campus encounters

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Search Results for: “Albany College

Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences

Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (visited 7/29/15)

~ACPHS quadCentrally located amongst hospitals, Albany Law, and Sage College, this unassuming main building on the main street opens onto an attractive campus behind it which is much larger than it appears at first glance.

ACPHS lab

One of the Pharmacy labs

Obviously, this is a specialized school. They know who they are, and they do it very well.

  • They offer 6 Bachelor of Science programs: Biomed Tech, Chemistry, Clinical Lab Sciences, Health and Human Sciences, Microbiology, and Pharmaceutical Sciences.
  • They offer a PharmD program.
    • This is accelerated and is one of the few Doctoral level schools that admits international students. Graduates can get licensed in many states, and international students can do a 1-year optional practical training program on their visas.
  • They offer several Joint-Degree Programs:
    • Several BS/MS degrees (Biomed Tech/Cytotech and Molecular Cytology, Pharmaceutical Sciences, and Physician Assistant Studies)
      • The PA program is 6 years: 3.5 at ACPHS and 2.5 and Albany Medical
    • A BS/JD degree with Albany Law
    • Healthcare Management/Clinical Management (BS or PharmD/MBA or MS)
    • a BS/MD degree with Albany Medical
      • This program is not accelerated; students still do 4+4 years, but the MCAT requirement is waived. Students must be US citizens for this program.

“We’re about getting you to the end goal,” said the admissions rep. The school provides the tools to help students do that.

~ACPHS library

Library and gym building

Students who do well here are fairly organized, type-A, focused, less Liberal Arts type of kid. Those who transfer out are split between those who change their majors and those who are not committed to the rigor. They like the community of a liberal arts school in a building crossed with specific goals.

~ACPHS student cntr

Student Center

Applicants tend to be fairly self-selecting, but they’re still a selective in admissions process, looking to bring in about 250 first-time freshmen each year. They are Common App exclusive and will superscore the SAT. They look for recs from a counselor and either a math or science teacher. International students must turn in the TOEFL unless English was the language of instruction for 4 years. For scholarships, the look at math, science, and composite scores.

Sophomore dorm

Sophomore dorm

~ACPHS track and apts

Campus Suites and the ACPHS track

Students must live in campus housing for 2 years, and upperclassmen who want housing can get it; usually seniors are off campus completing credit-bearing internships, so space is rarely an issue. They have room for 900 of the total 1300 undergraduates. Housing is spit by 1st year, 2nd year, and 3rd+ years. The tour guide really liked this system: “There are always people in the dorm taking the same classes, so when we’re stuck on something, there’s always someone to help.” The freshmen dorms were getting work done, so I saw a sophomore dorm. We went into a 7-person suite (1 double, 5 singles) that had a bath and common room. Even the freshmen dorms have bathrooms in the rooms! Campus Suites is a privately-owned apartment complex on the edge of campus. Students from all the area colleges can live here: the tour guide had people on her floor from Sage and Albany Law which she said was really cool. Students can have cars; parking is assigned by lot, but not by specific spots. The guide said she never had problems with parking.

~ACPHS dorm quad

Common room in one of the quads

Students can do some internships abroad. One requirement is a community health stint. They can do 3 weeks in Cambodia, Haiti, and others; usually they can choose from 8-10 international sites each year.

I don’t get the sense that there’s a ton of activities going on around campus. They only have 4 DIII sports and a few club sports. The gym is under the library and is shared by Albany law. There are a couple coed professional fraternities.

Although much of their coursework is geared specifically around their professional work, students have to take a 3-course history sequence and a communications course. Students can participate in the Hudson-Mohawk cross registration program and can take 1 class each semester off campus. It shows up on their ACPHS transcript as if they took it on campus. For example, they can do dance classes at Sage or languages at SUNY.

(c) 2015

Sage College of Albany

Sage College of Albany (visited 7/29/15)

~SCA quadWhile I was waiting to talk to the admissions rep and then go out on tour, I had the opportunity to speak with a student who transferred in from a community college, got his Bachelors at Sage, and is now doing grad work here. “I wish I had known to get involved more when I was an undergrad,“ he said.

SCA had been a 2-year college for a long time and had that feel of come, take a few classes, and go again. In WWII when there was a bigger need for medical field training, this school blossomed. It’s now a thriving 4-year college with extensive graduate programs; there are approximately 1500 students split about 50-50 between undergrad and grad.

Old armory

Old armory

I get the feeling that the campus activities program is getting more and more robust all the time. There’s definitely stuff to do on campus, there are several other colleges nearby, and Albany isn’t lacking for things to do – even so, the college is also trying to get more things on campus to bulk up the residential life. The DIII teams get a lot of support from the students, particularly the basketball, soccer, and volleyball teams. The old armory building has artificial turf for winter practices as well as for general student use. They hold things like Spring Carnival and dances there.

~SCA 1The campus is small and easy to navigate. It runs directly into the Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Science campus; they even share some privately owned housing, the University Heights College Suites. While these are technically on the ACPHS campus, they act as kind of the dividing line between the two colleges. Those suites are no more than a 6 or 7 minute walk from any other point on the main SCA campus.

~SCA 2All SCA students can take classes at Russell Sage (the other Sage College located in Troy) and even major in an area offered on that campus. There are some females who choose to be an SCA student and live in Albany but who will major in areas offered at Russell Sage. “I think it’s because of the boys,” said the tour guide. “I think they like the coed environment.” Both places are warm, friendly, and highly supportive. “You feel like a celebrity because everyone is always saying hi,” said the rep. People give hugs. People know who you are, and even professors are called by their first names. It’s a bad place if you don’t want to participate or have people in your business.

~SCA Art&Design“Academics here aren’t siloed,” said the rep. It’s not just art or bio or creative writing. Students can do applied writing with bio, business with art/photo, whatever works for them. A lot of the majors are interdisciplinary by nature already. For example, Writing and Contemporary Thought combines English, Philosophy, and Humanities. Law and Society combines Criminal Justice, psych, pre-law; students pick a track to focus on (ie, L&S with a psych track) so it turns into something close to a Major-Minor pair.

Ceramics Studio

Ceramics Studio

They offer a BFA in Fine Arts, Photography, Interior Design, and Media Design. The studios are spacious and well-stocked. Students even learn to make their own clay.

Students have the option of participating in several linked and/or accelerated programs. Students in the Business department can go on to earn Masters in Health Services, Business, or Organizational Management at Sage. Students interested in a Doctor of Physical Therapy can do a 3+3 or 4+3 program, completing an Applied Biology program at Sage and then continuing on for the DPT. An accelerated JD program with Albany Law is available for qualified students. The accelerated program holds your spot – but you still need to take the LSAT.

Admissions to SCA is test-optional except for linked programs with other schools. If students want to apply when they’re here, they can apply in-house. Generally, the Law program looks for an 1100 and a 90 average.

(c) 2015

Springfield College

Springfield College (visited 5/29/19)

Springfield sign 3Want to be able to say that you attend school where basketball was invented? Want to join a hammock club? Maybe ride for a club equestrian team? Springfield College could be the place for you.

I fell in love with this place! This was another school that I knew almost nothing about, but I walked away wanting to recommend it to several students. There are a couple things in particular that I think made it stand out:

  • Springfield waterThey own a 57-acre Outdoor Learning Center, technically called East Campus, located on the shores of a lake a couple miles from man campus.
    • There are bike trails, ropes courses, disc golf, and authentic SW pueblos which serves as a space for overnight retreats. They hold an optional pre-orientation program for incoming freshmen as well as camps for younger students. “We call it Challenge by Choice,” said the rep. “No one is going to force you to do things, but if you want to be challenged in this way, it’s here.”
    • Springfield bell towerThe tour guide said that the OLC is her favorite place. “The memories you make are so special. Running to find a blue racquetball because a whistle blew or kazooing your heart out for no other reason than just because you can is great.”
    • They offer a class called Outdoor Pursuits which is required by several majors, but it’s open to anyone interested in enrolling in it. The Recreation Management major and Adventure Education minor use this location extensively.
  • Springfield statue 1They have an active YMCA club and offer a minor in YMCA Professional Studies. I’ve never heard of another program like that – but the college was founded as a YMCA training center, so this isn’t entirely surprising. Students are heavily involved in tutoring, and last year there was a service trip to Peru.
  • “Springfield provides a really good safe zone system with required training. There’s real multicultural education here. I learned about disability acts, LGBTQ issues, financial equity classes. There’s a lot in place to make people feel included and safe.”

Springfield humanicsSpringfield’s mission is “Educating Spirit, Mind, and Body in Service for Others.” This comes across as similar to the Jesuit Mission, but Springfield is totally non-affiliated with any religious group. Rather, they model this after the Greek Humanics ideals that balance is important. Students not only know what the mission is, but they seem to have bought into it. It is embedded into the culture and the curriculum. Students buy into a seriousness of purpose when it comes to academics and decorum but also how to have fun. “We don’t cut corners in life so we don’t cut corners on campus. Students will literally yell ‘Grasshole’ to students who cut across the grass just to get somewhere more quickly,” said my tour guide. “People will absolutely go on the quad for recreation – you’ll see people playing Frisbee and hanging out. They just don’t walk on the grass to get somewhere more quickly.”

Springfield 4When I arrived on campus, the admission rep and I had lunch in the dining hall while we talked about the college. Choices were limited because it was summertime, but they had absolutely amazing chicken marsala, rice pilaf, and fresh vegetables (in addition to burgers and a sandwich bar). I was really impressed. The tour guide said that she’d rate food about a 7-8 (I would’ve said higher based on what was served that day), but “weekend food is a 5 mostly because there are fewer options.”

“There are so many leadership opportunities and support and training for that. You don’t have to be a Type-A person, but if you want to make a difference and develop skills and implement them, this is a great place. There are so many people here who will help you do what you’re passionate about.” They have more extensive academic offerings than I expected for a campus this size (just about 2,500 undergrads).

  • Springfield learning commons

    The Learning Commons: the 4th floor has a study lounge that overlooks the athletic fields. “It’s a great place to get work done while you watch games,” said the tour guide. She also said that the furniture was chosen by students.

    This is a good place for athletes and majors that revolve around that (Sports Biology, Sports Management, Sports Journalism, etc)

    • There is a massive athletic center (bigger than any I’ve seen outside huge DI institutions) with classrooms (especially for Athletic Training and Movement and Sports Studies/PhysEd majors and their coaching minor), Dance Studios (they have both a major and a minor, and Dance teams perform at halftime during football games).
  • PT, AT, OT, and PA are direct entry programs but are capped.
  • Education is big. Students are in the schools starting their first semester.
  • They have some visual and performing arts, but seem to offer more minors than majors in this area, including 3D animation, Web Design, Creative Writing, and Community Arts.
  • Internships are required and transportation can be found. “You can totally explore what you’re interested in.”

Springfield 6Freshmen are not allowed to have cars on campus, but there are shuttles around town on the weekends. There are also a lot of bus trips to Boston, NYC, Albany, and other places. There is a 3 year on-campus residency requirement, but 85% of all student live on campus. The senior dorms (townhouses and suites) are on the far side of the football field so they get great views of the games. The tour guide said that given the opportunity, she would put money into scholarships or to improve the bathrooms in some of the dorms. She also said that they can improve the number of People of Color on campus, but think that’s something that is being worked on.

© 2019

Nazareth College

Nazareth College (visited 10/18/15)

Naz 4

Nazareth tunnels

Nazareth tunnels

Nazareth College is wonderful: the students are active and articulate, the range of majors and the experiential learning prepare students to be snatched up by employers, and the campus is beautiful (complete with bells ringing every hour). For people worried about winters in Upstate New York – worry no more. Tunnels connect much of campus. It’s a safe, manageable-sized campus in Pittsford, a cute suburb of Rochester; the city is accessible, but the immediate area is reminiscent of a New England town (with the noticeable exception that the Erie Canal runs right through it!). Our tour guide’s favorite things to do off campus were Public Market (farmer’s market plus craft fair) and hockey.

Naz stained glassDespite the name, this is not a religiously-based school. The President told us, “We have a Catholic heritage, a Jewish President, and a Muslim faith-based leader. We have a chapel, a Hillel, and a Muslim association. We do it all.” They were founded by the Sisters of St. Joseph in 1924 but have been religiously independent and coed since 1971 – but they’re still approximately 70% female. One of the student panelists said, “Not too many guys would say this, but I wish there were more guys.”

~Naz flowers 2“The one thing we look for with every application is evidence that this is a good citizen.” They’re test-optional except for Nursing because they saw a correlation between SAT/ACT scores (1100 SAT, 24 ACT) and the NCLEX exam, and International applicants need to submit TOEFL scores. Admissions to OT, PT, and Nursing are more selective; physics is required for these majors. DPT applicants must have a minimum of 85 in all their math and science classes.

One of the science building libraries

One of the science building walkways complete with a play area for visiting children.

As a member of New American Colleges & Universities, “we’re focused on purposeful integration of liberal arts with professional programs for service to the community,” said the President. They run an amazing OT program and a 6-year DPT program to which students can apply as freshmen. Our tour guide was in the PT program and couldn’t say enough about it and the sciences in general at Naz: “I’ve composed aspirin, decomposed bug spray… it’s pretty cool stuff.”

Study groups in the around the science buildings

Study groups in and around the science buildings

Very rarely do you find clinics at a college this size. For a $5 donation, community members can get therapy on campus, allowing students to get clinical experience (under faculty supervision, of course!) early in their training. Naz built the new building because there was such a high demand that they doubled in size. They also have a cadaver lab; students in certain majors actually can do the dissections, and other students can watch what they’re doing. Every major incorporates experiential learning, and there are collaborative work spaces everywhere we went that were actually being used, even on a Sunday afternoon.

Their new programs include: Clinical Lab Science, Dance, 3+3 BA/JD with Syracuse Law, a combined 5-year OT program and a BSW/MSW with Brockport. Other programs of note include: Music Therapy (combines music and health/human services; students can audition on any primary instrument including voice); Toxicology; Technical Production; Community Youth Development; and languages (German, French, Spanish, Chinese, or Italian – or Modern Foreign Languages to focus on 2 languages).

~Naz sculpture garden

A tucked-away courtyard

Their music program (performance, business, therapy, education, theater, or general music) is phenomenal. One of the music professors wrote to the president of Elio Cars because there wasn’t music in the commercials; she asked if the kids could compete to compose the music, and they accepted. The same professor contacted Josh Grogan’s agent when he was touring through upstate NY and asked if he needed backup singers; he did, and 20 Naz students sang backup for his Albany, Syracuse, and Buffalo concerts. Talent-based music scholarships for NON-majors are available.

~Naz doorwayThe new Core requirements went into effect for students who are now juniors. A Rep called it the “The Uncommon Core: The starting point is the student, not available courses.” Students focus on a question to explore and choose classes that help them answer that question. This was designed to enhance the skills most important to employers – critical thinking, persuasive communications, and problem solving. Students complete an online portfolio in which they save one major piece per class as well as reflections. Papers are graded on the database so students don’t have a choice but to upload their work. They must be doing something right: they’re one of the largest Fulbright producers for their size category: 18 in the past 5 years.

~Naz arched walkwayDuring the student panel, these were some of the questions they answered:

What will you remember most when you leave?

  • My major. It’s been cool to see it develop since it’s so new.
  • Naz sends students to the National Chemistry conference – airfare and everything
  • Clinical experience. I spent time working in Jamaica and living in a hut.
  • Being in the orchestra. I thought I wouldn’t be able to keep up with music as a PT major, but I got to perform in the Bahamas with the national choir. I’ve made some my best friends there. It was really important to keep up something I loved.
  • I was part of the first hockey team.

~Naz doorWhat surprised you/what do you wish someone had told you?

  • How it’s changed me. I was dead set on majoring in psychology. I thought I’d help little kids, but I did an internship, came home and cried. I wish someone told me that it’s ok to change my mind.
  • The community feel on campus and within some of the departments. People are really helpful. I didn’t know how nice the professors are. I was used to boarding schools where you see teachers everywhere and thought it wouldn’t have that here, but they’re everywhere.
  • How prepared I am now as a senior. At an internship, I was the only sophomore; everyone else was a year ahead of me, and I beat out 200 people for the position.
  • In Jamaica, I was surprised at how prepared I was compared to people who had done 2, 3, or 4 clinicals already.
  • I didn’t know how cold it would get so quickly.

~Naz 3What would you change?

  • Make sports DII so students could get money. I dropped lacrosse so I had time for a job and my studies.
  • I love the size from the aspect of academics. I have awesome relationships with my professors, but I wish I went somewhere bigger for the social aspect. We don’t have Greek life, so that’s something I wish I had experienced.
  • I came in knowing that diversity isn’t where I would have liked. However, there’s been a great increase with international students and other forms of diversity.
  • Adding another eatery near the clinics. It would be helpful for students and for people coming for therapy.

Almost 90% of freshmen and sophomores live on campus: there’s a two-year residential requirement if students come from more than 30 minutes away. Currently, many juniors and seniors move off, but students get a $2000 residential grant every year they stay on campus as an incentive to stay. Athletics are popular; in addition to the usual sports, Crew is making a come-back (they row right on the Canal!), and they’re about to add a Women’s hockey team.

(c) 2015

Siena College

Siena College (visited 7/30-31/2015)

~Siena quad 2

Quad

“I don’t know what’s in the water, but Siena is all alumni can talk about” (and really, where else are you going to get to participate in the Blessing of the Brains before exams and then get bagels and bacon?).

~Siena statue

St. Francis

The type of education at Siena may not be available at other places. Yes, they develop competencies that they can get in a lot of places, but “we give them the way to understand the intersection of the relationships between them and the world, them and others.” The Franciscan ideals are strong and permeate everything they do. “We live in a complex reality; we help students figure out how to live in that world. We ask them to look at the ethics of our actions. For example, some people don’t want to hear the reality of global warming because of the consequences of it. Here, they can’t walk away from that.”

~Siena grotto

The Grotto

The Franciscans have a niche of inclusivity within the Roman Catholic Church. “Siena is proud to be Catholic but we welcome people of all faiths. We help them grow in their relationship with god in however they see it.” The pianist for the weekly masses is Jewish. There’s an interfaith chapel on campus that gets used by Muslim students (who also have Muslim Student Association) more than anyone else; they say they feel comfortable at Siena because people are respectful of their religious values. There’s an Eastern Orthodox and an Evangelical club and a grotto behind the admissions building where anyone can light candles, have services, or just sit.

~Siena 2It’s not even just religious diversity. LGBTQ students are out and accepted. Racial, ethnic, and socio-economic differences are celebrated. Students fall all over the political spectrum. People are willing to engage anyone and everyone in discussions about value, meaning, etc. Everyone is welcome – and people are just nice. A Brother once talked to a student who was thinking about transferring out. When he asked why, she said it wasn’t the place for her: “People are too nice here. I’m used to an edge.”

~Siena dorm 2

One of the freshman dorms

The brand new upperclass dorm that opened in 2014

The brand new upperclass dorm that opened in 2014

There’s no getting around this being a Franciscan institution: there are crucifixes all over the walls, and Friars live on campus. Masses (NOT mandatory!) are held frequently including at 5pm and 10pm in the dorms (to make it more convenient). Students take a religion class but can choose the topic; it doesn’t need to be on Christianity. St. Francis is frequently brought up in FYE and other classes like Ethics in Business. It’s part of the fabric of life here. “People really need to embody it.” The Franciscan Center for Service and Advocacy provides ways for students and staff to get off campus and but their beliefs into action with international trips, working in soup kitchen or Habitat for Humanity, etc. You name it, they’ve probably done it.

~Siena main bldg

Siena’s main building

I think my favorite part of campus was talking to the Brothers. They joined us for dinner the first night (I sat with one from a town in NH that I also lived in for 5 years!) and several of them gave presentations over the next day and a half. They were personable, funny, and down-to-earth, even Brother Ed, the college President. All the Brothers clearly loved what they were doing and wanted to be interacting with students – and it’s not just the Brothers. Professors tend to be in touch with alumni. “I’m having lunch later with a 2005 grad.”

~Siena mock courtroomAcademic opportunities here are amazing:

  • History buffs can take advantage of a semester-away program at Gettysburg (Civil War) or at William and Mary (Colonial History); both of these include internships at local historical sites.
  • 13 sophomores built a prosthetic hand for a boy in Columbus, OH. The group included 12 physics and 1 English major: “I thought people needed to know what they were doing so I’m their communications specialist.” They flew to Ohio to gave the boy his new hand – and he got to throw out the first ball at the game that night.
  • ~Siena trading room

    One of the trading rooms

    They have a Trading Room, and the Bjorklund Fund which allows upperclassmen trade with $250,000 of real money (“under the supervision of a professor!”) over the course of 2 years. They have to present the results: what worked, what didn’t, what they’ll do to fix it.

    • Professors really work hard to guide students into the proper area of business. “Finance isn’t marketing!”
    • Chad Bingo, class of 2015, developed and marketed the “I Gotta Go!” button as a sophomore.
  • ~Siena SAINT lab

    Part of the SAINT lab

    SAInT Center: Stewart’s Advanced Instrumentation and Technical Center lab has $3 million in technology used in industry such as Thermal Units, Mass Spectrometers, High Intensity Scanners, etc. Students get “extensive hands-on experience on a huge diversity of technology that they use from day 1.” One student did Coffee Research and found no difference in caffeine levels between cold and hot pressed coffee, but light roast has more than dark!

  • ~Siena telescope

    A permanent telescope used by the physics students

    Bonner Service Program: students complete 1800 hours of service during their time at Siena, earning a certificate upon completion. They’re paired with programs dealing with rural poverty, international populations, etc – including post-grad work.

  • Standish Honors Program (yes, related to Miles, back in the day”) is meant to rekindle curiosity.
  • The Center for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity (CURCA) allows students of any major to get involved in hands-on research. This summer, there are 117 fully-funded students on campus doing research.

Siena offers 17 articulation agreements :

  • The big one is probably the Albany Medical College Program. Applicants write an additional essay: What service project have you done that reflects the Franciscan values? To qualify, students need a 90 average, 1300 SAT or 30 ACT, and be in the top 10% if ranked. 44 applicants get invited for interviews (done by an admissions rep, a faculty member, and an Albany Med faculty member). They don’t do accelerated “because we think that the 4 years of the undergraduate allows them to develop into really great human beings.”
  • SUNY Upstate Medical University and Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine offer both a Dual Acceptance and an Early Assurance program
  • There are also programs for Dentistry, Pharmacy, Applied Nutrition, Physician Assistants, Occupational Therapy, and Physical Therapy
~Siena recycled costumes

Costumes made from recycled items on display in the Theater building

Applicants are somewhat self-selecting, and Demonstrated Interest is important. Students can use the Fast Forward Application, getting an answer 7-10 days from completion (the app, the counselor rec, and the transcript). SAT and ACT are optional with a stipulation: science and math majors need physics and pre-calc (everyone else just needs Algebra 2) OR test scores.

(c) 2015

Union College

Union College (visit 7/31/15)

Union's main quad

Union’s main quad

The ceiling and 3rd story of Nott where the study carrels are located

The ceiling and 3rd story of Nott where the study carrels are located

Union, with its sprawling quads and light-brick and stone buildings, is physically bigger than you’d expect for the 2200 undergraduates housed on campus. The iconic building seen in all the promo materials is Nott Memorial, one of only a few 16-sided buildings in the world and is now a National Landmark. Once the school’s library, it’s used for lectures on the first floor, an art gallery on the second floor, and study carrels on the third. “I wish I could pull an all-nighter in here,” said the tour guide, “but they do eventually kick us out.”

Nott Building

Nott Building

Unusual for a liberal arts college, about half of the students study math, science (including Astronomy, Neuroscience, and Geology), or engineering (specialties include bio-, computer, electrical, and mechanical with minors in energy studies, nanotechnology, and environmental engineering). Students who want to integrate the sciences into the humanities or business should check out their Science, Medicine, and Technology in Culture major or the joint Leadership in Medicine program, an 8-year program that allows students to get the Bachelors and Masters degrees at Union (MS or MBA) AND an MD at Albany Medical.

~Union 5Their facilities rival those at bigger schools. We stopped at the aerogel lab on the tour: it’s amazing! Two of the students, a sophomore chem major and a senior mechanical engineering major came out to explain Aerogels to us (“Imagine jello without the liquid”) and tell us about their research. First they passed around some samples and said, “Don’t worry about breaking them. We’ll make more.” They’re working on making these gels out of copper for catalytic converters because they’re lighter and much cheaper than what’s being used now. They’re currently replacing a car exhaust system in the lab.

As an interesting side-note, 80% of engineers study abroad in Prague (only 60% of the total student population study abroad). There are also plenty of clubs revolving around engineering such as Engineers Without Borders, Society of Women Engineers, and National Society of Black Engineers.

~Union 3All students take a FY Preceptorial Class (2 terms long with 15 students each) and a Sophomore Research Seminar. Students can choose to do either a thesis or a seminar/capstone class. There’s plenty of flexibility in academics: students can Double Major or complete an Interdepartmental Major which meshes 2 areas of interest. For example, one student is majoring in Climate Change, combining environmental studies and geology.

~Union dorm90% of students live on campus all 4 years. Freshmen dorm rooms are small-ish but livable, “and they get better as you go up.” The college just bought a hotel right off campus which is now student housing. “Having a bathroom in the room is a big deal.” Only 10% of seniors are “released” to live off campus: “People fight to get off,” said the tour guide; the admissions rep gave a different impression. I was left wondering how much of either impression was true.

Something really unusual at Union is the Minerva House System (named for the Goddess of Wisdom): all students are assigned to 1 of the 7 houses; these provide social connections across years and majors as well as leadership opportunities. House Councils (mad up of 15-20 people) determine how the $25,000 yearly budget gets spent. “There’s lots of food,” said the tour guide. Programs could be large like OctoberFest or smaller like Dinner with a Professor, Pizza and Politics (lunch once a week); Waffle Wednesday; Sundaes on Sunday. Each Minerva House has about 300 total students plus faculty and staff. Students can apply to live in their house after their first year.

One of the food options on campus

One of the food options on campus

There’s also a Minerva Fellowship; students apply to be selected to complete a global service project for 10 months directly after graduation (July to April) in 1 of 6 countries. In May, they are back on campus debriefing, giving presentations, work with the next group of Minerva Fellows, etc. I spoke with a recent returnee from Ecuador who was working for admissions through the summer and is off to law school in the fall.

Admissions is Test-optional but they will superscore both tests if they’re submitted. Interviews are recommended but not required and can be done on skype if necessary.

~Union dance pavilionAlthough Schenectady isn’t the most impressive of cities (it was hit hard when the GE plant all but closed), both the town and Albany (right next door) provide a lot of off-campus things to do. It’s also a transportation hub: the Amtrak and bus stations provides service to NYC (2.5 hours south) and Boston (2.5 hours east) and the airport is close. The Adirondacks aren’t that far north, so there’s plenty of skiing, hiking, etc. Ski trips are popular; for $20, students get transportation, lift tickets, and equipment rentals.

Jackson Garden

Jackson Garden

On campus events are plentiful, so there isn’t even much need for “escaping.” Hockey is big here and the only DI team. All others are DIII. Jackson Garden provides a 10-acre get-away right on campus. “Some professors come out here for class. It’s a great place to hang out.” One of the big annual traditions is Lobster Fest; an alum donates 1 lobster and a t-shirt for every undergrad.

(c) 2015

Williams College

~Williams sign 2Williams College (visited 7/29/15)

This is one of the few information sessions I’ve attended where the presenter gave more than just lip-service to the concept of fit. For example, she asked if classes of 13 seemed too big (no one) or too small (1 student) – and then told him that this might not be the right place for him.

~Williams env cntr

Williams’ entirely sustainable Environmental Center

Williams provides a great deal of opportunity for students to pursue what they’re curious about. Students must take 3 classes in each of 3 divisions but what they take is up within those areas is up to them. Majors are mostly fairly straightforward, but Concentrations (minors) are more interdisciplinary such as Justice and Law, Cognitive Science, and Public Health.

~Williams 2This is one of a few places that offers Oxford-like Tutorials: students are initially placed in groups of 10 then split into pairs. Students alternate between writing a 5-7 page paper (sent to the professor and partner 24 hours in advance) and responding to the peer’s paper (with a 24 hour turnaround). At Tutorial, they discuss it, usually with the professor simply observing. Students get really good at developing and defending a point of view. Half the students take at least 1 Tutorial (which are offered in all subject areas); most will take more than one.

~Williams 4Williams operates on a 4-1-4 schedule: 4 classes in fall and spring and 1 class in January (yes, it’s required every year). All freshmen stay on campus; after that, students can stay, do an internship, or study-away. Class offerings range from academic to experiential; all are Pass/Fail to encourage students to try something new or focus on a passion.

For the same reason, Study Abroad classes also come back as pass/fail with the exception of 3 Williams-specific programs that are graded:

  • Oxford where they’re considered full Oxford students and participate in tutorials
  • Mystic Seaport, CT focusing on oceanography. Part of the experience includes 10 days at sea on a tall ship.
  • South Africa: students study at the University of Cape Town and complete an internship.

~Williams sci cntr int

Intro science lectures can have up to 100 students (but smaller labs). One student’s largest class was “Chemistry of AIDS” with 75. Another student’s biggest class had 30 (Intro to Econ) and smallest was 7 (an English Seminar). APs can’t replace credits (ie, they must still earn a certain number of credits at Williams), but the scores can place students into a higher level and out of some of the biggest classes.

Most research funding (including Room and Board during the summer) goes to science and math but students can research anywhere. Our tour guide did research on Bilateral Relations with Russia and China. One math professor is a leading researcher on knots of all things. He took on 14 students to research knots. About 40% of those doing research will co-author a paper by graduation.

~Williams theater

The campus theater building

Williamstown is small (population: 7,000), nestled squarely in the northwestern Massachusetts Arts “corridor” with MASS MoCA just down the street. Arts are a huge deal here. The local theater is nationally known and draws big-name actors like Kyra Sedgewick, Kevin Bacon, and Bradley Cooper. “Here we are in this little town bumping into the Hollywood people.” William’s music, fine arts, theater, and art history programs are all excellent. The directors of MOMA, the National Gallery, the Gugenheim, and more are Williams grads: “It’s like we’re producing the Art History Mafia here.”

If small-town New England starts feeling too isolated, students can hop on a regional bus that stops on campus and head to Albany or Boston. The school runs shuttles to Albany and Grand Central (which may be subsidized for students on financial aid) at breaks.

~Williams Hillel

The Hillel building

There is lots of schools spirit here. About 1/3 of students play varsity sports, and stands fill up at games. Amherst is their big rival and has been since 1820 when Williams’ president took half of everything – faculty, library books, the money – and started Amherst. Several years ago, Amherst pulled a prank on Williams by carving an A into one of their fields. Williams retaliated by carving a B+ on theirs.

Most students (85%) live on campus. Up to 125 seniors can move off campus, but they didn’t have that many petition to do so this year.

~Williams dorm quad

Freshman quad

Entry Program groups together 25ish first-year students and 2 Junior Advisors to give them a “home base” and a family-feel to what is otherwise a fairly typical dorm situation. For example, they’ll do Entry Snacks on Sunday night for a “catch-up.” It is unique that they freshmen have 2 JAs grouped with them – but the tour guide bragged incessantly about how Williams mixes dorm-mates so they get to meet a variety of people – without realizing that many other places do this, too!

~Williams student cntr int

The “Main Living Room” in the Student Center

The main dining hall in the student center can get busy; at peak rush, “the wait can be 10 or 15 minutes, but there are other places to eat if you’re in a hurry.” Sunday “Kids Night” dinner (mac and cheese, chicken fingers, etc.) gets rave reviews, but the food is good overall. “This place has the best chicken tikka masala I’ve ever had,” said the tour guide.

The Outdoor Club is one of the biggest clubs; a $10 fee gets students access to everything they offer. Mountain Day (a surprise day-off from classes with picnics, hiking, etc) is a huge deal like at many other colleges. There’s also a day in the winter when classes are canceled for a day of skiing, sledding, and more, but students know about that in advance.

Admissions is highly selective, but they do accept about 40% of ED applicants “because it’s self-selecting and they often have a previous relationship with the college.” Applicants need 2 subject tests on addition to the SAT or ACT. “Don’t take both math tests, but other than that, choose whatever you want.” The Optional Supplement “really is optional. Use it if you feel like there’s something you need to add to the application.” Admissions is need-blind, and students need to submit both the FAFSA and CSS Profile. They do not offer merit scholarships; average debt at graduation is $13,000.

(c) 2015

Russell Sage College

Russell Sage College (visited 7/28/15)

~RS old bldg

The inside of one dorm

I want to move into some of the upperclassmen housing on the Russell Sage campus! They have some beautiful old homes with large wood staircases, vaulted ceilings, and large common rooms. In fact, “Age of Innocence” with Daniel Day Lewis and Winona Ryder was filmed in one of them.

~RS frosh quad

Freshman dorm quad

About 60% of the 800 Russell Sage students live on campus. “This is still a fairly regional school pulling students from the Capital Region,” said the rep. They would like out-of-area students to live on campus for their first year but do not require it. All freshmen are housed in one building in traditional doubles (and the health center is attached to building; “it’s really nice when you sick for the first time away from home,” said the tour guide). There are some triples but “they aren’t forced and they’re bigger rooms.” Upperclassmen housing provides several options including Honors housing (requiring a 3.4 GPA), French/International and Spanish houses (requiring participation in language and cultural activities), and several other options with singles or suites.

~RS old church

The old church

Campus is an eclectic mix of buildings. They have some older buildings with cinderblock halls that look like elementary schools of old – and new beautiful buildings. They own an old church that still has two original Tiffany Stained Glass windows. Sage Plaza (really the closest thing they have to a quad) sits in front of the church. The first Brueggers is across the street.

~RS dorm lounge

Lounge of one of the upperclassmen dorms

I hadn’t realized that this was still a women’s college; I thought it had gone coed several years ago. They’re one of the two Sage Colleges, the other being Sage College of Albany which is coed. Men from SCA can major here (and vice versa). Nursing and Education is housed on this campus. The Albany campus is a little more interdisciplinary (see separate blog entry for that). Shuttles run every 30 minutes between the Sage campuses.

~RS 4“We’re hardly in a convent,” said the tour guide. “RPI is up the road which is still predominantly men, and we have SCA guys in classes.” The students say that RS gives them a space to find their own voice. They’re there for school; everything revolves around them. Even the fitness center’s equipment is 20% smaller to better accommodate the females – and PT and exercise science students staff it, giving them more hands-on experience.

~RS lobby

The atrium of the science building with the school seal on the floor

The students have a great deal of ownership over their education because of the cross-registration which allows for increased flexibility. WORLD (Women Owning Responsibility for Learning and Doing) is a 3-class core that all students complete. Two of the classes are taken in freshman year and the third is completed senior year as a capstone. The tour guide’s largest class was her freshman WORLD class with 24 students. Her smallest class, Conducting, had 8. All students must complete an internship.

Unusual majors include Public Policy, Advocacy, and Civic Engagement (PACE); International and Globalization Studies; Creative Arts in Therapy; and Forensic Science.

They have more than a dozen accelerated or linked programs.

  • Physical Therapy or Occupational Therapy can be done in a 3+4 or 3+3 program. If a student has a 3.25 GPA, a seat is saved for them automatically in the graduate program. Otherwise, they’ll have to apply and hope for the best. I asked what would happen if they were close like at a 3.2. “If they’re that close, the professors are going to know it and get on their case about their grades. They’ll give them the support to get the GPA up.”
  • They have a 3+2 engineering program with RPI. Students get their math degree at RS and then the engineering degree at RPI. They can apply for this program at any point.
  • They have a 3+3 program with Albany Law or Suffolk Law. Albany Law is located next to Sage College of Albany so student can share housing there with grad students.

~RS4Traditions are a big deal here.

  • “Big-Little” is a Big Sister-Little Sister option that many students elect to be part of. “It’s a great connection to an upperclassman. Some people get really into it and meet all the time; others just do coffee one a month or semester.”
  • Each class is placed in a Cohort on a 4-year cycle: Blue Angels, Purple Cows, Red Devils, and Golden Horseshoes. “This gives classes an identity and a connection to alumni who might have been in the same named cohort,” said the rep.
    • Every year they hold a Rally, a competition between classes to raise money. Alums even come back for this.
  • Ring Ceremony: this is another optional event. Student can get a class ring during Junior year; they’ll keep it turned in until graduation and then will turn it out to “Face the world.”

(c) 2015

College of St. Rose

College of St. Rose (visited 7/29/15)

~St. Rose sign 2Have you ever dreamed of producing your own CD? Come St. Rose, win the yearly Battle of the Bands, and you’ll be able to do just that! St. Rose runs its own label: Saints and Sinners.

Or perhaps you want to work in a biology lab with animals like Skittles the tarantula and Bradford the mystery lizard. You can do that, too, at St. Rose!

The Meditation garden room in the chapel is used by people of all faiths

The Meditation garden room in the chapel is used by people of all faiths

One of the biggest surprises for me about St. Rose is that it’s no longer under the Diocese of the Catholic Church. It was started by four Carmelite nuns in the early 1920s; men (veterans primarily, at least at first) were admitted to evening and graduate programs after WWII; in the 1970s, the decision was made to go coed; the Diocese said no, but the Board of Trustees felt strongly that this was the way to go so they broke ties with the Church. “There’s still a relatively strong sense of our history, but there is no affiliation,” said the rep.

The St. Rose TV Studio

The St. Rose TV Studio

The school is still approximately 2/3 women, and almost 90% come from New York with New York City (about 2.5 hours south) strongly represented. More than 20% self-identify as ALANA, so the student body is relatively diverse.

The St. Rose Recording Studio

The St. Rose Recording Studio

Much of the work done at St. Rose is cross-disciplinary and based in real-world experiences. For example, it’s not unusual to see musicians working with Communications majors to produce work. The Hearst Center for Communications and Interactive Media is the only communication building in the US with the Hearst name attached to it. Students can study journalism as well as TV, video, and film with lots of hands-on experience. The school runs its own broadcasting studios and students then move on to intern at local stations. Jimmy Fallon is one of the most famous alums coming out of here; although he had dropped out of St. Rose 1 semester short of graduating (surprise – he took the SNL job instead of sticking around!), they gave him his honorary degree in 2009 (they figured he had enough life experience to qualify at that point).

Concert Hall

Concert Hall

Music is a fairly big major here. Music Education, Music Industry (they rank in the top 10 nationally for this degree), and Music Performance majors all must audition to get in. These degrees are either BA or BS degrees; they do not offer BFA in music (but do offer one in Studio Art and Graphic Design). They have a full music library in addition to an Educational Curriculum and the main libraries. Currently, they’re “80% Steinway,” said the rep.

Classrooms are left unlocked; students can go in to study or use the technology for presentation

Classrooms are left unlocked; students can go in to study or use the technology for presentation

Education is another large, strong department here. Options range from Early Education (birth – 2 year) all the way up to high school. Speech Pathology has become increasingly popular in the last several years.

Unusual majors include Forensic Psychology, Bioinformatics (part of the Computer Science department), and Biology-Cytotechnology. They also have a new Public Health major.

~St. Rose Business

The Business department

There’s a great deal of school pride here both from students and staff. Alumni donate a great deal to the college. The school does a wonderful job of creating community through their Freshman Experience classes as well as through Residential Life. Housing is guaranteed; 90% of freshmen live on campus, but that drops to about 50% after that. Campus is located in a residential area of Albany, so housing is easy to find. The college is actively trying to get those numbers up and have just built new campus apartments with a burger station in the building.

The main quad

The main quad

However, even those who move off campus remain active in campus life. Sports (DII) bring out a lot of fans (and Women’s soccer recently won a championship title). There are several traditions that the students rave about including Rose Rock (aka Spring Fling) which brings live music to campus. The favorite tradition, however, seems to be TPing the big tree on the Quad every Halloween. The President, after learning the hard way that this wasn’t going to be something that could be stopped, now throws the first one: “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!”

© 2015

Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts

Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (visited 7/28/15)

Once known as North Adams State, this 1800-student college is nestled in the small but bustling town of North Adams in the Berkshires. The students rave about town: “There’s so much to do! Mass MoCA is free, the ice rink is free on Tuesdays, there are movies, pubs, restaurants. We saw Lady Gaga last week at Tanglewood [about 45 minutes away]. If we want to get out of town, there’s any outdoor activity you can think of.”

√MCLA acad bldg 1Campus architecture ranges from beautiful old houses to almost-ugly 60’s and 70s buildings to a brand-new environmentally friendly science center that has solar panels and a wind turbine on top. Many of the central buildings are connected or only steps apart. For example, one of the gyms and the theater are both attached to the student center. Campus is not huge: “You can get across it in about 5 minutes.”

√MCLA quadEnglish, Business, and Psychology are some of the biggest majors, and (not surprisingly given its history as a Normal College), Education is strong. They also have Arts Management, unusual for a school of this size. MCLA offers 2 “Jump Start” summer programs. The first is a week-long leadership initiative for approximately 30 students each year called LEAD (Leadership, Education, Action, and Development). The Second is STEM Academy which takes about 16-20 students.

√MCLA outdoor class

Outdoor classroom

The tour guide could not say enough about the teachers. “I know it sounds really cliché, but they do care.” This is one thing that really surprised her about MCLA. She had been told in high school that college professors wouldn’t care about how she did, and yet the do. She went on to say that even the librarians care about the students. One of the traditions she loves is that at the end of each semester during finals, they order food for students and will go through the library to tell them that the food has arrived so the kids can take a break.

New tower dorms

New tower dorms

Townhouses on campus

Townhouses on campus

MCLA has a 3-year on-campus residency requirement, and 95% of traditional aged students live on campus. Dorms range from traditional hall-style double rooms to suites and townhouses, both of which have singles and double bedrooms and which can be coed by suite. Townhouses have full kitchens and house only upperclassmen (MCLA defines this as sophomore and up). The new towers have suites which will usually have 4 doubles and a single.

√MCLA gates

The infamous gates

Another popular tradition/superstition revolves around the gates. At the beginning of the year, freshman will enter the gates from the main road, meet the president and their peers, and then have a party. The seniors will walk out of the gates at graduation. Rumor has it that walking between the gates before then means they won’t graduate – at least on time. “I know someone who walked through them accidentally. He graduated a semester late. I like to think it’s because it wasn’t intentional . . . otherwise he’d never get out of here!”

√MCLA sci cntr 2

Science Center

The tour guide’s largest class was Intro to Bio with 45 students. “We met for 2 hours twice a week. Usually we’d have a lecture for half and a lab for half.” Her smallest, College Writing 2, had 8 “which is weird because that’s a core class.” Her favorite has been Behavioral Analysis because the professor would tell them real stories from the field.

In terms of admissions, MCLA is a state school so they generally have to follow the Department of Education regulations which include 4 units of math, one of which has to be taken in the senior year. “We have a tiny bit of wiggle room to admit a few students to don’t immediately meet the requirements but who we think will be successful,” said a rep. Usually this is saved for out-of-state students who may have graduated under other requirements. They will superscore both the ACT and the SAT.

√MCLA walkwayVery few students come from out-of-state: probably only about 10% come from outside of MA or the Capital Region of NY (technically OOS, but only an hour away – closer than Boston). These students make up about another 10% of the student body. Transportation can be a little bit of an issue, but certainly doable. “We have a student from Colorado who just grabs a ride with a friend to Albany and gets a plane from there.” There’s also a bus that will stop at Williams College only a few miles down the road. Amtrak also goes through Pittsfield which is about 25-30 miles away.

“Students who are looking for a small liberal-arts, New England campus in a great cultural center and who have a sense of community service or activism will do really well here,” said the rep.

(c) 2015

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