SUNY Purchase (visited 8/12/14)
SUNY Purchase is located on a large campus (about 500 acres – including the first multi-racial cemetery in the area that sits in the middle of campus) about 30 miles north of New York City. It’s in a suburban community only a few miles from the interstate and the Westchester Airport (which was obvious during our tour when several planes flew so closely overhead that they guide had to stop talking until the noise subsided). The university opened in 1968, designed to be the “artistic” campus of the SUNY system. Governor Rockefeller chose the location to allow students to access the resources of the NY Metro area. The school runs a free shuttle service to White Plains (20 minutes away) that runs every hour from 7 am to midnight (2 am on weekends). From there, they can catch MetroNorth into New York City (30 minutes away on an express train). Students are allowed to bring cars; parking only costs $20 and parking areas are assigned based on the student’s earned credits.
About 1/3 of the students major in the arts (theater, music, dance, film, or the fine arts). However, the school is designed for students who don’t ONLY want that conservatory or Art/Design experience. They offer a BA, BS, or BFA/BMus degree. Students majoring in the arts can choose the level of involvement they want: the BA and BS degrees will give them much more flexibility to take electives outside of the major, whereas the BFA requires about 2/3 of the coursework to be in the major. Adding that to the required distribution requirements (about ¼ of their coursework) means that they have little flexibility to take electives or add a minor or another major without taking extra time. There’s also a more selective admissions process. For example, only 20 students are admitted to the theatre BFA program a year and work as a cohort in productions and classes. However, many more students can get involved in productions open to the BA students interested in theater and performance.
“Purchase is a small place. There are 4,200 students here. You’re not going to be a number. The largest lecture hall you’ll ever be in holds 70 students. If you want to be a number, go to Buffalo,” said Jon, the Admissions Rep giving the info session. Our tour guides both said that their largest classes had 30 students; the smallest had 8 and 12. The only graduate students are in the arts, so undergraduates in other areas are doing research with the faculty. They have a very limited number of grad students teaching classes for non-majors.
Students have all the resources of the SUNY system at their disposal. There are standard state-wide gen-ed requirements throughout the SUNY system, so students can transfer those classes easily if they’d like to take anything at another campus over the summer. Students can also take advantage of study-abroad options or other special programs through any campus.
Some of their unusual majors include Media Society and The Arts, New Media (a tech-based arts major: one students used webcams to film a “24 hour sunrise”), Arts Management (for those interested in the business aspect of art), and Language and Culture (students can study Hausa, Hebrew, or Chinese as well as the more common European languages). Many students complete internships for credit under the direction of a faculty member. Students are assigned work to be turned into the professor in addition to whatever is assigned to them on the job.
Applicants NOT interested in the performing arts can use either the SUNY App or the Common App. However, performing arts applicants can only use the SUNY app. Admissions is selective; they accept about 1/3 of applicants not looking to go into any of the arts majors. The acceptance rate in the arts depends on department and the student’s focus. (“Bassoon players have a much easier time than violinists!” said the rep). Admitted students tend to have about an 87 average and 1100 SAT. Scholarships are automatically granted to non-performing arts applicants; recipients tend to have a 90+ average and 1200+ SAT. In the arts, scholarships are awarded through the particular department/area based on academic and talent combined.
About 65% of students live on campus; space is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. Fort Awesome (dorms are named by students – other dorms include Big House, Far House, and Outback) is the newest dorm and houses upperclassmen. This is the only dorm with wifi; the others are all equipped with Ethernet hook-ups, “but you can buy a router from the Tech Office if you want,” said the tour guide. The first floor has classes and art space. Dorm rooms for freshmen are converted triples (basically double-sized rooms with a third person added) because of increased numbers of freshmen and transfers. There are some Learning Community Floors with double rooms (and the RA will be in that major). There are also 4-, 6- and 8- person suites scattered throughout the dorms. The 8-person suite has its own bathroom. The others have a common room but share the bathroom down the hall. There are a couple food options on campus. There’s the more traditional all-you-can-eat dining hall; the tour guides said that Sundae Friday, Wing Wednesday, and Stir-fry Thursday are popular. The Hub is campus food court where meals are done on the ABC plan (meaning they choose something from each category: Main meal, a side, and a drink). Meals don’t roll week to week; “If you have meals left by Friday, students start using up the points at the campus store so you don’t lose them by Sunday,” said the tour guide.
Traditions that the students are particularly excited about are Zombie Prom and Culture Shock (a weekend art festival). There is no Greek life on campus. Students are not bored on campus. There are always events, activities, and clubs doing things. The Cheese Club got mentioned a couple times (and apparently is so popular that there’s a waiting list – never heard of that for a club before!). The founder was a film major and got interested in cheese made from camel’s milk which led her to research camels which led to her senior projects about different products from camels.
Everyone does a Senior Project (check out this YouTube video on it), a serious academic work in an area of their choosing. Since this is a full-year project, students sign up for a 3-credit class both terms, and usually do the preliminary plans, including choosing an advisor, in their junior year.