campus encounters

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Search Results for: “Mills College Oakland

Albion College (Take 2)

Albion College (visited 3/25/19)

(Click HERE to see notes on my first campus visit on 1/30/15)

Albion sealAlbion College is doing some amazing things to keep up with the times in terms of job skills, majors to prep students in relevant fields, etc. However, the town – at least right now – leaves a bit to be desired. When the steel industry basically shut down during the recession and they weren’t making materials for plants in Detroit, the town took a big hit. However, Albion is different than many other small towns with Liberal Arts colleges. Many colleges have alumni that give back to the college itself. The alumni at Albion give back to the town. They’ve invested millions to open a hotel (we stayed there for the counselor fly-in; it’s wonderful), a theater, and a brewery (where we ate/drank the 2nd night: also wonderful!). The alumni want the town to thrive because they know that’s how the college and its students thrive. Additionally, Amtrak stops in town (and runs through campus) allowing students easy access to Detroit (less than an hour) or Chicago (less than 2 hours).

Albion train through campus

Amtrak running through campus. “You stop hearing it after awhile!” said one student.

What stood out for me are their Programs of Distinction: 5 specialized institutes, an honors program, and research to allow students to build on interests and skills.

  • Students in the Honors Program take 4 dedicated classes in different disciplines which count towards graduation requirements. They need a 3.5 GPA and write a thesis to graduate with Honors. All majors and all athletic teams “except men’s basketball” are represented in the program. They intentionally build a community through events like paintball tournaments, going into Chicago, ice cream socials, etc.
  • Institutes were created to help students look at how topics fit together. “Majors go vertically; we need something to help them think horizontally.” Institutes have their own criteria for entrance, and students must maintain a higher GPA to stay in.
  • Business and Management gives students opportunities to expand and build business knowledge through speakers, networking, and more. They offer a summer program (two 2-hour classes, 4 days a week) to prepare them for internships.
  • Albion 1Medicine works with all pre-health students for clinical shadowing and internships to make sure they’re pursuing the right path. They partner with several schools: 4 students got interviews with Central Michigan Medical for an assured entrance program; they also offer 4+1 Nursing with Oakland; DPT at UM-Flint; and DO, Dental, and Pharmacy with Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine. Over 90% of the kids who “work the process” get into med school.
  • Sustainability and the Environment fits with multiple majors because it’s interdisciplinary, but also has 3 of its own majors and 2 concentrations. They have a farm and nature center on campus. They take students on trips around the continental US right after graduation.
  • Leadership In Public Policy and Service takes 140 students from a range of majors to learn what policy is like and help make a difference in their fields. Students complete 4 elements: 6 courses (2 are exclusive to this institute), community service (required each semester), a lecture series (they must attend a certain number), and an internship.
  • Teacher Development offers Professional Development money for students who usually use it in senior year for student teaching.

Albion observatoryResearch: They provide a $600 stipend to students who get accepted to present a paper or poster at a national conference. Over the summer, 36 students are selected to do 6- to 10-week research projects campus. They get free housing, $380 a week, and a $500 fund for what they need (chemicals, mileage, etc).

Another great opportunity for students is the Philadelphia Center where they complete 32 hours of internship (they have to interview for the experience) and 8 hour of classes per week. “They do the adulting thing with a safety net!” They’d like to send 40-50 students each semester, but only 11 went last semester. They have students talk to landlords to deal with budget, location, etc. “It’s an opportunity to look for housing in a big city with someone there to help.”

Albion hanging scultures

Hanging sculptures/artwork

A couple students had this to say about studying at Albion:

  • “I love that it isn’t perfect. It’s a little rough around the edges, but it’s on the upswing. I can be part of the growth and improvement. It’ll be a great experience if I can look back and say, ‘I was a part of that.’”
  • “This wasn’t my first choice, but it came down to finances. Now I dread the thought of graduating because it’s been that great.”
Albion institute

One of the Institute buildings located downtown (about a 10 minute walk from campus)

We asked the panel about their favorite classes:

  • International Entrepreneurial Exchange: students in this is a 2-semester class were split into small groups and partnered with a graduate program outside of Paris to build a company. They built a travel app and went to Paris for a week; the French students then came here to help present at the symposium.
  • Social Movements: “It’s good to see someone else’s perceptions and being able to understand our own culture.”
  • Human Rights: “we went to the Jackson penitentiary, talked about the injustices of the CJ system in the US, how it does/doesn’t align with how the world perceives human rights and how we perceive people in prison. It was very powerful.”
  • HipHop and Social Change: “This was a big class with almost 30 people. Everyone had an opinion in that class.”
  • International Organizations: “We met in a conference room because there were only 10 of us. They knew if we didn’t show up. We did an online simulation game. Some of us were partnered up and assigned a country. We made treaties and traded, decided on type of government. We were arguing an hour before deadline to make a trade about nuclear proliferation. We were in all different majors, and we all knew what we were talking about.”
  • Public Relations: “It’s what I’m gearing towards and it gave me hands-on experiences. We worked with Albion businesses.”
  • Oceans, Atmosphere, and Climate: “Honestly, I had no interest in it, but the prof had all of us sign up for a 30 minute meeting, so he tried to make it meaningful. He said that he knew we were just here for the requirement, and it turned into one of my favorites.”
  • Arts Advocacy (honors level): “We ended up creating a student film festival! We were able to start something for the community and raise some money for the elementary school arts program. I know I’ve left my mark on the college with this.”
Albion equestrian 9

Part of the equestrian center

With over 50% of their student participating in athletics, “we rely on this to drive admissions, like many DIII schools.” Football is highly popular, but they also have an impressive Equestrian Center and equestrian team (both Hunt Team and Western). “Don’t make the mistake of thinking that this is less competitive than other sports,” said the Center Director. “Students have to do laps around the indoor rink for every minute they’re late to practice – and this is the largest indoor arena owned by a University in the US.” They own 46 horses, and even have 2 indoor “treadmills” for them when the weather is too cold or bad for them to get exercise outside.

Albion chapelRight now they have a 70% retention rate which is going up. They’ve implemented Peer Mentors (juniors or seniors) to the First Year Seminars to help freshmen meet benchmarks during the first semester on campus. “It’s building threads in their social and academic safety net.” They’ve also started the Briton Path, a learning community for students who need some additional guidance or organization. The class meets once a week, and there is peer tutoring, individual, weekly guided practice sessions (more hands-on), and exam review.

© 2019

Mills College

MILLS COLLEGE, Oakland, CA (visited 7/16/12)

Mills clock towerMills 1I was hugely impressed with Mills in every way – the people, the campus, and the programs. It lives up to the small liberal arts school reputation of paying attention to its students, and also of the Women’s College reputation of empowering people. They are proud of being “women-centered” with the aim of helping women (with students as young as 16 and as old as 95) and giving them room to grow. There are only two other women’s colleges in CA (Scripps and Mount St. Mary’s); Mills was the first west of the Rockies. The school is described as being a little more crunchy than the east coast. I’m not sure that’s so true in terms of the type of student, but maybe in terms of being more flexible with their curriculum. In 1990, the school was going to go coed. When they announced this (and it was already in the works to move in that direction), the students went on strike in protest. This has been the country’s only successful reversal of a decision to go coed.

Mills libraryThe students I met were poised, enthusiastic, and engaged, although I know that’s a bit skewed: they aren’t going to bring the unenthusiastic students to talk to us, and the students on campus during the summer loved it and want to be there. Their retention rate speaks volumes in terms of the fact that the college is doing something right. Not surprisingly, Mills’ goals include making the students feel at home, retaining the students who come to campus, and having students graduate on time. First year students are put into Learning Living Communities based on a variety of interests; there are two dorms set aside solely for first years. 80% of all dorm rooms are singles. Normally, at a women’s college it would go without saying that these dorms would be all female. However, as students move up, they can opt for coed dorms because Mills does have male graduate students. Housing options range from traditional halls to apartments; many of them are way up a hill – which is also where the dining hall is. Our tour guide joked that by the time they hike up the hill, they’re not even hungry anymore, and often forget why they trekked up in the first place.

Mills wish treeMills businessThe most unusual major on campus is PLEA: Political, Legal, and Economic Analysis; the biggest majors are psychology and English. An unusual component to the English major is the emphasis on writing. Mills offers a 2+2 nursing program with Samuel Merritt (which several other schools also partner with) and several 4+1 programs in business, public policy, computer science, and music. Any student in any major can get an MBA in only 1 more year with good advising; the only undergraduate option for business is to major in business economics, not straight business. The Graduate School of Business building is one of the newest on campus, built to be environmentally sustainable. Public Policy draws a lot of students because Mills is part of a new national project at the State Department level to entice women into public policy careers. Bio and Chem are strong and popular (so much so that they’ve had to add more class sections) with lots of opportunities for research, working with professors, and internships. There is no physics major. Not surprisingly for a college this size, classes are small; the tour guide’s biggest class was 40; her smallest was 8. The average size is 15. Overall, academics are strong, and Mills is one of only 5 schools in Northern California with a Phi Beta Kappa chapter. Lots of internships are available, mostly off campus, but some are done on campus, particularly in the summer in the science labs. Most of the students we talked to at lunch and who gave tours were science majors doing research. One of them said that the only thing she would change would be to put more money towards better lab equipment, but she recognized that she’s a bit biased.

Mills courtyardWhen we arrived on campus, they took us right across campus to the Alumnae House for lunch on the patio where we were assigned seating based on geographic area so we could talk to the admissions rep for our area and a student. Before sending us out on tour, the Director spoke with pride that Mills provides close attention and support it the students; the students and the facilities backed that up. They have multiple lounges for different groups of commuter students (Parent’s lounge, complete with toys; 23+ or the “old women lounge,” traditional student lounge, etc). Our tour guide was a non-traditional student and had access to the 23+ lounge so she took us in. There were several couches, a full kitchen, mailboxes, showers, tables, and white boards. She said that people will come in to take naps and write notes on the board asking someone to wake them up at X time, and people will. People here look out for each other; they want everyone to do well. For example, in the Arts Building, there is no competition for space. Everyone has their own studio, and the place is “humming at 3 in the morning.”

Mills archesCampus activities abound with a lot of clubs, traditions, and activities. The tour guide told us of a tradition that everyone looks forward to: the Rubber Ducky Races that are held every spring on the stream that runs through campus. Mills competes at the DIII level in 7 sports: crew, soccer, tennis, volleyball, cross country, track, and swimming; about 1/3 of the students participate. “Mills is small. We don’t have many of any type of kid;” this is good and bad. Cliques don’t tend to form, but it’s sometimes harder to form community. However, because they are so close to so many other universities and the resources of a large metropolitan area, students from a variety of places will join up to form groups or expand their circle. For example, the Jewish students join up with Berkeley’s Hillel, and the Mills students hosted a Seder on campus that was “very feminist and new age.”

Mills 1Oakland is urban and has the same problems that other big areas have, but they don’t feel urban at all. Busses run right by the front gate so they have access to quite a bit and the city offers a great deal to the students. They’re an active part of Oakland but also of the SF community so there are lots of interactions there for internships, shopping, and in art and music. Oakland is urban and has the same problems that other big urban areas have. They can take classes at UC Berkeley or 11 other schools in the Bay area after the first year. They run free shuttles, so they can take advantage of parties and social lives there if they want in addition to the academics

They receive 2800 applications for a class of about 325; students can use the Common App plus the Mills supplement in which they have to submit a graded paper from a class. Merit Scholarships range from 10-20K and applicants are informed of what they have received with their admissions decision. They do their best to meet full need with their extensive Financial Aid program if students file the FAFSA and Profile.

(c) 2012

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