Birmingham-Southern College (visited 4/2/14)
One of the counsellors asked our tour guide, a senior majoring in religion, if she agreed with the reputation that Birmingham-Southern students “are smart and out-there.” She said yes: “You can be nerdy, and that’s cool here.” BSC, a CTCL school, does place a lot of emphasis on the whole student and making sure that they aren’t pigeon-holed. For their senior capstone, students have to complete a major project outside of the major. Our tour guide’s project was writing about modern issues in the style of Camus.
The college President is General Krulak, a dynamic leader who is well respected by the students and staff. He spoke to our group; he’s funny, well-spoken, has great ideas, and clearly cares about the college. He impressed us with his energy and ideas for the college as well as his plans on how to carry them out.
One complaint students seemed to have about BSC is that it’s not ethnically diverse – “but it is intellectually diverse. Students are open to diversity. There are plenty of passionate discussions.” BSC doesn’t have a great deal of religious diversity, but it is there. One of my colleagues went to BSC and loved it; as a Jewish student, she felt supported and had a community that met her needs. The city of Birmingham also has a great deal of diversity, so students can attend local Synagogues, Hindu Temples, Mosques.
Dorms are (mostly) new and comfortable. Freshmen are housed in traditional dorms; all other students live in suites. They have a relatively new Frat Row with 6 buildings (built mostly with private donations), each housing about 24 students. BSC also served as the Olympic Village for the Soccer players, and they have an Olympic torch in the fitness center. Basketball and baseball get best fan turn-out, and lacrosse is getting more popular. Their lacrosse, Track & Field and football field is called The Battlefield.
Some of their notable academic points are:
A new Human Rights and Conflict Studies Minor. Current students interested in this program can use previous classes towards meeting the requirements because it’s so new. They complete classes in 4 categories: History, Personal experience (internship), lit, and writing.
- Their arts program. Students can earn a BA (Art History, Art Education, Film and Media Studies, or Studio Arts), a BFA (Studio Arts, Print, Photo, Sculpture, Painting, Clay), or both. A portfolio is needed for scholarships.
- Their Critical Languages cross-registration with Samford and UAB. Our tour guide is studying Hindi, and BSC has Arabic-speaking Fulbright Scholars on campus. One of the professors at dinner said, “Here’s something you aren’t going to hear anywhere else: Sanskrit on Demand!”
- The Science Center purposefully put large windows for all the labs to make it a “science on display” building.
- The Birmingham Area Consortium for Higher Education allows students to cross-register at UAB, Samford, Miles, and the University of Montevallo.
- Their Urban Environmental Studies major is strong and fairly unusual.
- They maintain an archaeology site at Turkey Creek (an old mill).
- They offer 3-2 programs in Nursing (in conjunction with Vanderbilt) and in Engineering (at several institutions)
- Their Honors Interdisciplinary classes include choices such as: “Lit, Medicine, and the Body,” “American Art and Conventions of the Body” (Art History), “Harry Potter Bigger than Jesus” (religious themes in HP), “Crucible Steel” (Human Rights/Creative Writing), Senior Research
- Hess Fellows Advocacy Internships gives $3000 stipends/scholarships to selected sophomores and juniors. They are partnered with companies and non-profits in NYC, DC, San Fran, Birmingham, and Montgomery in order to work on projects for two months over the summers.
1) BSC is one of the Colleges that Changes Lives. How has BSC changed your life?
- Study abroad opened my eyes to the rest of the world. I grew up in a small town, and I have a much more global view now. I appreciate that BSC is so supportive – financially and otherwise – of students who want to go abroad.
- I’m friends with everyone. It’s not cliquey here. I get real world interactions.
- I got involved in things I never thought I would or could do. I was really shy in high school, and here I’m pushed out of my comfort zone. In high school, I wouldn’t be up here talking to you or leading a club, but now it’s just what I do.
- It’s empowering. They give us opportunities and expect us to take them.
- I’m less apathetic than in HS. I’ve learned so much about people and the world.
2) What should BSC never change?
- The small classes.
- January term (BSC works on a 4-1-4 system. J-Term is “the exploration term.” All students must complete 2 of these, although many students do more. Some majors require specific ones, including freshmen education majors who are placed in schools (and later, they can teach in Ghana), or pre-med students who work in the hospital. This is to make sure it’s what they want to do.
- Greek Life. I wouldn’t have rushed at a bigger school.
3) What needs to change?
- The caf. The food is ok, but it gets boring.