campus encounters

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Search Results for: “virginia state university

Virginia State University

Virginia State University (Visited 1/27/19)

VSU 10I arrived on Sunday to walk around and talk to some people; I was pleasantly surprised to see how active students were on a weekend. Students were playing football, walking across the street to the church, hanging out in the gazebo, walking between buildings. It had a lively vibe that not all campuses have on a weekend, particularly on a relatively chilly day in January.

VSU 9This HSCU is located in Petersburg, a small city about 20 minutes south of Richmond. Campus is very pretty – and is completely gated which surprised me. They’re in a slightly more residential area less than a mile from the downtown area of the city; there is public transportation available, and the train station is about a mile away. Students said that there’s been an increase of things to do on and around campus recently. They still say that a lot of it is “make your own fun,” but if you put some effort in, it’s fine. There are just over 4,000 undergraduates, about 2/3 of whom come from Virginia. Most freshmen (and just under 2/3 of the total study body) live on campus which explains part of why there was still a vibrant feel on campus on a weekend.

VSU 8As a land-grant school, it’s not surprising that majors within the College of Agriculture are strong here (Hospitality Management and Dietetics fall within this school in addition to Agriculture and other more traditional majors you’d expect). They also run a 400+ acre Agricultural Research Station about 2 miles from campus.

VSU 4However, students had a lot to say about other departments, especially Business. The College of Engineering and Technology offer 2 engineering majors (Computer and Manufacturing) as well as 3 in Engineering Technology degrees (Electronics, Information Logistics, and Mechanical).

I’m a bit concerned about retention and graduation rates; fewer than 45% of students graduate within 6 years. However, for students looking for a good bargain (tuition is less than $6,000 for in-state and less than $16,000 for out-of-state) at a medium-sized university where faculty will likely know who they are, this might be a good option.

© 2019

Norfolk State University

Norfolk State University (visited 1/31/19)

NSU 2I was impressed with the spaciousness, greenery, and attractive brick buildings on NSU’s campus (and I found out later that the campus used to be a golf course! That helps explain the terrain and why it’s so open and green). This is located in a great group of college-towns with schools like Old Dominion, William & Mary, Christopher Newport, Hampton, Virginia Wesleyan, and others all less than an hour away.

NSU 9This is one of many HBCUs in Virginia and is a member of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund. It was started as a chapter of Virginia Union (another HBCU near Richmond) (It seems like a lot of Virginia schools were off-shoots of other schools).  Not surprisingly, they pull about ¾ of their students from Virginia, and the student body is heavily female (about 2/3).

NSU 7Students like NSU’s size – it gives enough for some options and variety, but not so large that you fall through the cracks. Students said the professors are accessible and want to teach. However, they say that although a lot of the academic buildings have been worked on and the main quad gives a great first impression, the dorms and some other student life areas need a lot of work. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of support transitioning into college life.

NSU 5I visited campus in the late afternoon, around 4pm. There were almost no students around campus which was a disappointment. I was unable to get much of a sense of the campus culture from the students I encountered. While a majority of freshmen live on campus, well under 40% of the overall population lives there. The number of commuters give it a “touch and go” feel (and the parking lots were nowhere near full at 4:00 which tells you how quickly people leave classes after campus). Parking seems to be adequate; there’s that going for the school. “Social life isn’t all that active. We have good sports [they’re DI] but we go off campus a lot,” said one student. The city provides a decent amount to do, “but it’s the typical stuff in town – but the beaches are great, or we’ll go to Hampton to hang out.”

This all may feed into retention. While their freshman-to-sophomore retention rate was decent (hovering around 75%), they can definitely do better – and their graduation rate (in the mid-30%) worries me a great deal. I would not feel comfortable sending students here based on that alone. Students mentioned that financial aid was a bit of a hassle (but I’m not sure if it’s any more so than at other schools); this may be one of the barriers to completion.

© 2019

 

Kutztown University of PA

Kutztown University of PA (visited 4/25/18)

Kutztown 1“If you want to be a rock star, you can here because of the size and personal attention. DII athletes can also shine!” Several NFL players have come out of Kutztown as well as some basketball, baseball, and other players. Sporting events are definitely a visible part of campus life.

Kutztown fountain 3KU is an attractive school set along a major street. Although downtown is right next to campus, shuttles run regularly around town. Allentown and Bethlehem are only about 20 minutes away, and shuttles run there on most Wednesdays and weekends. For students wanting to venture further afield, they have buses that run into Philly and NYC. However, there’s a $150 shuttle/transportation fee included in the bill.

Kutztown libraryThis is one of 14 schools in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Ed (separate from Penn State which is part of the Commonwealth System along with Temple, Pitt, and Lincoln). For a medium-sized school (about 9,000 undergrads), they have an amazing array of facilities including a planetarium/observatory, a German Heritage Center, and a Marine Center located in Virginia.

Kutztown 4They offer international students a scholarship equal to 40% tuition (and students who have already studied in the US for at least 1 full year do not need to submit TOEFL for consideration for admissions/scholarships), and there are full-tuition scholarships for all eligible students.

Students interested in continuing music can do so here without majoring in it. Students selected for their string quintet get full-ride scholarships!

Business is internationally accredited, and the education program is strong – not surprising since this started as a teacher’s college.

© 2018

Radford University

Radford University (visited 4/3/18)

Radford fountainI was excited to have the chance to visit Radford since a student of mine was all fired up about it several years ago; it was the only one he wanted to go to. My welcome to the university by the admissions staff was enthusiastic, and they were helpful with parking and getting me registered for the tour. That being said, I was highly disappointed in the visit, and I left not knowing why I would recommend the school to a student, mostly because I had no idea what made it different from a multitude of other medium sized universities.

Radford 4This is a public university with 9,400 students, 90% of whom are undergraduate. The school didn’t go co-ed until 1972; today, it’s still almost 60% female. I do get the feeling that their reputation is getting better corresponding to its growing academics and cracking down on some of the partying that the school had been known for. “I get the party question a lot,” said the tour guide. “It was definitely a party school at one point. It’s not like that anymore. Admissions is getting more selective, and this is a dry campus. They even consider your body to be a container. If you come back to campus visibly intoxicated, you can get in trouble. You might not even get into your major if you’ve been written up for an alcohol charge.” They do seem to be doing some things right; retention is at about 77% which above the national average.

Radford dorm quad 4Radford is a good choice for a solid B/B+ student. Admitted students have a middle GPA range of 2.9-3.5. Generally, scholarships are granted to students with at least a 3.2 GPA and 1080 SAT or 22 ACT. Students must apply by December 1 to be considered for scholarships. Scores received by then will be considered: if new scores come in, they’ll reconsider the scholarship offer. Out-of-state scholarships are higher corresponding to the higher tuition (about $32,000 for OOS compared to just under $20,000 for in-state).

Radford dorm towerThe average class size is 30-35 students. This is a bit larger than many schools of this size, although fewer than 3% of classes are taught by Grad Assistants. Students seem pretty happy with their classes. There are 6 colleges to choose from for majors:

Radford dorm quad 1There are 15 residence halls clustered around several small quads. All dorms are suite-style or have en suite bathrooms; none have bathrooms down the hall. I’m sure this has gone a long way to Radford being ranked #3 best dorms in the state and in the top 100 nationwide. Their meal plan is like a debit card. With their card, food is half-price at the on-campus fast food vendors (Wendy’s, Starbucks, Chik-fil-a, etc) and 70% off listed prices at the dining hall. They have a sit-down style restaurant on the first floor of the largest dorm on campus, a 10-floor dorm that houses about half the freshmen. Parking is available for all students in a lot across a footbridge from the main campus, but cars aren’t needed. The Radford Transit shuttles run every 10 minutes from about 8am to about 1am. This gets them around campus as well as in town to places like Walmart and as far as Blacksburg (Virginia Tech area).

Radford dining hallStudents seem happy with the things to do on and off campus. “We’re in Southern Virginia among the mountains and rivers,” said a rep. There is a town, and Virginia Tech is not too far up the road, but this is not a booming college town. Thy have a popular Outdoors Club which gets students into the immediate area to hike, bike, ski, etc as well as outside of the area to scuba dive, sky dive, and more. The DI sports are strong, and students go for free, including trips to see away games during the NCAA tournament. “We’re the only Virginia team to win a game in the that,” said a rep. There are plenty of chartered club sports and 200 intramurals for students who don’t want to play varsity.

© 2018

 

 

Virginia Commonwealth University

Virginia Commonwealth University (visited 3/13/17)

VCU 1

One of the dorms; much of campus sits on streets like this

Students looking for an urban campus with lots of diversity, school spirit, and big sports will do well here. However, they need to be willing to advocate for themselves.

This is a state school with 24,000 undergrads, 37% of whom are male and 89% coming from in-state. Gen Ed classes run 150-200 students in lecture halls, but the upper level major classes average 27 students. “It’s the students’ job to take advantage of the opportunities.” Classes are varied, as you’d expect from a school this size. A couple favorite classes were Cultural Text and Context about Egypt and Women in Global Politics.

VCU ped walkway

The pedestrian walkway part of central campus

Campus sits in the middle of Richmond with almost no “central campus” in the traditional sense. However, location means there’s plenty to do, and students have opportunities to connect to the community, get internships, and apply what they’ve learned. The James River is minutes away from campus with hiking and other activities. Richmond itself is centrally located, only 1.5 hours to Virginia Beach and a little more than 2 hours to DC.

VCU 2

One of the older buildings on campus

VCU is a relatively new institution, starting in 1968 when 2 colleges merged. The main campus sits on the site of one school; all the medical programs (including graduate schools) are on the other one a couple miles away. The do offer a Guaranteed Admissions Program for some honors students into several of the graduate health programs as long as they meet the minimum requirements. This is not binding so it’s ok if they change their mind. Applications for this have a hard November 15 deadline; students need a 1330 SAT or 29 ACT and a 3.5 unweighted GPA. Beyond that, they should have done something to stand out such as shadowing or volunteering.

Engineering and the Arts are big here:

  • Engineering has offerings in Biomedical, Chemical and Life Science, Electrical and Computer, and Mechanical and Nuclear.
  • VCU arts 1

    One of the art studios

    The Arts Department includes both visual ad performing arts.

    • Visual arts are very much studio-based. “It allows us to establish ourselves and experiment,” said a junior painting/printmaking major from Kansas. “I wanted to go somewhere where I had the resources of an entire university.” He loves the program and is very happy with his decision to come to VCU, but said the downfall is that they don’t get any help in establishing a design portfolio. “We’re on our own to figure that out.” There also aren’t really any internships easily available or at least advertised. “I looked online; I think this major is the only one with nothing listed for internship opportunities,” he told me.
    • Unusual offerings include Kinetic Imaging and Craft and Material Studies.

VCU plaza

The plaza outside the main dining commons (to the left). The library is the glass building on the right.

Humanities and Sciences, of course, is the biggest school. A few unusual offerings are Military Science and Leadership, Statistical Sciences and Operations Research, Kinesiology, and Forensic Science.

The smallest majors/schools are Social Work (35 freshman) and Life Sciences with 51 freshmen (this includes Bioinformatics, Envi Sci, and Integrative Life Sciences; biology and other sciences are in the Arts and Sciences division).

Students really like the diversity on campus. “Campus shows off the spectrum of people there. I’ve made friends from all over,” said one of the tour guides (we had 3).

VCU LLC 1

An LLC building

There are plenty of living opportunities such as LLCs and Global Living. There is no residency requirement, but 74% of freshmen do live on campus. Food gets good reviews from the students: “There’s so much food! They keep adding new options every year.” The dining hall sometimes runs what they call ‘Upper Cuts’ which serves “really, really great food!” according to one of the tour guides. It requires a second swipe on the meal plan. Restaurant Row, on one of the main streets running through campus, takes Rams Bucks. For students living off campus, it’s easy to find apartments and houses to rent near campus.

VCU dormAdmissions is rolling, and it takes about 4-6 weeks to get a decision after application is complete. They recommend that students include their SSN on the app to facilitate the link to FAFSA. This streamlines, the process, reduces mistakes, and allows them to get the package to students earlier. Students applying by Jan 15 will get an answer by April 1 at the latest. Test scores are optional for students with a 3.3 GPA at the time of application BUT are required for merit scholarships, the Honors College, Engineering majors, and for homeschooled applicants. If you want to get considered for automatic-consideration scholarships – apply by 11/15!!!

VCU stu cntrThe Honors College will look at writing on standardized tests; regular admissions does not. Priority deadline for freshman Honors Program is 2/1. The Guaranteed Admissions program falls under the honors college: if you’re admitted to GA, you’re admitted to HC, but not vice versa! The application for GA is on the Honors College website and is completely separate from the Common App.

© 2017

Southern Virginia University

Southern Virginia University (visited 11/3/16)

svu-flowersSVU is a Latter-day Saints school; they are not owned by the church but have adopted their honor code, and 90% of their students are Mormons. “We get no money from the church which means we can do things our way,” said the Director of Admissions. Students do not need to attend any church services, but they do need to pledge to live by LDS values such as not using alcohol, tobacco, drugs, and not engaging in pre-marital sex. “This is an environment of clean living; it’s a safe faith-based environment.”

svu-main-bldg-2

The original resort hotel which is now on the Registry of Historic Landmarks

“We’re not going to have a lot of the bling or flash that you might be used to,” the Admissions Director told us. This began as a finishing school for girls in 1867. The current property was built up as a hotel resort but turned over before it ever operated as one, becoming Southern Seminary (still all female) and kind of a partner school to W&L and VMI (both all male). The main building is beautiful and fancy; the barn/stables for the resort has been turned into the athletic center. In the 1990s, financial problems caused the school change its name to Southern Virginia College and go coed, but was still about to close when a businessman in Richmond bailed them out in 1996. He felt that there needed to be another option on the East coast for an Honor Code based environment.

svu-3With 800 students, the school is still small; they would love to grow and be more diverse. Geographic diversity is already big. Half the students come from Virginia and surrounding states, but there were more out-of-state plates than I’ve seen at any other school. Not surprisingly, several were from Utah. In terms of religion, “We don’t care what religion people are, but all applicants do have to sign off on the Honor Code.” LDS members will have a bishop sign the statement as well stating that the students will be willing and able to abide by this; non-members have another adult do this. “People here don’t necessarily know who is and who isn’t a member of the Mormon Church because they’re all good kids.”

svu-kids-playing-lax

Lots of kids were outside playing sports in their free time. 

The sports-culture is huge here, and about 50% of students are on a varsity team. The Director of Admissions is a former football player for Oklahoma (which he mentioned a lot). Although we never got to talk to any students directly (the tour was given by the Director and there was no student panel), we saw a lot of kids around, and many of them were introduced briefly, and almost all were on a sports team. The university has 20 teams which was an enrollment-based decision; they’re 4 years into the NCAA experience, playing in the NJAC for football and CAC (Capital Athletic Conference) for others. There are two new grass fields and an artificial turf field. They have a strength/conditioning coach for each sport and 4 athletic trainers. “It’s not about winning championships. It’s about being engaged.”

svu-chairsI did get to talk to a student for about a minute when I split off from the group quickly; she loves the opportunities here. “I came here from Idaho without ever seeing the school. I’m an RA and play sports.”

Beyond sports, a lot of students participate in music. They offer scholarships, and students can submit videos to be considered for these. They also have a dance studio.

svu-1“This is a small liberal arts education without the normal cost.” Almost everyone is out in 4 years if not 3.5. They get one of the highest student engagement rates in the country. There are scholarships for returning students like the Nice Scholarships (just be nice!) or Cowboy/Cowgirl Ethics Award. Students can get a mission scholarship; this can be granted for Peace Corps service; it doesn’t have to be religious.

svu-dorm-2

One of the dorms taken from up the hill where the new dorms are located.

Academic offerings are standard for a small liberal arts school. The Education program – Music, Elementary, and Spanish – in done in conjunction with Washington & Lee.

svu-dining-hall

The dining hall

Dorms are single-sex (and apparently there are no kitchens in the male dorms). Many students are housed up a hill on the side of campus where some new dorms were recently constructed. The dining hall is very small with limited food options; food is served on movable heating carts reminiscent of Chinese buffets. The couple kids I asked said that the food “was good.”

©2016

St. Joseph’s University (PA)

Saint Joseph’s University (visiting 7/20/16)

St. Joe's 1This is absolutely an amazing school! Beautiful campus, enthusiastic students, and strong academics. Who could ask for more?

Founded by the Jesuits in 1851, St. Joe’s mission is “to educate men and women with and for others.” This is 1 of 28 Jesuit schools in the US, and they seem to live the “Care for the Whole Person: mind, body, spirit” ethos: this was the first school on the tour to have a Safe Space sign in the Admissions Office (or anywhere that I saw).

St. Joe's statue

Statue from the Institute for Jewish-Catholic relations

Another phrase you’ll see and hear all over campus, on t-shirts, etc is “That’s the magis,” which is all about more/digging deeper. “Things people do here are for the greater glory of God,” said an admissions rep. Although almost ¾ of the students identify as Catholic (although not necessary practicing), people are free to do what they want. Mass is not required. Jesuits are about finding out who they are spiritually. “Religious life is here if you want it. I’m not Catholic, and I’ve never felt out of place or pushed to go to mass or anything,” said our tour guide. There are even Muslim and Jewish spaces on campus for worship.

St. Joe's dorm

One of the dorms

Greek life is also another “there if you want it” thing on campus. There are 3 on-campus frats and 5 on-campus sororities, but no Greek housing. “We’re Jesuit. That’s not our deal.” About 20% of the population goes Greek. Students can live in suite-style dorms (6 double rooms around a common area) as freshman. “I was shy coming in, and I’m so glad I chose this option. I had 11 people to interact with instead of 1, and it brought me out of my shell,” said the tour guide.

St. Joe's 3There are just under 5000 undergrads on campus from 44 states and 36 countries. They draw heavily from the mid-Atlantic from Massachusetts down to North Carolina. This year’s freshman class is the most racially diverse so far with 19% self-identifying as students of color. “I feel like it’s diverse, but I’m a straight white male. I’m probably not the one to talk about it. That being said, I’ve never seen animosity. I feel like people are inclusive and get along,” said the tour guide. He went on to talk about a friend from Virginia who is openly gay; she feels much more comfortable and accepted on campus than she ever did at home.

St. Joe's hawk

One of the hawk (mascot) statues around campus

Philadelphia is the second largest college town in the country after Boston. Although the university is technically within the Philly city limits, when you cross the street, you’re in the suburbs of Montgomery County. A train station is about 5 minutes away; from there, the 30th St Station is one stop away where people can get anywhere, including the airport and downtown.

St. Joe's bballThis is a DI school (Atlantic 10 Conference) with 20 teams (no, football isn’t one of them!). Basketball is a huge deal; Villanova is the big rival. Students can get season tickets for $85 or $13 a game. They have a large student section set aside, and the excitement generated by students have led them to earn the ranking of #2 student section in the country. They’ve also been ranked #1 for their mascot. Two students are selected as Hawks after an extensive application process (including an essay, recs, and a physical test because they literally have to flap the entire game!). This comes with a full tuition scholarship!

St. Joe's library int 2The Jesuits are big proponents of liberal arts education and focusing on the whole person as an academic. The General Education Program requires 16-18 core classes. Average classes are 22-23 with most classes capped at 35. Since the Jesuits are big on having students question things and participate, most classes are seminar style. There are also many Experiential Learning options; most students participate in at least one of these:

  • Study Abroad
  • Co-op: specific for Business with the exception of Food Service. They take 2 semesters off for 2 paid positions. They take summer courses to make up for the coursework not taken in those 2 semesters. Food Marketing majors graduate in 5 years and complete 3 co-ops.
  • Service Learning. “500 spots filled up in 3 hours for the trip this year!” said the tour guide. “I missed out on it because I had no idea it would fill up so quickly.”
  • Internships
  • Washington Center Program

St. Joe's quadIn addition to Experiential Learning, there are several distinctive academic experiences:

  • Kinney Center for Autism Education and Support: community members can come for mentorship, students in the Autism Behavioral Studies major can work or volunteer here, and students on the spectrum can get support, as well (for a $6000 additional cost).
  • Honors program: Students with a 3.75 GPA and 1300 (old SAT) might be invited to join. They take 8 core classes at the honors level, go on field trips, have priority registration, etc.
  • Thomas Jefferson University Partnership. SJU doesn’t have PT, OT, etc; students interested in this complete 3 years at SJU then a variable number at TJU depending on the program.
  • Summer Scholars: students in all majors, not just science, can complete paid research on campus. They can do this as many summers as they want.

St. Joe's archesMajors fall into one of two schools:

Our tour guide had a hard time narrowing down some of his favorite classes. “Can I have more than one??” He talked about the following:

  • Creative writing taught by Tom Coin who has written books on golf (and was a clue on Jeopardy!) “He was more of a mentor than a teacher and encouraged me to trust my humor. I’m now signed up for a grad level screenwriting class with him this fall.”
  • His Freshman Seminar: Genesis, Sex, Lies, and Mayhem. It was a practical class and gave him a better understanding of the Bible. “If I’m at a Catholic school, that’s helpful! The Bible comes up from time to time.”
  • In the Theology/Philosophy realm, he enjoyed Religious Differences (Islam), God and Evil, and Philosophy of Death.

St. Joe's 6

The quad with the bell tower, gargoyles, and the heads of past university presidents

Here, admissions reps also serve as Financial Aid officers. Families have 1 person to connect with. Admissions is test-optional but students do have to make the decision on the application. If students say that they do NOT want their scores to be considered, SJU will not look at them even if they’re sent in. If students indicate on the application that they DO want them considered, scores are then required.

Here’s a fun fact to end with: there are no bells in the bell tower because hawks were living in there. Around the bell-tower quad, the past-presidents’ heads are depicted in stone along with some gargoyles.

© 2016

George Mason University

George Mason University, Fairfax, VA (visited 1/28/12)

I did not expect to like George Mason so much. For such a large public university (about 20,000 undergrads – the largest in Virginia), I think that it still has a very regional feel to it; I really only started hearing about it when I moved to Maryland. The comments were not the most favorable; people perceived it as the easy-to-get-into safety/back-up school. This may have been the case many years ago, but I don’t believe this still holds true. They accept just over half of their applicants, and now that I’ve visited, I can see why people (including a salutatorian I recently taught) chose George Mason over other, seemingly more prestigious options.

One of the benefits of the school is that it is young. It was founded in 1959 as a branch of the University of Virginia until they broke off and “went at it alone.” The admissions counselor said that being so young, the school can be flexible – instead of being stuck with what is already in place or being beholden to tradition, they can look at the job market, talk to alums about what worked and what didn’t, etc and plan accordingly. They are hugely innovative, and it’s clearly working for them in terms of what they can offer the students and how it’s affecting the upbeat culture on campus. Students are engaged and happy. I was on campus on a sunny, relatively warm Saturday in January. Students were out and about on campus, engaging with each other, and taking advantage of campus facilities.

Another benefit is its location. The self-enclosed campus is located not far outside of DC in a nice suburban area. For being so close to DC, I found it surprisingly easy to drive to and find parking. The students have easy access to the city. Shuttles take students to and from the metro stop near campus. The campus reflects a lot of the diversity in the city, as well: students from about 135 countries and almost every state study on campus. Additionally, students can cross-register for classes at Georgetown and most of the other DC area universities as long as the classes are in their majors.

Academics are strong, practical, and hands-on. Their Writing Across the Curriculum program ranks as one of the the Top 15 in the country, and the management and nursing programs are both in the top 15% in the nation. 96% of the classes are taught by professors rather than graduate students, and many of them are still active in their fields, bringing real-life practical knowledge and information into the classrooms. Classes have enrollments of about 25-35 students, giving students access to the professors as well as more discussion and hands-on based learning. Many majors require internships, and many students in those majors that do not require them still participate in an internship before graduation.

GMU is a test-optional for students who have a minimum of 3.5 GPA and in the top 50% of their graduating class, but students who do not submit SAT or ACT scores will NOT be considered for scholarships or the Honors College. They are also innovative and flexible in how students apply: they will accept a video essay with their application.

Freshmen are guaranteed housing, and 80% will live on campus. About 7% of the student population goes Greek.

One definite draw-back is the physical size of campus: it is huge, and walking across campus takes a very long time. There are a lot of shuttles and buses, but clearly this is something to keep in mind.

(c) 2012

Becker College

Becker College (visited 3/22/14)

Becker Quad

Becker Quad

Becker surprised me; I knew almost nothing about it before visiting (and embarrassingly, only vaguely knew the name). I left with a very positive impression. The college is small enough to be personal, but large enough to give the students options – including being able to move back and forth between the two campuses in Worcester and in Leister, situated less than 20 minutes apart from each other. The college has a clear mission, and no one seems to be forcing it to be something it’s not – or to be all things to all people. Because of that, they do what they do very well, and the students get an excellent education and overall experience.

LLC for Interior Design

LLC for Interior Design

Our tour guide was Sarah, a senior Interior Design major from New Jersey who is headed to graduate school next year for Interior Architecture. She loves Becker and couldn’t ask for a better school. Her major, along with Nursing and the Animal Sciences, are the biggest majors. She took us into the Health Science building which didn’t feel like a classroom building – in fact, the hallways had carpeting. The labs are state-of-the-art including simulation dummies. Nursing has a 12:1 student to faculty ratio allowing students to get a lot of hands-on experience in these labs before they even start their clinicals (and they had a 99% placement rate for their nursing graduates). All majors have current technology to support the education, including a 3D printer in the Game Design house.

Lounge of the Game Design building

Lounge of the Game Design building

Game Design seems to be their fastest growing major, and they’re adding labs to accommodate the expansion. They’ve added a Game Management major dealing with the business side of the industry, and they brought in someone from Babson to run it. Exercise Science is also big. The brand new Forensic Science Building will open next month. They have a blood splatter room, a bullet room, etc. Even Game Design has made a “solve a murder” game that ties into this. They also started a Japanese minor because of the tie-in to anime.

Game Design House

Game Design House

Becker's largest dorm

Becker’s largest dorm

The university has made wonderful use of the neighborhood surrounding the school and has become part of the area. They have bought many of the Victorian homes in the several blocks on which the university sits and have maintained them as dorms. Each House has 25-45 students living in it, and all dorms are coed. They have Learning-Living Communities as an option for students starting in their sophomore year. The only large dorm is a brick building housing about 100 freshmen. This building also has 1 wing on the 4th floor designated as 21+; this is the only place on campus that students are allowed to have alcohol (and even then, only “small quantities”). Their Game Design building, a lovely two-story ivy-covered building is the newest property acquired by the college. They convert spaces as needs change: the library used to be their gym, and is not a spacious and light study area. Although they don’t house as many books as many other university libraries, they make sure not to duplicate resources between the libraries on the two campuses, and they shuttle books back and forth; students often get requested books on the same day so it’s easy to get what they need.

Library

Library

The campus isn’t far from Elm Park which the school has “adopted” and helps take care of. It was designed by the same guy who designed Central Park (supposedly this was the “trial run”!). There are lots of town-wide events like Art in the Park held there. The university recently acquired an apartment building with 708 upperclassmen on the main drag past the park.

~Becker 2The new President has placed a high priority on Global Citizenship. Students have worked in a sustainable garden in West Virginia and building houses in Haiti. They’ve provided scholarships for two students from Sierra Leone and they now have a partnership there where students are travelling to work. Students in classes are working on how to solve problems. Twenty percent of the faculty are international (born somewhere else). If all goes well, they’ve have the first Global Citizenship major in the country.

~Becker 5The average class size is around 16; the largest lecture hall on campus only has 70 seats. The classrooms we saw had about 24 seats in them set up around two-person tables and with nicely upholstered chairs. Any classes not available on Becker’s campus can be accessed through the Worcester Consortium of Colleges (Anna Maria, Clark, WPI, Holy Name, and Worcester State). Freshmen can have cars on campus (and there’s no parking fee), but there are also city buses and shuttles if students want or need to get to other campuses.

Food is pretty good on campus, but “it is campus food,” Sarah said. She’s never had more than a 5 minute wait for food even during rush times. The meal everyone rushes for is spaghetti; pasta is a huge deal here! Hawk’s Nest, the snack bar/ grill, is a popular hang-out. They will usually make what students want (if they have the ingredients!) even if it’s not on the menu. So many students were asking for chicken quesadillas that they ended up making in a permanent option.

Leister campus:

Student Center and classrooms at Leister campus

Student Center and classrooms at Leister campus

Although only about 20 minutes away, this campus has a distinctly different feel; whereas the other is incorporated into residential neighborhood in Worcester, this is a traditional campus. All the Animal Studies programs are on this campus, and there are plenty of open spaces to accommodate these. They have a 30 Acre equestrian center and students can board horses. Becker is the #1 producer of Vet Techs in NE (#15 nationally). Many of the athletic programs are also out here; their football field is turf. School spirit is huge! Soccer, football, and basketball pull in the most fans – but Hockey actually pulls in a lot of students to the school, and Becker now boasts 70% out-of-state student population, many of whom come from OH, NJ, CA, and CO.

The May House sits on this campus, which was owned by Louisa May Alcott’s family and where she wrote one of her novels. The 1812 House is supposedly haunted.

© 2014

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