campus encounters

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Archive for the category “North Carolina”

University of Mount Olive

University of Mount Olive (3/13/17)

UMO sign

The entrance to the main campus; you can see headlights from cars on the highway behind it

UMO’s main campus is small and located along a highway, tucked behind a shopping plaza. Luckily there’s a sign pointing visitors down the entrance road. Once you’re on campus, though, you would never realize either of those things. It is a lovely, well landscaped campus with low buildings and lots of lawn space.

UMO chapel

Campus Chapel

The chapel sits centrally located in the middle of campus. As a Baptist affiliated school, UMO holds onto its Christian mission. There’s a clear religious feel on campus, and students are encouraged to explore their faith. Students attending here should be aware that this will be a big part of the culture on campus and among students.

UMO 2

Student Center and dining hall

Students say that people are generally pretty friendly here. It’s not an overly competitive environment. Social life got mixed reviews. Students are required to live on campus for the first two years if they aren’t in commuting distance from home. Because it’s still very much a regional university with almost all the students coming from North Carolina, only 40% of freshmen (and less than 20% of the total study body) live on campus. Since there are so many people who don’t live on campus (or are close enough to leave on weekends), sometimes it’s too quiet. The town is very small, but there are plenty of stores and restaurants that are walkable. Raleigh, the closest city, is an hour away. Cars are allowed and parking isn’t much of an issue.

UMO quadBusiness programs are good here and provide several tracks including Human Resources, Agribusiness, Healthcare Management, and Business Analytics. Students wanting to go into Agricultural fields at a small school would love it here: they offer Agricultural Production Systems as well as Agricultural Education certification. However, I’d steer away from here if you’re interested in sciences! There are places that will serve you better in those areas.

UMO offers the typical athletic teams at the DII level. There isn’t any Greek life.

Graduation rates are low, and I’m not sure there’s much in place to correct that at this point in time.

© 2017

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Queens University of Charlotte

Queens University of Charlotte (visited 3/30/17)

Queens quad 3“We get kids who might fly under the radar, but we get the stand-outs, as well,” said a rep. “Maybe they haven’t blossomed yet. Students get a lot of opportunities here.” A parent told one of the reps (who relayed the story): “my daughter will become a leader for life here. I think the reality of Queens is ahead of its reputation.”

Queens hammock 2Queens plays up the idea of ‘Yes, AND’ – students can do several things without having to choose. Students have the best of both worlds: a small school (about 1500 undergrads) located 2 miles from the heart of Charlotte, a major city. Students complete meaningful internships and community service in whatever industry or service they’re interested in, during the school year, right down the road. Queens requires students to complete internships and will give credit for 2 of them, although students can do as many as they want.

Queens fountain 3The school is deliberate in its mission and how it gets manifested into the academics. General education requirements are organized in learning communities. “This is one of the most unique aspects of Queens,” said the Dean of University Programs. They’ve been implanting it for a couple years and getting data in now. It’s interdisciplinary, giving students skills needed for the workplace and understanding who they are as learners.

  • Queens CS LCThe 4 years are organized progressively: Explore, Express, Engage, and Synthesis. Students are presented with complex problems, must integrate learning, build communication fluency, link global and local contexts, and understand the well-being of communities.
  • Students engage in a core issue from multiple perspectives, taking 2 courses from 4+ options within a theme. Assignments cross both perspectives. There’s intentional group work at every level; teachers work together to model what they want students to do. Themes might include:
    • The New South: Politics of the New South (PoliSci), Lit & Film of the New South (Languages), Intro to Stats, New South (Math), Landscape of Identity (English) — How is place and identity interwoven?
    • The Challenge of Global Migration: Fabric of a Nation: Refugees in the US (History), Politics of Responses to Global Migration (PoliSci), Economics of Immigration (Business), Creating Transcultural Identities (English)
    • Urban Jungle, Infections & Zombies, Quest for Identity, Familial Identities, Human Journey, Art of Storytelling, Challenges for Journeys, Culture & Media, Global Migration, Gender, Image-making
    • Pursuit of Happiness: The Happiness Project, The Pursuit of Happiness: An Economy of Well-Being, Six Questions of Socrates, Peace is Every Step

Queens statueFavorite classes of students on the panel were:

  • Principles of Management (2 students chose this): “There were 25 people in it. The culture is great. It’s discussion based. People can say whatever they want without worrying about being judged. The professor, the CEO of Sun Alliance, created such a welcoming environment.”
  • Cognitive Psych: “ I love the prof. It was probably the hardest in terms of how strict she is and what she demands. It combined psych and bio which I love.”
  • Intro to Creative Writing: “The Professor was amazing! It opened my eyes to so many methods of writing that I hadn’t even heard of. Not everyone was a major, but we were a community. I was excited to go to class.”
  • Media Design and Art: “We travelled to Germany and Switzerland for 2 weeks.”

Queens stu cntr 1Some other special academic things to point out are:

  • They have a direct-entry Nursing program; applicants need a 24 ACT/1150 SAT and a 3.5 unweighted GPA across academic classes. As long as they maintain a minimum GPA in the program, they can continue. 98% pass the NCLEX on the 1st or 2nd
  • Study Abroad: They’re ranked 7th nationally for most students studying abroad through the John Belk International Program (J-BIP):
  • Faculty Led courses: students take on-campus courses with travel components.
  • Semester or year abroad
  • Summer Business and International Studies: 4 weeks in France or Shanghai
  • Language immersion programs.
  • They have 5 NC Professors of the Year (Chapel Hill has 7 and is a much larger school).
  • Queens labA few programs of note include:
  • Queens bell tower 2A couple of their majors are shifting focus:
    • Environmental Studies is becoming Sustainability Studies
    • Religion is becoming Interfaith Studies.

Queens moved to its current campus in 1914; it’s full of beautiful brick buildings and green spaces. They went coed in 1979 (and are still heavily female). Almost half of their students come from NC; 8 % are international (155 students from 50 countries). About 1/3 of students self-identify as multi-cultural. Students tend towards the liberal side, but it’s not an overly political campus.

Students have to live on campus until they earn 90 credits; 70% of students live in the dorms. Campus is fairly active, but “closer to the holidays when it’s cold, more people seem to go home on the weekends,” said one of the tour guides. The food is pretty good: there are fewer choices, maybe, but the quality is pretty high. “Parking isn’t great on campus. You have to circle a bit, but there’s a lot of street parking.” There’s good public transportation including a street car and light rail.

Queens RexFor a school this size, they have a surprisingly strong DII athletic program (the only 2 teams not on the NCAA roster are Rugby and Triathalon), and they have a “Threepeat” Swim Team National Championship team. “DII tends to be more regional as well as more personal with a community feel,” said the Athletic Director. “We have the academics of DIII and Athletics of DI.” The major sports complex is located a couple miles off campus; shuttles run back and forth all day. Field Hockey, Soccer, Softball, and tennis all practice and play here. “If you want to be nationally competitive, our facilities are top-notch.”

Queens athletic center

One student said that she would change the fan-base and school spirit: “It feels so small at the games. It’s hard to get people out to support the teams. It definitely doesn’t have that large-school DI feel.” Also, as DII teams, they’re not fully funded programs. All sports have a certain number of scholarships. They work with admissions to help spread these out with academic scholarships.

Admissions recalculates GPA of core classes and superscores both the ACT and SAT. Their most competitive scholarship is the full-tuition Presidential Award which requires an additional application. These students tend to have a 4.0 recalculated GPA and a 30 ACT. The numbers (GPA and scores) count for 40% of the decision; the rest are all the extras. Scholarship interviewers do not have access to the applicants’ grades: if they’re at the interview stage, they’ve already been vetted academically by Admissions.

© 2017

Duke University

Duke University (visited 3/14/17)

Duke living sculptures

Living sculptures in the Botanical Gardens on campus

Of course Duke is a great school, and the facilities are outstanding. Campus is gorgeous (the landscaping, gardens, and buildings are just amazing) and well maintained (including Wifi across campus). Although there is a central campus where most academics are held, many of the living areas are spread out with shuttles running back and forth to main campus. Parking is highly challenging, especially on the main part of campus. The town around Duke clearly caters to the students; there are lots of places to eat and shop.

Duke dorm 1

Even the dorms are gorgeous

Duke chapel int

The inside of the chapel, one of the most recognizable buildings on campus; a student was practicing the organ when I was inside.

Students have to live on campus for 3 years. All freshmen live on East Campus, located about a mile and a half from West Campus (the main part o campus); students ride shuttles to get to class there. There’s a dining hall on East Campus, serving breakfast and dinner for the freshmen. The junior giving me the tour is an RA out there. She loves it, but finds that meals are a problem because she has no meal plan (standard procedure for upperclassmen), so she has to come back to main campus for meals. After the first year, students get food points (1 point = $1) which they can use in the union and in grab-and-goes. Many of the upperclassmen, including Greek-affiliate, are housed on central campus.

Duke 1Not surprisingly, students who are passionate and like to put time into learning, are really involved outside of classes will do well here. “Classes can be overwhelming, and there’s so much to be involved in,” she said. People tend to overextend, if anything here. One thing that surprised her was the variety of course selections. “Things here opened my eyes. I didn’t even know they existed. You can come in thinking there’s standard information, but there’s so much to explore and you can keep digging.” A few of the unusual offerings include: Biophysics, Evolutionary Anthropology, and Statistical Science.

Duke treeMy tour guide particularly liked the House Courses that she took. These are ½ credit classes taught by other students and are done on a Pass/Fail basis. They are taught within the residence halls (explaining the name!). She took a class on Theology in The Chronicles of Narnia.

Duke dining hall 1

Part of the dining hall on main campus; this is divided into several different areas with a variety of foods. There’s plenty of seating on 2 levels and outside.

In addition to these sorts of opportunities which are meant to extend learning beyond the classroom, the university actively helps students connect with faculty. She feels that it’s been very easy to get to know faculty on a 1-to-1 basis, including having lunch with them. Duke will pay for the meal! “The faculty are open to talking about anything, academic or not!”

Duke chapel and courtyard

The chapel on campus: although a Methodist school (and a great graduate divinity program), there are no religious requirements. 

Beyond the support for research that you’d expect at such a major research institution, Duke runs a program called Duke Engage: they pay for students to go on service trips. Last summer, 432 students were selected to go. My tour guide went to Argentina, and a friend of hers went to Tanzania. If there isn’t a trip already set up that students are interested in, they can plan one independently. They train on campus and go over the summer. “If you start applying your first year, you’re pretty much guaranteed to get to go at some point, but you can only go once.”

Duke benches

One of the benches that will get burned if Duke wins their game against Chapel Hill.

Sports, especially basketball, are clearly a big deal here. Basketball is the one sport that people put in effort for. Tenting is a big tradition: students camp out for tickets to the Duke-Chapel Hill game. The Black Tent is the most intense; “people literally start weeks in advance.” At least 1 person in the group has to be there at all times to save the group’s spot in line. For the other games, people will camp out a day or two in advance. Tickets are free, “but you have to wait.” Football is much easier: “you can just walk up.” Games are held on campus. If Duke wins, students will burn a bench on the quad, and then they’ll rebuild it.

© 2017

High Point University

High Point University (visited 3/16/17)

HPU waner cntr 2High Point has come a long way in a very short time. I brought a group of students here 8 years ago; the changes since then are astounding. They have a few more buildings in the works to be completed by 2020: a res hall opening August 2017, and Schools of Health Science/Pharmacy and Undergraduate Science. An arena (ice hockey) and conference center just got approved: “45% of our students are from the north.” When these are finished; they’ll expand the endowment.

HPU Galileo statue

Statues of famous people, like Galileo, are all over campus

The current president has made a big difference changing the mindset on campus. “You don’t get an education by picking up information. Knowledge isn’t understanding. You can get trained anywhere, but education better be holistic.” The campus is purposefully designed to change how students approach education. “I want people to think about WHY, not just how. Why do we have a steakhouse on campus? So students can learn business etiquette. Be a human being of relevance. This takes knowledge, understanding, and human relations.”

HPU stu cntr 2It’s important to take much of this with a grain of salt. I spoke with 2 former students currently studying at HPU. They enjoy being there, but were open about problems facing the school. “It’s all about appearances. There’s not as much substance as they like to make people think.” The people who thrive here are confident and have a passion for something. It’s easy to get connected to resources. They both gave the career center and internship programs big thumbs up. “It’s one of the best things about the college, but it is very much NC based. There’s some stuff on the East Coast, but not much beyond that.” Counseling services were also given high ratings.

HPU pool

The pool outside the student center

“It is a country club. That isn’t a false reputation.” A lot of people here are into Greek and/or social life, or they’re here to take advantage of networking/Business connections. They both agreed that it’s an expensive school, and Financial Aid isn’t great. “Take advantage of everything here. You’re paying for it.”

“People here are image driven. It’s homogenous and easy to get caught up in the shallowness. People who are different are fish out of water; they’re probably going to transfer.” There is a great deal of apathy towards diversity. “It’s tolerated but not celebrated. It can be frustrating. Racial diversity seems to be the hardest because it’s the most visible,” said one. The other said, “LGBTQ students will be fine here if they’re not way out there. I’ve never heard overtly hostile comments or felt threatened, but sometimes hear ignorant comments.” That being said, they did agree that there is a lot of room to grow at HP. “You’ll struggle in a constructive way.”

HPU business interiorGrowth mindset is at the center of all they do: HPU has trained faculty and offer Growth Mindset Grants for faculty research projects, student scholarships, etc. Over the course of the counselor program, the Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) was repeatedly brought up. The entire education is built on Four Pillars: Academic Excellence, Experiential Learning, Character Development, and Life Skills.

All classes are taught by faculty. Professional grad programs (physical therapy, physician assistant) means no TAs. The number of faculty with PhDs is lower than some other schools but they pull a lot of people directly from the field. For example, Joe Michaels teaches here. He directed The Today Show for 8 years, won an Emmy, directed the opening ceremonies for the Olympics, etc. “He doesn’t have a PhD. Who cares?? He’s an amazing resource for our students.” They also bring in Innovators in Residents like Steve Wozniak. Check out all the speakers at http://www.highpoint.edu/innovators/.

HPU sport med 1They’ve seen a sharp increase in undergraduate health sciences because of the grad programs. Generally anything labeled as “pre-“ is not a major except pre-pharmacy (one of the top-10 freshmen majors). Pre-pharm students complete 2 years of intense pre-reqs and then transition to a 4-year DPT program without their undergrad degree. Applicants need at least a 550 math on the SAT: “We don’t have a single exception to that … we’ve never had a student score lower who could do it.”

HPU 3Other strong programs include Visual Merchandising, Graphic Design, Actuarial Science, and International Relations. Unique programs include:

  • Interior Design: ranks in the top 10 in the country. High Point is the furniture capitol of the world. By junior year, students can be designing for major companies.
  • Business Admin: Entrepreneurship, Sales & Entrepreneurship, and a 5-year MBA.
  • Communication, including interactive Gaming & Game Design, Event Management (#1 in the world, beating out the reigning 5-year champs from Korea), and a 5-year Masters – strategic Communication.
  • Education including LEGO education and a 5-year Masters in Elementary Education.
  • 3-2 Engineering with Vanderbilt. “No students do this. They end up staying here all 4 years,” said the rep, “but the option is there.”

HPU amphitheaterAll classes are worth 4 credit hours to account for mandatory experiential learning: service-learning, internships, or problem-based inquiry. English classes could tutor local children, and Business Ethics partners with the Chamber of Commerce to interview and work with 30 Under 30.

They’re on their way to reaching an enrollment goal of 5,000 undergrads. Retention is increasing 1-2 points per year, and they bring in 1,375 new freshmen each year (21.5% from NC). They haven’t reached a gender balance (42% male), and racial diversity is still something to work on. However, they’ve seen a recent grown in Hispanic and African-American students. The 1-1 study abroad exchanges help diversity.

HPU dorm hammocks

Hammocks in front of one of the dorms

Part of their retention comes from the Common Experience, including:

  • All students take a Seminar on Life Skills from President Qubein. Two students said, “It’s not all it’s made out to be. I learned a few things, but it’s not all that.”
  • Common Read
  • In-hall educational programming and Community Meetings
  • First Year Seminars or Eng 1103: students are grouped in res halls based on what they’re enrolled in.
  • Freshman success coaches (they transition to a major-specific advisor in their field later).
  • Undergrad Research and Creative Works: students in all disciplines can research as early as freshman year, even sometimes a 2-month summer project before freshman year. Students do the bulk of the research in the summer and write it up over the year. Meals and housing are covered and get a $3000 stipend.
HPU dorm 2

One of the dorms with a sand volleyball court in front

Students must live on campus through Junior year, but few leave because the dorms are so nice that there’s no reason to leave. They even have single-family houses for students. There are 5 tiers of housing with Tier 1 being the lowest price-point. “It’s hard to get into Tier 1 Housing unless you move to one of the off-campus areas and shuttle in,” one of the student told me. For a 3rd consecutive year, HPU ranked #1 in Aramark’s Student Satisfaction Survey of college food.

HPU classroom

A typical classroom in the business building

Classes are small. No one on the student panel had a class with more than 30 students; smallest classes ranged from 4-7. Their favorite classes were:

  • Astronomy taught by a guy who had discovered 5 new stars.
  • Linear Statistics: “We learned models and methods. For the last month, we did a project to apply this to whatever we wanted. I looked at airline delays and what caused them.”
  • Debating the Death Penalty: “I went in with a narrow idea of what I thought I believed. We filled out surveys about things like mental illness and pregnant criminals. We had to talk about what we believed, and she put out “What if?” situations. I loved that it was controversial and discussion based.”
  • Intro to Women and Gender Studies. “I had a narrow view of the topic. We did an action project involving the community. I partnered with a sorority about domestic violence and organized speakers and a candlelight walk.”
  • Intro to Event Management. “I didn’t think it would be so interesting. Speakers came to every class like a manager from the Sheraton. We had opportunities to work in the field and get hands-on experience.”
  • Science Fiction Philosophy: “I had a paradigm shift of how I look at the world, as simple as “who am I? Am I the same as when I was 7?”

HPU fire pitAbout 33% of students go Greek. Rush happens in spring semester, but one of the students (she’s affiliated) said that’s being changed next year to fall. Almost all affiliated students stay through graduation because it creates community, but “It’s not the end-all and be-all by any means.” There is Greek housing, but they each only hold about 15 people.

Campus has tons of activities, including a full movie theater and a bowling alley. The Concierge plans trips off campus ranging from Hanged Woods to Panthers home games to midnight premiers of Twilight. For students traveling home, free transportation is given to the Greensboro airport (about 20 minutes away) or to Charlotte or Raleigh-Durham, “Free if we were HP gear!”

Students on the panel were surprised by:

  • “I come from a big football area and I was a bit bummed that there wasn’t a team, but I love how much more attention the other sports get because there’s no football team.”
  • “How many opportunities there are. I knew it would be caring, but not how much people would be there for me. People do research all the time. It kind of woke me up and said “go do that!””
  • “How many professors have been in the field. One of my psych profs ran her own clinic. She uses real case studies to bring in real-world applications. My advisors worked at Lifetime and NBC. They want to help you with those connections.”
  • “We have the freedom to run with ideas.”
  • “How much it means to the community and people who work here. There are signs in town that say, “High Point’s University.” Businesses paint their buildings purple.”

During admissions, “The first place we’re going is the ‘Why do you want to attend HPU?’ question. We want them to be able to vocalize that they understand it’s a little different, otherwise they won’t enroll.” 125 students who look like they might be good fits but aren’t quite there academically are invited to complete Summer Experience. They recalculate to an unweighted GPA and will include everything with a grade on the transcript. EA students won’t get deferred, but they’ll be clear with students if they want to see new grades and/or test scores. Once supplied, they’ll make a decision.

HPU fountain 2Fellowship Applications are due 2/1. Students can apply to all 3 but can only enroll in 1.

1) Honors Scholars: Suggested eligibility: 1310+SAT, 28 ACT, and a 3.45 unweighted GPA.

  • The core curriculum includes 39 credits over 4 years in small, interdisciplinary classes. There are 5 foundation courses, Modern Language at 2nd semester level, 2 scholar seminars, a year-long signature project, and a senior professional portfolio.
  • Classes must be project-based, involve research, and be writing- and reading-intensive to qualify as Honors.
  • “It’s Qualitatively Different,” not just harder and more work. It’s work that gets them thinking in new ways. Our tour guide said, “Now it’s worth looking into. It’s not like when I came in 3 years ago.”
  • Students are housed in Finch.

2) Media Fellows: 16 Communication majors get a $3000 stipend, access to industry innovators, a living-learning community, and special trips (including international)

3) Leadership Fellows: Demonstrated leadership ability and potential.

© 2017

University of North Carolina – Wilmington

UNC Wilmington (visited 3/13/17)

UNCW seahawk 2

The main building and Seahawk (mascot) sculpture at the main entrance to campus

I have sent several students here over the years, all of whom had good things to say about it. I finally had a chance to visit, but because I was not able to get into town in time for an official tour, I got in contact with a former advisee who is currently a bio major and psych/neurobiology double minor with sights on med school. I walked away from campus incredibly impressed. They seem to really take care of the students with amazing academic and social opportunities and up-to-date facilities. Their retention rate of 85% indicates that they’re doing things right!

 

UNCW quad

bike racks are all over campus

“What surprised me is how smart people are. They study and go to class.” She said that it can be difficult to find seating in the library because it’s so well used. “Students who have the work-play balance figured out are going to do great here!” Students will spend time at the beach and still get to class and study. “You’ll see a lot of people using long boards and bikes here, and they go barefoot a lot. People wear surf shorts to class. Sometimes they’re coming right from the beach. That kind of sucks if you’re sitting in the chair after them and you end up in a damp seat.”

 

UNCW 6Long known as the place to go for Marine Biology, particularly in the UNC system, this school offers much more. Oceanography falls within the Earth and Ocean Sciences department, and there’s also a Physical Oceanography program within the Physics department (URI is the only other university in the country to offer this degree).

UNCW health sci bldgs

Two of the new health science buildings

The Health Sciences (including Nursing, Social Work, and Allied Health) are also strong and have been growing. They’ve added a couple new buildings with talk of more in the near future. Along with majors you’d expect, they offer Recreation Therapy and Public Health Studies.

 

UNCW 5UNCW doesn’t have Engineering but offers a pre-engineering program with 2 tracks in conjunction with NC State. The 2+2 allows students to choose from 11 majors including the more unusual Agricultural, Construction, Material Science, Paper Science, Textile, and Nuclear Engineering. The 3+2 program is a little more limited: students complete a Computer Science, Environmental Science, or Physics major at UNW and then go into Computer, Electrical, or Environmental Engineering at State.

UNCW apts

Some of the apartment buildings.

About 40% of students live on campus although there’s no residency requirement. There is a “village” of apartments that even freshman can live in. “I wish I knew that this was an option when I first got here. I ended up in a traditional hall which kind of sucked, but I did make a lot of really good friends. We definitely bonded over the experience!” Off campus housing is cheap and easy to find: “Rent is really cheap, and I’m hoping to move closer to the beach next year. We’ll see how that goes.”Students living within a mile of campus cannot park on campus.

UNCW greek dorms

A more traditional dorm where Greek affiliated students get room together on floors. Lettering is on the side.

Shuttles run frequently around and off campus, and there are monitors to show where they are on the route and time to arrival at a particular spot. Dining hall food at the main dining hall is “not so good” but there are a lot of other options. Only about 10-15% of students go Greek. “There are only 114 women in my sorority.” Something she would do to improve campus is to build Greek Housing and put in another dining hall.

 

UNCW Chancellors walk

Chancellor’s Walk

UNCW stu cntr

The Student Center

This is a medium-sized public institution with about 13,000 undergraduates. Campus is fairly big but manageable. Chancellor’s Walk is the main pedestrian thoroughfare, acting kind of as the main center of campus, stretching about half a mile through the middle. “People use it to run because it’s easy to plot out distance.” On sunny days, people pour out of the academic buildings that line the walk. “Even though it’s a big school, I see people I know everywhere.” This certainly seemed to be the case; she was greeting people by name everywhere we went on campus.

UNCW seahawk and clocktowerIt was raining when I visited; even in the increasingly heavy rainfall, it’s a beautiful campus! “I wish you could see in it the sun! It’s gorgeous!” The rain didn’t dampen the attractiveness, but students were not out in the numbers they normally are – although there were plenty of people out and about. “One of the drawbacks on campus is that it floods/puddles easily. Given the rain we get here, you’d think they would have figured it out by now and fixed it!

UNCW porchA lot of students stay all year to do research or other work on campus. “Plus, it’s a beach town. It’s easy to find jobs.” The Greyhound station is only a couple miles off campus making getting to campus easy (although all students can have cars).

© 2017

University of North Carolina – Greensboro

UNC Greensboro (Visited 3/15/17)

UNCG original bldg

The original college building

Little known trivia about UNCG: it’s the only college in NC that has a Bojangles! UNCG also has a free tour app that’s worth checking out.

UNCG 5Although originally known as the Education school of the UNC system (it started as a teacher’s college), UNCG also has strong sciences and other programs. Academics are so impressive that the school has been listed as one of the country’s best institutions for undergrad education annually since 1999. It’s also the most diverse of the 17 UNC schools.

UNCG quadI was surprised to learn that Greensboro was one of the founding members of the UNC system in 1932 along with UNC-Chapel Hill and NC State. This is a research university serving about 16,000 undergrads. Faculty are still engaged in their fields, and they bring the undergrads along for the ride. Despite the size, the rep giving the info session, herself a UNCG grad, only had 1 lecture-style class with 125 people during her time here. The tour guide said that her biggest, also an intro science class, had 150 people but only had 17 in her English class the first year. She’s had classes with 7 students in her major. Her favorite class was an Anthropology class called Cults and Conspiracies. “The Anthro department gets really creative!”

UNCG minerva

Statue of Minerva sits in the middle of campus

A few things surprised the tour guides about UNCG: first, that everything stayed open late (“I’m from a small town; I’m not used to being able to get food after 10!”); second: “it initially feels huge but it’s really not! I see people I know all the time” (and you can walk campus corner-to-corner in 15 minutes); and third: “how helpful the professors are. They seem scary but aren’t.”

Some programs unique to UNCG (within the UNC system) include:

UNCG clock and quad

Don’t walk under the clock or you won’t graduate on time! (Every campus has one of these rules). 

Other notable/unusual programs are:

UNCG bell towerQualified students can participate in the UNCG in 3 program, an accelerated pathway to the degree available in about 30 majors. To be eligible, students must come in with at least 12 credits (AP, Dual Enrollment, etc). Benefits include priority registration and dedicated advising.

UNCG honors dorm

The honors dorm

Students from all fields of study are welcome to apply to the Honors College. Students who meet the HC criteria when they apply to the university will receive an invitation to apply to the HC. Because this is an internationally-focused program, students do need to study abroad for at least a semester. All students can take advantage of study abroad programs, including summer (but that alone does not fulfill the HC requirement). Many study abroad programs offer a 1-to-1 student exchange which helps increase diversity on campus.

UNCG plaza 4

One of the many plazas with seating areas. This sits between the dining hall and dorms.

Located in a residential area not far from downtown, the UNCG area caters to students. “You have all the things you’d expect like coffee shops,” said the tour guide. The Yum Yum shop got particular mention (“It serves hot dogs, hot dogs, ice cream, cheer wine, and hot dogs. If you want any of those, you can’t go wrong”). There are 3 free shuttle and bus routes available for students: the UNCG shuttle, the HEAT bus which runs between several Greensboro area universities, and the Greensboro City bus which has stops on campus. Students are able to take classes at other Greensboro area schools including Guilford, A&T, Elon, and Greensboro College. Everything is easily accessible, and the school provides transportation even the airport which is 10 miles away.

UNCG rec pool 2

The rec pool where Dive-In Moves are held.

There’s no lack of things to do on campus. Students love the “Dive-in Movies” held at the recreational pool. The art museum has exhibits from students, faculty, and even famous artists (they had a Warhol exhibit last month). All UNCG sporting events (there are 17 DI teams) are free for students. All teams compete on campus except for basketball that plays at the Coliseum just over a mile away.

UNCG dorm 2

One of the 2 largest dorms on campus (the other is next door and looks similar). This houses freshmen.

There are 26 residential halls, including special-interest housing. “Rooms in the ones with double names are a little bigger!” said the tour guide. Students are never required to live on campus, but about 80% of freshmen will live on campus in traditional hall-style. Apartments and Suite-style are available once they reach sophomore standing, and “at least 60% of students stick around.” There are some off campus apartments with shuttles available to campus. Shuttles also run around campus every 10 minutes.

UNCG art museumUNCG does not take the Common App; students need to apply through SpartanLink. Application review begins September 15th, and Priority Consideration is 12/1 which includes Priority Scholarship Consideration (certain scholarship winners are selected from this pool). They will superscore both the SAT and the ACT. Essays and recs are optional but encouraged. Due to NC regulations, applicants need 1 math beyond Algebra 2.

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Salem College

Salem College (visited 3/17/17)

Salem main buildings

Some of the main buildings from the historic park (people in costumes were doing school programs). The Moravian church is in the distance.

Salem is impressive and seems to have its act together. This historical women’s college sits in the middle of historic Salem (complete with people in period-costumes giving tours), minutes from downtown Winston-Salem. The Welcome Center is in the original building built in the 1700s by the Moravian Sisters who walked down here from Bethlehem, PA. Although founded on Moravian traditions, they’re no longer affiliated but hold onto some traditions. There’s a large Moravian Church adjacent to campus; they hold a candlelight Christmas service every year followed by a traditional chicken pie dinner for all students who want to attend.

Salem transwomen banner“The diversity here surprised me,” said the rep, herself a recent graduate of Salem. “It’s not the stereotypical southern school.” She says that it’s “heavily liberal” and estimates that about 70% would self-identify as Democrats. About half the students come from NC with the highest numbers of out-of-state students coming from Texas (accounting for much of their Latina population), then MD, VA, and SC. They have clubs for all faiths and ethnicities.

Salem historic park

The Center for Inclusiveness and Diversity sits on the far end of the park.

Their Center for Inclusiveness and Diversity sits physically in the middle of campus “because why not put it front and center? We want it to be important.” They hold Round Tables and Open Mics on Wednesdays, discussing everything from politics to current events to ethnic relations. “It’s all about education and discussion,” said the tour guide. “They even did one on hair once.” It’s a safe space, and sometimes faculty aren’t allowed to attend so students can openly discuss issues. Other times, faculty will lead the round tables.

Salem walkway“A lot of women don’t want to come to a women’s college because they don’t want the drama. Of course, you eliminate the men which often cause the drama.” This isn’t to say that they’re living in a bubble. They’re in a city with other universities around (UNC School of the Arts is a little over a mile away, and Wake Forest and Winston-Salem State are also in town; add High Point and all the Greensboro schools, and there are huge numbers of college students within 45 minutes). “The drama here is about people coming from different backgrounds. People learn from each other. They grow because of it.” The rep told a story about initially having problems with a woman on her hall until she realized the behavior was from upbringing and just not knowing anything else; the two of them ended up talking and learning from each other and were in each other’s weddings.

Salem porch

The back porch of the main building backing onto one of many courtyards

The fact that Salem is so centrally located among other colleges means expanded opportunities. Students get free tickets to Wake Forest and some Winston-Salem State games and are free to join their Color Guards among other things. Almost 1/3 of Wake’s Color Guard comes from Salem, including their Drum Major for the past 3 years.

Salem dorm 1

One of the dorms on campus

All students live on campus unless they commute from home or there are extenuating circumstances (medical issues, etc). There are some off-campus suites within walking distance that are college-owned. These are within easy walking distance (5-7 minutes according to the tour guide), but all students can have cars. Parking costs $60 a year and is relatively easy to find. They can also use bikes that they check out at the student center. Dorms have open visitation policies: in the freshmen dorms, males can visit 24 hours on weekends (until midnight during the week) with all-week 24-hour visitation in upperclass dorms.

Salem 1Food rates a 7 on a 1-10 scale. The main dining hall is the traditional all-you-can-eat, but there’s also the Café where students can get sandwiches and other grab-an-go items. They get 4 meal exchanges per week that they can use at the café, no more than 1 per day. On Tuesdays and Fridays, the school brings Chic-fil-a sandwiches to the Café. “It starts at 11:30 and goes until they run out.”

Salem fountainDowntown is a 7-10 minute walk from campus giving students access to the Innovation Quarter, film festivals, all the businesses and stores. They do lots of internships in town including working in the Wake hospitals or labs. There’s also a ton going on on campus (including movies in the theater, often with popcorn. “Students bring blankets and pillows. It’s great!” said the tour guide. “If you’re bored here, it’s because you aren’t leaving your room.”

Salem art bldg

The arts building with greenhouse windows to let light into the studios.

A favorite tradition is Fall Fest which serves as a type of homecoming (there’s obviously no football). The students get the Wednesday after Labor Day off (they don’t get that Monday off), and they hold a day-long competition between classes including skits, singing competitions, and more. The Freshman get their Big Sisters on that day.

Classes are actively discussion or hand-on based with classes topping out in the 20s. The January Term classes tend to be more experiential; these were the tour guide’s favorites. One of them focused on prep for law school and careers in the field; they shadowed people, had deans from law schools talk to them, went to court houses, etc. The tour guide’s largest class was 23 in an intro class and 7 in a seminar. The Honor Code allows them to self-schedule exams during the week-long exam periods.

Sciences are strong with the usual majors offered (bio, chem, biochem, and envi sci). Chairs in labs are built for a female body, taking into account the bigger hip ratio and shape of the back. The environmental, eco-friendly movement is strong around campus. For example, the confetti at graduation is all biodegradable, and students are given reusable coffee mugs when they arrive so they don’t throw coffee cups in the trash.

Salem art gallery

One of many gallery spaces in the art building

Arts are a big deal at Salem. The have a huge fine arts building; the bottom floor has greenhouse windows for light. The building is full of display spaces. Students can major in Art, Studio Art, Art Management, Design, and Art History with minors/certificates/concentrations in Historic Preservation, Interior Design, Architectural Studies, and Visual Literature.

Salem May Dell

The May Dell Amphitheater

May Dell Amphitheater is a central point on campus. Orientation and graduation are both held there (among other events in good weather). At orientation, this is where they sign the honor code. A couple years ago, they started a new tradition where students “get their daisies,” the signature flower of the school. “It’s a cool ceremony; I’m sad they started right after my year!” said the tour guide, a junior. “Students walk up, a little like graduation, and are handed a daisy by the president. The idea is that we get a daisy now and the diploma later. We come full circle at May Dell.”

© 2017

 

UNC School of the Arts

UNC School of the Arts (visited 3/17/17)

UNCSA statues 2This is a really impressive school! I walked away ready to gush over it to students looking to go into the arts. Although there was not an information session, per se, they did show us the school’s “Awe and Wonder” video before taking us out on tour; it’s worth a watch.

This is UNC institution, but the admissions rep told me that they are not bound by the 18% out-of-state rule, and in fact, they pull almost half of their student body from outside North Carolina. Although run very much as a conservatory, students do need to complete liberal arts coursework, usually 1-2 classes per semester. “Our liberal arts classes are usually in the morning. By noon, we’ve moved onto our major classes and are there well into the evening,” said the tour guide. He has design classes for set-building that run until 11pm twice a week.

UNCSA display 3

Some of the student-made costumes

There are 5 main areas of study:

 

  • Dance: modern ballet or contemporary dance
  • Music: Composition or Performance
  • Design and Production: This has the most options within the division, including Scene Design, Stage Properties, Stage Management, Wig & Makeup Design, Sound Design, Scenic Technology, Lighting, and Costume Design & Technology
    • UNCSA lighting specs

      lighting specs for a current production

      They go through all the rotations as freshmen to understand what all the different areas do and are more able to work together since none of this exists in a vacuum.

    • In the 2nd year, they choose a concentration
    • They have a prosthetics studio!
    • This is the only school with a Wig and Makeup Design specialty
    • Costume Design and Costume Tech are 2 different things:
      • Design creates the 2D conceptual drawings and do the initial creative work.
      • Tech takes the Designers’ drawings and create the pattern, take actors’ measurements, and then create the actual physical costume. They need to understand how fabrics work. “They’re kind of like engineers.”
      • They do have a Dance Costume class to give students a sense of what this entails, but most students do not specialize in this.
      • They usually bring in 6-9 students a year (out of about a dozen accepted).
    • UNCSA display 2

      Wigs, Prosthetics, and props for past productions

      Drama: acting or directing

      • The 3 main theaters on campus serve as production spaces as well as classrooms.
      • The Thrust Theater has a turntable on it
      • The Black Bock is huge and everything is movable. There’s a tension grid for the techs which can be walked on. This will be updated soon. “It was state-of-the-art 8 years ago, but technology changes.”
    • Filmmaking: Screenwriting, Animation, Cinematography, Directing, Producing, Production Design & Special Effects, and Picture Editing & Sound Design
      • There are soundstages on campus, but students are also allowed to film within 20-25 miles of campus. “Those trucks over there will get loaded up on the weekends and off they go.”
UNCSA soundstage

One of the sound stages

Facilities are outstanding; we walked through sound stages, prop rooms, design workshops, theaters, costume making workshops with literally walls of fabric, and “Narnia,” a warehouse of costumes stacked 2-racks high. In prop rooms, our tour guide said, “We have lots of connections: different places will lend us equipment or even donate their old stuff.”

Although there are only about 1000 students on campus, they manage to put on 1000+ events annually. “We don’t have sports because we don’t have time,” said the tour guide.

UNCSA set design

Set and prop design

UNCSA is the only conservatory-focused school on Money Magazine’s list of more than 700 schools, and is the #1 school in NC. Program standards are high. Students are creative as well as having a business focus; they think about budgets and schedules. They make things happen. “That’s imperative in this world,” said the sophomore Design and Production major who was leading the tour. This pays off with 96% of graduates having a job in their field within 6 months of graduation.

UNCSA posters

Some of the student productions on campus

According to the Awe and Wonder video, “Top professionals in their fields come here to teach by doing. Students are ready to go into the workforce.” During our tour, we got to talk to 2 students concentrating in Wig and Makeup Design who were working in one of the labs. They couldn’t say enough about the program or the faculty. I asked how many of the professors were still working in the field. “All of them. I’m pretty sure it’s a school requirement that they’re active. A lot of them come in a few days a week to teach because they’re still working.”

UNCSA display 4

A miniature set-design done before the full-size was created

“I really love the faculty. They’re willing to work with us and let us try things out. The attitude is ‘Let’s figure it out and make it happen!’” said the tour guide.

Masters Classes are held regularly. Producers, directors, and lots of other people come in to run these. “There’s even one on how to live in New York!” The students said that these are great ways to start making connections with people in the industry. They’ve lead to internships and shadowing opportunities. Students are always out working and getting experience whether its with a local festival or in LA, NYC, or another major area.

UNCSA dorms 2

Dorms

There are a variety of dorm options from traditional to apartments, but “many students move off” after the 2-year residency requirement. There are plenty of rental places in town. Cars are allowed and parking is decent. Shuttles run periodically to the mall and to downtown. Food “is a 7. It’s nourishment, but there are some options around.”

UNCSA 4Admissions requires a portfolio, and interview, and/or a audition. Often students will sit with faculty in their intended area to talk through their preparation and what they hope to do/their trajectory. This helps them make sure they’re in the right program and lets people counsel out students who might do better at a different type of institution (like a comprehensive school). “This is not a fit for everyone!”

“If you’re a loner, think you can do it all on your own, or are arrogant, you won’t make it here. That being said, you don’t have to fit into a mold. There are lots of quirky people here and that’s cool! We all get along.”

© 2017

Shaw University

Shaw University (visited 3/14/17)

Shaw bridge

Bridge over a city street connecting the academic and residential sides

This is the first college I’ve heard of that requires a criminal background check of their applicants. “That’s not to say that they will automatically deny. It’s a safety thing for the campus,” said the rep, herself an alum of the college.

This small, liberal arts HBCU with about 1800 students is located right near downtown Raleigh. Despite being in the city, it still manages to have a cohesive campus that’s compact and easily walkable. “Classes as small as 7 here. Professors are going to know who you are or if you’re in class.”

Shaw sign

Mural under the pedestrian bridge

Shaw was the first HBCU to admit women; today they enroll almost 60% females. Almost ¾ come from North Carolina.

I was not impressed with the organization, communication, and willingness to help on campus. No one seemed to really know what was going on. Even something as simple as parking and finding the admissions office was off. I stopped and asked a security guard and got pretty good directions, but the security officer inside the building near where I parked was on her cell, barely acknowledged me, and when she did, didn’t bother moving the phone when I asked if I was ok where I was parked. She waved dismissively and said “You’re fine if you’re down at the bottom” and turned her back. I was concerned that my car was going to get towed. The Admissions/Welcome Center was no better: the woman at the desk said I needed to check in upstairs with Admissions. Once upstairs, the Rep in an office near the stairs kept an earbud in while telling me that I had to go downstairs, check in with the Receptionist (the one who just sent me upstairs) and wait there for the tour. When I went back down, she had no idea what I was talking about or how to help. She called upstairs and got told a different story from what I was told. I almost left …

Shaw chapel

The chapel

Affiliated with the Baptist church, the religion major and Divinity Schools are well known. Chapel is active but not required for undergrads. Some of the health sciences are also strong such as kinesiotherapy and athletic training. Social Work and Education are also noteworthy.

Shaw dorms

The two dorm buildings

Dorms are mostly traditional. Only freshmen have to live on campus, and they and the sophomores have priority for housing. If space remains, upperclassmen can stay on campus; otherwise, they have to move off. There are some triples (not forced) as well as some rooms with double beds available for an extra charge. Food is “ok.” Fried Chicken Wednesday and Fish Fridays (“We are in the south,” said the rep) got special mention. For those interested in Greek Life, all Divine Nine are on campus. They have plots in Greek Park. Students have to meet minimum GPA and credit hour requirements, and so they can’t rush until at least sophomore year.

Shaw mascot 2Athletics are DII, and the student ID gets students into all the games, all of which are held on campus except for football that plays at the Durham County Stadium. Buses are available to get students out there. Women’s basketball is the most competitive team with a National Championship, but “All games are packed out. Even the community comes. The women’s games are full because they’re so good.” The Marching Band has become increasingly good over the past few years.

Shaw quad and cityStudents must have a minimum 2.0 GPA for admissions. Although they don’t require a minimum test score, all students must take a standardized test and submit the scores. These are used for scholarships and placement purposes. “There are lots of scholarships available.”

SShaw bell towerhaw has instituted a First Year Experience that encompasses mentoring, seminars (even covering financial literacy), and a required attendance at monthly Cultural and Spiritual Enrichment Seminars (which upperclassmen are “highly encouraged” to continue attending). Students must attend CASES in order to graduate; they’re held once a month. Students are issued blazers, a tie (men) or scarf (women), and must wear grey or black slacks or skirts and a white button up shirt. I’m not sure The FYE has done much … Only about 45% return for sophomore year and only 25% graduate within 6-years. However, it is an excellent deal at about $25,000 (Tuition, Room & Board, and fees) for the year.

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North Carolina Central University

North Carolina Central University (visited 3/14/17)

NCCU 1Although not flashy, NCCU’s campus of mostly brick buildings is well kept up, attractive, and easy to navigate. Many of the dorms are tall, utilitarian, and older/less attractive than other buildings providing traditional hall-style rooms. Students do have to live on campus for the first year, and the university is adding suites and apartment options to the traditional halls (particularly for those students who stay on campus after the first year).

NCCU 2Founded in 1910, NCCU is now part of the UNC system. This HBCU (currently 78% African-American) is nationally recognized as a community engaged institution. Students need 60 community service hours to graduate; the rationale is that this gives students connections with the community, networking opportunities, and a chance to build skills.

NCCU Greek Bowl

Some of the Greek plots/decorations along the side of the Greek Bowl

Located in Durham (ranked as the 4th best place to live in the US), students have no shortage of opportunities. In addition to 3 other major universities (and their basketball teams) in the Research Triangle (Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill), Durham is known as the City of Medicine and the Technology Hub of the east coast. There are plenty of job and internship opportunities around. The campus is only about a mile from downtown and a few miles from Duke.

NCCU sciencesDuring the info session, the rep told us that NCCU offers 78 degrees (majors) with 146 Degree Concentrations, but this includes graduate degrees. Undergraduates can get degrees in about half of those. The biggest majors include: Nursing, Business Admin, Criminal Justice, Pharmaceutical Sciences, and Hospitality and Tourism. A 3+2 Dual Degree program is offered: students major in Physics at NCCU and then complete an Electrical Engineering degree at NC State, Duke, or Georgia Tech. Another noteworthy program is the Early Medical School Selection Program in conjunction with Boston University. Students qualify during sophomore year and then transition to BU in senior year to complete their degree (they remain jointly matriculated at NCCU) and can begin taking a couple med school classes).

NCCU footballThe 6000 undergraduates seem pretty active on campus. There are 310 athletes playing on the school’s 14 DI teams. Their big rival is NC A&T in Greensboro, and the Ag-Eagle Classic is a huge game/tradition. Greek Life is also big with all of the Devine Nine represented. Students need 30 credits and a 2.75 GPA to rush. All the Greek Organizations have a plot circling the “Greek Bowl,” aka the Library Bowl (the library sits on one side of the area) or the Unity Bowl, so named because during the 10:40 all-school break on Tuesdays and Thursday, students tend to congregate in there in good weather. There are DJs or other fun things planned during this time.

NCCU fountain

The fountain next to the library in the “Library/Greek/Unity Bowl”

Admission decisions are done on a rolling basis. North Carolina high school seniors can apply for free during the mid-November Free App week (www.CFNC.org). Dates change every year so check the website! For out-of-state students, they’re looking for a 2.75 GPA or higher, and applicants must submit the writing portion of the SAT or ACT. Students will be automatically considered for most scholarships and can apply for 75 more at: www.nccu.edu/scholarships/. The Students interested in the Honors College need to apply to the program; the rep said that the students selected for the program generally have a 1530 SAT (with writing) or 23 ACT + 3.3 GPA to come in as a freshman.

I’m not impressed with the graduation rate here (slightly under 50% graduating in 6 years), but for students who do get involved, are willing to seek out opportunities, and who are looking for a medium school in a small city, this might be a good choice of school.

© 2017

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