campus encounters

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Archive for the category “New Hampshire”

University of New Hampshire

University of New Hampshire (visited 10/17/16)


Students stretch out in the grass in front of the UNH sign and main building


Food trucks get tucked around campus

UNH should be on far more people’s radars. This is just an amazing school. I liked the vibe here; students were friendly, outgoing, outdoorsy (including just wanting to be out and about on campus), and smart. For a state school, it is not an overwhelming size, either physically or in population numbers. It’s beautiful with a mix of historic and new buildings, with facilities that offer a great deal to the students in the academic and social realms.


unh-2There’s something to be said for the liberal arts within a comprehensive research university. Students who are most successful here want to be challenged and stretch themselves in and out of the classroom. Students who like UVM should also seriously consider UNH. It won’t disappoint; they take care of students, and students want to stay. Freshman-to-sophomore retention (86%) and graduation rates (67% in 4 years, 79% 6-year) are above average.


Not an uncommon scene on campus: students were everywhere!

Last year, applications topped 20,000 for the first time with the out-of-state population growing. Part of this is demographic (there are fewer college-aged students in NH); the other part is reputation. In the admission process, they focus mainly on the transcript: have students taken the minimum (at least!) and done well (looking for mostly Bs or better)? The SAT/ACT is not crucial for admission, but comes more into play for merit awards. They only require 1 letter, preferably from the counselor. In terms of admissions, Nursing and OT are the most competitive to get into.



Shuttles get students around campus, but it’s also very walkable

A major distinction for UNH is its location and size. The physical campus size is manageable, but more than that, there are so many options accessible to campus. They’re only 30 minutes from the ocean and beaches, and the mountains and urban areas aren’t much further. Portsmouth, a medium-sized city, is 20 minutes away, and students can use UNH transportation to get there. There’s even an Amtrak stop on campus; students can be in Boston in an hour, or head up the coast into Maine to Portland or Freeport (home of LLBean!).



One of the dorms

Housing is guaranteed for 2 years. Of course there are lots of social options, as at any school of this size (13,000 undergrads at the Durham campus; there are about 1,000 more at the non-residential Manchester campus). Something the students appreciate is that “One thing doesn’t dominate campus: we have Greek life, we have football and hockey, etc – but none of those dominate the others. You don’t have to belong to a certain group or do a certain thing to belong here.” Only 10% of students go Greek. Hockey is one of the most popular sports.



One of the engineering labs

This is a great option for students who want engineering at a medium school. However, their excellent academic choices and resources go far beyond that. Started in 1866 as New Hampshire’s Land Grant institution, UNH has now also earned Sea and Space Grant designations and offers over 100 majors. It’s not surprising that the College of Life Sciences and Agriculture options are strong and varied, including EcoGastronomy, Sustainable agriculture and food systems, and Marine, Estuarine, and Freshwater Biology.


unh-hammockTheir sustainability efforts are amazing: they get almost ¼ of their food from local and/or organic sources, and they’re the first land-grant school to have an organic dairy farm, and they make their own ice cream on campus. They gave us scoops for dessert; not only did they have great flavor options, but it tasted better than most I’ve tried!

Discovery is their Core curriculum, comprised of 11 disciplines they need to take classes in, including a World Cultures class (which can be fulfilled with study abroad – they offer over 600 options) and a Capstone or “Integrative Understanding.” Research is defined broadly here: they call original projects (musical compositions or a business proposal) as “research.”

unh-loungeResources are strong across the board, but Ocean Engineering and Marine Biology have some unique resources at students’ disposal. UNH co-runs the Isle of Shoals Marine Lab with Cornell University. Students spend a great deal of time researching out there, particularly in the summer (they can live on the island!). The Ocean Engineering labs have 2 wave pools; the military even asks to use this for research. Computer Science students have labs to try to break into a variety of systems as part of CyberSecurity training.

© 2016

Rivier University

Rivier University (visited 10/18/16)

rivier-archRiv is a place where faith matters – and ALL faiths matter. Started by the Sisters of the Presentation of Mary and Sister Madeleine of Jesus, this is a Catholic college, but they want students of all faiths – and of little faith – to find a home; they’ve created an environment in and out of the classroom for students to explore their own traditions (including having a Hindu Convocation; they have a lot of Indian students). For students who haven’t found a tradition yet, where do they find a spark that has meaning to their lives? Students can be who they are and figure out who they want to become.

rivier-gardenStudents at Riv can bump up against the edges; people are here to redirect and say, “try again!” Part of this exploration takes place in the Core Curriculum: Journeys of Transformation, a 4-year path to look at the big questions: Who am I and What is the World? Who is around me/who is my neighbor? How shall we live? What, then, shall we do? This is designed for students to build a reflective understanding of their lives and how they can contribute. The 2 required classes are Social Justice and World Religions.


Some of the dorms

“Students here are in the Striver Class. Our students are not entitled. They’re multi-taskers, and they’re focused. They generally aren’t political. It’s about life: getting the car fixed, picking up the younger brother.” From NSSE data, they know that there are a lot of students who work, and this is a supportive place for that. Many help out with families: grandparents, younger siblings, etc. There are a lot of commuters, so they’re intentional about when and where the co-curricular offerings happen. “About 50% live on campus and 50% commute, but 100% are busy,” said the college President.


One of the therapy dogs regularly on campus

If you walk into the dining hall, you see an engagement that goes beyond clique. Students intermingle with faculty. “This really is a place where we live the mission of transforming hearts and minds to serve the world.”

They recognize that students have a lot of options in terms of which college to choose: “You can get a business or nursing degree at a kazillion places between here and there.” Students tend to come here for a specific reason: a coach, the inclusive environment, the school’s willingness to work around students’ schedules. Many come simply for the location: They sit on the outskirts of Manchester (the airport is only 15 minutes; Boston (and Logan) are 45 minute south; buses to NYC are less than $20.


One of the labs

This is an international community so they have strong global initiatives on campus, and they’re taking intentional strives in diversity.

  • Grant program: they’ve received several grants such as an NSF grant bringing in $600,000 for underrepresented students in the life sciences and a $900,000 grant for underrepresented students in Nursing. This provides Scholarships and internships.
  • Experiential Learning trips to Senegal, St John’s (USVI), Costa Rica, China, and more.
  • Global Scholars (Honors): qualified admitted students (3.4 high school GPA or higher) will be invited to participate after being admitted to the university. It focuses on looking beyond self: students engage in interdisciplinary academic seminars, leadership development, intercultural/service immersion, and trip participation. International travel as an option.

“Riv Beach,” the sand volleyball court

Career development is rolled into the content of classes. The Employment Promise is relatively new (I sat at breakfast with the Executive Director of University Career Services and the college President so I got a lot of information about it): if a graduate doesn’t get a Baccalaureate level job within 9 months of graduation, they’ll pay $5400 of SUBSIDIZED student loans or 6 graduate classes. (If a student does not have a subsidized loan, the only option is to take the graduate classes). To be eligible, students sign a contract that says they’re committed to being in the program; students must maintain at least a 3.0, meet certain yearly benchmarks (going to Career Development, meeting with advisors, etc.) and complete the 4-year, 4-tier program: 1) acclimation 2) learning 3) preparing 4) putting it together and reaching out. This year, 253 people are participating (out of 280 freshman).

rivier-entrance-signRiv is test-optional except for nursing. The minimum qualifications (this does not guarantee entry) include having earned at least 77% in math and science (including algebra, geometry, bio, and chem). The Pre-Professional Health core is the same curriculum as the nursing program. Students can reapply at the end of freshman year if they didn’t get accepted directly into nursing.

© 2016

Saint Anselm College

Saint Anselm College (visited 10/18/16)

st-a-2This is the place for students who want to get away and try new things, who want a highly residential campus (students tend to stick around all 4 years) and access to lots of activities as well as strong academics with professors who say, “let’s try that!” This is also the place to be for studying politics!

St. A’s impressed me. The students were friendly and people were engaging with each other all over campus, even on a misty fall day. During the tour, I learned that they’re ranked 6th in the country for most involved students. That didn’t come as a surprise after meeting many of them. “There are opportunities to get involved in community service, be tough, be a dork … you can do it all.”


The main building on campus

“The faculty is the best part about this place. You’ll find at least that one person you can have the good conversations with when you’re freaking out about what you want to do with the rest of your life.” One of the tour guide’s favorite classes was his “Conformity and Rebellion in the 1950s” class (in the English department), in large part because he had a great relationship with the professor. “It was interesting and well taught. I loved going to that class.”


The Chapel

Socially there’s a lot to do beyond athletics. Skate Night, movies on the quad, weekly trips to different ski resorts, and plenty more options are offered. “If you’re going to have a problem, it’s because there’s too much to do. It’s actually good to learn stress and time management.” There are usually 5 or 6 speakers, panels, or movies each week on politics, Black Lives Matters, TED Talks, LGBTQ issues. Saint A’s was ranked #1 for Christmas Traditions: they have a gingerbread house competition, light the 30 foot outdoor tree, and more. One of the students we spoke to took part in “Walk a Mile In Their Shoes” – she walked 130 miles from Maine to NH for Road of Hope. “I never thought I could do that, but now I do everything! I figure if I can do that, I can just go on a 20 mile hike on the weekend.”

st-a-lower-quadFood here gets amazing reviews from students (and the dinner we had speaks to the quality of the food!). It’s not hard to see why they’ve been ranked #8 in the country for food! Crepe night is a particularly big hit.

There are plenty of opportunities for Interdisciplinary learning and research. Students get practical experience early.

  • One of the nursing students has already gone into the community as a sophomore. “I’ve gone to drug-addiction meeting, worked with low-income families, stuff like that.”
  • st-a-grotto-statue

    Statue in the Grotto

    Politics is the top major because St. A’s hosts the NH Institute for Politics. They host the DNC and RNC debates, and students often get to intern with these organizations. They turn the hockey rink into the press room!

This is a Benedictine college; 25 monks live on campus, 6 of whom are active on campus (not all professors). Monks do get involved: a recent email came out about a dinner/discussion about “How to be your best self.” Their mission revolves around service, hospitality, and respect. The religious requirement includes Biblical Theology (“It’s almost a history class, not about being indoctrinated,” said a student) and Biblical Literacy classes. These could be ethics, Christian Saints, etc. Mass attendance is not required.


The Political Library in the NH Institute for Politics Building

To help students adjust and acclimate, they have Transitions for Freshmen, a little like a pre-orientation, where students take trips, meet people, etc. Orientation leaders have to organize a couple activities every semester to check in with their group.

Admissions for non-nursing majors is test-optional; the average incoming GPA is a 3.3. Applicants to nursing, one of the top majors, will need to submit test scores; students admitted to this program have an average 3.6 GPA. All applications have 2 readers, and they give an “impact rating” – what will they give to the community? Things like leadership, work, family commitments all get factored in.

© 2016

Southern New Hampshire University

Southern New Hampshire University (visited 10/18/16)


One of the new buildings on campus

Most people recognize SNHU (students pronounce this “snew”) as an online provider, but this is also a full-on traditional school with 3,000 undergraduates on campus (with graduate and/or online students, their population totals over 100,000 students). They just absorbed most of the students and faculty from Daniel Webster College when that closed suddenly in the summer of 2016. Over the next few years, they might continue to grow by a few hundred students.


Some of the upperclass dorms

Located in Hooksett, this is a suburban and safe campus. They’re 10 minutes from downtown Manchester and an hour to Boston. It’s fairly residential with 2/3 of the undergrads living on campus. Housing in guaranteed, and there are 2 new res halls going up over the next couple years to replace older buildings. Freshman can have cars on campus.


The Pub

“This is not a ghost town on the weekends. There’s something every night whether it’s a musician in the pub or pizza and video games in the dorm.” Last Chapter Pub does serve local micro-brew beers (anyone can come into the pub; students with ID get a wristband to drink). Greek life is more community-service based; each member must complete least 10 hours a semester. A favorite campus activity is Battleship: students get into a canoe in the pool; given a paddle and a bucket, they try to sink others.

Faculty from a few stand-out departments talked to us:

  • Justice Studies
    • This is the umbrella including Criminal Justice:
      • Policing and Law Enforcement (about 40%)
      • Crime & Criminology (sociology, psych, political science, philosophy)
      • Law & Legal Process (good for students thinking of going to Law School)
      • Terrorism & Homeland Security
    • snhu-loungeFaculty come with professional backgrounds; most still work in the field (some are retired). Guest speakers are built into the program: the intro class always has a minimum of 3 guest speakers so students see an array of opportunities.
    • Internships are not “one-and-done” here; students are allowed to do up to 4 (including at home over the summer if they want). Students have interned at all kinds of police departments, parole offices, court appointed special advocates for children, US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, YMCA, Women’s Crisis Centers, national parks (rangers), security, and investigative services. Some do Marine patrol: they get sent to a Police Academy and work May to September.
  • snhu-educationEducation:
    • Professors must be currently certified teachers.
    • NH certification has reciprocity with most states.
    • Mostly elementary or through middle school with Secondary Math (7-12), Social Studies (5-12) and General Special Ed (K-12). There wasn’t enough interest for the other secondary programs.
    • Culminates with a full year of student teaching (which students can complete in 1 or 2 settings).
  • Business:
    • Degree in Three: Most students who come here are able to handle it. It’s experiential which makes it different. It’s easier to opt out than opt in; if they think they want to try, come in. Retention in the program and completing is usually 80-90%. Sometimes they’ll take summer programs if they’re an athlete or just want to take it easier. Study abroad is built in if they want to do it, and often they’ll do some online work when they’re away.
    • Business students are exposed to a variety of experiences, discussed from a business perspective. They might see a play and talk about marketing, fundraising, and costs associated with putting it on. It’s practical experience and allows them see options for jobs.
    • Much of their work is project-based. They partner with major companies like Target (how they market food) or Kohl’s (market the management program).
    • Students can get their MBA in 1 year + summer
  • snhu-hospitality-centerCulinary Management:
    • Incoming student don’t need previous experience (in fact, it’s split between those who had some experience and those who hadn’t).
    • A 400-hour internship is required between freshman and sophomore years so they know if they really want to continue. Our tour guide did hers at a bakery working 3am-11am.
  • Engineering will be starting shortly now that they’ve taken over Daniel Webster College.

Admissions is test optional, even for Engineering right now. Decisions are rolling with an answer in 30 days.

snhu-4Some of the students’ favorite classes include:

  • Sport Practicum: “I worked with a major league soccer team. The professor ran class like a business: we dressed up, had to be on time. We developed and ran a pre-game event put on before a live game. It was so successful that they kept running it.”
  • Game Design class: “we made a new game every 2 weeks. The professor changed up the teams, mechanics, etc. It was the most informative class because we could test out designs and ideas. I didn’t even know I cold do it.”
  • snhu-3Intro to Geography: “I thought it was going to be easy – but it was successfully challenging. I learned more in that class than anywhere else.”
  • A 2-week Culinary trip to Italy: “they taught about Italian cuisines, we went to a parmesan cheese factory, learned about wine regions, did cheese tastings. My favorite was when we went truffle mushroom hunting!”
  • Abnormal Psych: “It was interesting to look at all the case-studies. The professor talked about real-life cases.”
  • Food and Beverage Management: “This was a hybrid class. We designed menus, learned how to price, do marketing, stuff like that.”

© 2016

Keene State College

Keene State College (visited 10/20/16)

keene-2Keene surprised me in the best possible way. What I saw during this visit is vastly different from the impression I had based on students who attended 15 or 20 years ago. Keene has transformed, and I’m excited about what they offer students academically and socially. Buildings are modern, and the atmosphere is vibrant with active kids and an array of academic and social options. Their motto, “Enter to Learn, Go Forth to Serve” is lived here.

keene-4The city of Keene has 23,000 people with an additional 4,200 students when school is in session. (As a side note, Jumanji was filmed in town, and a mural of the shoes is still on one of the buildings.) Campus sits on Main Street. “This is a cool area. A lot of stores are locally owned; we have very few chain stores, at least in downtown,” said one of the reps. Students love the accessibility of having several blocks of stores within a 5-10 minute walk. 26 restaurants sit on the main drag including Thai, Japanese, and Mexican. There are also shuttles: “Even Target is technically walkable, but who wants to haul all the stuff back?”


The Science Building courtyard

Students become a real part of the greater community; partly this is intentional on the part of the university. “We share a Main Street address with Keene. We take that seriously.” Students contributed over 119,000 hours of service last year starting with a full day of local service during orientation every year. Students, even those who may not have been service-oriented before arriving, quickly find ways to contribute talents. It becomes part of the culture, and students get excited about what they’re doing.


The archway on Main Street at the entrance to campus

Students get equally involved – if not more so – on campus. The prevailing attitude is, “You’re on the team. You’re here to play the game. Get involved.” One of the favorite traditions is kind of a “bookmark” – during orientation, new students walk through the archway and through a line of clapping faculty; graduates do this in reverse: they walk out through the arches past the clapping faculty.

Living on campus is required for the first two years; 98% of freshmen live on campus (the remainders commute from at home within 30 miles of campus). Overall, 60% live on campus. Off campus housing is easy to find; there are plenty of nearby rentals, and there’s an off-campus housing office. Campus food is “a solid 8;” Wednesday chicken patties are a big hit.

keene-tv-studioThe Integrated Studies Program (ISP) is their core; students take both an integrative quantitative literacy and a thinking & writing course in their freshman year and at least 2 courses in the upper levels (300 or 400 level). Maybe because of this interdisciplinary program, students aren’t pigeonholed at Keene. For example, a film student last year presented research at a biomed conference: “The Prof thought I was good at it,” he told the rep who was surprised to see him there; he encouraged the student to do biomedical research despite not being in that major. Both research and internships are often self-designed projects, and much of this work is showcased at the Student Symposium.

Seniors get surveyed every year, and they consistently give high marks for faculty involvement. Some of the students’ favorite classes include:

  • Genocide class: “the professor has written books and knows so much. It was a good overview.”
  • Inequality of Political Economy. “I don’t math, but I learned ideologies and how they factored into Economy. It didn’t feel like work. Everyone wanted to be there.”
  • Global Engagement: “This was a sociology-based class, and we went to Poland and Romania for 14 days. When else would I be able to travel like that for $750?”
  • “My Spanish Conversation and Composition class. We had to put on a play entirely in Spanish.”

Keene offers several strong and/or unusual majors:

  • keene-holocaust-studiesHolocaust and Genocide Studies:
    • Students asked to add Genocide when it became a major.
    • This is the first major of its kind in the country.
    • Students can study abroad for a semester in Poland (Center for European Studies)
  • Film Studies
    • Students participate in the American College Festival at the Kennedy Center.
    • Faculty from American Studies, languages, and film studies worked with Ken Burns for his most recent document The Sharpe’s War.
  • keene-sustainable-lab

    Sustainability Lab

    Music: this is the only public liberal arts school in the area to be accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music.

  • Safety and Occupational Health Applied Sciences:

keene-smoke-labThe students who do best at Keene State are those who took every key subject in high school every year. Admissions likes to see sub-scores from the standardized tests to know strengths and weaknesses and how students might need support. The application is free until 12/1 for Out-of-State students.

keene-5Keene focuses on the first-year student to help the transition. Orientation is a Family program: there’s a mandatory overnight program in June, and a parent/guardian has to attend with the student (they recognize that it’s not necessarily parents who are the contact person for students). They all stay in dorms. During the year, they aren’t looking just to fix students’ problems but to give students resources and learn to self-advocate.

© 2016

Plymouth State University

Plymouth State University (visited 10/17/16)


Robert Frost Statue

If you want to study meteorology in a small school or brag that Robert Frost taught at your alma mater, this is a place for you to check out.

“I was surprised at how friendly the place is. It’s a hold-the-door sort of place,” said one of the students. It’s a homey atmosphere, the type of place where a professor will run a Stitch-and-Bitch on a Friday evening in a dorm and have 40 kids show up.

psu-2People describe Plymouth as a transformative place: “it’s almost a “do-over/start-over” place where students who maybe didn’t think that they were college material come and realize that they are. They can hit the reset button here. They can move into a future that a lot of them never imagined for themselves,” said one of the reps. A student agreed: “I’m a better student now. I’m actually doing my work and getting As and Bs.”


Typical fall colors when the morning fog burns off

Students who haven’t found their voice yet often do well here. They have to engage in the process and understand what they’re learning because they apply it in a lot of classes. They’re responsible for it during group projects. “My biography does not preclude my destiny. If you’re not good at math, you know what? We have math classes here!” said another student. “No matter where they start, development happens,” said a rep.


Early morning walk to class in the fog

Lazy doesn’t work here. Students are “gritty and willing to work hard. Most are not coming from affluence. They’re willing to work for things and want to take advantage of the opportunity because they know that not all kids get that,” said a rep. The kids here are “often on the cusp of finding their passion. We do really well with kids who have heart and spirit. They’re good kids. That doesn’t mean they don’t have their hot-mess moments, but they have heart.” That being said, they recognize that their graduation rates need some work.

There are several things in place to help PSU students succeed. One is the existence of first-year success coaches. They take the “GPS approach: think of it as a roadmap. We know the way and what’s ahead.” Students get a nudge/reminder via text, email, etc when something is coming up “or missed a turn.”

psu-acad-bldg-2Plymouth has taken a deliberate stance towards “rebuilding the liberal arts.” They spend time asking themselves, How are they going to let students be transformative, to come out of school and be ready to take on challenges? The result is a redesigned core curriculum (starting the 2016-17 school year) revolving around 7 multi-disciplinary clusters:

  • Education, Democracy, and Social Change
  • Tourism, Environment, and Sustainable Development
  • Justice and Security
  • Innovation and Entrepreneurship
  • Arts and Tech
  • Health and Human Enrichment
  • Exploration and Discovery

For a school this size, 50 majors and 60 minors is impressive. The largest enrolled departments are: business, CJ, Education, Envi Sci & Policy, and Health and Human Performance. Things to brag about include:

  • psu-meteorology

    The meteorology building


  • Adventure Education
  • The Allied Health majors: Athletic Training, nursing, and Social Work. A PT department is in the works. Students from all majors come together four times before graduation to work on a “virtual patient;” they have to come up with solutions for cases as a group.
  • Theater Arts: Dramatic Writing, Acting, Musical Theater, and Design-Tech tracks
  • DHL now only recruits at Arizona and Plymouth State. They love the kids’ authenticity and that many of them have been working since 15 or 16. Some of these kids have never been on an airplane, and they get to live in AZ for the first 18-24 months of their careers.

Class sizes for students on the panel ranged from 9 – 32. Their favorite classes were:

  • Mind, Brain, and Evolution (psych). “It’s just fascinating.”
  • Event Management: we learn how to market and run fund-raising events by raising money for a local event.
  • Disney: Magic Kingdom or Evil Empire (FYS). The professor gave both sides of the arguments, we learned how to formulate arguments, etc.
  • US Feminism (history). I decided to minor in women’s studies because of this. We didn’t learn the stereotypical things.

One of the biggest dorms, and the tallest point in town.

Over 40% of the 4,100 students come from outside NH, although 90% of the population is from New England and the Mid-Atlantic. There are some buses running to Logan, Concord, and Manchester. They’re seeing an increase in the international population including a lot from Sweden: “I think they come for the hockey and maybe soccer,” said the tour guide. There’s an athletic culture here: about 80% of students participate in some form of athletics, whether on one of the 24 DIII teams or in club/intramural sports.


One of the dorm kitchens

96% of students live on or within 1 mile of campus. Housing is available all 4 years. A new Res Hall with 288 beds is opening fall of 2017. Freshmen are integrated into dorms; there’s no separate building. Weekends are less than busy, but there are certainly things to do. Skiing is popular (Cranbrook is only 20 minutes away). Before graduation, the students on the panel said that students have to:

  • See a movie or go stargazing on Lynn Green while drinking hot chocolate.
  • Take a selfie with Robert Frost (the statue on campus)
  • psu-chairsFloat the river!
  • Learn to ski or snowboard. “There’s no point coming to school here if you aren’t going to do that!” Students often come here because they’re active and/or enjoy the environment and being outside. There’s an outdoor center where students can get equipment for free to get outside whether it’s on the lakes or mountains.

Admission is Rolling; their app is free (Common App costs $50). Students only need 1 letter and NO test scores: they won’t look at scores even if they’re sent in!

© 2016

Colby-Sawyer College

Colby-Sawyer College (visited 10/19/16)

colby-sawyer-chapelThis is one of those schools that fits the quintessential “New England College” stereotype. The campus is pretty and the academics are solid. Students who put in the effort to do the work and be involved will fit in here.

colby-sawyer-studentsThere’s always stuff going on around campus and most students stay on weekends. There’s not much going on in the town of New London; there are a few restaurants and small stores: “You have to try a little bit, but there is stuff around. You find the little hole in the wall with a grill that makes the best breakfast sandwiches,” said one of the students. The college is located between Concord (state capitol) and Lebanon, both about 30 minutes away. Everyone gets a free ski pass to Mt Sunapee, and shuttles run there regularly. The college will offer trips to cities, and there’s a local bus stop if students want to go to NYC or Boston.


Solar panels

Their sustainability effort is about the only thing I could find to differentiate Colby-Sawyer from several other small New England (or really any) liberal arts colleges. I even asked several faculty and other people what they’d like me to walk away with to help me differentiate. Most had a hard time saying anything substantial. Community and faculty involvement were common threads, as they are at most schools. One faculty member said, “This is maybe a little harder” than another local college.


Inside the Sugar Shack

Sustainability at Colby-Sawyer comes in many forms (and they’re looking to be Carbon Neutral in the next couple decades). There are several outdoor classrooms including 2 in the woods and a student-designed sustainable classroom. The sugar shack (which we would never have known about if we hadn’t walked right by it on tour and specifically asked what it was) is run by a wind turbine – and students run the entire process of making the maple syrup from the tapping of the trees to the designing of the labels!


An outdoor classroom

Not surprisingly, they have a strong Community-Based Sustainability major. The Permaculture Class is open to the community: “When I took the class, it was like a pot-luck because it was an evening class. People brought food to share, and we got to know people in the community while we were learning.” Students can earn a certificate in Permaculture Design, and there’s even an Aquatics Studies minor.


One of the rooms in the library

Some buildings are fit with solar panels, and the college is committed to keeping old buildings when possible instead of tearing them down. The library is one of the coolest buildings on campus (and one of the best libraries I’ve seen on a college campus): the college refurbished two Civil War era barns and created a single building out of them. The pub building is over 200 years old. During the day, students can grab a snack or to-go meal, and many hang out by the fireplace to study. They will serve beer in the evenings.


The college mascot, which students “dressed up” with the Headless Horseman for Halloween (check out the horse’s red eyes!)

They’re looking to grow their student population from its current level at just over 1200 students to the 1400-1500 range. They went coed in 1991 and are still about 2/3 female. “The only time I notice the gender imbalance is in class, but it depends on the major,” said a student on the panel. The students accepted here represent a wide academic range.

The college ethos revolves around experimental education, capstone and internship experiences, and hands-on real-world education. They can tailor education, and they’re good about helping students. Professors know the students and will work with them. Their 78% freshman-to-sophomore retention rate is solid, and show that faculty and staff talk to each other and watch out for the students, but “Kids who need too much hand-holding won’t make it,” said one professor.

colby-sawyer-quad-1The First Year Seminar revolves around “This is how you survive in college.” One student took Anthropomorphism: “It was so much fun and a great transition to college. It helped us learn what to expect in college.” Another student took The Psychology of Friday Night Lights (Texas Football). “The professor was from Canada. I could be a help because I was from Texas.”

colby-sawyer-chairStudents complete a Third-Year Project, an 8-credit class that meets 3 times a week and 8 hours on Friday. “It’s a lot of work, a lot of stress, a lot of time out of the class, but it’s great. We’re bringing work to the President who’s helping put things into practice. It’s not just writing things down and having it thrown away later.”

Most academics here are fairly standard for a small liberal arts school with a couple exceptions.

  • They offer both a BSN and MSN; they have a partnership with Dartmouth Hitchcock medical for nursing clinicals. “Would you come here for part of the cost, or go there for more money? You’re doing the same clinicals,” said a nursing student.
  • Their Child Development major (also a minor) combines psychology, child development (biology), education, and even some sociology.
  • colby-sawyer-cowArts are strong, both studio arts and graphic design.

About 10% of the students are invited into the Honors Program; in addition to special classes, they get an additional scholarship and have access to an Honors Suite on the top floor of the main building for studying and hanging out.

Final piece of advice: apply by 12/1: these students are eligible for a $4000 Early Action award!

© 2016

Franklin Pierce University

Franklin Pierce University (visited 10/20/16)


Hammocks overlooking Pearly Pond

Franklin Pierce is located in Rindge, a small town in the southwest corner of NH, 10 miles from the Massachusetts border and 25 miles to Vermont. The closest small city, Keene, is about 30 minutes, as is Fitchburg, Massachusetts. From there, students can hop on an Amtrak into Boston or Albany if they want a bigger city. Being so remote, I asked about travel for the students coming in from a distance. The student on the panel who hails from California said, “Travel to campus isn’t too bad. Many of us will coordinate with friends in the area to get picked up from the train station or from the airports. There are busses, too. It’s doable.” The campus offers shuttles around campus during the day; starting at 5 pm, they go off campus. All students can have cars without any parking fees.



The Outdoor Adventure building

Pearly Pond is on the edge of campus; students can use the school’s kayaks, canoes, sailboats, paddle-boards, etc. They also have a crew team that practices on the pond. They hold an annual Cardboard Regatta at the end of orientation. Students can only use cardboard, saran wrap, and duct tape. This tends to rank highly on favorite events.


Some other favorite moments of students’ time here include:

  • A trip to Ghana with a professor and 2 surgeons to work in a medical clinic. “I got to do sutures and really cool medical procedures!”
  • Hiking the mountain: Students take buses over, and some compete to get to the top first “but just getting there is a feat in itself.”
  • “The professors help set up internships.”
  • “We can do what we have a passion for. I got to have conversations with visiting speakers.”

fp-2Students and faculty, like at most schools, talked about the community feel here. The Dean of one of the colleges sat with us at breakfast and told us about FP’s early warning system for students who struggle. “We have great NSSE Scores. They’re usually 20-30 points above national average.” However, she said they only have a 67% retention rate. I was unable to find out what steps were being taken to increase this.

fp-dome-2Because they’re located in such a small town, there tends to be good town-gown interaction. FP will host Trick or Treating for the community: “Last year we gave away an average of a pound of candy to each kid; no wonder it’s so popular!” said one of the admissions reps. There are haunted hayrides at Halloween, too. Community members often come to sporting events. They’re DII, so they have some athletic scholarships. They will be adding women’s swimming in 2017. The school also ties the local to the academics: My Antonia is the current Community Read; Willa Cather wrote part of this in Jaffrey, 5 miles away. As part of the Community Read program, they have speakers and other events; this year, they’re including a candlelight reading at her grave.


The Glass-Blowing studio

FP hosts the Institute for Nature, Place, and Culture and recently screened an original documentary, Hurricane to Climate Change. They also have a glass-blowing studio which we would never have known about if we hadn’t walked right by it. That’s a pretty cool resource available to students!


Academic offerings are standard for a small liberal arts college. They have a couple more unusual minors such as Forensic Psychology and Public History. They now offer a direct-admit 4+2.5 DPT program with some full-ride scholarships for qualified students; students complete a Health Sciences degree in 4 years at FP; if they meet the minimum standards during this time, they earn guaranteed entry into the 2.5 year DPT program at either the Manchester or Arizona site.


The Towers (Junior housing)

I sat in on about 20 minutes of the “Drones and Thrones: Modern European History” class. The professor was from Ireland and had great interactions with the students. She knew their names and called on them. However, it seemed like there was a lot of basic review from the previous class on the PowerPoint: general topics were listed (“Remember, we went over this” with very few details, and she told students several times, “This is something you should write down” if there was a detail added. Class wasn’t overly rigorous, and while there were two or three regular contributors, there wasn’t much discussion among the students.


Sophomore Housing

They just brought in their largest freshman class ever (the free applications through Common App are read on a rolling admissions). This is a highly residential campus, mostly because there are limited places nearby to rent. Housing gets progressively more independent: for example, juniors live in The Towers (not really towers) in suites with partial kitchens, and seniors move into townhouses (with full kitchens) overlooking the pond. “It’s a good transitional stage from college to adulthood.”

© 2016

New England College

New England College (visited 10/19/16)


The bell tower set among the rocks and trees of campus

“Show up. Be prepared. Engage. Take responsibility. Be a self-advocate. Come with an open mind. We can give you the skills; what you do with it is your choice.”

A few things make NEC stand out from other small liberal arts schools:

  • nec-dining-hall

    The dining hall with flags of international students

    It’s amazingly diverse (the most diverse in NH). “We celebrate it; it’s part of our core environment.” The diversity comes in all forms: gender, sexual orientation, race, veteran status, socio-economic status, whatever. More than 40% of the undergraduates self-report as underrepresented students and more than ¾ of the students come from outside New Hampshire.

  • For students interested in politics, this is the place to be. “We’re the Super Bowl of Politics. Our kids meet the next President of the US. All the candidates come through here. There are town hall meetings, kids introduce them, meet them, end up working for them.”
  • nec-sign-2The have a pedagogy of engaged learning. “Our way is to roll our sleeves up and do it; let’s get out there and apply it!” Wednesday afternoons there are no classes so kids can get out and do things. They go all over NH.
  • NEC’s core values center on civics and the natural environment. How do we develop new citizens to make a difference in their local, national, world environments? They ask people to weave in civics and natural environment.

Some of the dorms

This residential, beautiful campus is home to about 1500 undergrads from 29 states and 19 countries, including 5 new Americans from the refugee centers in Concord and Manchester. Applying is free, and admissions is rolling and test-optional. Admissions wants to see what they’ve done and what they want to achieve. “We’re small; we know the kids we’re working with.” Academically, students fall within a wide range, coming in with 2.0-4.0 GPAs, although average is a 2.8. “NEC is a special place; we’re willing to take a chance and work with the students from ‘less than stellar’ backgrounds.”



A student painting along the river as leaves fall from the trees

The small, caring community provides opportunities for students who are willing to work for it and take advantage of them; those who want to engage in the community will do well here. “It’s hard to describe the typical NEC kid,” said a faculty member. “It’s perfect for the place for students who may need encouragement and for those ready to fly.” In addition to tutoring and advising, they have a fee-for-service ($4500 yearly) mentoring program, a 1-on-1 service for time management, skill-building, organization, etc. Students do not need a documented need for this; anyone can sign up; they get about 40 freshman, dropping to about half that for sophomore year.



The new academic building

There are 4 Academic Divisions offering 32 majors all grounded in the liberal arts tradition. New business and performing arts buildings will open in 2018. A few programs worth noting are:


  • Outdoor Education: Students in this program take education classes and academic classes to back up the outdoor educations: for example, for rock climbing, they’ll learn physics and geology. One graduate is running a program in Norway, and got her Masters (after learning Norwegian) there. Another is an Asst. Dir. of a wilderness program in Montana.
  • Computer Information Science: “this is as experiential as you can be with a CIS degree”
  • nec-stage

    Building the set for FortinbrasTheater Education: one of the few in NH, and they have to also take all the Special Ed classes to be dual certified.

    Theater Education: one of the few in NH, and they have to also take all the Special Ed classes to be dual certified.

  • Theatre: phenomenal.
    • They’ve sent a large number of graduates to Inside the Actor’s Studio.
    • While I was there, they were preparing to put on “Fortinbras” (tagline: “I’m not here to finish their story. They were here to start mine.”)
    • Theater students put on a Haunted Trail for the community
  • Integrated Studies in Philosophy and Literature: One of the tour guides took “Humanity of the Inhumane” looking at philosophy, ethics, read Clockwork Orange, etc.
  • The study-away program (Amazon rainforest, Belize, New Orleans, Rome, Cairo, Costa Rica, Ireland) is free of charge: “This isn’t just for people with resources.”
  • Juniors with 3.0 or higher can apply to be in an accelerated program to take 3 classes that count for both undergrad and the Master’s.

View of the main street from campus

Henniker is very small (population 2500-3000); there’s a very small main street with a pizza place, a bank, and a pharmacy. The owner of the local Chinese restaurant will cook traditional food for students. “What we do really well now is to embrace that we’re in the country. We used to try to say that we were close to Boston – and certainly we’re close enough for a Red Sox game or whatever – but you aren’t going to do it every day.” Concord is only 20 minutes away, and shuttles run on the weekend. There are miles of trails right here where students can run, hike, bike. A local farmer lets them use an area for bonfires. Students get a free ski pass (rentals are $10): Sunapee is 20 minutes away, Loon is 1.5 hours, and Pat’s Peak is 2 miles away. A popular annual event is night skiing there when the school rents out Pat’s Peak for 4 hours. Kids will often come to class with ski boots on, either coming directly from skiing or heading out right after class.



The library reading room

As an unwritten rule: if students represent NEC in athletics, at conferences or programs at schools, etc, it’s an excused absence from class. Their students run ropes courses for orientations, including local public schools and Keene State. 40-50% of students play on one of the 17 DIII team including a championship rugby team. Men’s wrestling is new this year; women’s volleyball will start fall of 2017. Lots of Swedes come here for hockey, and Indian students play cricket on the little league baseball field. The men’s soccer team hosts the local Age 8-9 league; the kids got to line up and walk in with the team.


© 2016

New Hampshire Institute of Art

New Hampshire Institute of Art (visited 10/17/16)


The main building on campus

This is a small niche school, right for the very focused student who knows what he/she wants to do and wants individual attention. “Going to art school is about following your passion. It’s about a lifestyle,” said an admission rep. As with many Institutes of Art, they’re hidden kind of in plain sight. “We’ve been around for 118 years and no one knows about us. We’re aiming to change that,” said the President.



A city mural painted by NHIA students

NHIA knows what they’re doing, and they do it very well. One of its distinguishing factors is its location right in the city of Manchester (incidentally, the first planned and one of first electrified cities). The college is small, filled with people who are makers and want to contribute and make an impact on their community. The students bring service, much of it art-oriented, to the city itself; they clean parks, paint murals, and partner with the Manchester school district to bring art to the schools. They also intern in the city and beyond.



The jewelry making studio

The five studio-based majors offer an optional 1-year MAT program; the BFA in Creative Writing does not yet have an MAT option. Almost 1/3 of the students are enrolled as Illustration majors with almost another ¼ each in Fine Arts and Photography. Ceramics, design, creative writing, and the interdisciplinary program pull 10% or less of the population. All students get a MacBook loaded with InDesign, PhotoShop, Adobe, etc with the idea that the more skills they have, the more employable they are.



The Printmaking studio

Regardless of major, all students take a common Foundation class that crosses disciplines. Students are presented with common topics, prompts, and questions; for example, they might look at the Holocaust, and they’ll work towards solutions and presentations through their particular lens. The interdisciplinary start allows for growth and collaboration which is so important in the art world. They’re prepared for jobs, and they’re graduating with less debt than students at many other A&D schools. “We aren’t spending money on rock climbing walls. We’re spending it on things that matter to art students,” said the president.



One of the kilns being rebuilt by ceramics students: they learn all the skills needed to be successful after graduation.

Students develop a professional practice while here; this is the only art institute that requires 3 semesters of business, and many students take advertising classes as electives. “They think about what’s in front of us and what’s ahead. I love the way the college interacts with the city. There’s networking and internships. It’s us as artists, and allows us to tailor what we’re doing to make a life and future.” The Dean of Admissions said, “More and more employers want ‘Creatives’ because things are changing so fast, they want new ideas.” They’re marketable.



A working lounge in the Creative Writing building

My group spent an hour talking with one of the Creative Writing professors. Students “do everything here: play writing, memoirs, poetry, novels, short stories, non-fiction. Whatever they want to be, they’re going to do it well and rigorously.” There’s even a minor in Graphic Novel; they complete 2 Foundation courses (fiction and illustration), 1 trans-media class (how they work today in digital world), and 2 semesters in graphic novel.


With about 30 students in the Creative Writing program (they would like to grow this), students get intensive practice and personal feedback. They bring in professional, published writers every month to read their work, talk about the business side, run workshops, and even meet 1-on-1 with kids to give feedback. The Writing From the Senses class was happening while we were in the building; they had a drummer in (sound); other days, they bring in a chocolatier (taste), perfume (smell), etc to get kids to really delve into sensory descriptions.

A student came into the room as we were speaking to the professor. We asked him to sum up his experience: “I love writing here. Suggestions are relevant and it’s never boring. I’ve been stretched. I love Radical Revisions – you think on so many planes and in so many dimensions. It’s uncomfortable and challenging and great.”

All students in the major take Intro to Fiction, Intro to Poetry, either Memoir or Creative Non-Fiction, and a reading course, “not in the way they’re used to in High School. They’re looking to see how the author put it together.” Advanced workshops are required, and electives are varied, ranging from humor satire, writing the apocalypse, graphic novel, podcasts and audio narratives, and cinefiction (borrowing from film techniques). All students in the major have to be an editor on the journal: they have to create a website, put out a print version in the spring, curate it, and justify their decisions to include or not.

For parents who might be worried about their children majoring in creative writing, “tell them that employers are always looking for strong writers,” said a professor. They get professional writing preparation, and students often intern at magazines, blogs, and one is at Cambridge Writer’s Project. Most students go into editing, blogging, etc. Many will publish shorter works; “book deals don’t just happen.” Students who are go-getters who take advantage of everything at school have no trouble getting jobs. They go to events, take initiative, start radio shows, etc.


The converted bank vault

Of the 500 or so undergraduate students, most live on campus. Almost 40% of students come from outside NH (13% of which are from outside New England, including some international students). There are lots of clubs and other activities. The monthly “Slam Free or Die” poetry slam gets high reviews.


In terms of admissions, “Think of the application as introducing yourself to us. Talk about community involvement. Show off artwork. We’re looking for people with some technical expertise, but more importantly those who have ideas and want to share them.” Creative Writing applicants should submit something that shows their thought process and voice, in whatever form that comes in. Students are encouraged to go to a National Portfolio Day. They also suggest a summer program: “Do a deep dive into making art 24/7 to see what it’s really like.”

© 2016

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