UNIVERSITY OF DENVER (visited 10/4/12)
Before arriving on campus, I had never heard of a Green Ambulance, aka one that is Solar Powered. It was developed at DU (yes, they call themselves DU, not the other way around. We couldn’t find someone to tell us why) and now serves the campus community. People probably don’t think of DU as a college that’s developing new things, but a surprising amount of interesting stuff is being done here. However, after learning about the types of students they are attracting to campus, it wasn’t so surprising after all. DU is committed to drawing students who will actively engage in opportunities and will think outside the box. In the application and in the optional interviews (which can be done with any of a number people – faculty, staff, alumni), they look for evidence that students are motivated to learn, that they’re concerned about honesty and integrity, and are open to difference and new ideas.
I visited the University of Denver right after the first Presidential Debate, and there was clearly still a lot of residual energy surrounding that. We took the light-rail from downtown to the stop directly across the street from campus (students get to ride for free with their Student ID). This beautiful campus is located in a residential area of the city called (appropriately) University Place. There are malls nearby, and the first Chipotle ever opened is located only a couple blocks away. Downtown is seven miles away; a major technology corridor is six miles south (also on the light-rail line). Students use both areas for internships. Beyond that, students have access to all that this part of Colorado has to offer, including six ski areas within 90 miles.
Denver is a medium sized school with just over 5,000 undergraduates, but they also have a sizable graduate population which includes their law school and PhD students. Less than 40% of the undergrad population is from Colorado; they draw students from every state and 61 countries with almost 10% of the population coming from abroad. The city of Denver is a major draw for people coming from out-of-state. It’s a major metropolitan area (one of the very few in the country that has every major sports team!), an amusement park within the city limits, and more – but also has the additional appeal of being so close to several smaller cities (Boulder, Colorado Springs, etc) as well as the Rockies and other outdoor opportunities.
Denver runs on the quarter system with three 10-week sessions and an optional 4th summer session. Because of this, students have a 6-week winter break from Thanksgiving to beginning of January which students find helpful if they want to get seasonal employment. Students complete a Common Curriculum comprised of a series of writing classes, arts and humanities, and social and natural sciences.
Denver has 13 schools with more than 100 areas of study including interdisciplinary and pre-professional programs. More unusual majors include: Rhetoric and Professional Writing, Animation and Game Development, Real Estate and Construction Management, Astrophysics, and Cognitive Neuroscience. They have a full Music school, and the opera program is reportedly excellent. Students not majoring in music still have access to many classes in that school, but students must audition in order to major in music, and can only apply under the Regular Decision deadline. The Art school requires a portfolio, and Theater students who want scholarships must audition. Students interested in Business don’t apply to Daniels until freshman year for entrance into the school during the fall quarter of sophomore year; they are interviewed and submit a resume as part of the process. Special degree programs include 3+2 and 4+1 in Business, Education, and Social Work (in which students can study something different as undergrad), and in Art History, GIS, international studies, public policy, and engineering (in which students must major in that field as an undergraduate). UPDATE: In 2020, they added several more 4+1 programs that allow students to earn a bachelor’s and master’s degree simultaneously including the BA/BS + MA in Economics and Social Policy and the BA/BS + MA in Psychology.
Denver prides itself on active, not passive, learning with average class sizes of 21. Our tour guide’s smallest and biggest classes have been 17 and 120. Ninety-five percent of classes have fewer than 50 students; 82%% have fewer than 30. Every first-year student works with a faculty mentor. The five-year average retention rate is 88% (freshman to sophomore year). Professors teach 99.8% of the classes and are known for cutting edge contribution to research. Ninety percent of the full-time faculty hold the highest degree in their field and/or are active in their field such as the music professor playing in the symphony or the business professor who owns her own business. Sixty-five to seventy percent of students complete at least one internship before graduation. Over 200 students participate in research with faculty each year, and the school helps to pair up students with professors; students regularly publish and present their findings. About 1,250 students participate in 80 service-courses each year. DU is on the US President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll because of the amount of service they provide in the wider Denver area. They also want students to study abroad and have started the Cherrington Global Scholars program: If students have a 3.0 GPA, they can study abroad and not pay any more than they’d pay at DU. About 70% of students participate before graduation.
DU requires that students live on campus for the first two years; 95% of first-year students live on campus (the rest living with family in town). Dorms are comfortable and modern with cable, a micro-fridge, wireless, and other amenities coming standard. As is becoming more popular on campuses across the country, they have several Living Learning Communities available to First Year students who can choose from themes such as Creativity and Entrepreneurship, Environmental Sustainability, International, Social Justice, and Wellness. DU also provides Integrated Learning Programs which span all 4 years, the Honors Program, and the Pioneer Leadership Program. Students can minor in Leadership Studies which is becoming increasingly more popular.
The Early Action and the Regular Decisions rounds are equally competitive. Applicants can use either the Common App or the Pioneer App (specific to DU). They take either the SAT or the ACT w/o writing, and they will SuperScore both tests. They require a counselor recommendation; additional letters are optional. AP scores, if available, can help the students (but to get credit, the student must have earned a 4 or 5 on the exam). Qualifications for scholarships and for the Honors program are evaluated during application process. Those being offered a spot in the Honors program usually have just under a 4.0 GPA and about a 32 ACT or the SAT equivalent. University scholarships can carry over to the 5th year.
Campus has lots of activities to participate in or to watch. DU has 17 DI athletic teams; the college has earned 28 team and 109 individual champions, 308 All-Americans, and 57 Olympians. Non-athletes actively support the teams; hockey is the most attended event. The Alpine Club is particularly popular. Its goal is to get people outdoors, so they have equipment for student use, offer rides, and get discounts at local places. Homecoming, Winter Carnival, and May Days are particularly popular traditions which draw large crowds.