Mount Holyoke College(Visited 10/16/12)
This is a very different type of campus from Smith. Picture a typical, older, “typical New England” campus with a lot of grand old brick buildings, lots of green areas, and big trees. That’s Holyoke. The town is also a cute, small New England town with a little town square, although I sensed that we saw most of it driving in. I asked the tour guide what she liked to do in town, and after telling us how much there was to do on campus, she admitted that she rarely spent time in South Hadley, although “there are a couple places to go eat on the Square.” She said she’ll go to Northampton if she’s looking for a town or to the other campuses for things to do.
The student panel at breakfast was interesting, but the students were not nearly as articulate or insightful as some on other panels I had attended. Maybe it was too early in the morning! Favorite classes tend to be the ones where they feel supported. One student had to present a self-developed NGO to the President of the college that she said was an amazing experience. Another said that her FYE about Politics and Self was eye-opening. A third talked about a professor not letting her drop a French class, saying “You can do it.” They all agreed that professors are invested in student success. They also appreciated the sense of internationalism on campus. Faculty members speak 55 languages, and the college brings in other students for Junior Year Abroad as well as sending their own students around the world for study experiences.
Faculty usually only teach two classes a semester to give them time for teaching well, advising students well, and do research well. They have an integrated advising program that starts with a First Year Seminar and a “Connections” break-out session (a 4th meeting a week) that is an extension of orientation to be well positions to make the most of their MHC experience. They fund internships so the students have a meaningful work experience. They’re hoping to be broader and more comprehensive so it’s not just an internship. There’s a Nexis program – set them up for the internship, and then after, they “unpack” what happened.
The Holyoke students we spoke to didn’t seem to take advantage of the academic benefits of the Five College Consortium. No one on the panel had taken classes on other campuses and gave the impression that it wasn’t popular or really sought after although “people do it.” Our tour guide said that she hasn’t taken any classes at other schools, but “there are always students from other colleges in my classes.” Social events seem a little more utilized, particularly because of the co-ed factor. The students we talked to really liked the single-sex education in a lot of ways and definitely felt supported in their growth as people, but they did seek out chances to meet and hang out with guys on other campuses. The students we talked to would like the reputation of women’s colleges to change; it’s not a convent or “a place for lesbians to hang out.”
One-third of students are in the sciences, and the science center is the newest building on campus; an alum gave $10million to build it. There’s the “Million Dollar Tree outside” that students and alums wanted kept, so an additional million was raised in order to keep it. The alumnae are a very strong force. I met up with one of my former students at breakfast, and she is clearly happy and relaxed here. She has found intellectual stimulation and a supportive community. This seems usual for the students we met. Some, however, were a bit over-the-top to the drinking-the-kool-aid level. The tour guide got a bit creepy about Mary Lyon, the school’s founder who is buried in the middle of campus. She went on for a long time about Lyon, traditions on campus (several surrounding Lyon or her grave such as putting garlands around on her birthday), and said “I LOVE Mary Lyon!” several times. The campus has a ton of traditions. For example, each class is given a color and icon. In the library, by tradition, 2 classes are assigned a staircase on each side, and if you use the other you won’t graduate (at all? On time? I can’t remember). The traditions definitely tie students together and give them a sense of belonging at the college. The alums I know from MHC still talk about things like Mountain Day and the class parades.
In terms of admissions to Holyoke, there’s an enormously self-selecting group of applicants. They use a 1-9 rating scale when assessing files, and about 95% of applicants earn a rating that suggesting that they’d be successful here. Most students will submit SAT scores, even though they’re test-optional. The offer thirty 21st-Century-Scholars awards each year which provides a $25,000 merit award every year.
Dining halls on campus got fairly high reviews. They have a kosher/halal center which can get crowded because a lot of vegetarian students eat there too. Our tour guide told us that she would expand this if she could change anything about the school since it’s sometimes hard to get served there because of all the people.
Something we learned about late in the program, sort of by accident, was that MHC has an Equestrian Program. They had brochures available in the admissions office, so I asked the rep to expand on the program; she said they offer every type of riding (ie, Western, dressage) and have 60 horses and miles of trails available to students.