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Archive for the category “Maine”

Bates College

Bates College (visited 8/5/19)

Bates Puddle 2

The Puddle with the Arts Center on the far side

Lots of colleges have traditions surrounding a body of water on campus: dunking on a birthday, regattas of some form, etc. This is the first I’ve heard of a mid-winter Puddle Jump tradition – in the middle of Maine, no less! In February, people cut a large hole in the ice covering the pond. Students put on costumes and jump in. “It’s safe,” said the tour guide.” You don’t even have to get yourself out. I just put my arms up and they pulled me out. There’s even a bonfire afterwards to warm up.” For a campus that put heated pipes under the library plaza to help keep the snow and ice clear (“There’s no excuse for not studying,” said the tour guide), this is a big deal!

Bates library plaza 2

The library plaza

Bates atrium

The atrium of one of the academic buildings

Bates is a beautiful, traditional-looking New England campus AND it’s carbon neutral! They beat their goal to be neutral by 2020 (“We have to do certain things to offset our carbon footprint; ironically, the department that’s the worst at that is admissions because of all the travel”). They’re great at recycling, including composting, and they’re big on Community Outreach. Lewiston is classified as a Federal Refugee center with 10% of the population coming from the Eastern African Diaspora; more than 30 languages are spoken in public schools. All teams have a liaison to make sure all members volunteer. There is a center to help them facilitate this. It also runs international mission trips and provides other community service opportunities.

Bates quad 1

The Quad

There’s a large quad surrounded by brick buildings; a relatively new art center (check out the Arts and Visual Culture major or one of the multiple a cappella groups) sits on the far side of the “Puddle” (pond) which also has ducks swimming in it; 22 Victorian Houses around campus are used as dorms. There are some new dorms which have some of the best lounges and kitchens I’ve ever seen! The town of Lewiston has plenty for students to do; students can ski for free at Lost Valley, the ski resort 10 minutes from campus, and they can get hugely reduced tickets at several other places nearby. They can borrow outdoor gear (including skis) from the Outdoor Center on campus. The beach is 45 minutes away, and there’s a bus stop on campus where they can get the busses to Portland or Boston.

Bates gatesBates was founded in 1855 by Free Will Baptists who believed that education should elevate people out of their current situation and that people should work with a diverse cohort. More than 100 years before most peer institutions went coed, they were admitting women. They believe in access to education (ironic that they’re so selective now). Their endowment is a bit lower than some of their peer institutions because they invest it back into financial aid and other student-centered programs.

Bates 8Students at Bates have to complete a Major + One; in other words, a major plus another major, a minor, or GEC They have an extensive list of these Gen Ed Concentrations which are comprised of 4 intentionally interdisciplinary classes revolving around a theme. For example, The Human Body might include classes in bio, dance, and PoliSci. This gives students plenty of opportunities to “test-drive” interests in the real world and a chance to learn by doing. Students are interested in getting out and doing things to put theory into action. Between 60 and 70% of juniors will study abroad, and 12-13% of the students come from other countries.

Bates 6Bates has a 4-4-1 academic calendar. The longer terms are 13-week semesters in which students take 4 classes each. They’ll take 1 class in the short term. Students have to complete 2 short terms but can’t take more than 3 (“but some people get creative because it’s a popular time to be on campus,” said the rep). This is a time to delve into their majors. Math students do “math camp” where they do math 6 hours a day to figure out what they want to do for their thesis. “It’s great for community building.” Other unusual offerings include a Geospatial class (popular with the Geology majors) that will kayak up the Maine coast to collect water and dirt samples (which they then analyze). One of their graduates, a Boston Globe journalist, comes back to teach Online Journalism.

Bates dorm kitchen 2

One of the dorm kitchens

All students must complete a capstone project, often a thesis. Each department has it’s own thesis lounge where they have previous theses on display (and it’s tradition to ask a freshman to bind it). One student recently compared the serialization of Austin to Netflix; another looked at the influx of incarceration of mentally ill people in the county.

Bates 4Classes are capped at 45 (the largest classroom) but average 19-20. The tour guide’s largest class was Intro to Bio with 45; his smallest class, FYE, had 9. They offer FYS in all subjects; his was in neuroscience. Sciences are strong; 91% of students get into med school “in the first round on their first try.” Two faculty members who have NASA grants.

© 2019

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Bowdoin College

Bowdoin College (visited 7/30/18)

Bowdoin quadI haven’t found many schools that have annual Lobster Bakes. Several people I talked to listed this as one of their favorite traditions: “The entire campus goes out to the field where Dining Services have steamed 1,500 lobsters. You’re getting an intro to Maine but also an intro to this really cool community!” said one of the reps.

Bowdoin 7The Orientation Trip was another event that got rave reviews from several students. “Everyone sleeps together in the field house the first night, then they depart on their trips the next morning,” explained one student. There are multiple options for trips. One student loved it because she said, “If I backpacked for 40 miles, I can do anything.”

Bowdoin 10The sense of community is developed immediately starting with this orientation, and of course, admissions make deliberate decisions based on fit. Their supplemental essay asks students to choose one line from “The Offer of the College” and write up to 250 words about it. It talks about what they think is meaningful. “If you don’t want to do these things, maybe this is the wrong school for you,” said the admissions Rep. “We’re looking for curious people, who are looking at the world and trying to solve problems, who love learning. We want you to have a vibrant intellectual live but also an equally vibrant life outside the classroom.”

Bowdoin 2“I think Bowdoin is a remarkably diverse community considering where we are,” said one student on the panel. “It’s a pretty white state, but this stands out as a place that draws people from all over, all colors and religions. I thought my high school was diverse, but this place blows me away.” About 35% of the incoming class are American students who self-identify as POC. “We don’t want to say that we’re perfect,” said a rep. “There’s always room for growth. We want this to be representative of the world around us.”

Bowdoin House

One of the campus houses.

Because of it’s relatively rural location, a lot happens on campus. Freshmen are housed together (including in suites which have tiny bedrooms, but the sitting room makes up for that), and all first-year students are affiliated with one of the Campus Houses (about half the sophomores live in one of Campus Houses which replaced Greek Life). Affiliated students get first-dibs on the activities thrown by that house, although all students are welcome at any house on a space-available basis. They got rid of Greek life since that wasn’t inclusive enough; the Campus House system is inclusive and provides a great deal of social life as well as a way to integrate the first-year students into campus.

Bowdoin stu cntr

The Student Center

Almost 1/3 of students are athletes. The big athletic center is about a 10-minute walk from the main campus, and there are some townhouses near there for upperclassmen. There seems to be a fairly robust athletic culture on campus, both for participants and spectators. The student union is in what was the old field house (and you can tell!). It’s an interesting building with a variety of spaces, including different places to eat. The Thursday and Saturday SuperSnacks (open 10pm-1am) were brought up by a couple students. Food overall gets high marks (one student said it was a 10). The Holiday meals, particularly Thanksgiving, were mentioned more than once: “the meals are delicious meals and the community is invited. It makes me happy to see families come with kids.”

Bowdoin mascot

Their Polar Bear mascot

Getting off campus is easy, as well. The Outing Club is active and popular, not surprising because of the location in Maine. For a one-time $50 outdoor activity fee, student have access to over 150 trips per year and equipment. For students wanting a bigger city, buses run into Portland.

Bowdoin theaterOne of the students on the panel said, “This is a place where we don’t compete with each other. Students don’t ask each other what they got or say, Well, I beat you.” This is shown in the alumni network as well. They have one of the most well-connected alumni bases in the world; they want to hire Bowdoin grads. Classes incorporate collaborative projects; for example, math classes may have students list who they worked with on the problems because they want people who can work together.

Bowdoin 12There are distribution requirements in five broad areas with lots of choice. Additionally, everyone takes a First-Year Seminar (this does NOT fulfill one of the 5 areas) capped at 16 people. One of the panelists took Women at War; another took Class and Identity. “It was nice to have a space where you don’t feel intimidated by upperclassmen.”

Government and Legal Studies is their most popular and well-known program with about 20% of students majoring in that. For a school this size, they offer an amazing array of unusual programs, some of which you’d be hard-pressed to find even at some large universities:

Bowdoin 13For a school of this size, I was surprised at how large some of the classes were. Although class size averages 16 students, all the students I spoke to had large classes up to 70 students (Intro to Africana Studies). Two said their Intro to Psych was their largest (45 and 50) and Economics (40). However, they also had classes of 4 (Intro to Chinese) and 9 (Historical Simulations).

Admissions is test-optional. “Test taking a great skill, but it doesn’t tell me how you interact with peers, see the world, overcome problems, how you write or create – it tells me nothing about who you are as a person.” They’re definitely curious about the people who are applying and want them to use the application as a means to convey who they are. “Don’t use your essay to tell us what you want to do when you graduate. It’s important and part of who you are, but we’ll get that in other parts of your application. We want to know about who you are RIGHT NOW.”

A couple last fun facts:

  • Longfellow and Hawthorne are alumni (and the library is named after them).
  • The campus (or at least several of the buildings!) is haunted.

© 2018

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