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Search Results for: “bryn mawr college

Bryn Mawr College

Bryn Mawr College, Bryn Mawr, PA (visited 1/25/12)

This is another college that made me want a do-over! Even on an overcast day in January, this was one of the most beautiful campuses I have seen. It has a very gothic feel (and is the first college I’ve seen with Cloisters!); the buildings, mostly built of gray stone, were spaced out on the rolling hills. The buildings are kept traditional on the outside but are mostly modern on the inside. The dorms still have the traditional, old-building feel inside, as well, with high ceilings, a lot of wood, and big windows.

The honor code is a huge deal on campus. I saw the first concrete example of how it plays out in real-life was in the dorms: shoes were left outside doors, laundry detergent was left on shelves by the washers, bathroom supplies were tucked into cubbies near the doorways of the bathrooms. No one touched other people’s things. This goes into the academic side of campus, as well: if a professor leaves students’ assignments outside the office door, the students will only look at and take their own work; they will not take other people’s graded work. There were many more examples of the honor code on the academic side, as well. Two aspects of the Academic Honor Code stuck out in my mind: first, students don’t discuss grades amongst themselves. Part of the culture is that they compete only with themselves. Also, finals are self-scheduled; during finals week, students know the time frame in which they have to finish their exams, but when and where they take each one is up to the individual student.

The traditions are well-established and my tour guide spoke highly of them. Her description of passing on the lanterns was spectacular. She said one of the best parts of campus was the sense of community. People looked out for each other, and the administration looked out for the students. In the dorms, RAs and other Residential staff regularly held “teas” (the generic term for an organized activity) that bring people together. 97% of the students live on campus which is impressive and speaks well of the residential program, the feeling of community, and the culture of the campus. Academic departments also regularly host Teas which happen at least once a semester, and often much more frequently than that. Classes have an average of 14 students, and my tour guide said that the professors really get to know the students and care about their success. The administration also listen to the students, who are active in student government and highly out-spoken about what they would like to see changed on campus. The food has been changed to provide more options and create less waste. The newest library is open and light, two things the students wanted in a learning environment. Because light is not good for the longevity of the books, the designer took both needs into consideration. The library is 3 stories high and can be entered at the top or the bottom (people suffering from vertigo should NOT enter at the top!). Half the library is open from floor-to-ceiling with sky-lights and lots of open study spaces, and the stacks are tucked under the other half there the sunlight won’t hit them directly.

Students have to take classes in Areas of Inquiry which act like distribution requirements, and there is also the 360 program which is a yearly thematic approach to classes. Right now, the theme is Education in Sub-Saharan Africa. Two classes that my tour guide particularly liked during her time at the college were “Biology and Mental Illness” and “Women in 17th Century Spain.” The college thought through all aspects of facilities to provide education consistent with its mission, including calibrating science lab benches and stools to the average height of women. How cool is that?

(c) 2012

Swarthmore College

Swarthmore College (visited 11/23/15)

~Swarthmore tower 1This is a physically impressive campus (stone buildings, a tower, an imposing main building on a hill) located less than 20 minutes outside of Philadelphia. I had wanted to visit for a long time since I’d already seen Haverford and Bryn Mawr, the other schools in the Tri-Co (3 College Consortium). Unfortunately, the students don’t seem to be as engaging as they are at many other schools I’ve visited.

~Swarthmore main

The main building on campus

Several students independently mentioned the “Swarthmore Bubble.” There doesn’t seem to be much need or desire to leave campus, and it shows in their attitudes: no one seemed excited to get to know anyone or take advantage of opportunities beyond the campus boarders, even though the town is nice and a SEPTA train stop is literally on campus, making travel about as easy as it gets. “We go into Philly for a specific purpose. It’s not like we say ‘Hey, we’re bored, let’s go to Philly. It’s a supplement not the core of social life.” One student is part of the Tri-Co dance group so she practices on other campuses, and she has gone to hear speakers. None of the students I spoke to took advantage of other campus for class or anything else. Swarthmore is the most distant of the 3 schools – about 25 minutes away – but that’s certainly not prohibitive. I did see a Bryn Mawr van on campus dropping off students.

~Swarthmore walkwaySwatties are very smart and want an academically intense program. Almost 20% of alumni go on to complete PhDs (3rd highest in the country). Our tour guide said, “It’s intense. You have to do the work and understand it or people will know – but there’s no shortage of help around if you want it.” Tutors often have names that play on their discipline: math tutors are Pirates (they work with Pi) and physics tutors are Jedis (they work with the Force).

~Swarthmore stained glassDuring the info session, the rep said: “The question of whether or not you can do this has been answered. You’ve been admitted. Now ask about why you’re doing the work you’re doing.” Our tour guide said that one of the reasons she came here was because academics didn’t just stay in the classroom. People would continue discussions over meals and in the dorms. What they don’t discuss are grades. It’s very much like the other Tri-Co schools in this regard. They also have an honor code “which isn’t spelled out like at other places. We just do it.”

~Swarthmore peace sign 1During the first semester, classes are graded P/F “which allows you to figure out how to do laundry for the first time, make friends, etc. I took an engineering class, Modern Chinese Cinematography, an education class.” Students can and do see what grade they’re earning and don’t just do enough to get by. “They come in with the same curiosity and work ethic. The shadow grades help them understand what the expectations are.”

~Swarthmore 2Even after that semester, students have 4 more classes they can take P/F. The student speaking at the info session said, “It’s nice to know that I can calculate the structural integrity of oak vs. steal, but it didn’t have to affect my GPA.” The tour guide said that they can decide fairly late in the semester if they want the class to be P/F.

~Swarthmore archDistribution requirements are fairly flexible: 3 classes each in Humanities, Social Sciences, and Physical/Natural Sciences, a foreign language, 3 writing intensive classes (taken in any discipline), and 4 credits of PE (completed through classes or outside things like an athletic club such as swing dancing).

This is one of a few Liberal Arts colleges that has its own BSE degree (not a 3+2 program), and students don’t have to declare their major in engineering early. They can come in and test it out. Even within this program, things are somewhat interdisciplinary. For example, there’s a class call Food Engineering that’s cross-registered with biology.

Swarthmore ampitheater 1

The Ampitheater where graduation is held

The Honors Program is more like an external exam program and just a different way to study. It’s something that students decide to do while they’re here rather than a program they apply to get into. The GPA requirements differ by major, and if they do an Honors major, they also have to do an Honors minor. About 1/3 of students will take part in it, and it’s so integrated into the rest of the system that people often have no idea who is doing it unless they happen to mention it. Seminars have about 8-10 students focusing on inquiry and discussion, and they bring in someone else to write the exam as well as conduct the oral exam.

Swarthmore Sci lounge

Science lounge

In addition to the usual internships (and there are stipends available for unpaid internships), students can complete externship where they’re matched with an alum to shadow (and often live with) for a week or so. One student will be externing at the EPA this winter to learn more about policy. The rep said, “This is a great opportunity to confirm what they think about their career goals – or to let them reassess. College is a great place to push the reset button.”

~Swarthmore dorm2 2

Some of the dorms

Almost all students (98%) live on campus all 4 years. All years and majors are mixed throughout the dorms. The 2nd and 3rd floors of the main building (also home to administrative offices and admissions) are dorms. A student said, “I lived in this building my first year, and I actually met with Deans in my PJs. It’s pretty informal here.” Food does NOT get good marks from the kids. When we first asked, the tour guide paused, and then said, “Let’s wait until we get outside.” She is not impressed – and I overheard another tour guide telling his group that he wasn’t thrilled with it, either.

~Swarthmore dining hall

A section of the dining hall

In admissions, “we see the well-rounded and the well-lopsided kids.” They do not take the writing section of either exam and do not require SAT 2 but will consider them if submitted. Students thinking about engineering should do the Math 2 exam. They allow for interviews but don’t require them. The “Why Swarthmore” question is really important given their academic rigor and different approach to academics: “We don’t want to hear about our great faculty, our pretty campus, or that we have your major. You should be able to identify things that made it stand out and how you can see yourself there for 4 years.”

© 2015

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

Loyola University Maryland

Loyola University Maryland (visited 2/19/15)

Loyola statue 2This is clearly Jesuit in spirit as well as name: 2 statues stand prominently on the Academic quad; the chapel is central on campus; paintings, murals, and crucifixes are placed throughout buildings. Almost ¾ of the students self-identify as Catholic. Sean Bray, the new Director of Campus Ministry, calls their approach “Jesuit Care-ism,” inviting people to engage in the larger questions such as how they make meaning, how they engage in the community, etc. “Our mission and values stand squarely in faith and diversity.” They hold retreats at the campus-owned property in western Maryland. These give people a chance to get off campus and connect with other students and faculty. Trips have a variety of themes such as a silent retreat or “Navigating the Journey.”

Loyola chapel exterior 2One of our tour guides goes to mass regularly “which I didn’t do at home, but the priest here is awesome! I never thought that church could be fun.” Another tour guide agreed: “They relate church services to life. They just had a Super Bowl Mass.” Mass is offered on campus every day. While it’s not required, many people participate either in simply attending mass or in other capacities. 30-40 students sing regularly in the choir and many others work in other capacities in Campus Ministry. Different schools in the consortium hold different types of services at different times. Hopkins has a 10 pm service on Sunday that some students go to.

Loyola chapel interiorDespite the overwhelming sense of Catholicism on campus, there’s a significant population of non-Catholics and even non-Christians. One Muslim student said, “I came here because I knew I wouldn’t have to explain myself. People understand my devotion and prayer even if they don’t understand my specific customs.” There’s a Jewish Student Association that hosts celebrations to anyone on campus. A Rabbi will come on campus to work with students, and the JSA hosts a Holocaust Survivor speaker every year. Loyola will also give students free shuttle rides to any service of their choosing (doesn’t have to be Catholic/Christian) within 20 miles.

Before the tour, I spoke with several students. A sophomore from NJ said, “I’m religious but was not looking for a religious school.” She applied to about 8 schools; only one other had any religious affiliation. A junior from western MD said, “I was mostly looking at Jesuit schools, and this has a good psych program.” A freshman from CT said that “this wasn’t my first choice originally, but loved it once I came. I liked the size and distance from home, and it’s got a great business program.” The freshman from Western NY had wanted to go to Bucknell but didn’t get in. She loves it here, though. “It’s got a good engineering program and I can also be pre-law, too.”

Loyola 1Campus is beautiful and safe; they’re located in a residential area of north Baltimore. The students feel very safe and walk around all the time without being worried. “I called for a ride once when it was really really cold at night and I didn’t want to walk!” They’ve never heard of anyone using the blue lights except “one father who pushed it on a tour. I think he thought it was fake or something. He got fined $250.”

Loyola Student Cntr

Student Center

Dorms are some of the best I’ve seen; it’s easy to see why they’re ranked #2 in the country, “number 1 if you’re a boy since the number 1 school in the country is a women’s college!” (I looked it up online later – it’s Bryn Mawr). They even have some apartments for some freshmen. 95% of students stay on campus all 4 years even though it’s not required. This is not a dry campus, but all students in an apartment, suite, or room must be 21 if they want alcohol in the residence. Dining halls “can get really busy during the rush times. You have to time it right. They run out of seating sometimes – but I heard they were going to build another one in a couple years, but right now, it can be tough.”

The Admissions Office is aiming for a freshman class “a little north or 1100 students.” They offered Early Decision for the first time this year and accepted 102 of the 150 applicants. A significant number of ED applicants were athletes and legacies. Students applying (ED or Regular) can choose the test-optional path but will need an additional recommendation or essay in its place.

Loyola Acad lounge

Interior of an academic building

The Engineering program got good reviews. “They we get an overview the first year: we do 6-7 weeks in each area to get a taste and then declare our specialty in sophomore year.” She also has taken advantage of the Baltimore Consortium (Towson, Goucher, Johns Hopkins, U Balt, MICA) by taking classes at Johns Hopkins. Music and Fine Arts are also big here. “You can learn any instrument except the bagpipes.” Students can major in photography, advertising, digital art, and more.

Freshman can sign up for the Messina Living Learning Program. They take a class each term that is linked thematically, and their cohort meets with a mentor for an hour a week. Students are generally very happy here: almost 90% return for sophomore year. Students who transfer out do so for the usual reasons: they changed their major, wanted a bit more of a party school, etc. One guide knew someone who didn’t make the lacrosse team; another left for health reasons even though she loved Loyola.

Loyola quad 3Most of the students stick close to campus for their social lives. “There’s a ton of school spirit here. Everyone is in Loyola gear.” They were a bit disparaging of their next-door neighbors, the students from Notre Dame. “We share a library. We know they’re around, but I don’t ever see anyone wearing ND stuff. I think it’s too much of a commuter campus.” Some of the big traditions are Loyolapalooza (a huge party with music, games, etc held a couple weeks before finals in the spring) and Lessons and Carols before Christmas. Chord Busters, the a cappella group, also puts on a big concert every year that’s well attended.

Lacrosse is the big sport here, but most teams have a good fan base. One student wishes they had a football team. “I’m a cheerleader, and football was a big thing for me in high school.” Their crew team is “small and injured.” Two of our tour guides (we had 1 “official” guide and 2 in training) were on the crew team.

80% of students will study abroad in the true sense of the word (a summer, a semester, or year). They do not consider the short-term (1-2 week) study trips to be study abroad like so many other universities do. Athletes and students majoring in Engineering and Elementary Ed generally can’t do a full semester or year so they often go during the summer for 2-3 months. True study abroad programs carry the financial aid with them since students remain registered at the universities. Short term (summer) and the short study-trips cost students out of pocket.

(c) 2015

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