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Rhodes College

RHODES COLLEGE (visited 4/22/13)

Rhodes 1 Rhodes statueI was impressed with Rhodes; it lived up to all the things I’ve come to expect from a Colleges That Change Lives school. Not only is it a beautiful campus (it falls into the small group of colleges, along with places like Bryn Mawr and WashU, with lots of gothic stone buildings), but they’re also rightfully proud of their “focus on the 4-Rs: Rigorous academics in the Real world on a Residential campus showing proven Results,” as one of the admissions rep puts it. They boast a high retention rate and an impressive 91-100% acceptance rate to grad school over the last 10 years, so they’re doing something right.

Rhodes Kappa DeltaThe admissions rep gave a very enthusiastic, quick overview of the school before splitting up the group among the 3 tour guides: “It’s their job to show you their home.” There were four college counselors touring Rhodes on the day I went, so they sent us out with our own guide. Rob was a fantastic, dynamic senior from Texas majoring in International Urban Politics; he said that we’ve probably never heard of it before since “I made it up.” Before leaving the office, one of the tour guides put a large map up to show us where we would be going. This was a great idea and helped us get a sense of campus; I don’t know why more schools don’t do this.

Rhodes Star Room

The Star Room in the library.

Much of the campus has a wooded feel; I drove up to the admissions office under a canopy of trees, so I wasn’t surprised to learn that the campus is a federal arboretum. When Rhodes built the new library, they had to cut down a few trees, but they incorporated the lumber into the building. Their library is now ranked among the top 25 most beautiful libraries in the world, and is one of two earthquake-proof buildings in the state, designed to “split in half.” On the first floor is “Middle Ground,” the 24 hour section of the library. Rob told us that it’s “where people go to pretend to study. You hear all sorts of typing, but people are really on facebook.” The rest of the library is where the real work gets done, and the floors get progressively quieter on the higher levels. The Star Room on the second floor was co-designed by the art students and the astronomy students. The ceiling has as astrological chart of the way the school looked on the night the university opened.

Rhodes 2About three-quarters of the students live on campus all four years. The freshman dorm we toured was great! It even smelled good. Rob had sent pictures to his friends back home who were at the state flagship university, and they were definitely jealous, comparing his large suite with stained-glass to their little cinder-block rooms. They just finished building a Junior dorm that acts as a “bridge” between the freshman and sophomore dorms and the Senior apartments (which have 6-8 rooms connected with 2 bathrooms and a common room). The junior dorm is a little more independent, has some kitchen options, etc. For students who want to move off campus, it’s easy to find housing. Rob rents a house from a prof with six other students. There are also housing options listed online in the Marketplace section of the website. There are no Greek residences, even though about 50% of students get involved in Greek life. The groups are inclusive with most activities open to anyone. Rush happens during the second week of classes.

Rhodes 4

Statue of the Lynx, the school mascot

Newsweek ranked Rhodes as the #1 Most Service-Minded school; students are active on and off campus. Like any campus, there’s a lot to do on campus, and the city of Memphis is easily accessible (downtown is about 10 minutes away). On campus, one of Rob’s favorite traditions is Rites of Spring in which there are concerts, parties, and other events. There are several unofficial “To-Do-Before-Graduation” things including jumping in the fountain, climbing the sphere (which was created during a contest between the physics and the chemistry departments – Physics won and then placed it outside the Chem department to brag), and riding the statue of the lynx (their mascot). Rob finds it funny that the lynx is in a fighting stance since real lynxes will initially curl up and try to roll away from danger. Rhodes’ fight song includes the line “Roll Roll Roll” which is like saying “Run away!!” . . . “kind of like what our football team does, so I guess it’s appropriate!”

Rhodes 2

Honor Code

Rhodes has a completely student-run Honor Code (1 of only 17 in the country). If there are violations, students get called in front of the council which deals with the entire investigation. Students could get expelled, but he doesn’t know if that actually has happened since everything that happens is confidential.

Rhodes archesRob appreciates having such easy access to professors and other adults around campus. The president gets rave reviews by the students, and I can see why. Although we didn’t know who he was at the time, he came out of an office as we were walking by, and he stopped to say hi. He talked to us for a few minutes and bragged about Rob: “I bet he didn’t tell you he’s already got a job for right after graduation, did he?” After he walked away, Rob said, “That was President Troutt. That’s pretty much what he’s always like. He talks to everyone!”

Rhodes sci cntr

Science Center

In the presentation at the beginning of the morning, the admissions officer told us that the average class size is 14, so we asked Rob what the reality of that was. He is currently in an individual study (so a class of 1) but of the regularly scheduled classes he’s taken, the smallest has been 3 (he’s had several classes with fewer than 10 students); his largest has been in the high 20s. He said that people here who succeed are engaged in class; students can’t get away with NOT be engaged in a school this size. “We’re all big fish in a small pond.” He knew two people who transferred: one wanted a specialized medical field not offered at Rhodes, and one was disillusioned by the size; his parents had pushed him to Rhodes when he was choosing between Rhodes and LSU. He likes that the students can utilize the resources of Memphis for internships and for research as part of classes. There are nine Fortune-500 companies in the area including FedEx, Auto Zone, and International Paper. St. Jude’s Research Hospital is nearby, and Rhodes is the only undergrad institution allowed to send students to work there.

(c) 2013

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

 

Messiah College

Messiah College (Visited 11/21/14)

~Messiah chairsIf you walked onto campus knowing nothing about the college (including its name), you would never guess that this was a religiously affiliated college. There are no statues, crosses, paintings – but in spirit, this is one of the most religious campuses I’ve ever visited. “If you aren’t interested in Faith, in exploring your Christian identity, you won’t be happy here. Our identity is right up front starting with our name. It doesn’t stop there,” said student panelist. Even professors sign an affirmation of Apostle’s Creed.

Stickers left on students' post office boxes

Stickers left on students’ post office boxes

The students live the school Mission: education towards maturity of intellect, character, and Christian faith in preparation for lives of service, leadership, and reconciliation of church and society. What happens when seemingly opposite ideals such as faith and intellect co-exist? One outcome is a discerning spirit. For example, in a philosophy class, they look at a problem and identify the longing for meaning. “They grapple with ideas from all angles in order to see the world’s realities in a much deeper way.”

The library

The library

They have 3 main focal points:

  • Sharpening Intellect: They prepare students to make a difference in addition to preparing for the workplace.
    • They offer over 80 majors, 11 new since 2011 including Chinese Business, Digital Media, Economic Development, Public Relations, and Musical Theater.
    • About 9% study engineering, almost 8% study nursing, and about 5% each in psych, Business Admin, Education, and Applied Health Science.
    • Several students have been awarded Rhodes, Fulbrights, etc
    • 95% graduate with a job, in grad school, or doing service like the Peace Corps.
    • I spoke with a music professor about the arts; they aren’t cranking out “starving artists.” Based on information from the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project, 85% of graduates are employed professionally as artists.
  • Deepening Faith: They work towards a unity of faith, learning, and life seeing the importance of the person with an ethos for mutual respect. Everyone is honored in the community with high standards for student conduct.
  • Inspiring Action:
    • Messiah is in the Top 20 US undergrad institutions for sending students to study abroad (76%).
    • 98% participate in voluntary service. “Service has been part of the DNA of the college since its founding.” Students foster justice, empower the poor, reconcile adversaries, and care for the earth.
    • Washington Magazine ranked them 5th nationally for commitment to research and public service in 2014. Students solve real-world problems, partnering with organizations like World Vision.
    • An Experiential Learning Requirement starts in the fall of 2014. Students must complete at least 1 Internship/practicum, off-campus study, service learning, leadership development, or research project.

~Messiah waterStudents attend at least 24 Chapels a semester, 12 of which must be Common Chapel. These 45-minute events are held Tuesday and Thursday mornings. Elective Chapel, which could be sponsored by a variety of departments or groups, is held on Thursday morning. Alternative Chapels are held in the evenings. Students have things to say and this gives them a voice. The variety of options acknowledges the different ways to engage in worship and allows students to decide what works for them.

There are no church services on campus; students worship at the location of their choice in the community. Volunteers from churches pick up the students. Several students said that their favorite meal was chicken cordon bleu which is usually served for lunch after church (and of the nearby churches serves free dinner on Wednesday nights: “free food goes over well with college students!”).

~Messiah 5Messiah has 2800 undergraduates: 60/40 female to male, 39% from 38 states, 11% underrepresented populations, 3% international. They’ve developed partnerships with Malaysian churches and recently enrolled their first Chinese students. The president is engaged with students: “Friend me on Facebook!” She talked about the motto, “See Anew,” and showed a picture of stained glass. Each piece represents the students. The value system is the foil that holds the pieces together. They embrace diversity through curricular and co-curricular activities.

A music class in the new Arts Center

A music class in the new Arts Center

They did a good job selecting students for the panel, representing a spectrum of involvement in ministries, athletics, student government, Honors, study abroad, etc. The Student Body Chaplain puts together Elective Chapels and works with students to encourage outlets and initiatives students are interested in. He spent a semester in Uganda at a Christian university. The athlete had gone to a Christian high school and originally wanted to get out of the Christian School bubble but got recruited for basketball. She has worked on diversity committees here. The Engineering student has been working with pumps on latrines to assist people with disabilities.

Campus life is thriving (which is good since there’s not much in walking distance, and freshman can’t have cars unless they’re from more than 300 miles away). Sports are a big deal. Students go to all games, “even swim meets.” Messiah is ranked 3rd in country for soccer fans, and the soccer teams have won 16 national championships since 2000. There are several traditions that students spoke about:

  • Marshmallow Bowl is the game against E’town, the big rival.
  • Midnight Scream: During the 24-hour Quiet Hours around finals, all bets are off for 1 minute at midnight.
  • Duct Tape Wars: a “battle of epic proportions” is held during Spring Reading Day.
Cafe and lounge in the library

Cafe and lounge in the library

Accepted students have an average of 1127 SAT/24 ACT and a 3.7 GPA. 100 students with 1300+ SAT and in the top 10% of their class are invited to the Honors program; they interview on campus to compete for largest scholarships. 40-50 students are conditionally accepted each year; they tend to have under 1000 SAT and less than a 3.0 GPA.

87.5% of freshmen return for sophomore year; 71.6% graduate within 5 years. Students leave because they change their majors, because of the distance from home, or they want less of the Christian atmosphere. 86% of students live on campus; there is an expectation that students will uphold the ideals of student conduct which includes not drinking while school is in session.

© 2014

Goucher College

GOUCHER COLLEGE (visited 12/10/13)

A student building a snowman on the quad

A student building a snowman on the quad

~Goucher art

Student artwork on a window ledge

“There’s an interesting mix of students here. Put ten of them next to each other and they won’t look or  sound alike,” the Director of Admissions Corky Surbeck told me. This rang true as I walked through  campus; people all had their distinct styles. Despite this diversity, there’s a real sense of community and pride in the school. Although there is no residential requirement, 85% of students choose live on  campus. The big question they’re looking to answer when admitting students is, “Are you willing to step  up?” The individuals look out for the whole, and the unit looks out for the individual. The school is built  on inclusion and cooperation; students integrate from Day 1 (and they’re doing something right; last  year, they had an 87.3% retention rate between freshmen and sophomore years). First semester, students take two required classes: a writing class and Frontiers (basically a FYE class). It’s capped at 15 students and the professor is the initial advisor. Topics are meant to be interests of exploration and interest and can range from Freedom of Speech to Biodiversity.

The observatory.

The observatory.

I asked Mr. Surbeck what distinguished Goucher from other CTCL schools. He listed two things:

  • Study abroad is required, and “127% of students study abroad.” About 15% go for a full year, and maybe 40% for a semester. Many do at least one 3-week intensive trip; many others will do more than one or the 3-week intensives plus a semester abroad. This year, they’re bringing back an International Business class in Cuba. One of their more popular classes is The Art and Science of Glass co-taught by a science professor and an art historian; they go to Romania for three weeks, but also do two weekends in Corning, NY before and after the trip.
  • Location: very few other CTCL schools are in such proximity to a major city (Lewis & Clark and Rhodes are the others that comes to mind). They are 2 blocks from I-695 (Baltimore Beltway) but you’d never know it. The highway gives easy access to several areas, and students can be in downtown Baltimore in very little time. However, shopping, dining, movies, or work all located within a couple blocks of campus. Towson University, a large state school, is only 1.5 miles away.

Goucher 5Goucher students can cross-register at classes at eight affiliated schools in the Baltimore area – Notre Dame, Loyola, JHU, Towson, MICA, UMBC, and Morgan State. Freshman cannot take academic classes  on other campuses, but can take advantage of any extra-curricular offering; after that, they can register for two classes in each of the following years. Technically, 15% of space is set aside for cross-registration but that rarely becomes an issue. Mr. Surbeck estimates that 15-20% of students will cross-register and wishes that more students would take advantage of that. Most are happy with the offerings on campus or are taking advantage of study-abroad options so they don’t go to other campuses.

I got to talk to several students before going on tour:

  •  A junior philosophy and sociology major from NJ. He is studying abroad in Prague soon. He said he found Goucher “serendipitously” when he got a postcard in the mail.
  • Hillel room

    Hillel room

    Yashe, a Junior from just outside of Pittsburgh, who is majoring in Psychology and Russian. He’s hoping to spend a semester in Russia next term and is waiting for his final visas and other paperwork to come through. He was looking for a small school with a Hillel.

  •  Liz, a sophomore from Virginia, who wanted a school with a good dance program. She came up to audition and then again for admitted student day. She loved the people here and made his final decision after meeting everyone.
  • Blake from NH was looking for a Dance program. He’s hoping to do the Dance Intensive program in Taiwan. He loved the location and the opportunities.
  •  An international business and Spanish student from Atlanta. She originally did NOT like the school and wasn’t going to come here, but her mother made her come back for admitted student day; she loved the interactions with students she had when she visited and that changed her mind.
Lounge with a whiteboard running the length of the room

Lounge with a whiteboard running the length of the room

The students’ favorite classes have been: Distress and Disorder (psych); 3 Frontiers classes (Surveillance in Cinema, one on Shakespeare in which it was related to today, other movies, etc., Apocalypse (looking at fears); Existentialism and Theater; Social Deviance; Art and Activism (the Beat poets, Woody Guthrie, etc).

Things they would like to change would be to get AC in freshman dorms, adding Greek life, scholarships, providing scholarships for study abroad programs, and perhaps making the student body a little bigger. “There isn’t a lot of personal time here; it’s good in some ways, but because there are always people around, there’s not much privacy.”

The forum in the Anthaceum (the Library)

The forum in the Anthaceum (the Library)

~Goucher treeThey have a “small but fabulous theater major and minor.” They put on 3-5 shows each semester.  Playworks, which is put on every fall, is completely student run. The black box theater is a great space  with chairs and platforms that can be moved around to create any configuration they want. It’s clearly  easy for students to get involved in any activity without majoring in a particular field: the Head Tech  guy is an English major and the Head of Student Government (and he gets paid for his work in the  theater!). Sports are DIII except the Equestrian program which is DI. Students can bring their own  horse or use one of the college’s horses. Students who want to learn to ride can take horseback riding as  one of their PE requirements. There are two a capella groups (one coed and one all women), and musicians take advantage of the non-denominational chapel which has great acoustics and a full organ. Performers also can showcase talent at the student-run Gopher Hole Café (open 9pm-2am) where thy have music and open mic like a club space. The library (Anthaceum) is a Gold LEED certified building with a Forum which seats 800 plus additional standing room.

(c) 2014

Millsaps College

MILLSAPS COLLEGE (visited 4/22/13)

Millsaps 1

A view of the wooded Millsaps campus

Millsaps is the most wooded campus I’ve ever seen. Lots of campuses have trees; Millsaps has TREES – to the extent that it’s hard to see the buildings sometimes! Seven gardens and several statues are scattered through campus. One statue is of Gandhi; students have a tradition to fist-bump him on the way to an exam if they want an A. One of the gardens has both the “M-Bench” (rumor says that if you kiss your girlfriend/boyfriend on the bench, you’ll get married) and Major Millsaps’ tomb (and yes, he’s really there. He and his wife didn’t have their own children, but wanted to be buried among the students who studied at the institution he helped to found). The campus is gorgeous and feels calm, even with students walking around.

P1010488

1 of the 7 gardens; this 1 has the M Bench and Major Millsaps’ tomb.

Campus is small, easy to get around, and safe. There are very few blue lights, but the tour guides don’t feel like that’s a problem. They can call 1234 from any phone on campus to get help if necessary, but they didn’t know anyone who had ever needed to call. The campus landmark is the Bell Tower; there’s no bell in it, but it is wired for sound. Someone once hacked in hip-hop music that played all over campus. The three-story “Academic Complex” is the only unattractive building on campus. Students can swipe into several buildings over the weekend to work there. Both tour guides like to study in the classrooms because of the whiteboard access. The Bowl is their main quad with a large student center on one side (which houses the Post Office, Career Center, the main dining hall, a grab-and-go food station, the nurse and more). The Seal is located in The Bowl. One of the tour guide’s favorite traditions happens on the last night of Orientation (night before classes start): “Reverse graduation” welcomes freshmen into the campus community. They walk the over the seal in the opposite direction that the seniors do on graduation and they get greeted by upperclassmen and faculty.

A view of a divided Freshman dorm room. Beds are on the far side of the closets.

A view of a divided Freshman dorm room. Beds are on the far side of the closets.

Millsaps 4

One of the freshman dorms with the courtyard where students bbq.

The freshmen dorms leave a lot to be desired. All the freshmen live in these traditional cinderblock buildings. However, it’s not one of the things that the tour guides said they’d improve. “It was a bonding experience.” The nice thing about the dorm rooms was the divider in the room with the beds on one side and desks on the other which allows one roommate to sleep in relative privacy and darkness if the other one is still up working. Another nice thing is the Baco Courtyard outside the freshmen dorm with grills and other amenities. After freshmen year the students can move into suites.

Millsaps is a member of Colleges that Change Lives and it’s clear why. The admissions rep talked about “our scholars” not “our students.” This is the first college I’ve visited that requires all students to complete Senior Comps comprised of a paper and both a written and an oral exam. We asked the students what they thought about them; although they may not like them, they appreciate having to do them. One of the tour guides said that they’re actually a good way to pull together everything they’ve studied over the four years. Most people are really well prepared, and the students see them as a “unifier” or a “common enemy.”

Millsaps fountainMillsaps quad 5The admissions rep said that choosing a college is like a choosing life partner: you want to pick someone who will challenge you to be your best self but who is comfortable to be around. Millsaps works hard to be inclusive both through their mission and through their admissions process by selecting students they believe will live the mission. They’re intentional in making sure that all people on campus feel valued; one person described it as “a big hug of a school” and their welcoming attitude is seen even in the little details like adding visitor’s names to the reserved parking spots in front of the admissions office. This is one of the few colleges I’ve heard mention sexual orientation during their “diversity spiel.” One person told us that “A lot of the “–isms” are not a big deal here. People want to know: ‘Are you a smart person? Are you a good person? Are you going to help us to raise money for philanthropy?’” They’re clearly doing something right with an 80-83% Freshman-to-Sophomore retention rate over the past 10 years. Students who leave either are looking for a bigger experience (they don’t leave for a similar school) or because of family or academic reasons. Interestingly, males leave more often than females.

Millsaps quadImpressively, everyone who gets into Millsaps gets some sort of scholarship, most falling in the $10,000 to $18,000 range. The major scholarships usually go to students applying Early Action; students offered these usually score a 30 or better on the ACT (or an SAT equivalent) and a 3.9 GPA. They will super-score for both the SAT and the ACT; if a student retakes the test after the scholarship decision has been made, the student has to formally appeal for Millsaps to reconsider the scholarship amount. For admissions, students can apply Early Action or Regular Decision, with a rolling cycle after that if beds are available. They look to bring in about 230 incoming freshmen and another 40 transfers. International Students only have to take the TOEFL if the scores are borderline (under 21 ACT).

Millsaps acad bldg 1Campus activities are what you’d expect of a campus like this. Greek Life (6 frats and 4 sororities which have “sorority lodges”) is fairly popular and inclusive (many parties and activities like the Fashion Show are open to the community), but not mandatory to feel part of campus. Freshmen rush during the second week of classes after they’ve had a chance to settle in. Student Life Committees plan lots of typical types of events and will bring in big name speakers like Myrlie Evers. Students also take advantage of being in Jackson. The admissions staff took us to lunch at a trendy new tapas restaurant frequented by the students, and several students joined us so we had more time to get their perspectives on the school and town. They love First Thursday in the artsy rehabilitated center downtown. The reservoir about 20 minutes from campus is also popular to hang out, study, kayak, and more. A large percentage of students are active in the broader world, as well. There is a stopped clock tower on campus which the students have pledged not to restart it until the clean-up from Katrina is complete, but “more hurricanes keep hitting, so it’s going to take a while.” Lots of students go on alternative spring-break trips to help the rebuilding efforts.

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The Millsaps stadium

The Millsaps athletic teams (9 DIII teams each for men and women) play in “The Brain Bowl,” in which Rhodes, Birmingham Southern, Hendrix, Sewanee, Oglethorpe, Centre, and Barry also play. Their players are “Renaissance student athletes,” and 98% of them graduate in four years. They emphasize the experience of playing over winning. About 40% of each incoming class declares intention to play, and approximately 35% actually play when they get to campus. The students say that fans rally around the football stadium. There’s a plaza with a fountain just outside the stadium which attracts people before games and hosts lots of events (activity fairs and the like).

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The Business building which houses one of the full fully accredited programs at at undergraduate liberal arts schools.

Although there’s no consortium in which students can take classes at nearby colleges (except for ROTC students who do their work at Jackson State), students can enroll in Dual Degree programs such as the 3-2 (BS) in Engineering and Applied Science with Auburn, Columbia, or Vanderbilt; a 4-2 (BS/MS) with Columbia; a 2-2 (BSN) or a 3-2 (BS/BSN) with the University of Mississippi; or a 4-2 (BS/MSN) with Vanderbilt. There is also an Honors College. Students get invited after sophomore year and complete a three-semester program in which they develop an honors thesis proposal in addition to comps and participate in a symposium at the end. About a dozen students participated this year. Finally, they also offer a Ford Fellowship in which invited students can develop a syllabus and co-teach a class.

(c) 2013

University of Mississippi

OleMiss (visited 4/19/13)

OleMiss stadiumThis was one of the best Info Sessions I’ve attended (WashU being the other one competing for the top spot). Jasmine, one of the Admissions Reps, was bubbly and personable, and she related well to the people in the room. As a 2010 grad of OleMiss, she spoke intelligently about being there as a student as well as from a Rep’s standpoint. She said that she didn’t even consider OleMiss until she took a school trip here but is thrilled that she made the choice to attend. “Except for the bees flying around, it’s perfect!” She described it as the best of both worlds – the small school feel with the large public school benefits. If you walk around The Grove, you get the small liberal-artsy school feel, but on weekends, you’re going to school with 60,000 friends. She said the school size is perfect: it’s a good medium-school size (16,000 undergrads) with all the options and opportunities that go with that, but not so large that she wouldn’t be able to meet people or recognize other students. She joked that “If I saw a guy walking around, I wanted to be able to stalk him on facebook.”

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Where the famous OleMiss tailgating happens

OleMiss archOur tour guide was a junior from Massachusetts who came to OleMiss because she was recruited for the Rifle team and is thrilled with her decision. The school spirit is intense on campus. Tailgating is a huge deal; people rush the Grove and stake out spots; it’s an all-day event, and she loves that alum will come back all the time, and she loves that she always gets to meet new people. (However, football isn’t the only sport getting attention. I had parked near the tennis courts, and there was a match going on – the stands were packed, and there was a LOT of enthusiasm in cheering for the players). Our tour guide also loves the other traditions on campus, including the fact that there are 25 things to do before graduating, “not all of which are technically allowed” such as jumping in the fountain. She also appreciates that you can get anywhere on campus in 10 minutes (amazing for a larger state university), but if people don’t feel like walking, they can take the shuttles that run every 11 minutes. She brought a car for her first semester (parking is $80 for the year), then took it home second semester and left it because it was more hassle than it was worth. When asked what she would like to do to improve campus, she said, “Knock down one of the older dorms and build a garage . . . oh, and get more guys!” (The freshman class is 75% women this year!).

OleMiss studentsOxford is very much a college town and is ranked as the safest place in the SE Conference and #9 in the nation. The university has a family feel and the study body is “super-diverse.” Forty percent come from outside of Mississippi (TX, TN, AL, GA, FL, LA, MO, CA, IL, and AR are heavily represented). She said that OleMiss feels very much like Alabama both in terms of how people treat each other and the town (Auburn is like Oxford) but Alabama is much bigger, and some of the majors offered at the campuses differ a bit. Sixty-two percent of students come in as undecided, and entering a major or switching is easy, particularly within the same college, but depending on requirements and when the switch is made, it may take a little extra time to finish the degree, and it’s sometimes easier to switch out of a major than getting into it (business, for example). Some of the majors that Ole Miss is particularly known for are:

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    One of the Academic Buildings

    Liberal Studies: for students who want to create their own Major or combine several interests, they can complete 3 minors which becomes their Major.

  • Forensic Chemistry: ranked #2 in the country
  • Integrating Marketing and Communications: This combines Business and journalism
  • Center for Manufacturing Excellence: This competitive program combines engineering and business, teaching them the lingo of the other field so they can work together.
  • Political Science and preLaw: They have the 5th oldest law school in the country, and a HUGE network in politics (all but 5 Mississippi politicians went to OleMiss Law).
  • Languages: Chinese and Arabic are ranked at #1.
  • International Studies is ranked at #7. The Croft Institute is competitive; students must study abroad and take a language in this major.
  • Accounting offers a 5-year BA/MBA with a 100% job placement rate.
  • Pharmacy: they have an early-admit program which is competitive.
  • Engineering
  • Medical professions (OleMiss has the only medical, dental, and pharmacy school in the state). 79% acceptance rate into med school.
  • Journalism: Students in this major can specialize in anything, but they have to take classes in everything (digital media, interviewing, filming, etc).
  • Education: Students major in their teaching area, and then spend 1 additional year getting an EDU MA. Certification reciprocity works everywhere but TX and FL.

OleMiss3Students can apply as early as July 1 after Junior year. The application is straight-forward: no essays, no recs, no list of activities. Simply hit submit and pay the application fee. Once this is done, they’ll send an email which asks for three years of transcripts and the senior schedule (they’ll take this through Naviance/edocs, faxed, or mailed) and scores. Once the file is complete, they’ll let applicants know within a couple weeks. If you meet the basic requirements by completing the required number of high school courses (non-MS residents don’t need the Computer App class), have a 20 ACT or 980 SAT (single sitting – they do not superscore), and a 2.5 GPA, you’re in. Once you’re admitted, you can access the scholarship application. Students coming in with AP scores can get credit for 3s or better, but to guarantee credits for a specific class, get a 4 or 5.

OleMiss volleyballThe honors college is one of the most popular programs, and is ranked #12 in the country. Entry is highly competitive: 4000 students applied last year for 300 spots. To even get LOOKED at, students need a 28 ACT and 3.5 GPA, but last year, maybe 15 accepted students didn’t have a 30 on the ACT; the average score was a 31. Once a student is identified as having the minimum requirements, they need to get recommendations and write essays. The Admissions rep also said that students need to show real involvement outside of school: “Do some REAL stuff this summer! Teach kids English, back-flip off the Empire State Building, something!” Students accepted in the program are go-getters at college, too: there have been 25 Rhodes scholars (only Vanderbilt has more from the Conference) plus Goldwater and Truman winners, among others.

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The newest Residential buildings on campus, opened in 2012

Millsaps quadFreshmen must live on campus and are required to have a meal plan. Our tour guide loves the food: “you can’t go hungry!” Options include traditional dining halls, a food court with choices like Topios, frozen yogurt, Chick Fil-A, a burger place, etc. There are several tiers to the meal plans. The lowest is the Greek Meal Plan which is heavy in fall, light in spring (and recommended if you’re planning on going Greek); plans extend up all the way through the 21 meals per week. There are also several levels of living options. Residential Colleges are suite-style and the most expensive. The traditional style dorms (bathroom down the hall) is cheapest; these are cinderblock buildings with large lounges (home of Monday Night Football parties and Open Mic nights), and large laundry facilities in the basement. Although there are only about 15 machines for the whole 7-storey building, one of the guides said he’s never had trouble getting a machine. “Contemporary Housing” is in between these two, and just opened this past year. Rooms are slightly bigger and each has its own bathroom. Students have to be in a Freshman Interest Group (FIG – there are 2) or a LLC (7 of those) to live there. Each has a kitchen and several study rooms. Greek Life is big, and there are about 20 Greek Houses lining the aptly named street “Fraternity Row,” and several more houses on the other side of campus near the Residential Colleges. Sophomore Pledge Classes each have a floor in one of the dorms. The newer dorms are attractive and clean, and fit in with the style of some of the other buildings around campus.

(c) 2013

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