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Archive for the category “College Visits”

Dickinson College

Dickinson College (visited 5/16/17)

Dickinson city sign“We’re global, international, and sustainable. We’re a very green school, 12th on the Greenest School List,” said the admissions rep giving the info session. A Sustainability major was added last year, several campus buildings are certified on the 3 LEED levels, and they own/operate a certified organic farm about 10 minutes away from the main campus. Students work and do research on the farm. Some students are doing work on toads: they’re building an eco-system and a pond to attract a specific species. Others produce biofuel, grow much of the produce for the dining hall, or work on composting 600-800 pounds of waste from campus and around town. “Students will camp there for classes,” said the tour guide. Students can apply to be an apprentice there after graduation and live full-time on the farm.

Dickinson 1Another of Dickinson’s draws is the Global perspective. “We’ve been doing the global thing for a long time. We were doing it when it wasn’t fashionable. It goes back to Benjamin Rush when we were just starting,” said the rep. Over 1/3 of the faculty have international experiences. The Global Mosaics research program allows students to do interdisciplinary, international work. The college requires that students complete 3 semesters of a language; there are 13 offered to choose from (including Hebrew, Greek, Russian, Portuguese, and Chinese). Language classes got high praise from the tour guides: “We’ll do things like spend a day in the campus art gallery. We’re learning and using real-life language skills.”

Dickinson statueThe Study Abroad program has a nationally strong reputation. There are 15 Dickinson Centers (faculty chair the 2 domestic (NYC and DC) and 13 international centers including England, Australia, Japan, Beijing, and Bologna) and 24+ partner programs. “We’re not in Antarctica yet…” Students can and will study abroad in English, but many also in another language.

Dickinson townhouses

Some of the townhouses, an option for upperclassmen

Town-gown relations are good. Campus is only a couple blocks from downtown Carlisle, so there is a lot within walking distance including 35 restaurants. The college hosts a community orchestra in which local people participate. “We’re too small to have one on our own.” Getting around town is easy, and the school runs shuttles to the train and airport (Harrisburg, BWI, and others at breaks).

Dickinson 9

More housing options

Dickinson has remained financially stable through economic ups and down. They intend on staying a small school (about 2400 students), even though their incoming class is about 10-15 students higher than usual. Traditional dorms serve most of the first and second year students. Upperclassmen can live in houses and apartments owned by the campus. There’s also a range of Special Interest Houses which include language and cultural houses, the Tree House (sustainable living – they’ll have competitions to see how little energy they can use/who can take the shortest shower), Greek Housing, The Dog House (they’ll foster/raise/train puppies to be guide dogs or support animals), etc.

Dickinson lab 2One of our tour guides was a junior from Chattanooga; she came for the International Business program which is well-known and well-regarded. Social Innovation & Leadership, Biochemistry & Microbiology, Econ, Law & Policy, and PoliSci also get high praise. Classes, not surprisingly, are small (capped at 35 but rarely that big) and “real world.” The phrase “Broader Picture” got used a lot in relation to academics. When I asked about the students’ favorite classes, both cited those where they could use what they learned in practical ways. One of the tour guides raved about her Calculus class (maybe a first for me!): “We actually used it for calculating the amount of DNA there is in cells. Another guide talked about interpreting in clinics in town for her Spanish for Health class.

Dickinson planetariumThe physics department runs a Plasma Lab which can only be used in the summer because power has to be shut down around campus in order to use it! There’s also a planetarium used for more than science classes: the Astronomy Club uses it, the college runs “Star Nights,” and even the Greek Myth class will use it!

The Innovation Competition is a way to fund novel ideals or projects around campus. Teams of 3-5 students must be interdisciplinary (representing majors in at least 2 of the 3 schools) and the idea must be sustainable. Recently, an idea that won the $2000 prize was a Coffee Cart attached to a bike called “The Peddler.” They sell fresh ground and French press coffee.

Dickinson original mascot

The original “Triton”/ mermaid on display in the library

As with any school, there are a myriad of traditions, including the ubiquitous “Don’t step on the seal or else…” and the popular, symbolic walking onto campus (in this case through a building) and then back out at graduation. Senior week before graduation is full of traditions and fun for the seniors, including a beer garden on the quad and a bowling trip. The mascot, The Triton, has it’s own history and pranks revolving around it. The founder had asked a local merchant to make a Triton for the top of the cupola, but they got a mermaid. For decades, this would be stolen by seniors who bargained with professors before giving it back. The original is now on display in the library.

© 2017

Gettysburg College

Gettysburg College (visited 5/18/17)

Gettysburg 5

One of the oldest buildings on campus

So few admissions reps take the time to hone in on what makes them different from their competitors, so I was impressed that the rep took the time to address differences between Gettysburg and other nearby liberal arts schools. She also took the time to personalize the discussion based on what the students were interested in; this was one of the least-scripted/canned talked I’ve attended.

Gettysburg original interior

Although buildings have been renovated/updated, they’ve kept as much of the original structure intact

One of my students asked about diversity on campus; later I asked what the best change had been since she arrived on campus. Her answers built on each other: “We’re not the preppy school anymore. Nine years ago, students did kind of look alike. It’s just not that anymore. The diversity of types of students here is the most positive and noticeable shift I’ve seen.” Diversity is still an “active discussion topic at small Liberal Arts colleges. Most of us care about diversity. What it boils down to is that we’re still largely American Caucasian.” Right now, they pull in 7% of their population from abroad, but more this year’s freshman and incoming classes are higher. Another 15% self-identify as domestic students of color. About ¼ come from PA. Politically, students are pretty evenly split across the spectrum. There are active Muslim and Jewish populations. “We have a lot of types of diversity, and it’s growing.”

Gettysburg quadThe college is holding steady at 2600-2700 undergrads: “It’s just big enough that you’ll know some people really well; other people will show up at graduation and you’ll realize you’ve never seen them before.” This happens despite being a completely residential campus. Placement in the freshman dorms is determined by the First-Year Seminar students enroll in. After the first year, students have lots of housing options. There are theme houses (entire homes) for interests such as Science, Blue Note (music), and the Civil War. They have also bought what used to be hotels that are currently used as dorms. Food is good; we ate at one of the “Grab-and-go” options, and the students all liked the food, saying it was better than the food from the full dining hall at another school we visited. They’re currently gutting part of union to make room for more food options, and the Dining hall is being added onto.

Gettysburg 3

The library where snacks are served during finals to keep kids going!

 

Gettysburg’s academics don’t disappoint; the top 5 Academics are ranked on par with Dartmouth. Our tour guide turned down an acceptance from Cornell to come here. “There hasn’t been a day that I haven’t thought this education was worth it.” A few academics of note include:

  • Conservatory of Music: students can major or minor outside of this! That’s unusual. Also, any student can be involved.
  • Not surprisingly, history is strong, and they offer a Civil War Era Studies
  • Psychology has a strong experimental Psych focus and some behavioral components. It’s one of the largest majors. The Neuroscience minor pairs nicely with this.
  • The biggest major is Organizational Management (what they call their business program).
  • Gettysburg 6The Health Sciences major is unusual for a school this size. They combine physics, bio, and chem in how these relate to the human body.
  • Every class has a Peer Learning Associate. They students who have already taken the class, so they are able to run extra help or review sessions, supplemental labs, or provide tutoring.
  • The biggest classes are Intro to Bio and Psych could have 30 students; labs cap at 16. The tour guide’s classes ranged in size from 8 (French) to 24 (Astrophysics).
  • It’s relatively easy and common to get paid research assistant positions, even starting freshman year.

Gettysburg lincoln statueThe Honor Code mostly focuses on academic integrity but also how students interact with each other. Things can be left in the library and not touched. Students look out for each other, and even after graduation, people help others out: they have the same number of alumni connections as Notre Dame. Traditions are tightly held here. A big one is attached to Pennsylvania Hall (one of the oldest buildings) on campus: during Orientation, students file up the stairs and through the building to the other side; on Graduation Day, they do the reverse of this. During orientation, they also walk as a group to the cemetery (a mile away) where Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address. Campus sits right in town within walking distance to downtown and parts of the battlefield. Town is unique in that there are 2-3 million visitors here every year. Freshmen can’t have cars on campus unless they’re on the Equestrian Team which practices about 15 minutes south of campus.

Gettysburg original bldg

The original building on campus and one of the haunted buildings; students graduate on these steps.

Gettysburg ranks on several Top 10 Most Haunted campus lists. Pennsylvania Hall was used as a Civil War hospital, so it (along with many other buildings on campus) has its share of ghost stories, including people taking the elevator to the basement and seeing the hospital and doctors when the doors opened.

© 2017

Johns Hopkins University

Johns Hopkins (visited 5/17/17)

JHU 2

Some of the well-landscaped campus

Of course, JHU has a great reputation. Academically, it has a lot to offer. Unfortunately, I was disappointed in the information session, as were the 4 students with me. “I don’t know anything more about the school now than when I walked in,” said one as we were talking afterwards. They were unable to provide any information to distinguish JHU from a myriad of other schools. For example, their January Intersession is by no stretch of the imagination “really unique!” as the admissions rep told us … there are a lot of schools that offer 3-ish week January/Winter/May terms that provide experiential learning or chances to learn things outside the mainstream.

JHU quad 2

A quad with some of the Baltimore skyline in the background

The only real take-away from the session was that there is “Academic Flexibility. There are no general education requirements that every student has to take. The open curriculum means they get to decide what ‘well-rounded’ means to them.” The Admissions Rep mentioned a ‘Distribution Credit System’ which was designed to make sure that students are well-rounded, but was unable to actually articulate what that means even when questioned directly by a potential student. She just reiterated that “students get to decide that they take.” Clearly, they do require students to take classes in a variety of disciplines, like most other schools. The choice factor is not unusual. Many schools provide a range of classes from which students can choose to fulfill their gen ed requirements.

JHU surgical 1

One of the labs with medical equipment students can train on

JHU claims the title as the country’s first Research University. Today, over 75% of the 5300 undergrads do research. The Woodrow Wilson Undergrad Fellowship is open to students in the Arts & Sciences division. Applicants can fill out app in tandem with their undergrad admissions app. Rising sophomores can also apply for this. Recipients can get up to $10000 over the 4 years to help with research-related costs (travel, lab fees, etc). There are also Provost’s Awards and Dean’s Undergrad Awards meant to help with research costs. The sciences are also well funded for research such as RISE at APL (Applied Physics Lab). “There are lots of opportunities but students need to make the effort to take advantage of it,” said our tour guide.

JHU theater

The theater department

“I was surprised by the diversity of interests the students have,” said a student working the desk at the admissions office. “People are involved in things you wouldn’t expect them to be based on their majors.” This seemed to hold true based on even classes that were offered such as ‘Improv for Scientists and Engineers’ – “The goal in that class is to teach them to speak extemporaneously about their work since everyone has to make presentations now.”

JHU arch museum

Part of the Archaeology Museum

“I was also surprised by the strength of the theater department here. You don’t really think about Johns Hopkins when you think ‘theater’ – but people are really good and there’s a range of productions every year.” Another department that people may not think about is French: it’s one of two in the country recognized by France as the place to learn French culture! The Archaeology Department has a museum on campus that houses “One of the two dead bodies on campus.”

JHU reading room

One of the reading rooms with the non-religious stained glass collection

Only 5% of classes have more than 100 students. The tour guide’s smallest had 6 students; his largest had 300 (Intro to Business).

Campus is attractive with several quads and well-maintained buildings. They have one of the largest non-religious stained glass collections. Students can move off campus after 2 years, but “off” usually means within about 3 blocks of campus. There’s a freshman quad and 2 more freshman residences on Charles Avenue across from “The Beach.” Charles Commons is suite-style living for Sophomores. There are plenty of shuttles around campus and around the city.

JHU beach and Charles

The Beach (foreground) with 2 freshman dorms in the background. 

Lacrosse is the only DI sport on campus and is huge; they have Homecoming in the spring based on lacrosse rather than football. A few traditions that the tour guide raved about were Hoptoberfest (fall festival with music, outdoor movies, a haunted house, and more) and First Night where the freshmen are welcomed to the university with a candle lighting ceremony.

© 2017

 

Wagner College

Wagner College (visited 3/24/17)

Wagner 1The students who thrive here are those who are curious and who want a theory-to-practice experience, said one of the professors. The claim to fame for this college is that they’re the residential liberal arts institution of New York City.

The Wagner Plan is their 3-level general education requirement in which students related theoretical lenses outside the classroom. This is broadly construed ranging from work in the local community to trips to museums, mosques, or other cultural sites.

  • All first-year students enroll in one of 19-21 First-Year Programs co-taught by 2 professors. They both teach 1 content-specific class; the 3rd is a team-taught, reflective, writing-intensive class to connect content to experience. Recent combinations included Philosophy/Psych, Spanish/Business, and Ways of Thinking/Sociology. “From a faculty perspective, it’s fun. We get creative and it teaches us about another discipline.”
  • Wagner main 1

    The iconic main building. If it looks familiar, it’s because School of Rock and an episode of The Sopranos were shot here.

    The intermediate class can be taken as early as 2nd semester freshman year, but usually is done in sophomore year. Two professors often teach discipline-specific classes (with some team-teaching) with common assignments to connect them; there isn’t a 3rd class.

  • The last is a Capstone/Senior Reflective Tutorial. Departments have leeway in how they define this; they’re best know how to prepare the students for the next level. Some will do summer research; sometimes it’s internships or a thesis.
Wagner anchor and dorm

The anchor with an upperclassman dorm in the background

“Lots of social dialogues happen here,” said one student panelist. Like many campuses, there’s an item that gets painted. “We’re pretty politically involved. The anchor got painted for Black Lives Matter with body outlines on the ground, for Pride week, etc.” Students agreed that there were a lot of very progressive students. Another student on the panel said, “We’re passionate about anything about our living situation and our food. The changes made since freshman year have been amazing.” They now have a Gender-Neutral floor. “We argued for it. Really, under the traditional rules, I [a male] could live with my boyfriend. It would be “safer” if I lived with a girl!”

Wagner city

The view of Manhattan from one of the dorms

The tour guides agreed that this is not a quiet campus. About 85% of all students live on campus: “Moving off campus is an option, but they’re still looking at NYC rents. It’s not the Upper East Side, but it’s still steep.” Greek Life only pulls in 16% of students so people are involved in lots of other things. “There maybe aren’t as many organized events as other campuses, but the flip side of that is there’s the city. You get college discounts everywhere, but here, you get discounts in NYC. We can see Broadway shows for $30.” Shuttles leave campus on the :10 and :40 to take students to the ferry. “You go for the first time during Orientation. It takes away the stress.” There are things to do near campus, as well, but “we’re on a hill. Most students don’t like having to hike back up it!” The city buses are not free but are easily accessible, and there are shuttles to the mall, the movies, etc.

All theater and sporting events (DI!) are free, but students say that school spirit isn’t too high. Football doesn’t draw crowds, but basketball does. (As a side note, the Women’s Water Polo team has the highest GPA of any polo team in the country). They use the Staten Island minor league stadium for their home baseball games.

We asked the student panelists what they would like to change:

  • Wagner dorm 2

    Harborview Dorm, one of the older dorms on campus (but with great views!)

    Update living situations. The towers were built in 1963 and haven’t been renovated.

  • The Science department has lots of potential, but it costs money. The faculty put time into getting grants to help bring students into research. Lab space is sufficient, but not huge.
  • Food is mediocre. It fluctuates. “But at least I didn’t get the Freshman 15.”
  • “Some of the codes are grandfathered in because buildings are so old. Our theater is in a gym. They’ve done a bunch, but acoustically it’s still a gym. Dance studios don’t have spring floors.”
Wagner dorms 4

More dorms

Academics are overall strong; they look to hire teachers, not researchers: “That’s fantastic if you brought in a million dollar grant or published a paper, but if you can’t teach, we don’t want you!” This isn’t to say that there isn’t research, because there is, but learning is put first and foremost. Research is easy and not hugely competitive. “You just need to be proactive. If you’re a science major, you have to have a research experience in junior year, and even psych majors have 2 experimental classes. It’s very easy to go to professors and get involved.”

Wagner 4Unusual programs include Biopsychology, Microbiology, and Behavioral Economics. Strong programs include:

  • Education: Students get at least 25 hours of experience in every Edu class.
  • Theater: “It’s competitive, but we have fun and are friendly.” They receive 500 apps for 32 spots. Admissions first clears students and invite approximately 275 to audition. About half audition in person (they try to tie this in with the spring show) and another 50 or so send in a video audition. The department puts on 4 productions a year and get a lot of community support.
  • Nursing: This is not direct entry; students complete the pre-reqs and take the T6 (basic skills – everyone takes this) As long as they pass, they’re in the program. Nursing students can do research. One did a project looking at whole/non-processed foods in Bodegas and helped provide incentives to put this type up front.
  • The Art, Art History, and Film Department is strong and active with trips and internships (Met, Morgan Library, Neue Galerie, Marvel Comics, Rachel Ray Show, Downtown Community TV, Tibetan Museum of Art, Staten Island Museum). Students are successful studio artists, grad school, entrepreneurs (including publishing), education management in museums, fashion designer
    • Film and Media Studies offers 3 tracks (civically engaged, artistic production, criticism) as well as a dual track in Art and Education.
      • They’re looking at Public Art and bringing in the social engagement.
      • Several interdisciplinary classes like “Illustration, Sleep, and Dreams (w/ psych), Connecting Families through Documentary Film (w/ Philosophy), Food and Fasting in the Old and New World (Art History/Anthro), Cities and perversities (Art History/French)
    • Wagner statueThe Chemistry Department is ACS certified (only 30% of schools get this). Gen Chem maxes out at 28 students taught by senior level professors. “Fabulous things come out of lunchroom conversations. I’m changing the world in the way that’s valued by the liberal arts community. We send a couple students per year, many women, off to become PhDs.”
    • Wagner has 1 of 3 planetariums in the city! (“It’s part of why I came here, and I haven’t even gone to it yet!” said a tour guide).
    • Physician Assistant: They invite 90 students to interview (they usually get about 200 applications) and can take 40. This 5-year program includes 3 study abroad experiences: a week in London (psych and some clinical work in a hospital, and they can go back and do psych rotation for 4 weeks); Guatamala in the 4th year (they complete clinical care in local mountain towns); and Belize in the 5th “It’s an unbelievably collaborative group and team-oriented in the classes. Older students mentor younger ones.” Tuition is a little higher for PA, but includes all study abroad trips and some of the summer costs. They complete 2 full years of clinical work (1 of 2 in the country to do this).
    • The Expanding Your Horizons program allows for short term travel abroad, usually linked to a class.

Wagner picnic areaWe asked the student panel about their favorite classes:

  • “The Education class part of my freshman LC. We talked about the law behind Special Ed. We did community service, and I was partnered with an amazing girl! I got to see a different perspective when we worked on daily living skills. It was fascinating to have those conversations.”
  • International Filmmaker: “We learned about the impact people have had. We got an inside look on European and other films.”
  • Musical Theater Performance. “The teacher was a Tony Award Winner. I have 2 teachers who are currently on Broadway. The pianist we work with plays for Hamilton sometimes!”

Students were surprised by:

  • How much professors wanted to reach out. “I studied abroad. I was home for 5 days and got a phone call wanting to know if I was back and if I wanted to get coffee.”
  • The community of people. I felt really welcomed. Even football people came up and talked. It was very different from high school.
  • I was in a philosophy class freshman year with people with diversity of views. I started out thinking “How could you think like that?” I was in a bubble from my little Catholic school but I saw other bubbles and why people believe what they believe.

© 2017

University of Mount Olive

University of Mount Olive (3/13/17)

UMO sign

The entrance to the main campus; you can see headlights from cars on the highway behind it

UMO’s main campus is small and located along a highway, tucked behind a shopping plaza. Luckily there’s a sign pointing visitors down the entrance road. Once you’re on campus, though, you would never realize either of those things. It is a lovely, well landscaped campus with low buildings and lots of lawn space.

UMO chapel

Campus Chapel

The chapel sits centrally located in the middle of campus. As a Baptist affiliated school, UMO holds onto its Christian mission. There’s a clear religious feel on campus, and students are encouraged to explore their faith. Students attending here should be aware that this will be a big part of the culture on campus and among students.

UMO 2

Student Center and dining hall

Students say that people are generally pretty friendly here. It’s not an overly competitive environment. Social life got mixed reviews. Students are required to live on campus for the first two years if they aren’t in commuting distance from home. Because it’s still very much a regional university with almost all the students coming from North Carolina, only 40% of freshmen (and less than 20% of the total study body) live on campus. Since there are so many people who don’t live on campus (or are close enough to leave on weekends), sometimes it’s too quiet. The town is very small, but there are plenty of stores and restaurants that are walkable. Raleigh, the closest city, is an hour away. Cars are allowed and parking isn’t much of an issue.

UMO quadBusiness programs are good here and provide several tracks including Human Resources, Agribusiness, Healthcare Management, and Business Analytics. Students wanting to go into Agricultural fields at a small school would love it here: they offer Agricultural Production Systems as well as Agricultural Education certification. However, I’d steer away from here if you’re interested in sciences! There are places that will serve you better in those areas.

UMO offers the typical athletic teams at the DII level. There isn’t any Greek life.

Graduation rates are low, and I’m not sure there’s much in place to correct that at this point in time.

© 2017

Queens University of Charlotte

Queens University of Charlotte (visited 3/30/17)

Queens quad 3“We get kids who might fly under the radar, but we get the stand-outs, as well,” said a rep. “Maybe they haven’t blossomed yet. Students get a lot of opportunities here.” A parent told one of the reps (who relayed the story): “my daughter will become a leader for life here. I think the reality of Queens is ahead of its reputation.”

Queens hammock 2Queens plays up the idea of ‘Yes, AND’ – students can do several things without having to choose. Students have the best of both worlds: a small school (about 1500 undergrads) located 2 miles from the heart of Charlotte, a major city. Students complete meaningful internships and community service in whatever industry or service they’re interested in, during the school year, right down the road. Queens requires students to complete internships and will give credit for 2 of them, although students can do as many as they want.

Queens fountain 3The school is deliberate in its mission and how it gets manifested into the academics. General education requirements are organized in learning communities. “This is one of the most unique aspects of Queens,” said the Dean of University Programs. They’ve been implanting it for a couple years and getting data in now. It’s interdisciplinary, giving students skills needed for the workplace and understanding who they are as learners.

  • Queens CS LCThe 4 years are organized progressively: Explore, Express, Engage, and Synthesis. Students are presented with complex problems, must integrate learning, build communication fluency, link global and local contexts, and understand the well-being of communities.
  • Students engage in a core issue from multiple perspectives, taking 2 courses from 4+ options within a theme. Assignments cross both perspectives. There’s intentional group work at every level; teachers work together to model what they want students to do. Themes might include:
    • The New South: Politics of the New South (PoliSci), Lit & Film of the New South (Languages), Intro to Stats, New South (Math), Landscape of Identity (English) — How is place and identity interwoven?
    • The Challenge of Global Migration: Fabric of a Nation: Refugees in the US (History), Politics of Responses to Global Migration (PoliSci), Economics of Immigration (Business), Creating Transcultural Identities (English)
    • Urban Jungle, Infections & Zombies, Quest for Identity, Familial Identities, Human Journey, Art of Storytelling, Challenges for Journeys, Culture & Media, Global Migration, Gender, Image-making
    • Pursuit of Happiness: The Happiness Project, The Pursuit of Happiness: An Economy of Well-Being, Six Questions of Socrates, Peace is Every Step

Queens statueFavorite classes of students on the panel were:

  • Principles of Management (2 students chose this): “There were 25 people in it. The culture is great. It’s discussion based. People can say whatever they want without worrying about being judged. The professor, the CEO of Sun Alliance, created such a welcoming environment.”
  • Cognitive Psych: “ I love the prof. It was probably the hardest in terms of how strict she is and what she demands. It combined psych and bio which I love.”
  • Intro to Creative Writing: “The Professor was amazing! It opened my eyes to so many methods of writing that I hadn’t even heard of. Not everyone was a major, but we were a community. I was excited to go to class.”
  • Media Design and Art: “We travelled to Germany and Switzerland for 2 weeks.”

Queens stu cntr 1Some other special academic things to point out are:

  • They have a direct-entry Nursing program; applicants need a 24 ACT/1150 SAT and a 3.5 unweighted GPA across academic classes. As long as they maintain a minimum GPA in the program, they can continue. 98% pass the NCLEX on the 1st or 2nd
  • Study Abroad: They’re ranked 7th nationally for most students studying abroad through the John Belk International Program (J-BIP):
  • Faculty Led courses: students take on-campus courses with travel components.
  • Semester or year abroad
  • Summer Business and International Studies: 4 weeks in France or Shanghai
  • Language immersion programs.
  • They have 5 NC Professors of the Year (Chapel Hill has 7 and is a much larger school).
  • Queens labA few programs of note include:
  • Queens bell tower 2A couple of their majors are shifting focus:
    • Environmental Studies is becoming Sustainability Studies
    • Religion is becoming Interfaith Studies.

Queens moved to its current campus in 1914; it’s full of beautiful brick buildings and green spaces. They went coed in 1979 (and are still heavily female). Almost half of their students come from NC; 8 % are international (155 students from 50 countries). About 1/3 of students self-identify as multi-cultural. Students tend towards the liberal side, but it’s not an overly political campus.

Students have to live on campus until they earn 90 credits; 70% of students live in the dorms. Campus is fairly active, but “closer to the holidays when it’s cold, more people seem to go home on the weekends,” said one of the tour guides. The food is pretty good: there are fewer choices, maybe, but the quality is pretty high. “Parking isn’t great on campus. You have to circle a bit, but there’s a lot of street parking.” There’s good public transportation including a street car and light rail.

Queens RexFor a school this size, they have a surprisingly strong DII athletic program (the only 2 teams not on the NCAA roster are Rugby and Triathalon), and they have a “Threepeat” Swim Team National Championship team. “DII tends to be more regional as well as more personal with a community feel,” said the Athletic Director. “We have the academics of DIII and Athletics of DI.” The major sports complex is located a couple miles off campus; shuttles run back and forth all day. Field Hockey, Soccer, Softball, and tennis all practice and play here. “If you want to be nationally competitive, our facilities are top-notch.”

Queens athletic center

One student said that she would change the fan-base and school spirit: “It feels so small at the games. It’s hard to get people out to support the teams. It definitely doesn’t have that large-school DI feel.” Also, as DII teams, they’re not fully funded programs. All sports have a certain number of scholarships. They work with admissions to help spread these out with academic scholarships.

Admissions recalculates GPA of core classes and superscores both the ACT and SAT. Their most competitive scholarship is the full-tuition Presidential Award which requires an additional application. These students tend to have a 4.0 recalculated GPA and a 30 ACT. The numbers (GPA and scores) count for 40% of the decision; the rest are all the extras. Scholarship interviewers do not have access to the applicants’ grades: if they’re at the interview stage, they’ve already been vetted academically by Admissions.

© 2017

Duke University

Duke University (visited 3/14/17)

Duke living sculptures

Living sculptures in the Botanical Gardens on campus

Of course Duke is a great school, and the facilities are outstanding. Campus is gorgeous (the landscaping, gardens, and buildings are just amazing) and well maintained (including Wifi across campus). Although there is a central campus where most academics are held, many of the living areas are spread out with shuttles running back and forth to main campus. Parking is highly challenging, especially on the main part of campus. The town around Duke clearly caters to the students; there are lots of places to eat and shop.

Duke dorm 1

Even the dorms are gorgeous

Duke chapel int

The inside of the chapel, one of the most recognizable buildings on campus; a student was practicing the organ when I was inside.

Students have to live on campus for 3 years. All freshmen live on East Campus, located about a mile and a half from West Campus (the main part o campus); students ride shuttles to get to class there. There’s a dining hall on East Campus, serving breakfast and dinner for the freshmen. The junior giving me the tour is an RA out there. She loves it, but finds that meals are a problem because she has no meal plan (standard procedure for upperclassmen), so she has to come back to main campus for meals. After the first year, students get food points (1 point = $1) which they can use in the union and in grab-and-goes. Many of the upperclassmen, including Greek-affiliate, are housed on central campus.

Duke 1Not surprisingly, students who are passionate and like to put time into learning, are really involved outside of classes will do well here. “Classes can be overwhelming, and there’s so much to be involved in,” she said. People tend to overextend, if anything here. One thing that surprised her was the variety of course selections. “Things here opened my eyes. I didn’t even know they existed. You can come in thinking there’s standard information, but there’s so much to explore and you can keep digging.” A few of the unusual offerings include: Biophysics, Evolutionary Anthropology, and Statistical Science.

Duke treeMy tour guide particularly liked the House Courses that she took. These are ½ credit classes taught by other students and are done on a Pass/Fail basis. They are taught within the residence halls (explaining the name!). She took a class on Theology in The Chronicles of Narnia.

Duke dining hall 1

Part of the dining hall on main campus; this is divided into several different areas with a variety of foods. There’s plenty of seating on 2 levels and outside.

In addition to these sorts of opportunities which are meant to extend learning beyond the classroom, the university actively helps students connect with faculty. She feels that it’s been very easy to get to know faculty on a 1-to-1 basis, including having lunch with them. Duke will pay for the meal! “The faculty are open to talking about anything, academic or not!”

Duke chapel and courtyard

The chapel on campus: although a Methodist school (and a great graduate divinity program), there are no religious requirements. 

Beyond the support for research that you’d expect at such a major research institution, Duke runs a program called Duke Engage: they pay for students to go on service trips. Last summer, 432 students were selected to go. My tour guide went to Argentina, and a friend of hers went to Tanzania. If there isn’t a trip already set up that students are interested in, they can plan one independently. They train on campus and go over the summer. “If you start applying your first year, you’re pretty much guaranteed to get to go at some point, but you can only go once.”

Duke benches

One of the benches that will get burned if Duke wins their game against Chapel Hill.

Sports, especially basketball, are clearly a big deal here. Basketball is the one sport that people put in effort for. Tenting is a big tradition: students camp out for tickets to the Duke-Chapel Hill game. The Black Tent is the most intense; “people literally start weeks in advance.” At least 1 person in the group has to be there at all times to save the group’s spot in line. For the other games, people will camp out a day or two in advance. Tickets are free, “but you have to wait.” Football is much easier: “you can just walk up.” Games are held on campus. If Duke wins, students will burn a bench on the quad, and then they’ll rebuild it.

© 2017

Hendrix College

Hendrix College (visited 3/27/17)

Hendrix bellHendrix sits right on the edge of Conway, about 30 minutes from Little Rock (they run shuttles to the airport before and after breaks). The town is large enough to provide opportunities but small enough to get around easily. There are 3 colleges in Conway; UCA is more visible because it’s bigger. Fun fact: Conway has more roundabouts than traffic lights. Campus is gorgeous (and even has a Creek Reserve): “Our facilities are exceptional; the people are more so.” This isn’t surprising as a school on the Colleges that Change Lives list!

Over breakfast on our Counselor visit Day, we were greeted by President Tsutsui (prounounced “suitsuey”). “How many people have been to Arkansas before? Not bad! Thanks for wanting to come back!” He went on to talk about the Top 5 questions he gets asked (as well as his answers to them) about Hendrix:

  • Hendrix quad 2

    Students outside enjoying the weather in one of the many open spaces on campus

    “Was it founded by Jimi Hendrix?”

    • Nope, but Bishop Hendrix of MO gave as much money as Jimi Hendrix so he might as well have!
  • “Wow, Arkansas, huh??”
    • There isn’t a single 17-year-old who wakes up and says, ‘I want to go to school in Arkansas, including people in this state!’ But it’s beautiful. It’s green. There are some of the friendliest, most curious people you’d ever want to meet. It’s not the saccharine, deep-south sweet. People here have time for each other. People who care about each other means something. This is a one-phone-call state. There’s someone on this campus who can pick up the phone and call anyone to arrange internships, an interview for a project, etc.
  • Hendrix class hallway

    One of the classroom buildings; classes are on the upper level with a hallway looking over faculty offices on the left. 

    “What’s that Odyssey Program all about?”

    • Students learn to take risks and craft personally meaningful learning experiences outside the classroom. They learn which paths may not be such a good fit. They prepare through research, skill building, leadership. Not all of these are unique, but here it’s not cookie-cutter. Students take charge and responsibility. We give them the power AND RESOURCES to create something that is meaningful.
  • “So what are your big plans for Hendrix?”
    • A clear student-centered mission that delivers on the rigorous Liberal Arts education that celebrates and encourages differences. There won’t be a business or engineering school or an online or graduate school. We aren’t going to grow. We want people to know each other. We’re adding a new center for teaching and learning (creative work), enhanced career services, expanded multi-cultural centers, more growth in diversity, some construction (dorms), new music/film/visual arts facilities.
  • “What makes Hendrix different than other colleges out there?”
    • It can’t be distilled down. We’re authentic and grounded. Students and alumni are smart and are good people. Staff want to be here. Watch the staff in the cafeteria. They know the students’ names. They give hugs. They ask how breaks went.

Hendrix 15Hendrix is a bubble. Compared to much of Arkansas, it’s pretty liberal, but “compared to the coastal areas, it’s much less so!” It’s a good halfway point. “Football has diversified us. There are a number of evangelicals on the team which makes us look more like America as a whole,” said one of the admission reps. “It’s not about us and them, it’s about interacting person-to-person,” said the President. He told a story about 2 students becoming good friends: “She was the first Muslim I ever met; I was the first scary-rural-American she met.”

Hendrix dorm

One of the dorms

This is a mostly residential campus with almost 90% of the 1,300 students living on campus. Campus feels vibrant with students everywhere. SOAR runs trips every weekend: ice skating, movies, etc. There are also tons of festivals around town: Toad Suck Daze Festival got rave reviews from several people, especially catching toads in the creeks to race! Students are never short of activities on campus or around town.

Food is excellent; they’re highly ranked on several lists. It’s all locally run, not a corporation. Students can – and do! – bring in recipes from home, and they get a cake on their birthday. They periodically bring out food carts: gyros, soft pretzels, etc. Tuesday Talks are held in the dining hall, bringing in people to talk about what jobs they do and how they got there.

Hendrix tunnel 1

A pedestrian tunnel with music and lights; if you know the secret code to tap the sensors, you can make it play specific songs — you need 2 people, 1 at each end!

Odyssey is their signature program, started in 2005. All students participate, not just the few who can fit it in. It’s integrated, connected to the classroom, and goes on the transcript (Research and Internships). They provide over $400,000 in support (not including study abroad). Students start with a course called Engaged Citizens and then must complete at least 3 of the 6 categories (a handful graduate each year having completed all 6):

  • Artistic Creativity: opportunities are spread across spectrum to produce something. There has to be a publicly-viewed product at the end.
  • Hendrix art 2

    Their art complex is extensive with 3 buildings. They offer everything ranging from ceramics to sculpture to woodworking

    Undergraduate Research: disciplinarily based. One professor does research on ants (social organization, etc). Students can get Odyssey credit if they do a public presentation such as a conference (even on campus).

  • Global Awareness: study abroad but can be domestic (did Somali community work)
  • Service to the World: at least 30 hours of volunteer or civic engagement (work on a campaign, animal shelter)
  • Professional and Leadership Development: They have a partnership with Heifer International (headquartered in AR) for leadership, global awareness,
  • Special projects:

“The secret sauce is reflection,” said the Odyssey Director. “You can’t just do the thing. You have to THINK about the thing. We have a lot of failed internships … they completed it fine, but it turns out that this isn’t what they want to do! If you have to present it, you have to think about it first.”

Hendrix gazebo“I’m struck by how earnest students are here and how hard working. It’s a great combination. They aren’t just falling back on being smart. They’re engaged… not that that’s 100% true across the board, but I don’t really find negative experiences with kids not wanting to be here,” said one of the professors. Academics are good across the board, but pre-Med and sciences seem to be particularly good here, including majors in Chemical Physics, Molecular Biology, Health Science, and Neuroscience. “I’ve been challenged almost too much,” said a student. There’s a 3+2 program with physics (at Hendrix) and engineering at WashU, Vanderbilt, and Columbia. can get their . “If they aren’t 100% sure they want to do engineering, it’s a great place to start. Often they think they want engineering and don’t,” said a physics professor.

Hendrix 16Students on the panel were asked about their favorite academic experience:

  • I was in an 8:15 class. People were late or overslept a lot, one in particular. One day, the professor had us call the student on speaker phone and told him we’d wait until he got to class.
  • Zoology: “We had literally thousands of things to memorize. All bio majors have to take it, usually in sophomore year. I just about quit college. I spent hours in the lab. I would sleep there. I eked out a C and am proud of that. The next summer, I found that I could identify all the shells on the beach during a family vacation. I thought I got nothing out of the class, but realized that I remembered so much.
  • Advanced Cell Bio: “The lab was the most challenging thing I’ve done. We had to think critically and design our own lab. We also learned how to read scientific journals.”
  • “I spent a semester in Oxford studying Tolkien and Lewis.”
  • “The school takes the advising process seriously.” The first year advising is sort of random to mix it up a little. They get training. Teach an Explorations class.

Hendrix quad 1What makes this a place to be unique:

  • I came out of my shell. Now it’s cool to tell people I write fiction.
  • This campus has spaces where things can happen. “I’m a queer person of color and I’m here. Like any campus there are issues, but there’s a willingness to check themselves, to realize they aren’t ready to talk about it, to want to learn. There are also a ton of alternative spaces on campus where students can be who they are. They may not be that visible, but they’re there. You can also occupy multiple spaces at once.”

 

© 2017

 

 

 

High Point University

High Point University (visited 3/16/17)

HPU waner cntr 2High Point has come a long way in a very short time. I brought a group of students here 8 years ago; the changes since then are astounding. They have a few more buildings in the works to be completed by 2020: a res hall opening August 2017, and Schools of Health Science/Pharmacy and Undergraduate Science. An arena (ice hockey) and conference center just got approved: “45% of our students are from the north.” When these are finished; they’ll expand the endowment.

HPU Galileo statue

Statues of famous people, like Galileo, are all over campus

The current president has made a big difference changing the mindset on campus. “You don’t get an education by picking up information. Knowledge isn’t understanding. You can get trained anywhere, but education better be holistic.” The campus is purposefully designed to change how students approach education. “I want people to think about WHY, not just how. Why do we have a steakhouse on campus? So students can learn business etiquette. Be a human being of relevance. This takes knowledge, understanding, and human relations.”

HPU stu cntr 2It’s important to take much of this with a grain of salt. I spoke with 2 former students currently studying at HPU. They enjoy being there, but were open about problems facing the school. “It’s all about appearances. There’s not as much substance as they like to make people think.” The people who thrive here are confident and have a passion for something. It’s easy to get connected to resources. They both gave the career center and internship programs big thumbs up. “It’s one of the best things about the college, but it is very much NC based. There’s some stuff on the East Coast, but not much beyond that.” Counseling services were also given high ratings.

HPU pool

The pool outside the student center

“It is a country club. That isn’t a false reputation.” A lot of people here are into Greek and/or social life, or they’re here to take advantage of networking/Business connections. They both agreed that it’s an expensive school, and Financial Aid isn’t great. “Take advantage of everything here. You’re paying for it.”

“People here are image driven. It’s homogenous and easy to get caught up in the shallowness. People who are different are fish out of water; they’re probably going to transfer.” There is a great deal of apathy towards diversity. “It’s tolerated but not celebrated. It can be frustrating. Racial diversity seems to be the hardest because it’s the most visible,” said one. The other said, “LGBTQ students will be fine here if they’re not way out there. I’ve never heard overtly hostile comments or felt threatened, but sometimes hear ignorant comments.” That being said, they did agree that there is a lot of room to grow at HP. “You’ll struggle in a constructive way.”

HPU business interiorGrowth mindset is at the center of all they do: HPU has trained faculty and offer Growth Mindset Grants for faculty research projects, student scholarships, etc. Over the course of the counselor program, the Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) was repeatedly brought up. The entire education is built on Four Pillars: Academic Excellence, Experiential Learning, Character Development, and Life Skills.

All classes are taught by faculty. Professional grad programs (physical therapy, physician assistant) means no TAs. The number of faculty with PhDs is lower than some other schools but they pull a lot of people directly from the field. For example, Joe Michaels teaches here. He directed The Today Show for 8 years, won an Emmy, directed the opening ceremonies for the Olympics, etc. “He doesn’t have a PhD. Who cares?? He’s an amazing resource for our students.” They also bring in Innovators in Residents like Steve Wozniak. Check out all the speakers at http://www.highpoint.edu/innovators/.

HPU sport med 1They’ve seen a sharp increase in undergraduate health sciences because of the grad programs. Generally anything labeled as “pre-“ is not a major except pre-pharmacy (one of the top-10 freshmen majors). Pre-pharm students complete 2 years of intense pre-reqs and then transition to a 4-year DPT program without their undergrad degree. Applicants need at least a 550 math on the SAT: “We don’t have a single exception to that … we’ve never had a student score lower who could do it.”

HPU 3Other strong programs include Visual Merchandising, Graphic Design, Actuarial Science, and International Relations. Unique programs include:

  • Interior Design: ranks in the top 10 in the country. High Point is the furniture capitol of the world. By junior year, students can be designing for major companies.
  • Business Admin: Entrepreneurship, Sales & Entrepreneurship, and a 5-year MBA.
  • Communication, including interactive Gaming & Game Design, Event Management (#1 in the world, beating out the reigning 5-year champs from Korea), and a 5-year Masters – strategic Communication.
  • Education including LEGO education and a 5-year Masters in Elementary Education.
  • 3-2 Engineering with Vanderbilt. “No students do this. They end up staying here all 4 years,” said the rep, “but the option is there.”

HPU amphitheaterAll classes are worth 4 credit hours to account for mandatory experiential learning: service-learning, internships, or problem-based inquiry. English classes could tutor local children, and Business Ethics partners with the Chamber of Commerce to interview and work with 30 Under 30.

They’re on their way to reaching an enrollment goal of 5,000 undergrads. Retention is increasing 1-2 points per year, and they bring in 1,375 new freshmen each year (21.5% from NC). They haven’t reached a gender balance (42% male), and racial diversity is still something to work on. However, they’ve seen a recent grown in Hispanic and African-American students. The 1-1 study abroad exchanges help diversity.

HPU dorm hammocks

Hammocks in front of one of the dorms

Part of their retention comes from the Common Experience, including:

  • All students take a Seminar on Life Skills from President Qubein. Two students said, “It’s not all it’s made out to be. I learned a few things, but it’s not all that.”
  • Common Read
  • In-hall educational programming and Community Meetings
  • First Year Seminars or Eng 1103: students are grouped in res halls based on what they’re enrolled in.
  • Freshman success coaches (they transition to a major-specific advisor in their field later).
  • Undergrad Research and Creative Works: students in all disciplines can research as early as freshman year, even sometimes a 2-month summer project before freshman year. Students do the bulk of the research in the summer and write it up over the year. Meals and housing are covered and get a $3000 stipend.
HPU dorm 2

One of the dorms with a sand volleyball court in front

Students must live on campus through Junior year, but few leave because the dorms are so nice that there’s no reason to leave. They even have single-family houses for students. There are 5 tiers of housing with Tier 1 being the lowest price-point. “It’s hard to get into Tier 1 Housing unless you move to one of the off-campus areas and shuttle in,” one of the student told me. For a 3rd consecutive year, HPU ranked #1 in Aramark’s Student Satisfaction Survey of college food.

HPU classroom

A typical classroom in the business building

Classes are small. No one on the student panel had a class with more than 30 students; smallest classes ranged from 4-7. Their favorite classes were:

  • Astronomy taught by a guy who had discovered 5 new stars.
  • Linear Statistics: “We learned models and methods. For the last month, we did a project to apply this to whatever we wanted. I looked at airline delays and what caused them.”
  • Debating the Death Penalty: “I went in with a narrow idea of what I thought I believed. We filled out surveys about things like mental illness and pregnant criminals. We had to talk about what we believed, and she put out “What if?” situations. I loved that it was controversial and discussion based.”
  • Intro to Women and Gender Studies. “I had a narrow view of the topic. We did an action project involving the community. I partnered with a sorority about domestic violence and organized speakers and a candlelight walk.”
  • Intro to Event Management. “I didn’t think it would be so interesting. Speakers came to every class like a manager from the Sheraton. We had opportunities to work in the field and get hands-on experience.”
  • Science Fiction Philosophy: “I had a paradigm shift of how I look at the world, as simple as “who am I? Am I the same as when I was 7?”

HPU fire pitAbout 33% of students go Greek. Rush happens in spring semester, but one of the students (she’s affiliated) said that’s being changed next year to fall. Almost all affiliated students stay through graduation because it creates community, but “It’s not the end-all and be-all by any means.” There is Greek housing, but they each only hold about 15 people.

Campus has tons of activities, including a full movie theater and a bowling alley. The Concierge plans trips off campus ranging from Hanged Woods to Panthers home games to midnight premiers of Twilight. For students traveling home, free transportation is given to the Greensboro airport (about 20 minutes away) or to Charlotte or Raleigh-Durham, “Free if we were HP gear!”

Students on the panel were surprised by:

  • “I come from a big football area and I was a bit bummed that there wasn’t a team, but I love how much more attention the other sports get because there’s no football team.”
  • “How many opportunities there are. I knew it would be caring, but not how much people would be there for me. People do research all the time. It kind of woke me up and said “go do that!””
  • “How many professors have been in the field. One of my psych profs ran her own clinic. She uses real case studies to bring in real-world applications. My advisors worked at Lifetime and NBC. They want to help you with those connections.”
  • “We have the freedom to run with ideas.”
  • “How much it means to the community and people who work here. There are signs in town that say, “High Point’s University.” Businesses paint their buildings purple.”

During admissions, “The first place we’re going is the ‘Why do you want to attend HPU?’ question. We want them to be able to vocalize that they understand it’s a little different, otherwise they won’t enroll.” 125 students who look like they might be good fits but aren’t quite there academically are invited to complete Summer Experience. They recalculate to an unweighted GPA and will include everything with a grade on the transcript. EA students won’t get deferred, but they’ll be clear with students if they want to see new grades and/or test scores. Once supplied, they’ll make a decision.

HPU fountain 2Fellowship Applications are due 2/1. Students can apply to all 3 but can only enroll in 1.

1) Honors Scholars: Suggested eligibility: 1310+SAT, 28 ACT, and a 3.45 unweighted GPA.

  • The core curriculum includes 39 credits over 4 years in small, interdisciplinary classes. There are 5 foundation courses, Modern Language at 2nd semester level, 2 scholar seminars, a year-long signature project, and a senior professional portfolio.
  • Classes must be project-based, involve research, and be writing- and reading-intensive to qualify as Honors.
  • “It’s Qualitatively Different,” not just harder and more work. It’s work that gets them thinking in new ways. Our tour guide said, “Now it’s worth looking into. It’s not like when I came in 3 years ago.”
  • Students are housed in Finch.

2) Media Fellows: 16 Communication majors get a $3000 stipend, access to industry innovators, a living-learning community, and special trips (including international)

3) Leadership Fellows: Demonstrated leadership ability and potential.

© 2017

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