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Archive for the category “College Visits”

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

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Worcester Polytechnic Institute (Take 2)

Worcester Polytechnic Institute (visited 7/28/19) (Click HERE for notes and pictures from my visit on 3/22/14)

WPI 2I love “looping back” to schools after a few years to remind myself of what’s going on there as well as seeing what’s new. The nice thing about WPI is their consistency – with a willingness to grow! One my original trip, 2 other counselors and I sat in on the regular info session and tour offered to all visiting families. This time, I was with a group of 26 international students learning about their college options. Much of what I heard about the curriculum and the “WPI Plan” was the same as 5 years ago, but I got a broader perspective of the international experience on campus as well as finding out about some new programs/majors being offered.

WPI quad 1Just about 11% of the 4500 undergrads are international citizens. An Iranian student helped give the information session, and students from Japan, Vietnam, and Kenya spoke on the student panel. They also showed a great YouTube video (produced entirely by international students) on the International Experience at WPI. “For such a small school, I love how much I can do and get the most out of the experiences.”

WPI maker space

One of the maker spaces on campus

Engineering remains the largest concentration/school on campus. They were the first in the US to offer Robotics Engineering and is only one of a few schools with Fire Protection Engineering.

Computer Related fields are the next largest concentration at WPI; these are housed within the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Data Science is the newest major (starting fall 2019); Interactive Media and Game Development and Bioinformatics are also relatively new. Students can earn a Concentration in AI as part of CompSci major. They offer multiple math tracks including Applied, Actuarial, Financial, and Industrial Mathematics, Math Sciences, and Math for Educators.

WPI lab bldgThe Business School focuses on the intersection of technology and business. In addition to generic business degree, students can major in Management Engineering or Management Information Systems.

There’s lots of academic and social support. Admissions is test-optional because they know that these exams don’t measure creativity and problem-solving ability. They want people who can work in a team and who are passionate about math and science since they’re taking those classes from the beginning.

WPI dorm 2WPI Plan: It’s what makes it unique; they implemented in 1971. It has 4 parts:

  • The Academic Calendar is divided into four 7-week terms; students take 3 classes each term. Summer is almost 4 months long, giving students more time for internships. Students only need 45 credits to graduate (equivalent to 15 terms) but most will complete 48 (16 terms) by graduation.
  • Non-punitive grading policy: students earn A, B, C, or NR (no record). They want students to feel more comfortable challenging themselves with classes they may not have taken otherwise. If they get a grade lower than a C in a class needed for the major, they need to retake it (“Who wants to drive over a bridge built by an engineer who didn’t pass some of their classes?”). There is also no + or – in the system so people don’t compete over points; it creates a more collaborative environment.
  • WPI mascot 3

    “Gompei the Goat,” WPI’s mascot

    They offer a Flexible Curriculum: “We Advise, You Decide.” There are no pre-requisites, only recommendations.

  • Project-based curriculum (it’s worth checking out the YouTube video Innovate Everything)
    1. 1st year: Great Problems Seminar: Students look at a world-wide problem (like water shortage) and try to solve it.
    2. 2nd year: Humanities and Arts: All students have to take 6 courses in a concentration within the Humanities or Arts, 1 of which is an immersive project.
    3. 3rd year: Interactive Qualifying Project. Students work with a community, NGO, or company. They come up with a project that will help the community such as making a hospital more accessible for hearing and visually impaired people.
    4. 4th year: Major Qualifying Project, equivalent to a capstone or thesis for the major. This is a 3-course equivalent (FT for 1 term or PT for 3 terms). All students get a $5000 global scholarship to help cover travel and project costs. They have 40+ project centers around the world.

WPI 7WPI boasts a retention rate of 95%, well over the national average. They take excellent care of students, starting with almost all freshman (97%) living on campus which is proven to help students succeed academically and socially. They have more than 200 clubs; the rep said, “We have plenty of more serious clubs like math club – there are 5 of those – but also a lot of fun things like Underwater Hockey and 2 cheese clubs, 1 for making and 1 for eating. Worcester itself is the 2nd largest city in New England and ranked 9th (by Forbes) Most Livable City with easy access to Boston, NYC, beaches, and Skiing. With 12 area colleges, there are over 38,000 area college students so local establishments cater to them well.

© 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.

© 2019

University of Hartford

University of Hartford (visited 5/30/19)

Hartford students

An orientation leader group

Hartford is bigger than I expected (it’s over 300 acres) but relatively easy to navigate. Campus is divided into Academic and Residential sides with a stream in between. Even in late May after graduation, campus was fairly busy. They were doing Orientation Leader training, and a lot of the students knew my tour guide. She had been studying abroad for a semester, so there were a few reunions. She kept apologizing for the interruptions, but it was nice to see that students knew each other and wanted to interact.

Hartford 2Students seem to have a good balance to socializing and work. There’s a strong social aspect to campus. “We’re a hammock school!” said the tour guide. They have frequent faculty-student dodge ball and kickball games. However, the social doesn’t seem to interfere with either the service- or academic-minded part of things, and in fact, all of these seem to work together well. My tour guide talked about going on Alternative Spring Break: “Spending 36 hours on a bus to Houston was … an experience, but I got a lot of new best friends out of it!” All aspects of campus life seem to play off of each other and helps students have a great experience at the college.

Hartford fire pit 2

A fire pit at the dorms

“I love the size [there are just over 5,000 undergrads]. I’m more a name than a number,” said my tour guide. She visited other schools but knew that big lectures were not the right thing for her. There are only 2 lecture halls on Hartford’s campus, each seating 75-100 people. “They’re rarely filled to capacity.” Her smallest class had 4 students (a psych class: Discovering Yourself and Others). “He’s arguably my favorite professor. We got a one-on-one experience. To have that sort of introspection with only 4 people was great.” Her largest, another psych class, had 30. Her favorite class was Dynamics of Artistic Expression. “She catered to the education students. The staff is really here for you.”

Hartford 2My tour guide was an education major and was in the classroom in first semester freshman year. “I was working with the cutest 2nd graders, and it solidified that I was doing the right thing.” She went to the high school in sophomore year. “I loved that there are 3 schools on campus affiliated with the university. I can walk 15 minutes from my dorm instead of driving across town.”

Hartford ISET complex

One of the science and tech academic buildings

Other notable academic information includes:

  • They have a patent on a NASA helmet. They offer one of only a few undergraduate Acoustic Engineering degrees in the country, and students in that major got to design one of the academic lounges in a new building several years ago.
  • One of the professors was awarded a Connecticut Space Grant in 2019.
  • There’s a wind tunnel under one of the science buildings.
  • Hartford lobby

    The lounge designed by Acoustic Engineering students

    They offer a minor in Complexity!

  • They just added 10,000 square feet into the business school.
  • Hillyer College was one of the founding schools and is now treated a bit like a dual-enrollment school. Students looking to ease the transition through additional academic support and smaller classes (they cap classes at 18) should look at this. It grants AA degrees, and students can transition into the Bachelors if they want. Honors Students can go to Hawaii and take a 3-credit class in the winter session.
  • Hartford frogs

    Bublebee Dart Frogs in the hallway of one of the science buildings (yes, they’re poisonous). 

    The Hartt School is a dance, music, and theater Conservatory located on a separate campus (Fine Arts are on Main Campus). These students have an 87% job placement rate at graduation. They put on 400 performances a year, and some even get live streamed. They can major in Music Ed as well.

Hartford bridgeAs students cross the bridge from the academic to the residential side, they come into Alumni Plaza (“Don’t step on the H!”) The res side has a combination of older dorms clustered into small groups and a few new ones, the most notable one, Hawk Hall, opened in 2007 and has 8 residential Living Communities like Honors, STEM, emerging Leaders, Wellness, Global Engagement, and Community Service. It’s more competitive to get into and requires an essay. Students can list 2 choices on the application. Each LC has about 50 people; floors are coed by room.

Hartford res side 1

The residential side; Hawk Hall is on the right

© 2019

Elms College

Elms College (visited 5/28/19)

Elms flowers“The practical education is one of the best parts of an Elms education. Students get a close look at whether or not the major they’ve chosen is really the right field for them.” I think this is one of my favorite things about Elms (in addition to the attractive campus) – it’s small and personal enough that they can really make sure that the students are getting what is most useful for them.

Elms fire pitThe rep I spoke to graduated from Elms (the full name is College of Our Lady of the Elms – but everyone just calls it Elms). “As a senior in high school, I met a faculty member here who already made me feel connected to campus. It seemed like the right place to be.” He was looking for a small campus where he could get involved and do internships and found that here. “I got to explore a lot. I took a Social Work class because it was required and ended up double majoring.”

Elms gateFounded by the Sisters of St. Joseph, this is very clearly a Catholic institution, but they make no assumption that students are Catholic. However, they do expect people to be understanding of others. “We’re pretty reserved when it comes to religious requirements and ideology. Students do have to take one 3-credit course which focuses more on being a good person and helping the community, and there’s a 30-hour community service requirement before graduation.” The Dorothy Day Service program offers the first-year students the chance to come to campus a week before classes start and complete many of these hours.

Elms signThere’s no expectation that students live on campus for any length of time; they currently house about 500 students on campus, but enrollment is more than twice that. The students who live on campus tend to stay, but they also pull a lot of kids from a 20-30 minute radius who commute in. They encourage students to live on campus by offering residents slightly larger scholarships. The rep would like to see another res hall added. “It would be a good step. Res halls are almost always at capacity. It would make it easier to grow. It’s not sorely necessary, but it would bring some new options.”

Elms sealThe Lyons Center for Natural and Health Sciences (built in 2012) is the best change the rep said he has seen since he got here. “It’s a nice improvement. It looks uniform to the rest of campus in terms of the outside, but the inside has the most state-of-the-art nursing, bio, Chem, and Computer Info Tech labs in the area. The simulation labs are modeled after Bay State Medical Center down the street which is the most used place we send students for nursing clinicals. It’s a really robust program.”

Elms library intSome of the academics worth noting include:

  • All majors have some sort of clinical, internship, etc attached to them.
  • Nursing is direct entry (as are all others majors) with a 100% NCLEX pass rate last year.
  • The Education program (including certification in Moderate Special Needs) also has strong outcomes year to year with a 100% job placement rate for the last 7 years.
  • The Accelerated MBA is “really aggressive. Students graduate in May and start the Masters two weeks later.” There’s a Certified Financial Planning program.
  • They have a great 3+3 articulation with Western New England University for law. Students majoring in psych or Criminal Justice with a 3.5+GPA, they can apply.
  • They offer an MSW hybrid with St. Louis University; they get the BSW and complete half of the program at Elms; the other half is online.
  • Communication Sciences and Disorders “is enveloped in the Social Sciences division.” There’s also a major for Speech-Language Pathology Assistant.
  • They offer a few unusual minors such as Irish Studies, Bioethics and Medical Humanities, and Coaching.

Elms 2Admissions is moderately selective with incoming students having an average of 3.0 GPA. Currently, applicants need to submit test scores, but Elms will go test-optional in 2020-21. Recommendation letters are optional except for the nursing majors who also will require to submit test scores because of Board licensure (the minimum SAT requirement is a 1000 or it’ll be really difficult), and they must get through Algebra 2.

© 2019

Bay Path University

Bay Path University (visited 5/28/19)

BPC main sign 2Bay Path is a small, pretty women’s college with some amazing academic programs. I learned from the tour guide that most of the sculptures (mostly by local artists) diplayed around campus were purchased by the President’s husband to donate to the college.

BPC sculpture 2Bay Path operates its traditional residential campus in Longmeadow, just outside of Springfield. Under this umbrella is the American Women’s College, an online, bachelors-granting college for adult women (although they offer a few hybrid classes that will meet occasionally on Saturday, as well). Many of the graduate programs (such as Education, Psych, and health sciences) are held on the Health Science Center campus in East Longmeadow, about 4 miles from main campus, allowing this campus to retain much of an undergraduate, traditional feel.

BPC sculpture 4The admissions building is a converted house with welcoming spaces used by current and perspective students. The President will hold dinners in one of the larger rooms as well as at her house (located by the athletic center), and all students get invited during their time on campus. “She’s very visible. We definitely can voice opinions,” said my tour guide.

BPC 5“Students who want to be a number will not do well here. They won’t make it,” said the rep. Bay Path works well with first-gen students. They recognize and work with several barriers, including cultural and financial. “Sometimes they’re not allowed to separate quite so well.” They offer Finish Line scholarships to help students persist through to graduation. “ If they’re willing to come take a chance, they’ll do great here.”

BPC 3All freshmen are housed in the same dorm; upperclassmen have a chose of 2 other buildings. The tour guide took me into Theinert, the Freshmen dorm. “Rooms are a little smaller here than the others,” she said, but I thought they were decent sizes for doubles. Campus food is an 8. “I’d like more variety especially on weekends. Lots of people go home so there’s less choice then.” She stays on campus because she plays lacrosse. “There’s definitely more going on around campus in the fall.” Residents pay a parking fee but commuters do not. Freshman can have cars on a space-available basis and there are community bikes available.

BPC Commons

The Commons

The university has been working to increase the number of weekend activities as well as participation. They’ve instituted Destination Saturdays, offering local and seasonal trips like apple picking, sledding, goat yoga, ice skating, and Celtics or Bruins games. There are free shuttles to local stores and attractions and students get discounted movie tickets. The closest theaters are in West Springfield or Enfield (20 minutes away).

A few traditions that the tour guide particularly liked include:

  • Campus Awakenings, an event held before dawn on the first day of school. “It’s kind of a way for seniors and faculty to welcome freshmen.”
  • Wacky Wildcats (like Field Day)
  • Curtain Call at the end of the year (kind of the opposite of Awakening)

BPC labNot surprisingly for a school this size, (a little under 1900 students), 80% of classes have fewer than 20 students. My tour guide’s smallest class (a Women in STEM Honors class) had 6 students in it. My tour guide and the rep shared a lot of great academic information with me:

  • Cybersecurity is a newer program with tracks in Digital Forensics and Information Assurance. Bay Path has been selected as 1 of 5 partner school with GOOGLE!
  • All students get iPads.
  • They offer 5 tracks within Forensics including Forensic Psych and Forensic Science. A Forensic Anthropologist from the Medical Examiner’s office and a Special Prosecutor for the FBI teaches here. This was one of the first programs in the area in the area, so they have great outcomes for students. They have a genome sequencing machine on campus, the same as used in the Massachusetts Crime Lab. They also have a ballistics lab.
  • BPC forensicsThey offer a 5-year OT program
  • The Business Program offers 12 specializations, although some like Strategic HR Management, Digital Marketing Management, and Food Industry Management are only offered online.
  • Interior Design: Commercial and Residential majors designed one of the academic buildings.
  • BPC learning commons int

    Part of the Learning Commons

    The Learning Commons has a law floor and an early childhood education floor. This doubles as a community library.

  • An American History class offered every year examines a time or place during the fall semester, then they tour the place in January (this year, they went to Savannah and Charleston). The trips aren’t that expensive, but can also apply for travel scholarship to offset costs. “Students can take it every year and have a different experience.” They save seats for first-year students.
  • “Things are pretty hands-on here,” said the tour guide. In her First Year Seminar, took Monster Madness, “We put Dracula on trial.”
  • WELL (Women as Empowered Leaders and Learners) is built into the core classes; students take several classes around different growth, learning, and leadership themes. The First-Year Read is incorporated into these classes, and there’s a Residential programming component as well.

BPC loungeBay Path participates in the Cooperating Colleges of Greater Springfield Consortium with Elms, American International College, Springfield, Westfield State, WNEU, and the Community College. They don’t have shuttles, but most campuses are relatively close and are on bus lines. Students can take up to 2 classes per semester (usually not the first semester), must be in good academic standing, and register for a class that is not offered at their home campus.

Admission is test-optional. However, if they submit test scores, they do not need an essay or recommendation letters (they can submit if they’d like but they’re not required). Without test score, applicants need both the letters and the essay. They will need to submit test scores for any honors program. Qualified students will be invited to apply to general honors, Women in Stem Honors (WISH) or Women in Business Honors. Regular Honors provides a $1500 scholarship; the others award $2500.

In the past years, they’ve held a Signature Scholarship Competition (the rep isn’t sure it’s happening next year). Interested students write an essay of up to 750 words on the yearly theme (last year’s was Curiosity). 40 students got invited to campus in February to compete for a Full Tuition scholarship, but everyone who came got additional money.

© 2019

University of Saint Joseph (CT)

University of St. Joseph’s (visited 5/30/19)

USJ quad 1I’m glad I took the time to stop at St. Joseph’s on my way to the University of Hartford. In some ways, USJ gets overlooked, but it was a pleasant surprise and will hopefully grow beyond its regional status (it’s about 90% in-state students). Although it’s a smaller school, students at USJ can expand their options through the Greater Hartford Higher Education Consortium (with U Hartford, Trinity, CCSU, and UConn Hartford) to take courses not offered on the home campus as well as to utilize study abroad programs and other resources.

USJ missionOpen since the early 1930s, they just went coed in 2018; they’re already about 1/3 male which is amazing one year into admitting men. “We’re still holding onto the idea of women’s empowerment, though. Just because we went coed doesn’t mean we lost that identity.” This includes a Women’s Leadership Center founded in 2016. They added 5 men’s teams this year (and Jim Calhoun, formerly a UConn coach, is the men’s Basketball coach!) with more to come. “I expect them to mirror the women’s teams.” They’re DIII and compete in the GNAC.

USJ chapel 2This is a Sisters of Mercy (Catholic) institution with 3 Sisters employed on campus. “In many ways, they’re the female version of the Jesuits,” said the rep I spoke to, and the university promotes the values of education and caring for others, tenets of the founding group. A large portion of the student body self-identifies as Catholic and there’s an active campus ministry, but they’re less focused on the practice than on exploring Catholicism and celebrating ethnicity and culture. The two on-campus weekly masses (Wednesday evening and Sunday afternoon) are open to the public. Attendance isn’t mandatory, but students must take two religion classes – one on exploring religion and the other is open-ended to explore a particular religion or philosophy].

USJ 3Campus is beautiful with cohesive architecture and a large quad. About half of the 1000 undergrads live on campus in 4 traditional and 2 suite-style dorms reserved for upperclassmen. They have no immediate plans to build more dorms “but not unimaginable if we continue to grow. We’re at 95% capacity in terms of beds.” They’re looking to expand their geographic region now that they’ve gone coed. Housing grants are available to encourage students to live on campus.

The biggest lecture hall on campus seats 40 with average class sizes of 14. Although graduate students outnumber the undergrads (not surprising with their Education, Pharmacy, PA, and other programs), undergrad classes have no grad TAs. “Most grad students are professionals who are taking evening or online classes,” said the rep. They’ve done a great job focusing on providing quality undergraduate education and programs, many of which lead into a grad program if the students want.

  • USJ 1Business is growing;
    • Digital Media and Mass Communication was just started with 2 areas of focus: Spanish Media and Sports Media.
    • The Sports Management and Promotion major looks at both sides and requires 2 internships, one with an on-campus team (management side) and one outside (including ESPN which is right down the street in Bristol, about 25 minutes away).
  • The Math Department has expanded beyond traditional math to include Computer and Data Science and Actuarial Science. “Connecticut is the insurance capital of the world with companies like MassMutual, Traveler’s, Hartford, Cigna, and Aetna. Students get snatched up. They take the CPA exam and are ready to be hired.”
  • USJ athenaeumNursing is Direct Entry (applicants need a 3.0 and 1070 with B+ in Chem and Alg2). If they don’t meet that but are close, they’ll come in as pre-nursing. These students have their grades monitored by the nursing staff but take exactly the same classes. “No one knows who’s who. There’s no difference other than the monitoring.” The labs have 6 automated mannequins, including one that gives birth to twins. Labs are capped at 14. In Sophomore year, they work at the nursing home across the street. In Junior and Senior years, clinicals are completed at the local hospitals. They often offer a Sisters of Mercy trip to Guyana so nursing students can work at the hospital there. Non-nursing majors can join the trip and participate in more of the cultural activities.
  • Education: “I used to teach in town, and if we saw a kid coming out of USJ, we wanted that kid over those from other institutions because we knew the training here was better.” There are 2 on-campus schools: one K-Adult special needs, and the other is more of a day-care (infant-PK). As soon as students start education classes (usually sophomore year), they’re in one of those settings immediately getting experience from day. Special Education is technically the only education degree at the undergrad major – but licensure for Elementary and Secondary levels (reciprocal in almost 40 states) is available.
  • The Pharmacy school opened 10 years ago. They just graduated 52 students. 3+3 program.
  • The Physician Assistant program offers both direct entry (3+2) and a grad-only program. Direct-entry students major in Health Sciences as undergrads. This is popular with athletes because it works well with their practice schedules. USJ students who apply to the PA school get priority (but not guaranteed).

USJ 6The USJ alumni network is broad, and the connections the university has in the region means that the name carries weight. Salaries of USJ graduates are often higher than others in Connecticut. Career center helps alumni as well. A vast majority of the faculty have worked in professional or research fields so they have huge connections. Over 90% of students get involved in research, internships, and service projects. “This is a highly service-oriented community. All clubs are required to participate in a service-based activity, a requirement that was enacted by the student government itself.”

USJ quad 2They’ve seen a large interest in growing the on-campus student activities. They’ve just upped the fee as part of the tuition in order to expand what happens on campus. It’s all student-run with a facilitator. Students who are looking to get off campus utilize the local area of West Hartford, “a destination for restaurants and shopping. You can get around really easily without a car,” said the tour guide. The USJ Student ID doubles as a bus pass. Not only does this get students around town, but “you can hop on a city bus to Hartford and transfer to the New Haven MetroNorth station for free. From there, it’s $6 into NYC.”

Admissions is “Score Alternative” – only students interested in the health sciences or the Honors program need to submit test scores. During admissions, a 3.5 GPA and 1220 SAT will flag applicants to be sent to the Honors Committee who makes the final determination for an offer. This provides a half-tuition scholarship right off the bat. Honors Classes swap out the Gen Ed classes.

There’s plenty of scholarship and grant money available including a Visit Scholarship ($1000 for freshman year) and the Mercy Values Scholarship where students write an essay on one of the 7 values and explain how they embody it and will live that on campus. This ranges from $1000 -10,000.

© 2019

Western New England University

Western New England University (visited 5/29/19)

WNEU fountain“I chose to come here because people here looked happy. Everyone at the other school I was considering looked stressed out. I definitely made the right choice.”

I feel very confident recommending WNEU to students. I love walking away from a college with that feeling, particularly when I knew almost nothing about it to start. First, I love that WNEU made their campus easy to navigate – and particularly that their Welcome Center was so easy to find.

WNEU 2More importantly, I love that WNEU is able to differentiate themselves from their competitors. Because of this, enrollment has been going up despite the declining demographics. I spent over an hour talking to the Dean of Admission: “I love where we’re going. It’s so different from when I was in school. We’re looking to add majors and programs. The only true competition we have in the area is UMass.”

WNEU 9

The Library entrance

It’s no secret that universities face a lot of competition, particularly in the Northeast. Because there are so many institutions to choose from, WNEU has deliberately differentiated themselves. “We tend to sent trends. We get things going, and within a couple years, it seems like other places are starting to pick up on what we’re doing, but that just helps us to keep thinking outside the box.” One way they do this is by the working between the colleges:

  • WNEU sci bldg int

    The atrium of one of the science buildings

    They are one of the few schools this size to have a Law School on campus. They use this to their advantage.

    • They’ve created a BS/JD Engineering and Law program for people who want to go into patent law. “This is a really rigorous program and usually only a few students will do this in any given year.”
    • They offer a 3+3 accelerated law Students essentially finish their major/core requirements in the first 3 years and “save the electives for senior year. The first year of law school basically fills those electives, and then they get the Bachelors degree.”
  • Business:
    • WNEU solar house

      A solar house built by students; they took this to a national competition in California

      Ohio University was the pioneer of the Sports Management, but WNEU has the only other one with double accreditation. “Don’t come here for Kinesiology. Come here for the business side.” They’ve been ranked #1 in this department.

    • They have a strong programs in Arts and Entertainment Management, Sport Leadership and Coaching, and Pharmaceutical Business.
    • Accounting is ranked #2 for recruitment of students by major companies out of Hartford (only UConn beat them and they’re 4 times bigger).
    • They are 1 of only 7 schools offering classes in SAP and the only one to offer its students a chance to gain certification. Students with this often get a $6,000-8000 bump in salary. They also offer SAS certification in Business Analytics. Market Analytics is also getting big, especially for non-profits.
  • WNEU lab 2

    One of the labs

    Engineering puts students into labs immediately as freshman, they complete group projects every year, and every student gets a paid internship before graduation. The university has good relationships with United Technology, Smith & Wesson, and many more. Some freshmen even get internships because the program is so strong, but they can’t earn credit until junior year.

  • WNEU Sci and PharmHealth Sciences has almost doubled in size in the last couple years. It’s their version of pre-med.
    • Pre-Optometry and Pre-Physician Assistant are 4-year tracks that aren’t capped.
    • Pharmacy is a 6-year program (2 in pre-pharm, 4 in pharm). They only take 65 students into the program each year, and the SATs are required. If they’re accepted, it’s early-assurance. If they earn a 3.3 GPA in the first 3 semesters with no grades lower than a C-, they’re guaranteed a seat without the need for rec letters or tests. “This helps the students know that it’s really what they want so they can change their mind and still transfer credits into another major. It also helps the school by not having them transfer out of the professional program.”
  • WNEU psych classes

    A poster helping students navigate the multitude of options within the psychology department

    In the Arts & Sciences, Criminal Justice and Psych are the biggest majors.

    • CJ offers concentrations such as Homeland Security and Terrorism, Victim Studies, Criminal Investigations (like the forensics w/o the science), legal studies.
    • Psych: offers both BA or BS (more research oriented) with more than 15 tracks (not a concentration) such as clinical, sports, forensics, environmental psych, and industrial/organizational.
    • Forensic Bio and Forensic Chem are also popular.

WNEU 6I love that they offer so many accelerated, direct-entry, and 4+1 programs. “Anything we can do to help out the student and maybe save them a bit of money is beneficial.”

It’s amazing how deliberate they are in helping students find the right fit, even if that isn’t WNEU. “The resources and the opportunities make it the right fit. I’d rather lose kids who don’t want to be here than try to convince them to come and then lose them. That doesn’t help anyone. If we can’t support you, if we don’t have the major you want, then I’m going to tell a student to look at another school.” This plays a huge role in retention.

WNEU 10Another way they help prospective students is to tell them where they stand if they bring a transcript and test scores to their visit. Many programs (particularly business and Arts & Sciences are test-optional). “We can let them know if sending in test scores is a good idea or not in these cases when we look over stuff.”

“We’d rather take the B/B+ students who work hard and have been involved in school life because they’re the ones who will take advantage of more opportunities. The 4.0 kids are often more focused on the books. The others are looking to get involved and do really well here. We’ll have the kids who struggled or didn’t want to come here to give tours. They’re the best ambassadors we have.”

WNEU cupola 2One of the perceived drawbacks of the college is the location, “but this is NOT the same city it was 20 years ago. It’s no longer on the Dangerous City List,” said the rep. Springfield is the 3rd largest city in Massachuetts and the city of Firsts (Basketball, Goodyear tires, and the Webster dictionary to name a few). The casino has come in, people have moved up from Hartford, and there’s quite a bit of revitalization. There are resources available for students, not just in the city but the region.

WNEU mascot 2

The Mascot statue which students ride

Campus is also booming. They have clubs for transfers, vets, and commuters so they look out for all sorts of students. One of the most popular “and one of the most welcoming clubs I’ve ever seen” is Warp, a gaming club. They’re looking into adding E-Sports, potentially starting it as a club. There are a number of popular traditions, including:

  • Students are supposed to ride the Bear statue (the mascot) before they graduate
  • Painting the rock to advertise something
  • Midnight Madness – intro to winter sports
  • Bear Olympics: this part of transitions program in the first 3 weeks. Every dorm and a Commuter Team all compete. I think it’s great that they include commuters in this; they often get left out of dorm competitions.

Sports are also popular, both to play and for students to go watch. They’re starting a Women’s Ice Hockey team in 2020 (this may help balance out the gender imbalance – they’re currently at 60% male which makes sense because of their engineering programs). The rep would love to see an ice hockey rink built on campus. “We’re losing talented players because other places have the rink.” He’d also love to build up the arts a bit more. They have an established theater program but no black box. He’d love to combine Sports Management and Business Analytics. Some Masters programs could be added and increase the offerings – but this just links back to WNEU being on the cutting edge. Everyone is thinking about the next thing there.

© 2019

American International College

American International College (visited 5/29/19)

AIC quad 2

The quad

AIC has a small campus along a couple main roads near downtown Springfield. The brick buildings are in decent shape; most are clearly not new – and while not rundown, some look like they could use a bit of updating. However, there is an attractive main quad area, and while there, it’s easy to forget that there are main streets on the other side of the buildings. There are also several new buildings around campus, including an incredible Exercise Science building located across the street. This houses many of the OT and PT classes, a Human Performance Lab, and more.

AIC 5

The new exercise science building

The admissions rep I spoke with is a fairly recent alum; the best change she’s seen since coming here is the school’s rebrand including renovations of buildings. “It’s like 2 different schools. They’ve redone the library and put up the brand new Exercise Science building. That’s about when they overhauled Student Life, too. That was much needed. “Now there are Thursday movies, nighttime breakfasts, and even a pub in basement of Dining Commons.” They expanded the departments and hired more people to help the students. The Model Congress is housed under that, as well – it’s the oldest running one in the country!”

AIC 3Most colleges will tell you that they have a strong sense of community and family, but few will give examples. “The President will come to the quad and play football with students. He’s on a first-name basis with them. You learn everyone here from the professors to the dining hall staff,” said my tour guide. There are only 1400 undergraduates, but with an additional 2400 graduate students, it feels a little bigger. This is great for students who are looking for more individual attention but want the feel of a slightly larger university.

AIC mascot

Th mascot

School spirit is huge, and not just for athletics although they do have strong sports, competing in the DII division (except men’s ice hockey which is DI). Student Productions are huge including fashion shows (just had their 50th annual show) and theater production. The community comes to them, and the campus allows community members to use the library. “Some areas like residential units might be gated, but otherwise, we try to be good neighbors. Campus is open.” Students spend a lot of time in the community, as well, including tutoring at the local school and working at the MLK Center next door.

AIC flag roomCampus diversity is something to brag about; AIC was founded to educate the immigrant population in Springfield and they were the first (traditionally male) university in New England to admit women in the 1890s, less than 10 years after its founding. They still have a high international population with about 50 countries represented at any given time and 72 flags in the Flag Room representing all the graduates’ home countries. However, they don’t usually recruit abroad much. “It’s not intentional; it just naturally happens. People are just attracted here,” said the admissions rep. In terms of English proficiency, they look for a score of 80 on the TOEFL, but this will often be waived if they’ve graduated from an English-speaking high school.

AIC patioBeyond international diversity, there was an initiative a couple years ago to increase the LGBTQ community. They started hosting events such as an annual drag show and Breaking the Silence dinner. Politically, the campus leans a little more liberal (“This is Massachusetts!”) but there’s a variety of opinions on campus. Religion isn’t a big deal. The admissions rep wears a hijb. “I’m very clearly Muslim, and I’ve never felt like it was an issue or I didn’t have a space here.”

AIC rock

The Rock to advertise events

On the whole, AIC is a good starting point for students who need a bit of maturing. Students have to live on campus with a full meal plan for the first two years unless they live within 30 miles (or are returning students over the age of 24). There are a couple dorms on the main part of campus. First year females can choose to live in an all-female dorm (Pouch) that houses all level of students including grad students, or they can go to an all freshman dorm (coed by floor). Many of the dorms are on the other side of campus, about a 10 minute walk if they don’t take the shuttle.

AIC dorms

Some of the dorms on the main part of campus

They’ve adjusted their core curriculum to include APEX, The AIC Plan for Excellence. Instead of a traditional First Year Experience, they’ve expanded the program to stretch over a student’s four years. It covers topics ranging from adjusting to college and study skills (first year) to “what’s next?” in senior year. In between they cover areas such as cultural competency and Career Development. Part of this is that all students have to complete an internship. “We’ve seen an increase in retention because of the program,” said the rep.

AIC art galleryFor students who need it, Learning Support is available. Students have the same advisor for at least 2 years. Students have their first semester schedules built for them but then taught how to do it themselves. If they’re athletes, they also have an athletic advisor who can help make sure they’re on track. Coaches stay on top of them and all athletes attend study hall. Student athletes get a lot of support to make sure they’re staying on top of things. “There’s a 3.0 Club to celebrate when they do what they need to,” said the rep. All students will get 5 week warnings if they are falling through the cracks. If they need weekly check-ins, it’s with a grad student.

AIC nursing 2

One of the infant simulation mannequins in the nursing labs

I was here after graduation but still saw several students around. My tour guide said this was normal since a lot of students on the fast-track or doing graduate work were taking summer classes or doing research. A few of the Health Sciences are direct-entry (PT to DPT and OT to MSOT). Their entire School of Education is basically housed in the graduate program, although they offer an education minor and a 4+1 program. They offer a 4+1 MBA as well as an Accounting and Taxation MSAT. They offer a couple unusual minors such as Fraud and Financial Crimes and Advocacy for Social Change.

My tour guide would like to see additional money spent on the teaching staff, especially in the Business, Arts, and Sciences division. “There are a lot of adjuncts, so seeing more full-time staff to develop the programs to have a more diverse program and curriculum would be really cool!” Her favorite class was Cultivating Creativity, offered jointly through the Communications and Visual Arts department. “It’s like an art class taken a step further. We took a lot of field trips to the art museums downtown, and I felt like we could take risks even if we weren’t artistic.”

© 2019

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