campus encounters

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Archive for the category “Massachusetts”

Elms College

Elms College (visited 5/28/19)

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

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

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

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

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

Elms library intSome of the academics worth noting include:

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

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

© 2019

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Bay Path University

Bay Path University (visited 5/28/19)

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

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

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

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

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

BPC Commons

The Commons

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

A few traditions that the tour guide particularly liked include:

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

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

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

    Part of the Learning Commons

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

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

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

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

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

© 2019

Western New England University

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

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

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

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

WNEU 9

The Library entrance

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

  • WNEU sci bldg int

    The atrium of one of the science buildings

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

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

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

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

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

    One of the labs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WNEU mascot 2

The Mascot statue which students ride

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

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

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

© 2019

American International College

American International College (visited 5/29/19)

AIC quad 2

The quad

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

AIC 5

The new exercise science building

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

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

AIC mascot

Th mascot

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

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

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

AIC rock

The Rock to advertise events

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

AIC dorms

Some of the dorms on the main part of campus

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

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

AIC nursing 2

One of the infant simulation mannequins in the nursing labs

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

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

© 2019

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).

© 2017

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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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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