Marietta College (visited 4/18/12)
At first glance, it seemed like there were way more jocks/athletic types walking around campus than there had been at other colleges; however, as we got going on the tour, we ended up seeing more of the jeans and t-shirt clad students walking around. Sports are fairly big here; they are particularly proud of their Crew teams (the women recently ranked #7 in the country and the men compete at the DI level despite the size of the college) and their basketball programs (the men just won the championship). Socially, I did not see as much interaction between students as I had seen on some other campuses. Not everyone was listening to music, but quite a few were; even a majority of the baseball players, who were in full uniform and huddled in a group waiting for transportation to a game, had music going. Some had their earphones out, but several others would either talk over the music if they wanted to talk to a teammate, or just not engage in conversation at all.
The campus was pretty; someone had described it as having some “New England charm” and while it did have a bit of that rolling-hill, older brick-building feel to it, I’m not sure I’d completely agree with that description. However, campus was clearly cared for: buildings were neat and maintained, although several were older and starting to feel a bit worn-out. During the student panel, one of the counselors asked the students how they would improve campus if they had $10 million to donate; one said they would improve the student center since it was older and not much of a student center (in terms of spaces for students to congregate, feeling comfortable, etc) and another said she would build a new theater/fine arts building since it didn’t really fulfill all the needs and demands for the space. A third student said that she would add a pool to the athletic facilities. Food was also on the list of things to fix: across the board, the students gave Food Services mediocre ratings at best. One student said that the food itself is ok (not great), but flex dollars/meal swipes didn’t roll over from week-to-week. Other students said that the food quality was better than it had been a couple years ago, but still not great. There isn’t a ton of variety, nor is it prepared especially well. She told us that she was hopeful that it would change next year; the contract with the current company is ending this year so she hopes they will get a new group in to provide the food.
Students do tend to stay on campus on the weekends. The school just completed a study based on the use of Student ID cards – swiping into meals, athletic center, dorms, etc, and found that 80-90% of students are on campus on any given weekend.
Three unique things stood out for me on campus:
- First was the Planetarium, which was funded mostly through a major donation from an alum after the school considered downgrading the physics department from a major to a minor or even eliminating it completely. People energized and rallied around the major, and now they have a full-time astronomy professor and a planetarium. Astronomy 101 is one of the most popular science classes on campus. They also give generous scholarships to physics majors; clearly they are in high demand on campuses, and Marietta is doing everything they can to attract these students to campus.
- The second unusual program on campus was the Petroleum Sciences/Engineering major within the Geology major, both of which fall under Marietta’s Energy and the Environment signature program. Marietta is the only small Liberal Arts college with a major in Petroleum Sciences/Engo. Because it has grown so quickly in popularity, they are now limiting the incoming class to 90 students in that major; last year, they had three times more applications for the major than spaces for students.
- Finally, the McDonough Leadership Program is well developed and is listed in the top five in the country; Harvard is loosely basing their program off of Marietta’s. Marietta has partnered with Harvard’s Center for Public Leadership, a pilot project with the New York Times, and a leadership program at Annapolis. The department offers two majors (Leadership Studies and International Leadership Studies), and three certificate programs (Leadership Studies, Leaders in Action, and Teacher Leadership – only 1 of 2 in the country at the undergraduate level).
A major teaching focus at Marietta is critical thinking/problem solving, although these are common “buzz words” on a lot of campuses these days. They want to graduate students who know how to look at issues from a variety of lenses. Communication skills – verbal and written – are a major component of the education here, as well as demonstrating practical applications of what they learn in the classroom. There are heaps of internships available. Our tour guide had her internships set up for both this summer AND next one already. There is an expectation that students will be involved on and off campus. This extends Internationally as well; there are some unusual majors including Asian Studies with a focus on China (which makes a lot of sense given the current trends in globalization) and Latin American Studies in which students can study Portuguese in addition to Spanish.
Several scholarships are available, including 1 entirely free ride. The Scholars Program targets the top 30-ish% of the incoming class. This group comes to campus to compete for varying levels of scholarships; they write a timed essay, meet with students and faculty, and participate in a class-type discussion with 12-15 other competitors and two faculty. One student gets everything covered; about 20 students get a full-tuition scholarship, and another 60 or so get a half-tuition scholarship.