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Stevenson University

Stevenson University (visited 12/5/17)

Stevenson mustang

The Stevenson mascot

Stevenson is in the process of rebranding itself, and it seems to be doing an amazing job. The institution began as Villa Julie, a Catholic women’s college, but it’s been independent of the church since the ‘60s, coed since the early ‘70s, and changed its name in 2008 when it gained University status. The growth and ongoing changes are remarkable.

Stevenson shuttles

One of the shuttle buses waiting by some of the residence halls

The university has two campuses situated six miles apart northeast of Baltimore. “They have a totally different feel,” said one student. Another agreed: “There’s more nature there [Stevenson]. This one [Owings Mills] is more hussle-bussle.” Shuttles run every 30 minutes between the two, but all students can have cars, so it’s easy to drive over. The students agreed that parking was not a problem. However, Owings Mills (considered the main campus) is overhauling much of campus, including putting in a quad that will replace a large chunk of their main parking lot. This will go a long way in alleviating the predominant institutional feel when first driving on campus; their plan is to have this completed by the time return back to campus in January 2018.

Stevenson walkway

The new walkway connecting North to the main section of campus

The quad is just one example of the recent, rapid growth of both students and facilities. Buildings are modern and well equipped for what the students need to live and learn. Owings Mills has all the residence halls, the Business school, and more. The college just built a wooden walkway to connect the main part of campus to “North” Campus, officially Owings Mills Extension, where there is a new, massive (22,000 square feet) academic center housing the Design School (including fashion, film, graphic design), sciences and math, Business Communications, Marketing, PR, and more.

Stevenson Business

The Business School

Given the main campus growth, the President thinks that they’ll eventually consolidate: “It’s impractical to run 2 campuses.” The majority of classes are at OM. Although the Schools of humanities/social sciences and education are at the other campus, when people need a class (like psychology for nurses), it’s offered at OM. However, theaters, competition basketball and tennis facilities, and more are on the Stevenson campus. “Specialty equipment is harder to shift.” The master plan includes expanding the Southern part of the OM campus to make it the hub of student life, including athletic fields and more housing.

Stevenson res quad

The residence quad

About 2500 students live on campus, and students raved about the dorms. “There are no communal bathrooms,” one said. Even freshmen (85% of whom live on campus) live in 2-bedroom suites. Later, they can move into larger suites, suites with single bedrooms, or apartments. “About 75% of juniors who want them can get into the apartments,” one student told me. There are 6 on-campus and 16 off-campus dining options.

Stevenson diversityThere is excellent support here, particularly for first year students. Orientation gets rave reviews, and the optional Orientation Adventures (students go to Orioles games, Hershey Park, etc) program has grown rapidly. “They didn’t push it much when I started,” said a senior. “A lot more freshmen do it now.”

Stevenson Stu Cntr ext

Some outdoor seating by the Student Center; in good weather, this place is packed!

Additionally, they’ve changed 1st year advising: “by all measures, this is going extremely well,” said the Dean of Admissions. Students are assigned a Success Coach at orientation, and students must meet with them at least 4 times in the fall and 3 in the spring. “It’s intrusive advising;” each session has a particular purpose instead of a generic “how’s it going?” check-in. Students complete goal-setting activities and look at what they want their college experience to be. After the 1st year, students transfer to a more traditional faculty advisor, but are able to meet with success coaches whenever they want.

“Professors are my favorite thing about this place. They work outside the classroom. They have lives.” The students like that connection to the outside world, information about internships, etc. “One of my favorite classes was an Intro to Theater class. There were no theater majors in there, so the professor completely overhauled the syllabus to make it more relevant to us.”

The academics at Stevenson seem to be deliberately thought out; as they’ve overhauled the university, they’ve also innovated academic offerings to prepare students for graduate school (about 1/3 go on) or jobs. “We offer connection to careers within the liberal arts tradition.”

  • All students must complete a capstone experience. They even offer a Design-firm Capstone: students solve a problem for a community group such as working with a community center to design interactive programs for the kids. There are 40 Service-Learning classes where they work for a local non-profit.
  • Sales Management and Leadership is one of their more unusual majors. They encourage students to pair this with a minor that might correspond with their professional goals such as a minor in Chem for Pharmaceutical Sales.
  • Other unusual majors are: Visual Communication Design, Medical Laboratory Science, Public History, and Fashion Merchandising.
  • Professional Minors will be offered starting in 2018. Students take four interdisciplinary classes to build skills applicable to various job markets: Applied Management, Entrepreneurship/Small Business Development, Human Resources, Real Estate, Software Design and Coding.
  • Students can earn complete a 5-year BS/MS in 9 areas.
  • Sciences are strong: there has been an 87% acceptance rate into health-profession (med, dental, vet) schools over 5 years. Any interested student can apply; they don’t cut kids during pre-advising programs. Qualified students can do a 3+3 Pharmacy with UMD.
  • 100% of the students have been accepted to law schools; their Legal Studies major is ABA accredited. Students can complete a 3+3 with UBalt’s law school.
  • There are many music groups on campus and a music minor.
  • Film and Moving Image majors start to write and direct in their first year.

There are plenty of shops and restaurants are within walking distance, many physically surrounding campus. Given its location on the outskirts of Baltimore, there’s a myriad of other options as well, with Towson and Hunt Valley being popular. “We also go to Towson or Baltimore for parties,” said one student. There’s a metro stop on campus “but it’s mostly underground and we lose reception. I like knowing I can reach someone if there’s a problem so I don’t take it a lot, but it is convenient.” Often students will take the Light Rail from Hunt Valley if they’re heading into downtown Baltimore.

Stevenson stadium

The stadium and the athletic center which sit on the edge of campus.

Athletics are a big deal. Stevenson’s teams have had 30 NCAA championship appearances and 27 conference and national championships. Football, women’s volleyball, men’s basketball, and lacrosse all pull a large fan-base. They’re the first in the nation (and the northernmost?) to have a DIII Beach Volleyball team. All their club sports are professionally coached to give those students a solid athletic experience. A men’s club rugby team is in development, and they even have a Club E-sports (gaming) team!

The top 10% of admitted students are selected for Freshman Honors; there’s no way to apply separately for this program. There’s a new University Honors program in development for fall of 2019. The application for their largest scholarship, the Presidential Fellowship, is due 11/1. Students interested in general merit scholarship (up to $20,000 per year) must apply to Stevenson by 2/1; these are automatic consideration. There are several Specialty Scholarships (Leadership, Service, Art, Founders) scholarships that are stackable with other scholarships; these applications are due by 1/15. The invitation to apply to the Founders will be included with the acceptance letter.

© 2017

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UT Dallas

UT Dallas (visited 10/19-20)

UTD 2“UT Dallas is hard. I didn’t take those words seriously when I started. I thought they weren’t serious or that it didn’t apply to me. But it’s hard,” said a recent alum (and current staff member). “We’re one of the best undergrad institutions out there if a student wants to partner with us – but so much of education has to be outside the classroom and beyond the curriculum. It’s so important for them to understand that learning is an intentional action. It needs to be a choice that they’re engaging at the highest level they’re capable of.”

UTD plaza 1UT Dallas spends $40 million on academic scholarships, the same amount that a lot of schools spend on their football teams. “This isn’t to say that our sports aren’t outstanding. Our men’s basketball went to the Sweet 16 because of a buzzer-beating 3-point shot.” They’re regularly audited because so many of the athletes are on merit-based scholarships. “We get asked why our athletes get such high GPAs … because we’re admitting smart athletes.”

UTD fountain 2“We get amazing support surrounded by great peers. We push each other!” said one student. However, one student said that “undergraduates sometimes get left behind” but feels that this is getting better. “Research is there if you look for it.” The Student Success office hires students: tutoring and mentoring tends to be peer-to-peer. They find that this helps the tutors as well.

UTD muralThe admissions department is going into their first year of a holistic review. “We’re careful. We don’t want to admit people who can’t hack it.” As per Texas state policy, students get automatic admission if they fall within the top 10% of their class and have followed a Texas-track curriculum (essentially 4 credits each of English, Math, Social Science, 3 of science). If a school does not rank but the student would be in that level, a letter from a counselor will suffice. About 1/3 of UTD students ranked in the top 10% in high school.

UTD fountain

The fountain that runs along the center of campus

UTD does not accept Common App; applicants should use http://www.applytexas.org. The $50 fee can be waived if they attend a senior admission day. To be considered for scholarships, applications must be in by January 15th! They offer:

  • Academic Excellence Scholarships
    • Academic Achievement: $6000/year: SAT 1400/ACT 30
    • Academic Distinction: complete tuition and fees, $2,000/year cash stipend for other expenses. SAT 1470, ACT 32
    • Academic Honors: complete tuition and fees, $6,000/year cash stipend for other expenses. SAT 1530, ACT 34
  • UTD activity center

    The Activities Center

    Diversity Scholars: “This is not based on race, but is diversity broadly defined,” said an admissions rep – this can include ability, age, and experiences in addition to the categories most people associate with diversity. This requires a separate application (with essay) due by 2/15. To qualify, students must have a 3.0 and have financial need. Recipients must volunteer 5 hours a semester with the Office of Diversity and Community Engagement.

  • Collegium V Honors: They tend to take students with SATs in the mid-1400s (and applicants need a 1410 to even apply/be considered) and are generally in the top 3% of their class. They are starting a Liberal Arts cohort within the Honors Program. Students who don’t make it into this as incoming freshmen can apply during freshman year if they have a 3.9 GPA.
  • The McDermott Scholars Program: This is the most selective of the Scholars Programs/Scholarships.
    • Cohort Trips: Santa Fe (only the freshmen coming in) – 10 days before classes start; Washington at the end of Freshman year.
    • McDermott Housing is in South Hall close to central campus and close to the dining hall.
UTD lab

One of the many labs

The school is “relatively expensive for the state of Texas, but relatively cheap when you compare across the country.” They offer a guaranteed tuition plan: there’s no increase in tuition or fees for 4 years, and additional courses beyond 15 credit hours are essentially free. Academics get a lot of praise, particularly:

UTD 6

Interior of the Student Center

This is clearly a large state university with 27,000 students. “This is smaller than some other state schools and it’s not a party school,” said one of the students. “There are times that there isn’t much going on, but there is no shortage of things to do. You get used to going off campus for fun. The benefit to this school is location because there’s so much to do.” There isn’t a ton within immediate walking distance of campus: “You kind of need a car to get off campus,” said one of the students. Parking is available (there are numerous lots on the periphery of campus), but it’s a bit of a hassle sometimes and “they’re serious about tickets.” There are 3 DART stations within 10 minutes of campus. Both airports (DFW and Love Field) are 40-45 minutes away. The orange line DART goes to DFW.

UTD dorm and DH

Dorms and the dining hall

UTC started strictly as a graduate school and “worked backwards” to become an undergraduate institution. Because of this, it’s still very much a commuter school, but they’re working on increasing the housing available. Currently there are about 6000 beds, and housing has all been built since 2009 mostly in suite and apartment style housing. Suites are assigned by the gender you applied to the school with, and students can also choose gender-neutral housing. Housing costs are charged like rent at an apartment and averages about $815/month which covers utilities. Each student is charged separately, so roommates don’t have to worry if someone leaves.

Safety is good on campus. The university police are technically State Troopers since this is a state institution. Although this is a Conceal Carry state, the university law states that guns are not allowed in residence halls, library, dining hall, etc – basically anywhere where other people could get access to the firearm.

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Wheaton College (MA)

Wheaton College (visited 9/12/17)

Wheaton pond 3

Peacock Pond

There are several colleges with ponds on campus, some of which have traditions surrounding them. Wheaton’s reminded me of my own alma mater in Upstate NY – it’s the only other one I know of with a similar tradition, but this was much more formalized than my school! “There are two traditions with Peacock [the name of the pond],” said a rep. “Swim across it before graduation – but no one really does that – and the Head of the Peacock!” During this annual race, students build their own boats and race across the pond in the style of a crew regatta.

Wheaton science lab

A class in action

“There are very few schools that are truly unique. We offer progressive education with timeless values. We push the envelope.” Wheaton is undergoing a full overview/overhaul of their curriculum. Now it includes the following:

  • Connections: Students must take 2 two-course or 1 3-course interdisciplinary Connections classes. This helps students see the value of a liberal arts education through the intersection of topics. They choose courses that have pre-determined connections, or one that they’ve identified in their path:
    • Wheaton art studio 2An art studioBiology and Art History pulls in Scientific Drawing, Art Conservation, DaVinci. 1 prof is a cell biologist; the art historian looks at medieval cathedrals. Together, they look at structure and strength to determine why some still stand and others are in rubble.
    • Lexomics combines Computer Science and English driven by data science and digital humanities. Google analyzes all the texts they can get their hands on. “It’s the new way people analyze literature. It generates results that generates more questions.” They write algorithms that allow people to dissect texts. Linguists can discover when, where, and by whom things were written and pieced together
    • PoliSci and Geologists: They look at the political ramifications of melting ice caps as new waterways form. Countries are claiming ownership: who gets that and the oil underneath? They look at plate tectonics, etc. If you’re working in geology, you’d better understand PS, and if you’re in politics, you need to look at money, etc.
    • The Astronomy department runs an extensive observatory including 7 telescopes that are controlled online, and there’s 1 in Australia that they’re hooked up to so they can access night skies almost 24/7 as well as see the Southern Hemisphere. They pair with a couple departments for Connections classes:
      • Ancient Astronomy pairs with Classics.
      • They pair with Biology for florescent imaging looking at bright against dark – this works on cells as well as in space!
  • Wheaton 10

    One of the new science buildings

    Wheaton Edge: This guarantees access to financial support for experiential learning such as research or an internship before senior year. This is a 4-year process for academic preparation, access to grad school, and preparing for the professional world. If by the end of junior year, students haven’t found a paid internship, they can apply for a stipend for up to $5000 to support them for an internship over the summer. When the new president came, he asked how many – could be true internships or with Mass Challenge, research, etc. What was preventing the 30% from not doing them?

Wheaton 1I asked students on the panel to share the best class they’ve taken:

  • You Are What You Ate looking at history through food. “I changed my major because of this class!”
  • A history class from a professor who specialized in Charlemagne: “We read a lot of articles based on his daughter and helped research for his book.”
  • Quantitative Research Methods: “I want to be a neuroscience major. The real-world application of class was interesting to see what people in the field had really been doing. Now I’m a research assistant with that professor.”

This is a typical small liberal arts school; it started as a women’s college and went coed in 1988. They’ve traditionally hovered around 1600 students (with about 1/3 from MA, 1/3 from the rest of New England, and 1/3 from outside the region), but brought in 528 last year and they’d like to keep it at about 500 students new students per year. They’re breaking ground on Southern Campus for a new res hall. The Board has committed $100 million to improvements, tackling areas with biggest impact on students first (ie the dining hall).

Wheaton 4“We’ve seen increased energy and diversity over the last several years,” said a rep. Diversity is big here in all its forms. A student on the panel said, “I think there’s enough for me to feel welcome and safe here. I didn’t understand the women of color thing until I got here, and being here has made me figure that out. It’s given me a chance to figure that out and talk about it and celebrate it in a positive light.” Another said, “People are receptive of things and will talk to anyone, even with people who don’t have experience with people of other backgrounds. We have safe spaces like the Black Student Union. Everyone is welcome.” People are open around and accepting of LGBTQIA students. There are gender-neutral bathrooms, clubs, etc. Campus Conservatives are a minority – but they dialogue a lot with Campus Democrats “who have been some of our biggest supporters,” said an officer in the club.

Wheaton dorm

A dorm

Located in a safe town about 45 minutes south of Boston and 20 minutes north of Providence, it’s easy for students to have the best of both worlds. There’s plenty to do within walking distance, and there’s a free shuttle to the train station that will take them to either city. The college also maintains a fleet of rental cars. For students wanting to study somewhere else, they do have a relationship with a university in Bhutan, and 60% have a formal study abroad experience for either a semester or year.

Wheaton quad 4

Students studying in “The Dimple”

Teachers want to be at Wheaton and work with students, they know students’ names, and classes are small. Students are curious and are willing to keep trying: “they’re definitely persistent!” said a professor. The President teaches an accounting class at 8am – “and it’s full,” said one of the students. His educational background is in accounting and finance but wants to work at a liberal arts school: “I’ve spent my life trying to convince finance students that the last thing they need is another finance class. Life is too complex for that.”

Wheaton flowersIn terms of academics, one rep said, “The Liberal Arts doesn’t have the fancy, pretty spaces that the sciences have, but we’re strong!” Other things to know about the academics are:

  • Students can major in Business & Management during which they can take courses in finance and other more specific areas. They concentrate on the core, providing abroad base with the experience of applying it in the real world. Every class has experiential learning, often consulting for small businesses. They can’t graduate without an internship AND a capstone project (highly unusual for business), extended research based on their interests. A current senior is combining her love of marketing with her hatred of vaping, researching whether packaging makes a difference in people’s inclination to vape.
  • Sciences are strong, and 80-90% are accepted to med schools each year. Many students are on the health-science tracks including vet, dental, PT, Nursing, OT, etc.
  • Music and Theater/Dance: students have access to extensive facilities and groups. Students can participate for credit or for fun. There’s a black box theater which is entirely student run (acting and directing) and is sometimes used as a “jazz club.” Music ensembles include a World Music ensemble and a chamber orchestra.
  • They offer majors in areas such as Animal Behavior, African/African American Diaspora Studies, Bioinformatics, Development Studies, Arabic, Medieval/Renaissance Studies, and Digital Humanities. Students can rent equipment for this.

Wheaton GhanaAdvising is also different than at many places, recognizing that students are different: “The same technique isn’t going to work for everyone. Are they missing deadlines? Do they not think it matters?” Clearly they’re doing something right: retention and graduation rates are significantly higher than the national average, and students are flocking to excellent grad schools (for example, they send an average of 13 students to Harvard every year) and they’re in the Top 10 in graduates getting Fulbrights.

Wheaton is test-optional, including when it comes to awarding merit scholarships; many of these come with a guaranteed $3000 grant for use after sophomore year. Of those who submitted, the average came in at mid-high 1200s. The typical student has a B+/A- average with some APs. English proficiency is shown with a minimum TOEFL 90 (they have a little bit of wiggle room if it’s a point or 2 under if other things line up).

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Simmons College

Simmons College (visited 9/13/17)

Simmons rooftop 2

A rooftop garden on the library with the Boston skyline in the distance

“This is the perfect combination of small school and big place,” said one of our tour guides. The school offers all the benefits of an 1800 student undergrad community on a small campus combined with the resources of the Colleges of the Fenway Consortium (students have access to 2,300 classes!) and Boston. As students they have access to a lot of reduced price attractions; the tour guides were particularly excited about the $7 cinema tickets (with reclining chairs) and $10 aquarium tickets.

Simmons signAlthough this is single-gender (the only women’s college right in Boston), “Wentworth is literally across the street, and they’re 85% male, so we kind of balance each other out!” Six schools make up the Colleges of the Fenway (The Fens is the name of the park is directly across the street, so the Fenway is the area around the park). Simmons sits just about in the middle of the group, and their Residential Quad is a block from Main Campus (actually right across from Emmanuel). The dining hall and health center (“which is incredible,” said the tour guide) are both in the Res Quad. Housing is guaranteed for all 4 years; freshmen are required to live on campus. There are college-owned apartments about a 7-10 minute walk from campus but are considered “on campus” and have RAs there. The tour guide loved living there: “It’s a comfort and independence thing.” For students wanting to move off campus, it’s easy to find off-campus housing through Facebook etc.

Simmons quad arial

The quad from the roof of the library

This college lives up to its commitment to diversity, and students themselves are invested in it. “People have really great perspectives,” said one student. Seventeen Magazine named Simmons in their Top 20 Gay-friendly Schools list, and this was one of the first to have a defined admission policy for transgender students: if you were born OR identify as female, you can apply. “People here are really respectful of pronouns.” There’s also good religious diversity and “people are from everywhere.” There were students wearing hijab and necklaces with Arabic writing. Both Kosher and Halal meals are served on campus.

simmons loungePeople hold doors for others. “We’re treated like adults and we act like it. It’s not catty here. There’s no drama. It’s not a party school. I picked Simmons because I wanted people with the same goals.”

Their academics place a strong emphasis on professional preparation. In addition to the ubiquitous career center found in colleges everywhere, Simmons makes sure that every department has a staff member or professor whose job it is to help find those opportunities. Some of the academics programs or departments worth noting are:

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Wentworth Institute of Technology

Wentworth Institute of Technology (visited 9/13/17)

Wentworth student projects

Students doing a class project on the quad

WIT, unfortunately, often gets overlooked when students are looking for the type of education it offers. This is a hidden gem that offers intensive hands-on education and excellent job preparation. This, combined with its location (the Fenway area of Boston) and its membership in the Colleges of the Fenway consortium, provides a plethora of opportunities not available at many other places.

EWentworth hammocksnrollment hovers around 4,000 students, but as a member of the Consortium, there are approximately 12,000 college students in the immediate area. Not surprisingly, the student body at WIT is skewed overwhelming male (a little over 80%) – but Simmons, a women’s college, is literally across the street. A student there said, “We tend to balance each other out!”

Wentworth classroom

One of the many labs

WIT is best known for their Engineering programs, but that is not all they do:

Wentworth signWentworth is one of a handful of universities nationally that offer Co-op placements for their students (keeping company with places like Northeastern, Drexel, and Cincinnati). Co-ops last at least 12 weeks with students working at least 32 hours per week. These can be completed anywhere, but the earliest a student can register for a co-op is the summer sophomore year, a little later than some other schools. Students didn’t seem to mind this, but it does limit the opportunities to explore areas and quickly “reset” the track they’re on if they discover that their major might not be exactly what they want. Students are advised to complete 2 co-ops at different locations, and they tend to get really creative and work at great places. For example, one student majoring in Applied Math did her co-op in Data Analytics at a biomed company.

Wentworth engo bldgWIT’s graduates have a 98% grad placement rate, and the Brookings Institution has ranked them in the top 7 for occupational earnings power with a perfect score of 100, putting them in good company with schools like Harvey Mudd, NJIT, and CalTech! This is far from the only high ranking they’ve earned for job placement and earnings.

A large majority of students come from Massachusetts, so there are a decent number of commuters. Students not living at home must live on campus for the first two years, and housing is guaranteed for all 4. Just over 75% of first year students live in the dorms with about half of all students living on campus. There are a lot of suites and some single rooms available. The student health center is shared with MassArt and MCPHS and is located on the 2nd floor of one of the new MassArt dorms next door to WIT. Parking is not readily available because of the urban environment, but public transportation, including T stops, are immediately off campus, and there is a lot within walking distance. Because of the location in Boston, there are plenty of things for students to do at a reduced (or no) cost, including free tickets to the MFA and Isabella Stewart Gardner museum.

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Massachusetts College of Art and Design (MassArt)

Massachusetts College of Art and Design (visited 9/13/17)

MassArt lobby and city

Part of the Fenway as seen from the new lobby

Mass Art (as it’s commonly referred to) is the only art school and the only public school in the Colleges of the Fenway Consortium. In fact, it’s the only public art school in the country.

Housing is offered in 3 dorm buildings, and there are several options including Gender Inclusive housing, LBGTQQIA themed living, and Substance-Free areas. While I was on campus, I grabbed lunch in the central dining hall which is shared with MCPHS and WIT. I wasn’t impressed with the food quality, the selection, the ease of getting food once inside, or the amount of seating available. However, it was centrally located in campus, but many students had to (or maybe wanted to) take food to go since there just wasn’t much seating in relation to the number of students moving through the area. They

MassArt artwork

Some of the wok from Fiber majors

The first year of study is the Studio Foundations year. Most classes are capped at 25, but for Art History (taken both semesters), everyone piles into the auditorium. One of the tour guide’s favorite classes was the 4D/time class in 2nd semester of freshman year. Students are expected to complete 9 liberal arts classes in addition to their major. Two of these are required in the freshman year: Freshman Year Seminar and Thinking, Making, Writing: Using Words with Clarity and Flair. After that, they have more flexibility in fulfilling the remaining 7 classes.

MassArt gallery 2

One of the galleries showcasing student work

There are 9 student galleries in addition to several other display areas. Students are taught early how to present their art and are expected to do so regularly. Twice a year (usually December and May), students have the opportunity to sell their work in week-long sales open to the public. Students receive 60% of the selling price with the remainder going to the college to fund student events and other programs. They also do a lot of outreach with the community, including a program called Spark the Art. They’re also a member of the ProArts Consortium that brings together both performing and visual arts institutions in Boston.

MassArt glass studio

One of the glass blowing studios

They offer all the typical majors you’d expect from an art school and have some amazing, more unusual programs such as Glass, Animation, Industrial Design, Architectural Design (also offering an M.Arch.), Art Education, Fibers, Fashion Design, and Studio for Interrelated Media.

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Suffolk University

Suffolk University (visited 9/14/17)

Suffolk 1“Students here demonstrate a fair amount of common sense,” said one of the professors. “They’re not afraid to work hard because they already work to pay to be here.” Suffolk is a truly urban school with its buildings integrated into the city of Boston. “This is like an NYU but with a small liberal arts mission.”

Students who want a school with a campus should look elsewhere: “This is the wrong place if that’s what you’re looking for, but it’s a perfect place if you want all the resources of an urban environment.” Its main building used to be a corporate office building that the university has been taking over as other companies’ leases run out. Students have to present their IDs to get into most of the campus buildings which are all within two blocks.

Suffolk lobby

The lobby of the main academic building.

Suffolk got its start as a law school in 1906; their mission followed shortly thereafter: giving opportunities to people who may not otherwise have them. There is a great deal of diversity on campus in many of its forms including socio-economic. Teachers are trained for diversity and inclusivity. “Religion isn’t a deal here,” said a professor. The LGBTQ community is welcomed and accepted.

Suffolk quad

The closest thing they have to a “quad” – an activities fair was going on the day we visited.

A common misperception is that Suffolk is still a local commuter school, but this is no longer the case (although this still makes up much of the study body). They have two dorms and the residential population is growing. There are 2 T stops within 2 blocks of school which allows students to commute in easily if they live at home or want to move off campus. They also draw lots of international students because of the urban environment and the strong business programs.

Suffolk art gallery

One of the Art studios

The university offers and amazing range of majors, minors, concentrations, dual and accelerated degrees, etc. However, students tend to complain about class availability and getting into what they need. That being said, there are a number of opportunities for students with strong preparation for jobs post-graduation.

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Providence College

Providence College (visited 9/12/17)

Providence 5I appreciated that the admission reps and other people presenting information to the visiting counselors made efforts to help differentiate Providence from other solid, similarly-sized liberal arts schools. According to them, their 4 pillars make PC different:

  • Human Flourishing: learn to take of yourself now so you’re able to do it later!
  • Cultural Agility: help to see through your lens AND how to learn from those people around you. “Erase the fear. Help include people who might feel different or alienated.”
  • Contemplation and communication: “We do this in the Dominican tradition. We want people to be intentional about contemplation. Take the time to do it. Share that with others.”
  • Integrated learning: “learning is important, but it’s not all you do. How do you put everything together – the internship, the extra-curriculars – to build yourself and get where you want to be?

Providence outdoor seatingA large part – really, the cornerstone – of their core curriculum is Western Civ. This is a 4 semester, team-taught, interdisciplinary course of study pulling together Theology, Lit, History, Philosophy, “really, the entirety of western civilization.” Students take this every semester of their first 2 years. The first 3 semesters cover ancient, medieval, and modern times; in the 4th semester, students complete a colloquium to “bring knowledge into a contemporary topic.” They can choose classes such as Our Monsters, Ourselves (how do we define monsters?), Ethical Practices in Business, Sustainability and Profits, etc. This is a huge part of PC’s culture and community and is almost a rite of passage: students will sport T-shirts saying things like “Done with Civ.”

Providence quad 2This is a Roman Catholic institution, and 50 priests live on campus. This dictates much of what happens around campus from class work to student services. There are options in some aspects of how religion plays out on campus. For example, teachers could opt into having a crucifix in the classrooms but most did not. “Religion is not heavy-handed here” but it’s clearly around and available. Students must take 2 religion and 2 philosophy classes, one of which must be ethics-based, but Mass or chapel is not required. “It’s is more of a social event,” said one of the tour guides. “We have a post-mass bash.” Catholic policy does dictate other things: “We’re a Catholic school, and our Health Center follows Catholic guidelines. I’m not sure you want me to be more specific … students aren’t always happy about this, but there are referrals for outside things as needed.”

Providence hockey

Practice time for the hockey team!

Although diversity and inclusion are, on paper anyway, part of the Dominican tradition, people we talked agreed that the college was not as diverse as they’d like but it’s gotten a lot better in recent years. “It’s the #1 strategic goal. We’re 18% non-white. We’d like to get to 25%.” The LGBTQ community is “not a closeted presence” and seems to be well supported. “Our students are overwhelmingly involved in service, athletics, etc. That’s a major characteristic.” They’ve put a lot of money into athletic facilities: all of them are new within the last 10 years (most within 5). PC has been ranked as the #1 school for intramural involvement. This is also a big hockey school.

Providence business int

Interior of the Business Dept

Academic programs worth noting include:

  • Arts and Sciences: every person takes classes in this school regardless of major.
  • Providence 8Professional Studies is the smallest school and consists of Applied Programs such as Education (Secondary and Elementary/Special), Health Policy Management (one of the fastest growing majors), and Social Work.
    • The BSW is so strong that students can often start their MSW with advanced standing. “We’re the liberal arts in service to others.” This school gives them flexibility to pursue things like pre-med, MPH, hospital admin, etc.
  • Business: Students become proficient in writing, oral communication, civic engagement, and diversity. They offer 4 majors in a new building (opened in January 2017).
    • First-year advising workshops are offered every other week for the first semester covering career education, study abroad, the curriculum, etc. They bring in alumni and faculty to talk about what they do with the majors.
    • The Finance lab has 12 Bloomberg Terminals. They’re pushing for more people to get certified on these

Providence 1Admissions is test-optional: “It doesn’t drive the process. Almost 40% of applicants didn’t submit them last year,” said an admissions rep. “It will not affect merit awards” (given to about ¼ of the students). They recalculate transcripts based on a 4.0 unweighted scale looking only at academic subjects. Last year was the first time admissions didn’t pull students from the waitlist, and in fact, they’ve been slightly overenrolled. 31% came from the ED pool which they’d like to max out at 35%. “We’re talking about the people we want to bring to our community, be part of our family. They want to be here because they love the place!”

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Emmanuel College

Emmanuel College (visited 9/12/17)

Emmanuel quad

The quad with the skyline of Boston in the background

“This is a small school, but there’s something for everyone.” As part of the Colleges of the Fenway, Emmanuel students have access to 5 other schools, and its campus is located right in between Wheelock and Simmons. “It feels a lot bigger because of the consortium,” said the tour guide. “Students from other schools are walking through campus because we’re right in the middle of things.” As part of the consortium, students can take classes (including travel courses!) and even complete full minors at another school. Intramurals are held against teams from other COF schools; students have access to libraries, some clubs and activities, and some dining halls although “We have the best food on the Fenway! It’s a 12,” said one of the tour guides. The other one agreed: “A lot of it is organic, and meals are made fresh right in front of us.”

Emmanuel chapel

The Chapel

This is a Catholic institution with 40% of the students self-identifying as Catholic, but “the Catholicism isn’t heavy-handed,” said one of the students. Mass is never required, but students do need to take 2 religion classes as part of their distribution requirements. With so many choices to fulfill this including “What is Religion?” and “Women in Religion,” there’s something for everyone. There are several priests and nuns still involved on campus, including the President (a nun) and several teachers (“Father John is cool!”).

Emmanuel lounge and quadThe Sisters founded the school as a women’s college in 1919. They went coed in 2001 and are still 73% female, but have tripled their overall population since going coed. Part of this also comes from a deal made with Merck Pharmaceuticals made about the same time as when they went coed – the college leased space to the company for a research lab which makes Emmanuel the only college in the country with a pharmaceutical lab.

Emmanuel 1Campus is attractive and easy to navigate (it is small and can’t grow because of its location in Boston). Housing is guaranteed all 4 years. 88% of first-year students live on campus with 70% staying on all 4 years. “This is not a suitcase school.” Students get involved in a great of service on and beyond campus. Saints Giving Back is a popular club; one of their big projects is providing meals for families with kids in the hospital.

Emmanuel tables“Students are just nice here. This is a door-holding school” While students seem to think that there’s room for some growth in diversity, they also say that “there’s lots of open dialogue.” Students are willing to engage in dialogue with each other and come out in droves to the speakers brought to college (Shawn King recently came).

Classes are capped at 35 but average 21. One tour guide’s largest class was 30 in Freshman Writing. His smallest was 13 in a higher-level psych class. Although on the surface, their majors seem fairly standard and straightforward, they offer a great deal of interesting concentrations within those majors:

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Boston University

Boston University (visited 9/16/17)

BU boathouse

The Boathouse on the Charles with the sailing team taking the boats out

BU is located in a beautiful section of town next to the Charles River; while waiting for the info session to start, I saw kayakers paddling by. They were smart to offer a 1:30 session on a Saturday afternoon; not surprisingly, it was crowded. As people settled into the lecture room, they had a PowerPoint running with standard pretty pictures and statistics/information such as, “What’s your chance of being called on in class? 1 in 27” and “First university to open all divisions to women in 1872” and “In 1876, a BU professor developed a telephone in a BU lab.”

BU ArchHowever, I was highly disappointed in the info session. It could not have been more canned. They had a student there to help with the presentation which initially I was pleased to see, but it was so rehearsed and “game-showy” that it was hard to take them seriously. They said all the right things – accessibility to professors (“They’re more than happy to talk to you and they really want to know you!”), research opportunities, “You’re using a text book that the prof wrote,” … but it sounded like they were jumping through hoops and trying to check off the things families wanted to hear rather than being authentic and giving a sense of what it was really like to be a student on campus.

BP Hillel sign

Hillel sign with Shabbat activities

Luckily, the tour guide was a more personable and less scripted. I had a chance to talk to her a bit one-on-one as we walked back to the admissions office after the tour. I asked her for some of her insights into who would thrive at BU. Her answer was thoughtful: “People here get called out for hate. Gay people are welcomed here. Homophobes are not. People won’t put up with the bigotry. Also, there was a very vocal Trump supporter who went down to Charlottesville to march there. People absolutely weren’t putting up with that. He ended up transferring. If you’re going to openly hate on people, you won’t fit in here.”

BU beach 2

The “Beach” – in warm weather, there are students out here studying and socializing

She loves her education here as well the diversity. They have a huge international population (about 25%). Another 25% come from New England. “I chose BU because I wanted to get to know a lot of different types of people. However, it’s kind of hard to connect between colleges. I love my college (she’s in education), but I’m in the classes with the same 15 people! I came here because of the diversity, but the classes don’t always reflect that.”

BU T and bldg

An academic building with a T running along the main street in front of it

BU is a large private research institution; UROP dedicates $1million in funding for undergrad research. “Everyone is passionate and empower each other to do bigger and better things,” said the student in the info session. “They’re similar in that they’re bright, ambitious, driven. It opened my eyes that I’m not the smartest kid in the room.” As a major university, it’s no surprise that there are a myriad of academic colleges to choose from, and students can double major or complete a Dual Degree in which they earn 2 bachelors in 4 years (and attend 2 graduations).

BU academicSet right in the heart of Boston, it offers the best of both worlds: a residential campus in an urban environment. Campus is spread out: it’s only a couple blocks “deep” at its widest point, but goes a long way. Shuttles run up and down campus and to the medical campus. Off-campus, students have access to many discounted or free events such as $5 tics to Fenway. “They don’t go to Boston. They’re IN Boston,” said one of the reps. A tour guide said, “I live in Boston. I tell incoming students to have fun. Go to the games. Go eat in the North End. Enjoy it.”

BU townhouses

One row of townhouses

Housing is guaranteed all 4 years. Freshmen are often housed in large towers of traditional-style dorms. There are lots of brownstones with 20-30 students, mostly upperclassmen. All dining halls, kosher included, offer vegan meals. There’s no shortage of things to do with 450 clubs on campus (including a Beekeeping society!). A favorite campus tradition (according the tour guide) was Lobster Night: students get a ticket for a lobster with every meal swipe. The Beanpot Hockey Competition is a huge yearly event when the team takes on BC, Harvard, and Northeastern. NE and BC are the 2 big rivals. Bubble Soccer (in hamster balls) bring out lots of people as does the annual Pumpkin Drop run by the Physics Department. Students fill pumpkins with paint, dry ice, flour, and more, then shove them off a plank on the top of a 10-story building.

BU stained glassStudy abroad is an integral part of the university, and they have programs for all majors to study abroad. One of the Earth Science professors is a leading expert on the oldest ice on earth and takes people with him to Antarctica. There’s a freezer on campus with the oldest ice in the world! There are also Internships abroad, many of which offer courses for 3-5 weeks before students are sent out to work. The Global Medic Brigades is a club. Students can go work with that. “It was amazing and humbling” The Hospitality majors must complete 2 internships, 1 of which must be abroad.

BU unionWithin the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, they offer an option to join The Core, an integrated course that crosses disciplines by looking at the world’s great works of thinking and writing. It is designed so students take 2 classes per semester for the first two years, looking at humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. These classes fulfill several of the required distribution requirements, and those choosing to complete the entire sequence will have notations on their transcripts.

To be considered for their Presidential Scholarship, students must apply before 12/1, but no additional paperwork. About 1/3 of their class is admitted under the Early Decision round. The average unweighted GPA coming in last year was a 3.8.

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