campus encounters

"Get the first-hand scoop about colleges and universities"

St. Joseph’s University (PA)

Saint Joseph’s University (visiting 7/20/16)

St. Joe's 1This is absolutely an amazing school! Beautiful campus, enthusiastic students, and strong academics. Who could ask for more?

Founded by the Jesuits in 1851, St. Joe’s mission is “to educate men and women with and for others.” This is 1 of 28 Jesuit schools in the US, and they seem to live the “Care for the Whole Person: mind, body, spirit” ethos: this was the first school on the tour to have a Safe Space sign in the Admissions Office (or anywhere that I saw).

St. Joe's statue

Statue from the Institute for Jewish-Catholic relations

Another phrase you’ll see and hear all over campus, on t-shirts, etc is “That’s the magis,” which is all about more/digging deeper. “Things people do here are for the greater glory of God,” said an admissions rep. Although almost ¾ of the students identify as Catholic (although not necessary practicing), people are free to do what they want. Mass is not required. Jesuits are about finding out who they are spiritually. “Religious life is here if you want it. I’m not Catholic, and I’ve never felt out of place or pushed to go to mass or anything,” said our tour guide. There are even Muslim and Jewish spaces on campus for worship.

St. Joe's dorm

One of the dorms

Greek life is also another “there if you want it” thing on campus. There are 3 on-campus frats and 5 on-campus sororities, but no Greek housing. “We’re Jesuit. That’s not our deal.” About 20% of the population goes Greek. Students can live in suite-style dorms (6 double rooms around a common area) as freshman. “I was shy coming in, and I’m so glad I chose this option. I had 11 people to interact with instead of 1, and it brought me out of my shell,” said the tour guide.

St. Joe's 3There are just under 5000 undergrads on campus from 44 states and 36 countries. They draw heavily from the mid-Atlantic from Massachusetts down to North Carolina. This year’s freshman class is the most racially diverse so far with 19% self-identifying as students of color. “I feel like it’s diverse, but I’m a straight white male. I’m probably not the one to talk about it. That being said, I’ve never seen animosity. I feel like people are inclusive and get along,” said the tour guide. He went on to talk about a friend from Virginia who is openly gay; she feels much more comfortable and accepted on campus than she ever did at home.

St. Joe's hawk

One of the hawk (mascot) statues around campus

Philadelphia is the second largest college town in the country after Boston. Although the university is technically within the Philly city limits, when you cross the street, you’re in the suburbs of Montgomery County. A train station is about 5 minutes away; from there, the 30th St Station is one stop away where people can get anywhere, including the airport and downtown.

St. Joe's bballThis is a DI school (Atlantic 10 Conference) with 20 teams (no, football isn’t one of them!). Basketball is a huge deal; Villanova is the big rival. Students can get season tickets for $85 or $13 a game. They have a large student section set aside, and the excitement generated by students have led them to earn the ranking of #2 student section in the country. They’ve also been ranked #1 for their mascot. Two students are selected as Hawks after an extensive application process (including an essay, recs, and a physical test because they literally have to flap the entire game!). This comes with a full tuition scholarship!

St. Joe's library int 2The Jesuits are big proponents of liberal arts education and focusing on the whole person as an academic. The General Education Program requires 16-18 core classes. Average classes are 22-23 with most classes capped at 35. Since the Jesuits are big on having students question things and participate, most classes are seminar style. There are also many Experiential Learning options; most students participate in at least one of these:

  • Study Abroad
  • Co-op: specific for Business with the exception of Food Service. They take 2 semesters off for 2 paid positions. They take summer courses to make up for the coursework not taken in those 2 semesters. Food Marketing majors graduate in 5 years and complete 3 co-ops.
  • Service Learning. “500 spots filled up in 3 hours for the trip this year!” said the tour guide. “I missed out on it because I had no idea it would fill up so quickly.”
  • Internships
  • Washington Center Program

St. Joe's quadIn addition to Experiential Learning, there are several distinctive academic experiences:

  • Kinney Center for Autism Education and Support: community members can come for mentorship, students in the Autism Behavioral Studies major can work or volunteer here, and students on the spectrum can get support, as well (for a $6000 additional cost).
  • Honors program: Students with a 3.75 GPA and 1300 (old SAT) might be invited to join. They take 8 core classes at the honors level, go on field trips, have priority registration, etc.
  • Thomas Jefferson University Partnership. SJU doesn’t have PT, OT, etc; students interested in this complete 3 years at SJU then a variable number at TJU depending on the program.
  • Summer Scholars: students in all majors, not just science, can complete paid research on campus. They can do this as many summers as they want.

St. Joe's archesMajors fall into one of two schools:

Our tour guide had a hard time narrowing down some of his favorite classes. “Can I have more than one??” He talked about the following:

  • Creative writing taught by Tom Coin who has written books on golf (and was a clue on Jeopardy!) “He was more of a mentor than a teacher and encouraged me to trust my humor. I’m now signed up for a grad level screenwriting class with him this fall.”
  • His Freshman Seminar: Genesis, Sex, Lies, and Mayhem. It was a practical class and gave him a better understanding of the Bible. “If I’m at a Catholic school, that’s helpful! The Bible comes up from time to time.”
  • In the Theology/Philosophy realm, he enjoyed Religious Differences (Islam), God and Evil, and Philosophy of Death.
St. Joe's 6

The quad with the bell tower, gargoyles, and the heads of past university presidents

Here, admissions reps also serve as Financial Aid officers. Families have 1 person to connect with. Admissions is test-optional but students do have to make the decision on the application. If students say that they do NOT want their scores to be considered, SJU will not look at them even if they’re sent in. If students indicate on the application that they DO want them considered, scores are then required.

Here’s a fun fact to end with: there are no bells in the bell tower because hawks were living in there. Around the bell-tower quad, the past-presidents’ heads are depicted in stone along with some gargoyles.

© 2016

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