campus encounters

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Coe College

Coe College (visited 12/6/19)

Coe quad 1Coe’s campus has a great vibe and has the benefit of being located within Cedar Rapids, the 2nd largest city in the state. Students who want an actual campus with green spaces will find that here, but Coe isn’t isolated; the city is easily accessed. “There’s a huge advantage of being 1 mile from downtown. They can walk in less than 15 minutes, and they can ride cities buses for free. You get a wealth of opportunities here.” Coe ranks #15 nationally for internship opportunities (nationally and internationally) and has been named a “Top Producer” for Fulbright winners. Students get solid academic training and multiple opportunities to put knowledge into practice.

Coe city map

A picture of Cedar Rapids showing some of the connections that Coe has around town

One of the first stops on the tour was the C3 (Creativity, Careers, Community) building, and I was able to talk to one of the people working there. “They can demonstrate to employers that they can do the work.” The entire point of what they do is to get students off campus and into Cedar Rapids and beyond. Sometimes they can leverage work-study so students can work in a non-profit in town! This is the first college I’ve heard of that has moved Alumni Affairs into the Career Center. The Alumni base is strong; there are over 4,000 in the local area who will reach out. “We understand the link between students and alumni! It’s rare that we have students with an interest where we can’t connect them to someone in that field.” There are some incredible opportunities for students at Coe:

  • Coe ampitheaterCurt Menefee, the NFL commentator, is a Coe Alum. He just announced a fully funded summer internship in LA for a Coe student focusing on Sports Journalism, sports management, or another similar field.
  • Sandeep Giri works at X Labs (Google) reserves an internship for a Coe student majoring in math, physics, or comp sci.
  • This is a Research Experience site, 1 of only 5 small schools funded by the National Science Foundation, usually reserved for grad students. They get housing, food, and a stipend. Usually about 60 students selected; priority is given to Coe students, but some availability for others to come (including Harvard).
  • Science faculty is internationally renowned, including glass research: they’ll send students to Corning, CERN (collider in Switzerland), etc.
  • They’re located in the Medical Corridor with major hospitals and clinics where students shadow for surgeries, complete clinicals, and more.
Coe dorm 2

One of the dorms

Fewer than 40% of students come from Iowa, so this isn’t a suitcase-school. Students tend to stick around. About 1/3 of students are varsity athletes, and games are a big deal. One tradition is for teams to ring the bell on the corner of the quad when they win. Ringing the bell also marks a student’s beginning and end of their time at Coe: they ring it during orientation and again at graduation. Greek life is fairly active, but certainly not the only thing on campus to do including socials between chapters and a lot of philanthropic work (including chapters that will pair up to work together). Coe was listed as one of the top 10 schools that “does Greek right.” They have a coordinator who oversees everything Rush isn’t delayed, and there is separate Greek Houses. Students who wish to live together are places on the top 2 floors of some of the dorms.


Coe field station board 2

White board where students expressed how they felt about the field station

There are multiple ways for students to study off campus, including May Term, a 3.5 week travel-course which go to a variety of places domestically and abroad — and Coe will actually pay for the students’ first May Term! They also offer a New York Term (which they call the “Ultimate Liberal Arts Experience”) and a Wilderness Field Station in Minnesota which runs 2 month-long summer programs.


In the last 7 years, they’ve been expanding their enrollment, so the physical campus AND curricular offering are expanding. The majority of classes have 10-15 students; intro level may have 60-70 in the lecture with labs or discussions of 8-12. About 40% of students will double major.

  • Coe art int

    Part of the Arts building

    The rep is partial to the curricular changes happening in the music dept:

    • There’s a musical industry emphasis. Students are releasing their own music on spotify. “the record label that they stay involved in is great.
    • They have pre-music therapy, musical theater, and jazz tracks.
  • They have a Center for Health and Society.
  • PoliSci: because Iowa is the first to caucus, they get a lot of candidates visiting campus. One of the students got a press pass for the LGBTQ forum that had 10 candidates participating. “She raved about her experiences.”
  • Coe fire pit

    One of the campus fire pits

    Students interested in direct-entry Nursing need an interview and have a 3.7 GPA and 27 ACT. However, the vast majority go through the standard application in their sophomore year. Regardless of entry, everyone is on the same path with classes in the first year. Usually about 30 seats are available so they can maintain one-on-one relationships that students are guaranteed for 3 semesters with a nurse practitioner.

  • They have an Organizational Science major
  • Students in Environmental Studies and Envi Sci have worked on expanding the campus sustainability efforts to include lighting from solar panels, a green roof on the student union, rain gardens, and a permeable parking lot.
Coe bell

The bell that’s run after athletic victories, by First-years at orientation, and by graduates. 

Athletics are a big deal, and the tour guide said that “the majority of students are athletes.” In their first year, they have study tables which he thought was helpful in his transition to college. Those are only required after the first year if they don’t have the required minimum GPA. Students like coming out for games; the community is very supportive of each other.

A few other traditions the tour guide enjoys include:

  • Flunk Day: on one day the spring (usually after break), classes get canceled, and there are activities. They announce this by running through dorms with air horns at 5am.
  • Late Night Breakfast when faculty serve breakfast at midnight.

© 2019

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