Chatham University (visited 5/26/16)
Chatham is a hidden gem of a school located in a beautiful residential part of western Pittsburgh. Until recently, this was a women’s college; in the 2015-16 school year, they brought in their first males to the freshman class. “The upperclassmen tended to be more upset about this. I knew coming in that it was a distinct possibility that they would go coed so I was ready for it,” said our tour guide, a rising-senior nursing student staffing the front desk.
All residence halls (they aren’t called dorms) are converted mansions. Most of them have some sort of theme such as Sustainable Living or Global Scholars. Partly in keeping with their Women’s College heritage and partly because they’re still heavily skewed in terms of gender, there are all-female dorms available. Upperclassmen have the option of living in 3-person apartments just off campus on Fifth Avenue that are open to upperclassmen. Our tour guide lives there and loves that it’s given her an added level of independence. She’s still in campus housing but gets a taste of being on her own.
There are other historical, beautiful buildings on campus in addition to the residence halls. The Mellon House was Andrew Mellon’s summer residence, complete with an indoor pool and a bowling alley in the basement (the Pool area has since been converted to the Board Room.) The first floor has all the original rooms, including fireplaces, and “is a great place to study. There are usually very few people here so it’s quiet.” The university also incorporates as much of the old into the new, when possible. The science center renovated an old academic building and the added around it in order to keep some of the history and original flavor.
Chatham sets students up for success, starting with providing each student with a free MacBook plus 1 free replacement while they’re at Chatham. Additionally, students all get a $1,200 study abroad voucher which can be used for anything from a 1-week study-trip associated with a class to a full year of study abroad. “It doesn’t cover everything, but at the very least, it pays for the airfare!” said the tour guide.
Classes, of course, are small: our tour guide’s largest class has had 31 students “which is larger than normal. The professor let extra students into the class.” Her smallest class, Anatomy Lab 2, had 10 students.
Sustainability is a big part of campus and mission. They’re proud of the fact that one of their most famous alumna is Rachel Carson (author of Silver Spring). Their newest addition to the school, the Eden Hall Campus, is located about 45 minutes north of Pittsburgh. Housing the Falk School of Sustainability, it opened in 2010. Students can earn a BSUS or MSUS (Bachelor/ Master of Sustainability), and MA in Food Studies, or a combined MBA with either of the Master’s degrees. Many of the Sustainability undergraduates live on the Eden Hall Campus, and the food grown there is used in the dining hall of both campuses, which is pretty cool. However, it’s not just these students who work on sustainability projects. A team of 3 Chatham chemistry students just won the $5000 CleanTech University Prize at Carnegie Mellon for their work on a new compressor lubricant for HVAC systems.
Health Sciences are worth noting. Most impressive is that they have a cadaver lab on campus! This is really unusual for a school this size, and it gives their undergrads a real leg-up when it comes to medical or graduate school. Two unusual majors in the health sciences are Integrative Health Studies and Interdisciplinary Health Science (with a concentration in Bio, Exercise Science, or Psychology). Nursing is particularly strong. Their Pathways to Nursing Major pairs students up with UPMC Shadyside School of Nursing. Our tour guide is in this program. She did her first year of classes on campus, spent 2 years split between the two campuses, and will finish her clinicals and classes at Chatham for her senior year. She loves the experiences she has, and she wouldn’t do this any other way. “I love Chatham and being part of the community, but I also love meeting all the other people at Shadyside. Even when I’m there, I know I am coming home to Chatham in the evenings and have all my friends here.”
The Business program is also strong. We spoke with a business professor who was in the hall of one of the academic buildings; she was a delight to talk to – very enthusiastic and helpful. I can only imagine what she’s like in the classroom! She told us about the Center for Women Entrepreneurs on campus as well as the variety of programs. For such a small campus, there’s a wide range of business degrees including Social Services Administration, Arts Management, Management Info Systems, International Business, and Healthcare and Business Management in addition to the more common majors (general business, accounting, general management, etc).
More importantly, students have the opportunity to participate in an Integrated Degree Program in the health sciences, business, sustainability, and the arts. The GPA requirement is higher in the health sciences (3.5) compared to the others (3.25). There are also specific ACT or SAT minimums and required prep work in high school classes. Collaborative programs with other universities allow students to complete degrees in Music Education, Teacher Training, and Physics (all with Carnegie Mellon), 3+4 law degrees with Duquesne (PA) or Stetson University (FL), and 4+1 Bachelors/Masters programs in various management programs, also at Carnegie Mellon.