Clarkson University (visited 7/27/15)
Clarkson’s campus looks like anything but a school known for its engineering programs. It’s a spacious campus with modern buildings and lots of open space. This surprise doesn’t just extend to the physical plant; it also applies to the people. I was shown around campus by an admissions rep, himself a recent Clarkson graduate and a Business major. “What surprised me about Clarkson is how many people aren’t doing engineering, and how many things not related to this field they’re interested in.”
The school is great at “repurposing” buildings and other things on campus. The old campus center now houses the Ice Rink – right in the middle of campus! Their men’s and women’s hockey teams both play at the DI level (all other sports are DIII). The women were the 2014 national champs, beating the University of Minnesota. They have a pub in this building, too, “which is mostly open during games,” said the rep. It’s not a dry campus. “We know they’re college kids. As long as they’re of age and responsible, we don’t have an issue with it.”
A vast majority of students (86%) live on campus. Only 10-12% of students choose to affiliate with fraternity or sorority; rush happens sophomore year. There is some Greek housing, much of it on the perimeter of campus. I passed several of the houses when I mistakenly turned into campus too soon, so I wove my way through a fairly wooded area where the Greek houses were, finally emerging onto the main part of campus by large new dorms and academic buildings.
Students can have cars on campus all 4 years for no fee. If they don’t have a car, Adirondack Trailways stops on campus, and they can get to Syracuse and Albany (and from there, really anywhere).
The school has several divisions that deserve more recognition but are overshadowed by the engineering:
- The School of Arts and Sciences offers many of the typical undergraduate majors you might expect. The surprise major is Social Documentation which combines the social sciences or humanities with Communication and Media.
- The School of Business offers interdisciplinary programs including Engineering and Management.
- The Institute for a Sustainable Environment offers only 2 majors: Env. Health Science and Env. Science and Policy but offers several minors and 2 graduate programs
If Clarkson doesn’t have what students want in terms of course offerings, they can cross-register at St. Lawrence University, Canton, and SUNY Potsdam, all of which are within 15 minutes of Clarkson.
Engineering is, of course, the “crowning glory” of the school and what they are known for. Many first year students aren’t sure which specialty they want to pursue, or they think they know but mistakenly pick the wrong one. For example, students who are interested in Wind Energy should study aeronautical engineering, but those who want to look at sustainable energy should go into chemical. However, students have until the 3rd semester to declare which of the 9 specialties they’d like to pursue. This gives them a chance to explore a bit or change their mind if they started a program and then learned that it wasn’t what they expected.
As I was touring, one of the engineering professors was in the hall, so I talked to him for a few minutes. He was engaging and interesting. I asked him what he’d like students to know or do to be better prepared to enter engineering at Clarkson: “Writing is really important! I don’t think they think they’ll need this skill for this field, but they do.” Students do need to take a writing class at Clarkson, but this can be fulfilled through technical writing
I got to talk to a student who stayed on campus to do research over the summer. She told me about all the hydroponics and the great projects she was working on. She showed me the watermelon, hot peppers, and cucumbers being grown and how they were comparing using certain water and fertilizers . . . there was something in there about fish in the water that she was super excited about, but I’m not quite sure what was going on there 🙂 .
Here are some other cool things about the Engineering program:
- They have wave machines.
- Their Wind Turbine testing facility is 1 of only 4 that has actual turbine blades.
- Students work on actual Distillation towers for work with fuels, alcohol, etc
- Many of their students work with Engineers without boarders.
- Students have built an Electric snowmobile and a Clean snowmobile with 0 emissions.
- Teams from Clarkson have been FIRST Robotics winners and have competed in concrete canoe races, SPED, and other competitions.