campus encounters

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Archive for the category “Michigan”

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

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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

Adrian College

Adrian College (visited 1/31/15)

~Adrian mall

The “mall”

I had high hopes for Adrian; I had heard the name and knew the basics so I was curious to find out more. I was a little concerned about the retention rate; unfortunately my visit didn’t entirely alleviate my fears in that realm. However, I really liked the students I spoke to, the people in the admission office, and the campus. Athletes, B to B+ students, and students who will get involved and who want small classes will thrive at Adrian.

~Adrian 1~Adrian auditoriumMy tour guide was surprised at how much he loved Adrian. “I really had wanted to go to Notre Dame but didn’t get in. I got into Michigan, had put down my deposit, had a roommate picked out – but then came back here to visit. I changed my mind that day and deposited.” His parents both went to Adrian and were thrilled that he chose to go – and he got a legacy scholarship which helps! People he knows who have left did so for a variety of reasons: some wanted to be closer to home, one joined the army, some thought college wasn’t for them. A lot of football players were recruited from Florida and hated the winters in Michigan.

~Adrian mural

Mural outside the Student Center

fabric samples for Interior Design students

fabric samples for Interior Design students

The campus is nice, even in the middle of winter. Every year, they hold a Creativity Awards contest. The winner gets $10,000 to improve campus. So far winners included a large mural outside the student center, bike racks/bike share, International Walkway with things written in multiple languages, etc. “During the year, there’s something like 1000 flower baskets,” said the tour guide. “I wish you could see it then. All the art on campus is student-created. They have an extensive art program with a dance studio, photo labs, pre-architecture, and Interior Design. One studio has 90 styles of lighting for the architecture students! Music is also big here, and the city of Adrian has a symphony that uses the college’s theater.

Adrian Thinker

The Thinker in front of the Theater

~Adrian stud centr 2

The new student center; study boxes are on the upper left

The oldest building on campus, once a stop on the Underground Railroad, is a three-story stone building now used as the theatre. They do a great job refurbishing buildings for updated purposes. The student center is the old gym. They spectator boxes are now study boxes that are open 24/7. The Salon in the basement advertises “nails, hair, and tanning.” The Starbucks in the first floor takes flex bucks.

About 20% of the students go Greek. “There are a lot of Greeks in Admissions. They tend to be most involved in campus life. They love the school.”

Adrian baseball practice

Baseball practice

Almost 2/3 of the students are athletes and there’s a lot of support for the teams. There was a cheer competition in the gym as we went through around 10am on a Saturday. Several girls had pulled exercise bikes over outside the glass doors to watch as they worked out. Adrian’s hockey rink is the only one in the area, so community teams use it as well. A Community Team was using it that morning. 200 Adrian students play hockey on one of 6 teams (4 men, 2 women). They have DI club teams for both men and women; varsity is DIII. They also have synchronized skating and figure skating. Hope is the big rival. They’re quadrupling the size of the weight room (it’s currently tiny).

~Adrian quad

Quad and the library

A popular study area in the Science Building

A popular study area in the Science Building

The tour guide’s largest class was 30 in his Intro to Sociology class. Smallest were 6 (Freshman Writing) and 3 (upper level Econ). “They’re getting rid of the Econ major, so I’m taking a lot of upper level classes and individucal studies so I can finish before they phase it out.” He took Kitchen Chemistry – they did a lot of baking to experiment with how different things influenced the outcome; they ate an fruit that blocked most taste receptors and ate different foods before and after to test this; worked with yeast, etc. He loved his Movies and Culture class in which they discussed social aspects of films starting back in the 30s.

~Adrian dorms

The convenience store on campus with dorms in the background

There are lots of housing options. The freshman dorms are traditional style and old. “I think they’re the same buildings my parents lived in when they were here.” However, after first year, students can live in dorms, apartments, one of 24 theme houses (which can be as small as 4 students), themed houses, fraternities, etc. There are also plenty of flexible meal options. One style is Block Style (students get a certain number of swipes per semester which can be used back-to-back if they want to swipe in a guest). Another style is the 14- or 18-meal-per-week (which can be used once every 4 hours). “The quality of the food is fine but it gets boring.”

~Adrian chapel interior

Chapel

This started as a Methodist school but is now loosely affiliated at best. My tour guide was a Methodist and will go downtown to services; Catholic students often go over to Siena Heights University which is a few miles down the road. There’s a non-denominational service on Wednesdays in which a religion student will give the sermon. Students can bring lunch to chapel.

~Adrian music wing

The music wing: offices and practice rooms.

Their Accounting and Business program is strong with 11 concentrations to choose from including Event & Facilities Management, Health Care Management, Sports Management, and Fashion Merchandising. The Director of Entrepreneurship brought Dominos and Little Ceasars pizza to Israel before he started to teach. Criminal Justice, Social Work, and Art History are also worth noting.

The college offers several Internal Masters (open only to Adrian students). Several students will use the Athletic Training and Industrial Chemistry Masters as a gateway to Med School. 98% of students get placed in med schools or in to the health field upon graduation.

(c) 2015

Western Michigan University

Western Michigan University (visited 1/28/15)

~WMU quad 6

An academic quad

For a public university, this isn’t huge, especially compared to the other public universities in the state. The campus is manageable; “compact” said one tour guide. “It takes no more than 15 minutes to walk across. You can get from class to class in 7 or 8 minutes.” There are buses, but they’re just not needed simply to get around campus. WMU is located (literally) directly across the street from Kalamazoo College, but there isn’t much intermingling between the schools.

~WMU dining hall

One of the dining halls

Before the info session and tour, I went to lunch with Rachel, a senior  – “but I won’t graduate for another year because I switched into nursing.” She came to WMU for the scholarship and the honors program, and because she felt like she was treated like an individual. People were “super willing to help, and I found that even as a student. Older students, professors, whoever are all willing to give advice.”

~WMU courtyardPeople who will do well here are solid students who also have outside interests, who want the larger school experience with the large athletics, but who still want a campus feel and who don’t quite want to get lost in the crowd.

~WMU quad 5Approximately 1/3 of the 19,000 undergraduates live on campus. Many freshmen live in traditional dorms, but there’s also specialty themed housing with activities, tutors, etc geared towards that subject. Some scholarships carry a residency requirement. Upperclassmen put themselves on waiting lists for the on-campus apartments which are in high demand. The 12,000 or so students who don’t live on campus find housing around town through word-of-mouth, on Craig’s List, or even just by showing up at apartment complexes. I spoke to three students who live off campus; they all said it was easy to find a place.

~WMU dorms 2

One of the dorm neighborhoods

There are also some Greek houses. Many members live in them for a year (sometimes 2 if there’s room). Often they move in the year after they pledge, so most of the residents are sophomores, occasionally juniors. Only about 5% of WMU students are affiliated with 1 of the 30 sororities or fraternities. 20 of these are nationally recognized; the rest are local or service groups.

WMU athletic cntr

The athletic center hallways. Classrooms are to the left.

Hockey is the big sport here; Rachel wishes that they would build a bigger stadium since it’s always packed. Most games are standing room only. Their big Hockey rival is Miami of Ohio; for all other sports, it’s Central Michigan. “Football is also a lot more fun now that there’s a new coach.” Intramurals cost usually $9 per season per sport “unless you have a team from all the same hall. Then it’s covered under student activities fee.”

~WMU windowBronco Bash, best described as a street fair with live music, activities, etc., is a favorite yearly activity. The monthly movies in the school theatre are also popular; for $1, they get popcorn and a movie. These are usually packed. “There’s something to be said about watching movies with 500 college students.” The town of Kalamazoo has plenty to do, including various “fests” (Rib Fest, Irish Fest) throughout the year. For people needing to go further afield for fun, Chicago is 2.5 hours west, Grand Rapids is 45 minutes north, and Detroit is 2 hours east.

~WMU acad bldg 2WMU only pulls about 5% of their students from other states and another 7% from other countries. It’s very easy to get Michigan Residency for tuition purposes. Students must live in Michigan for 12 consecutive months; the school year counts towards this. Students will either stay on campus or sublet an off-campus apartment through the summer so they can take classes, work, and/or do research. Once they live in MI for 12 months and switch their licence, they get in-state tuition.

~WMU rotunda

Atrium of a science building

Academics generally well regarded. Although there are larger classes associated with a large public school, they aren’t overwhelming and the students said that there’s always help available. Largest classes for the students I talked to have all hovered around 200 (Psych, Communication Theory, and Biology). Smallest have been 20 in labs and 15 in English.

Notable programs include:

  • ~WMU muralAviation Programs. The College of Aviation (one of the largest in the nation) maintains a separate facility at the airport in Battle Creek, about 20 minutes from the main campus. One of the students raved about how nice it was.  Majors include Flight Science, Maintenance Tech, and Management and Operations. 
  • Engineering: In addition to the more common Mechanical, Civil, Chemical, Computer, and Electrical Engineering, they also offer Aerospace, Construction, Paper, and Industrial/Entrepreneurial Engineering. The College of Engineering also offers Graphic and Printing Science, Engineering Design Technology, and Manufacturing Engineering Technology. Students applying to this school need a 25 on the ACT math section.
  • Business: students complete one year of “pre-business” before they specialize
  • Freshwater Science and Sustainability
  • Textile and Apparel Studies (Product Development, Merchandising, or Fashion Design). Students complete at least 1 semester at Fashion Institute of Tech or at American Intercontinental University in London.
  • Geosciences, including Geophysics, Geochemistry, and Hydrogeology.
  • The Honors College: Students need a 3.6 GPA and a 26 ACT (1190 CR&M on the SAT).
  • Air Force ROTC
~WMU stud activity cntr

Student Activity Center

Admission is rolling, but for the best scholarship consideration, students should apply by the first Friday in December. Medallion Scholarships award the most money; winners tend to average around a 3.7 GPA and 26 ACT. If they qualify, they are invited to campus to compete. Winners get $12,500 a year, but all who attend the competition are guaranteed at least $3,000. Endowed scholarships are awarded usually around the middle of March. Students wanting need-based aid should file the FAFSA by the priority deadline of 3/1.

Admitted students’ GPAs hover around 3.3 – 3.4; ACTs average around a 23; about a third of their students fall in the top 25% of their HS class. They will recalculate grades with AP classes getting an additional 1 quality point. If students are borderline, they’ll look at the essay, the rec letters, etc.

(c) 2015

Albion College

Albion College (visited 1/30/15)

~Albion acad bldg 4~Albion bellI didn’t get a formal tour of Albion, but talked to an admissions rep for about 45 minutes before walking around campus on my own during the chilly dusk of a Friday evening. The campus was quiet, not surprising given the weather and time. Classes were done for the day and students weren’t heading to dinner or out to events yet. However, I talked to the students working at the student center and in the library and ended up getting a lot of interesting information from them.

~Albion rotundaSolid students who want a small campus, small classes, interesting classmates, and a chance to get involved will do well here.

~Albion sci cntrKids here are “everyday kids. They’re very normal.” There are the jocks to the theatre geeks to the nerds. “I like the mix of kids. I have friends from Nepal, Italy, Metro Detroit, the UP. This is the first time in years that we haven’t had at least 1 gay student pledge the frat,” said the junior econ major working in the library. “I took this shift because I love the quiet. I can get my work done and enjoy the rest of my weekend.”

~Albion courtyardThe Union Board (student group that organizes events) is active. “There’s never NOT something going on whether it’s Frisbee golf, movies, speakers, whatever. There’s a 4-hour Laser Tag game later tonight that I’m going to go to after the library closes.” About 60% of students participate in sports, and a cappella is also very popular. One of the favorite traditions is the Anchor Splash, a Synchronized Swimming competition put on by the Delta Gamma Sorority. The money goes to charity. It’s “hysterical to watch these burley football guys in tutus! They get really competitive.”

~Albion patioThere’s nothing going on in town (the population is less than 10,000 people). “There’s a good taco joint and a good bar. The movie theatre is free for students. Otherwise . . . not so much.” Jackson, a larger town, is 15 minutes away and the college runs shuttles to Ann Arbor and to the airports. There’s a train station in town that will take them to Chicago. Freshmen can have cars on campus, but a lot of people don’t bother leaving campus because so much is offered. They even have a convenience store.

Albion is small (1400 students) so it’s easy to get to know everyone, “but you aren’t always tripping over the same people.” Students who leave tend to go to bigger schools or “are the one who never leave their room or aren’t getting playing time on the team.” The biggest division seems to be between the athletes and non-athletes, “but even that isn’t a big deal.”

~Albion main dorm

Largest dorm on campus

All first year students live in Wesley Hall, a traditional-style dorm that holds 550 students. There are other options for older students including frat houses and two apartment-style complexes. Students are not stuck in traditional dorms for 4 years. Wifi on campus “can be spotty.” The food gets mixed reviews ranging from “great” to me getting a blank stare before being told that the new food vendor, while it has helped some, “doesn’t really make things that college students tend to want.” The other student said it was “ok but not spectacular.” Frat houses have their own food arrangements such as a cook so that helps. Greek life is huge with about 2/3 of the students affiliating with a group. “It’s not like the big schools, though. We all hang out together.” He’s in both the Panhellenic and Intra-frat councils.

~Albion chapel 3

Chapel

Albion still has a very loose religious affiliation but it’s not really all that noticeable. Students do have to take one theology or philosophy class as part of their distribution requirements, but there are plenty of options and no one is pushing an agenda or belief system. Catholicism has the largest number of self-reporting students, and Hillel is one of the more active groups on campus.

In academics, Albion offers 6 Centers of Distinction:

  • Teaching is automatic entry once students declare the major. Others require a short essay.
  • Honors classes are not just harder; they’re more discussion based. Teachers actually bid on the classes. Students take 1 honors class per term and have to write a Thesis. It gets published and is assigned an ID number so they are officially published and can put it on a resume. This COD is becoming more competitive to get into.
  • Health Care: this is a 4-year guided program for students interested in any aspect of health care, including vet. This is also becoming more competitive. Pre-med is a large major; 92% go onto med school.
  • Leadership in Public Policy and Service
  • Business and Management
  • Sustainability and the Environment
~Albion sci atrium

Science atrium

One student said that the relationships with the professors were the best thing about the college. The largest classes (like Bio or Chem 101) can have upwards of 50-70 students. One student said that he tended to have 35-40 in his first year accounting classes but most have around 20. Sciences tend to be very strong, especially Neuroscience, Environmental Sciences, Geological Sciences, Pre-Engineering, and Sustainability Studies. Professors come to teach here from the larger universities; they say that the science equipment rivals anything the big schools have. Other noteworthy majors include Law, Justice, and Society; Economics and Management; and Ethnic Studies.

~Albion library seating

seating in the library

Job placements trump a lot of other places. 94% of graduates are in full-time work or post-grad upon graduation – and that’s tracking over 16 years! The alumni network is strong both internships as well as post-graduation job placement. Students are encouraged to do research in a variety of areas, not just the sciences. “One of my friends is working on a project about how hip-hop is reviving Detroit.” During the students’ time on campus, Albion also provides an excellent academic support system and have been highly ranked for their support of students on the spectrum.

Applying to the university is free; they’re a Common App exclusive school. They will superscore both the SAT and ACT. They offer a $5,000 scholarship for students who don’t live in MI, OH, or IL; this is stackable with other merit scholarships that a student qualifies for. All scholarships are automatic consideration except the Distinguished Scholars program. Students who qualify for this competition get invited to campus and will receive $1,000 just for attending. DS awards range from $15,000-$23,500. For most students at Albion, the final cost of attendance averages only a few thousand more than UM or MSU.

They have a Nature Center on campus and a River running through the south end. There are wetlands where students can do research. A student farm grows mostly vegetables; it doesn’t produce a lot, but the dining hall will use what they do grow. Students also conduct soil testing and other research there. Students interested can also live in the Environmental House, a 2-minute walk from campus. There is also a large equestrian center owned by Albion. 

(c) 2015

Michigan State University

Michigan State University (visited 1/30/15)

MSU bus

One of the buses circulating around campus

~MSU tree and bldgAlthough there’s a lot of traffic around this 2-mile x 2-mile campus, the middle of MSU is lovely and feels cohesive. They boast about their 10,000 feet of sidewalk (portions of which are heated). “Walking from place to place is a good call-home time!” said one guide, but if they don’t feel like walking, there are plenty of buses circulating around campus and through town. A bus pass costs $50 a semester or 80c a ride. Freshmen cannot have cars “which is just as well – parking is located a 15-minute walk away. You aren’t using cars for quick trips anywhere.” Both guides agreed that cars just weren’t necessary. Even getting to the Detroit airport is easy: the university runs shuttles there at breaks.

MSU sculpture 3The tour guides (a junior from Denver and a freshman from Philly) were some of the best I’ve had. They both came from small high schools and were looking for the larger, Big-10, rah-rah sort of school. They clearly loved MSU and used personal anecdotes to illustrate what life was like for them rather than spouting statistics or generalities. I walked away with a good sense of who would thrive here: smart, independent students who are willing to ask questions (not just in class) and get involved in something; it seems like students here have found a really good balance between the academic and the extra-curricular.

A freshman dorm lounge

A freshman dorm lounge

Although campus can seem overwhelming, the guides said that participating in Orientation was key in figuring out how to get around but it’s also on them to make the effort; someone suggested to them that they “walk their schedule” before classes to really learn where they were going. One guide didn’t do that and panicked the first morning – but was able to pick up a map and get directions from the service desk in the res hall. All freshmen are required to live on campus; the dorms are attractive and comfortable. The only complaint is that many rooms don’t have wifi yet (but all common areas have it). They are working on this. Currently, students can request which “Neighborhood” or dorm they want; next year, they’ll be able to pick their exact room.

One of the many dining halls

One of the many dining halls

Each neighborhood has at least one dining hall for a total of 10 around campus. They’re open at different hours (some opens at 7am, some are open until midnight, etc). Students get unlimited swipes so they can grab a coffee or snack between classes. There are also grab-and-go places, coffee shops, etc on campus; many fast-food places directly off campus; and a food truck comes on campus (which only serves food sourced from within 2 miles of campus!). There’s also a bakery in town that provides baked goods to the dining halls.

Even students living off campus often buy a partial meal plan for the convenience and because the food is good. One guide lives in an apartment about a 15-minute walk from campus. “It’s so easy to find a place! There are housing fairs, advertising, stuff like that.” She’s on her own lease even though she shares the apartment with others. “It’s a nice piece of security because I don’t have to count on anyone else if they leave or whatever before the year is up.”

The River

The River

The Art Museum

The Art Museum

It’s hard to get bored on campus with 650 clubs available (which includes Greek life and a Squirrel Watching club). Sports are popular, of course. Students do have to pay for tickets to men’s hockey, basketball, and football games, but all other sports are free. The Red Cedar River, which cuts the campus in half, also provides recreation: students play hockey on it in the winter and can raft down it in the summer. They have an excellent museum designed by a world-class architect. They movie Batman vs. Robin was filmed here; the students are really excited about seeing the final product after seeing the filming!

MSU bikesStudents can take traditional, online, and “hybrid” classes (usually 1 class a week in a lecture hall and the discussions and homework online). One of the guides took a 600-person hybrid business class; her microeconomics class was also huge. However, they also had classes of 17 (writing) and 8 (hospitality/cooking class). Their “Engagement Centers” (there are several around campus) provide tutoring, writing centers, and more for students needing extra help with academics.

MSU began as Michigan’s land-grant institution; not surprisingly, the agricultural programs got mentioned several times, and the Agricultural College is popular and strong. Notable majors include: Fisheries and Wildlife; Construction Management; Landscape Architecture; Sustainable Parks, Recreation, and Tourism; and Entomology. The James Madison College offers 4 interesting majors including Comparative Cultures and Politics, Social Relations and Policy, and Political Theory and Constitutional Democracy.

(c) 2015

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