Marlboro College (visited 4/17/14)
I lucked into a tour run by an admissions rep, himself a recent alum of Marlboro. He was clearly passionate about his alma mater and loved showing it off. He was articulate, interesting, enthusiastic, and slightly quirky – a true embodiment of Marlboro students! He cut right across the grassy areas, took us into buildings that “aren’t on the tour just but you have to see it!” etc. This is one of the most interesting colleges I’ve seen. Students are curious, motivated, able to work across disciplines, and caring about the wider community. They’re life-long learners; they love the inquiry.
Trust and independence are the cornerstones of a Marlboro education. Things are run on the “New England Town Meeting style” by both students and faculty. Buildings are unlocked 24/7. Students are on the honor system to check out their own books at the library. Faculty members treat students as colleagues. There’s no competition because everyone is doing their own individual work. “It’s great to see what everyone is doing!”
Students learn to hone their passions in an aggressive way in order to pursue what they love. The first two years allow for exploration of different fields in seminars of 5-15 people. The students’ individual concentrations are then done in the junior and senior years when they design small seminars (often 1-on-1) with professors. In order to earn their degree, students must pass a writing requirement within 3 semesters, complete a plan of concentration, complete 120 credits, and complete an original project within the field which is independent of faculty feedback or advice. This gets mailed to an outside person for review who will come in to do a two-hour oral exam. Once the student passes that, they’ve officially finished their degree.
The most interesting topics pull in several fields. One current student is a highly trained musician doing high level math to understand computer programing so that he can produce electronic music. Another is doing environmental studies and architecture along with sociology. He researched sustainable design, ethical practices, neighborhood needs, etc and ended up designing a greenhouse on campus. He did a Masters in Architecture in Germany and is about to go to San Francisco to do sustainable urban housing. About 75% of students go onto complete further post-graduate degrees, often in education, creative arts, health care, agriculture, and environmental or sustainable practices. They often get into prestigious graduate schools and law programs (including a physics program at Stanford this year). One law-school student is look at “space law.” However, the admissions reps admit that “Technical trades can be tricky here.”
20% of students live off campus, but housing is guaranteed all 4 years. After freshman year, students can live in places like cabins in the woods and can be off the meal plan. There’s one apartment style building tucked up into the woods called “Out Of The Way” which houses several non-traditional or married students. Dorms are coed – as are some bathrooms. “There are definitely gender politics going on here,” our rep said.