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Santa Clara University

SANTA CLARA UNIVERSITY, Santa Clara, CA (visited on 7/20/12)

Santa Clara view from balcony

View from the balcony

Santa Clara MissionI was hugely impressed with SCU (which, incidentally, used to be the University of Santa Clara, but since they were getting confused with the University of Southern California – same initials AND same colors! – they switched around their name to SCU). This is a beautiful campus located about 45 minutes from San Francisco and Oakland. It’s very close to both San Jose State and Stanford, giving this southern tip of the San Francisco Bay area a real college-town feel, although being in the Bay area, you’re never far from a college. The Santa Clara Mission is still on campus, and the entire place has a very Southern California feel – stucco, red tiled roofs, etc. We got a great view from the 3rd floor balcony of the Union where we had breakfast with the admissions staff.

Santa Clara winning houseOne of the coolest things about the college is the chance to take a class called SLURP: Sustainable Living Undergraduate Research Project. The campus has a bit of a “crunchy” feel; one of the admissions reps said that SCU is “more of a longboard campus than a biking campus like Davis is” – and it’s true. We saw lots of people riding around. One of the most interesting, and certainly the most unique, activities offered on campus is the chance to participate in the Solar Decathlon Project in which teams of students design sustainable eco-friendly housing. SC was the smallest campus participating in this national competition and the only one west of the Rockies. They took 3rd in the competition in DC, beating out Ivies and those schools with grad students working on the project; SC only had underclassmen working on the house, which is now displayed right on campus (those winning 1st, 2nd, and 3rd get to keep their houses as part of their bragging rights).

Santa Clara tree and quadSC has slightly over 5,200 undergrads, and 3,000 grad students but none of them are TAs who teach classes. Most work with professors doing research (although some will grade). This campus is highly focused on undergraduates, keeping true to its Jesuit roots in which education is highly esteemed. Their dedication to students shows in their 94% freshman to sophomore retention and 85% 4-year graduation rate. Just over half of the undergrads are from California. It’s very much a residential campus. They guarantee housing for freshman and 95% live on campus. About 75% of sophomores stay on campus, and many students take advantage of the Residential Learning Communities.

Santa Clara quad60% of students are in the liberal arts division, 25% in business, and 15% in engineering. They have several particularly strong departments, including communications (including a mass media focus), psychology (including graduate work), pre-health, engineering (incluidng biological engineering), theater/dance/art (and do not require auditions except for scholarships), and business. As an illustration of the strength of the program and the school, last year, 194 of the 197 graduates from the business program had a job at the time of graduation. Students who think they want to be in the Business or Egineering programs should apply directly to those programs. It’s easier to switch out than get in once starting at SC since they have to spend a year in the program to which they were accepted before they’re able to switch to a different one. However, there are 3 interdisciplinary minors in the business school that students don’t need to be in the Business program to take: Retail, Entrepreneurship, and International Business. Our tour guide was in the Retail program and loved that she got a taste of a lot of different subjects in business.

Santa Clara acad bldg

SC offers acceptance under both the ED and EA programs (both with 11/1 deadlines) and RD (1/7). They accept about 50% of applicants with an average of 3.65 GPA, 28 ACT, 1280 SAT (they don’t look at the writing). There is no separate app for scholarships, but they do require both the FAFSA and CSS. There is limited merit aid for international students.

There are 19 D1 sports, and they were up-front about the fact that if a student hasn’t been recruited by the beginning of senior year, they probably aren’t going to play for SC. Just under 1/5 of the students participate in Greek Life, but they’re “off campus Greek.” They are not allowed to advertise, put tables out, etc. The tour guide said that people will wear t-shirts that say “Ask me about ___” to get the word out about events or rushing. Study abroad is popular amongst the students, and the school even has a study-abroad program in Cuba.

Students seemed very happy on campus, and raved about their professors, the classes, and the overall atmosphere. The problems that the students mentioned were that there wasn’t AC in the Western dorms, students were not very politically active, and that there wasn’t any discount on public transportation. Even though CalTrain and busses run right past campus and it’s really easy to get to wherever they want, there is no agreement with the public transportation systems like there are at other colleges.

(c) 2012

Saint Mary’s College

SAINT MARY’S COLLEGE, Moraga, CA (visited 7/16/12)

St Mary's towerWhat a great school! This is a LaSallian (Catholic) college, and one of the things that the Director of Admissions talked about was the difference between the different types of Catholic schools (very helpful – I had no idea). LaSalle schools are run by the Christian Brothers, and there are no priests. They view themselves as “brothers to each other and big brothers to the students.” They came out of France in 1684 and are very intentional about education. They’re more collaborative and democratic, hence the seminar style classes that make up the Core curriculum at St. Mary’s. There are only five Christian Brother/LaSallian institutions in the US (vs 28 Jesuit). There is a definite community feel here; there are just under 3,000 students, most of whom live on campus.

St Mary's courtyardI appreciated that we got to participate in a mock Seminar Class as part of our tour. This is a Great Books College but not in the St. John’s sort of way. Students take four seminars in the Great Books (reading books by/about Dante, Freud, Wolfe, Marx, Shakespeare, etc). There are no lectures or tests; instead, participation and papers make up the grades. The idea is to pull in a lot of perspectives and look at things through different lenses. I asked one of the professors at the pre-dinner reception about how grades and feedback is done – how do they keep track of participation, etc? He talked about an extensive process meant to give direct, relevant feedback to the students, including a discussion with/among several of the professors/discussion leaders in front of the student. Although it’s time intensive, he said it was well worth it since it gave the students so much to work with; they’ve seen real improvement with the level of engagement and growth among the students.

St Mary's 1Approximately 1/5 of the students are in the business program. Pre-med is very strong, with 80-100% acceptance rate to med schools in any given year. Their dance, theater, and music is of conservatory quality but they do not offer a BFA, going back to their interest in education and the “whole person.” They want students to have a broad base to their education, hence the liberal arts focus. Creative Writing is also popular, and students can continue to an MFA. Study Abroad is a big deal here; travel-learning classes are particularly popular during this time. Approximately 90% of students will do some sort of international study during their four years.

St Mary's muralAlthough this is a very Eastern-feeling Liberal Arts college in many ways, it has its own style with Spanish architecture and “wild turkeys that patrol campus. They’re unimpressed with us.” They are an athletic powerhouse, best in the West Coast Conference. Sixty percent of students participate in some sort of athletics, and is one of the biggest employers of students on campus. School spirit is huge (Go Gaels!). Fordham and Notre Dame used to be their big rivals; now it’s Santa Clara University to the south of them. On the hillside overlooking the campus, there is a big SMC. Students from Santa Clara used to hike up and throw the rocks forming the ‘M’ down the hill (to turn it into SC instead of SMC). The letters are now concrete, and the freshmen will be sent up with red paint during orientation to give it a facelift.

As is typical of some of the smaller schools, they completely wined and dined us: hors d’oeuvres and wine in the atrium, and dinner in the faculty dining room (complete with California moscato with the crème brulee). They gave us copies of a novel by one of the professors who is also an alum. She joined us for dinner and was amazing to speak to. She also read a short excerpt from her book after dinner which gave a great flavor for the characters and how she pictures things in her head, and she signed copies for anyone who wanted it.

(c) 2012

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