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SUNY Oneonta

SUNY-ONEONTA (visited 7/24/13)

Oneonta 2Oneonta 4SUCO (what the students and townies call the State University College at Oneonta) is an attractive campus full of green space and brick buildings, not at all your stereotypical state university. They even have a pond by the union in the shape of NY State. Campus is located about a mile from Hartwick College, and not much further to downtown Oneonta. Our tour guide was a Senior history major from Syracuse. She originally hadn’t thought about SUCO, but had visited and fell in love with it; she feels that she made the right choice. I asked her to describe the students and who would thrive at SUCO. She thought for a minute and said, “Misfits – and I mean that in the best sense of the word. People who are looking for where they fit, who want to be who they are and be accepted for it. They’re the ones who will do great here.”

Outdoor classrooms

Outdoor classrooms

Oneonta 5With just under 6,000 undergrads, SUCO can keep classes to a reasonable size (most hovering around 20); the largest room itself only holds 200 students (and the lecture halls all have leftie desks in each row). Our tour guide’s largest class had 47 students; the smallest had 8 in which the students discussed International Politics “basically around a kitchen table.” Our guide’s favorite classes have been Urban Philosophical Dilemmas, 1960 (not the decade – just the year), and Medieval Sexuality. The school offers 5-week mini-classes worth 1 credit in topics like Excel, scuba, or even cooking. Although there are some TAs, they never teach classes; they conduct review sessions, answer questions, and take attendance and answer questions, but that’s about it. Academic buildings are consciously designed to maximize student collaboration and comfort, with small-group study rooms (including tv screens that hook up to computers so they don’t have to all hover around a small screen) and a student lounge in every academic building. Possibly the coolest thing I’ve seen in a while in terms of academic spaces are the outdoor classrooms located just outside the Fine Arts building. Our tour guide said that a favorite down-time activity among students is playing Manhunt at night in the area.

Oneonta dorms

Dorms

Mascot

Mascot

Campus life is vibrant and it’s clear that students know how to have fun without sacrificing academics. I was impressed with the number of students around campus even in the summer. Because there’s so much to do on campus, the tour guide didn’t mind at all that the town is small (although there is stuff to do in town, and many restaurants will even take the student’s flex-dollars on the ID cards to pay for meals). The spa weekends, Winter Wonderland, and OH (Oneonta-Hartwick) Fest earned high praised from the students I talked to, but they said that things go on all the time. Right before finals, SUCO throws a Spring Fling as a stress relief with ice cream socials, concerts, and even Therapy Dogs on the quad. A favorite ongoing activity is going to the movie theater on campus that shows movies all weekend (and popcorn is free!). SUCO has several DIII sports (they even have a rugby field) so going to games is another popular activity. Their big rival is SUNY Cortland because both are the Red Dragons. SUCO owns a separate camp with a ropes course, a rock-climbing wall, trails, a Longhouse, and more that the students will frequent.

Oneonta DIY kitchen

DIY Kitchen

This is the first college I’ve seen that opens up a designated kitchen area in the Dining Hall to students; “MyKitchen” allows students to pasta, stir fry, sandwiches, and more. The ingredients are in mini-fridges and all the equipment is there for them to use. From 11-2, a cook will also make lunch and several times a week there are 3-course meals made for students to enjoy. Students enroll in one unlimited dining plan, but there are three dining halls across campus. We saw the main facility, and they clearly thought through how to handle the crowds. The first floor is a lot like a 7-11 with several options for grab-and-go food (including milkshakes which are popular). The second floor holds the main dining hall. There are several stations, and much of the food is made to order. I asked our guide about timing, thinking that there could be long waits during busy times, but she told us that she’s never had to wait more that about 5 minutes for food. Menus are published online a month ahead so students know if they want to go to a particular dining hall. They have a bakery on campus which provides all the bagels, breads, cakes, etc for campus, and parents can order a birthday cake to be delivered to their student.

Oneonta sports

Sports complex

Our tour guide has been impressed with the level of attentiveness to student concerns and making sure that students have options and flexibility in programs. “They fix things we complain about: the parking, how it looked in front of the library, the dining hall hours.” The President is active and seen around campus talking to students. Juniors and seniors can have cars on campus, and parking isn’t a problem. They are able to take advantage of classes at Hartwick if there’s something offered there not available at SUCO. Also, because they’re a SUNY school, students can study abroad with any SUNY program without problems. The students said that opens up a lot of options for them. The residential options on campus are extensive with 15 dorms to choose from (13 of which have work-out centers in them so they don’t even have to trek to the gym). Every dorm has at least four computers and printers, and students are given $15 in printing credits per semester. Less than ten percent of students are involved in Greek life so most of the social life revolves around the dorms.

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Hartwick College

HARTWICK COLLEGE (visited 7/24/13)

HartwickHartwick mainHartwick is a small liberal arts college with its traditional-looking brick buildings built onto a hillside in Oneonta, NY. A student in the admissions office said that she wishes she had known about the stairs before she came: “They kind of suck, but at least I have good legs now!” Oneonta is a very small city (large town?) with a relatively active downtown main street that caters to the college students (the economy seems to very much depend on them). Our guide said that “The walk to town is 5-10 minutes. The walk back to campus is 15-20 because of the hill.” However, Hartwick and SUNY-Oneonta (about a mile away) share shuttles into town (and can be used to get between campuses). Hartwick has 7 stops on campus and will stop at 4 locations downtown including a movie theater and Walmart. From the downtown bus stop, students can get to Albany and Binghamton, both about an hour away.

Hartwick ValleyNeither student I spoke to was unhappy with the variety of activities to choose from on and around campus or around town: “I have to decide between events sometimes.” There are a ton of things to do on campus, and it’s easy to do things around town. Every semester, 2 trips to NY and 1 trip to Boston are offered for $30. The weekend-long OH (Oneonta-Hartwick) Fest in the Spring is a big deal; the campuses come together to put it on. Main Street gets closed down (the public is welcome to join in the fun) and filled with venders and activities, including concerts. Sports on campus are DIII EXCEPT for Women’s Water Polo and Men’s Soccer which are DI.

Conference rooms

Conference rooms

Hartwick statueClasses are typically small with only a handful of introductory classes like Psych and Biology that are capped at 100 students. My tour guide’s classes ranged from 3 (Spanish) to 25 in her Freshman Seminar. Classes are very hands-on and interdisciplinary, requiring a lot of group work. One of the newer academic buildings has break-out rooms with a table that seats 6 and a tv that can hook up to a computer so that students can work together. My tour guide’s favorite classes have been in the Education department because they’ve been thought provoking and make her question how she sees things. She’s also taken Glass Blowing which was creative and a great break from academics. Hartwick offers a wonderful variety of classes that aren’t often seen at smaller schools such as geochemistry and oceanography in the Bahamas. If Hartwick doesn’t offer something they’re interested in, students can take 1 class per semester at SUNY-Oneonta; the tour guide specifically mentioned that classes like ASL, Italian, and scuba diving were classes on Hartwick students’ radars.

Hartwick Science

The inside of the new science building

Students have to complete 2 January Term (J-Term) activities which can be a class on campus, study abroad, or internships. They have a large Art and Culture Museum in which students can work as curators and interns. Every major requires an Experiential Learning component; art and anthropology students can complete this in the museum on campus. Hartwick offers MetroLink, a 10-day trip in January in which students travel to NY and Boston to shadow alum in a variety of professions. They offer a similar program in DC during Spring Break.

Hartwick new dorms

New dorms

Dorms are kind of old, but not horrible. Lounges are well used, and the kitchens are good. There are townhouses for seniors, who are also allowed to live off campus if they choose to (but 80-85% of students stay on all four years). Greek life is small with 5 total chapters; they have off-campus housing options, each holding about 20 students. Juniors involved in Greek life can live in Greek housing off-campus if they choose to do so. Housing is chosen based on a system of earned points: the higher the GPA and the more activities that students are involved in, the more likely they are to get the housing they want. The Dining Hall is small and offers limited options. The tour guide said that they “learn to get creative.” Freshmen have an unlimited meal plan; after that year, students can choose 19 or 14 meals a week if they way. They get some flex dollars for use in smaller places around campus, and even some places downtown will accept WICKID (Harwick ID). They do have a totally vegetarian station so vegetarians know that meat has never been cooked there, and soy milk is always an option for people with lactose intolerance or for vegans.

Hartwick dining hallAlmost half of the 1,500 undergraduates are from outside of NY. Admissions is test-optional which is great. They won’t use the scores if it’ll hurt the student. Scholarship aid is generous with up to $23,000 in aid that can be stacked with an additional leadership scholarship (worth up to $4,000). Aid at Hartwick makes their costs comparable to the SUNY schools. The scholarships are theirs to keep with a 2.0 GPA. A merit-aid calculator on their website can help students figure out what they might be eligible for.

Hartwick hill 2The only thing the students said they would like to change about the school is that it’s not really very handicapped accessible. “People are always breaking something in sports; it’s kind of painful to watch them try to get around on crutches or worse.” She also mentioned that several dorms don’t have elevators, which means that if elderly relatives with mobility issues come to visit, they may not be able to access the dorm rooms.

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