, and women have each other’s backs.
Academics are strong, and students get one-on-one attention.. Their Computer Security program is ranked as #2 nationally. In the last two years, the nursing students have all passed the NPLEX on the first try. The Environmental Science programs are hands on; they spend 12 of the 15 weeks in the semester outside. They’ve implemented a Leadership Studies minor. There’s integrity, and people take the honor code seriously: “We are men and women of integrity. We do not lie, cheat, or steal or tolerate those who do”.
One of the tour guides called Norwich an “and” school. It’s balanced, and students can get involved in lots of things. Their athletics are DIII, and 17 of 20 teams moved to post-season play. Pegasus Players is the theater troupe. “Disney Field” is the on-campus ropes course; “Lower Disney” has the volleyball and basketball courts, grills, and more.