campus encounters

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Search Results for: “ole miss

Missouri University of Science and Technology

Missouri University of Science and Technology (visited 2/23-25)

MST civil engo student

A student working in the Civil Engineering lab

Missouri S&T is perfect for dedicated students who want hands-on experience at a medium-sized school and a job at graduation. In 2015-16, 1158 employers recruited on campus. “Students get the outcomes they want,” shown in top rankings for return on investment.

 

As one of 4 state universities (and the Land Grant school), MST is a top public research university and ranked #3 Best Engineering university after Colorado Mines and Georgia Tech beating out RPI, WPI, and MIT! Students are problem solvers; most students complete a Freeform lab where they have to figure out how to do the labs! “Math and science are our tools. You need to be capable. That doesn’t mean you love it or use it every day.” Non-engineering students take Business Calculus (except bio and chem majors who take engineering calc).

MST wave machine

Wave Machine lab

“Engineers know this is a top-notch school – but we’re hidden because we’re in Missouri,” said a student. Located about 1.5 hours from St. Louis, Rolla is a small city but there’s still plenty to do. One of the counselors asked about racial issues and the general climate in town. “This can be a difficult sell,” said a rep. “I understand the fear. It’s rural Missouri, but in a liberal bubble. That being said, it’s also a STEM school which makes it heavily male.” However, the women graduate at an 8% higher rate and can say why they’re doing what they’re doing … this was evident through multiple conversations with students over 3 days on campus. The gender ratio is going up. “You get used to it. It’s less pronounced at the beginning, but is more so as you get further into the major. The professors definitely know who the girls are!”

 

MST design center 2

The Design Center for Design Teams

“Students are excited to be here. These are serious students. College is on purpose. They’re not doing it to get away from home,” said a professor. A rep echoed that: “It’s a point of pride to have the highest GPA in the fraternity.” Everyone loves what they do. That goes for athletics, too: “There are lots of athletics, but no one is going pro. They know that. We don’t have the winningest football team, but we do have the smartest!”

 

Another rep said, “Our kids come from the top of their classes. They’ve been the ones helping others. The big challenge is getting them to ask for help when they need it.” A professor said something similar. “Most of them have never needed help before.” Student success is a high priority. If grades drop “beyond a percentage of the student’s normal grades,” the system alerts the faculty who talk to the students. They think this is partly responsible for retention rising to the high 80s.

MST civil engo int

The Civil and Architectural Engineering building

With 15 engineering programs, the College of Engineering and Computing draws the most students. In addition to the more common types of engineering, they offer:

 

  • Ceramic: One of the students wants to work on shuttle tiles for NASA
  • Petroleum: this is one of the highest paid degrees
  • Geological: Students are helping to develop grasses that absorb specific elements to help determine where mines are in minefields.
  • Mining
    • The experimental mine is about 10 minutes off campus.
    • Undergrads can earn a certificate in Explosives (Explosive Engineering is a graduate program)
  • Nuclear: There’s a working nuclear reactor on campus, 1 of 9 available to undergrads in the US.
  • Architectural: 1 of less than 25 in the country
  • Metallurgical
  • There are several engineering minors including Biomedical, Mineral Process, Automation, and Humanitarian Engineering and Science. These pair well with a major directly related to what they want to do.
MST mine 6

The experimental mine

Regardless of which engineering degree they choose (or being undecided), freshmen spend 3 semesters taking pre-req coursework and career exploration. The students we spoke to found this invaluable. One student didn’t change his mind, “but it confirmed what I thought I wanted.” Another student changed her major, and a third said that it helped her figure out what was out there.

 

Students tend to be well rounded. They want STEM but don’t want to give up on the other interests they have. This shows up in the minors and extra-curriculars they participate in. One engineering major we spoke to is double-minoring in 2 theater areas.

MST student hammockMST also offers liberal arts degrees (ranked in the top 10% for LA salaries) and looking to grow these. They’re starting a BS in History in addition to the existing BA. This includes the same Gen Ed courses as the sciences and without the BA language requirement. Students can get certified to teach (they have the #1 Secondary Teacher Education Program in MO) including a STEM Elementary Ed program and Program Lead the Way certification.

MST solar house 9

One of the solar houses

All students are required to complete an experiential learning experience. Almost 1000 students completed a co-op (semester+summer/8-9 months) or internship (summer OR semester/3-4 months) in 43 states and 3 international locations earning over $3200/month on average.

 

MST solar house design team

The 2017 Solar House team

Design teams (18 to choose from) count as Experiential Learning. “You need everyone on the team, and there are lots of ways to participate. It opens doors they haven’t considered. It builds a culture of research that’s infectious.” All teams do their own marketing and some fundraising, but there’s lots of corporate and alumni donations. Options include:

 

  • DrillBotics
  • Solar Car
  • Solar House
  • Mars Rover: won a national championship and competed in Poland.
  • Engineers without Borders: There are 4 Teams and 4-5 trips offered every year for ongoing water and sanitation projects.
  • MST steel bridge team 2

    The steel bridge team putting together their project

    Concrete canoe: this has to be filled with water and hold 3 people and still float/perform in races

  • Steel Bridge = 1/10 size
  • Solar House
    • First they submit a design. About 18 are selected to move on.
    • Second, a student-led team builds it on campus and ship it to the contest and without breaking. All must be 0-Net but often produce more energy than they use. Part of the contest is marketability. One house was made out of shipping containers with carpet made from recycled fishing nets. Students now live in the houses!
MST dorm room 1

One of the triple rooms in University Commons

Students must live in university housing until they complete 60 credits. This includes Greek housing (mostly off campus; 22% go Greek but not all live in housing) and the Christian Campus Houses (run by an off-campus entity). Thomas Jefferson Hall offers traditional dorm-style living with a dining hall attached. University Commons offers suite styles with an option for a triple room. These are cheaper and never required. “We found that lots of students came to us in trios from high school and wanted to room together. It’s just another option.” The Student Center is directly across the road with several food options.

 

MST frat house

One of the smaller frat houses sitting right next to campus; the large new ones are off campus

Safety is good. Students said they frequently walk around alone at night and never had an issue. Things are well lit, and no one ever heard of a blue light being used. Parking is available – but not always where they want it! Spots/lots are assigned based on seniority. One student we talked to just parked in town and found it as convenient. “I got 4 parking tickets over 3 years. At $10 a pop, it was cheaper than 1 year of paying to park on campus.” Parking stickers are $135.80 per year.

 

MST quad 1Admissions will take a risk on some kids who have low GPAs with high test scores (“they’re not following through with the work,” said a rep). They’ll bring 160 students into the Success Program and assign them a mentor to get them on track. For scholarship purposes, they only look at GPA through the end of junior year, but students can take the standardized tests through December if they need to increase the score. MST won’t superscore either exam but do not penalize for multiple testing. The Priority deadline is 12/1; based on available funds, they’ll look at apps through 2/1.

MST chem eng bldg

The Chemistry and Chemical Engineering building

New students attend 2 orientations: first, “Preview, Registration, and Orientation (PRO)” starting in February where students take their math placement, get academic advising, Financial Aid and parent info sessions, etc. Then they complete a full-week orientation where they’re assigned to a group of 20 to complete social and team projects. They have Reconnection 1 a few weeks into the year and Reconnection 2 right after midterms. They also have one of the best transfer programs in the country and are known as a model for this.

MST arch engo 1

Some of the Architectural Engineering projects

The big tradition revolves around St. Patrick’s Day; MST gives students 2 days off for “spring recess.” For weeks in advance, they have countdowns, chants on Fridays, etc. In the middle of the night, they’ll paint the street green “using some eco-friendly paint.” On the day, they carve shillelagh and act out mock killings of rubber snakes. They hold contests such as wearing the most green or who can put on the most St Pat’s sweatshirts. There’s a formal ball held that weekend. The official school colors are gold and silver – “it is a mining school!” – but the unofficial color is green because of St. Patrick, the patron saint of miners.

© 2017

 

University of Mississippi

OleMiss (visited 4/19/13)

OleMiss stadiumThis was one of the best Info Sessions I’ve attended (WashU being the other one competing for the top spot). Jasmine, one of the Admissions Reps, was bubbly and personable, and she related well to the people in the room. As a 2010 grad of OleMiss, she spoke intelligently about being there as a student as well as from a Rep’s standpoint. She said that she didn’t even consider OleMiss until she took a school trip here but is thrilled that she made the choice to attend. “Except for the bees flying around, it’s perfect!” She described it as the best of both worlds – the small school feel with the large public school benefits. If you walk around The Grove, you get the small liberal-artsy school feel, but on weekends, you’re going to school with 60,000 friends. She said the school size is perfect: it’s a good medium-school size (16,000 undergrads) with all the options and opportunities that go with that, but not so large that she wouldn’t be able to meet people or recognize other students. She joked that “If I saw a guy walking around, I wanted to be able to stalk him on facebook.”

OleMiss 4

Where the famous OleMiss tailgating happens

OleMiss archOur tour guide was a junior from Massachusetts who came to OleMiss because she was recruited for the Rifle team and is thrilled with her decision. The school spirit is intense on campus. Tailgating is a huge deal; people rush the Grove and stake out spots; it’s an all-day event, and she loves that alum will come back all the time, and she loves that she always gets to meet new people. (However, football isn’t the only sport getting attention. I had parked near the tennis courts, and there was a match going on – the stands were packed, and there was a LOT of enthusiasm in cheering for the players). Our tour guide also loves the other traditions on campus, including the fact that there are 25 things to do before graduating, “not all of which are technically allowed” such as jumping in the fountain. She also appreciates that you can get anywhere on campus in 10 minutes (amazing for a larger state university), but if people don’t feel like walking, they can take the shuttles that run every 11 minutes. She brought a car for her first semester (parking is $80 for the year), then took it home second semester and left it because it was more hassle than it was worth. When asked what she would like to do to improve campus, she said, “Knock down one of the older dorms and build a garage . . . oh, and get more guys!” (The freshman class is 75% women this year!).

OleMiss studentsOxford is very much a college town and is ranked as the safest place in the SE Conference and #9 in the nation. The university has a family feel and the study body is “super-diverse.” Forty percent come from outside of Mississippi (TX, TN, AL, GA, FL, LA, MO, CA, IL, and AR are heavily represented). She said that OleMiss feels very much like Alabama both in terms of how people treat each other and the town (Auburn is like Oxford) but Alabama is much bigger, and some of the majors offered at the campuses differ a bit. Sixty-two percent of students come in as undecided, and entering a major or switching is easy, particularly within the same college, but depending on requirements and when the switch is made, it may take a little extra time to finish the degree, and it’s sometimes easier to switch out of a major than getting into it (business, for example). Some of the majors that Ole Miss is particularly known for are:

  • OleMiss 1

    One of the Academic Buildings

    Liberal Studies: for students who want to create their own Major or combine several interests, they can complete 3 minors which becomes their Major.

  • Forensic Chemistry: ranked #2 in the country
  • Integrating Marketing and Communications: This combines Business and journalism
  • Center for Manufacturing Excellence: This competitive program combines engineering and business, teaching them the lingo of the other field so they can work together.
  • Political Science and preLaw: They have the 5th oldest law school in the country, and a HUGE network in politics (all but 5 Mississippi politicians went to OleMiss Law).
  • Languages: Chinese and Arabic are ranked at #1.
  • International Studies is ranked at #7. The Croft Institute is competitive; students must study abroad and take a language in this major.
  • Accounting offers a 5-year BA/MBA with a 100% job placement rate.
  • Pharmacy: they have an early-admit program which is competitive.
  • Engineering
  • Medical professions (OleMiss has the only medical, dental, and pharmacy school in the state). 79% acceptance rate into med school.
  • Journalism: Students in this major can specialize in anything, but they have to take classes in everything (digital media, interviewing, filming, etc).
  • Education: Students major in their teaching area, and then spend 1 additional year getting an EDU MA. Certification reciprocity works everywhere but TX and FL.

OleMiss3Students can apply as early as July 1 after Junior year. The application is straight-forward: no essays, no recs, no list of activities. Simply hit submit and pay the application fee. Once this is done, they’ll send an email which asks for three years of transcripts and the senior schedule (they’ll take this through Naviance/edocs, faxed, or mailed) and scores. Once the file is complete, they’ll let applicants know within a couple weeks. If you meet the basic requirements by completing the required number of high school courses (non-MS residents don’t need the Computer App class), have a 20 ACT or 980 SAT (single sitting – they do not superscore), and a 2.5 GPA, you’re in. Once you’re admitted, you can access the scholarship application. Students coming in with AP scores can get credit for 3s or better, but to guarantee credits for a specific class, get a 4 or 5.

OleMiss volleyballThe honors college is one of the most popular programs, and is ranked #12 in the country. Entry is highly competitive: 4000 students applied last year for 300 spots. To even get LOOKED at, students need a 28 ACT and 3.5 GPA, but last year, maybe 15 accepted students didn’t have a 30 on the ACT; the average score was a 31. Once a student is identified as having the minimum requirements, they need to get recommendations and write essays. The Admissions rep also said that students need to show real involvement outside of school: “Do some REAL stuff this summer! Teach kids English, back-flip off the Empire State Building, something!” Students accepted in the program are go-getters at college, too: there have been 25 Rhodes scholars (only Vanderbilt has more from the Conference) plus Goldwater and Truman winners, among others.

OleMiss 2

The newest Residential buildings on campus, opened in 2012

Millsaps quadFreshmen must live on campus and are required to have a meal plan. Our tour guide loves the food: “you can’t go hungry!” Options include traditional dining halls, a food court with choices like Topios, frozen yogurt, Chick Fil-A, a burger place, etc. There are several tiers to the meal plans. The lowest is the Greek Meal Plan which is heavy in fall, light in spring (and recommended if you’re planning on going Greek); plans extend up all the way through the 21 meals per week. There are also several levels of living options. Residential Colleges are suite-style and the most expensive. The traditional style dorms (bathroom down the hall) is cheapest; these are cinderblock buildings with large lounges (home of Monday Night Football parties and Open Mic nights), and large laundry facilities in the basement. Although there are only about 15 machines for the whole 7-storey building, one of the guides said he’s never had trouble getting a machine. “Contemporary Housing” is in between these two, and just opened this past year. Rooms are slightly bigger and each has its own bathroom. Students have to be in a Freshman Interest Group (FIG – there are 2) or a LLC (7 of those) to live there. Each has a kitchen and several study rooms. Greek Life is big, and there are about 20 Greek Houses lining the aptly named street “Fraternity Row,” and several more houses on the other side of campus near the Residential Colleges. Sophomore Pledge Classes each have a floor in one of the dorms. The newer dorms are attractive and clean, and fit in with the style of some of the other buildings around campus.

(c) 2013

University of Iowa

University of Iowa (visited 12/5/19)

Iowa students 4“If you’re interested in health sciences or STEM, this place is a gold mine,” said one student – but Iowa is well-known for many other things, including their Honors and Writing programs. Named in the Top 5% of public universities, Iowa is one of the smallest Big 10 schools. Campus is highly walkable and split by the Iowa River. West Campus has mostly the medical complex, athletics, graduate programs, and a few underclassmen res halls. East campus has most of the undergraduate programs and res halls. Iowa City is an amazing college town with a lot going on (and Cedar Rapids, the 2nd largest city in Iowa, is 25 minutes up the road). You just can’t go wrong here!

Iowa quad 3

The view towards West Campus from the Pentacrest

Iowa City has been ranked the #1 College Town; 70 restaurants, cafes, bookstores, etc are alumni owned! It speaks volumes for the town (people want to stay) and town-gown relations. The town and university grew up together in the mid 1800s. “When you’re thinking about a university, you should be thinking about the town as well,” said the tour guide, and there are lots of places to go directly off campus, and 3 bus systems (campus, city, and county) run along or through campus. There are enough students (24,00 undergrads/31,656 total) to almost make campus a city unto itself. The 4,800 first-year students participate in On Iowa!, the extensive orientation program which includes Target and Froyo runs, Kickoff at Kinnick stadium (with fireworks!), food crawls (sample foods around the city for free!), and more.

Iowa old main

The old capital building

Cars are welcome, but not for getting around campus. “This is a very walk-able campus and city.” During the Honors College Presentation, the Director asked one of the students, “When do you have to leave for your 9:30 class?” She quickly said, “9:23” – and she wasn’t kidding! The middle of campus is the Pentacrest: “We’re cooler because we added the 5th side,” said a tour guide. The old Capital building (which had been the capital before it moved to Des Moines and is now a functioning museum) sit in the middle of the Pentacrest. It’s a defining building and a good landmark. The East Side res halls are about a 3-minute walk to the middle of campus where most of the academic buildings are located. It takes 6-10 minutes from the West Side halls. Most people do walk; the Campus Bus (with 18 routes) gets used more in the winter.

Iowa 7“As a college town, this is a more liberal community, but go 20 minutes south, and it’s super conservative,” said one of the reps. “Adult-wise, we’re more liberal. Students seem to have a better balance politically.” This is also one of the most racially diverse cities in the state. “When I was a student here, there weren’t a ton of other people with my skin color, but I’ve always felt safe and comfortable here. Even my father said he was ok leaving me here for 4 years. I’m raising biracial children here and it’s fine.” There’s a huge LGBTQ community which gets plenty of support: in fact, Iowa was the first campus to have an organization. “It can be a transition from a cultural standpoint if students are coming from a heavily Hispanic or black high school, but it’s ok. There are communities,” said another rep. There are cultural houses (there’s lots of food there), events open to all, and groups which tend to be some of the most popular on campus. The university is even adding some transportation options to get them home on weekends and breaks.

Iowa honors dorm

The honors dorm

They have an impressive Honors Program with lots of facilities ranging from a separate dorm to a building with lounges, libraries, and more. The only thing students need to do is apply to Iowa. After being admitted, students are eligible to apply to Honors via the application on the Honors or Admissions website. There’s no GPA or score threshold; “We don’t have a checklist we’re ticking off.” Just over 90% of those who completed the application last year were admitted. The students who take the time to do this are striking students. “If you look like qualified Honors students, we’re going to admit you.” The total number ranges from 10-15% of a class. “Right now, it’s hovering around 12%.” There are essays involved. “Have fun with the prompt!” said the program director. “We want a peek into who you are based on the essay – and yes, it’s different from the other essay on your application. Think about how you want to introduce yourself to us. Be selfish. Be yourself. If you’re funny, be funny. If you aren’t, don’t force it! If you like research, show that off. If you don’t … maybe you don’t want to go to college.”

Iowa Greek

One of the multiple Greek Houses

They have both honors within majors AND an Honors Program – students can do either or both. To graduate with University Honors, they need 12+ Honors credits and 12+ experiential learning credits. “Experiential learning is a trendy phrase, but it’s vague.” There’s no limit to the number of classes, and students can also turn anything into an Honors class with a contract with the professor. Joining Honors right out of high school isn’t your last chance – if you regret not joining, you can apply once here. However, there are 3 opportunities that are only available in the 1st semester: “there’s no getting these back if you join later.”

  • Iowa quad 1Students can participate in the 1-credit, 4-day Prime Time program in August before classes start. They get 1 credit. “Parents love it because we avoided all the traffic.” They select top 3 areas of interest and can do some research. Varsity athletes and members of marching band will have conflicts with this.
  • Honors-only First-Year Seminar, often led by professors rather than TAs. “In Honors Classes, you learn more and have fun. It doesn’t feel like more work. It’s not accelerated. College is already hard!” Once student chose Volcanoes because it was totally different from her majors.
  • Living in the Honors Res Hall (there’s space for 350 students). “You can only live there right out of high school. Plenty of people DON’T live there and are perfectly happy; it’s just one option.”
Iowa mosaic

Mascot and mosaic in the Athletic Center

Over 95% of first-year students live on campus, but it is not required. There are no designated first-year housing. Students must apply to housing with a $75 non-refundable (but also non-committal) fee; it just secures your spot in line. There are LLC options and huge Greek Houses, some of which are located up to a mile off campus; I passed several driving into campus. There were multiple houses overlooking the Iowa River, not a bad place to spend a few years!

Campus food is some of the absolute best I’ve ever had in a dining hall; the rep said that faculty and staff often eat there because it’s so good! The counselors ate with 3 reps, and we were there at a busy lunch time, but we had a very short wait for food. The stations are well set-up and staffed, and there are plenty of tables for students. They had a spectacular noodle bar with choices of ramen, rice, and udon noodles with multiple vegetables, meats, and sauces to choose from. The coconut red curry sauce was spectacular! Students said that the River Room at the hotel is the best place to use their meal plan. “They alternate between pasta and stir-fry bars.”

Iowa brain rock 2

The Brain Rock that students will rub for good luck before exams

Admission decisions are based on the Regent Admission Index (RAI) Scale: (3xACT composite) + (30xCumulative GPA) + (5 x number of years of HS courses completed in the core subject areas). Different colleges have different requirements. “Always know which one you are applying to!” A&S is the easiest. Students must apply before 3/1 for scholarship consideration; “this is a hard deadline.” The priority deadline for need-based aid is 12/1.

There’s no shortage of academic offerings. Students say that they’re challenged (a popular tradition is to rub the “Brain Rock” sculpture for good luck before exams), and they can work in any interest they have. Business and education are competitive; Pharmacy and nursing are most competitive.

Iowa leisure pool

The Leisure pool – the hot tub is in the back left; the rock climbing wall and tv are on the right.

There’s plenty to do on campus. They field 24 Varsity (Big 10) teams which bring out a lot of fans. Most games are free, but basketball is $70 and football costs about $150 for season tickets. “Volleyball gives the best t-shirts,” said a tour guide. There’s a movie theater on campus, and the ‘Leisure Pool’ (“we’re not allowed to call it a lazy river,” said one of the tour guides) has a rock-climbing wall on the side, a gigantic screen for movies/tv shows, and a hot tub (students will laminate their notes and bring them as they watch ‘The Bachelor/ Bachelorette.”) Students will play Canoe Battleship in the main pool: “picture 3 students in a canoe armed with buckets, all trying to sink the other people first.”

© 2019

Calvin College

Calvin College (Visited 11/22/19)

Calvin quad 5Calvin is intensely and intentionally Christian in all they do. Two people called this one of the Christian “academic powerhouses” (compared specifically to Wheaton in Illinois, the other in the Midwest; Gordon and Messiah would also be similar type schools on the East Coast). Their 3 tenets are Think Deeply, Act Justly, Live Wholeheartedly; faith informs all they do. They’re affiliated with, and their beliefs stem from, the CRV church, “but at the end of the day, we want to open arms to people.” Their pastor is the first woman in the world to be ordained by the CRC.

Calvin 5What impressed me most was people’s willingness to help. They’re overwhelmingly friendly and go out of their way. Calvin organizes a great visit program, Fridays at Calvin, but part of the program involves choice – which panel, which class, or which tour to take. Sometimes this necessitates finding our way to places on our own. At several points during the day, students stopped to ask if we knew where we were going and offered directions or walked with us.

Calvin chapel 3

Friday’s chapel – it really was full! All students wanted to be there. They project the lyrics on the screens

I was visiting with another counselor, so we did a bit of “Divide and Conquer.” I attended the parent panel (she went to the student one). At the panel, someone asked about faith-specific rules: “It’s an option. You’re not required to go to chapels which is special because the people there want to be there.” (The Friday chapel we attended right before the panel was a Song-Fest, typical for a Friday – and it’s usually standing room only). All students are required to take 2 religion classes. Faculty members sign a faith statement (students do not) and must be active in a local church. Every year, they have to create a statement of how it will be tied into their class. One student said, “I think it helps tie in aspects of life and faith to each other.” The professor added: “the point of Calvin is that everything is informed by your faith. We regularly talk about things. In my engineering classes, I’m doing a series where we talk about Christian virtues of honesty and humility. Those take intentional practice and are vital to being good engineers.”

Calvin 11This is a Liberal Arts college. One professor said, “We get to explore creation in all its facets. You’ll take classes in subjects you aren’t so familiar with. It’s a chance to cultivate curiosity. Faculty feed that. They love to teach and they love their faith. They’re happy to talk about what it means to be a Christian in X field.” Another professor on the panel said, “You have a chance to shape your professors with the questions you ask. We want you to think deeply, Act Justly, Live Wholeheartedly as Christ’s agents of renewal and justice in the world. We want you to know how your story matters to God. We’ll walk with you in the process, but that’s the goal during your time here. Ask questions about what you’re passionate about and do hard work in a personal learning environment.”

We asked the students on the panel how their faith has grown or been challenged?

  • Calvin chapel 4“I went to a Christian school k-12. I took a Christian theology class this term going through basic Reform views – that class taught me more about my faith than in 12 years of Christian school. I look at things differently and see why people believe it. I never thought the class would do anything like that. We’re challenged to see how things fit together.”
  • “I’ve been getting involved in a local church. It helped me make my faith my own. It’s been cool to uproot and replant myself across the country and be intentional about that. Also time management – making devotions a priority hasn’t always been consistent.”
Calvin sci atrium

Atrium of the Science building

There are 50+ denominations represented among the 3700 students. Students come from 65 countries, and 17% self-identify as domestic students of color. One of the reps said that Calvin is unique in that the community as a whole doesn’t identify strongly politically. They’re about 50/50 among faculty AND students. “The world is full of people who don’t agree with you. The faculty facilitate ways to learn to have respectful dialogue. We challenge your beliefs and your faith.”

Calvin is deliberate in how they want students to Live Wholeheartedly: “We want you to be plugged in whether that’s through art, chapel, or other interests. During freshman orientation, students participate in StreetFest, a half day of service. They’re partnered with community groups to learn and get connected to the community. Campus is located about halfway between the airport and downtown (about 10 minutes to either); they can ride the city buses for 50 cents. The Beltline is a little hard to walk because there aren’t sidewalks, but doable. There are 2 malls and lots of stores within walking distance. Anyone can have a car on campus.

Calvin walkway

Walkway across a main road to some of the athletic facilities and the Conference Center where many of us visiting for Fridays at Calvin were staying.

They help students find ways in which students can figure out the answer to, “How do your gifts and talents benefit the world?” “Caring for God’s creation is part of justice.” Sustainability is a big deal here. Through the Clean Water Institute, they’re working to clean up one of Michigan’s most polluted watersheds. The Food Recovery Network helps to eliminate waste and feed the hungry. They reclaim 1,000 pounds of unused food every month to take care of hungry people in the community. The Calvin Prison Initiative cares for those who are on the fringes. They’re taking courses into a local prison.

Calvin arena

The largest DIII arena in the US. This is full in their games, particularly again Hope! There’s lots to do on campus.

All freshmen and sophomores live on campus unless they’re living at home with parents. There are on-campus apartments for upperclassmen; finding an off-campus rental can be hard, but a lot of people rent from relatives or someone they know. 98% of first-year students live on campus. Dorms are all suite-style, and they intentionally try to place a pair of freshman with a pair of sophomores. “Living there is one of my favorite things about Calvin. Events like Dorm Worship on Wednesdays are great. We have events through the weekends. We had a karaoke night a couple weeks ago.” Students say that the campus tradition “bind alumni whether they graduated this year or 20 years ago.” One of the favorites is Chaos Night which is a dorm vs. dorm competition. Students dress up in theme costumes. There’s always 1 dorm that mysteriously wins. “We don’t know if they’re practicing in the middle of the night.”

Calvin mineral museum

The Mineralogical Museum

Calvin offers all the usual opportunities such as research and internships (at least 85% of students will do at least 1). Faculty push students to the front of research projects. “They’ve already proven themselves in their fields, so if they can lift students up, they will. Students are often the lead researchers.” The college sponsors an award-winning Lecture Series in January with world-renowned experts; these are also open to the community.

I asked the panelists what their favorite class to take/teach had been?

  • Calvin 11Interpersonal Communications: it built one-on-one relationships. It’s applicable to all aspects of life and the professor is engaging.
  • My Kinesiology class. It was the first in the major. I discovered learning about muscles and how the body moves. It’s been really fun.
  • “Tough question – it’s like choosing a favorite kid! If I had to choose, I’d say teaching Vibration Analysis to Seniors. There are lots of examples I can use, but it’s a sweet spot where the math and the other engineering classes come together and a ton of opportunities where students can say “OOOH, that’s why we learned that!”

A few academic programs worth noting include:

  • Calvin NM observatory

    The Astronomy Program is linked in to the Control Room at the NM Observatory

    International Development Studies (these students have to study in an underdeveloped country), Rec Leadership Minor, and Therapeutic Recreation.

  • Their World Languages program is one of the best I’ve seen at a college this size, including many less commonly taught languages such as Dutch, Korean, and Greek. They also offer Netherlandic Studies.
  • Strong STEM including several engineering concentrations, Biotechnology, Astronomy, 3 Neuroscience tracks (bio, chem, and psych), and Scientific Computation & Modeling.
    • They’re near the Miracle Mile comprised of several hospitals.
    • Pre-med students can apply for the Early Assurance Program in conjunction with MSU; there’s also 1 spot open at UMich that guarantees an interview. This is one of very few Full Tuition scholarships. They’ll be considered after filling out the Sponsored Scholarships form (only available after admission) and must go through an intensive interview process at Calvin and Michigan.
Calvin 8

The Science Building

Calvin offers a summer program called Entrada, open to high schoolers having just finished junior or senior years. They take one class in a month; if they earn a B- or better, they earn a $4,000 scholarship/year to Calvin and earn college credit (which can be transferred).

© 2019

 

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

 

Spaulding University

Spaulding University (visited 9/23/19)

Spaulding 3I had no idea what to expect from this school. I thought I’d spend an hour or so talking to the rep, poking around campus a little, and leaving. I didn’t have hugely high expectations. I knew that it was very much an urban campus, Catholic, and from everything I had heard, a small regional school – all of which is true, but I ended up liking several things about it. However, there are a few things that would make it a hard sell for students from outside the area.

Spaulding map

Campus map showing its integration into the city

What makes Spaulding unique is their approach to classes. This is a great school for someone who is looking for a different way of scheduling. There are a few schools in the country where you can take 1 class at a time (usually for 18 school days) and then move onto the next. This is similar but with more flexibility. They split their semesters into three 6-week blocks with a week off in between. Students take either 1 or 2 classes in each block with classes meeting Monday-Thursday for 1 hour and 40 minutes each day. This allows students to take up to 18 hours in a semester while never taking more than two classes at a time and to customize the class load to meet graduation goals. Because a 12-credit semester is considered full-time for Financial Aid and athletics, they can choose to take only 1 class during 1 of the blocks each semester. This is particularly great for athletes during their in-season, students who want to do internships, seniors studying for the LSAT or MCAT, etc.

Spaulding buddhism garden

The Contemplative Garden in progress

The school was founded by Sister Spaulding (Sisters of Charity of Nazareth) when she was 16 in order to “teach girls crazy things like science, math, and reading.” They trace their nursing program back to a cholera epidemic when some students asked doctors to teach them to care for people with the disease. Today, they maintain their Catholic heritage, but the mission extends far beyond that. “We’re as Catholic as you want it to be, but in reality, we’re more historically Catholic than actively Catholic. There’s Mass offered on Tuesday but it’s never required.” Students have to take 2 religion courses, but there are 20+ to choose from. They are currently building a Buddhist Stupa, a contemplative garden, and a Zen labyrinth in an empty lot next to one of their current buildings. You can check out the contemplative garden here.

Spaulding old house 2

Part of the interior of the original old house. 

This is definitely an urban campus. The original building is a gorgeous historic house that was built in 1879 by distillers. “Surprisingly, it became available in the 1920s!” (Fun fact: it’s said to be haunted by a mischievous boy). In the courtyard right outside this building sits a Tulip Poplar, the largest tree in the city. Since the university opened, they’ve bought up several buildings in the surrounding blocks, but there is no central campus although there is a lot of green space, including a 5-acre site that used to be an overgrown parking lot. “We’re trying to bridge the gap in the revitalization.” There is very little security in most of the buildings (although we saw several officers around; it is still an urban campus!),

Spaulding 6

The Tulip Poplar

but signs on side doors ask people to use main doors for entry. “You can exit from any door, but only enter in some because of security,” said a rep. They have 8 acres of athletic fields about 4 blocks west of campus. They open these to the community, as well. They have some lined for field hockey and lacrosse but don’t offer them as varsity sports at this point. Most of the buildings are very well maintained and/or have been renovated. The library did smell a bit musty, but they were some really amazing hammocks inside, donated by the President of the college.

 

Spaulding library hammocks

Some of the hammocks in the library donated by the college president.

The College President, Tori Murden, was the first woman to row across the Atlantic (check out her book Pearl in the Storm), the first woman and first American to ski to the geographic South Pole, first employee of the Muhammad Ali museum. She’s doing a lot of things to help the university (she grew up in Louisville and earned her MFA in Writing from Spaulding). Although they don’t have a huge endowment, they’re in no danger of closing. “We err on the side of caution. We don’t borrow. We do fundraising instead of using tuition dollars, and we don’t build anything until we can fund it.”

 

Spaulding 5

Columbia Gym with the replica red bike over the door. 

One of their main buildings is the Columbia Gym which now houses several sports teams, an indoor batting cage and golf center, a large auditorium, and more. Over the main entrance is a replica of the bicycle which was the imputus for Mohammed Ali to start boxing; he had left it outside the building and it got stolen; he went in for help, and got introduced to a police officer who taught boxing. When Clay said he was going to beat up whoever stole the bike, the officer said he’d better learn how to do it properly and started training him.

 

Spaulding Ali sign 2Spaulding has 1700 students with undergrads making up about half of that. Incoming classes have 150-200 each. “We’d like to be closer to 210-220.” Retention first-second year is 76% with graduation rates in the 60s. “It’s not where we want it to be. There are several factors that feed into that,” said the rep. “One big one is that we tend to take chances on students that maybe other schools won’t. They often say the right things in admissions but can’t walk the walk. We’re over 50% Pell Eligible here. We try to give them wrap-around support, but for some it’s more difficult.”

Spaulding sign“We’re striking a balance between supporting people but also being mission-appropriate in reaching out to people who need it,” said another rep. They’re working with an Educational Advisory Board to try to increase success rates. They have a software programs that will look at things as simple as tracking attendance and using analytics to look at courses like the SU100 (intro to college). “If you aren’t successful in that class, you won’t be successful in others. It’s an effort class: If you show up and turn in the work, you’re going to get an A or B.” They take conditional admits who complete an intensive 1-week bridge program over the summer and meet with success coaches throughout the semester. To be an unconditional admit, students need a 2.5 GPA and 20 ACT (or SAT equivalent).

Spaulding patio

One of the many courtyards that helps make it feel a little less urban.

Dorm capacity is about 450; students coming from further than 50 miles away must live on campus for 3 years. Local students are welcome to live on campus, but they want to provide an opportunity for them to stay at home if that helps them finance their college education. Only about half the undergraduates live on campus, making Spaulding (at least as a non-commuting student) a harder sell – but students find connections through athletics or video games or even the city! “You’re in Louisville and there’s a ton of great things to do off campus, including UL (DI) football games.

Conversely, the price-point is phenomenal and makes this an easier sell for students! The cost of attendance for tuition, fees, and R&B (double occupancy and a standard meal plan) falls just under $33,000! They have some really good scholarships, too, including:

  • Heartland Scholarship: anyone coming in from outside Kentucky gets a 10% reduction.
  • Bonus award: This is worth $1,800+. Students with an 18 ACT+ composite score (or an equivalent SAT) receive their score x $100! Scholarships are stackable up to the Cost of Attendance.

Classes are kept small. The largest ones are usually 20-25 in the first year and 12-14 in upper levels. Many of the majors are profession-focused: business, communication, education, psychology, social work, and natural science including the pre-professional and Health Science tracks.

  • Students can double major in Accounting and Business and graduate in 4 years!
  • They have a BFA in Creative Writing and a renowned MFA program.
  • Criminal Justice started in 2019 with concentrations in Corrections, Forensics and Electronic Crime, Juvenile Justice, and Law Enforcement.
  • Nursing: there are spots for everyone as long as they meet the minimum GPA requirements and pass the entry exam.
  • Fine Arts has concentrations in General FA, Graphic Design, Digital Media, Painting/Drawing, and Interdisciplinary Sculpture.
  • The Center for Behavior Health provides counseling services for low-income in the area (students can get clinical or shadowing hours), and students can get EdPsych testing done for free by the Psych Doctoral students!
  • Students can come in with AP credit for scores of 3, 4, and 5, allowing them to graduate early and save tuition money.
  • Spaulding has paired up with Western Kentucky University for a Study Abroad consortium. WKU has a winter term right after New Years. Spaulding students can enroll in the pre-class during Block 3 and travel right after the holidays.
  • Students can supplement their schedule with classes at nearby schools (up to 2 per term)

© 2019

Bates College

Bates College (visited 8/5/19)

Bates Puddle 2

The Puddle with the Arts Center on the far side

Lots of colleges have traditions surrounding a body of water on campus: dunking on a birthday, regattas of some form, etc. This is the first I’ve heard of a mid-winter Puddle Jump tradition – in the middle of Maine, no less! In February, people cut a large hole in the ice covering the pond. Students put on costumes and jump in. “It’s safe,” said the tour guide.” You don’t even have to get yourself out. I just put my arms up and they pulled me out. There’s even a bonfire afterwards to warm up.” For a campus that put heated pipes under the library plaza to help keep the snow and ice clear (“There’s no excuse for not studying,” said the tour guide), this is a big deal!

Bates library plaza 2

The library plaza

Bates atrium

The atrium of one of the academic buildings

Bates is a beautiful, traditional-looking New England campus AND it’s carbon neutral! They beat their goal to be neutral by 2020 (“We have to do certain things to offset our carbon footprint; ironically, the department that’s the worst at that is admissions because of all the travel”). They’re great at recycling, including composting, and they’re big on Community Outreach. Lewiston is classified as a Federal Refugee center with 10% of the population coming from the Eastern African Diaspora; more than 30 languages are spoken in public schools. All teams have a liaison to make sure all members volunteer. There is a center to help them facilitate this. It also runs international mission trips and provides other community service opportunities.

Bates quad 1

The Quad

There’s a large quad surrounded by brick buildings; a relatively new art center (check out the Arts and Visual Culture major or one of the multiple a cappella groups) sits on the far side of the “Puddle” (pond) which also has ducks swimming in it; 22 Victorian Houses around campus are used as dorms. There are some new dorms which have some of the best lounges and kitchens I’ve ever seen! The town of Lewiston has plenty for students to do; students can ski for free at Lost Valley, the ski resort 10 minutes from campus, and they can get hugely reduced tickets at several other places nearby. They can borrow outdoor gear (including skis) from the Outdoor Center on campus. The beach is 45 minutes away, and there’s a bus stop on campus where they can get the busses to Portland or Boston.

Bates gatesBates was founded in 1855 by Free Will Baptists who believed that education should elevate people out of their current situation and that people should work with a diverse cohort. More than 100 years before most peer institutions went coed, they were admitting women. They believe in access to education (ironic that they’re so selective now). Their endowment is a bit lower than some of their peer institutions because they invest it back into financial aid and other student-centered programs.

Bates 8Students at Bates have to complete a Major + One; in other words, a major plus another major, a minor, or GEC They have an extensive list of these Gen Ed Concentrations which are comprised of 4 intentionally interdisciplinary classes revolving around a theme. For example, The Human Body might include classes in bio, dance, and PoliSci. This gives students plenty of opportunities to “test-drive” interests in the real world and a chance to learn by doing. Students are interested in getting out and doing things to put theory into action. Between 60 and 70% of juniors will study abroad, and 12-13% of the students come from other countries.

Bates 6Bates has a 4-4-1 academic calendar. The longer terms are 13-week semesters in which students take 4 classes each. They’ll take 1 class in the short term. Students have to complete 2 short terms but can’t take more than 3 (“but some people get creative because it’s a popular time to be on campus,” said the rep). This is a time to delve into their majors. Math students do “math camp” where they do math 6 hours a day to figure out what they want to do for their thesis. “It’s great for community building.” Other unusual offerings include a Geospatial class (popular with the Geology majors) that will kayak up the Maine coast to collect water and dirt samples (which they then analyze). One of their graduates, a Boston Globe journalist, comes back to teach Online Journalism.

Bates dorm kitchen 2

One of the dorm kitchens

All students must complete a capstone project, often a thesis. Each department has it’s own thesis lounge where they have previous theses on display (and it’s tradition to ask a freshman to bind it). One student recently compared the serialization of Austin to Netflix; another looked at the influx of incarceration of mentally ill people in the county.

Bates 4Classes are capped at 45 (the largest classroom) but average 19-20. The tour guide’s largest class was Intro to Bio with 45; his smallest class, FYE, had 9. They offer FYS in all subjects; his was in neuroscience. Sciences are strong; 91% of students get into med school “in the first round on their first try.” Two faculty members who have NASA grants.

© 2019

Smith College (Take 2)

Smith College (visited 5/30/19) (Click HERE to see pictures and information from my previous on 10/15/12)

Smith 2“We’re educating women of promise for lives of distinction.”

Smith 10Smith is the only women’s college with an open curriculum. There are no required classes other than 1 writing intensive class and those needed to complete the major. One student said, “It’s not about what you don’t have to take. It’s about exploring the richness of what’s out there and embracing interests.” Students take responsibility for their education, and are intentionally advised to use it intentionally to pull together extra-curricular interests, study abroad, and internships. “When we look at the classes students choose, many of them would have completed a core, but they did it on their own. They’re curious and want to learn. Everyone in the class wants to be there,” said one of the reps. One student said, “My classes definitely aren’t dull here!” Another said, “I feel like I have to bring my A game every day because otherwise I’ll be disappointing my classmates.”

Smith 5

Architecture is eclectic!

Over 40% of Smithies major in STEM fields. However, “we’re strong across the curriculum. We’re the first women’s college, and still 1 of only 2 [the other being Sweet Briar] to establish an accredited engineering program.” A student said that she does not feel like a second class citizen in the engineering classes; she’s definitely developed confidence here.

Smith 9Smith is a member of the active 5-College Consortium, the 2nd oldest in the country after the Claremonts. They share 2000 faculty, 5300 courses, resources. Students can take classes and join clubs. Smith can join UMass Marching Band “which maybe makes up for Smith not having a football team.” Figure skaters can continue skating at UMass. There are some special programs available through the Consortium, including Native American and Indigenous Studies; Culture, Health, and Science; Digital Humanities; and Buddhist Studies. On the Smith campus, they offer some unusual majors like Medieval Studies, Astronomy, Portuguese and Brazilian Studies, and Statistical and Data Science.

Smith house 2

One of the Houses

Students don’t live in dorms but in mixed-year houses ranging in size from 12-100 students (all of which have a piano). It’s a vital part of being at Smith. “It’s often the first information alumni share,” said a rep. “Houses are places to live, not just sleep. They graduate by houses.” Houses are all self-governing and provide another level of leadership development. “Leadership becomes a habit.” They are piloting Affinity Housing for 2019-20. This is a student-driven initiative; there will be one focusing on African-American culture; the other is more generally for students of color (which make up 1/3 of the student population). “This is a PWI. We’re not unlike other campuses in this regard but we’re committed to taking steps for inclusion.”

Smith student center 2

The new student center. All new construction is built based on the architecture of the time it was built

They are also working hard to shift how we talk about women’s colleges. “They’re still relevant. We talk about them in terms of what they don’t have or what they’re not. Let’s address that.” She went on to talk about a lot of the myths or “problems” that they hear about women’s colleges:

  • It’s not the real world… “Like Harvard is the real world??”
  • There’s no male perspective … “The whole world is the male perspective.”
  • There’s no fun … “They can still do what they want. The beer-drinking frat party is around. You just have to take a bus to it!”
  • Who wants the drama of all girls!/It’s all lesbians … “We don’t engage with the lesbian thing. Get over it.”
Smith botanical 1

Part of the campus botanical gardens

Here’s really want women’s colleges are:

  • Intentional communities where women are at the center.
  • Not equal opportunity but EVERY opportunity.
  • Lead from ahead and push from behind. “We surround them with bold people who can encourage them to be bolder.”
  • Empowerment is not having to compromise any part of who you are. You can choose to go – or NOT go – to UMass. You don’t have to apologize for being smart. You’re expected to hold your own. You don’t have to apologize for having a point of view.

Smith 6Smith provides extensive research opportunities. About 1/3 of faculty-published research has student co-authors. Praxis provides a $3000 stipend to all students for internships. Students have worked everywhere from a California cricket farm, ABC in London, with a doula in a maternity hospital in Mexico, and the Smithsonian in DC.

Smith 12Admissions is test-optional except for international citizens who must submit test scores. If the scores are reported (self-reported on the application or sent officially), they will consider it. However, it’s weighted “very low in the process. It’s one piece of information. If you think they reflect you as a student, send it – but there’s no red flag if scores aren’t there.”

© 2019

 

Springfield College

Springfield College (visited 5/29/19)

Springfield sign 3Want to be able to say that you attend school where basketball was invented? Want to join a hammock club? Maybe ride for a club equestrian team? Springfield College could be the place for you.

I fell in love with this place! This was another school that I knew almost nothing about, but I walked away wanting to recommend it to several students. There are a couple things in particular that I think made it stand out:

  • Springfield waterThey own a 57-acre Outdoor Learning Center, technically called East Campus, located on the shores of a lake a couple miles from man campus.
    • There are bike trails, ropes courses, disc golf, and authentic SW pueblos which serves as a space for overnight retreats. They hold an optional pre-orientation program for incoming freshmen as well as camps for younger students. “We call it Challenge by Choice,” said the rep. “No one is going to force you to do things, but if you want to be challenged in this way, it’s here.”
    • Springfield bell towerThe tour guide said that the OLC is her favorite place. “The memories you make are so special. Running to find a blue racquetball because a whistle blew or kazooing your heart out for no other reason than just because you can is great.”
    • They offer a class called Outdoor Pursuits which is required by several majors, but it’s open to anyone interested in enrolling in it. The Recreation Management major and Adventure Education minor use this location extensively.
  • Springfield statue 1They have an active YMCA club and offer a minor in YMCA Professional Studies. I’ve never heard of another program like that – but the college was founded as a YMCA training center, so this isn’t entirely surprising. Students are heavily involved in tutoring, and last year there was a service trip to Peru.
  • “Springfield provides a really good safe zone system with required training. There’s real multicultural education here. I learned about disability acts, LGBTQ issues, financial equity classes. There’s a lot in place to make people feel included and safe.”

Springfield humanicsSpringfield’s mission is “Educating Spirit, Mind, and Body in Service for Others.” This comes across as similar to the Jesuit Mission, but Springfield is totally non-affiliated with any religious group. Rather, they model this after the Greek Humanics ideals that balance is important. Students not only know what the mission is, but they seem to have bought into it. It is embedded into the culture and the curriculum. Students buy into a seriousness of purpose when it comes to academics and decorum but also how to have fun. “We don’t cut corners in life so we don’t cut corners on campus. Students will literally yell ‘Grasshole’ to students who cut across the grass just to get somewhere more quickly,” said my tour guide. “People will absolutely go on the quad for recreation – you’ll see people playing Frisbee and hanging out. They just don’t walk on the grass to get somewhere more quickly.”

Springfield 4When I arrived on campus, the admission rep and I had lunch in the dining hall while we talked about the college. Choices were limited because it was summertime, but they had absolutely amazing chicken marsala, rice pilaf, and fresh vegetables (in addition to burgers and a sandwich bar). I was really impressed. The tour guide said that she’d rate food about a 7-8 (I would’ve said higher based on what was served that day), but “weekend food is a 5 mostly because there are fewer options.”

“There are so many leadership opportunities and support and training for that. You don’t have to be a Type-A person, but if you want to make a difference and develop skills and implement them, this is a great place. There are so many people here who will help you do what you’re passionate about.” They have more extensive academic offerings than I expected for a campus this size (just about 2,500 undergrads).

  • Springfield learning commons

    The Learning Commons: the 4th floor has a study lounge that overlooks the athletic fields. “It’s a great place to get work done while you watch games,” said the tour guide. She also said that the furniture was chosen by students.

    This is a good place for athletes and majors that revolve around that (Sports Biology, Sports Management, Sports Journalism, etc)

    • There is a massive athletic center (bigger than any I’ve seen outside huge DI institutions) with classrooms (especially for Athletic Training and Movement and Sports Studies/PhysEd majors and their coaching minor), Dance Studios (they have both a major and a minor, and Dance teams perform at halftime during football games).
  • PT, AT, OT, and PA are direct entry programs but are capped.
  • Education is big. Students are in the schools starting their first semester.
  • They have some visual and performing arts, but seem to offer more minors than majors in this area, including 3D animation, Web Design, Creative Writing, and Community Arts.
  • Internships are required and transportation can be found. “You can totally explore what you’re interested in.”

Springfield 6Freshmen are not allowed to have cars on campus, but there are shuttles around town on the weekends. There are also a lot of bus trips to Boston, NYC, Albany, and other places. There is a 3 year on-campus residency requirement, but 85% of all student live on campus. The senior dorms (townhouses and suites) are on the far side of the football field so they get great views of the games. The tour guide said that given the opportunity, she would put money into scholarships or to improve the bathrooms in some of the dorms. She also said that they can improve the number of People of Color on campus, but think that’s something that is being worked on.

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