Paul Smith’s College
Paul Smith’s College (visited 7/15/15)
Want to go somewhere where you can minor in Maple Syrup (they run a Certified Organic operation) . . . or maybe Craft Beer where you can learn the science behind it and how to market it?
How about a place where you can kayak to a rock outcropping in the lake to do your homework . . . and still get wifi?
Maybe joining a Woodsmen’s Team is more your style? (And yes, women can participate. Check out this YouTube video!)
If so – check this place out!!
All told, this is one of the more unique schools I’ve visited (think Sterling College in Vermont but bigger and more focused on forestry rather than a working farm). Paul Smith’s tagline is “The College of the Adirondacks – and it truly is. They’re sitting right in the middle of the state park on the edge of a lake. The college owns most of the land around three public-access lakes for a total of 14,200 acres plus the Visitors Interpretive Center up the road. The UN has named the area a Biosphere Reserve.
Although the college sits in the middle of almost nowhere (the 1,000 students at PS doubles the local population during the school year), students aren’t isolated – although if you love being in nature, you’ll be in heaven here. The school runs multiple shuttles from Friday to Sunday to Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, and beyond. Also, students can bring up to 3 vehicles to campus – for example, a car, a 4-wheeler, and a kayak; the school provides plenty of space to store all these things.
Additionally, students can bring “up to 2 weapons for hunting,” said the rep. “The first thing they do when they arrive on campus is check in with Security and lock these up in the armory. The last thing they do before leaving campus is stop at Security and check them out. We always know it’s the first day of deer season because at least half the students are missing from classes.”
Athletic offerings reflect various student interests. They have 7 DIII varsity sports (soccer, basketball, volleyball, cross-country, rugby, and skiing): “Rubgy is very popular!” There are many, many intramurals, club sports, and recreational activities including Skiing/ Snowboarding, fly-fishing, whitewater kayaking, rock climbing, snowshoe softball, inner-tube water polo, duathlons, scuba diving, bowling, and an emergency wilderness response team. They even have a draft horse team! They flood the tennis courts in the winter so students can ice skate. The saline swimming pool is used for recreation and training for water sports – and there’s a fake burling log that the Woodman’s team uses to practice.
Dorm options are varied including a yurt where students can live for a semester! Overlook is one of the newest buildings on campus; the suites/apartments here have 4 single rooms, 2 baths, and a common area. Blum House is directly next to the lake; students need to apply to live here and must have a 3.0+ GPA, no disciplinary problems, and agree to substance-free living. Freshmen are housed in one of 2 dorms, and transfers are housed together. “They’re in a different place in life; it makes sense to let them bond.”
Students really like the food at the dining hall. The director plans all sorts of great activities such as Late Night Open Mic and Night at the Oscars (formal wear encouraged). There’s a pub for the 21+ students. The bookstore sells a lot more than books since they recognize that it’s hard for students to get what they need locally. They carry the culinary and other specialized stuff that students might need, there’s a notary on staff, etc.
Academically, Paul Smith’s is split into two divisions: the School of Natural Resource Management and Ecology and the School of Commercial, Applied, and Liberal Arts. There’s a Dean for both divisions with open door policies. “We’re very casual here.” There’s only 1 lecture hall on campus. Intro to Bio tends to be the biggest class: “I think we had 167 students once,” said the rep.
In the NRM/E school, some cool majors include:
- Arboriculture and Landscape Management
- Surveying Technology
- Forest Technology
- Forestry students help manage the school’s forest through timber sales, looking ecologically to see about infestations, what’s helping and hurting.
- Parks, Rec, and Facilities Management
- Ecological Restoration: they look at what’s impacting ecology and how to change it. Students have access to the Adirondack Water Institute where they do Shoreline restoration and look for invasive species. Students can get scuba certified.
Many students work for the Adirondack Park Agency during their time at college, and there’s 94% placement rate after graduation (not just for APA) but doing everything from research and advocacy to law and communications.
- Hotel, Resort, and Tourism Management
- Food Service and Beverage Management
- Rec, Adventure Ed, and Leisure Management
- Baking/Pastry or Culinary Arts
- There are 6 professional kitchens and 1 baking lab.
There are two on-campus restaurants and a bakery, all staffed by students. The St. Regis is a farm to fork café. Students do rotations in the back and front of house. The second is The Palm at Paul Smith’s which is based on The Palm in New York City which is co-owned by an alum who wanted to give students hands-on experience. Both are open to the public for lunch, dinner, and/or cocktail hour.
Alumni tend to be committed to the school. They come back so often that the school maintains a campground just for them. Although they do have some favorite traditions such as Smitty Fest, “There aren’t traditions here so much as there’s a way of life,” said the rep.