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Kent State University

Kent State University (visited 4/16/12)

Kent State 1

The main plaza.

I admit it: I was really looking forward to seeing this university because of the historical significance of it. I was a little disappointed to see the “raggedy” edges of campus driving in, but the edges of campus are never what the schools want to show off. Campus was well kept up even though some of the buildings were clearly older. However, there is a ton of building going on, including several new dorms. I liked the main part of campus, but it felt very much like a generic campus. While nothing was wrong with the physical campus, little stood out; one thing that did was the “promenade,” a long, wide, brick-lined walkway cutting through a main part of campus. Our tour guide told us of several events held there, including Welcome Week events and showcases of clubs. It was one of the main pedestrian thoroughfares on campus, and it was well used. Students were out and about, but it was not a hang-out; rather, it was simply an easy way to get from one place to another. People did hang out in the new beautiful Union; there were several food options, a large spiral staircase in the middle of the lobby, meeting rooms, the bookstore, and lots of student-services offices all in the building which was great. Students definitely hung out there, but there was also a lot of foot-traffic of students grabbing food or taking care of things between classes.

Kent State 2

One of the memorials to the shooting victims.

During the tour, we did get to see the Kent State Shootings Memorials. There is a large memorial sculpture in addition to smaller memorials to each student in the location where he or she was shot; they have also preserved the bullet-hole left in a third sculpture. Someone had drawn a peace symbol around the hole. During a core class, all the students at KSU learn about the history leading up to (and what happened after) the campus shootings.

About 16% of the 21,000 undergrads are from out-of-state. They have the University Award scholarship specifically for out-of-state students; this covers ½ of the out-of-state tuition surcharge. To be eligible, applicants need a 2.5 GPA and at least a 21 on the ACT. The Presidential Scholarship is given to out-of-state and underrepresented students with at least a 3.25 GPA. Eligibility for the Honors Program is determined automatically during the application process; students in the honors program can register for special classes, have access to special study abroad programs, and live in the Honors Living Learning Community, among other benefits.

KSU Res Halls house between 56 and 550 students each. Currently they have 12 Living-Learning Communities ranging in interests from Entrepreneurship or Business to Public Health or Nursing to the International Village Experience; the students who live there tend to have higher GPAs. Students from outside commuting distance must live on campus for their first two years; about 80% of freshman and sophomores are on campus. There are 5 dorms that are specifically designated for the “First Year Experience; other housing options are often mixed levels and are assigned by lottery. The six newest dorms, Centennial Courts A-F (very original names!) are beautiful and spacious; upperclassmen snatch them up quickly which isn’t a surprise. I really liked Kent’s “dorm room showcase” in which they have 4 different model dorm rooms open to visitors and students who might not have seen the set-ups in different locations. Although some other people rolled their eyes a bit – “how many dorm rooms do we need to see?” – this is the only university I’ve ever visited that showed us more than one type of room. Although it’s nice to see a typical freshman dorm room (usually those are the worst, smallest, and/or oldest and students can only move up from there), I liked seeing how the different dorms were set up, particularly without having to tromp through several buildings!

Students can choose from 280 majors in 8 different colleges. New programs include Digital Science (including computer design, animation, and game design) and Public Health; fashion design and architecture are strong, hands-on programs. The two most unusual majors are Crafts (ceramics, glass, jewelry and metals, and textiles) and Air Traffic Control which falls under their Aeronautics Technology department. Students graduating with this major go to Oklahoma after graduation for their final 3 months of training and exams before becoming fully licensed. Within that department, they can also focus on Aeronautical systems, aviation management, and flight technology.

Retention rate is in the 75-78% range. The university is working on improving that, through such programs as the First Year Experience and by instituting an “Early Alert” program for students who are floundering in academics. Resident Directors are also told at mid-terms about students in their dorms who are having trouble so there is some tag-teaming between the academic and residential side. Students we spoke to spoke highly of the activities on campus – there are activities calendars posted listing things to on and off campus. Buses into downtown Kent are free and frequent. Buses into Cleveland cost only $5, so a lot of students take advantage of that for sporting events, concerts, and other things. The students we spoke to, although maybe not as gushing as students from other schools, were very positive about their experiences. Almost no complaints came up, even when asked directly what they would like to improve about the school. This confirmed the feeling I had already developed about Kent: it’s a solid school with good resources, good programs, and a good social life. The community feel perhaps is not as strong as I had seen on a few other campuses, but students genuinely seemed to like the school and each other. The students who thrived there were good students who took advantage of the variety of opportunities in and out of the classroom. On the whole slightly more outdoorsy than maybe some other student bodies although I can’t put my finger on why this seems to be the case. Kent is clearly an excellent place for the right student, especially for those looking at some of the unusual majors, but it’s not one I would gush over to a lot of students – but I also wouldn’t discourage anyone; I think it’s strong in a lot of ways but without anything to particularly distinguish it from other places.

(c) 2012

University of Kentucky

University of Kentucky (visited 9/23/19)

UKY lawn artThis is one of only 8 universities in the country with the full complement of liberal arts, engineering, professional, agricultural, and medical colleges and disciplines on one contiguous campus. This is a large university with 22,000 undergrads in the 16 academic colleges (plus the Lewis Honors College) but they’ve done wonders at making it feel accessible and smaller to students with quite a few initiatives:

  • UKY students on walkwayThey’ve moved up to tie for 60th nationwide among public universities because of the capital campaigns, the graduation rates, and record retention rates hovering around 85% and they’ve set a goal of raising this to 90% within the next few years.
  • They have Exploratory Studies options for undecided students in nine colleges so they all have a home college and guidance from their very first day. They can do career assessments and more – “and that may mean jumping from one exploratory major in one college to another,” said one rep. That’s doable because everything is on the same campus.
  • UKY housing complexThere are no “traditional style” dorms left on campus, and none of the dorms are older than 2005. There are 13 LLC programs including Health Care, Creative Arts, engineering, and Honors to help students create community.

UKY 10Lexington sits right in the middle of Horse Country and has been dubbed “Athens of the West” and “City Within a Park” because of the horse farms. “You have the urban environment but you can be out in the farms in about 10 minutes.” Keeneland Race Track is a popular spot for students in April and October. They held the first Breeders Cup with 13 races over 2 days and a week-long festival. This will return to the area in 2020. The city itself has over 300,000 people with almost 550,000 in the metro area, ranked #7 Best City for new college grads and #3 safest metro city in the US. There is a city airport, but many students will fly into Louisville or Cincinnati and use shuttles from there.

UKY sci bldg int

Science Building atrium

UK is an attractive, well kept-up large public university that’s nicely incorporated into the city of Lexington. “We have great new facilities, but it’s more about what happens within the space, the collaboration, the community.” Many buildings are new or newly renovated (although there are certainly some older buildings, as well). Something like $22 million was put into the science building that came from the athletics department. “It really shows that they want academic success, not just athletic success,” said the tour guide. Students make amazing use of green space, and students were seen using the Adirondack Chairs, swings, and other lounge areas on campus. Campus is easy to get around, and has been voted most Bike-friendly.

 

UKY 12The university has recently started several new initiatives:

  • Smart Campus Digital Initiative: Apple iPad distribution was one of the most visible things. “Alone, they’re just a thing, so we focus on how we can use technology to leverage the enhancement of well-roundedness, improve wellness, jumpstart and ease the transition from high school, create a digital career portfolios, and develop proficiencies in coding.”
  • E-Sports: something like 19,000 HS students in the state are in gaming. They currently have competitions (Cats Clash) etc, and this will grow. However, they aren’t going to give scholarships because they’re often given for a particular game; “What happens if that game goes away?”
  • The Winslow Project: They are designing an Innovation Center which will have an App Development Lab, the eSports center, retail space, and more.

UKY int seatingUK is tied for 3rd among colleges and universities with graduates who are CEOs of Fortune 100 companies. They do some great work with their academics here. They boast that 85% of classes have 50 or fewer students. My tour guide’s biggest class had 450 students; his smallest had 6. There are a few academic programs or special entry requirements that are worth noting:

UKY 14The application to the honors college is part of the regular application to the university, but they must apply by 12/1. Benefits include priority registration, access to the Center for Personal Development, mentoring, and 4 residence halls as part of the LLC. Students don’t have to live in the LLC, but they try to steer them in that direction. The Honors Program costs $500 a year.

UKY chairs 3For Admission purposes, they’ll take the December SAT, but for scholarship and honors applications, the Oct ACT or early Nov SAT will be the latest they accept. They do not superscore for admissions or scholarships – but it can be useful to have all test scores, particularly if there’s a higher subscore because it helps for placement and to show competency.

December 1 (Early Action) is the final deadline for Honors College as well as the competitive and academic scholarships. The Presidential Scholarship (tuition for 4 years) and the Singletary Scholarship (tuition for 4 years, housing for 2) have an additional essay topic. This year’s question is, “What 4 faces would you put on Mt Rushmore and why?” As soon as students get their acceptance, they can apply for housing, etc.

© 2019

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

 

 

Utah Valley University

Utah Valley University (visited 9/25/18)

UVU 1This is an interesting, “Dual Mission” institution that combines a Community College with a full Bachelor/Master/PhD granting university, giving all types of students access to programs from hands-on to theoretical. They serve students who already know what they want all the way to those students who may need to prove themselves before moving into a Bachelors if that’s right for them.

UVU fountain 2The university started to fill a need for specific training during WWII; it is now the largest institution of Higher Education in the state with close to 37,000 undergrads. “There have been lots of growing pains, but we have figured it out, and we’re able to adapt to meet the needs of students.” UVU’s trade programs (44 certificate programs and 62 AA/AS degrees) are nationally ranked, but they also have robust Bachelors and Masters programs. They’re particularly known for providing real life, practical engagement (ie, students in the Mediation class worked in courtrooms).

UVU students fountainStudents are supported in all aspects, including with good accessibility Services. One student said, “I know I’m going to be successful. I know that I’m cared for and that I’ll be helped and can help other people as well.” The tour guide said that she has loved the opportunities, friends, and scholarships here. At one point, she went through a hard time at home that made it almost impossible to stay, but the profs worked with her to help her catch up. She said that this is an inclusive, safe place for all types of students: “I think it’s more accepting here. There are safe zones, houses for students who maybe can’t stay home anymore.” Some of her friends transferred here because they felt more comfortable.

UVU library

The library

A big drawback (really the only one I can think of) is that there is absolutely no campus housing at this point, although there is talk of up to 1500 students being housed over the new performing arts center when that’s built. This college, despite amazing academics, would be a hard sell for many of my students from the east coast because of this. However, we passed by a lot of housing complexes directly surrounding the university, man of which are within easy walking distance. Costs are highly affordable (and there are some housing scholarships); rent can range from about $180 – $450 depending single or double rooms and extras offered at the complexes. There’s a free service for students to get paired up with an apartment that meets their needs (costs, etc), and students get free UTA passes; buses come every 7 minutes. There’s also a new transit systems (also free for students ) running between cities.

UVU mascotNo housing doesn’t mean that there’s no social life. Athletics are HUGE here. Their basketball team recently was highlighted in “Toughest 24” after they played Duke and Kentucky back-to-back. There’s also a lot of turnout for soccer and volleyball. One of the campus traditions is for students to rush the field after a win.

UVU outdoor adventures

The Outdoor Adventure Center

The Provo/Utah Valley area (just south of SLC) has 60,000+ college students (Brigham Young is the other major university nearby); Utah Lake sits on one side of the city, and the mountains surround the area. Skiing, hiking, mountain biking, and more are popular; UVU runs a large, active Outdoor Center for students where they can run supplies or sign up for trips. “Sometimes people practice paddle-boarding in the fountain,” said the tour guide.

UVU sci bldg in

The science center atrium with a pendulum. Tradition says that if a student sees one of the pegs get knocked over, they’ll pass their exams.

They bring in 6,000 traditional-age freshmen each year. More than 80% of students self-identify as LDS, and therefore the 4-year graduation rate is low; the 6-year bounces up to about the national average which makes sense when considering that many students take time off for their religious mission work. Incoming students can also defer for up to 7 semesters for military service, religious missions, medical leave, etc so it’s not uncommon to see older non-traditional students.

UVU mntsThe campus is modern with large interconnected buildings so students can get from one end to the other without going outside. Signage is obvious within the buildings so it’s not difficult to get around or know where you are. A new Performing Arts complex (with at least 6 stages) will be completed by spring 2019. Their Center for Autism is the only one of its type: they saw a need to train teachers to teach students on the spectrum so they built a state-of-the-art center for education majors. The Health Sciences building looks like a hospital to help students acclimate to working in that environment. They even have a cadaver lab!

UVU automotive

The Automotive lab

The tour guide’s largest class had 160 students; her smallest was 15. Her roommate had one with 6. They offer some highly unusual programs including Mechatronics Engineering Technology, Digital Audio, Emergency Services Administration, Indian Affairs Administration (within PoliSci), Computer Forensics and Security, Forensic Chemistry (within Chemistry), Ballroom Dance (within Dance – ballet and modern dance also available), and Geomatics.

UVU glass panels 2

Stained glass panels in the library

Tuition is very reasonable, and students can declare Utah state residency after living there for a consecutive 365 days (yes, they have to stay over the summer). Some of their scholarships give a 1-year tuition waiver, and then they can qualify for in-state tuition.

© 2018

Ohio State University

The Ohio State University (visited on 4/17/12)

OSU 1

One view of campus from the top of the library.

Driving onto campus, one of the other counselors said “It’s clear to see where Ohio is spending its resources . . . and it’s not Kent State!” It’s true that OSU is flashier and feels newer, but they are also very different campuses in more way than one. Physically, yes, OSU seems to have many newer buildings, but it’s also a much larger, busier university with high-rise, institutional dorms and buses that are constantly loading and unloading students. The edges of the OSU campus, although as rough as Kent, quickly gave way to an impressive campus; buildings were newly built or renovated, new construction was underway (apparently the President said that if there weren’t at least 3 cranes on campus, not enough was happening), and campus was clean and well-maintained. I was much more impressed with the University than I had expected to be. I assumed that it would feel much larger and more impersonal because of its huge size (with 40,000 undergraduates and 16,000 graduate students, I think it has the 3rd largest student population in the country after Arizona and Florida? By comparison, Penn State with several thousand fewer students, felt more overwhelming and sprawled much more than Ohio State).

OSU 6They started our tour at the top of the 15 floor library (which, by the way, has about 10,000 people a day come through its doors . . .) where we had panoramic views of the entire campus – not a bad first impression! I asked the director of admissions how far the main campus stretched, and he pointed out the four boundaries. The compact size of it surprised me; he said that you can walk from corner to corner of the main campus in 15-18 minutes, although there are other satellite buildings that fall beyond the borders.

OSURecently, there has been a big push to increase student engagement and happiness which is paying off in retention, currently at 93% from freshman to sophomore years. Their First Year Experience gives students a chance to learn how to navigate OSU and Columbus and to feel at home and engaged in the opportunities around them. There is some recent impetus towards adding a “Sophomore Year Experience” of sorts, including a sophomore residence requirement. Currently, only freshmen are required to live on campus unless they are from Columbus. Clearly, OSU is already doing something right since their five-year graduation rate falls in the mid-high 70s, above the national average. They are very intentional about tracking freshmen, especially those who come as Undecided Majors – they have an office dedicated to one-on-one meetings with undeclared students, checking in on their progress with classes (what they’re registering for as well as how they are doing with their grades), and providing a lot of guidance.

OSU 3

Another view of the campus from the library tower.

Unlike a lot of schools, they separate out their Honors and their Scholars programs even though the two programs overlap in terms of who qualifies. Students in the Honors program tend to be more academically focused while the Scholars lean towards community service and global learning; they also live in a cohort and many tend to stick together for more than just their first year. For both programs, they look for people who want to push themselves and are looking for rigorous academics as well as opportunities for leadership, research, service, and global experiences. In terms of general admissions to OSU, their profile has been steadily going up for the past 20 years. The biggest admissions factors are grades, high school curriculum, and test scores. They will consider leadership, extra-curriculars, and other factors, but they are less important. They offer several merit based awards including the Buckeye Award (worth $10,000) to students in the top 40% of the class and a 28+ ACT or 1260+ SAT. They also have the Eminence Scholars Award which is a full ride plus a one-time stipend of $3,000. Specifics of these awards are listed at meritawards.osu.edu.

Several people – students and staff alike – bragged about the diversity offered to students both in terms of who is around them and what is available to them. Students can choose from 175 majors, 475 specializations/minors, and over 12,000 classes a year. The School of Arts and Sciences is the most popular with almost 39% of students in there (not surprising for this type of school); engineering has just over 15% and business has almost 14% of students. Their Agriculture, Pharmacy, and Nursing programs are also strong. They push internships and co-ops hard, which are not hard to come by since Columbus is so large (1.7 million people); students can also go abroad for internships. On-campus research is available; they are 9th in country among public universities for research expenditures which gets a lot of kids involved.

OSU 2I was very impressed with OSU; for students looking for a large university, I would definitely recommend it. They seem to have their acts together; kids don’t fall through the cracks nearly to the extent that I had thought they might at such a large school. Students seem happy with their education and the resources on campus, and the retention and graduation numbers back up what I saw and heard on campus. The location is fabulous since so much of Columbus is available to them. It’s definitely worth checking out.

(c) 2012

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

 

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