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Meredith College

Meredith College, Raleigh, NC (visited 3/13/14)

Meredith main bldgMeredith is a Women’s College located less than a mile from NC State University in Raleigh. Unlike some other women’s colleges, their enrollment has been going up. Although they brought in 420 new freshman last year (which is up by about 20 from the year before), they also bring in quite a few transfers, so they graduated 500 students last year, which they expect to remain steady.

~Meredith acad bldg 3Because I was visiting during their spring break, an admissions rep gave me the tour. As a 2012 grad, she had great insight from both sides of the desk. Originally from Winston-Salem, she chose Meredith because it felt collaborative instead of competitive, and it’s close enough to NC State to not feel isolated. The schools provide shuttles between the two, but it’s also walkable. I drove down the street after the tour to check out the area and to get lunch; in 10 blocks or so, I saw two coffee shops, a music store, a book store, and a lot of restaurants including Middle Eastern, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, and several chain fast-food places, pizza, and bar & grills. There’s also a Ben and Jerry’s directly across the street (“Whoever marketed that was a genius,” the rep said).

An outdoor classroom

An outdoor classroom

Meredith and the five other schools in the area (St. Augustine, Wake Tech, NC State, William Peace, and Shaw) allow cross-registration. Meredith allows their students to take up to 3 classes a year for free. The students can go to any other schools’ events, including athletics, for free with the other school ID (which they get even for a 1-credit PE class). Students at Meredith can get the big DI school at State feel without sacrificing the small school individual attention.

Meredith Penrose floorClasses at Meredith average 17 students. The rep’s smallest classes had 2 (in a research class) and 8 (in a regular class); the largest was 40 (Intro to Psych). Education is one of their strongest departments; their majors have had a 100% passing rate on the Praxis II over the last few years, and schools in the area hire Meredith grads right out of school. They also have 1 of only 11 Autism programs in the world, and the only one where undergrads can work with the kids. A Swiss family moved to Raleigh specifically to have their child in the program. They also have an AACSB accredited business program (held by 5% of programs worldwide).

Meredith Penrose tilingStudents are highly involved in designing areas on campus, often as part of their classes or independent research projects. The tile floor of the Science Building was designed by two students in 2001 as part of their undergrad research project; it’s modeled after the method developed by mathematician Roger Penrose. Interior Design students competed to have their design put into place for the commuter lounge. They put in four outdoor classrooms complete with chalkboards behind one of the academic buildings, and in front of another building, students planted an edible fruit garden with pomegranates, berries, and more.

Dorm balconies

Dorm balconies

The fire pit

The fire pit

The school has some interesting traditions. The first that the rep pointed out was the Class Doll, designed each year by a fashion design major. These are displayed in cases throughout the three-floor atrium of the main building where they also have displays of faculty-done art, photography, dresses, quilting, and more. A second tradition is Dance Works, an annual event held in the spring, and is completely student run from the choreography to the dancing to the marketing of the event. The third, and maybe the biggest tradition, is Cornhusking which is held annually during the last week of October. “It’s one of those things you have to experience!” Essentially, it’s a weeklong competition between classes. Each class is given a theme, and they make up skits and other events revolving around it, including “can art” in which the class uses cans to create artwork illustrating something about their theme; this gets done on one quarter of the quad. Students will stand on the balconies of the dorms to help direct the artwork since they have a birds-eye-view. They also have a fire pit on campus that’s used during orientation and at other times throughout the year including at the “Camping on the Quad” event (which also includes sunrise yoga).

~Meredith chapelThe Chapel on campus dates back to when they were affiliated with the Baptist Church. They are no long affiliated, but they have a non-denominational chapel service at 10am on Wednesdays, although this also can be community wide speaker events (the topic being advertised for the following week was dealing with anxiety and depression). They’ve brought in big-name speakers including Nancy Pelosi, Jane Goodall, and the guy who runs Post Secret. There are no 10am classes on Monday, Wednesday, or Friday, enabling them to hold large events or allow clubs and activities to have meeting times.

~Meredith eating areaStudy Abroad is easy to do. Students can do direct-enrollment programs around the world, but there are also several college-sponsored trips. Meredith runs a Semester in Italy program; they bought and renovated a Palazzo complete with their own chef. “Family lunch” is served instead of a big dinner. Apparently, the chef never repeats a meal the entire semester. Current Summer Study Abroad options include Italy (Childhood Development or Opera Experience), Iceland (Environment and Lit), UK, Italy and Switzerland, China (International Business), Spain (Language and Culture), and France (Fashion).

A dorm kitchen

A dorm kitchen

Arches into the dorm quad

Arches into the dorm quad

Students must live on campus for the first two years. Even though they can move off after that, 86% of all students live on campus. They recently built new campus apartments, increasing the on-campus number over the last few years; students love the convenience, and the apartments are beautiful with hardwood floors, washers and dryers, etc. Dorms have Open Hours when males can be in rooms, but men can visit in the lounges 24 hours a day. Parking is available in “The Pit” which is never full. Passes cost $200 a year. If they don’t have cares, students can rent one of the 2 zip cars or can take the State Wolfline or city bus.

© 2014

William Peace University

William Peace University, visited 3/15/14

~WP balcony and downtown

View towards downtown from the main building

WPU is nestled on a pretty campus not too far from downtown Raleigh. This had been a Women’s College under the name of Peace College from 1857 (its founding) through 2012 when it went coed. There was controversy with this move, and some students and professors left. However, it’s also attracted many more students: enrollment has grown from just under 500 students in 2011 to almost 850 in 2014 with a current freshmen class close to 350 students. They’re already at 35% men, several of whom entered as transfer students.

WP main

The main building; the chapel is inside towards the left.

The university was started by William Peace, a Presbyterian minister. Today, although loosely tied to the Presbyterians, there are no religious overtones other than the original chapel still located on campus. There are no required services, but they are offered for interested students. Part of their distribution requirements includes 5 classes under “Critical Thinking about Culture and Society,” one of which is a religion class, but there are several options that will fulfill this.

~WP quad 3Our tour guide was Brendan, a sophomore psych major from Harlem. I asked him how he learned about WPU; one of his friends had already applied and was talking about it. The friend had come to visit and told the admissions rep about Brendan; the rest, he says, is history. He loves being in Raleigh: “It reminds me of Times Square without the neon!” Transportation around town is easy; students can take city buses or the NC State shuttle if they have a State ID (given if they take any classes, even a 1 credit gym class, on campus).

~WP dorms

Dorms

~WP seatingHousing is currently the biggest problem. Dorms are spacious and well maintained, but with the recent growth in population, they’re struggling to provide living space. The freshmen and sophomores must live in dorms or university-affiliated housing, including Wolf Creek (an option for sophomores, juniors, and seniors) which also houses students from Shaw, St. Augs, and Meredith colleges, giving students a unique way to expand social circles and creating more of a college community in Raleigh. Since students can also cross-register at these universities (as well as NC State), students are more likely to take advantage of this opportunity because they already have friends on other campuses. They can take up to 5 classes at other campuses towards their majors; after that, the credits count towards electives.

~WP quadI asked Liz Webb, the admissions rep for my area, what types of classes students often took on other campuses. One example is not many languages are offered at WPU so students often go to State. ROTC is also offered there or at Shaw. There are some chances for students to join Greek life at State, as well, since there are not any Greek options at WPU, but this can be more difficult since it’s such a social thing and the students often don’t get to know people there well enough to rush.

~WP quad 2

Library first floor

Library first floor

There are several new buildings on campus, but they’ve also maintained the historical buildings. The original building is a beautiful 4-story structure in the middle of campus (on a historical note, it used to be a hospital in the Civil War). Rumors say that the fourth floor is haunted. “I’m not sure I believe it,” said Brendan, “but I stayed there last summer, and if I heard weird noises at night, I definitely didn’t go investigating!” The library is another older building. It’s small but conducive to studying. They rely quite a bit on online journals and other sources, and with the easy accessibility of other university libraries, not having an overwhelming number of books on site isn’t much of a worry.

~WP game design

Game Design classroom

Two unique majors are Simulation & Game Design and Criminal Justice with a forensics minor being added this coming year. Liz said that she would love to see more programs added, especially in engineering. They offer a BFA which is also unusual for a school this size. They have two beautiful theaters (regular and blackbox), and there are several practice rooms available for musicians. We spoke to one of the girls in the program who was friendly, outgoing, and more than willing to share her experiences. She loves the professors who are active in their fields and get the students out and about in the music and theater worlds; they also bring visiting lecturers in who will do workshops. Students get a lot of experience with auditions before having to head out into the “real world.”

~WP events

Activities offered on campus

The largest lecture hall on campus seats about 85 students. Brendan’s largest class was his biology class with about 80 people; his smallest had 9. All freshmen have a Common Reading summer assignment. His was Wine to Water by Doc Henley; he came to speak to the students (as other Common Reading authors do). He loved the book and liked having the assignment: not only was it interesting, but it also gave people something to talk about.

I asked Brenden what he would like to see changed about the college; he had to think for a minute, but he finally said, “I wish more people knew about us. We’re not very popular; we don’t win big sports tournaments. It’s a good school, so I’d like people to know our name.” They have the standard sport offerings, and are adding lacrosse next year. Brendan liked that the school was willing to listen to what students wanted in terms of new programs.

The average accepted student has a 3.0 GPA and a 900 CR&M SAT or 20 ACT score. The admissions team looks for students “who want to prove to themselves that they can do what others said they couldn’t.” Liz says, “The students really appreciate being here.”

© 2014

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