Widener University (visited 11/20/15)
Widener is a gem hidden in plain sight. Located blocks off of Route 95 in Chester, this is a surprisingly attractive campus with modern buildings and lots of green space. Students are energetic and seem to enjoy being together. Campus had a vibrant feel even at 8:30 am when I arrived on campus: people were out and about, congregating in the student center, and otherwise utilizing spaces around campus. Even the security guard helping visiting counselors with parking was smiling and talkative. I got the feeling that people really wanted to be here.
One of my former students is currently a freshman in the 3+3 Physical Therapy Guaranteed-Seat program (they also have 4+3 Guaranteed Seat and the traditional 4+3 route) and couldn’t be happier. She raves about the activities on campus ranging from sports to clubs to the typical weekend events. Off-campus, there’s a mall 1 exit down the highway and plenty of other things around town. “Shuttles and public transportation are super easy to use, and my roommate also has a car.” Parking is generally pretty easy, but can be more difficult during the school day because of the number of commuters (about 20% of students), “but after about 2pm and on weekends, there’s never a problem.”
They’ve brought in their largest freshman class this year of almost 850 students but will probably try to keep this closer to 800 for the next couple years. Freshmen and sophomores are expected to live on campus (unless they’re living at home). Housing is guaranteed for four years; juniors and seniors can move off only but about 20% end up leaving. Dorms generally get good reviews from students. “My room this year is pretty small, but I’m in the dorm with the most kids in it, so rooms are smaller. It’s still livable, though, and the dorm I’m going into next year is AMAZING,” said one student. Options include all the usual styles: traditional, suites, apartments, and Greek housing.
Greek life is fairly popular here as are varsity sports, but “there’s no pressure to join. There are lots of options. Everyone finds their own niche.” Rush happens in the spring because students need a 2.5 GPA to qualify; athletes also need to maintain a 2.5 GPA to remain eligible to play. Widener changed their mascot to the Pride Pack recently (the tour guides couldn’t remember exactly, but said within the last 10 years or so).
Campus is set up well and with the students in mind. The commuters have a large lounge in the student center with lockers. The library has a lounge on the 2nd floor with a fridge and microwave for students; “this is really convenient for commuters and during exams when you don’t necessary want to leave to go eat.” There’s an interfaith chapel located right in the student center, integrating it into the rest of student activities.
The largest classes are capped at 60 (the capacity of the largest lecture hall on campus) and are usually for introductory engineering and nursing classes. Most of the Gen Ed classes are capped around 30. The 2 tour guides’ smallest classes were both 12 (Criminal Justice and Public Speaking).
The engineering department is extensive for a school this size, offering Chemical, Civil, Mechanical, Electrical, and Biomedical degrees. Dual degrees are offered, combining biomedical with chemical, electrical, and mechanical engineering; chemical engineering and chemistry; or electrical or mechanical engineering and physics.
Almost all majors require some sort of internship, co-op, or clinical hours. With downtown Philadelphia less than 20 minutes away, there’s no shortage of opportunities, but students don’t necessarily even have to leave campus: for example, there’s a Marriott-owned Restaurant on campus that is run by the Hospitality Management students.
The on-campus observatory includes a telescope that runs through the science building is 5 stories tall and structured in such a way that it never actually touches the floor – there’s a minimum of a couple inches all around it: “if the building happened to fall, the telescope would still be structurally intact.” They open this to students and the public for sessions run by a professor with student help.
The large quad is called Memorial Field (and the original building sits on one side). The Eagles used to practice here, 6 US Presidents have walked across it, and the tour guide said that the movie Invincible was filmed here, but according to IMDB, “The summer training camp scenes were filmed at Central High School in North Philadelphia. The surrounding buildings and field were fixed up to give the appearance of the Eagles real training camp location in 1976, Widener University” (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0445990/?ref_=nv_sr_1) … you can decide which source you believe!