campus encounters

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Connecticut College

Connecticut College (visited 10/13/16)

conn-college-studentsConn draws curious students who are go-getters; to be successful here, students need to want to engage, take initiative, and follow through on ideas. They go above and beyond academically, seeking out connections between disciplines and creating context for what they’re learning.

Admissions is selective and test-optional, but demonstrated interest is important. They want to make sure that students will thrive in this very particular learning environment. Interviews are recommended, preferably on campus, but alumni interviews are an option for students who may not be able to get to campus in time to interview.

conn-college-quadConn is gorgeous, just up the road from the Coast Guard Academy and not far from the water. Campus is long and relatively narrow with buildings (mostly made of stone) largely organized around a couple quads. Even early (by college standards!), students were walking places, some with yoga mats, some off to classes. It was a little too early and cool for students to be congregating outside, but the students I encountered were together, having conversations, and seeming to be very comfortable in their surroundings.

conn-college-cafe

A cafe, one of the many meeting/study spots on campus.

There are a couple things that contribute to this level of comfort and camaraderie. First, most students (98%) live on campus, and dorms are called ‘houses.’ “We do think of them that way.” Students really know each other, and because they aren’t leaving on the weekends, they’re involved and engaged with each other outside the classroom – both academically and socially. Additionally, the admissions rep thinks that close-knit feelings also stem from the First Year Seminar. These writing-intensive classes, taught only in the first semester, are capped at 15 students and taught by faculty advisors from across departments. About 35 interdisciplinary topics are offered ranging from Epidemics, Sports Psychology, From the Holy Land to Disneyland, and Bioluminescence and Disease. Students forge a common bond with 14 other students who are interested in a variety of things.

conn-college-2There are three general areas that make Conn distinctive from many other liberal arts schools:

  1. This year, they’ve instituted a new core curriculum called “Connections” which very much aligns with the types of students that Conn attracts and retains. Students still engage in the liberal arts, but in a more focused and interdisciplinary way.
    1. conn-college-quad-2The former distribution requirements are now grouped in one of 5 Pathways: Public Policy, Sustainability, Interrogating Liberal Arts, Global Capitalism, Arts and Tech.
    2. They will be increasing the number of Pathways over the next three years, hopefully ending with 40 choices, including Education and Human Rights.
    3. This change was a student-based initiative; students wanted their education to be more interdisciplinary and focused.
    4. One requirement is 2 semesters of a single language; students can test into higher level, but can’t test out of the language requirement.
  2. conn-college-chapel-2Academic Centers: The 5 Centers have distinct themes. About 20% of the students will opt to join; entrance requires an additional application. These are designed to help students take passions to the next level by taking classes within the center and completing an independently designed project (funded by the center or career services). Students will graduate with a certificate.
    1. International Studies and the Liberal Arts: This is the most competitive. Students must continue past the required 2 semesters of a language, must study abroad, and must do a project abroad between junior and senior year.
      1. A double major in Islamic Studies and Dance is now studying in France and will go back to study the hip-hop culture there.
      2. An International Studies major with minor in Arabic has studied in Jordan and will also go back to do her project.
    2. Arts and Technology: This is the most quickly growing center.
      1. One student created audio-based video games because his visually impaired brother wanted to be able to play games, too.
      2. A Psych major is looking at how people could overcome their fear of heights using virtual reality.
    3. Community Action and Public Policy: This focuses on social activism and social outreach.
      1. A Government major, while studying in Buenos Aires, saw a lot of school dropouts. She did a study on options for them, then went back to implement strategies to keep them in school or provide other paths.
      2. Other students are working at Boston Hospital, on the housing crisis in NYC, and in the RI Dept of Health.
    4. conn-college-sprout-garden-2

      The student-run sustainable garden

      Center for the Environment: Conn was the second college to have an Envi Sci Dept, so this is a huge part of who they are as a school, but this center is not just for science related topics. Students see something and want to take action. One student is looking at environmental impacts of the fashion industry.

    5. Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity: This is the newest Center, looking at topics such as globalization, historical traumas (ie genocide), comparative histories of race, effects of race and gender on education and the workplace, etc.
  3. conn-college-athletic-cntr

    The athletic Center

    Career Center: Every student is guaranteed a $3,000 stipend for an internship between junior and senior years. This guarantees that they have access to internships that might otherwise be cost-prohibited, particularly if they need to pay room and board in a major city. Almost 20% intern abroad. Over 80% of students do use this stipend.

    1. Students are all assigned 3 advisors right as freshmen: a faculty advisor (who teaches one of the student’s first semester classes), a staff advisor (from the career center), and a peer advisor. Students will meet with all of these during the first semester to ensure that they’re adjusting well and are on track.

The majors and minors here are phenomenal, bringing a great deal of flexibility to meet students’ interests, but also providing multi-disciplinary and global approaches to their students, offering majors such as Global Islamic, German, Slavic, Italian, and Hispanic Studies. They have a particularly strong arts program (dance is phenomenal, as is fine arts). Sciences offer more than the usual choices for a school this size, such as Botany and Behavioral Neuroscience.

© 2016

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