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University of Memphis

UNIVERSITY OF MEMPHIS (visited 4/23/13)

One of the many tigers statues from campus placed prominently in front of the new Union.

One of the many tigers statues from campus placed prominently in front of the new Union.

For a medium-sized, urban, public school, this was surprisingly attractive (and safe! They’re ranked as the #1 safest metro school in TN [they’re proud that they beat Vandy] and Campus Security patrols campus and a two-block radius around campus, which is where much of the off-campus housing is). The campus is designated as a Level-2 Arboretum with more than 60 types of trees, and there’s lots of open space on campus. Prominent in the middle of campus is the impressive new 3-story union which opened in 2010. The middle is open with grand staircases all the way up to the top floor, and much of the social life goes on there. Not only are there various offices, but they have several food options, both to-go (such as Dunkin Donuts) and their own sit-down restaurant fashioned like a Chili’s that’s open for lunch (the nachos are a big thing there). There’s a full-sized theater on the second floor that shows recent movies and gives out free popcorn and soda. The Post Office is here – something that surprised me (and I’ve never seen on another campus) is that students have to rent a PO Box if they want one, even if they’re residential students!

An academic building

An academic building

I visited on a Tuesday morning; because there was only 1 family and I visiting that morning, the admissions staff sent me out on my own with two tour guides so I could really pick their brains. One of the tour guides came to Memphis for the nursing program and the Greek life; it didn’t hurt that her parents both came here. The other one was from Memphis, had gone to another school first, and then transferred back. He couldn’t be happier. Both are currently commuter students, but say that they don’t see this as any disadvantage at all. There are lots of ways to get involved, and because there are so many people who commute, they’re not left out of campus life. There are plenty of places to study and hang out between classes, so it’s easy – and because they’re so involved, they’re on campus most of the day by choice. Off-campus housing is easy to get either through the Greek system or the rentals (which are plentiful right off campus). The tour guides said that the Greek kids tend to be the most involved in campus live in general. Girls rush the second week of classes, the guys are summer recruits: “it tends to be a lot of who you know.”

The lounge and kitchen area of the Honors Dorm

The lounge and kitchen area of the Honors Dorm

Currently, only 3000 of the 16000 undergrads live on campus. The university is trying to get more residential students as well as deal with the “parking convenience” issue (there is parking, but it’s sometimes far away which the students say can be difficult and requires that they get to campus earlier to give them time to park and walk to class). They’ve recently built Honors Dorms which are fabulous! The rooms are traditional doubles, but the bathrooms, although located in the hall, are private (you can close and lock the doors); each bathroom is a complete unit (sink, toilet, shower). In the rooms, the “dressers” are two stackable components of two drawers each that can either be separated and go under the bed or stacked to be a more traditional dresser. The halls are set up in circles, and there are kitchens and lounges on each floor. It’s a clean, comfortable set-up.

Memphis quadI asked the tour guides about diversity on campus; it’s clear from just walking around campus that there’s a lot of racial diversity that reflects the nature of Memphis, but they said that there’s a lot of political and religious diversity as well. They have “Religion Row” which houses buildings dedicated to all sorts of different religions, so everyone has a home. I also asked them what sort of student tends to fit in and which tend to leave. Neither one of the guides knew more than a couple people who have left; they said that the students who don’t fit in tend to be close-minded or they don’t like the city. They also agreed that students who transfer tend to go to smaller schools.

Memphis 1They have carts that they use to take people on part of the tour. This was fun, but not entirely necessary since the campus isn’t that big. However, despite that fact, they do run shuttles around campus fairly continuously – but this seems to be a response more to the commuter population and people needing to park farther away sometimes. There’s even an app that tells student where each shuttle is, which the students find particularly useful in bad weather.

The lobby of the library

The lobby of the library

They have quite a few majors and academic programs to brag about. They’re #1 in the state for nursing, and their other med programs such as Pre-Dental and Pre-Med are also strong; Memphis has a lot of hospitals (many of which are close to the university) which provides a vast range of clinical experiences for students, so they graduate with a lot of different types of hands-on experience rather than just 1 or 2. Their Business program is solid (and they have particularly strong links to FedEx so students do a lot of internships with them, as well). There’s a music conservatory which requires an audition for admittance. Psychology is their most popular major and gets the most funding (and the psych lecture hall is the biggest on campus with 450 seats, although most classes cap at 300 with break-out sessions). The ROTC program is large, and they’ve just started an Asian Studies Program, as well. As a college, they’re ranked #7 in the country for internship experience (as defined as participation as part of a credit-baring course), and their job-placement rate is high because so many of their students graduate with real-life, practical experience.

The Administration building where Admissions is located

The Administration building where Admissions is located

To be considered for admission, they use the following formula: (GPA x 30) + ACT score. If the student has a 95, the rest of the application will be looked at. The only time they will look at letters is if they’re denied and people feel that the application needs to be reviewed. They don’t superscore either the SAT or the ACT, and applicants need at least a subscore of 16 in English on the ACT. There are several scholarships available, and Non-Resident scholarships are stackable with the other scholarships which are dependent on GPA and ACT scores (23 ACT and a 3.0 gets you $8000 a year; 25ACT and a 3.25 = $11,000; 30ACT and 3.25 = $13,000). Two of their scholarships need separate applications and the deadline is moving up next year, probably to 12/1. The TOEFL is required of all international students, even those graduating from a US high school.

(c) 2013

Howard University

Howard University (visited 9/13/16)

howard-long-walkHoward is set apart from other HBCUs because of its reputation; it’s not regional like many others. This is a diverse campus, geographically, socio-economically, religiously, etc. “One of the best quotes I’ve heard about Howard is, ‘You can find everything in the black world and its opposite here’,” said the admissions rep. This is a highly tolerant and accepting campus. There are lots of Muslims, lots of non-religious students, etc. LGBTQ students are comfortable here; they’re out and accepted. “People get called out on things if they’re being derogatory or exclusive. People will say, “You may get away with that at home, but it’s not going to fly here.”

howard-6“People are pushed to be better. There’s nothing you can’t do here,” said the admissions rep, also an alum. “Come here if you want to maximize your potential. Students are serious about fun AND serious about work.” She said that if students are not academically prepared or can’t handle the social scene, they won’t make it.

Founded on March 2,1867 to ensure that black students could come to the nation’s Capitol to get an education, Howard now has a long list of distinguished alumni including Thurgood Marshall, Toni Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston, politicians, actors, and plenty more. Today, the 7,000 undergrads come from 44 states/territories and 23 countries; the biggest feeder country is Nepal!

howard-view-of-dc

The view of the Capitol from campus

Students have formed state clubs and will often host students visiting from that area. “They’ll reach out to prospective and new students to help make the transition easier.” For example, the university does not run shuttles to the airport, but current students will make sure that new students know how to use the Metro or MARC systems to get to and from campus.

 

howard-greek-tree

One of the Greek Trees

Campus/extra-curricular life is busy. There are 19 DI sports; this is the only HBCU with Women’s Lacrosse (Hampton has Men’s). Debate is strong with an annual competition against Hampton, their big rival. They try to have it on the same weekend as the football game. The “Greek Letter Organizations” include honors and major-based (journalism, business, etc) groups as well as social. The Devine 9 were created in response to mainstream white Greek life. Five of those were created on Howard’s campus; members from all over come to campus to “see the birthplace” and visit their chapter’s “tree.” Each organization is assigned a tree that they have painted. Students can Pledge starting in sophomore year.

 

howard-fountain

One of the campus fountains

The biggest campus event is Homecoming in October drawing huge crowds of alumni and friends. Georgia Ave is blocked off for concerts and other fun. First Fridays are also hugely popular. Students looking to get off campus have no shortage of options: the Howard Theater and 930 Club host all sorts of concerts all year, and are within a 10 minute walk. Further afield are all the options available in DC, accessible via the metro stop only a couple blocks from campus.

 

howard-lower-quad

Lower Quad

There are 11 res halls; students are separated by gender for the first year (women by the Valley/lower quad, men by the football stadium) and then mixed. Freshmen are required to live on campus (with some concessions/ exceptions). Upperclassmen can usually live on campus if they want to, but they have the option to move off.

 

Academically, there is a lot to brag about ranging from their amazing Fine Arts programs to the sciences (and they start kids early! The Middle School for Math and Science – or (MC)2 – is right on campus). Howard is ranked #1 for graduating black students who go on to med school and PhDs in STEM fields. This is the only HBCU named as a Tier 1 research institution.

howard-business

The Business building

There are 70 undergrad majors in 6 schools. The top 5 majors are bio, psych, PoliSci, Media/Journalism/Film, and Chem. Among other notable programs are:

 

  • A 5-year BArch program allowing students to sit for their exam right after graduation.
  • Direct-Entry Nursing
  • A 6-year fast-track BS/MD Only 12-15 students get admitted every year and must have passed high-level math and sciences in high school. They complete the Bachelors in 2 years (including summers). Students must be accepted to the university first, then apply to the program by 3/1.
  • Several BFA programs in Interior Design, Fashion Design, Electronic Studio, Painting, Photography, Sculpture, Theater Tech, Musical Theater, Dance, Theater Administration, and Acting.
  • Supply Chain Management
  • Administration of Justice (combining Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminal Justice)
  • Several Engineering options (Chemical, Mechanical, Civil, Electrical, and Computer)
  • Physician Assistant
  • Radiation Therapy
  • Business students start right away; they have to wear business attire 2 days a week.
howard-bio-bldg

The biology department with greenhouses on the roof

Students in the Arts & Sciences, Business, and Communications schools can be invited into the Honors program in those areas. Applicants will be considered and invited as long as they declare a major coming in. If they aren’t invited upon entry, students can be invited to start as a sophomore. “The criteria is vague kind of on purpose because each year will be different,” said the rep. These programs open up honors classes and the opportunity for a faculty advisor for a thesis presented at symposiums at the end of the year.

 

howard-chapel

The campus chapel for students wanting to take advantage of its offerings

“The intellectual life here extends outside of the classroom.” For example:

  • The Freshman Class always reads a common text. Last year, it was Citizen by Claudia Rankin. She came and spent the day with the freshman.
  • All freshmen take a Freshman Seminar; they come together once a week for a lecture then once more for smaller section. During these times, they talk about the Common Text, adjusting to campus, and more.
  • The Freshman Leadership Academy focuses on Asian languages (particularly Mandarin). They meet as a cohort for the year and go abroad for 4-8 weeks during the summer after freshman year. After that, they serve as mentors to the new groups coming in.
  • Internships: most students do at least 1, but it’s rare to meet a student who hasn’t had one each year starting sophomore year. “It’s a very professional environment. They’ll go to class in suits because they have to leave for an internship right afterwards.” Students get great internships over the summers at places like Johnson & Johnson, Chase Bank headquarters, etc.
  • 12 schools in and around DC have articulation agreements for students looking to expand their academic options.
  • “Our kids are politically inclined. It’s part of the reason they want to come to DC. They’re always protesting something.”
  • To participate in Study Abroad, students must have sophomore or junior standing, 1 year of residency at Howard, and have at least a 3.0 GPA.
  • Student-led Alternative Spring Break is popular: Students have gone to Flint, Memphis, New Orleans, and other places to work on Anti-gun violence, Water stuff in Flint, tutoring, and housing. Some went to Haiti and Costa Rica (Engineers w/o borders).
  • Air Force ROTC is housed on Howard’s campus. Students wanting Army ROTC can do so at American University.

Howard only accepts the Common Application for admission. Accepted students generally have around a 3.5 unweighted GPA and 1150 SAT 1150 or 25 ACT (which tends to be higher than the national average for African-American students).

© 2016

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

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