campus encounters

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University of Rochester

University of Rochester (visited 10/19/15)

~UR main quad

Main quad with the library at the far end

“We’re fundamentally a research university,” said the V-P of Enrollment. “Faculty are hired because they’re doing good work.” Rochester is nationally ranked in the top 10 for faculty research. Because of this, they’re looking for students who are, first and foremost, curious. “They aren’t asking what they should do – they’re asking why they should do it. We do a lot of things well, and all of them have some research component. We’re looking for students who are prepared – and hopefully excited – about that. If they don’t take advantage of this part of the university, if they aren’t connecting to at least one professor, they aren’t getting what they’re paying for.”

~UR students“We want quirky kids who will push the boundaries and ask probing questions – but not so out-there weird that they can’t live with a roommate.” Teachers go really fast; classes are full of highly motivated students. Rigor is the thing that unifies the entire community. The professors make great teachers because as researchers, they also know what it is to be a learner. They’re guiding the students on the journey, not worrying on Sunday night about that they’re going to say on Monday morning.

~UR walkway 3Because of Rochester’s curricular flexibility and no required subjects, they tend to have a lot of cross-apps with Brown “but we don’t have a wide open curriculum. We aren’t Brown or Hamilton.” Students still have to graduate with a broad curriculum, but it’s an education they come up with for themselves. “That’s part of the reason people need to be willing to self-advocate and ask questions. What’s going to make them a consummate scholar and professional in that field?” They build their curriculum around their interests: they must take 3-course clusters in the humanities, natural sciences, and social sciences (their major requirements fulfill the cluster in 1 division).

UR acad bldg 1Partly stemming from the fact that students are interested in so many areas, it’s not surprising that Rochetser offers some unusual majors such as:

~UR statue5,100 undergraduates study on the main River Campus (500 students study at Eastman School of Music: see separate write-up), making this one of the smallest research schools in the country. Almost 20% of students are international, one of the highest among research institutions. There’s also a great deal of other diversity: 20% receiving Pell Grants, and “We’re a majority minority institution. When I started here, we were 80% white northeastern students. That’s not the case anymore.”

Admissions is test-flexible: students need to provide some evidence that they can hold their own in high-stakes testing: AP, IB, SAT/ACT, or Subject Tests. They can upload a link to a creative or research project for supplemental materials. Every application is double-read. When the readers disagree, the app goes to committee. Last year, almost 1/3 of applications were sent: “I’m not aiming for agreement,” said the VP of Enrollment. “The most interesting discussions come out of this disagreement. Students who received one of the Rochester awards as a HS Junior have their application fee waived.

~UR frat house

Greek housing

About 90% of students live on campus. Dorms are pre-wired for Cable and students get a pass for HBOgo. If students move off-campus, someone from the Office of Off-Campus Housing will help check places out and read over leases. Students are thrilled with the events on campus. “I was really overwhelmed with the number of extra-curriculars. It’s a ridiculous amount of stuff you can do.” Almost 25% of students go Greek. Sports are popular both to play and watch; they’re DIII except Squash (which can only compete at a DI level). There are several big activity weekends or events:

  • Meloria Weekend (Alumni Weekend).
  • Winter weekend: the school brings in huskies; gives away gloves, hats, or scarves; sets up bonfire and students roast smores, etc.
  • Boar’s Head Dinner is a Medieval-themed dinner (not unique to Rochester but rare enough!). A different professor tells the myth of the student and the Boar, putting their own theme on it. There’s singing, juggling, etc.

~UR shuttle mapWhen students want to get off campus, they can take one of the city buses that stop on campus and cost $1. The school buses are free.

For people worried about winters in Upstate NY, don’t worry too much: a great deal of campus is connected through tunnels. The academic buildings on the main quad are connected, as are several of the science buildings. Dorms are not connected due to security issues.

~UR chapel

Rochester’s non-denominational chapel

Students are happy with Rochester and were hard-pressed to find anything to change – a couple seemed almost offended that we’d even suggest that improvements needed to be made. A senior said, “Currently, I’d say food, but it’s because I’ve been eating it for 4 years. Maybe they could have a bit more international food??” A Junior said, “Parking was an issue, but they’ve built a new complex, revamped how people get parking passes, etc. We used to pay for laundry, now it’s free. They’ve added all-gender bathrooms. They have options to check off male, female, transgender, and other on the application.”

UR atriumThe school does seem to be responsive to needs and things that students want. They’ve added study spaces to keep up with the increased enrollment. There are even sleeping pods in the library; these were last year’s 5K Challenge winner: every year, students proposals ideas to improve campus. Winners are determined by student vote and are given $5,000 to implement the idea.

One of the students left us with this thought: “You’re bound to be successful here. If you want it, you’re going to get it.”

© 2015

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