Rivier University (visited 10/18/16)
Riv is a place where faith matters – and ALL faiths matter. Started by the Sisters of the Presentation of Mary and Sister Madeleine of Jesus, this is a Catholic college, but they want students of all faiths – and of little faith – to find a home; they’ve created an environment in and out of the classroom for students to explore their own traditions (including having a Hindu Convocation; they have a lot of Indian students). For students who haven’t found a tradition yet, where do they find a spark that has meaning to their lives? Students can be who they are and figure out who they want to become.
Students at Riv can bump up against the edges; people are here to redirect and say, “try again!” Part of this exploration takes place in the Core Curriculum: Journeys of Transformation, a 4-year path to look at the big questions: Who am I and What is the World? Who is around me/who is my neighbor? How shall we live? What, then, shall we do? This is designed for students to build a reflective understanding of their lives and how they can contribute. The 2 required classes are Social Justice and World Religions.
“Students here are in the Striver Class. Our students are not entitled. They’re multi-taskers, and they’re focused. They generally aren’t political. It’s about life: getting the car fixed, picking up the younger brother.” From NSSE data, they know that there are a lot of students who work, and this is a supportive place for that. Many help out with families: grandparents, younger siblings, etc. There are a lot of commuters, so they’re intentional about when and where the co-curricular offerings happen. “About 50% live on campus and 50% commute, but 100% are busy,” said the college President.
If you walk into the dining hall, you see an engagement that goes beyond clique. Students intermingle with faculty. “This really is a place where we live the mission of transforming hearts and minds to serve the world.”
They recognize that students have a lot of options in terms of which college to choose: “You can get a business or nursing degree at a kazillion places between here and there.” Students tend to come here for a specific reason: a coach, the inclusive environment, the school’s willingness to work around students’ schedules. Many come simply for the location: They sit on the outskirts of Manchester (the airport is only 15 minutes; Boston (and Logan) are 45 minute south; buses to NYC are less than $20.
This is an international community so they have strong global initiatives on campus, and they’re taking intentional strives in diversity.
- Grant program: they’ve received several grants such as an NSF grant bringing in $600,000 for underrepresented students in the life sciences and a $900,000 grant for underrepresented students in Nursing. This provides Scholarships and internships.
- Experiential Learning trips to Senegal, St John’s (USVI), Costa Rica, China, and more.
- Global Scholars (Honors): qualified admitted students (3.4 high school GPA or higher) will be invited to participate after being admitted to the university. It focuses on looking beyond self: students engage in interdisciplinary academic seminars, leadership development, intercultural/service immersion, and trip participation. International travel as an option.
Career development is rolled into the content of classes. The Employment Promise is relatively new (I sat at breakfast with the Executive Director of University Career Services and the college President so I got a lot of information about it): if a graduate doesn’t get a Baccalaureate level job within 9 months of graduation, they’ll pay $5400 of SUBSIDIZED student loans or 6 graduate classes. (If a student does not have a subsidized loan, the only option is to take the graduate classes). To be eligible, students sign a contract that says they’re committed to being in the program; students must maintain at least a 3.0, meet certain yearly benchmarks (going to Career Development, meeting with advisors, etc.) and complete the 4-year, 4-tier program: 1) acclimation 2) learning 3) preparing 4) putting it together and reaching out. This year, 253 people are participating (out of 280 freshman).
Riv is test-optional except for nursing. The minimum qualifications (this does not guarantee entry) include having earned at least 77% in math and science (including algebra, geometry, bio, and chem). The Pre-Professional Health core is the same curriculum as the nursing program. Students can reapply at the end of freshman year if they didn’t get accepted directly into nursing.