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University of Alabama

University of Alabama (info session 12/10/18)

‘Bama has become more popular with my students over the last couple years (although groups of students wanting the larger, Southern, rah-rah feel seems to cycle through every so often) – and they are doing more outreach in the mid-Atlantic region. In mid-December, they did a one-week trip through the Baltimore/DC/VA area with counselor luncheons, info sessions for families, and other outreach. There was quite a bit of good information that came out of this!

I sat at a table with a student form Northern Virginia who was part of the Alabama team travelling through the region. She’s a sophomore who is double majoring in Chemical Engineering and Dance! “Alabama can help make that happen!” She is overloading on classes and clearly has this well planned out, but it’s doable. Her brother also attended the university which is how she learned about it; she originally was not going to even look at it, but the more time she spent there visiting him, the more it grew on her – and the other schools she visited “just didn’t compare.

Part of what she loves about the school is that she isn’t limited, even as a double major, one of which is Engineering and can be highly dictated. She’s going to study abroad next year in Dublin; they have a program with a direct transfer for ChemE. There are also engineering co-ops. Outside of the classroom, she’s on the Hip-hop Dance Crew, in Society of Women Engineers (where she’s highly involved in community service), and a member of a STEM sorority. She said that she didn’t go Greek the first year because she was sure she didn’t want that, but the more she learned about it, the more she liked the group she joined.

Greek life can be important or not there at all, said both the student and one of the reps who graduated a few years ago. There’s no shortage of other options to choose from with 650+ clubs and counting, including cloud watching. The university sponsors Get On Board Day. Recruitment/info tables for clubs are set up between the dorms and classes so students have to walk through them and see it! Athletics are, of course, a big draw here. Students are guaranteed 3 tickets (2 if they pick the package including the Auburn game) to the football games; they pay $10 a game. If they don’t use their tickets, they can transfer them to someone else. As long as the ticket gets used, the student gets “points”/credit for going and can increase their standing for picking their package for the next time around. Also, the more academic credits they have, the more tickets they’re eligible to get (currently, if they have 60+ credits, they can get a full package).

They’re doing something well there with an 87% retention rate; 68% graduate within 6 years. They’ve also vastly increased their student population over the last 15ish years from 19,000 to just over 33,000 undergraduates. With that has come 90 new buildings since 2003. Currently about 60% of students are from outside Alabama: “It was a good surprise to see how many there were.”

They’ve started several Innovative Programs, as well:

The university app goes live in July. Students just need a transcript, test scores, and the app – no essays or recs needed. The university is getting strict about the Scholarship Consideration deadline on 12/15 – students must be ADMITTED by then! Once admitted, students have a variety of housing options with different price-points. That application opens on 10/1 with a priority deadline of 2/1. All freshmen are guaranteed space, but they longer they wait to apply/deposit, the less choice they’ll have in where they live. They do offer honors housing – Honors students don’t have to live there, but you have to be an honors student to get into that space.

© 2018

University of Baltimore

University of Baltimore (visited 12/10/13)

I knew nothing about UB before visiting, including that it’s been ranked as the #5 college city in the country. This is a unique campus that feels very much part of the city but without being overwhelming or without a cohesive campus.

UB 1

The main courtyard of UB

UB started in 1929 as a university serving non-traditional students, mostly in the evenings, and developed into a comprehensive university. Now it’s in the Maryland State University system (it joined in the 80s and is known as “The City Campus” of the state system) and was directed to go back to a professional school. For a while it served only Juniors and Seniors – kind of a “reverse community college.” Six years ago, they reverted back to a full four-year institution and have graduated two complete groups of students who started as freshman (this year will see the third class graduate). They are still moving down the path of attracting freshman, but it’s happening quickly. They matriculated 300 freshmen last year, and expect that to keep growing; they’re particularly interested in growing their out-of-state population which currently stands at about 6%. They offer merit-based scholarships ranging up to $7000 a year. Students can start getting scholarships (about $1000) with a 2.5 GPA and a 900 SAT. They also offer a full in-state tuition scholarship to students transferring in with 60 credits. Their Entrepreneur Fellows program, available to UB students entering Junior year, covers full in-state tuition. These students are also given a Baltimore-area mentor who has successfully started a business; in Senior year, they can compete for seed money to start their own business.

UB 3

The glass building of the law school behind another UB building

UB has the 4th largest law school in the country. Their undergraduate jurisprudence and criminal justice programs are very strong, as are their Business program (with 10 specializations) and Public Policy programs and several other areas people would associate with a long-standing professional institution. Pre-law students have two options if they’re interested in staying at UB for law. One is the Early Admit program. Students with a 3.5 GPA and a 156 on the LSAT can combine their senior year of undergrad with the first year of law school. The second option is the Automatic Admit program, available to students with a 3.35 GPA and a 154 LSAT.

UB 5

Part of their Business building

The university has invested more than $250 million towards additions to buildings and programs. They have some amazing options for majors such as Simulation (four categories including game and educational software), Integrated Arts (they don’t offer too many arts classes or music on campus, but this is a good option for people interesting in teaching), a shared MBA with Towson (students can take classes at either or both campuses to count towards the degree), and an agreement with MICA to take elective credits under UB (state) tuition. Additionally, students interested in ROTC can take advantage of this program on the Johns Hopkins campus.

UB 2

One of the student apartment buildings over the book store on campus

One of the most unique aspects of the university is that there are no dorms and no cafeteria on campus. They had a cafeteria for a while for both MICA and UB students, but UB shut it down since students weren’t using it. There are a few cafes and grab-and-go options on campus as well as lots of food options directly around campus. There are several housing options close by, including one apartment building over the school bookstore and another about a block away. Many of these are furnished and are rented by the bedroom rather than the full apartment, and several of these buildings are rented solely to students in the area. The university maintains close ties with all these apartment buildings and help students find an apartment as well as roommates if appropriate. This is a nice option for students who want to room with friends who are attending MICA, JHU, or other area schools. Financial Aid can also be used to cover housing costs. This comes in the form of a refund check from the school rather than the school paying directly. All the apartments are affordable, especially considering the cost of city living and the room and board expenses incurred at other universities.

UB 4

The stairwell of one of the older buildings

They look for students who want to take advantage of opportunities. Students need to be more independent than a lot of freshmen because of the housing situation. The students are doers, and even though there’s no official residential life, the students are still involved in clubs and activities. The office of Student Engagement is frequently used. Lots of activities give away pizza and t-shirts, a sure-fire way to get kids to show up. There are the typical range of academic, religious, political, and interest clubs (including a knitting club). They also have a Rec/Athletic Center just like other universities; the difference is that this one is located on the third floor of one of the buildings. Even though it was exam week, it was being well utilized. There are no official sports teams, but they do offer club sports which are active.

UB 6

The Edgar Allen Poe statue on campus

The campus is only 1.5 miles to Inner Harbor and located right next to MICA. They are also literally across the street from Penn Station which serves both Amtrak and MARC which now runs trains into DC on the weekends, as well for $7 (student rate). The Charm City Circulator is free; the purple line goes right past campus and goes to Federal Hill. Students are able to take advantage of all sorts of activities within the city, including $5 student-rate tickets to the Orioles (located on the Light Rail line).

(c) 2014

Goucher College

GOUCHER COLLEGE (visited 12/10/13)

A student building a snowman on the quad

A student building a snowman on the quad

~Goucher art

Student artwork on a window ledge

“There’s an interesting mix of students here. Put ten of them next to each other and they won’t look or  sound alike,” the Director of Admissions Corky Surbeck told me. This rang true as I walked through  campus; people all had their distinct styles. Despite this diversity, there’s a real sense of community and pride in the school. Although there is no residential requirement, 85% of students choose live on  campus. The big question they’re looking to answer when admitting students is, “Are you willing to step  up?” The individuals look out for the whole, and the unit looks out for the individual. The school is built  on inclusion and cooperation; students integrate from Day 1 (and they’re doing something right; last  year, they had an 87.3% retention rate between freshmen and sophomore years). First semester, students take two required classes: a writing class and Frontiers (basically a FYE class). It’s capped at 15 students and the professor is the initial advisor. Topics are meant to be interests of exploration and interest and can range from Freedom of Speech to Biodiversity.

The observatory.

The observatory.

I asked Mr. Surbeck what distinguished Goucher from other CTCL schools. He listed two things:

  • Study abroad is required, and “127% of students study abroad.” About 15% go for a full year, and maybe 40% for a semester. Many do at least one 3-week intensive trip; many others will do more than one or the 3-week intensives plus a semester abroad. This year, they’re bringing back an International Business class in Cuba. One of their more popular classes is The Art and Science of Glass co-taught by a science professor and an art historian; they go to Romania for three weeks, but also do two weekends in Corning, NY before and after the trip.
  • Location: very few other CTCL schools are in such proximity to a major city (Lewis & Clark and Rhodes are the others that comes to mind). They are 2 blocks from I-695 (Baltimore Beltway) but you’d never know it. The highway gives easy access to several areas, and students can be in downtown Baltimore in very little time. However, shopping, dining, movies, or work all located within a couple blocks of campus. Towson University, a large state school, is only 1.5 miles away.

Goucher 5Goucher students can cross-register at classes at eight affiliated schools in the Baltimore area – Notre Dame, Loyola, JHU, Towson, MICA, UMBC, and Morgan State. Freshman cannot take academic classes  on other campuses, but can take advantage of any extra-curricular offering; after that, they can register for two classes in each of the following years. Technically, 15% of space is set aside for cross-registration but that rarely becomes an issue. Mr. Surbeck estimates that 15-20% of students will cross-register and wishes that more students would take advantage of that. Most are happy with the offerings on campus or are taking advantage of study-abroad options so they don’t go to other campuses.

I got to talk to several students before going on tour:

  •  A junior philosophy and sociology major from NJ. He is studying abroad in Prague soon. He said he found Goucher “serendipitously” when he got a postcard in the mail.
  • Hillel room

    Hillel room

    Yashe, a Junior from just outside of Pittsburgh, who is majoring in Psychology and Russian. He’s hoping to spend a semester in Russia next term and is waiting for his final visas and other paperwork to come through. He was looking for a small school with a Hillel.

  •  Liz, a sophomore from Virginia, who wanted a school with a good dance program. She came up to audition and then again for admitted student day. She loved the people here and made his final decision after meeting everyone.
  • Blake from NH was looking for a Dance program. He’s hoping to do the Dance Intensive program in Taiwan. He loved the location and the opportunities.
  •  An international business and Spanish student from Atlanta. She originally did NOT like the school and wasn’t going to come here, but her mother made her come back for admitted student day; she loved the interactions with students she had when she visited and that changed her mind.
Lounge with a whiteboard running the length of the room

Lounge with a whiteboard running the length of the room

The students’ favorite classes have been: Distress and Disorder (psych); 3 Frontiers classes (Surveillance in Cinema, one on Shakespeare in which it was related to today, other movies, etc., Apocalypse (looking at fears); Existentialism and Theater; Social Deviance; Art and Activism (the Beat poets, Woody Guthrie, etc).

Things they would like to change would be to get AC in freshman dorms, adding Greek life, scholarships, providing scholarships for study abroad programs, and perhaps making the student body a little bigger. “There isn’t a lot of personal time here; it’s good in some ways, but because there are always people around, there’s not much privacy.”

The forum in the Anthaceum (the Library)

The forum in the Anthaceum (the Library)

~Goucher treeThey have a “small but fabulous theater major and minor.” They put on 3-5 shows each semester.  Playworks, which is put on every fall, is completely student run. The black box theater is a great space  with chairs and platforms that can be moved around to create any configuration they want. It’s clearly  easy for students to get involved in any activity without majoring in a particular field: the Head Tech  guy is an English major and the Head of Student Government (and he gets paid for his work in the  theater!). Sports are DIII except the Equestrian program which is DI. Students can bring their own  horse or use one of the college’s horses. Students who want to learn to ride can take horseback riding as  one of their PE requirements. There are two a capella groups (one coed and one all women), and musicians take advantage of the non-denominational chapel which has great acoustics and a full organ. Performers also can showcase talent at the student-run Gopher Hole Café (open 9pm-2am) where thy have music and open mic like a club space. The library (Anthaceum) is a Gold LEED certified building with a Forum which seats 800 plus additional standing room.

(c) 2014

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