Lycoming College (visited 11/20/14)
NSSE (National Survey of Student Engagement) data about Lycoming (“Lyco”) is highly positive and it’s easy to see why. Their new President (going on his 18th month) is working wonders. He actively seeks partnerships to increase high-impact, real-life learning experiences for students through alumni such as the Hollywood Director looking to make a movie in Williamsport or the director of an archaeological site in Pueblo. A professor just got a Carnegie grant to extend student-accessible research into the Humanities.
The college is financially solid and has increased their financial aid by 50% (about $7 million). Valedictorians and Salutatorians get $23,000 a year and can “upgrade with an interview.” They just established a “Third Century Scholarship” (they just celebrated their bicentennial in 2012). Test-optional students are eligible for scholarships: three people will review the two graded writing samples submitted in lieu of scores.
The main part of campus is an actual quad surrounded by a couple dorms, the campus center, and academic buildings. The quad is full during warmer weather; students can use the wifi out there and the power outlets located on the base of the lampposts. Weekends are busy; “I have friends who live nearby who never go home,” said Emily. There’s a large turnout for most sports, and athletes support other teams during their off-season. There are big-name concerts on campus like Maroon 5 and Scotty McCreary. The school runs a lot of off-campus trips such as free Broadway plays (students camp out for those), Gettysburg, ice skating, sky diving, etc.
About 95% of students live on campus. The only all-female dorm is on the quad; others are coed by wing. The college owns 20 houses right off campus, housing about 5 students per building. Housing is chosen by lottery based on both seniority and GPA, so there are times that a student in a higher year (but with a low GPA) might be selecting housing at about the same time as a person one year down with a high GPA.
Almost 1/3 of the students are Greek-affiliated. Students cannot rush first semester; they need at least a 2.5 GPA at Lycoming before becoming eligible. There are no specific Greek Houses, but many members will live together on a hall. National chapter dues can cost up to $600 a term; local only cost about $160. “I can afford that out of my own pocket,” said one student.
All classes are scheduled on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Labs meet either Tuesday or Thursday; Scholars Lectures are held on Tuesdays. We visited on a Thursday morning and saw few students; I would have liked to have seen the campus “in action” – classes, students were engaging with each other, etc. The few students we saw in the morning were definitely still waking up! However, the dining hall was full when we got there around 11:45.
We ate lunch in the dining hall, open 7:00-7:00; the late-night area with a grill, pizza place, and smoothie bar opens when the dining hall closes. Meals are good. “I might wait 10-15 minutes for food during the worst of the rush times, but I try to avoid them,” said Emily, our tour guide. They had an extensive salad bar (split into two areas to help with access) and plenty of options for hot food. “I miss eating at the caf,” said an Admissions rep. “They have really good Buffalo Chicken Pizza!” Other students’ favorite meals are the chicken nuggets and wings. They’re always incorporating new meals, and even had a cooking competition once. The winning meal was made at the dining hall for the students.
Our tour guide was a Psych major/Neuroscience minor who wants to be a clinical psychologist. One of the admissions reps is a recent grad who came to Lycoming from California because of the archaeology major, one of top 5 in the country. She loved it and raved about her Archaeology Prof who hosted brunch every Sunday for the students in the major. “My second choice school was UC Davis. After financial aid, it was cheaper here.
A few more unusual majors are Actuarial Math, Archaeology and Culture of the Ancient Near East and Mediterranean, Criminology (complete with a Cadaver Lab), and Corporate Communication. Interesting minors include: world politics, neuroscience, multiculturalism, history of philosophy, quantitative economics, and social and economic justice. Students can complete certificates in: 128- or 150-hour Accounting Program, Managerial Economics, Commercial Design, and Sculpture among others.
Sciences are strong (and women make up about half of the students in the sciences!). They have a Planetarium and several astronomy minors. About 50% of science majors will go on to the health fields; we talked to a student continuing on to a Physician’s Assistant degree. She said that working in the cadaver lab gave her a leg-up. In the Microbiology class, students work with bacteria and have even identified new strains. A current student will publish her findings before graduation. She named it “Lycobacillus Colbertis” (she’s hoping to get on his show). We talked to an art major whose favorite class was Dino-biology. He’s incorporating a lot of this into his artwork. “I’ve loved dinosaurs since I was about 5!” They take fieldtrips to nearby Fossil Land and will do digs on the side of the road. “You wouldn’t think we’d find much, but we do!”
The Fine Arts building used to be the gym; the original floor is still being used in the main studio, and ceramics is in the basement where the pool was. Senior Art majors participate in a year-long capstone which is juried by outside artists. If they don’t get a piece into the final show, they don’t graduate. That’s only happened to 1 person “who didn’t put the effort in,” said the art professor we spoke to. “That being said, you may submit 20 pieces and only get 1 selected – or all 20.” There is also a music program on campus; music classes are in the chapel.
May Term is an optional 4-week term when students can complete 1 class, often study-trips. Our tour guide is registered for “Being Irish,” a psych class which will be held in Ireland.
All freshman and first semester transfers get “Early Assessments” which are like mid-terms but given more frequently. This let them and advisors know how they’re doing early and often. The Dean also sends an email to parents of freshmen every week.