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Brandeis University

BRANDEIS UNIVERSITY (visited 4/10/14)

~Brandeis acad bldg 2

Freshman quad

Freshman quad

The best way I can describe campus is “eclectic.” Scattered over a hillside, the buildings seem to reflect whatever style was in vogue when it was built. The Student Center, for example, is a large building covered in sheets of copper (now green). Except for the two freshmen dorm quads, nothing really goes together. The two quads look like they came out of a traditional campus; one has a pond in the middle, the other has a large lawn.

I appreciated that they had a senior speak during the info session. Rayna was able to put a bit of personal perspective on what was otherwise a fairly bland discussion.

Science building

Science building

Classes average about 15 students and are designed to be discussion based. About half of the students double major and/or minor, and it’s easy to be part of multiple academic departments. There’s a great deal of interdisciplinary work, so students could be taking a class in their major that’s taught by someone in another area. Although they have a strong Liberal Arts focus, it’s also a major research institution, recently being awarded $20 million in NIH grants. There’s a big push to help students get to know professors, although they’re already accessible, according to Rayna. One of the programs that Brandeis has instituted is “Take your professor to lunch;” the university will pay for the food.

~Brandeis statueLouis Brandeis was “the people’s justice.” He gave back to the community in various ways; this is where the university gets its mission. They sell themselves as thinking outside the box. They send several students to do study abroad and internships abroad (including in places Rwanda). There are a few ways to travel. First is through CIEE Advanced Liberal Arts. Students needed to be fluent in the language for this. The senior who talked to us went to Barcelona; she had a Homestay and enrolled directly at University of Barcelona where she took 3 classes. She had an additional class in the Study Abroad program with the 27 students in the program. She volunteered at the Red Cross there and got to travel. For students who are not fluent and therefore don’t qualify for CIEE, they can take part in one of 350 approved programs and have no trouble transferring their credits back to Brandeis.

~Brandeis statue and observatory

The Castle (now a dorm)

The Castle (now a dorm)

Brandeis is now test-optional, giving students three options during the application process: 1) submit scores (they’ll superscore both exams); 2) Submit a combination of SATII and AP scores from 3 different subject areas; or 3) Submit a graded paper from Junior or Senior year, usually English or History. Students have to make a decision about which of these three options they want and indicate their choice on the application; they can’t submit everything and hope for the best. The optional supplement is, of course, encouraged, and hey do want to see demonstrated interest. Interviews are available but not required; they give a lot of options, including by a rep during a high school visit or by the Senior student interviewers.

Sign in a window of the Castle

Sign in a window of the Castle

Student Center

Student Center

Students seem fairly happy on campus. Several small groups of students were hanging out in the student center, but many more were simply walking alone on with one other person around campus. There was some interaction as people passed each other. Our tour guide said that there was lots of school spirit and involvement. Students enjoy going to athletic games (the mascot is the Judge and fans are called the Jury). Shuttles are easy to catch into Boston, but there’s plenty to do on campus. One of the favorite yearly traditions is the 24-Hour Musical. Students show up to audition for an unknown production about a week ahead of time; on Saturday morning, everyone shows up and are told what the musical is, what the roles are, etc. They have to learn lines, put a set together, gather costumes, etc. by Sunday when they put on the production. They do plenty of other regularly run productions throughout the year which anyone can get involved in. Students are highly involved in music, as well, here. There are plenty of practice rooms that individuals or groups can use. This is also only the 2nd university I’ve heard of who will allow students to rent art from the art museum on campus for $5 per semester (the other being Oberlin).

© 2014

University of Louisville

University of Louisville (visited 9/22/19)

Louisville seal

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

Here are some fun facts about UofL:

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

    The Thinker statue in front of the library

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

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

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

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

Louisville interfaith

The campus interfaith center

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2019

 

 

Olin College of Engineering

Olin College of Engineering (visited 4/14/14)

Collaborative lab space with stickies as students work through problems

Collaborative lab space with stickies as students work through problems

“Olin in a nutshell: students take ideas, develop them, share them, and improve the community.” Group work is highly valued here, and all students complete a minimum of 10 major group projects tackling real-life problems. It’s a creative, collaborative place. “You can learn anywhere, but if you want to be in control of that learning, come here! You can go into Boston, India, wherever and put things into place.” Twenty percent of students study away at some point. There are Direct Exchanges in South Korea, Belgium Germany, France, Thailand, Chile, and across the US.

The academic complex

The academic complex

The university was chartered in 1997 by the Olin Foundation (which has built landmark buildings on 74 campuses across the country) after a study came out that said that engineers were not being educated in a way to be competitive in the work-place. The first 30 students, dubbed the “Olin Partners,” came in 2001 and graduated in 2006 when the school also became accredited. Now with a full-time enrollment of 350 students (with a gender balanced student population!), Olin has redefined engineering as a profession of innovation with an education based on 1) a curriculum that emphasizes teamwork, project-based learning, practical skills, business knowledge, and a multidisciplinary approach to engineering; 2) developing leadership and communication skills; 3) emphasis on undergraduate teaching and learning in a small supportive community. They offer majors in Mechanical, Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Engineering with concentrations in Bioengineering, Design, Systems, Computing, Materials Science, and a self-designed option.

Student projects

Student projects

Olin has been ranked #2 for “Students who Study the Most” and #11 for “Best Quality of Life” – a good combo! Students are doing what they love. Students can complete research and self-study topics that interest them. One of the tour guides is working in a group to develop a Rubiks cube that solves itself. “It’s completely ridiculous and probably impossible, but we’re doing it anyways because it’s awesome!” The Robotics team is creating an underwater robot that mimics the tuna. They also have a Robotic Sailing Team. “The Hopper” is one class project in which students have to design a plastic toy that hops – and kids judge the results.

SCOPE (Senior Capstone, Program in Engineering) put teams of 4 or 5 students to work on a project for a company like Bose, DePuy Mitek, Facebook, Intuit, Harley-Davidson, Trip Advisor, Raytheon, HP, IBM, Boeing, AGCO, or Army Research Lab. They have to figure out what the problem is, how to fix it, and implement the solution. Projects could be anything from designing a lighter airplane seat or a better vending machine for Pepsi to figuring out how to use the revving on motorcycles for better power.

Students must take a year of Calc and a year of Physics before coming to Olin. They do not take any AP, IB, or transfer credits. Olin has a unique and rigorous program; because of that, the first year is graded on a Pass/No Record system; starting sophomore year, they get traditional grades. “Sometimes that first C is hard to swallow,” said the rep. The lack of grades in the first year gives students a cushion to adjust to the Olin way and to take some risks. They graduate 96% in 4 years and 99% in 6 years.

The 2 dorm buildings

The 2 dorm buildings

Accepted students have a 2190 median SAT or 34 median ACT. Applicants attend a Candidates’ Weekend if they want to come to Olin. Group exercises and individual interviews are evaluated – everything else is for fun. Parents are welcome, but not required. Of the 998 applications last year, 220 were invited to Candidates’ Weekend; 102 were admitted and 30 placed on waitlist. Waitlisted students can opt to enroll at Olin the following year. They enrolled a class of 84, 20 of whom deferred from the year before. Students can also defer for military service or religious missions.

campus map.  Babson is in the upper right corner.

campus map. Babson is in the upper right corner.

The campus is small and runs right into Babson’s campus which whom they share athletic and health services (the health service building is closer to Olin dorms than to Babson dorms). There are only two residence halls on Olin’s campus: West Hall houses freshmen and sophomores; East Hall has juniors, seniors, and exchange students. There are fully stocked kitchens in both dorms. Students can cross-register at Brandeis, Wellesley, or Babson, and shuttles run between these campuses every 20-30 minutes. One student created a solar-powered trash compactor with a student from Babson. Olin also owns a van that students can use for any academic reason (or other school-sponsored event). There are 71 clubs on campus and they can also join clubs at the other two universities. Olin has club-level sports, soccer and Frisbee, and they can play on Babson’s teams (and women can play at Wellesley).

Students are quirky, funny, and think outside the box. As we started the tour, one of the guides said, “Please don’t feed the students, and keep your hands and feet inside the tour at all times!” Olin is home to the only collegiate level conductor-less orchestra. “It’s the only varsity sport on campus,” said the tour guide, and students have to try out, but there are other musical groups to join and even sound-proof practice rooms. The culture on campus allows the students to pursue passions, even if it isn’t dealing with engineering. For example, one student loves making truffles and can see going into chocolate-making. They even have a Fire Arts Club!

Teachers see it as coaching rather than teaching. They ask questions. Students ask questions, build relationships, etc . Students have the skills to start a business or go into a field that’s not exactly engineering. Some go into MBA programs. Top Grad schools are Harvard, MIT, CMU, Babson, Stanford, and Cornell. They’ve had 41 NSF Fellows, 11 Fulbrights (one of the top producing universities in the country), 2 National Defense, and many more major scholarships and competitions.

© 2014

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