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Archive for the category “Massachusetts”

Wheaton College (MA)

Wheaton College (visited 9/12/17)

Wheaton pond 3

Peacock Pond

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

Wheaton science lab

A class in action

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

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

    One of the new science buildings

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

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

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

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

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

Wheaton dorm

A dorm

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

Wheaton quad 4

Students studying in “The Dimple”

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

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

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

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

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

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Simmons College

Simmons College (visited 9/13/17)

Simmons rooftop 2

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

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

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

Simmons quad arial

The quad from the roof of the library

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

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

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

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Wentworth Institute of Technology

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

Wentworth student projects

Students doing a class project on the quad

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

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

Wentworth classroom

One of the many labs

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

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

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

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

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Massachusetts College of Art and Design (MassArt)

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

MassArt lobby and city

Part of the Fenway as seen from the new lobby

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

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

MassArt artwork

Some of the wok from Fiber majors

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

MassArt gallery 2

One of the galleries showcasing student work

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

MassArt glass studio

One of the glass blowing studios

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

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Suffolk University

Suffolk University (visited 9/14/17)

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

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

Suffolk lobby

The lobby of the main academic building.

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

Suffolk quad

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

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

Suffolk art gallery

One of the Art studios

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

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Emmanuel College

Emmanuel College (visited 9/12/17)

Emmanuel quad

The quad with the skyline of Boston in the background

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

Emmanuel chapel

The Chapel

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

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

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

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

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

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Boston University

Boston University (visited 9/16/17)

BU boathouse

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

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

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

BP Hillel sign

Hillel sign with Shabbat activities

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

BU beach 2

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

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

BU T and bldg

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

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

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

BU townhouses

One row of townhouses

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

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

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

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

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Boston College

Boston College (visited 9/14/17)

BC quad 3

Quad on Middle Campus

BC’s architecture, at least in Middle Campus, consists of beautiful stone buildings. The campus tour focused mainly in this part of campus which houses most of the academics. Lower Campus houses the athletics facilities, and most of the upperclassmen live there. Upper Campus has freshmen housing. “There are a lot of steps here,” said the tour guide. “They don’t go away!”

BC bell tower

One of the iconic buildings

This Jesuit college sits in Chestnut Hill on the outskirts of Boston; the last stop of the T’s red line gets students easily in and out of the city (it’s about a 25 minute ride to downtown). The tour guide said that he “didn’t come here because it’s Jesuit. I’m not even Catholic, but I’ve come to appreciate the culture and values here.” This is a highly residential and involved campus. Almost all freshmen (~99%) and 85% of students overall live on campus. Housing is so good that seniors tend to move BACK to campus if they moved off in junior year. Food is also great, according to the tour guide. They have a pastry chef who used to work at the Four Seasons, and the dining hall makes a New York Times rated steak sandwich!

BC sculptureThis campus falls on the “smaller size of Tier 1 Research Institutions” but it’s still a liberal arts institution at heart. “We’re trained to think in different ways,” said one of the students. There are 15 core requirements but with at least 30 choices within each one. Complex Problems is a 6-credit core co-taught classes: topics include Race, Gender, and Violence and Global Implications of Climate Change. Students are ask to grapple with critical questions of global significance, looking at where they fit into those issues and what steps they may be able to take to address them. Enduring Questions classes are similar, but are paired, thematically linked 3-credit classes such as Epidemic and Disease. This used to be a small program; now they save 1000 seats for First Year students.

BC walkwayStudents must take 2 theology courses as part of their core requirements There are plenty of options including Person and Social Responsibility Perspectives on Western Civilization. Students can enroll in the Pulse Program to fulfill this. Classes has15-20 students who do service-learning work in Boston in their choice from one of 15 or so placements. These range from GED tutoring at a Correctional Facility to suicide prevention to working in a nursing home. They connect to social justice issues and to life outside the university.

BC interior

Interior of one of the Academic buildings

Some academics worth noting:

BC library reading room

A reading room in the library

There are 2 traditions that bring all members of a class together: at Convocation (during orientation), students come together for the Common Read (the 2017-18 book is A Backpack, a Bear, and Eight Crates of Vodka). Students group together by Res Hall with banners and march down to the hockey arena where they hear the Common Read author speak. To book-end things, students come together again at commencement: they stay up all night and watch the sun rise from the top of the parking garage. After changing to cap and gown, they march together through the rotunda to graduation.

There is a lot of school spirit when it comes to athletics, and the teams don’t disappoint. The yearly “Holy War” football rivalry against Notre Dame draws a huge crowd. Hockey is particularly huge here: “It gets cold and dark here in the winter. What else are you going to do?” said the tour guide. They also play in the Hockey Round Robin with Northeastern, BU, and Harvard. Last year they lost in overtime to Harvard.

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Emerson College

Emerson College (visited 9/15/17)

Emerson 1“We take a lot of joy and pride in our work,” said one of the students. “If you’re applying, we hope you’ll want to bring that here.”

There’s a unique vibe about the place, the students, and the faculty. “Folks are dedicated, but in a collaborative way that’s atypical of some of the industries they go into. These fields can be very competitive. The focus here is learning the skills needed to be successful but it’s about collaboration, pulling in the people to be successful: they need to work together. Filmmakers need writers and actors and tech people,” said the rep. “Students have to be proactive,” said a student running one of their Roundtables – an info session for Performing Arts applicants. “It’s up to us to take advantage of things. Sometimes opportunities fall into your hands, but you have to recognize them and surround yourself with the right people.”

Emerson 2Out of this collaboration comes a great deal of trust in the students. Students manage many things on campus such as staffing the visitor center, including supervising other students. “They let us run with things,” said one student. “We get to plan orientation, for example. It’s our task to communicate the values and expectations of the place. We have help, but it’s our job.”

Students get involved in a lot outside of the classroom, as well. About 8% of the students go Greek; timing of Rush depends on the organization. They have 14 DIII teams, “but nothing involving water, ice, horses, or a sword,” said the rep. They have the only subterranean gym in the city. Lots of freshmen came in who want to play hockey, but “we need enough people to pay for ice time. Right now, we don’t really have a critical mass,” said the rep. Students interested in particular activities not currently offered do try to fill gaps in activities when they see the need.

Emerson alleyStudents who come here must really want the big city feel. This is very much an urban campus right in the heart of Boston. There is no central campus; most of the campus buildings sit right on Boylston and Tremont Streets along Boston Common with 90% of buildings within about two blocks. Buildings have good security, and students need IDs to get in. A couple alleyways bisect the campus; there’s a res hall and the dining hall on one of the alleyways. “I’ve heard good things about the new dining,” said the rep. Many local vendors also work with the EC cash system: students can load money and use it like a debit card. Campus is walkable to the North End, the financial district, Boston Public Library, and downtown. A green line T stop is right across the street on Boston Common. There are other lines within a few blocks.

Emerson diningFreshmen and Sophomores must live on campus, and when renovations at 80 Boylston (buildings are usually referred to by their address) are complete, juniors will also be required. Finding off-campus housing “is a process and takes some looking around. The housing office will help them, do roommate speed-dating, provide tips on realtors and rentals, etc. They’re responsible, but we’ll help teach them. Housing they find isn’t necessarily downtown, but definitely in the nearby neighborhoods. It can be an adventure, but I don’t know anyone who hasn’t gotten housing,” said the admissions representative. Sometimes they can accommodate older students under a lottery.

However, students are not “stuck” in Boston … Emerson runs 2 other campuses as well!

  • Kasteel Well in the Netherlands can hold 85 students at a time who are chosen at random, and applications are due a year in advance. This program is meant for sophomores since much of the coursework fulfills the GenEd requirements, but others can attend if their schedules permit. BFA Acting and Musical Theater students may only go in the summer.
  • Los Angeles: juniors and seniors can spend a semester in LA interning and taking classes.

The curriculum is highly experiential, and the degrees are oriented towards Communications and Arts. Because the academics are relatively unique, they’re worth spending some time looking into. Majors are always evolving and new majors are created because they recognize a need. Their newest programs include:

  • Comedic Arts BFA, a truly unique program (the only one in the country!) which draws from performing arts, creative writing, and visual media arts and then adds the comedy. There is an internship semester option in LA, typically for seniors. They have a partnership with Citizens Upright Brigade, but they’re allowed to do internships with anything.!
  • Business of Creative Enterprises BA, a mash-up of communication classes with the arts. This is meant for students who want to do business but in a creative environment. This is the only type of business degree Emerson offers.
  • Writing, Literature, and Publishing
  • Sports Communication: PR, journalism, sports diplomacy (engaging through sports with organizations, community, etc).

Other noteworthy programs include:

  • Political Communication, marketing,
  • Media Art Production BFA: film, sound, animation, photo, tv, writing for film and tv, etc.
  • Visual Arts: they can start right away as freshmen.
  • Stage and Scene Design/Technology, Stage and Production Management, and Theater Design/Technology.
  • Communication Sciences and Disorders
  • Theater: “We’re pretty multifaceted. We’re actors but we’re a lot more.”
    • Students must audition: Early Admission applicants audition in November. “Don’t try to confuse your auditioner! Do what YOU love, even if it’s overdone. You do it differently than anyone else.”
    • Musical Theater applicants perform 2 contrasting monologues, 2 contrasting 32-bar cuts, and dance. Because the acting portion is the same as the acting audition, they can express interest in either if they don’t make it into Musical Theater.
    • Theater and Performance
  • There are productions organized by the school and directed by professionals/ professors but are designed, stage managed, and acted by students. This provides and Artistic Training Lab. Freshmen can’t audition because they all do stage crew assignments that first year. Everyone gets the experience and interacts in a professional environment to get a feel for how things run.
  • The other productions are through the Student Theater organizations: there are 5 main ones and others that pop up occasionally. There are 7 comedy groups, 2 dance companies, 5 a capella groups, etc. “Everything is student run and we get our hands dirty. We fail sometimes and have spectacular comebacks. You’re really doing it,” said one of the students.

Students must fulfill liberal arts components, and classes involve a lot of writing/communication components regardless of what major students are in. Students can complete a BFA in some areas, but these are not considered Conservatory Style with the exception of Musical Theater and Acting (in Theater & Performance): these are only conservatory style for the 3rd and 4th years after completing the liberal arts requirements. They have learning support for students who need it.

There is an Honors College which allows students to substitute LA classes. Instead of history or science, for example, they have interdisciplinary classes that will fulfill these. This is highly writing focused and students must complete a thesis at the end as part of their program! A merit scholarship is attached to being in the program; this is the largest merit opportunity. It is a “very small and very competitive program,” said the rep. From the 900 incoming freshmen, the Honors program takes a maximum of 50 students; they only consider academics in deciding who is selected, including grades and a specific honors recommendation if not submitting test scores.

After submitting the Common App (including the Honors Supplement should they choose to do this), applicants get access to their Portal, and they absolutely have to log into this. The writing supplements get submitted separately. This is where they’ll upload their Test Optional Supplements and Financial Aid documents.

Some majors are a little more competitive. Performing Arts is “super rigid.” Students can opt to go test-optional buy submitting a portfolio piece or essay if that represents them better. The Performing Arts have to audition, Design Tech/Management submits a portfolio review/interview, and Comedic Arts submits a writing or performance piece.

© 2017

 

Williams College

~Williams sign 2Williams College (visited 7/29/15)

This is one of the few information sessions I’ve attended where the presenter gave more than just lip-service to the concept of fit. For example, she asked if classes of 13 seemed too big (no one) or too small (1 student) – and then told him that this might not be the right place for him.

~Williams env cntr

Williams’ entirely sustainable Environmental Center

Williams provides a great deal of opportunity for students to pursue what they’re curious about. Students must take 3 classes in each of 3 divisions but what they take is up within those areas is up to them. Majors are mostly fairly straightforward, but Concentrations (minors) are more interdisciplinary such as Justice and Law, Cognitive Science, and Public Health.

~Williams 2This is one of a few places that offers Oxford-like Tutorials: students are initially placed in groups of 10 then split into pairs. Students alternate between writing a 5-7 page paper (sent to the professor and partner 24 hours in advance) and responding to the peer’s paper (with a 24 hour turnaround). At Tutorial, they discuss it, usually with the professor simply observing. Students get really good at developing and defending a point of view. Half the students take at least 1 Tutorial (which are offered in all subject areas); most will take more than one.

~Williams 4Williams operates on a 4-1-4 schedule: 4 classes in fall and spring and 1 class in January (yes, it’s required every year). All freshmen stay on campus; after that, students can stay, do an internship, or study-away. Class offerings range from academic to experiential; all are Pass/Fail to encourage students to try something new or focus on a passion.

For the same reason, Study Abroad classes also come back as pass/fail with the exception of 3 Williams-specific programs that are graded:

  • Oxford where they’re considered full Oxford students and participate in tutorials
  • Mystic Seaport, CT focusing on oceanography. Part of the experience includes 10 days at sea on a tall ship.
  • South Africa: students study at the University of Cape Town and complete an internship.

~Williams sci cntr int

Intro science lectures can have up to 100 students (but smaller labs). One student’s largest class was “Chemistry of AIDS” with 75. Another student’s biggest class had 30 (Intro to Econ) and smallest was 7 (an English Seminar). APs can’t replace credits (ie, they must still earn a certain number of credits at Williams), but the scores can place students into a higher level and out of some of the biggest classes.

Most research funding (including Room and Board during the summer) goes to science and math but students can research anywhere. Our tour guide did research on Bilateral Relations with Russia and China. One math professor is a leading researcher on knots of all things. He took on 14 students to research knots. About 40% of those doing research will co-author a paper by graduation.

~Williams theater

The campus theater building

Williamstown is small (population: 7,000), nestled squarely in the northwestern Massachusetts Arts “corridor” with MASS MoCA just down the street. Arts are a huge deal here. The local theater is nationally known and draws big-name actors like Kyra Sedgewick, Kevin Bacon, and Bradley Cooper. “Here we are in this little town bumping into the Hollywood people.” William’s music, fine arts, theater, and art history programs are all excellent. The directors of MOMA, the National Gallery, the Gugenheim, and more are Williams grads: “It’s like we’re producing the Art History Mafia here.”

If small-town New England starts feeling too isolated, students can hop on a regional bus that stops on campus and head to Albany or Boston. The school runs shuttles to Albany and Grand Central (which may be subsidized for students on financial aid) at breaks.

~Williams Hillel

The Hillel building

There is lots of schools spirit here. About 1/3 of students play varsity sports, and stands fill up at games. Amherst is their big rival and has been since 1820 when Williams’ president took half of everything – faculty, library books, the money – and started Amherst. Several years ago, Amherst pulled a prank on Williams by carving an A into one of their fields. Williams retaliated by carving a B+ on theirs.

Most students (85%) live on campus. Up to 125 seniors can move off campus, but they didn’t have that many petition to do so this year.

~Williams dorm quad

Freshman quad

Entry Program groups together 25ish first-year students and 2 Junior Advisors to give them a “home base” and a family-feel to what is otherwise a fairly typical dorm situation. For example, they’ll do Entry Snacks on Sunday night for a “catch-up.” It is unique that they freshmen have 2 JAs grouped with them – but the tour guide bragged incessantly about how Williams mixes dorm-mates so they get to meet a variety of people – without realizing that many other places do this, too!

~Williams student cntr int

The “Main Living Room” in the Student Center

The main dining hall in the student center can get busy; at peak rush, “the wait can be 10 or 15 minutes, but there are other places to eat if you’re in a hurry.” Sunday “Kids Night” dinner (mac and cheese, chicken fingers, etc.) gets rave reviews, but the food is good overall. “This place has the best chicken tikka masala I’ve ever had,” said the tour guide.

The Outdoor Club is one of the biggest clubs; a $10 fee gets students access to everything they offer. Mountain Day (a surprise day-off from classes with picnics, hiking, etc) is a huge deal like at many other colleges. There’s also a day in the winter when classes are canceled for a day of skiing, sledding, and more, but students know about that in advance.

Admissions is highly selective, but they do accept about 40% of ED applicants “because it’s self-selecting and they often have a previous relationship with the college.” Applicants need 2 subject tests on addition to the SAT or ACT. “Don’t take both math tests, but other than that, choose whatever you want.” The Optional Supplement “really is optional. Use it if you feel like there’s something you need to add to the application.” Admissions is need-blind, and students need to submit both the FAFSA and CSS Profile. They do not offer merit scholarships; average debt at graduation is $13,000.

(c) 2015

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