campus encounters

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Archive for the category “Massachusetts”

Worcester Polytechnic Institute (Take 2)

Worcester Polytechnic Institute (visited 7/28/19) (Click HERE for notes and pictures from my visit on 3/22/14)

WPI 2I love “looping back” to schools after a few years to remind myself of what’s going on there as well as seeing what’s new. The nice thing about WPI is their consistency – with a willingness to grow! One my original trip, 2 other counselors and I sat in on the regular info session and tour offered to all visiting families. This time, I was with a group of 26 international students learning about their college options. Much of what I heard about the curriculum and the “WPI Plan” was the same as 5 years ago, but I got a broader perspective of the international experience on campus as well as finding out about some new programs/majors being offered.

WPI quad 1Just about 11% of the 4500 undergrads are international citizens. An Iranian student helped give the information session, and students from Japan, Vietnam, and Kenya spoke on the student panel. They also showed a great YouTube video (produced entirely by international students) on the International Experience at WPI. “For such a small school, I love how much I can do and get the most out of the experiences.”

WPI maker space

One of the maker spaces on campus

Engineering remains the largest concentration/school on campus. They were the first in the US to offer Robotics Engineering and is only one of a few schools with Fire Protection Engineering.

Computer Related fields are the next largest concentration at WPI; these are housed within the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Data Science is the newest major (starting fall 2019); Interactive Media and Game Development and Bioinformatics are also relatively new. Students can earn a Concentration in AI as part of CompSci major. They offer multiple math tracks including Applied, Actuarial, Financial, and Industrial Mathematics, Math Sciences, and Math for Educators.

WPI lab bldgThe Business School focuses on the intersection of technology and business. In addition to generic business degree, students can major in Management Engineering or Management Information Systems.

There’s lots of academic and social support. Admissions is test-optional because they know that these exams don’t measure creativity and problem-solving ability. They want people who can work in a team and who are passionate about math and science since they’re taking those classes from the beginning.

WPI dorm 2WPI Plan: It’s what makes it unique; they implemented in 1971. It has 4 parts:

  • The Academic Calendar is divided into four 7-week terms; students take 3 classes each term. Summer is almost 4 months long, giving students more time for internships. Students only need 45 credits to graduate (equivalent to 15 terms) but most will complete 48 (16 terms) by graduation.
  • Non-punitive grading policy: students earn A, B, C, or NR (no record). They want students to feel more comfortable challenging themselves with classes they may not have taken otherwise. If they get a grade lower than a C in a class needed for the major, they need to retake it (“Who wants to drive over a bridge built by an engineer who didn’t pass some of their classes?”). There is also no + or – in the system so people don’t compete over points; it creates a more collaborative environment.
  • WPI mascot 3

    “Gompei the Goat,” WPI’s mascot

    They offer a Flexible Curriculum: “We Advise, You Decide.” There are no pre-requisites, only recommendations.

  • Project-based curriculum (it’s worth checking out the YouTube video Innovate Everything)
    1. 1st year: Great Problems Seminar: Students look at a world-wide problem (like water shortage) and try to solve it.
    2. 2nd year: Humanities and Arts: All students have to take 6 courses in a concentration within the Humanities or Arts, 1 of which is an immersive project.
    3. 3rd year: Interactive Qualifying Project. Students work with a community, NGO, or company. They come up with a project that will help the community such as making a hospital more accessible for hearing and visually impaired people.
    4. 4th year: Major Qualifying Project, equivalent to a capstone or thesis for the major. This is a 3-course equivalent (FT for 1 term or PT for 3 terms). All students get a $5000 global scholarship to help cover travel and project costs. They have 40+ project centers around the world.

WPI 7WPI boasts a retention rate of 95%, well over the national average. They take excellent care of students, starting with almost all freshman (97%) living on campus which is proven to help students succeed academically and socially. They have more than 200 clubs; the rep said, “We have plenty of more serious clubs like math club – there are 5 of those – but also a lot of fun things like Underwater Hockey and 2 cheese clubs, 1 for making and 1 for eating. Worcester itself is the 2nd largest city in New England and ranked 9th (by Forbes) Most Livable City with easy access to Boston, NYC, beaches, and Skiing. With 12 area colleges, there are over 38,000 area college students so local establishments cater to them well.

© 2019

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Smith College (Take 2)

Smith College (visited 5/30/19) (Click HERE to see pictures and information from my previous on 10/15/12)

Smith 2“We’re educating women of promise for lives of distinction.”

Smith 10Smith is the only women’s college with an open curriculum. There are no required classes other than 1 writing intensive class and those needed to complete the major. One student said, “It’s not about what you don’t have to take. It’s about exploring the richness of what’s out there and embracing interests.” Students take responsibility for their education, and are intentionally advised to use it intentionally to pull together extra-curricular interests, study abroad, and internships. “When we look at the classes students choose, many of them would have completed a core, but they did it on their own. They’re curious and want to learn. Everyone in the class wants to be there,” said one of the reps. One student said, “My classes definitely aren’t dull here!” Another said, “I feel like I have to bring my A game every day because otherwise I’ll be disappointing my classmates.”

Smith 5

Architecture is eclectic!

Over 40% of Smithies major in STEM fields. However, “we’re strong across the curriculum. We’re the first women’s college, and still 1 of only 2 [the other being Sweet Briar] to establish an accredited engineering program.” A student said that she does not feel like a second class citizen in the engineering classes; she’s definitely developed confidence here.

Smith 9Smith is a member of the active 5-College Consortium, the 2nd oldest in the country after the Claremonts. They share 2000 faculty, 5300 courses, resources. Students can take classes and join clubs. Smith can join UMass Marching Band “which maybe makes up for Smith not having a football team.” Figure skaters can continue skating at UMass. There are some special programs available through the Consortium, including Native American and Indigenous Studies; Culture, Health, and Science; Digital Humanities; and Buddhist Studies. On the Smith campus, they offer some unusual majors like Medieval Studies, Astronomy, Portuguese and Brazilian Studies, and Statistical and Data Science.

Smith house 2

One of the Houses

Students don’t live in dorms but in mixed-year houses ranging in size from 12-100 students (all of which have a piano). It’s a vital part of being at Smith. “It’s often the first information alumni share,” said a rep. “Houses are places to live, not just sleep. They graduate by houses.” Houses are all self-governing and provide another level of leadership development. “Leadership becomes a habit.” They are piloting Affinity Housing for 2019-20. This is a student-driven initiative; there will be one focusing on African-American culture; the other is more generally for students of color (which make up 1/3 of the student population). “This is a PWI. We’re not unlike other campuses in this regard but we’re committed to taking steps for inclusion.”

Smith student center 2

The new student center. All new construction is built based on the architecture of the time it was built

They are also working hard to shift how we talk about women’s colleges. “They’re still relevant. We talk about them in terms of what they don’t have or what they’re not. Let’s address that.” She went on to talk about a lot of the myths or “problems” that they hear about women’s colleges:

  • It’s not the real world… “Like Harvard is the real world??”
  • There’s no male perspective … “The whole world is the male perspective.”
  • There’s no fun … “They can still do what they want. The beer-drinking frat party is around. You just have to take a bus to it!”
  • Who wants the drama of all girls!/It’s all lesbians … “We don’t engage with the lesbian thing. Get over it.”
Smith botanical 1

Part of the campus botanical gardens

Here’s really want women’s colleges are:

  • Intentional communities where women are at the center.
  • Not equal opportunity but EVERY opportunity.
  • Lead from ahead and push from behind. “We surround them with bold people who can encourage them to be bolder.”
  • Empowerment is not having to compromise any part of who you are. You can choose to go – or NOT go – to UMass. You don’t have to apologize for being smart. You’re expected to hold your own. You don’t have to apologize for having a point of view.

Smith 6Smith provides extensive research opportunities. About 1/3 of faculty-published research has student co-authors. Praxis provides a $3000 stipend to all students for internships. Students have worked everywhere from a California cricket farm, ABC in London, with a doula in a maternity hospital in Mexico, and the Smithsonian in DC.

Smith 12Admissions is test-optional except for international citizens who must submit test scores. If the scores are reported (self-reported on the application or sent officially), they will consider it. However, it’s weighted “very low in the process. It’s one piece of information. If you think they reflect you as a student, send it – but there’s no red flag if scores aren’t there.”

© 2019

 

Springfield College

Springfield College (visited 5/29/19)

Springfield sign 3Want to be able to say that you attend school where basketball was invented? Want to join a hammock club? Maybe ride for a club equestrian team? Springfield College could be the place for you.

I fell in love with this place! This was another school that I knew almost nothing about, but I walked away wanting to recommend it to several students. There are a couple things in particular that I think made it stand out:

  • Springfield waterThey own a 57-acre Outdoor Learning Center, technically called East Campus, located on the shores of a lake a couple miles from man campus.
    • There are bike trails, ropes courses, disc golf, and authentic SW pueblos which serves as a space for overnight retreats. They hold an optional pre-orientation program for incoming freshmen as well as camps for younger students. “We call it Challenge by Choice,” said the rep. “No one is going to force you to do things, but if you want to be challenged in this way, it’s here.”
    • Springfield bell towerThe tour guide said that the OLC is her favorite place. “The memories you make are so special. Running to find a blue racquetball because a whistle blew or kazooing your heart out for no other reason than just because you can is great.”
    • They offer a class called Outdoor Pursuits which is required by several majors, but it’s open to anyone interested in enrolling in it. The Recreation Management major and Adventure Education minor use this location extensively.
  • Springfield statue 1They have an active YMCA club and offer a minor in YMCA Professional Studies. I’ve never heard of another program like that – but the college was founded as a YMCA training center, so this isn’t entirely surprising. Students are heavily involved in tutoring, and last year there was a service trip to Peru.
  • “Springfield provides a really good safe zone system with required training. There’s real multicultural education here. I learned about disability acts, LGBTQ issues, financial equity classes. There’s a lot in place to make people feel included and safe.”

Springfield humanicsSpringfield’s mission is “Educating Spirit, Mind, and Body in Service for Others.” This comes across as similar to the Jesuit Mission, but Springfield is totally non-affiliated with any religious group. Rather, they model this after the Greek Humanics ideals that balance is important. Students not only know what the mission is, but they seem to have bought into it. It is embedded into the culture and the curriculum. Students buy into a seriousness of purpose when it comes to academics and decorum but also how to have fun. “We don’t cut corners in life so we don’t cut corners on campus. Students will literally yell ‘Grasshole’ to students who cut across the grass just to get somewhere more quickly,” said my tour guide. “People will absolutely go on the quad for recreation – you’ll see people playing Frisbee and hanging out. They just don’t walk on the grass to get somewhere more quickly.”

Springfield 4When I arrived on campus, the admission rep and I had lunch in the dining hall while we talked about the college. Choices were limited because it was summertime, but they had absolutely amazing chicken marsala, rice pilaf, and fresh vegetables (in addition to burgers and a sandwich bar). I was really impressed. The tour guide said that she’d rate food about a 7-8 (I would’ve said higher based on what was served that day), but “weekend food is a 5 mostly because there are fewer options.”

“There are so many leadership opportunities and support and training for that. You don’t have to be a Type-A person, but if you want to make a difference and develop skills and implement them, this is a great place. There are so many people here who will help you do what you’re passionate about.” They have more extensive academic offerings than I expected for a campus this size (just about 2,500 undergrads).

  • Springfield learning commons

    The Learning Commons: the 4th floor has a study lounge that overlooks the athletic fields. “It’s a great place to get work done while you watch games,” said the tour guide. She also said that the furniture was chosen by students.

    This is a good place for athletes and majors that revolve around that (Sports Biology, Sports Management, Sports Journalism, etc)

    • There is a massive athletic center (bigger than any I’ve seen outside huge DI institutions) with classrooms (especially for Athletic Training and Movement and Sports Studies/PhysEd majors and their coaching minor), Dance Studios (they have both a major and a minor, and Dance teams perform at halftime during football games).
  • PT, AT, OT, and PA are direct entry programs but are capped.
  • Education is big. Students are in the schools starting their first semester.
  • They have some visual and performing arts, but seem to offer more minors than majors in this area, including 3D animation, Web Design, Creative Writing, and Community Arts.
  • Internships are required and transportation can be found. “You can totally explore what you’re interested in.”

Springfield 6Freshmen are not allowed to have cars on campus, but there are shuttles around town on the weekends. There are also a lot of bus trips to Boston, NYC, Albany, and other places. There is a 3 year on-campus residency requirement, but 85% of all student live on campus. The senior dorms (townhouses and suites) are on the far side of the football field so they get great views of the games. The tour guide said that given the opportunity, she would put money into scholarships or to improve the bathrooms in some of the dorms. She also said that they can improve the number of People of Color on campus, but think that’s something that is being worked on.

© 2019

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

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:

© 2017

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.

© 2017

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