campus encounters

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Archive for the category “Michigan”

University of Iowa

University of Iowa (visited 12/5/19)

Iowa students 4“If you’re interested in health sciences or STEM, this place is a gold mine,” said one student – but Iowa is well-known for many other things, including their Honors and Writing programs. Named in the Top 5% of public universities, Iowa is one of the smallest Big 10 schools. Campus is highly walkable and split by the Iowa River. West Campus has mostly the medical complex, athletics, graduate programs, and a few underclassmen res halls. East campus has most of the undergraduate programs and res halls. Iowa City is an amazing college town with a lot going on (and Cedar Rapids, the 2nd largest city in Iowa, is 25 minutes up the road). You just can’t go wrong here!

Iowa quad 3

The view towards West Campus from the Pentacrest

Iowa City has been ranked the #1 College Town; 70 restaurants, cafes, bookstores, etc are alumni owned! It speaks volumes for the town (people want to stay) and town-gown relations. The town and university grew up together in the mid 1800s. “When you’re thinking about a university, you should be thinking about the town as well,” said the tour guide, and there are lots of places to go directly off campus, and 3 bus systems (campus, city, and county) run along or through campus. There are enough students (24,00 undergrads/31,656 total) to almost make campus a city unto itself. The 4,800 first-year students participate in On Iowa!, the extensive orientation program which includes Target and Froyo runs, Kickoff at Kinnick stadium (with fireworks!), food crawls (sample foods around the city for free!), and more.

Iowa old main

The old capital building

Cars are welcome, but not for getting around campus. “This is a very walk-able campus and city.” During the Honors College Presentation, the Director asked one of the students, “When do you have to leave for your 9:30 class?” She quickly said, “9:23” – and she wasn’t kidding! The middle of campus is the Pentacrest: “We’re cooler because we added the 5th side,” said a tour guide. The old Capital building (which had been the capital before it moved to Des Moines and is now a functioning museum) sit in the middle of the Pentacrest. It’s a defining building and a good landmark. The East Side res halls are about a 3-minute walk to the middle of campus where most of the academic buildings are located. It takes 6-10 minutes from the West Side halls. Most people do walk; the Campus Bus (with 18 routes) gets used more in the winter.

Iowa 7“As a college town, this is a more liberal community, but go 20 minutes south, and it’s super conservative,” said one of the reps. “Adult-wise, we’re more liberal. Students seem to have a better balance politically.” This is also one of the most racially diverse cities in the state. “When I was a student here, there weren’t a ton of other people with my skin color, but I’ve always felt safe and comfortable here. Even my father said he was ok leaving me here for 4 years. I’m raising biracial children here and it’s fine.” There’s a huge LGBTQ community which gets plenty of support: in fact, Iowa was the first campus to have an organization. “It can be a transition from a cultural standpoint if students are coming from a heavily Hispanic or black high school, but it’s ok. There are communities,” said another rep. There are cultural houses (there’s lots of food there), events open to all, and groups which tend to be some of the most popular on campus. The university is even adding some transportation options to get them home on weekends and breaks.

Iowa honors dorm

The honors dorm

They have an impressive Honors Program with lots of facilities ranging from a separate dorm to a building with lounges, libraries, and more. The only thing students need to do is apply to Iowa. After being admitted, students are eligible to apply to Honors via the application on the Honors or Admissions website. There’s no GPA or score threshold; “We don’t have a checklist we’re ticking off.” Just over 90% of those who completed the application last year were admitted. The students who take the time to do this are striking students. “If you look like qualified Honors students, we’re going to admit you.” The total number ranges from 10-15% of a class. “Right now, it’s hovering around 12%.” There are essays involved. “Have fun with the prompt!” said the program director. “We want a peek into who you are based on the essay – and yes, it’s different from the other essay on your application. Think about how you want to introduce yourself to us. Be selfish. Be yourself. If you’re funny, be funny. If you aren’t, don’t force it! If you like research, show that off. If you don’t … maybe you don’t want to go to college.”

Iowa Greek

One of the multiple Greek Houses

They have both honors within majors AND an Honors Program – students can do either or both. To graduate with University Honors, they need 12+ Honors credits and 12+ experiential learning credits. “Experiential learning is a trendy phrase, but it’s vague.” There’s no limit to the number of classes, and students can also turn anything into an Honors class with a contract with the professor. Joining Honors right out of high school isn’t your last chance – if you regret not joining, you can apply once here. However, there are 3 opportunities that are only available in the 1st semester: “there’s no getting these back if you join later.”

  • Iowa quad 1Students can participate in the 1-credit, 4-day Prime Time program in August before classes start. They get 1 credit. “Parents love it because we avoided all the traffic.” They select top 3 areas of interest and can do some research. Varsity athletes and members of marching band will have conflicts with this.
  • Honors-only First-Year Seminar, often led by professors rather than TAs. “In Honors Classes, you learn more and have fun. It doesn’t feel like more work. It’s not accelerated. College is already hard!” Once student chose Volcanoes because it was totally different from her majors.
  • Living in the Honors Res Hall (there’s space for 350 students). “You can only live there right out of high school. Plenty of people DON’T live there and are perfectly happy; it’s just one option.”
Iowa mosaic

Mascot and mosaic in the Athletic Center

Over 95% of first-year students live on campus, but it is not required. There are no designated first-year housing. Students must apply to housing with a $75 non-refundable (but also non-committal) fee; it just secures your spot in line. There are LLC options and huge Greek Houses, some of which are located up to a mile off campus; I passed several driving into campus. There were multiple houses overlooking the Iowa River, not a bad place to spend a few years!

Campus food is some of the absolute best I’ve ever had in a dining hall; the rep said that faculty and staff often eat there because it’s so good! The counselors ate with 3 reps, and we were there at a busy lunch time, but we had a very short wait for food. The stations are well set-up and staffed, and there are plenty of tables for students. They had a spectacular noodle bar with choices of ramen, rice, and udon noodles with multiple vegetables, meats, and sauces to choose from. The coconut red curry sauce was spectacular! Students said that the River Room at the hotel is the best place to use their meal plan. “They alternate between pasta and stir-fry bars.”

Iowa brain rock 2

The Brain Rock that students will rub for good luck before exams

Admission decisions are based on the Regent Admission Index (RAI) Scale: (3xACT composite) + (30xCumulative GPA) + (5 x number of years of HS courses completed in the core subject areas). Different colleges have different requirements. “Always know which one you are applying to!” A&S is the easiest. Students must apply before 3/1 for scholarship consideration; “this is a hard deadline.” The priority deadline for need-based aid is 12/1.

There’s no shortage of academic offerings. Students say that they’re challenged (a popular tradition is to rub the “Brain Rock” sculpture for good luck before exams), and they can work in any interest they have. Business and education are competitive; Pharmacy and nursing are most competitive.

Iowa leisure pool

The Leisure pool – the hot tub is in the back left; the rock climbing wall and tv are on the right.

There’s plenty to do on campus. They field 24 Varsity (Big 10) teams which bring out a lot of fans. Most games are free, but basketball is $70 and football costs about $150 for season tickets. “Volleyball gives the best t-shirts,” said a tour guide. There’s a movie theater on campus, and the ‘Leisure Pool’ (“we’re not allowed to call it a lazy river,” said one of the tour guides) has a rock-climbing wall on the side, a gigantic screen for movies/tv shows, and a hot tub (students will laminate their notes and bring them as they watch ‘The Bachelor/ Bachelorette.”) Students will play Canoe Battleship in the main pool: “picture 3 students in a canoe armed with buckets, all trying to sink the other people first.”

© 2019

Eastern Michigan University

Eastern Michigan University (visited 11/20/19)

EMU YouareWelcome

The massive “You Are Welcome Here” sign; there are other versions of this around campus

Few schools have surprised me as much as EMU did. Although this may feel like it gets lost in UMich’s shadow (they’re only about 20 minutes from Ann Arbor), this vibrant, attractive campus offers students a huge array of academic, athletic, and social opportunities at an amazing price point – and it’s been named as “A Best Campus in the Midwest” for 17 years running by Princeton Review. It’s also one of the most diverse campuses I’ve seen: 1/3 of students self-identify as domestic students of color; many students were wearing hijb; students come from all 50 states and 83 countries; 48% are Pell recipients; and 25% are First-Gen students.

EMU CommonI would absolutely recommend this college to students: it’s accessible (physically, financially, and academically); it has a great vibe; and it has all the academic and social options/ opportunities of a larger school without the crazy cut-throat feeling at some places. “I love the eclectic mix of students here. You learn so much because there are a lot of perspectives,” said one of the tour guides.

EMU student Center

The student center and part of the pond.

One of the most impressive about the college is their cost: starting in 2016, they stopped charging additional tuition for out-of-state students; I’ve seen other colleges provide scholarships to qualified students that can bring the cost down to in-state tuition, but not just a flat price at a state school. The total Cost of Attendance is just under $25,000 for students living on campus! That’s almost unheard of. They base tuition on 26 credit hours per year; it could go up a bit for more credits (that is a little unusual; traditional credit load is 30 per year). On top of that, they provide scholarships (students may qualify for more than one but may only receive one) such as:

  • EMU 54Ward Graduation Scholarship: Students with a 3.0 GPA and a 1030 SAT/20 ACT can apply for this; after successfully completing the first 2 years and paying fixed-rate tuition, EMU will pay the tuition for years 3 and 4. Students must live on campus all 4 years to get this scholarship. They must complete 30 credits a year (aka be on track to graduate on time) and keep a 2.0 GPA while at EMU.
  • The Presidential Scholarship is the only competition-based scholarship with applications due by 11/1. Students need a 3.5+GPA and 25+ACT, must write an additional essay, and interview. Usually about 20 students are selected a year for this.
  • Emerald Scholarships are worth up to $8,000 per year depending on grades and scores.

EMU 3For admissions purposes, the lowest GPA they’ll accept is a 2.0 but “we’re on a sliding scale,” said the rep. “If you have a 2.0, you’ll need a higher test score.” However, they’re still a selective school with under a 50% acceptance rate.

Campus is impressive; while there are still a few buildings with utilitarian 1970s architecture, much of it is updated and attractive. Founded in 1849 as a teachers college (the first in Michigan and the first outside of the original 13 colonies), now it offers over 200 majors. 88% of classes have 35 or fewer students. Interesting things about their programs:

  • EMU elem sci class

    Elementary Science Education classroom

    They have an Elementary Science Education classroom! Students get a feel for what it’s like and they teach real lessons in the community. “It gets them all geeked up. It’s the least antiseptic science class you’ll ever see because we have all the kid stuff,” said the professor we spoke to in the classroom. She’s was incredibly engaging! “We teach them a lot of fun stuff about how we eat – chocolate, spice, etc. Even Chili Day to learn how it affects the body.”

  • “The Rocks in the science building get moved around. We don’t know how,” said one of the tour guides. There are astronomy classes and $5 planetarium shows on Tuesday and Thursday. There’s a specialized Science Writing Center.
  • EMU sci rocks

    The Science Department rocks

    Within the School of Engineering &Tech:

    • Visual and Built Environments department which houses Construction Management, Fashion Marketing Innovation, and Simulation/Animation/Gaming majors, among others.
    • Tech & Professional Services houses Hotel Management (the university owns a hotel), Paralegal, Aviation Flight Management and Management Technology.
  • They have some strong interdisciplinary programs including Data Science & AnalyticsChildren’s Lit and Drama/Theater, EnviSci and Society, and Africology and African-American Studies.
  • They have multiple specialized science programs including Fermentation Science (in Chemistry) and Science Literacy (specialized for different science majors).

EMU project centerThey have a Project Center (like a writing center) in library where students can get help for all types of projects including how to put together presentations. Students can get prizes for studying: they check into study centers, writing center, the library, etc. They’ll actually have areas where people will check to see if they’re on social media – “3 strikes and you’re out for the day! You have to give up your study carrel.”

EMU fountain 1About 5,000 students live on campus; about 2/3 of first-years and almost 25% of all undergrads live on campus. There are a lot of off-campus housing options for students who want to move off; the tour guides said that housing was fairly easy to come by. They do encourage people to stay on campus by providing housing stipends for living in the traditional dorms (not the campus apartments).

EMU quad 1Campus life is active. There are movies shown every Friday, they offer great trips like to Zoo Lights, there’s Greek life, and athletics keep athletes and fans busy. They’re NCAA DI except for football which is NAIA.

We got to eat lunch with our tour guides as part of the tour (it was optional – it was placed on purpose at the end if people had to leave, but we stuck around). This was smart on EMU’s part! The food was good, although it was fairly standard dining hall fare. There were enough options to satisfy different dietary styles. This particular dining hall was a bit on the small side for a university this size; it was busy but never packed during our time there (at peak lunch times). There are plenty of other options, as well.

© 2019

Calvin College

Calvin College (Visited 11/22/19)

Calvin quad 5Calvin is intensely and intentionally Christian in all they do. Two people called this one of the Christian “academic powerhouses” (compared specifically to Wheaton in Illinois, the other in the Midwest; Gordon and Messiah would also be similar type schools on the East Coast). Their 3 tenets are Think Deeply, Act Justly, Live Wholeheartedly; faith informs all they do. They’re affiliated with, and their beliefs stem from, the CRV church, “but at the end of the day, we want to open arms to people.” Their pastor is the first woman in the world to be ordained by the CRC.

Calvin 5What impressed me most was people’s willingness to help. They’re overwhelmingly friendly and go out of their way. Calvin organizes a great visit program, Fridays at Calvin, but part of the program involves choice – which panel, which class, or which tour to take. Sometimes this necessitates finding our way to places on our own. At several points during the day, students stopped to ask if we knew where we were going and offered directions or walked with us.

Calvin chapel 3

Friday’s chapel – it really was full! All students wanted to be there. They project the lyrics on the screens

I was visiting with another counselor, so we did a bit of “Divide and Conquer.” I attended the parent panel (she went to the student one). At the panel, someone asked about faith-specific rules: “It’s an option. You’re not required to go to chapels which is special because the people there want to be there.” (The Friday chapel we attended right before the panel was a Song-Fest, typical for a Friday – and it’s usually standing room only). All students are required to take 2 religion classes. Faculty members sign a faith statement (students do not) and must be active in a local church. Every year, they have to create a statement of how it will be tied into their class. One student said, “I think it helps tie in aspects of life and faith to each other.” The professor added: “the point of Calvin is that everything is informed by your faith. We regularly talk about things. In my engineering classes, I’m doing a series where we talk about Christian virtues of honesty and humility. Those take intentional practice and are vital to being good engineers.”

Calvin 11This is a Liberal Arts college. One professor said, “We get to explore creation in all its facets. You’ll take classes in subjects you aren’t so familiar with. It’s a chance to cultivate curiosity. Faculty feed that. They love to teach and they love their faith. They’re happy to talk about what it means to be a Christian in X field.” Another professor on the panel said, “You have a chance to shape your professors with the questions you ask. We want you to think deeply, Act Justly, Live Wholeheartedly as Christ’s agents of renewal and justice in the world. We want you to know how your story matters to God. We’ll walk with you in the process, but that’s the goal during your time here. Ask questions about what you’re passionate about and do hard work in a personal learning environment.”

We asked the students on the panel how their faith has grown or been challenged?

  • Calvin chapel 4“I went to a Christian school k-12. I took a Christian theology class this term going through basic Reform views – that class taught me more about my faith than in 12 years of Christian school. I look at things differently and see why people believe it. I never thought the class would do anything like that. We’re challenged to see how things fit together.”
  • “I’ve been getting involved in a local church. It helped me make my faith my own. It’s been cool to uproot and replant myself across the country and be intentional about that. Also time management – making devotions a priority hasn’t always been consistent.”
Calvin sci atrium

Atrium of the Science building

There are 50+ denominations represented among the 3700 students. Students come from 65 countries, and 17% self-identify as domestic students of color. One of the reps said that Calvin is unique in that the community as a whole doesn’t identify strongly politically. They’re about 50/50 among faculty AND students. “The world is full of people who don’t agree with you. The faculty facilitate ways to learn to have respectful dialogue. We challenge your beliefs and your faith.”

Calvin is deliberate in how they want students to Live Wholeheartedly: “We want you to be plugged in whether that’s through art, chapel, or other interests. During freshman orientation, students participate in StreetFest, a half day of service. They’re partnered with community groups to learn and get connected to the community. Campus is located about halfway between the airport and downtown (about 10 minutes to either); they can ride the city buses for 50 cents. The Beltline is a little hard to walk because there aren’t sidewalks, but doable. There are 2 malls and lots of stores within walking distance. Anyone can have a car on campus.

Calvin walkway

Walkway across a main road to some of the athletic facilities and the Conference Center where many of us visiting for Fridays at Calvin were staying.

They help students find ways in which students can figure out the answer to, “How do your gifts and talents benefit the world?” “Caring for God’s creation is part of justice.” Sustainability is a big deal here. Through the Clean Water Institute, they’re working to clean up one of Michigan’s most polluted watersheds. The Food Recovery Network helps to eliminate waste and feed the hungry. They reclaim 1,000 pounds of unused food every month to take care of hungry people in the community. The Calvin Prison Initiative cares for those who are on the fringes. They’re taking courses into a local prison.

Calvin arena

The largest DIII arena in the US. This is full in their games, particularly again Hope! There’s lots to do on campus.

All freshmen and sophomores live on campus unless they’re living at home with parents. There are on-campus apartments for upperclassmen; finding an off-campus rental can be hard, but a lot of people rent from relatives or someone they know. 98% of first-year students live on campus. Dorms are all suite-style, and they intentionally try to place a pair of freshman with a pair of sophomores. “Living there is one of my favorite things about Calvin. Events like Dorm Worship on Wednesdays are great. We have events through the weekends. We had a karaoke night a couple weeks ago.” Students say that the campus tradition “bind alumni whether they graduated this year or 20 years ago.” One of the favorites is Chaos Night which is a dorm vs. dorm competition. Students dress up in theme costumes. There’s always 1 dorm that mysteriously wins. “We don’t know if they’re practicing in the middle of the night.”

Calvin mineral museum

The Mineralogical Museum

Calvin offers all the usual opportunities such as research and internships (at least 85% of students will do at least 1). Faculty push students to the front of research projects. “They’ve already proven themselves in their fields, so if they can lift students up, they will. Students are often the lead researchers.” The college sponsors an award-winning Lecture Series in January with world-renowned experts; these are also open to the community.

I asked the panelists what their favorite class to take/teach had been?

  • Calvin 11Interpersonal Communications: it built one-on-one relationships. It’s applicable to all aspects of life and the professor is engaging.
  • My Kinesiology class. It was the first in the major. I discovered learning about muscles and how the body moves. It’s been really fun.
  • “Tough question – it’s like choosing a favorite kid! If I had to choose, I’d say teaching Vibration Analysis to Seniors. There are lots of examples I can use, but it’s a sweet spot where the math and the other engineering classes come together and a ton of opportunities where students can say “OOOH, that’s why we learned that!”

A few academic programs worth noting include:

  • Calvin NM observatory

    The Astronomy Program is linked in to the Control Room at the NM Observatory

    International Development Studies (these students have to study in an underdeveloped country), Rec Leadership Minor, and Therapeutic Recreation.

  • Their World Languages program is one of the best I’ve seen at a college this size, including many less commonly taught languages such as Dutch, Korean, and Greek. They also offer Netherlandic Studies.
  • Strong STEM including several engineering concentrations, Biotechnology, Astronomy, 3 Neuroscience tracks (bio, chem, and psych), and Scientific Computation & Modeling.
    • They’re near the Miracle Mile comprised of several hospitals.
    • Pre-med students can apply for the Early Assurance Program in conjunction with MSU; there’s also 1 spot open at UMich that guarantees an interview. This is one of very few Full Tuition scholarships. They’ll be considered after filling out the Sponsored Scholarships form (only available after admission) and must go through an intensive interview process at Calvin and Michigan.
Calvin 8

The Science Building

Calvin offers a summer program called Entrada, open to high schoolers having just finished junior or senior years. They take one class in a month; if they earn a B- or better, they earn a $4,000 scholarship/year to Calvin and earn college credit (which can be transferred).

© 2019

 

Alma College

Alma College (visited 11/19/19)

Alma is the place to go if:

  • Alma signYou want to learn (or already know) how to play the bagpipes! Or perhaps you just want to hear the Highland Band, the kilted marching band, or hear bagpipers before football games. Can you tell they’re proud of their Scottish theme?
  • You want to join the “winning-est MUN team” (Alma was in a jeopardy question for this!)
  • You’re looking for an incredibly diverse and accepting campus: this has been voted the most LGBTQ+-friendly campus in the state, the college is the most racially diverse it has ever been (“and we’re only getting better”), and inclusive of people of any or no faith.
  • Alma MUN house

    The MUN house

    You’d like to join or watch the National Champion Percussion Ensemble or the nationally ranked (1st or 2nd depending on the year) Cheer & Stunt team (“It’s very acrobatic/gymnastics based”) that competes mostly against DII teams.

  • You’d like a campus with “massive Sumo squirrels that are friendly, calm, and well-fed.”
  • You’re looking for an intense but highly supportive academic and social environment.

Alma chapelIt seems like Alma would be a hard sell for people coming from a distance – but it should NOT scare people away! “We’re sort of the northernmost Liberal Arts college in the state. There’s a stereotype that most students are from the UP, but they’re not. Many come from the suburbs of Detroit. For others, this is a big town.” For those coming from a distance, shuttles run to airports at breaks. Many students fly into Detroit (2 hours away) because it’s a hub and cheaper, but Grand Rapids (1.5 hours) is an option. They’re also good about getting people to other places as needed; for example, they’ll take students to Lansing for the GRE when they don’t have a car.

Alma lounge 1

Highland Java

Students mostly come from Michigan, but they pull from all over: “Most students come here for A Thing – football, MUN, the Highland Band,” said the rep. “They end up falling in love and stick around. We’re like the mafia, but not scary! Once you’re in, you’re in for life!” The Assistant Provost agreed: “I grew up in the Midwest and did everything I could to get out of it. They were looking for a person to come in for a year. I haven’t left.” That was 6 years ago!

Alma dorm 1

One of the dorms

Campus is highly residential; 90% live on campus (and must live here all 4 years unless living within 20 miles with family) and the students aren’t bored. When we visited, students were everywhere – studying, socializing, staffing tables for clubs, walking around campus. The small town is also safe and accessible with things to do (movies, stores, cafes, restaurants). They are Rail Trails for those who want to walk, run, or bike. Students said that there was plenty to do off campus when they wanted it, but usually were so busy with classes, athletics, performing arts, and clubs that they forgot they were in a smaller town. There’s even a PickleBall team; the tour guide is playing in the intramural finals for that.

Alma donuts!“The community is about encouraging and building people up. We go to events and support each other. We want everyone to have opportunities.” They even host an annual Silent Party; people are giving headphones for music – or can choose not to listen to anything – to acknowledge that some people have auditory sensitivities and need a quiet place but still want to be with other people.

Alma Sci Tech buildingAcademically, “it’s intense. No one is going to say it’s easy,” said a student. Alma runs on a 4-4-1 schedule, different from the big public institutions. Students take 4 4-credit courses in the first 2 terms and 1 in Spring Term that runs from the end of April through Memorial Day. Everyone is required to complete 2 spring terms. Graduation is in April so seniors can be in the job market early (although they can stay if they want). Many spring courses involve travel. Also, they grade differently: instead of pluses or minuses, grades are A, AB, B, BC, etc.

Alma Remus

Remus hanging out in the greenhouse

Classes, of course, are small. The tour guide’s largest class had 34 students; the largest she’s in this year has 21. There’s quite a bit of innovation in the classrooms. For example, they’ve partnered with Google to link up/partner classes between colleges in real time. “A friend of my mine took one of these and loved it,” said the tour guide. They have a planetarium which is used in and out of classes. All students can borrow film equipment for class projects or just for fun. They have a giant tortoise named Remus who lives in the science courtyard in good weather and the greenhouse over the winter.

Fine and Performing Arts are huge here:

  • Alma Scot muralsStaying true to their Highland/Scottish “heritage”/theme, they offer Highland Arts, including Highland Dance and Piping & Drumming. They offer a Scottish Arts Scholarship for students coming in with a high level of skill in these areas.
  • There are a lot of music classes offered; students do not have to be in the major to take advantage of these. They’ll bring in teachers for any instrument a student wants to learn. I asked where they’d find a bassoon instructor in small-town Michigan; the tour guide laughed and said, “They contract with music teachers in public schools or anywhere else they can find them.” She’s learning to play the bagpipes (which are a big deal here).
  • Alma mini concert

    a lobby set up for a recital

    Students give lobby recitals on a regular basis.

  • There are multiple choral groups to join. The Select Choir goes to Scotland and Ireland every other year
  • Their Kilted Marching Band is competitive to get into and people come to games as much to see them as the athletics.
  • They have a Midi Lab to record their own music.
  • They offer majors in Music Composition, Dance, Musical Theater, and more.
  • Community members join the orchestra.

Alma Heritage Center 2They’re moving away from the cafeteria-style Gen Ed and towards a more scaffolded, integrated experience. Everyone’s required to take a FYS class and English 101, but they’re piloting a new program that combines these into one full-year course. Students cannot test out of a foreign language – but if they test into a higher level, it’ll also count for a humanities course. They’re creating new interdisciplinary majors including:

Other things to note about their academics include:

  • Alma Heritage Center 2They have Applied Physics/pre-engineering but no engineering majors.
  • Nursing: students still take a liberal arts core in addition to their major. The school has a great relationship with the local hospital.
  • The sciences are incredibly strong, including Public Health, biochem, and biotechnology. This is one of undergrad schools in the state to have a cadaver lab (they get 10 a year from the Michigan grad school).
  • The Psych dept focuses on research, including Neuroscience,
  • The Entrepreneurs in Action business class runs Highland Java, a popular coffee spot on campus.

Alma artworkStarting after the sophomore winter term, students can apply for a $2500 Venture Grant for use in spring term or summer internships. Students can also partner with NY Arts or different organizations in DC, Chicago, and Philly for a semester (housed with other college students through agreements with other universities) and transfer in 16 credits. There’s also the Posey Fund for about 40 students per year – our tour guide went to India for 7 weeks over the summer.

Alma rockThe minimum admissions scores are 960 SAT/18 ACT. They take a weighted GPA but only take what the school gives them; for admissions, it’s not as big a deal, but the scholarships depend heavily on the GPA, so high school counselors should convert this and email the admissions reps. GPAs of 3.4GPA or higher are eligible for Scholar Summit which means up to $4000 more. There are also several competitive scholarships for art, STEM, faith leadership, etc.

We asked people what they thought Alma did really well:

  • We support individual students in helping them along the path they choose. It’s so rare to come to a campus where they’re all focused on student success. It’s a piece of core identity.
  • We hold ourselves to high expectations. If people have negative experiences, there’s a team that jumps on that.
  • We’re the perfect place for the student who doesn’t want to have to decide. There are very few things that you can’t do both of (like marching band and football team).

Historically, retention has been around 80%. The Provost’s goal is to get students linked in to a group earlier. The 4-year graduation rate is about 60% “which is higher than you’d think given the retention rate,” said the provost. “We hear that often from counselors that this is the school of choice for students coming from diverse backgrounds.” About 35% of students are fully Pell-Eligible and 30% are First-Gen students. They have a strong track record of being successful with retaining and graduating these populations.

© 2019

Aquinas College

Aquinas College (visited 11/18/19)

Aquinas path 4

One of the well used paths on campus

Aquinas is a solid school on the outskirts of the 2nd largest city in Michigan; if you want the best of all worlds – a beautiful wooded campus with easy access to a city; strong academics (including some unusual areas of study) and vibrant social life; access to all sorts of sports and arts, a community concerned with sustainability, and a faith community if you’d like to take advantage of that – this could be the school for you!

 

 

Aquinas chapel 2

The chapel at dusk

Campus feels very much like a forest or a park. There are lots of walking paths, a stream running through campus, and trees all over the place. Campus is highly sustainable: they have bins in every building to separate out compost, recycling, and trash. Even dorm rooms often have them; the tour guide said, “They’re encouraged but not required.” Ratings Signs get posted in lobbies to show how they did this month compared to last, as well as how much waste was created, recycled, etc. We talked briefly to the Sustainability Coordinator; she said that they’re working on getting goats on campus to take care of the grass and invasive species. They run Saint Swap – students can donate 2 articles of clothing or other items they don’t want and pick up 1 that they do. Leftovers go to community members who need it. They’re also the first college in the country to have a Sustainable Business degree!

 

Aquinas library

The library is one of the newer buildings; it’s a great space! 

The rep said that she’s often asked, “What’s the worth here?” Like many places, the first thing she said was “Community,” but this seems to include on and off campus. “You’re in a city – but you get to be in a nature bubble within that city. Students have so many resources in Grand Rapids but also because of easy access to Detroit and Chicago. Students can get around town on the city buses for 25 cents a trip. “Downtown is great! There’s ice skating, museums, and restaurants.”

 

Aquinas eSportsThe admissions rep we spoke to graduated in 2012; she’s seen a lot of great new buildings put up since she arrived including the athletic center and a beautiful science center (they invested $32m in that!) “The growth in athletics is also great to see. It brings in a new group of students.” Aquinas started men’s volleyball about 3 years ago; there has been a huge influx of players. “ESports has been fascinating to see in new and exciting ways.” Basketball and soccer get the most fans. “Saint Slam is the introduction of the basketball team.”

Aquinas grottoThere’s also been a change in students. She’s seen more kids willing to reach out and help. “I think students here have always been nice, but there’s more outreach and community service now. It seems like it’s more part of the culture.” This is still very much a region institution, but that’s slowly changing, as well. They’ll help first-time visitors from out-of-state (and the Upper Peninsula) with travel reimbursement IF they’ve been admitted before the visit: they’ll pay for flight and gas, but not meals, hotel, or the rental car. Of the 1400 undergrads, about 250 come from outside Michigan. Approximately 50 of those are Global Students (I like that they’re called this instead of International!). Global Food Fest is a popular new event where students will cook food from their nation/culture for others. All students and staff are welcome to participate, even domestic students who have spent time abroad or want to celebrate a family tradition.

Aquinas AcThere are multiple global offerings and opportunities to get involved:

Classes, of course, are small because of the school size. The tour guide’s classes ranged from 8-20 students. They have more majors and opportunities than many other places this size.

  • Aquinas sci ceiling stars

    The ceiling in the atrium of the science building – the lights are set up as constellations

    This is one of the few schools I’ve ever seen to offer Translation and Interpretation as a major (and our tour guide was double majoring in this and Spanish).

  • Students who’ve declared an education major take their first education class in 2nd semester; during this, they spend at least 40 hours in a school and must have an exit interview with a member of the Edu dept to make sure they want to continue in the major.
  • Nursing is direct entry for students with a 2.5 GPA overall AND in all their math and science classes and a 1080SAT/21ACT. Technically, they’re doing their nursing through University of Detroit-Mercy: “on paper, they’re UD-M students but with all the benefits of being an AQ student. All their classes are on campus, and clinicals are here.” They have a 100% placement rate; 95% pass the NCLEX on the first try. They’re only allowed to graduate 60 a year by the state of Michigan.
  • Aquinas arts 2

    The art and music center

    Fine and performing arts are huge here:

  • Aquinas Moose 1

    The Moose (called that because of the moose head – look on the far side!) … one of the great dining options that serves as a cafe/late night option. This used to be the old carriage house.

    They’ve done a lot with dual business degrees. Students can pair Visual Arts, Chemistry, Communications, music, sports management, Computer Info Systems. Recently, they added a dual Business-Econ

  • They’ve partnered with Western Michigan for engineering: “It’s constantly changing since we’re learning and growing with it.” Students get an AA from Aquinas before completing their Bachelors at WMU in Civil or Industrial/Entrepreneurial Engineering.
  • Accounting is excellent: they’re in the top 5% for CPA pass-rates.
  • Community Leadership is also uncommon.
Aquinas athletic and dorm

Some of the newer upperclassmen dorms and the athletic fields.

This is a fairly residential campus, but students are allowed to move off; this is in a residential neighborhood so it’s relatively easy to find housing in the area. The dining hall is great about food allergies. Everything is well marked, and they’ll send emails if there’s ever an issue so students can make decisions about where they want to eat for a particular meal – so if there’s an inhalation allergies, for example, they may choose to eat at a different place. The dining hall is open longer hours, and students can come in for soup and salad all afternoon. The popular meals are sweet and sour chicken and popcorn chicken bowl. We ate dinner there; lots of students were there, but there wasn’t any real wait to get food.

 

They start offering merit scholarships for applicants at a 2.7GPA and 980 SAT/18ACT. These are good up for 5 years. The AQ commitment says that they’ll meet 100% need for a student if they have a 3.4 GPA or higher. They will try to meet need under that but do not guarantee it.

© 2019

Kettering University

Kettering University (visited 11/19/19)

Kettering 1This is a small school that is relatively well-known for engineering and its innovative, mandatory Co-op program operating on 3-month class/co-op rotation that differentiates it from other co-ops such as those at Drexel and Northeastern. One of the reps said, “The kids here are geeks. They thrive off of each other. Just based on conversations, they find a home here they never got in high school. They’re surrounded my like-minded people who challenge them.”

Kettering 3d factoryThe co-op program is one of the big reasons people pick Kettering. Students come in on either the A or B cohort; A starts classes at the traditional time in the fall; B does their first co-op before taking any classes at all. Placement into A and B is totally random but it’s easy enough to switch sections. If incoming students do want to switch, they’re often asked to wait until after the job fair to decide since some companies will only hire for certain sections. These job fairs are open to all students, and the incoming students are encouraged to attend, particularly those in the B cohort who go directly into co-op.

Kettering bioeng research

Bioengineering research lab

I asked both the tour guide and the Co-op Coordinator about how this could possible work and how students would be qualified to do more than make copies or coffee without having some classes under their belts. The coordinator said, “Many companies hire 3 students at a time. They figure maybe one won’t work out, and they hope that one will be given a job offer. They’re grooming their future talent. They’ll take a chance on high school graduates.”

Kettering women engo

Although Kettering is still heavily male (it is a STEM-based school), they do have organizations, including dorm options, to help the females feel more included.

Students need to complete at least 5 co-op terms; most do 7-9 before they graduate. They partner with over 500 employers, many of which are in SE Michigan (the Detroit metro area). It’s rare to get a co-op in Flint. All majors must do co-ops; they have a freshman bio major with the Medical Examiner this year. Students earn an average of $15.50/hour; they often use this towards tuition.

I had high hopes for Kettering. However, the other counselor and I were both a little reluctant to recommend this school. The vibe was a little off. I think that it’s difficult to build community here. There seems to be very little going on around campus other than classes; even the tour guide was hard-pressed to give some examples of things that were happening around campus for fun. There might be a couple reasons for this – first, several people said they were “self-proclaimed geeks.” Second, classes are condensed from 15 to 11 weeks so they’re getting more done in less time (the tour guide estimates that he does 2-4 hours of homework/studying a night to keep up with the academics). Third, when students are coming and going every 3 months, it’s hard to sustain any meaningful clubs or extra-curricular activities. Students don’t do that much other than classes.

Kettering dorm lounge

The dorm lounge decorated for Christmas

However, there are some things going on: they have lots of automotive engineering competitions (which operates as a club). There’s some Greek life, some intramural sports, etc. Greek life does play a large part towards blowing off steam; about 40% of students participate. There are dorms the run activities; the lounge was already decorated for Christmas when we were there; “there’s a big push to do things in the dorms to get students out of their rooms. We’re nerdy. We tend to hold up in our rooms,” said the tour guide. They’re located in a sort-of residential area of Flint; some areas nearby are not in the best of conditions, but the immediate area seems ok. The tour guide also said he felt safe around campus.

Kettering lobby

A mascot decorating competition between Greek organizations in the lobby of one of the main buildings

They have a limited choice of majors, all STEM based except for the Management option. There are 5 engineering options (including Industrial Engineering) plus Engineering Physics. They have a more extensive choice of minors, including History, Literature, Business, and International Studies. The others are STEM based such as Gaming, Acoustics, Applied Optics, manufacturing Engineering, Medical Physics, System and Data Security, and Materials Science. The labs are some of them best I’ve seen – very well stocked with great equipment, allowing for a lot of hands-on experience and practical applications. The tour guide showed us one where they had to simulate production lines (on a very small scale) to figure out not only how to put things together but how to communicate that out. Kettering is also the only place with a crash-test lab for undergrads.

Kettering lab 4

Lab space simulating production lines

Everything they do here is Calc based. Students have to have some trig coming in (but that’s often tagged onto Alg 2 or PreCalc). A 3.0 GPA and 24 ACT will earn students scholarship money. They also have fixed-rate tuition: what you pay the first year is what you pay for 5 years.

Retention is 97% but the graduation rate is about 60%. Disparity comes because of the co-ops; grad rates are based off of 6 years and some students go longer. The thesis project can trip them up sometimes; it takes them a little longer to do the program. It’s also such a niche program that there isn’t much to fall back on. Most graduates go right into the job force, but ¾ eventually get an advanced degree.

© 2019

University of Michigan – Flint

University of Michigan – Flint (visited 11/19/19)

UMFlint main signUM-Flint is a University of Michigan institution but has its own admissions policies and its own scholarships. “We’re not a satellite of Ann Arbor,” said the rep. However, students who want a UMich education and degree (the diploma just says University of Michigan!) but in a smaller school (8,000 undergrads rather than 28,000 at Ann Arbor), a more urban environment (they’re right in downtown), or who maybe want to get their grades up to be competitive at Ann Arbor would thrive here. They offer great academics including direct entry nursing, business, BFA degrees in fine and performing arts, engineering, psychology, and an array of health-care degrees.

UMFlint ice rink

The campus ice rink

We added UM-Flint to the itinerary at the last minute since we were staying in town and had a bit of time. I did not expect to spend long on campus; in fact, when I contacted the admissions office, I asked if I could pick up a bit of info right before they closed and said that we could just wander a bit on our own. They went way above and beyond: the rep had gift bags of swag, she talked to us for about 30 minutes (staying past closing to do so), and they had a student waiting for us who toured us around campus for an hour in the evening.

UMFlint walkways

One of the walkways between buildings

While this would still be a harder sell for most out-of-state students, there are definite pluses going for it. As a much smaller campus that Ann Arbor, the average class hovers around 25-30 students, so students might find more success and access here, particularly for those looking for a more personal touch in their intro level classes. The atmosphere here is distinct and much more urban. The campus sits close to downtown; 5 or 6 of the buildings are connected by skywalks (“Hamster Tunnels,” the student said) so students don’t have to cross streets or get cold in the winter. There’s a lot to do on and around campus, including the campus ice skating rink. “There are a lot of options within the county, not just Flint,” said the rep. “When I think of local, I think of the entire county. There are tons of things to do.” Students love the Farmer’s Market which is right next to the Freshman dorm, and there are several things within easy walking distance. “There are interesting, one-of-a-kind places around.” Traffic is almost a non-issue as well; it’s very easy to navigate and get around town.

UMFlint quad

The dorm quad at night

“We’re very much a non-traditional school; we have tons of freshmen and transfers as well as adults coming in for completion degrees who are working FT.” Although many people do come from the area, they’re being deliberate in trying to expand their reach out. They’re going to give Out-of-State students free housing this year to help grow the market! They have dorms for freshmen and for upperclassmen, but only about 15% of students currently live on campus. The dorms are phenomenal — all dorms are suite style with single rooms and a great lounge. Hallways look like a hotel, and they’re new and clean. They have the 2nd most affordable housing in the state, and there are tons of options surrounding campus. Freshman must have a meal plan. Parking is no additional fee. “We expect that everyone has a car.”

UMFlint student cntr

The student center

This is a great option for students who want to earn a UM degree. Students can transfer later to Ann Arbor, but not every class they take at Flint will transfer over. They should work with their advisor to make sure they take appropriate classes if transferring is their goal. “Gen Ed classes are fairly transfer-friendly,” said the rep. Flint’s only offers General and Mechanical Engineering, but they offer a 2+2 with Ann Arbor for the other programs. This is basically a guarantee as long as they maintain grades, etc. The school’s retention and graduation rates are lower than I’d normally like to see – and the rep agrees that these are not where they’d like them, but there are several reasons for this: first, they do lose a lot of students to Ann Arbor, particularly because of the 2+2 engineering program; even though this is a planned articulation agreement, those numbers count against Flint. Second, because they have so many non-traditional students studying part time, they don’t graduate “on time.”

Classes usually run Mon-Thurs so they’re a little longer. Occasionally there’s one on Friday, but often these are graduate or evening classes to accommodate returning, working adults pursing a degree. Flint’s top programs include:

  • Nursing: this is direct admit. It’s relatively new, but eventually they’ll put a limit on it. They must maintain a 3.0 in all their science and nursing classes. All nursing classes must be taken on campus (they can’t take things at a community college over the summer, for instance).
  • School of Management: many students come here for that, particularly Entrepreneurship and Innovation Management, Organizational Behavior/HR, and Operations/Supply Chain Management.
  • Health Sciences including Public Health, Clinical Health Sciences, Radiation Therapy, OT, PT as well as new graduate programs in nurse-anesthesia and PA.
  • Engineering because of 2+2.
  • Within Arts and Sciences, Psych and Geography/Planning/Environment stand out.

© 2019

Albion College (Take 2)

Albion College (visited 3/25/19)

(Click HERE to see notes on my first campus visit on 1/30/15)

Albion sealAlbion College is doing some amazing things to keep up with the times in terms of job skills, majors to prep students in relevant fields, etc. However, the town – at least right now – leaves a bit to be desired. When the steel industry basically shut down during the recession and they weren’t making materials for plants in Detroit, the town took a big hit. However, Albion is different than many other small towns with Liberal Arts colleges. Many colleges have alumni that give back to the college itself. The alumni at Albion give back to the town. They’ve invested millions to open a hotel (we stayed there for the counselor fly-in; it’s wonderful), a theater, and a brewery (where we ate/drank the 2nd night: also wonderful!). The alumni want the town to thrive because they know that’s how the college and its students thrive. Additionally, Amtrak stops in town (and runs through campus) allowing students easy access to Detroit (less than an hour) or Chicago (less than 2 hours).

Albion train through campus

Amtrak running through campus. “You stop hearing it after awhile!” said one student.

What stood out for me are their Programs of Distinction: 5 specialized institutes, an honors program, and research to allow students to build on interests and skills.

  • Students in the Honors Program take 4 dedicated classes in different disciplines which count towards graduation requirements. They need a 3.5 GPA and write a thesis to graduate with Honors. All majors and all athletic teams “except men’s basketball” are represented in the program. They intentionally build a community through events like paintball tournaments, going into Chicago, ice cream socials, etc.
  • Institutes were created to help students look at how topics fit together. “Majors go vertically; we need something to help them think horizontally.” Institutes have their own criteria for entrance, and students must maintain a higher GPA to stay in.
  • Business and Management gives students opportunities to expand and build business knowledge through speakers, networking, and more. They offer a summer program (two 2-hour classes, 4 days a week) to prepare them for internships.
  • Albion 1Medicine works with all pre-health students for clinical shadowing and internships to make sure they’re pursuing the right path. They partner with several schools: 4 students got interviews with Central Michigan Medical for an assured entrance program; they also offer 4+1 Nursing with Oakland; DPT at UM-Flint; and DO, Dental, and Pharmacy with Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine. Over 90% of the kids who “work the process” get into med school.
  • Sustainability and the Environment fits with multiple majors because it’s interdisciplinary, but also has 3 of its own majors and 2 concentrations. They have a farm and nature center on campus. They take students on trips around the continental US right after graduation.
  • Leadership In Public Policy and Service takes 140 students from a range of majors to learn what policy is like and help make a difference in their fields. Students complete 4 elements: 6 courses (2 are exclusive to this institute), community service (required each semester), a lecture series (they must attend a certain number), and an internship.
  • Teacher Development offers Professional Development money for students who usually use it in senior year for student teaching.

Albion observatoryResearch: They provide a $600 stipend to students who get accepted to present a paper or poster at a national conference. Over the summer, 36 students are selected to do 6- to 10-week research projects campus. They get free housing, $380 a week, and a $500 fund for what they need (chemicals, mileage, etc).

Another great opportunity for students is the Philadelphia Center where they complete 32 hours of internship (they have to interview for the experience) and 8 hour of classes per week. “They do the adulting thing with a safety net!” They’d like to send 40-50 students each semester, but only 11 went last semester. They have students talk to landlords to deal with budget, location, etc. “It’s an opportunity to look for housing in a big city with someone there to help.”

Albion hanging scultures

Hanging sculptures/artwork

A couple students had this to say about studying at Albion:

  • “I love that it isn’t perfect. It’s a little rough around the edges, but it’s on the upswing. I can be part of the growth and improvement. It’ll be a great experience if I can look back and say, ‘I was a part of that.’”
  • “This wasn’t my first choice, but it came down to finances. Now I dread the thought of graduating because it’s been that great.”
Albion institute

One of the Institute buildings located downtown (about a 10 minute walk from campus)

We asked the panel about their favorite classes:

  • International Entrepreneurial Exchange: students in this is a 2-semester class were split into small groups and partnered with a graduate program outside of Paris to build a company. They built a travel app and went to Paris for a week; the French students then came here to help present at the symposium.
  • Social Movements: “It’s good to see someone else’s perceptions and being able to understand our own culture.”
  • Human Rights: “we went to the Jackson penitentiary, talked about the injustices of the CJ system in the US, how it does/doesn’t align with how the world perceives human rights and how we perceive people in prison. It was very powerful.”
  • HipHop and Social Change: “This was a big class with almost 30 people. Everyone had an opinion in that class.”
  • International Organizations: “We met in a conference room because there were only 10 of us. They knew if we didn’t show up. We did an online simulation game. Some of us were partnered up and assigned a country. We made treaties and traded, decided on type of government. We were arguing an hour before deadline to make a trade about nuclear proliferation. We were in all different majors, and we all knew what we were talking about.”
  • Public Relations: “It’s what I’m gearing towards and it gave me hands-on experiences. We worked with Albion businesses.”
  • Oceans, Atmosphere, and Climate: “Honestly, I had no interest in it, but the prof had all of us sign up for a 30 minute meeting, so he tried to make it meaningful. He said that he knew we were just here for the requirement, and it turned into one of my favorites.”
  • Arts Advocacy (honors level): “We ended up creating a student film festival! We were able to start something for the community and raise some money for the elementary school arts program. I know I’ve left my mark on the college with this.”
Albion equestrian 9

Part of the equestrian center

With over 50% of their student participating in athletics, “we rely on this to drive admissions, like many DIII schools.” Football is highly popular, but they also have an impressive Equestrian Center and equestrian team (both Hunt Team and Western). “Don’t make the mistake of thinking that this is less competitive than other sports,” said the Center Director. “Students have to do laps around the indoor rink for every minute they’re late to practice – and this is the largest indoor arena owned by a University in the US.” They own 46 horses, and even have 2 indoor “treadmills” for them when the weather is too cold or bad for them to get exercise outside.

Albion chapelRight now they have a 70% retention rate which is going up. They’ve implemented Peer Mentors (juniors or seniors) to the First Year Seminars to help freshmen meet benchmarks during the first semester on campus. “It’s building threads in their social and academic safety net.” They’ve also started the Briton Path, a learning community for students who need some additional guidance or organization. The class meets once a week, and there is peer tutoring, individual, weekly guided practice sessions (more hands-on), and exam review.

© 2019

Hope College

Hope College (visited 11/11/16)

hope-signI always ask students who attend one of the “Colleges That Change Lives” just how that college changed their lives. Here’s what Hope students said:

  • It’s helped me grow in ways I can’t even describe. I joined The Pull [description later]. We practice 3 hours a day and longer on weekends. I’ve met my best friends because of it. I’ve become so much more confident in my faith, my friends, and who I am here.
  • In Basketball, I’ve been challenged and pushed to be my best. Same in the classroom. Along the way, so many people encouraged me and pushed me. To look back to where I was a freshman, there’s been so much growth and people to help along the way.
  • hope-7Professors constantly push us even when we’re struggling. They believe in us. They know we’re capable of doing more. Friends do that, too. People want the best for others.
  • The faith aspect. I grew up Catholic but wasn’t close to my faith. It’s not shoved down your throat, but it’s present and I was able to grow in that area.
  • I’ve met amazing people. It’s an interesting culture – genuine and open. The community was attractive to me; I didn’t have that at my previous college. I have coffee with the chair of department and dinner at professors’ houses all the time. That’s how invested they are. I feel 100% prepared for whatever comes next.
hope-student-circl

Part of the student circle in the Pine Grove

Hope is ranked as the friendliest college in the US: “every person feels welcome, fully included, and will flourish in the way that they’re gifted by God to flourish,” said Hope’s President. On the day I visited, days after the election, there was a student-run silent demonstration in the pine grove to make a statement: No matter your background, your beliefs, your politics: you’re supported and welcome here.

It seems like students actually walk the walk here: they’re inclusive and support each other in whatever endeavors they choose to undertake. Some examples:

  • hope-music-bldg

    The Music Building

    The basketball teams (women’s and men’s) led the nation in DIII attendance last year.

  • I saw Jane Eyre: The Musical on opening night. Although well-supported by the community (and, I assume, parents/families), a huge part of the audience was comprised of students. Beyond that, I was highly impressed at the talent and the theater They bring in guest artists (actors and back-stage techies) to expose students to experts and benefit from their experience and talent. For this musical, the guest artist played Rochester, but all the others were students, including the musicians.
  • hope-archThe Pull, the oldest campus tradition in the US, is a massive tug-of-war across the Black River between freshmen and sophomores and coached by juniors and seniors. They dig trenches and build barricades so they can’t see the other team; the 18 pullers are helped by “cheerers” who can tell them what’s going on.

Hope makes the Top 10 of “Colleges where Students are Most Satisfied with College Choice,” tying with Stanford! Students come and persist until graduation. In fact, they have one of the highest in retention and graduation rates in the state, competing with UMich.

hope-chapel-service

Friday morning Chapel Service

Although affiliated with the Reform Church, the largest self-identifying group is Catholic (20%). An optional 20-minute Chapel is held on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings. The building fits about 1/3 of the study body, and these events tend to be standing-room only. “It’s a fun atmosphere because the people who are there have chosen to be there. No one is ever forced – but no one is made to feel bad for not coming, either.”

hope-quadThe President said, “We encourage all students to explore Christianity and figure out their own faith. We don’t expect you to fit a mold, but we want you to seriously consider what it might offer you.” The two required religion classes don’t even need to be Christian based. There are “tons of opportunities to grow in your faith if you want it” such as mission trips and Bible studies. Several students on the panel mentioned that they liked the Christian aspect on campus.

The town of Holland is a wonderful bike- and pedestrian-friendly community. Several blocks of locally run stores and restaurants sit right off campus, and students can get some discounts in town. Hope owns about 30% of the apartments in town as housing for students (with the same expectations as dorm living such as being a “dry campus”). The white sand lakeshore beaches are a couple miles away; shuttles run there as well as to stores. The train station is 2 blocks from campus running to Chicago and Grand Rapids.

hope-cottage

An off-campus cottage about a block from campus

Students were out and about on campus, including on Saturday morning. Freshmen and most sophomores live on campus. Juniors and many seniors often move to one of the 80ish off-campus, Hope-owned houses (mostly upperclassmen live in these, but sometimes sophomores get in). “It’s a nice transitional period.”

About 20% of student join Greek Life. Rush is in the spring; “No one feels left out if they aren’t in it – it’s just another club,” said one student. Another said, “Our chapters don’t have the negative connotations that come with some of the bigger schools.”

hope-academic-1

Some of the academic buildings

“You get a personal hand-crafted education here. We’re focused on helping you discern what’s important. We want to make sure that your time here will help you consider all the options available to you and help you prepare for them.” Students’ favorite classes have been:

  • Religion and Atrocity: “it explores hard issues that would be easy to sweep under the rug. It focused a lot on Holocaust. They talk about where god fits in: did he let it happen? Did he not? It was a deep thinking class and changed how I looked at things.”
  • Social Work Interviewing: “I was so nervous for the class. Once I got into it, I loved it. We worked through scenarios, got strategies, etc. It was difficult but in a real situation, you know how you need to prepare.”
  • hope-leavesFrench 3: “I took this freshman year, and once a week, a native speaker came in. It was cool to speak with her, learn about France. We did group projects, recite poems, etc. I didn’t get any of that in high school.”
  • PE and Health for Elementary School teachers: “as a math person, that was different. I learned how to integrate movement in the classroom. Lots of speakers talking about dance in the classroom, and I can apply a lot of things I learned.”
  • Marketing Management: “I love business and marketing. I’m involved in analytics and creative thinking, thinking outside the box. The director of the program talked to companies who want to hire the class. We have to dissect everything – branding, logo, everything. It was a real hands-on experience.”
hope-engo-lab

One of the Engineering labs, complete with a Maker-bot and 3D printer

Management is the biggest major (175/800 graduates this year were in the major). Nursing and Education are next in size. Engineering requires a comprehensive core before students specialize. “It’s hard to find a job that’s strictly in 1 discipline; you’re going to work with a lot of other types of engineers,” said the head of the department. “This isn’t the typical engineering department: people are engaged in other things. They’re athletes, in student government. People minor in languages, dance, etc. It’s a tight major. You have to plan carefully but it’s doable!” Seniors in the department complete a 2-semester design project from a needs statement all the way through to building the design.

hope-dorm-2

One of the dorms

Hope runs an off-site center in Philly with more than 800 options for internships and experiential education. There’s a New York City internship for theater: on- and off-stage (including the business side). Summer terms allow students to spend 3-4 weeks abroad (I spoke with 3 students who did this. They studied: Spanish in Avila; Northern Ireland and Scotland: Peace and Reconciliation; and Mental Health issues in Liverpool: “I want to do international social work, so this was a great opportunity.”) Some scholarships are available.

“Hope is not the most diverse campus, but they look it in the face and deal with it. At a Christian school, it’s easy to sweep things under the rug. Here, they want to talk and deal with it. I have a lot of respect for them not shying away from tough problems,” said one student. Another student said she was helping to get more people involved in the Latino Student Union: “It’s open to everyone, not just Latinos. It’s a great way to learn the cultures.” Other groups put on cultural talent shows or International Food Fair: “Eat all you want for $5. I never had African food until I came here. Best thing ever!”

© 2016

University of Michigan

University of Michigan (visited 1/31/15)

Archaeology Museum

Archaeology Museum

~Michigan bldg and tower 2I did not get a conventional tour at Michigan because their admission office is not open on Saturday (except for a few rare dates scattered throughout the year). I’m a little shocked at this. It’s a major university; people want to visit and tour. I got the feeling from talking to their admissions office that it just didn’t matter; they assumed people would conform to whatever schedule they put forth, and really, they’re mostly right. They’ve got the name and reputation. Therefore, they clearly don’t have to try. However, this also seems to be indicative of how the university runs as a whole. They’ll give you a world class education, but you’re on your own to seek it out, meet them on their terms, and do what you need to do by yourself.

One of the streets surrounding the university

One of the streets surrounding the university

The "Diag"

The “Diag”

Because I couldn’t rearrange my schedule in order to arrive on a weekday for a conventional tour, I reached out to a friend doing a graduate program at the university. She spent a few hours walking around with me. Although I didn’t get the “party line” and couldn’t ask the tour guide about his/her experiences, I think that I ended up getting much more than I would have on a school-based tour. We walked through much of the area surrounding campus, walked through a lot of the university buildings, had lunch at a local restaurant, and I got the uncensored impressions of the students and school from someone not working for admissions.

The lobby of the Business Buiding

The lobby of the Business Buiding

The Business school

The Business school

“The classes are great, but they’re big.” She said that it’s hard to get advising sometimes, hard to make sure you’re taking the classes you need, hard to get access to some classes. She’s a TA and knows that a lot of the undergrads’ educations were coming from people like her. I asked her what she thought of the university in relation to Berkeley where she did her undergraduate work. “They’re a lot alike. You need the sharp elbows here, too.” However, she said that the students are very different at Michigan. “Maybe I’m jaded after Berkeley, but Michigan is supposed to be this bastion of liberalism. It just isn’t.” She described the overall student body as “rich and conforming.” There are a lot of girls with the stick-straight hair and the “right clothes and right bags.” That’s not to say that there’s not diversity. Clearly there is. It’s a huge school (about 28,000 undergrads); you’ll find some of everyone here. However, there seems to be an overarching culture of conformity. The students I saw as I walked around campus backed up that assessment.

The "fishbowl" - one of the computer labs on campus

The “fishbowl” – one of the computer labs on campus

~Michigan bldg 5Students who will do well here are those who want to study on Saturday afternoons and those who are hyper-independent with “sharp elbows” (aka who will fight classes, housing, etc) and who can figure out what they need and then know which questions to ask in order to get what they need – academically and socially – without help. “It’s the type of school where you can easily fall through the cracks, especially the first year. You don’t know what you need until it’s too late and you’ve missed an opportunity or a deadline.”

~Michigan bikes~Michigan treeAs we walked through the library and then the union, students packed every available space and were studying. There was some socialization going on, but very little. Books were open, papers were being written, areas were relatively quiet. It’s the sort of scene I would have expected more on a Sunday afternoon than on a Saturday. Students here clearly take their learning seriously. However, there were also a lot of students out on the “Diag” (diagonal path cutting across the quad) and heading in and out of buildings. Even on a cold, dreary day, there was plenty going on around campus. The blocks surrounding campus are clearly geared towards meeting students’ needs. There’s a vague sense of “counterculture” but most of the stores were typical college-student places: cafes, restaurants, book stores. There’s no shortage of things to do on or around campus.

Law School quad

Law School quad

Most students study in the Liberal Arts College (LSA: Literature, Science, and the Arts). Freshmen can also apply to Architecture, Engineering, Performing Arts, Kinesiology, and Nursing. Students interested in Education, Business, Social Work, Pharmacy, Public Policy, and some other programs must apply and be accepted into the program during freshman or sophomore years (although some give Freshman Preferred Admissions, aka guaranteed placement, when they’re accepted to the university).

Unusual majors include: Arabic, Armenian, Persian, Turkish, and Islamic Studies; Interarts Performance; Microbiology; Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering; and Screen Arts and Culture.

(c) 2015

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