Aquinas College (visited 11/18/19)
Aquinas is a solid school on the outskirts of the 2nd largest city in Michigan; if you want the best of all worlds – a beautiful wooded campus with easy access to a city; strong academics (including some unusual areas of study) and vibrant social life; access to all sorts of sports and arts, a community concerned with sustainability, and a faith community if you’d like to take advantage of that – this could be the school for you!
Campus feels very much like a forest or a park. There are lots of walking paths, a stream running through campus, and trees all over the place. Campus is highly sustainable: they have bins in every building to separate out compost, recycling, and trash. Even dorm rooms often have them; the tour guide said, “They’re encouraged but not required.” Ratings Signs get posted in lobbies to show how they did this month compared to last, as well as how much waste was created, recycled, etc. We talked briefly to the Sustainability Coordinator; she said that they’re working on getting goats on campus to take care of the grass and invasive species. They run Saint Swap – students can donate 2 articles of clothing or other items they don’t want and pick up 1 that they do. Leftovers go to community members who need it. They’re also the first college in the country to have a Sustainable Business degree!
The rep said that she’s often asked, “What’s the worth here?” Like many places, the first thing she said was “Community,” but this seems to include on and off campus. “You’re in a city – but you get to be in a nature bubble within that city. Students have so many resources in Grand Rapids but also because of easy access to Detroit and Chicago. Students can get around town on the city buses for 25 cents a trip. “Downtown is great! There’s ice skating, museums, and restaurants.”
The admissions rep we spoke to graduated in 2012; she’s seen a lot of great new buildings put up since she arrived including the athletic center and a beautiful science center (they invested $32m in that!) “The growth in athletics is also great to see. It brings in a new group of students.” Aquinas started men’s volleyball about 3 years ago; there has been a huge influx of players. “ESports has been fascinating to see in new and exciting ways.” Basketball and soccer get the most fans. “Saint Slam is the introduction of the basketball team.”
There’s also been a change in students. She’s seen more kids willing to reach out and help. “I think students here have always been nice, but there’s more outreach and community service now. It seems like it’s more part of the culture.” This is still very much a region institution, but that’s slowly changing, as well. They’ll help first-time visitors from out-of-state (and the Upper Peninsula) with travel reimbursement IF they’ve been admitted before the visit: they’ll pay for flight and gas, but not meals, hotel, or the rental car. Of the 1400 undergrads, about 250 come from outside Michigan. Approximately 50 of those are Global Students (I like that they’re called this instead of International!). Global Food Fest is a popular new event where students will cook food from their nation/culture for others. All students and staff are welcome to participate, even domestic students who have spent time abroad or want to celebrate a family tradition.
There are multiple global offerings and opportunities to get involved:
- The Irish Culture program offers both an Irish Studies minor and an Irish Dance team that can provide scholarships!
- The Japanese Cultural Experience can link students to the Japanese community in town as well as study abroad opportunities and a minor in the language.
- The Spanish-Speaking Cultural program offers multiple service-learning trips, a major or minor, and other opportunities.
Classes, of course, are small because of the school size. The tour guide’s classes ranged from 8-20 students. They have more majors and opportunities than many other places this size.
This is one of the few schools I’ve ever seen to offer Translation and Interpretation as a major (and our tour guide was double majoring in this and Spanish).
- Students who’ve declared an education major take their first education class in 2nd semester; during this, they spend at least 40 hours in a school and must have an exit interview with a member of the Edu dept to make sure they want to continue in the major.
- Nursing is direct entry for students with a 2.5 GPA overall AND in all their math and science classes and a 1080SAT/21ACT. Technically, they’re doing their nursing through University of Detroit-Mercy: “on paper, they’re UD-M students but with all the benefits of being an AQ student. All their classes are on campus, and clinicals are here.” They have a 100% placement rate; 95% pass the NCLEX on the first try. They’re only allowed to graduate 60 a year by the state of Michigan.
Fine and performing arts are huge here:
- Students who apply for a BFA in Fine Arts must submit a portfolio for admission.
- They have multiple theater tracks, including Theater for Social Change, a dual degree with Business, and Technical Studies. They put on 4 productions a year.
- Music also has multiple options including Liturgical Music, music education, or concentrations in jazz or performance.
- They’ve partnered with Western Michigan for engineering: “It’s constantly changing since we’re learning and growing with it.” Students get an AA from Aquinas before completing their Bachelors at WMU in Civil or Industrial/Entrepreneurial Engineering.
- Accounting is excellent: they’re in the top 5% for CPA pass-rates.
- Community Leadership is also uncommon.
This is a fairly residential campus, but students are allowed to move off; this is in a residential neighborhood so it’s relatively easy to find housing in the area. The dining hall is great about food allergies. Everything is well marked, and they’ll send emails if there’s ever an issue so students can make decisions about where they want to eat for a particular meal – so if there’s an inhalation allergies, for example, they may choose to eat at a different place. The dining hall is open longer hours, and students can come in for soup and salad all afternoon. The popular meals are sweet and sour chicken and popcorn chicken bowl. We ate dinner there; lots of students were there, but there wasn’t any real wait to get food.
They start offering merit scholarships for applicants at a 2.7GPA and 980 SAT/18ACT. These are good up for 5 years. The AQ commitment says that they’ll meet 100% need for a student if they have a 3.4 GPA or higher. They will try to meet need under that but do not guarantee it.