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Brown University

Brown University (visited 3/21/14 and 4/30/19 — scroll to the bottom for additional notes from the most recent visit)

~Brown sculpture

Student-made sculpture on campus

Although we arrived late for the info session, we arrived in time to hear the Director of Admissions say that Brown looks for students with “Conspicuous academic success, an unusual level of independence in and out of school, and who are unusually devoted to scholarly life. The key word there is ‘unusual’ – if we could define it, it wouldn’t be unusual anymore.”

~Brown quiet quadBrown has the most flexible curriculum of the Ivies. There are no required classes, so people want to be in the classes they register for. Our tour guide said, “people are very in control of their lives here.” One of her favorite classes was her FYS – Italian Studies; she loved the integration, and she really got to work on her writing. Another guide told me that she choose Brown because “I wanted a place to balance me out. Everyone here has a passion.” One thing they would both change is the advising. “There’s almost too much. Everyone has different opinions and they think they’re right!” In addition to an academic advisor, there are resident advisors and meiklejohns (a peer advisor).

When the university was founded in 1764, it was criticized for being so large – with 7 students! Now, even with 6,500 undergrads, they manage to keep academic classes relatively small. They have one 500-seat lecture hall, but only 4% of classes have more than 100 students; 70% have 20 or fewer students.

Brown quad 4Campus is relatively spacious but walkable. Simmons Quad (complete with a statue of Marcus Aurelius) is the physical center of campus. From there, you can walk anywhere from that point in 7 minutes (less if you hustle!). This is only one of several Greens around campus. The Quiet Green (named for obvious reasons) has plugs on the lampposts so students can use their computers outside The main gates from the road open twice a year – once for the new freshmen to come through (“People applaud; it’s kind of a cool way to be welcomed to campus!”) and again for seniors to leave at graduation. They aren’t supposed to go through the gates except those two times “or they won’t graduate or get married.” This quad also is home to the College Bell which rings when Brown wins a football game or a major world event happens – “both equally rare,” said the tour guide.

~Brown Greek Quad

Greek Quad

Behind the Quiet Quad is the Main Quad; this looks more like a traditional college quad and hosts many of the college events including the much-anticipated yearly Spring Fling. They also have a “Greek Quad” with the Greek dorms. The school charter says that only half of the house can be Greek. The rest of the rooms have to be reserved for Independents. About 10% of the student body is affiliated.

Although housing is guaranteed all four years, 70% of seniors choose to live off campus. “Some off-campus housing is closer to academic buildings than the dorms are,” said one of the students. Juniors can move off, but it’s harder to do this so most wait until senior year – and they aren’t unhappy on campus. Our tour guide said, “I don’t leave campus much. There’s too much going on here.” Although it’s difficult to have cars (parking in Providence is limited), it’s easy to get around town, take day trips, or travel to get home. The bus and the train stations are a 10-15 minute walk from campus. A bus ticket to Boston costs $10 making it an easy and cheap outing.

~Brown Quiddich

Pick-up Quiddich game

Sports and Arts are both big on campus. There are 37 varsity sports (gymnastics recently won championships) as well as lots of intramurals including inner-tube water polo and cornball. Brown students can cross-register for 4 classes at RISD “but that’s pretty loose. I know someone who took 8.” Not surprisingly, they have a bunch of a cappella groups (what bigger school doesn’t anymore?) including ARRRcappella (pirate acappella), Jockappella, and more. There also have 3 improv troupes, and anyone can take part in theater productions. They own the largest Hutching-Votey organ in the world, and they hold four Midnight Organ concerts on “the 4 scariest nights of the year”: Halloween, the nights before fall and spring finals, and the night before the first classes in the fall.

~Brown organ

Hutching-Votey Organ

Not surprisingly, there are multiple libraries around campus. “The Rock” is the main library, shortened from The John D. Rockefeller Junior Library. Apparently, the Foundation was so annoyed that it was being shortened to The Rock that they wrote a letter to the Brown student body to say that they couldn’t call it The Rock; “Brown students in the ‘60s, being Brown students, told them that they were happy to stop using The Rock and would commence calling it The John. The Foundation changed their stance quickly!”

~Brown science library

Science Library

The Science Library, voted the ugliest library several years running, is the tallest point on campus with 14 floors; “the joke is that the books get more basic as you go up” (even the tour guide admitted to this being a bad science/PH scale joke!). However, it has been used as a huge Tetris game! Brown also has 3 “sacred libraries” which don’t allow books to be checked out. One has the largest collection of tin soldiers in the country (world?), flowers from Lincoln’s funeral, and apparently 3 books bound in human skin.

Brown ranks in the top 50 most expensive schools at $58K a year. “The Good News is that we have gobs of money!” said the admissions rep. “If the family makes less than $100,000 a year, there will be no loans; less than $60,000 there are no loans or EFC.”

© 2014

Brown University (visited 4/30/19)

“We’ve driven by who the students are. They’re the best thing about Brown,” said one of the admissions reps.

The admissions committee wants to know how the kids will stand out, who will take advantage of the open curriculum, and who wants to make connections between subjects. The curriculum “makes you really figure things out,” said one of the students. People who are excited about that will thrive here. “We nerd out about what we’re studying. You don’t usually get to take academic risks in high school because there are so many things you have to do,” said another student on the panel.

Admissions is need-blind, and they now have a home for DACA/undocumented students. They also introduced the Brown Promise which removes loans from Financial Aid packages. This has made Brown a much more attractive choice. This year, their admission rate dropped to 6.6% overall with 4.6% in regular round. The Dean of Admission talked about the fraud at some of the other schools. “The work we do is of the highest integrity based on fairness. They may not like the outcome, but it’s fair. It’s as holistic and contextualized as possible. The ones we admit are the ones who have earned it. We work closely with the athletic departments and have done internal audits to be confident that no one was involved.”

They dropped the writing SAT requirement and saw a 14% increase in First Gen applicants. They also saw a 21% increase in ED apps. Although they admitted about the same number as in previous years, they admitted a higher number of those who were deferred to Regular. This year, they offered applicants the option to submit a 2-minute video instead of an interview. More did this in the Regular Decision round; ED applicants went more towards interviews.

© 2019

University of Louisville

University of Louisville (visited 9/22/19)

Louisville seal

The U of L Cardinal seal. Don’t step on it!

Here are some fun facts about UofL:

  • A favorite tradition is the annual all-you-can-eat crawfish boil.
  • A graduate from the UofL headed the team of engineers that developed Astroturf!
  • The UofL marching band has performed My Old Kentucky Home prior to the Kentucky Derby since 1936.
  • They’ve been a top producer of the nation’s Fulbright Scholars with 12 winners last year, bringing the total to 133 awards since 2003.
  • They’ve been named the #1 friendliest public institution in the south for the LGBTQ+ community (and there’s a popularLGBTQ+ LLC option).
  • Louisville Thinker 1

    The Thinker statue in front of the library

    The first ever ER opened in 1911 at what today is the UofL Hospital where the first hand transplant and the first artificial heart transplant were done, and the Guardasil vaccine was developed.

  • UofL is 1 of only 13 colleges designated as a Supreme Court Repository. Justice Brandeis and his wife are buried here.
  • The have a First-cast of the First-mold statue of The Thinker in front of the library.
  • About 60% of freshmen entered with college credit. They were one of the first schools in the country to require that students get college credit for a 3+ on the APs.
  • OOS students pay about the same as in-state if they’re taking online classes.

Louisville flowersThis is a beautiful campus in an urban area (Louisville is the largest city in the Commonwealth). They’re holding steady at just under 12,000 undergrads and aren’t looking to grow; they don’t have the res halls or academic space to grow comfortably, but there are 2 new residence halls opening in 2021 and 2022. Dorm options include traditional, suites, LLCs, and apartments. There’s a 2-year residency requirement with about 70% of first-year students (and about ¼ of the entire student body) living on campus. However, all full-time students, even commuters, must have a meal plan. “It’s one way that we have been able to improve our food options and create more of a community,” said a rep.

Louisville tower aptsAbout 18% of the students join Greek life. Most organizations are purely social but there are some with housing, “usually the ones that were here first,” said the tour guide. Formal rush happens over the 2nd and 3rd weekends of the fall. They have informal “rolling” rush if specific groups want to increase their numbers. “Most groups are tight knit and active,” said one of the tour guides. “They’re very socially responsible.” They also have all Divine Nine Greek chapters (and as a side note, U of L is the nation’s top university for serving the needs of African American students, according to a study from USC’s Race and Equity Center).

Louisville interfaith

The campus interfaith center

Louisville is an interesting city. “It has a small town feel in a big city. There’s something for everyone in regards to identity and interests,” said the tour guide. “It’s a very Catholic community, but we have a lot of diversity on campus,” said the rep. About 20% of students come from outside Kentucky with the majority of those coming from Indiana – not surprising since you can literally walk there across the many bridges spanning the Ohio river to the north of the city. The city is home to many corporate headquarters such as Humana, Papa John’s International, Brown Forman, and KFC/Yum (Pizza Hut and Taco Bell) which allows for plenty of internships opportunities. The city is also a UPS hub; in-state students who work the overnight shift get their tuition paid (out-of-state students get in-state tuition applied to their bill) and $14 an hour.

Louisville 14“Even though it’s a larger school, it’s a 10-minute walk to anywhere on campus, not counting the football stadium.” The university has great sports teams with 20 team or individual national championships and 111 conference championships to their name. Students can buy into a monthly subscription plan ($10/month) that will get them into all football and basketball games. Other games are free.

Louisville 20For admissions, they’re looking for a 20 ACT (or SAT equivalent) and a 2.5 GPA except for Business and Engineering which have higher standards. Students falling under those benchmarks are put up to committee for discussion, and they may require additional materials. They’ll accept test scores directly from a counselor, but not from a student. They do not superscore for admissions or scholarships “but are ready to revisit that policy for Fall 2021.”

Louisville 4Classes aren’t as large as you might think for a school this size. The tour guides said that their smallest classes had 4 and 12 students. The largest classes for both had 200 students, both intro level. One of the guides (a senior) said that she’s only had 3 classes with more than 100 students during her time here. Their favorite classes were Psychology of Music (she loved learning about how we process sound and its effects on behavior); the other’s favorite was Ancient Greek for Translation. She’s in her 3rd year of the language and basically taking it for fun.

Louisville 19Academically, the top programs at the university include engineering, business, nursing, and natural sciences. They’re doing some interesting things with programs and academics:

  • They offer a 3+3 accelerated law program leading to their bachelors and JD in 6 years. They can apply their scholarship money to that 4th year which saves about 1 year of law school debt.
  • Engineering has 3 mandatory coops built into the program starting in the second semester of Sophomore year (except bioengineering which is on a different track). Biomedical engineering students have a 100% acceptance rate to med school and the highest percentage of women (they’re looking for 33% overall in all engo programs).
  • Louisville quad 2The Liberal Studies Program allows students to design their own degree combining 3 concentrations.
  • Music Therapy major is ranked as best in region. They offer a range of BM and BA in the School of Music including Theory, Education, Composition, History, and Performance.
  • Nursing is ranked in the top 60 in the country by USNWR.
  • They’re flipping the curriculum in classes in their newest building: lectures are sent in advance which students must watch. During class, they do homework, labs, etc.
  • A few more unusual majors include ASL Interpretation, Business Management in Equine Science (it IS Kentucky, after all!), Organizational Leadership and Learning, Atmospheric Science, and Pan-African Studies.

© 2019

 

 

Boston University

Boston University (visited 9/16/17)

BU boathouse

The Boathouse on the Charles with the sailing team taking the boats out

BU is located in a beautiful section of town next to the Charles River; while waiting for the info session to start, I saw kayakers paddling by. They were smart to offer a 1:30 session on a Saturday afternoon; not surprisingly, it was crowded. As people settled into the lecture room, they had a PowerPoint running with standard pretty pictures and statistics/information such as, “What’s your chance of being called on in class? 1 in 27” and “First university to open all divisions to women in 1872” and “In 1876, a BU professor developed a telephone in a BU lab.”

BU ArchHowever, I was highly disappointed in the info session. It could not have been more canned. They had a student there to help with the presentation which initially I was pleased to see, but it was so rehearsed and “game-showy” that it was hard to take them seriously. They said all the right things – accessibility to professors (“They’re more than happy to talk to you and they really want to know you!”), research opportunities, “You’re using a text book that the prof wrote,” … but it sounded like they were jumping through hoops and trying to check off the things families wanted to hear rather than being authentic and giving a sense of what it was really like to be a student on campus.

BP Hillel sign

Hillel sign with Shabbat activities

Luckily, the tour guide was a more personable and less scripted. I had a chance to talk to her a bit one-on-one as we walked back to the admissions office after the tour. I asked her for some of her insights into who would thrive at BU. Her answer was thoughtful: “People here get called out for hate. Gay people are welcomed here. Homophobes are not. People won’t put up with the bigotry. Also, there was a very vocal Trump supporter who went down to Charlottesville to march there. People absolutely weren’t putting up with that. He ended up transferring. If you’re going to openly hate on people, you won’t fit in here.”

BU beach 2

The “Beach” – in warm weather, there are students out here studying and socializing

She loves her education here as well the diversity. They have a huge international population (about 25%). Another 25% come from New England. “I chose BU because I wanted to get to know a lot of different types of people. However, it’s kind of hard to connect between colleges. I love my college (she’s in education), but I’m in the classes with the same 15 people! I came here because of the diversity, but the classes don’t always reflect that.”

BU T and bldg

An academic building with a T running along the main street in front of it

BU is a large private research institution; UROP dedicates $1million in funding for undergrad research. “Everyone is passionate and empower each other to do bigger and better things,” said the student in the info session. “They’re similar in that they’re bright, ambitious, driven. It opened my eyes that I’m not the smartest kid in the room.” As a major university, it’s no surprise that there are a myriad of academic colleges to choose from, and students can double major or complete a Dual Degree in which they earn 2 bachelors in 4 years (and attend 2 graduations).

BU academicSet right in the heart of Boston, it offers the best of both worlds: a residential campus in an urban environment. Campus is spread out: it’s only a couple blocks “deep” at its widest point, but goes a long way. Shuttles run up and down campus and to the medical campus. Off-campus, students have access to many discounted or free events such as $5 tics to Fenway. “They don’t go to Boston. They’re IN Boston,” said one of the reps. A tour guide said, “I live in Boston. I tell incoming students to have fun. Go to the games. Go eat in the North End. Enjoy it.”

BU townhouses

One row of townhouses

Housing is guaranteed all 4 years. Freshmen are often housed in large towers of traditional-style dorms. There are lots of brownstones with 20-30 students, mostly upperclassmen. All dining halls, kosher included, offer vegan meals. There’s no shortage of things to do with 450 clubs on campus (including a Beekeeping society!). A favorite campus tradition (according the tour guide) was Lobster Night: students get a ticket for a lobster with every meal swipe. The Beanpot Hockey Competition is a huge yearly event when the team takes on BC, Harvard, and Northeastern. NE and BC are the 2 big rivals. Bubble Soccer (in hamster balls) bring out lots of people as does the annual Pumpkin Drop run by the Physics Department. Students fill pumpkins with paint, dry ice, flour, and more, then shove them off a plank on the top of a 10-story building.

BU stained glassStudy abroad is an integral part of the university, and they have programs for all majors to study abroad. One of the Earth Science professors is a leading expert on the oldest ice on earth and takes people with him to Antarctica. There’s a freezer on campus with the oldest ice in the world! There are also Internships abroad, many of which offer courses for 3-5 weeks before students are sent out to work. The Global Medic Brigades is a club. Students can go work with that. “It was amazing and humbling” The Hospitality majors must complete 2 internships, 1 of which must be abroad.

BU unionWithin the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, they offer an option to join The Core, an integrated course that crosses disciplines by looking at the world’s great works of thinking and writing. It is designed so students take 2 classes per semester for the first two years, looking at humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. These classes fulfill several of the required distribution requirements, and those choosing to complete the entire sequence will have notations on their transcripts.

To be considered for their Presidential Scholarship, students must apply before 12/1, but no additional paperwork. About 1/3 of their class is admitted under the Early Decision round. The average unweighted GPA coming in last year was a 3.8.

© 2017

Jacksonville University

Jacksonville University (visited 2/12/16)

J'ville waterfrontSitting directly on the St. John’s River (which is one of two rivers that runs north – the other being the Nile), JU’s Marine Science Research Institute is top-notch. The city of Jacksonville is industrial, and the university does a lot to help lower the impact of the city on the local environment. It’s a “sweet water river” which flows out of the swamps. The water’s brown color has nothing to do with pollution; instead, it’s from tannins in the swamps.

J'ville Marine Sci Inst

Marine Science building

J'ville Marine lab

Tanks on the first floor of the Marine Science building.

The Marine Science building is new with amazing resources. The ground floor has tanks, flumes to simulate currents, and more. The 2nd floor has classrooms, labs, and meeting rooms. Several students were there studying; when I spoke to them, they were excited about the major and the school in general. “It’s an 8.5 on a 1-10 scale,” and “Tell your students to come here! The faculty ratio is great,” they said. They love that they can do cross-disciplinary work such as assessments of Coral Reefs: aviation majors fly the drone, engineering students run the tools, marine science majors examine the coral reef health. “There’s also an abnormally high number of people who start their own business,” said the Director of the program.

 

J'ville swing“Trans-disciplinary learning is nothing new here,” said one of the deans. This is the only school in Florida to require a class in economics: “Macro-economics requires a holistic view of the global economics.” The school invests in personal enrichment and community engagement. “The community today is the globe.” This leads to innovative research that students are excited about. “We are at the top 4% nationally for the number of submissions and acceptances for national undergraduate research conferences. We beat all the Ivy-league schools.” They had the highest number of accepted proposals (126) beating out even the top Ivy (Cornell had 115).

Business, Health Sciences, and Fine & Performing Arts are strong

  • Their Kinesiology program is highly hands-on and cross-disciplinary; one well-liked project is the bio-chemical assessment of athletes which lets students in that department work with biology, chemical engineering, and other students.
  • J'ville nursing lab

    Nursing department

    The Nursing department is selective; faculty interviews potential students as part of the admissions process. They have direct entry, but students can also apply during freshman year.

  • Their Emergency Nurse Practitioner program is 1 of only 7 in the country.
  • The Education department has a pre-school on campus for 2-5 year olds; students intern there all the time.
  • Business majors can specialize in International or Sport Business or Accounting.
  • The Fine Art Complex is amazing, including a glass-blowing major and minor. A
    J'ville glass 2

    The glass-blowing studio

    freshman gave us a glass-blowing demonstration and almost finished making a bowl in the 20 minutes we were there. “The oven typically runs at about 2200 degrees; it’s running cool today at 2000.”

  • In additional to the traditional types of art, students can also do sculpture, animation, illustration, and graphic design.
  • They have a Dance major in addition to Theater Arts.
J'ville flight sim 3

The Advanced CRJ simulator

The size and quality of their Aviation Management and Operations major surprised me. Of the 160 students in the program, 22% are women. When asked who attends here versus Embry-Riddle, the Director of the program said, “ERAU is more the engineering, building of aircraft, etc. You can learn to fly at either place, but if you want to learn the business end of things, this is where you want to be.” The flying aspect costs an extra $65,000 over the student’s time at school.

 

J'ville aviation bldg

Inside the Aviation building

NROTC has 54 students who take classes on campus; they’re ready to be commissioned right out of college. They participate in many local events including at the nearby base. They complete 4-6 week training cruises (or an equivalent: a Nursing student spent a summer at Walter Reed) all 3 summers.

J'ville outdoor work area

The outdoor working area with tables and electrical outlets

The new President, an alum, has invested a great deal of money into the university. He had been in the business world for a long time, and he’s invested in making the school better. “Our campus has never looked more beautiful. There are a number of improvements: a new residence hall for freshmen, a new outdoor leisure space (which is used extensively as a study place, and even has electrical outlets), and a new workout center. We’ve also created new scholarships to appropriately reward students.”

J'ville apts 2

Some of the apartment buildings for upperclassmen

There’s a 3-year residency requirement, but many students stay because of the new apartment buildings; the surrounding area also doesn’t get rave reviews, but all students can have cars on campus. The current president sent people up to look at UVA’s dorms and replicated them, adding study spaces, fireplaces, etc. They want to make the most of their location and their buildings. The River House had been the President’s house, but eventually was slated to be taken down for parking. When the current President came in, he nixed that: “we don’t need a parking lot with this view.” It overlooks the water, the campus pool and sand volleyball court, and more. Now it’s used for meetings, the Ratskeller, and more. Lots of students have cars on campus.

J'ville golf practice

The golf practice area

Greek life is very small, but sports are a big deal and they’re very proud of their teams. They currently have 501 student athletes, and 18/20 teams have a 3.0+ GPA. Retention rate among athletes is 94% with a good graduation rate. They’re DI “mid-major” (no PAC, Big 10, etc), including Beach Volleyball, Shooting, and Crew (“The women’s team is great! The men’s team… meh”). Campus has a practice green for golf, intramural fields, even an outdoor workout station. They just hired a Director of Ticketing, Sales, and Game Day Experience; attendance and school spirit is way up. The Athletic Director is also a full-time business professor who talked to us for a few minutes. “We win with honor and win in the classroom.”

J'ville art studio

One of the art studios

Students who have left have done so for a variety of reasons: some had bad experiences with a coach, didn’t want to go to class, wanted to hide in a bigger class, bombed their first year and lost a scholarship, etc. That being said, JU is “pretty good at second chances.” One student spoke of a friend who failed a class and was put on probation but dug her way out of the hole and is doing great now. “Send us your B+ students. We can change their lives.”

© 2016

University of Rochester

University of Rochester (visited 10/19/15)

~UR main quad

Main quad with the library at the far end

“We’re fundamentally a research university,” said the V-P of Enrollment. “Faculty are hired because they’re doing good work.” Rochester is nationally ranked in the top 10 for faculty research. Because of this, they’re looking for students who are, first and foremost, curious. “They aren’t asking what they should do – they’re asking why they should do it. We do a lot of things well, and all of them have some research component. We’re looking for students who are prepared – and hopefully excited – about that. If they don’t take advantage of this part of the university, if they aren’t connecting to at least one professor, they aren’t getting what they’re paying for.”

~UR students“We want quirky kids who will push the boundaries and ask probing questions – but not so out-there weird that they can’t live with a roommate.” Teachers go really fast; classes are full of highly motivated students. Rigor is the thing that unifies the entire community. The professors make great teachers because as researchers, they also know what it is to be a learner. They’re guiding the students on the journey, not worrying on Sunday night about that they’re going to say on Monday morning.

~UR walkway 3Because of Rochester’s curricular flexibility and no required subjects, they tend to have a lot of cross-apps with Brown “but we don’t have a wide open curriculum. We aren’t Brown or Hamilton.” Students still have to graduate with a broad curriculum, but it’s an education they come up with for themselves. “That’s part of the reason people need to be willing to self-advocate and ask questions. What’s going to make them a consummate scholar and professional in that field?” They build their curriculum around their interests: they must take 3-course clusters in the humanities, natural sciences, and social sciences (their major requirements fulfill the cluster in 1 division).

UR acad bldg 1Partly stemming from the fact that students are interested in so many areas, it’s not surprising that Rochetser offers some unusual majors such as:

~UR statue5,100 undergraduates study on the main River Campus (500 students study at Eastman School of Music: see separate write-up), making this one of the smallest research schools in the country. Almost 20% of students are international, one of the highest among research institutions. There’s also a great deal of other diversity: 20% receiving Pell Grants, and “We’re a majority minority institution. When I started here, we were 80% white northeastern students. That’s not the case anymore.”

Admissions is test-flexible: students need to provide some evidence that they can hold their own in high-stakes testing: AP, IB, SAT/ACT, or Subject Tests. They can upload a link to a creative or research project for supplemental materials. Every application is double-read. When the readers disagree, the app goes to committee. Last year, almost 1/3 of applications were sent: “I’m not aiming for agreement,” said the VP of Enrollment. “The most interesting discussions come out of this disagreement. Students who received one of the Rochester awards as a HS Junior have their application fee waived.

~UR frat house

Greek housing

About 90% of students live on campus. Dorms are pre-wired for Cable and students get a pass for HBOgo. If students move off-campus, someone from the Office of Off-Campus Housing will help check places out and read over leases. Students are thrilled with the events on campus. “I was really overwhelmed with the number of extra-curriculars. It’s a ridiculous amount of stuff you can do.” Almost 25% of students go Greek. Sports are popular both to play and watch; they’re DIII except Squash (which can only compete at a DI level). There are several big activity weekends or events:

  • Meloria Weekend (Alumni Weekend).
  • Winter weekend: the school brings in huskies; gives away gloves, hats, or scarves; sets up bonfire and students roast smores, etc.
  • Boar’s Head Dinner is a Medieval-themed dinner (not unique to Rochester but rare enough!). A different professor tells the myth of the student and the Boar, putting their own theme on it. There’s singing, juggling, etc.

~UR shuttle mapWhen students want to get off campus, they can take one of the city buses that stop on campus and cost $1. The school buses are free.

For people worried about winters in Upstate NY, don’t worry too much: a great deal of campus is connected through tunnels. The academic buildings on the main quad are connected, as are several of the science buildings. Dorms are not connected due to security issues.

~UR chapel

Rochester’s non-denominational chapel

Students are happy with Rochester and were hard-pressed to find anything to change – a couple seemed almost offended that we’d even suggest that improvements needed to be made. A senior said, “Currently, I’d say food, but it’s because I’ve been eating it for 4 years. Maybe they could have a bit more international food??” A Junior said, “Parking was an issue, but they’ve built a new complex, revamped how people get parking passes, etc. We used to pay for laundry, now it’s free. They’ve added all-gender bathrooms. They have options to check off male, female, transgender, and other on the application.”

UR atriumThe school does seem to be responsive to needs and things that students want. They’ve added study spaces to keep up with the increased enrollment. There are even sleeping pods in the library; these were last year’s 5K Challenge winner: every year, students proposals ideas to improve campus. Winners are determined by student vote and are given $5,000 to implement the idea.

One of the students left us with this thought: “You’re bound to be successful here. If you want it, you’re going to get it.”

© 2015

Colgate University

Colgate University (visited 7/24/15)

~Colgate 7The first thing that I noticed (other than the hilly campus!) was the very consistent campus architecture. It’s beautiful and well maintained. At the base of the hill sits Taylor Lake, a man-made pond supposedly in the shape of a 4-leaf clover (although we couldn’t see it). Campus is safe: our tour guide never heard of anyone using the Blue Light system for actual security issues. One student fell on it accidentally, and one got scared when a deer popped out of the woods.

~Colgate quadThe student body seems very preppy – and also book smart. One of the tour guide’s favorite traditions involves a symbolic “transfer of knowledge”: professors walk up the hill with torches at the beginning of each year; at graduation, the seniors carry the torches down the hill. Colgate students grab opportunities. Our tour guide got a free trip to Oxford in his freshman year for a debate tournament.

Sculptures outside the science center

Sculptures outside the science center

Classes, not surprisingly, are small. The average class size is 19. Our tour guide had about 30 in some of his intro classes. His smallest class (Intro to Philosophy) had 7 students. Unusual majors include: Astrogeophysics, Native American Studies, Greek, and several Environmental Studies concentrations including: E. Biology, E. Economics, E. Geography, and E. Geology. Unusual minors include Applied Math, LGBTQ Studies, Jewish Studies, and Mathematical Systems Biology. The science department has a Visualization Lab “which is like a hybrid between a planetarium and IMAX.” They can show the night sky anytime in history, anywhere in the world. The sciences tend to be relatively strong here: 70-80% get into med school on the first application, almost twice the national average.

West Hall

West Hall

Dorms are coed, some by floor, some by room. The Freshman Quad has 6 dorms; West Hall was actually built by students back in the 1800s when there was a physical labor requirement. Almost 1/3 of students are involved in Greek Life (rush doesn’t happen until sophomore year). Roughly 60% of affiliated students live in Greek housing located down on Broad Street. “They’re owned by the university so they’re bound by all the rules on campus.” The dining hall is open 24/7. Freshman and sophomore meal plans are unlimited so they can get coffee or a snack without wasting a meal.

Student Center

Student Center

A student lounge

A student lounge

There’s plenty to do on campus. They bring in lots of big-name speakers like the Clintons or the Prime Minister of Israel (the tour guide didn’t know if it was the current PM or not . . .). Dancefest, a twice-yearly event, showcases the 30+ dance and music groups including the all-whistling a cappella group. Sports are popular, and there are also a lot of club teams dedicated to the less popular sports that don’t necessarily have an outlet otherwise such as Fencing, Curling, Western or English/Hunt Equestrian, Rugby, and Figure Skating.

~Colgate 6The town of Hamilton is a small, cute town with a few things to do. “We’re not going to go hungry,” said the tour guide, but if you’re looking for hopping city night-life, this isn’t the place. Shuttles run around campus and town four times an hour from 7am – 1am (3am on weekends). Syracuse is less than an hour away, and there are plenty of outdoor events like skiing, snowboarding, rock climbing, and kayaking available, many of which are free to students through the Outdoor Club and other college organizations. There’s a long-distance bus stop on campus so it’s easy to get to other cities (including 2 buses a day to NYC). They also run shuttles to the Amtrak and the Syracuse airport (a round-trip shuttle to the airport costs $20).

ALANA Center

ALANA Center

Multiculturalism and diversity is big here. The ALANA cultural center has a full kitchen, offices, and meeting/class spaces; they hold brown bag lunches almost every week. There are multiple groups dedicated to a variety of religious, political, and cultural identities.

© 2015

Centre College

Centre College (Visited 9/24/19)

Centre quad 3There’s a reason that Centre is on the Colleges that Change Lives list. Students are “Happy, successful, and grateful” which shows in their freshman-to sophomore retention (in the low 90s). Combined with a 4-year graduation in the low-to-mid 80s, you have a recipe for a lot of success. When visiting a CTCL school, I ask students how the school has changed their lives. Here’s what 2 said:

  • “I come from a community where education hasn’t been important. Being able to see the world as it is, I’ve grown closer to my culture and community, but it’s inspired me to give back to a world that has accepted my identities. I came here as a refugee, and I understand myself better. I will treasure the mentorships.”
  • “The people change the lives of Centre students whether it’s a faculty member who says ‘try something new, don’t assume you know your path yet’ – or a student who gets us involved in something. We’re challenged to be better and go outside our comfort zone.”
Centre 3

The college’s “200 years” banners

This is Centre’s bicentennial year “which we celebrated by raising $200 million” – not bad for a small school of 1410 students sitting on 150 acres in a small Kentucky town! For the last 30+ years, they’ve landed in the Top 10 for percentage of alumni who give back to the college. This has helped grow their endowment to over $330M.

One counselor asked, “What’s here that offers opportunities to people from non-college going cultures?” We got what I think is one of the best, most thoughtful, well-reasoned answers I’ve heard: “We think it’s important and it’s intentional. They find people who are like themselves here. We’re not a place of privilege like many places like this. We aren’t overweighed with rich kids – that just hasn’t been the culture here. That matters. There’s an incredible culture of personal concern for students here. Faculty are invested in success of students that is different from a lot of places.”

Centre dining hallAlmost ¼ of the students are Pell-eligible, and about ¼ of domestic students self-identify as students of color. Just over 20% are First-Gen. “This is a great place to be a first-gen: they graduate at higher rates than continuing gen students,” said one of the professors.

Centre is almost entirely (98%) residential (even though only 40% come from out of state) which builds community, and it shows from walking around campus. New dorms are gender-inclusive. Students are happy and engaged with each other. We saw few people alone or plugged into their music. Campus is gorgeous and traditionally styled with meticulously maintained brick buildings.

Centre 4Although Presbyterian by heritage and maintaining “a loose connection,” you’d never know it by being on campus. Centre is open spiritually with multiple groups representing different identities. There’s a spirituality center and plenty of opportunities to reflect various beliefs. They create a safe space to foster faith (or non-faith). “You can be who you are while still learning about the other. They’ll often open convocations with prayers in native languages, in different faith traditions, etc. It breaks down the fear and mistrust of what they maybe don’t understand yet.” The tour guide said that she’d like to have a central intercultural center, a one-stop shop. Two years ago, they hired 3 diversity people and today they see lots of programming, training on how to be an ally (such as pronoun use), etc.

Centre lincoln 3We asked the students and faculty, “Why here?”

  • Students learn to perform: “They put themselves out there and learn to fail and succeed.”
  • “It’s the Centre Commitment: Students will graduate in 4 years, they’ll study abroad at least once (85% do it once, 50% do it twice; record was 7 times with graduation in 4 years), and/or do an internship or research. Study abroad is built into the fabric of the college. We’re not doing superficial tourism. Students dive into the culture and place. We balk at the word “trip” – students complete a rigorous academic course. They hit the ground with questions to ask. This is important especially because of the college’s location in Kentucky. We want to expose people to a wider context. Over half of the students come from KY and sometimes have never left the state. This is the way to open them up.”
  • Centre quad 2

    A view of one of the quads

    “We kind of own the high impact practices – our experiences in the classroom, the labs, etc – is off the charts. We’re really, really good at this.”

  • “We’re taking young people and shaping them as citizen leaders in whatever they choose to do going forward. They’ll have 3 or 4 more careers, live in several places. It’s the norm. The placements they get are to be envied which is a credit to a lot of people, including career services and the faculty.”
  • “It’s way more than providing an education. It’s creating an adventure. It’s a first-rate undergrad education, prepared for work in service, but be given a chance to go places socially, emotionally, academically to move beyond. We give them practice to be a person of adventure.”
Centre Norton 1

Norton Center for the Arts

Everything we heard from students, admission reps, Deans, professors – spoke to an educational experience that’s off the charts, in and out of the classroom.

  • “People can pursue diverse interests whether it’s cutting-edge research, the arts, or athletics.”
  • They operate on a 4-1-4 calendar that allows for 10-12 classes to be taught overseas in January. Pre-med students, athletes, etc go abroad which isn’t always the case.
  • The average class has 18 students with 60% having fewer than 20. The largest class maxes at 30. Teaching is prized: “It’s rewarded in merit pay and in tenure and promotion decisions,” said one of the Deans. Faculty members here have received many Kentucky Teacher of the Year awards.
  • The Norton Center for the Arts is an exceptional space, rivaling several I’ve seen at larger schools. It provide space for Visual/Fine Arts and Dramatic Arts majors and minors, and the venue brings the wider world to the students, part of the mission they do so well: they’ve hosted the 2000 and 2012 VP debates, Shanghai Ballet, Architecture festivals, and a myriad of nationally and internationally known performers. “The Norton Center is one of the most phenomenal things I’ve seen on a college campus: students can get behind the scenes, have international acts in their classrooms, etc,” said a Professor.

The students’ favorite classes include:

  • Centre skeleton 3

    Some of the skeletons in one of the Science buildings

    A study-away trip to Morocco and Spain: “We studied the three major Abrahamic religions. We talked to Jewish communities, the Conquistadors, the history attached to the other places and how they created community. Interactions with locals were amazing.”

  • Islamic America: “We traveled 10 days from here to Denver to see different states and how the Muslim community works there. I’m not from the US. To learn those facts and stories and to experience the emotions was fascinating.”
  • “Urban Economics in London, specifically learning how a local economy develops, why certain business develop close together, the banking system, etc. was great!”
  • “Churchill’s World about his life and world. I read more than I have for any other class and I loved it. I was eager to write the next paper.”
  • Acting Storytelling Class: “For my final project, I told an immigration story through my Dad’s eyes. It was powerful to learn his story and then share it.”

Centre quadAcademics to note include:

  • Over 200 students major in Economics & Finance, which is almost unheard of at a school this size. Students can prepare for finance and business careers without a business degree. They also offer a minor in Global Commerce.
  • “We have good participation in the sciences” including Chemical Physics and Biochemistry & Molecular Biology. They provide strong prep for professional schools: over the last 5 years, med school acceptance has ranged between 80-100% with 11-25 applying each year.
  • They have several new programs including a Data Science Major/Minor and Arabic
  • They’ve developed a graduate nursing partnership with Vanderbilt and an MAT partnership with University of Louisville and Vanderbilt.
  • This is one of very few liberal arts colleges with a Hot Glass program!
Centre arch

The arch between academics and athletics

Not surprisingly, they’re strong with service and leadership, including Bonner and Posse Scholars. “We’re engaged communicators, collaborators, leaders, and are community-driven. We get involved in a lot. We’ve earned our spot here and want to be challenged,” said the tour guide. There are over 100 organizations on campus and 23 DIII teams competing in the SAC. There’s a bridge arch “that symbolized the connection between academics and athletics,” said the tour guide. Centre beat Harvard in football in 1921 by one touchdown but haven’t played since: “I think I think they’re scared!” About half the students join Greek Life with deferred rush until spring. Frat houses sit on 1 side of Greek Row, sororities on the other “except the ones that switched awhile ago. I’m not sure why that happened,” said the tour guide. “They have a good track record of being safe, mentoring, taking care of each other.” A couple favorite traditions include:

 

  • Centre flame statue

    The infamous Flame Statue

    The Open and Close processions. Students are given a token with the seal to give to someone who made an impact.

  • Students run from dorms to the Flame Statue, around it 3 times, and back to the dorms – naked.
  • They put pennies on Lincoln’s feet for good luck.
Centre lincoln penny

Penny for good luck placed on Lincoln’s shoe

“Most students are curious. They want good grades but also want to understand what we’re talking about. We bring up controversial issues; students engage. They dig into literature and high-level arguments that don’t have yes or no answers. The students are ready, and we push them higher. We’re sensitive to the way we use test scores in admissions. We can say yes to people who are qualified to be here.” Only about 15% of the class get admitted through Early Decision. Common overlaps include Vandy, Rhodes, Miami of Ohio, Sewanee, Davidson, Kenyon, and Furman.

 

There are three significant programs worth mentioning:

  • Grissom Scholars: 10 full tuition awards per year plus a $5000 enrichment stipend are awarded to high-achieving, high-need, first-gen students. They’re looking for academic excellence (although test scores rarely play into that: they see a gamut of scores). “The recipients are good citizens, have significant school or community involvement, and are mature, kind, determined, joyful, supportive, and show exceptional potential for leadership.”
  • Lincoln Scholars: 10 recipients per year receive full tuition, room & board, and 3 funded summer experiences. “This is for students who believe they have the desire and capacity to change the world.” They look for students who are bold, selfless, unafraid, and passionate; who have integrity, courage, curiosity, drive, vision, and talent to change the world; and who are high-achieving students who are “bright enough” academically to fulfill their vision.
  • Brown Fellows: this is a more traditional merit-driven “big ticket” scholarship: there are 10 awarded per class, covering full tuition, R&B, fully funded summer travel and projects (~$6,000), and faculty mentorship. Students are intellectually curious, ambitious, focused, disciplined, and trustworthy. The University of Louisville is the only other school in KY with this program; sometimes they do joint cohort things. This is the only scholarship that has a score minimum (31 ACT/equivalent SAT) required by the funding partners. Recipients almost always have maxed out their high school curriculum and often gone beyond. “They’re typically more apt to be generalists. We’re drawn to the well-rounded kid rather than the ‘angular’ highly-focused kid.”

Centre “can be a bit of a bubble but town-gown relations aren’t bad.” Greek organizations and athletics do a lot of community service. The Bypass has lots of restaurants. Downtown Danville is walkable. “Dan Tran [public transportation] isn’t great but it works.”

© 2019

 

Johnson & Wales, Providence

Johnson and Wales, Providence (visited 4/29/19)

J&W sculptureThis is an amazing college for students wanting a solid education with hands-on components, students who want “to try new things, to succeed and even fail. We support them and help them transition.” Students start with their major on day one – but can work with their advisor to change. They can figure it out early if it isn’t the right fit. “This is the place to come if you want to learn and get a job. Students get hired.”

J&W chocolate lab

Chocolates lab class

J&W’s Providence campus is the flagship (with other campuses in Charlotte, Denver, and Miami). When students apply, they pick a campus but are accepted to all four. The school was founded by 2 women in 1914 before women were even allowed to vote – yet they started a major university as a business school to build opportunities for women and provide them with relevant skill sets in the work force. They still have strong business programs, including Equine Business Management (with Riding or Non-Riding options), Advertising & Marketing Communications, Fashion Merchandising & Retailing, and Restaurant/Food/Beverage Management.

J&W 2The Providence campus now offers 70 programs (majors vary a bit between campuses). Students are allowed to move between campuses, assuming their major is offered at the other location. The university offers Associates (Baking & Pastry or Culinary Arts) through Doctoral (Education) degrees. Students in the AS programs can roll into a related Bachelor’s program in the same or similar majors, including Food Service Management, Culinary Nutrition, Tourism & Hospitality Management, Dietetics & Applied Nutrition, or Food & Beverage Entrepreneurship.

J&W student centerThe university also continues to grow and try new things, as well. In the fall of 2019, 2 new majors are being implemented: Integrated Product Design and Comp Sci. In the fall of 2020, 4 more will begin: Sustainable Food System, Biomedical Science, Economics, and Create Your Own. They also offer accelerated Master’s Programs in areas like Addiction Counseling, Clinical Mental Health Counseling, Organizational Psychology, Data Analytics, Information Security/Assurance, MBA, Global Leadership & Sustainable Economic Development, and Sport Leadership.

J&W Harborside

The Harborside campus

Classes are capped at 40 (some are capped at a lower point because of the physical work space), but class size averages only 21. Faculty members are experts in their field, many of whom have worked in the industry before coming to campus. They can help with networking, internships, and jobs. J&W has cultivated relationships with multiple companies and has over 1000 internship sites. Students can start interning as early as sophomore year (but junior year is more common).

J&W 3Providence’s campus is split into two parts about 3 miles apart (less than 10 minutes depending on traffic), and students can live on either one regardless of where their classes are held. There is a separate equine center located about 25 minutes away (actually across state lines in Massachusetts!) with regular shuttles running up there.

J&W Downcity res quad

The residential quad on the Downcity Campus

Student parking is located on the Harborside campus because of space issues, and shuttles run regularly between the two sites. We had breakfast in large meeting room in a building that has a dining hall and a res hall. Some of the students have rooms that overlook the water! This campus also has the Cuisinart Center for Culinary Excellence. Their culinary program is absolutely phenomenal! All aspects of the trade are taught. For example, students take a mixology lab: they use colored water instead of actual alcohol (“it would get prohibitively expensive to keep dumping alcohol down the drain,” said our tour guide). For their final exam, they dim the lights and blare music to mimic the industry. They have to prepare 12 drinks in 12 minutes. There’s also restaurant on site that serves lunch and dinner to just over 60 people. Students in a sophomore-level class work the restaurant and rotate through all aspects of it to learn everything from table set-up to service to food prep. The dessert comes from the Baking & Pastry labs. Students rotate through all sorts of labs; materials and uniforms (collar colors indicate different programs and progression: the lighter the color, the further along a student is) are included in tuition. Students learn how to use everything and not waste things. They use cuttings as garnish, they’ll dry and grind up leftover vegetables for powers to flavor dishes, etc.

The Downcity campus takes up 6 city blocks; the same amenities are on that campus including a pretty residential quad. They even have a pet-friendly floor! There is a bit of commuter parking at this campus, but it tends to be pricey. Providence has great arts, music, and restaurant scenes. This is a great college town with several universities nearby (including Brown, RISD, and Providence College), so places cater to students. For example, there’s a nearby event center that sells tickets at 50% off 2 hours before showtime.

© 2019

Rochester Institute of Technology

Rochester Institute of Technology (10/19/15)

~RIT quad 2

~RIT fountains~RIT acad bldg 4I came away from my RIT visit well-informed and so impressed that I was already texting pictures of relevant departments to faculty at school and emailing students telling them to check things out. The campus is more attractive than expected (one of several nice surprises!); while a few buildings have a tech-school feel, most of campus has new buildings, trees, and green spaces. Quarter-Mile is the main thoroughfare, but it’s actually one-third mile long; its name came from a Greek fundraiser where people put quarters end-to-end to raise money. A large portion of campus is undeveloped giving Environmental Studies and other students an opportunity to complete surveys and other work on campus.

~RIT scupture 3~RIT art bldgWith 15,500 undergraduates, this is one of the largest private universities and one of the largest producers of STEAM (add Arts to STEM) graduates from private institutions. Students come from all 50 states (48% from NY); the 2,500 international students hail from 100 countries; there are 1,200 deaf and HH students on campus through NTID; and almost 2,900 underrepresented minority students. “RIT is diverse with people coming from all over. They’re friendly, welcoming, and don’t judge,” said one student panelist.

A student advertising the weekly activity schedule on the Student Center window

A student advertising the weekly activity schedule on the Student Center window

~RIT bleachers fountain

A fountain in the Student Center which had been the gym. These bleachers had been built into the foundation and weren’t able to be moved so they made a fountain.

This is a spirited community. Students were everywhere and engaging with people around them: walking in groups, studying or socializing in every building we went into, etc. These are not “stick-your-nose-into-a book tech nerds,” said one student. There’s a ton to do on- and off-campus including 1,300 annual on-campus events including free movies on Thursdays, Brick City Weekend, FreezeFest, SpringFest, Imagine RIT, Orange and Brown Fridays, student concerts/theater productions, sports, and performers (Macklemore, Michael J. Fox, Jon Stewart, John Oliver, Al Pacino, Maroon 5, and MythBusters, to name a few). Greek life hosts lots of events. Hockey (they have a new arena) is big with lots of traditions. Students look forward to the annual Haunted Trail (they turn the fields and woods into a giant haunted house and invite the public) and the Humans vs. Zombies game (campus-wide nerf-gun tag).

~RIT hallway

Students gathering in an academic building between classes

“We’re not looking for students who are interacting only with the machine. We’re looking for students who will interact with other students. Don’t bother listing something you did for an hour. Put substantial things on your application that you did regularly and are meaningful.”

RIT practices differential Admissions: students must declare a major and list first, second, and third choices on their application; on average, 57% of applicants are accepted, but this varies by program. For example, it’s far more difficult to get into Mechanical than Industrial Engineering. (Biomedical, Computer Science, Game Design, and PA programs round out the 5 most difficult majors to get into). The Deans give numbers to the admissions staff based on space. However, students aren’t stuck in that major: it’s easy to switch majors “95% of the time,” said an admissions rep. Much of it depends if there are spots available in the new major.

Undecided students have 2 options:

  • Students interested in areas that cross 2 or more colleges should apply for University Studies. They accept about 100 students a year into this program. Students may not graduate on time (but could) depending on how soon they decide.
  • Do an Undeclared/Exploration major in any of the schools. There’s no problem graduating on time because they’re taking the first-year classes right away.
~RIT science bldg

Students studying in the science lobby. Check out the floor and walls!

The high school record (GPA, rank, rigor, pre-reqs, grades in content courses) makes up about 60% of the admissions decision. Portfolios (if required) are sent to that school’s faculty and get ranked 1-6. If the portfolio doesn’t make the cut, Admissions will work with the applicant to suggest a similar area without a portfolio requirement.

~RIT atriumRIT offers more than 90 majors, 90 minors, and 40 accelerated dual-degree programs. Technology is woven into every major, but the Liberal Arts are also important: There are about 1000 students in the College of Liberal Arts, and all students must do a LA “immersion” – 3 classes in one subject. Some of their new, well-known, or unusual programs include:

~RIT labs

One of the many labs

Experiential Learning is crucial; many students graduate with a portfolio equivalent to Master’s level work. Their Co-op Program is the country’s 4th oldest and among the largest in the world:

  • Students complete 6,100 co-op education assignments each year with 2,100 employers in 50 states and 40 countries.
  • Students generally complete 4 placements over 2 semesters and 2 summers. They can’t go back to the same company unless it’s in a different division doing completely different work.
  • Students collectively earn $26 million annually.
  • Princeton Review has consistently ranked them in the Top 10 for career services.
    • 60% get employed by one of their co-op placement companies.
    • Graduates report a 95% placement rate: 85% in FT jobs, 10% in grad programs.
  • Some programs such as Mechanical Engineering take 5 years to complete but students only pay for 4. “I have 60 weeks of work experience: I worked for a company here for 48 weeks and was a supply-chain engineer and a mechanical engineer. I worked in Sweden working for Volvo. One of the big things I like is that it shows us what we’ll be doing when we graduate. The first week was pretty nerve-wracking. I felt confident going in, but getting there and seeing all the complicated stuff … we encourage people to ask questions. I’ve gotten more confident every time I’ve done another co-op.”
~RIT engo bldg

Student built projects in an engineering building

Other on-campus or nearby facilities help students develop sought-after job skills:

  • The Center for Media Arts, Games, Interaction, and Creativity studio helps students launch their own companies with high-tech facilities needed to commercialize computer gaming, film and animation, graphic design, and imaging science projects.
  • Their science labs – including clean-suit labs – are top-of-the-line and made us feel like we were walking through the halls of some high-tech company
  • Rochester has lots of cottage industries, fiber-optics, high-tech companies, medical technology, pharmaceutical firms, etc. There’s no shortage of internship opportunities.
  • Students get creative when internships are difficult to find. A Photo student on the panel said that “It’s hard to get internships in photography; they aren’t looking for interns.” She was paired up with a 3rd year student; they did all the photography for a department on campus.
~RIT infinity sculpture 2

Plaza and the Infinity Sculpture (even the art is scientific!)

Despite the size, most classes are not in lecture halls: 88% of classes have fewer than 40 students so classes tend to be discussion-based. GAs and TAs help in labs but never teach classes.

Global Village

Global Village

They’ve recently opened more student housing including the RIT Inn (an old Marriott) and the newly built Global Village housing 400 sophomores in suites. “They had been getting lost in the shuffle: we have traditional dorms for freshmen and apartments for upperclassmen.” School-owned apartments are ½ a mile down the road with shuttles running to campus. One complex only houses RIT students; the other gives first crack to students, then opens it to others. Greek housing, Special Interest Houses, and Academic and Lifestyle Floors are also available. Tunnels connect most of the on-campus dorms.

~RIT art bldgStudents had few complaints except that parking is difficult. Preferred/reserved parking costs $225 a year (General parking is $50). It’s not unusual to drive around for 10 minutes looking for a spot and then walking a ways to get where they’re going. Cars aren’t necessary except for some internships. Buses running through town are free to students on weekdays and $1 on weekends.

(c) 2015

Rhode Island School of Design

~RISD patio and skylineRhode Island School of Design (visited 3/21/14 — Click HERE for my 2nd visit on 5/2/19)

Providence is a beautiful, hilly, historic city with unique events with plenty of options for recreation; there are lots of street performers, vendors, Gallery Nights, and more including Waterfire (started by a RISD alum), an annual event on the river running near campus. With five colleges, Providence is a college town (and has been named as the #3 Best City for Foodies).

~RISD house

A Hill House

RISD is a highly residential campus. Freshmen and sophomores must live on campus, and 70% of all students live in university housing. Freshmen are housed in a centrally located quad: the four buildings are completely connected, including underground passageways. Most rooms are doubles with occasional triples in the mix. 15 West are the student apartments located above the library and a café. The university also owns Hill Houses, old houses with loft ceilings and great views that have been renovated into dorm rooms and shared spaces. Met is the main dining hall (located in the Freshman Quad) where the Admissions Rep, a RISD alum, said that “they actually use spices. I pay money to eat there.” However, if they get tired of the campus food, there are plenty of other places in Providence to eat.

~RISD freshman quad

Freshmen Quad

The education prepares students for the professional side of being an artist – not just through career services, but through how they teach them to think and create. The academics here require a lot of problem solving and trans-disciplinary approaches. They’ve actually changed the STEM acronym to STEAM by adding “Art and Design” with the idea that ideas are useless unless they can be communicated. A lot of alums are working in STEM disciplines, collaborating with MIT students, etc. They run a full Nature lab of natural-history collections allowing students a hands-on opportunity for a variety of projects. Risk taking and creative thinking are encouraged here. Students create board games, create a solution to real world problems, etc. In Spatial Dynamics last year, students had to create “3D but functional headwear” as part of a competition, and the creations were displayed in a fashion show.

~RISD patiosBrown and RISD offer a Dual Degree; students must be admitted to both schools separately and must write an essay explaining why this program is good for them. This is a 5-year program; the first year, they live at one school and take some classes at the other; the 2nd year live at the other school at take classes at the first. After that, they alternate semesters. Right now, they have a student who is Furniture Design major at RISD and studying Music at Brown. She wants to make her own instruments.

~RISD 2

Museum

Students must declare a major by March of freshman year. The Foundation classes average 20 students; other classes average 17 students. Ceramics and Glass classes are the smallest, reflecting the size of the majors. The school offers BFA in any of the 4 year programs (apparel, ceramics, film/animation/video, furniture design, glass, graphic design, illustration, industrial design, interior architecture). The BArch degree takes 5 years. Students need to complete 42 credits in the Liberal Arts including History of Art and Visual Culture, Literary Arts and Studies, History, Philosophy, and the Social Sciences. If they want, the students can complete a concentration in Liberal Arts. Many take advantage of the cross registration option with Brown. After freshmen year, students can take whatever they want there. Languages and Environmental Sciences (especially among illustration majors) are popular options. Many students also take advantage of the Wintersession to take non-major electives, liberal arts travel courses, and internships. 72% of students do an internship; 54% did 2 or more.

~RISD mural 4Facilities are top-notch. The Museum has many more things in storage than are on display, but the curator will pull anything from storage for students to work with. The library was an old bank and redone by faculty and students and is now named as one of the “50 most amazing libraries”. Campus is compact and walkable. Although the furthest building (architecture) is only a 10 minute walk, there are shuttles around campus (nice when they don’t feel like hiking up the hill!)

Although students will be spending a lot of time on work (“You’ll spend at least as much on homework as on studio work – at least 8 hours a week,” said the tour guide), there’s active campus life beyond academics. The 70 clubs/organizations keep kids busy. They even wrote and produced “RISD The Musical” (you can check it out on YouTube). “We have sports teams, too. They’re not very good . . . except for cycling. We have a lot of hills! But we have a lot of fans. We get a little rowdy!” said the tour guide.

~RISD mural 3RISD is Common App exclusive. Applicants must upload 12-20 images of best and most recent work (done within last couple years). They also ask for 3 images from a sketchbook/journal. Separate from this are two 16×20 hard-copy Required Drawings which should be completed in 1 day, and done on paper to fold up, put in an envelope, and mailed. Drawing 1 is a Bicycle (graphic only); Drawing 2 can be 11 related images (still on 1 page), a 2-sided drawing, or a Drawing instrument. Students can also attend a National Portfolio Day; they recommend bringing a friend or family member to help stand in line since it often takes a while to get seen.

Clearly, RISD is doing something right with their education. Ninety-five percent of freshmen persist to sophomore year, and 87% graduate within 6 years. Students and alum have won 9 MacArthur Awards (kind of the Nobel Prize for artists that comes with a $500,000 award) and 50 Fulbright awards in the past 15 years.

© 2014

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