Colby-Sawyer College (visited 10/19/16)
This is one of those schools that fits the quintessential “New England College” stereotype. The campus is pretty and the academics are solid. Students who put in the effort to do the work and be involved will fit in here.
There’s always stuff going on around campus and most students stay on weekends. There’s not much going on in the town of New London; there are a few restaurants and small stores: “You have to try a little bit, but there is stuff around. You find the little hole in the wall with a grill that makes the best breakfast sandwiches,” said one of the students. The college is located between Concord (state capitol) and Lebanon, both about 30 minutes away. Everyone gets a free ski pass to Mt Sunapee, and shuttles run there regularly. The college will offer trips to cities, and there’s a local bus stop if students want to go to NYC or Boston.
Their sustainability effort is about the only thing I could find to differentiate Colby-Sawyer from several other small New England (or really any) liberal arts colleges. I even asked several faculty and other people what they’d like me to walk away with to help me differentiate. Most had a hard time saying anything substantial. Community and faculty involvement were common threads, as they are at most schools. One faculty member said, “This is maybe a little harder” than another local college.
Sustainability at Colby-Sawyer comes in many forms (and they’re looking to be Carbon Neutral in the next couple decades). There are several outdoor classrooms including 2 in the woods and a student-designed sustainable classroom. The sugar shack (which we would never have known about if we hadn’t walked right by it on tour and specifically asked what it was) is run by a wind turbine – and students run the entire process of making the maple syrup from the tapping of the trees to the designing of the labels!
Not surprisingly, they have a strong Community-Based Sustainability major. The Permaculture Class is open to the community: “When I took the class, it was like a pot-luck because it was an evening class. People brought food to share, and we got to know people in the community while we were learning.” Students can earn a certificate in Permaculture Design, and there’s even an Aquatics Studies minor.
Some buildings are fit with solar panels, and the college is committed to keeping old buildings when possible instead of tearing them down. The library is one of the coolest buildings on campus (and one of the best libraries I’ve seen on a college campus): the college refurbished two Civil War era barns and created a single building out of them. The pub building is over 200 years old. During the day, students can grab a snack or to-go meal, and many hang out by the fireplace to study. They will serve beer in the evenings.
They’re looking to grow their student population from its current level at just over 1200 students to the 1400-1500 range. They went coed in 1991 and are still about 2/3 female. “The only time I notice the gender imbalance is in class, but it depends on the major,” said a student on the panel. The students accepted here represent a wide academic range.
The college ethos revolves around experimental education, capstone and internship experiences, and hands-on real-world education. They can tailor education, and they’re good about helping students. Professors know the students and will work with them. Their 78% freshman-to-sophomore retention rate is solid, and show that faculty and staff talk to each other and watch out for the students, but “Kids who need too much hand-holding won’t make it,” said one professor.
The First Year Seminar revolves around “This is how you survive in college.” One student took Anthropomorphism: “It was so much fun and a great transition to college. It helped us learn what to expect in college.” Another student took The Psychology of Friday Night Lights (Texas Football). “The professor was from Canada. I could be a help because I was from Texas.”
Students complete a Third-Year Project, an 8-credit class that meets 3 times a week and 8 hours on Friday. “It’s a lot of work, a lot of stress, a lot of time out of the class, but it’s great. We’re bringing work to the President who’s helping put things into practice. It’s not just writing things down and having it thrown away later.”
Most academics here are fairly standard for a small liberal arts school with a couple exceptions.
- They offer both a BSN and MSN; they have a partnership with Dartmouth Hitchcock medical for nursing clinicals. “Would you come here for part of the cost, or go there for more money? You’re doing the same clinicals,” said a nursing student.
- Their Child Development major (also a minor) combines psychology, child development (biology), education, and even some sociology.
- Arts are strong, both studio arts and graphic design.
About 10% of the students are invited into the Honors Program; in addition to special classes, they get an additional scholarship and have access to an Honors Suite on the top floor of the main building for studying and hanging out.
Final piece of advice: apply by 12/1: these students are eligible for a $4000 Early Action award!