campus encounters

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Archive for the category “Ohio”

Case Western Reserve University

CASE WESTERN RESERVE (visited 4/11 and 1/13)

~CWR bikes and quadOne of the admissions reps described Case Western students this way: “Every place says that their kids are nice. . . . it’s bizarre here.” So nice, in fact, that students regularly take up the Million Minute Community Service Challenge.

~CWR 5Students are also very competitive, very smart, and very demanding on themselves. Many double or even triple major. “Our kids are focused but not so set in their one path that they aren’t willing to try other things.” However, about 2/3 do end up graduating in the division in which they entered, although not necessarily the same major. Nursing is the exception to this with about 95% continuing.

CWR students

Students collaborating in a Business School lounge.

Students can be creative and innovative here: they design, fail, break things, and try again. The school isn’t setting kids up to fail. Often, this is the first time they’re with a lot of people who were in the top of their classes in high school but learn quickly that this is ok.

~CWR dorms and track

New residential area surrounding some of the athletic facilities

This is a big campus for 4500 undergraduates (about ¼ of whom are from Ohio); there are actually more graduate and professional students than undergrads, but CWR is actively increasing research opportunities for undergrads who can start as early as the first year. Case actively looks for ways to “expand” campus by encouraging students to utilize all the wonderful things at their doorstep in the city of Cleveland. Campus borders University Circle, a renowned cultural, artistic, medical, and educational center.

Case’s SAGES program (Seminar Approach to General Education and Scholarship) includes 5 semester-long, writing-intensive seminars. These classes, limited to 17 students, include 3 interdisciplinary classes over the first two years, 1 class in the student’s major, and a capstone project. Students can no longer test out of their writing requirement based on AP scores, and faculty say that this helps with writing skills. The content and sequence is “integrated and intentional. Students are well-coached and well-practiced in skills employers want.”

~CWR 7The first seminar (taken in the first year) focuses on skill building by providing extensive feedback about writing, speaking, engagement, etc. Students have several options meant to engage them in life of the mind. The built-in “Fourth Hour” includes events scheduled in the institutions around the Circle (Art museum, Natural History museum, etc) so that students take advantage of the region’s cultural capital. Before the end of sophomore year, students also complete 2 University Seminars meant to extend knowledge by exploring topics at a more sophisticated level. They produce longer writing projects and oral presentations showing a more advanced analysis. The Seminar in Major allows them to become facile in disciplinary knowledge and the modes of communication in that discipline. Finally, the Capstone allows them to define a problem or ask a question, then find a solution or answer. It could be an experiment, an artistic creation, an extensive research project, etc. Both written and oral presentations are required.

~CWR 6About 2/3 of the students are in the Science and Engineering departments. Biomedical Engineering draws the most students followed by Mechanical Engineering. Systems and Control Eng., Engineering Physics, Civil Engineering, and Polymer Science and Engineering are the “small but mighty” departments. In the Sciences, the Gerontological Studies, History and Philosophy of Science, and Evolutionary Biology programs are worth noting.

~CWR Applied SSTheir Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences departments are smaller but still strong; these departments will feel much more like a small Liberal Arts college with discussion courses. There are several Collaborative Programs that link CWR with other schools and programs throughout the city. Their music department is a bit unusual in that they teach musicology and music history but not theory or performance: students looking for those can cross-register at the Cleveland Institute of Music and neither can complete degrees without the other. They do the same with the Cleveland Institute of Art: students at either school interested in Art Education complete part of their degrees at the other school. All CWR students can take up to 4 credits per term at either the CIA (Art) or CIM (music).

~CWR business 3

Business School

The Business School is booming and housed in a modern, well-designed building. Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Organizational Leadership, International Business, and Supply Chain Management are particularly worth taking a look at.

~CWR nursing

Nursing building

The nursing program is particularly strong and is named as one of the top 15 in the country. This is a direct-entry program with classes starting in the first semester – and clinicals starting in week 3! Students complete 1600 clinical hours before graduation, almost 2 times the national average. If that weren’t impressive enough, students can also study abroad through articulation agreements with programs in China, Cameroon, and Alaska (yes, they know that this isn’t abroad – but students say that it sometimes feels that way in the small villages they’re placed in!). One student from Pittsburgh did her capstone in Hong Kong where she audited classes and studied increasing obesity in high schoolers. Also unusual is that students in the program can double major. One student from Cincinnati is also getting a degree in PoliSci.

Applications have increased more than 200% in the last 8 years; international apps are up from 500 to over 4000. Applicants get ranked in 22 academic, leadership, and extra-curricular categories. They currently admit about 42% of applicants. Students who visited campus, went to the HS visit, or did an alumni interview are twice as likely to be admitted. “We can still take kids with a 1200 SAT. We don’t want to have it harder to do that.” They have a single-door admission except for music (audition requirement) and art (portfolio requirement).

~CWR north Res VillageFreshmen are housed in 4 residential communities helping Case with their excellent 93% retention rate. There are also residential complexes for 2nd year and for upperclass students. Their Graduating Senior Experience program is one of the few I’ve run into. Almost 1/3 of students are Greek-affiliated (and many live in Greek Housing). 20% of students stay on campus to take classes, do research, or just take advantage of other opportunities during the summer. The college-owned Squire Valleevue Farm is about 8 miles from main campus. Aquatic Biology is offered in May Term so students can go into the streams for hands-on learning. There’s also a ceramics area out there.

© 2015

College at Wooster

The College at Wooster, visited (4/20/12)

~Wooster1“There are black squirrels everywhere. They freak me out! The freeze when they see you and just stare . . . You know what, squirrel? I can see you!!” I seriously want to go back to school at Wooster, and not just because the tour guide at Wooster might have be the funniest, most personable guide I’ve ever encountered on a college campus (although it’s true what they say about tour guides – they can make or break the experience in a lot of ways).

One of the many sculptures on campus

One of the many sculptures on campus

Students at Wooster didn’t seem to have a stereotypical look (but without being as quirky as Oberlin students where they appeared to be trying hard to NOT be the same); the people I talked to backed up that impression: students said that people were not cliquey and tended to get along really well. The students want to be involved in the community in addition to wanting to learn. They’re curious: these are the types of students who will read a quote in something they read for class and will then read the book that the quote came from on their own. The tour guide told me that the academics are challenging but not competitive: “Your A doesn’t detract from my A.” There’s no sabotage, no competition for resources. People would rather that they all succeed, and she thinks that makes the campus a happier place and definitely feeds into the community feel.

~Wooster 6This curiosity is one factor keeping students at Wooster because they are given outlets to pursue their own interests. Every senior takes a class of ONE – their mentored Independent Study. They pick their project and have weekly meetings with the advisor throughout the year. Students have done everything from researching which microbes will break down Prozac to doing a documentary on Tween and Teen transgendered students. Juniors complete a “Pre-IS” project to determine the feasibility of the project (including doing preliminary research to make sure they have enough material to work with) and to set up a plan/timeline. Students can get some travel money to complete their projects if that’s an issue; one anthropology/ theater&dance major who had studied abroad in Fiji got a travel grant to return for 3 weeks to complete her project on the cultural components of dance in Fiji. As a double major (which is not only possible but encouraged), she needed to tie in her two majors in her senior project. The admissions counselor I spoke with was a Wooster graduate who wrote his Senior Project on the British Canal system; he couldn’t believe that they were cutting him loose in England to go do primary research. After graduation, he went to work for the National Parks Service at the Erie and Ohio canals before returning to work at Wooster.

Wooster 5However, even though they love learning, the students aren’t the stereotypical nerds/geeks who hole up in the library and do nothing but study. Sports, clubs, and other extra-curriculars are really big on campus. The tour guide told us about signing up for clubs: “Every fall, they hold Club Fairs on this quad. Everyone comes out for it, and all the clubs bribe you with chocolate to come to their tables. I signed up for a bunch of things, and now my mailbox is flooded. I get mail from SO MANY different clubs that are doing things ALL THE TIME. I really wish I knew how to get off the list-serves but haven’t figured it out yet. . . . It so wasn’t worth the chocolate!”

Their mascot in tile in the foyer of the new athletic center.

Their mascot in tile in the foyer of the new athletic center.

Of the 2000 students on campus, 20% participate in theater and 30% are involved in some sort of music group (including one of the five a cappella groups and the Pipe and Drum Corps) — including 10% of the students in Marching Band who perform in full Scottish Regalia – their mascot is the Fighting Scot, after all. Athletics are also big, and not just in terms of playing on a competitive team (allthough about 30% of the students play a competitive sport), but also supporting the teams from the stands, playing an intramural sport, or just working out in the new Athletic Center; alums raised $22 million for the Center during the height of the economic downturn which speaks volumes about their experiences at Wooster (in fact, the donated money covered almost the entire cost of the building). The admissions representative called it the “wow piece” of campus (although I thought there were a lot of “wow pieces – a lot of buildings are really great!). When the tour guide was taking us through the new athletic center, she told us, “The material used to make the [indoor] track is the same stuff they used at the Beijing Olympics. I don’t know how that benefits me, but it sounds pretty cool, doesn’t it?”

~Wooster 4Students have a strong sense of community activism and they tend to get involved in the wider community, although their Entrepreneur Program seems to need some work; I asked both the tour guide and the admissions counselor what they would do if someone handed them a million dollars to improve campus. The tour guide said, “Save the entrepreneur program.” The admissions counselor had that 3rd on his list after expand the organic farming initiative and work on the environmental science program. The social entrepreneurship program pairs students with non-profits around the community to develop and refine sustainable plans. There’s also Global Entrepreneurship in Bangalore, India. The connection to India started about 100 years ago because of missionaries. Now Wooster has a large alumni base in India who know that it’s not about the big name but about the quality of the education, so the school has become a hot-spot for students wanting to study in the US.

Wooster 2Academics are impressive here. The sciences are particularly strong; Wooster ranks 4th in the country for Chemistry PhDs from a liberal arts school. They’re also 22nd in the country for engineering PhDs – and they don’t even have an engineering major! However, they do have a 3-2 engineering partnership with both Akron and Wash U of St. Louis. There are several other 3-2 programs, as well, such as in environmental studies (Duke) and in nursing. They even have a recent graduate with a Fulbright in Nuclear Science studying at George Washington. The academic buildings we saw were beautiful: lots of wood, nice carpeting, and comfortable work areas. They were warm and inviting – definitely conducive to a learning environment. As with most universities, they sometimes had oddly paired departments sharing buildings such as Philosophy and Geology (since the philosophy department is on the top floor and the geology department is on the bottom floor, the running joke is that the building proves “mind over matter”).

~Wooster 3I took the admissions people up on their offer to eat in the dining hall, located on the 2nd floor of the closest thing they have to a student union. I got there in the middle of the lunch rush; the line to get into the dining hall was all the way down the stairs; I almost left, but decided to check out the bookstore for a few minutes instead. After spending about 5 minutes there, the line was gone, so I headed up the stairs. I found a stereotypical dining hall: a large room, lots of tables, several options for food. Students swiped their cards as they enter and could stay to eat (they could eat as much as they wanted), or ask for a to-go container which they could fill for the same swipe. Although very full, there was seating for everyone, and people were getting served quickly. In addition to a lot of the typical stations (sandwiches, pizza, burgers/hot dogs), they had things like eggs-to-order (including omelets) all day, specialty foods, a large salad bar, etc. Food was clearly marked if it was vegetarian, vegan, or gluten free. Apparently there are kosher and halal meals available as well; about 10% of the students self-report as Jewish and several more self-report as Muslim. The community is incredibly inclusive. Cultural and religious celebrations are common on campus and draw big crowds of all sorts of students. My tour guide (who was from India) said: “Yeah, in my culture, you’ll see lots of parties: a god defeated someone by doing something – so we celebrate!” The admissions counselor said: “You’ll see the whitest person from Iowa dressed up some traditional garb of whatever group is celebrating.” Eid dinner, Seders, and other religious dinners also draw people of all faiths. People are very open and want to share their traditions and faiths with others – not to convert, but to educate. Wooster students are the types to want to learn about these differences and celebrate them. Who wouldn’t want to have that sort of community?

(c) 2012

Baldwin Wallace University

Baldwin-Wallace College (visited 4/19/12) (now BW University)

“Ok, before we go into the lab, we have a couple rules. First, leave all food and drink outside. Second, do not lick anything in the lab. Everyone good?” Really, you can’t beat a biology professor with a good sense of humor!


The main Conservatory building on campus.

First impressions mean a lot even though we’re told not to judge a book by its cover. BWC made an excellent first impression with its beautiful old stone buildings, immaculate grounds, and tulips and daffodils blooming everywhere. The good news is that the substance of the college did not disappoint! The people at BWC were the only ones on the seven-college counselor-tour who showed off what made them distinct from other schools instead of giving the typical spiel/song-and-dance. A couple other schools gave lip-service to the idea of “we’re not going to tell you that we have great faculty, study abroad options, and research opportunities, because every place you go is going to tell you that” . . . and then they proceeded to tell us about those things. BWC didn’t. Instead, we got to spend time in a lab to interact with students doing independent research, check out innovations in their athletic center and the majors associated with it (such as athletic training, exercise science, sports management and health promotion and management), and then tour their Music Conservatory and learn about programs there. I didn’t even know that they HAD a conservatory; neither did my sister who is a musician, so it’s clearly one of their best-kept secrets! The students go on to do impressive things including performing on Broadway. Seniors graduating with a Musical Theater major participate in a showcase every spring in New York City in front of several directors and producers. This happened about a week before our visit, and within a span of five days, all 13 graduating seniors had signed with agents. (As a comparison, I heard that Michigan had two at that same point in time). An audition is required for entrance into the Conservatory (accredited by the National Association of Music Schools) which offers emphases in performance, pedagogy, jazz, conducting, theory, composing, and sacred music in addition to the unusual major of Music Therapy. (Students also have to be proficient enough on at least one instrument to gain acceptance into the Conservatory if they want to major in Music Therapy).

BWC3Baldwin Wallace actively looks ahead to jobs that experts predict will be available for students in 5-10 years, and then creates majors and learning opportunities for students in order to prepare them. They created 14 new degree programs in the last four years or so. The Physician Assistant program is 1 of 6 in Ohio; they’re a year away from accreditation for a 3-2 program. They excel in Health Sciences and Allied Health majors. They utilize the nearby Cleveland hospitals, some of which are ranked in the top 10 nationally, and they work with industry professionals to develop the new degrees. Their Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing utilizes Concept-based learning; only a couple other programs in NM and NC do this. The Health Sciences are producing impressive results; this year, two students (a junior and a senior) interned with the top pediatric neurosurgeon in the country.

Other majors of note include Digital Media and Design (combining artistry/creativity and technology), their Software engineering degree starting this fall (the only one in the state), Health Care Management, Public Health (which started this fall; 29 students are already enrolled), and Recreation Sport Sciences.

BWC4One of their major goals across all majors is to create a practice-based education. Most of the faculty members come to BW from the fields in which they teach allowing them to provide practical, real examples of how the theory and knowledge they teach translates into the real world. Almost every student completes some sort of “experiential education” experience through internships, study abroad, and other types of programs. The school has 52 articulated agreements for study abroad with options for others if students find a different program they’re interested in. Students must complete a minor here in order to broaden their educational field.

Although this is a Methodist-affiliated college, it does not feel at all religious. Although we didn’t get a full tour of the school, I’m not sure they even have a chapel; if they do, it’s not obvious in the main part of campus. However, the current president is only one of two in the history of the institution who is a non-Methodist, non-pastor president; he was also only one of two college Presidents on the tour to take the time to talk to us (Otterbein’s president was the other).

BWC is a Test Optional school; applicants have the option to turn in graded paper instead of test scores. They are also committed to affordability; there have been very small tuition increases in the last several years, the lowest in their peer-group. The entire bill comes to $35,000 a year including all the fees (tech, health, etc.), although the tuition at the conservatory is higher than the rest of campus because of the private lessons. The best thing – and the first time I’ve heard of a school doing this – has to do with the Meal Plan: students only get charged for what they use. If they don’t use it, BWC will give it back!

This incoming freshmen class (fall of 2012) can sign up for a 4-year graduation guarantee. BWC has been intentional about getting students out in four years, and they’re putting their money where their mouth is. They have a mapped-out four-year plan so students can stay on track. It is a completely voluntary program and basically requires that the students do common sense things such as meet with their advisor regularly and declare a major within two years as well as attend seminars and sign a waiver that will release information to the parents (if they drop a course, if they aren’t doing well in class, etc). If they do everything they need to do but can’t graduate within 4 years, the 5th year’s tuition is free.


One of the dorms with a sand volleyball court in front.

Students must live on campus for freshmen and sophomores years unless they are within a certain radius of campus and living with family. About 80% of freshman and sophomores live on campus and about 2/3 of the total undergraduates are on campus – that’s almost 2,000 residents on campus. Freshman can have cars on campus.

I was left with the good impressions of BW that I started with and I would definitely recommend it to my students. It has the typical smallish-college feel but with a lot of options and innovative programs that allows students to take advantage of a lot. The campus is comfortable and students are friendly. A former student of one of the counselors had joined us at lunch so we got yet another student’s perspective; he loves the college and all that he can do there.

(c) 2012

Ohio State University

The Ohio State University (visited on 4/17/12)


One view of campus from the top of the library.

Driving onto campus, one of the other counselors said “It’s clear to see where Ohio is spending its resources . . . and it’s not Kent State!” It’s true that OSU is flashier and feels newer, but they are also very different campuses in more way than one. Physically, yes, OSU seems to have many newer buildings, but it’s also a much larger, busier university with high-rise, institutional dorms and buses that are constantly loading and unloading students. The edges of the OSU campus, although as rough as Kent, quickly gave way to an impressive campus; buildings were newly built or renovated, new construction was underway (apparently the President said that if there weren’t at least 3 cranes on campus, not enough was happening), and campus was clean and well-maintained. I was much more impressed with the University than I had expected to be. I assumed that it would feel much larger and more impersonal because of its huge size (with 40,000 undergraduates and 16,000 graduate students, I think it has the 3rd largest student population in the country after Arizona and Florida? By comparison, Penn State with several thousand fewer students, felt more overwhelming and sprawled much more than Ohio State).

OSU 6They started our tour at the top of the 15 floor library (which, by the way, has about 10,000 people a day come through its doors . . .) where we had panoramic views of the entire campus – not a bad first impression! I asked the director of admissions how far the main campus stretched, and he pointed out the four boundaries. The compact size of it surprised me; he said that you can walk from corner to corner of the main campus in 15-18 minutes, although there are other satellite buildings that fall beyond the borders.

OSURecently, there has been a big push to increase student engagement and happiness which is paying off in retention, currently at 93% from freshman to sophomore years. Their First Year Experience gives students a chance to learn how to navigate OSU and Columbus and to feel at home and engaged in the opportunities around them. There is some recent impetus towards adding a “Sophomore Year Experience” of sorts, including a sophomore residence requirement. Currently, only freshmen are required to live on campus unless they are from Columbus. Clearly, OSU is already doing something right since their five-year graduation rate falls in the mid-high 70s, above the national average. They are very intentional about tracking freshmen, especially those who come as Undecided Majors – they have an office dedicated to one-on-one meetings with undeclared students, checking in on their progress with classes (what they’re registering for as well as how they are doing with their grades), and providing a lot of guidance.


Another view of the campus from the library tower.

Unlike a lot of schools, they separate out their Honors and their Scholars programs even though the two programs overlap in terms of who qualifies. Students in the Honors program tend to be more academically focused while the Scholars lean towards community service and global learning; they also live in a cohort and many tend to stick together for more than just their first year. For both programs, they look for people who want to push themselves and are looking for rigorous academics as well as opportunities for leadership, research, service, and global experiences. In terms of general admissions to OSU, their profile has been steadily going up for the past 20 years. The biggest admissions factors are grades, high school curriculum, and test scores. They will consider leadership, extra-curriculars, and other factors, but they are less important. They offer several merit based awards including the Buckeye Award (worth $10,000) to students in the top 40% of the class and a 28+ ACT or 1260+ SAT. They also have the Eminence Scholars Award which is a full ride plus a one-time stipend of $3,000. Specifics of these awards are listed at

Several people – students and staff alike – bragged about the diversity offered to students both in terms of who is around them and what is available to them. Students can choose from 175 majors, 475 specializations/minors, and over 12,000 classes a year. The School of Arts and Sciences is the most popular with almost 39% of students in there (not surprising for this type of school); engineering has just over 15% and business has almost 14% of students. Their Agriculture, Pharmacy, and Nursing programs are also strong. They push internships and co-ops hard, which are not hard to come by since Columbus is so large (1.7 million people); students can also go abroad for internships. On-campus research is available; they are 9th in country among public universities for research expenditures which gets a lot of kids involved.

OSU 2I was very impressed with OSU; for students looking for a large university, I would definitely recommend it. They seem to have their acts together; kids don’t fall through the cracks nearly to the extent that I had thought they might at such a large school. Students seem happy with their education and the resources on campus, and the retention and graduation numbers back up what I saw and heard on campus. The location is fabulous since so much of Columbus is available to them. It’s definitely worth checking out.

(c) 2012

Otterbein University

Otterbein University (visited 4/17/12)

Otterbein 1One of my former students had gone to Otterbein and had a great experience, so I was particularly excited about getting to see her alma mater. As a particularly big fan of small liberal arts schools, I was hoping for great things. I knew very little about the school other than they were on the quarter system, the student had good things to say about it, and a few things that I had read on the website (and let’s face it – one website starts looking a lot like every other website after a while).

The bus pulled up to the Equestrian Center for the first part of our tour; this was a good move on their part since it highlighted a unique program at the very beginning. The Center was extensive and new; after being able to meet the representatives for our regions and a brief welcome from the President of the college (and being able to help ourselves to some very tasty cookies!), we got a tour of the riding rink and the barns where we also got to play with some of the horses, many of which looked expectantly for peppermints, the new treat of choice. Students in the Equine Studies program have priority for space in the barn for their horses, but other students can board horses as space allows. The university also owns many of the horses, most of which were donated from a variety of sources – rescues, ex-race horses, etc. Equine Science is a selective program; this year, they had about 70 applications for 22 new spots.

Theater is the most selective program on campus, accepting 16 students out of the approximately 400 who apply for the BFA in acting. We talked to several students who had auditioned for a spot in the acting program but didn’t make it; however, they liked OU so much that they came anyway and are majoring in another area of theater such as Design & Technology, Musical Theater, and Theater Management, or they’ve gone into communications, another very strong program with concentrations in areas such as broadcasting and journalism. Business is the largest major; popular concentrations include accounting, economics, finance, human resource management, and international business. Education and Nursing are both strong, popular programs, and students have high levels of success on the respective Board exams. The university is instituting several new programs this year; Sustainability Studies, Zoo/Conservation Science, and Public Administration are new and unusual, and the Arts department allows students to concentrate in areas usually only found in much larger universities (Computer Art, Sculpture, and Printmaking).

Otterbein 2Several of the schools I visited in Ohio had some sort of claim to fame about being among the first to accept or educate women and/or blacks . . . Otterbein is no different. Their claim is that they opened their doors in 1847 and were the first to have equal graduation requirements for men and women. (Oberlin, on the other hand, was the first coeducational college in theory – meaning it took them several years to actually accept female students — as well as being the first to accept and graduate black students, but apparently they didn’t have the same requirements for the degree as the men did). Depending on their wording, I guess a lot of colleges can be the “first” to have done very similar things.

Otterbein continues to lead the way in several regards. The Association of American Colleges and Universities awarded a large grant to Otterbein and four other colleges (including Tufts and Georgetown) to develop an integrative curriculum which will serve as models for other institutions. Students tend to be very happy at Otterbein; the university continues to earn high marks on the National Survey of Student Engagement. As is becoming more and more popular on campuses, they have a First Year Experience; I feel like it’s more uncommon to find a school without some sort of FYE. Otterbein has revamped their curriculum to address multidisciplinary perspectives and points of intersections. They have opened a new Living-Learning Community revolving around leadership. They are big on immersive learning (ie, travel tours) and experiential learning through internships, community service, global perspectives, and original research. They have switched over this year from quarters to semesters with an added 3-week January term to allow for more time and flexibility for immersion learning.

In terms of applications, they work on a Rolling Admissions basis, providing answers in two to three weeks. They accept the Common App, and the transcript is one of the most highly weighted parts of the application. The average GPA of accepted students hovers around a 3.4-3.5 with ACT scores in the mid-20s.

I enjoyed seeing Otterbein and learning more about the programs; it’s an attractive campus and they’re clearly putting effort into making the education worthwhile for the students. I was disappointed that their tour guides were not better trained; I heard from all the counselors (we were split into about 8 tour groups) that the tours were among the worst they had encountered. Most of the guides were freshmen, and while I think most of us had had good experiences with tours led by freshmen on other campuses, most of these students didn’t really seem to know what they were doing or how to answer questions. It can be very difficult to separate the experience on the tour from the quality of the school, so I hope this is fixed before it becomes a detriment for potential students and families visiting.

(c) 2012

Kent State University

Kent State University (visited 4/16/12)

Kent State 1

The main plaza.

I admit it: I was really looking forward to seeing this university because of the historical significance of it. I was a little disappointed to see the “raggedy” edges of campus driving in, but the edges of campus are never what the schools want to show off. Campus was well kept up even though some of the buildings were clearly older. However, there is a ton of building going on, including several new dorms. I liked the main part of campus, but it felt very much like a generic campus. While nothing was wrong with the physical campus, little stood out; one thing that did was the “promenade,” a long, wide, brick-lined walkway cutting through a main part of campus. Our tour guide told us of several events held there, including Welcome Week events and showcases of clubs. It was one of the main pedestrian thoroughfares on campus, and it was well used. Students were out and about, but it was not a hang-out; rather, it was simply an easy way to get from one place to another. People did hang out in the new beautiful Union; there were several food options, a large spiral staircase in the middle of the lobby, meeting rooms, the bookstore, and lots of student-services offices all in the building which was great. Students definitely hung out there, but there was also a lot of foot-traffic of students grabbing food or taking care of things between classes.

Kent State 2

One of the memorials to the shooting victims.

During the tour, we did get to see the Kent State Shootings Memorials. There is a large memorial sculpture in addition to smaller memorials to each student in the location where he or she was shot; they have also preserved the bullet-hole left in a third sculpture. Someone had drawn a peace symbol around the hole. During a core class, all the students at KSU learn about the history leading up to (and what happened after) the campus shootings.

About 16% of the 21,000 undergrads are from out-of-state. They have the University Award scholarship specifically for out-of-state students; this covers ½ of the out-of-state tuition surcharge. To be eligible, applicants need a 2.5 GPA and at least a 21 on the ACT. The Presidential Scholarship is given to out-of-state and underrepresented students with at least a 3.25 GPA. Eligibility for the Honors Program is determined automatically during the application process; students in the honors program can register for special classes, have access to special study abroad programs, and live in the Honors Living Learning Community, among other benefits.

KSU Res Halls house between 56 and 550 students each. Currently they have 12 Living-Learning Communities ranging in interests from Entrepreneurship or Business to Public Health or Nursing to the International Village Experience; the students who live there tend to have higher GPAs. Students from outside commuting distance must live on campus for their first two years; about 80% of freshman and sophomores are on campus. There are 5 dorms that are specifically designated for the “First Year Experience; other housing options are often mixed levels and are assigned by lottery. The six newest dorms, Centennial Courts A-F (very original names!) are beautiful and spacious; upperclassmen snatch them up quickly which isn’t a surprise. I really liked Kent’s “dorm room showcase” in which they have 4 different model dorm rooms open to visitors and students who might not have seen the set-ups in different locations. Although some other people rolled their eyes a bit – “how many dorm rooms do we need to see?” – this is the only university I’ve ever visited that showed us more than one type of room. Although it’s nice to see a typical freshman dorm room (usually those are the worst, smallest, and/or oldest and students can only move up from there), I liked seeing how the different dorms were set up, particularly without having to tromp through several buildings!

Students can choose from 280 majors in 8 different colleges. New programs include Digital Science (including computer design, animation, and game design) and Public Health; fashion design and architecture are strong, hands-on programs. The two most unusual majors are Crafts (ceramics, glass, jewelry and metals, and textiles) and Air Traffic Control which falls under their Aeronautics Technology department. Students graduating with this major go to Oklahoma after graduation for their final 3 months of training and exams before becoming fully licensed. Within that department, they can also focus on Aeronautical systems, aviation management, and flight technology.

Retention rate is in the 75-78% range. The university is working on improving that, through such programs as the First Year Experience and by instituting an “Early Alert” program for students who are floundering in academics. Resident Directors are also told at mid-terms about students in their dorms who are having trouble so there is some tag-teaming between the academic and residential side. Students we spoke to spoke highly of the activities on campus – there are activities calendars posted listing things to on and off campus. Buses into downtown Kent are free and frequent. Buses into Cleveland cost only $5, so a lot of students take advantage of that for sporting events, concerts, and other things. The students we spoke to, although maybe not as gushing as students from other schools, were very positive about their experiences. Almost no complaints came up, even when asked directly what they would like to improve about the school. This confirmed the feeling I had already developed about Kent: it’s a solid school with good resources, good programs, and a good social life. The community feel perhaps is not as strong as I had seen on a few other campuses, but students genuinely seemed to like the school and each other. The students who thrived there were good students who took advantage of the variety of opportunities in and out of the classroom. On the whole slightly more outdoorsy than maybe some other student bodies although I can’t put my finger on why this seems to be the case. Kent is clearly an excellent place for the right student, especially for those looking at some of the unusual majors, but it’s not one I would gush over to a lot of students – but I also wouldn’t discourage anyone; I think it’s strong in a lot of ways but without anything to particularly distinguish it from other places.

(c) 2012

Ohio University

Ohio University (visited 4/17/12)

Ohio Univ 1Ohio Univ 6It’s a little unfortunate that my first impression of the university came from the largest frat and sorority houses I’ve ever seen. I had already heard of Ohio’s reputation of being one of the country’s biggest party schools but had always brushed that off because of the size. More people = more partiers; it stood to reason. However, after a couple minutes of Greek houses and reminding myself that Greek life didn’t always mean parties and that this was just the outskirts of campus, we arrived at the main part of campus and two of the biggest arches I’ve seen on a college campus . . . it seems like “Go Big or Go Home” is almost the unspoken motto of the college. We took a quick detour through town as we looked for the place to meet the admissions people, and clearly the town caters to the students – there are a ton of cafes, book stores, restaurants, etc. Students were all over the place; it’s clearly an active campus. Driving through campus, the buildings were clean, up-to date, and attractive. Everything seemed to be brick, and there was a large bridge crossing over the “valley” in the middle of campus, providing easy access to both sides of campus. The campus makes good use of this slope in the middle of campus with several buildings having entrances on multiple levels. As we entered the atrium of the new student center, we learned that the building has the only escalators in the county. Many students will cut through the student center to avoid the 99 steps up the hill.

Ohio Univ 3

One of the dorm groupings on campus

Ohio Univ 5As we were walking up from lunch with one of the admissions representatives, he made a comment about it being a walking campus, and it dawned on me why this campus seemed so different from other larger campuses, particularly Ohio State which we had visited the day before: although there were kids around at Ohio State, there were so many more here at Ohio University. The big difference was the lack of buses and shuttles at Ohio U. There was less traffic in general; without major roads running through all parts of campus, Ohio felt more like a traditional campus even though there were distinct portions of it. For example, the residential units were on three Greens spaced around campus. There are 42 dorms on campus which can house about half of the 17,500 undergrads (freshmen and sophomores must live on campus). Despite the size, you can walk across campus in 15-20 minutes. I asked the tour guide about Greek Life; she is a member of a sorority. There are 30 frats and sororities on campus with just over 10% of the school involved. She rushed when she first got onto campus, and she said she liked that because it was something to do and gave her a great way to meet a lot of different people. However, she doesn’t live in the Greek Houses, and she likes being able to interact with people in Greek and non-Greek life.

Ohio Univ 2Ohio has a lot of unique majors including Animation and Gaming, Long-Term Health Care Administration, Playwriting, Meteorology, and Photojournalism. Certain majors (business, journalism, and dance/music among others) have additional application requirements when applying to the university. Ohio is not a Common App school; applications are available on their website. Admissions is Rolling but with priority dates: 2/1 for regular fall admission, 12/1 for the Honors Program, 12/15 for Visual Communication. To be eligible for scholarships, students must apply by the mid-December deadline and be accepted by February 1, although there are scholarships that are available to upperclassmen who miss the deadline for first-year scholarships. There are many scholarship opportunities that can make the school cheaper than a lot of in-state tuitions so it’s worth it to get the application in early.

Ohio Univ 7There are four dining halls around campus in the Residential Greens and other places. There are also lots of food choices in the “downtown” area adjacent to campus, and there are a variety of food carts around reminiscent of Philadelphia or New York. I particularly liked the Burrito and the Greek food carts just across the road from the main gate.

Students seem to be very active: there are running/biking trail behind campus which I saw a lot of students using. The gym is large and was well used, even in the middle of the day. ROTC also appears to be popular – I don’t have statistics, but there were quite a few people walking around in uniforms, and the program is housed in an imposing 4-story structure that looks vaguely like an old school building; they do rappelling drills down the side which anyone can join if they want to learn to rappel.

Ohio Univ 4Not only has Ohio University and its students earned many prestigious accolades, but students seem genuinely happy there. Students gushed about their classes, their professors, and opportunities. They even liked the town. The Honors Tutorial College, modeled after Oxford and Cambridge, got particularly good reviews. Students and faculty were winning big awards including Pulitzers, Playwriting awards, and others.

(c) 2012

Oberlin College

Oberlin College (visited 4/14/12)

Oberlin 4On the Sunday morning after I toured Oberlin, I was sitting in the local coffee shop to get breakfast and check email before getting on the road. When I arrived at 9 am, a handful of students were already there with laptops and books. By the time I left at 10, the place was packed, mostly with college students. Computers and books were everywhere, and the students were focused on their work – on a Sunday morning! Maybe I should check out more coffee shops in college towns, but I don’t think this is something you’ll see every day. There were all types of kids in there, which is typical of Oberlin – in that Oberlin students aren’t typical. They are hard workers, though.

Oberlin 2Typical for my travels through Ohio (which seems to have a disproportionate number of colleges in the middle of towns in the middle of nowhere. . .), I suddenly was in the town of Oberlin – and then in the middle of the Oberlin College campus. Buildings there are as impressive and as varied as the students seem to be. There doesn’t seem to be much rhyme or reason to the architecture: there was gothic, Spanish, “Radiator Deco” (the façade did really look like a radiator). The campus sprawls around most of the Tappan Square (home to a couple of albino squirrels, the unofficial mascot of the college). The campus is mostly attractive, but other than the part of campus directly around Tappan Square, there is not the feel of a separate campus, per se. However, the town of Oberlin is about the size of a postage stamp, so it’s hardly necessary to have a separate campus. The tour guide told me that the movie theater in town is currently closed for renovations . . . so they can add a 2nd screen. When I asked her what she’d like to change about the college, she told me that she wishes that the students could get into Cleveland more easily and more often.

albino squirrel 3Oberlin, in addition to being a highly selective liberal arts school, might be better known for its Music Conservatory; the two parts of campus blend beautifully. The admissions counselor described the music talent on the entire campus as “not-so-hot to quite fancy.” The students are described as “Liberal Arts students with a music bent and Music Students with an academic bent.” Oberlin offers a 5-year dual-degree program in which students can earn both a Bachelors of Music and a Bachelors of Arts/Science. Non-music majors can and often do take classes in the Conservatory, including private lessons which cost $7.50/30-minute lesson which is a steal!

I visited during Admitted Student weekend as well as the Multi-Cultural Recruitment weekend. One of the math professors was on hand in the admissions office to talk with prospective students; she told me about a Freshman Seminar in which they read both non-fiction and fiction (A Beautiful Mind, Proof, several others). It’s the sort of class I wish I had access to. I also had a chance to talk to one of the directors of admission; unfortunately, the NC rep was not in since the reps rotate on Saturdays.

Oberlin 1Housing and dining on campus got high marks from the students I spoke with. Dining options are plentiful, ranging from two large dining halls to several food co-ops, including a kosher co-op. Housing options include First Year Experience and Special Interest Housing, including Co-ops, language houses, and Social/Justice housing. The co-ops, particularly when food was involved, were very popular; about 1/3 of the students eat at one of those on a fairly regular basis. As members of co-ops, they have to put in about four hours a week towards keeping it running and to eat there for the reduced rate, but if the student is on work-study, this can count towards their hour allotment. In addition to this kind of work, students complete a lot of community service. They tend to be passionate and excited about something, whether it’s academics, community service, or a club; whatever they decide to do, they pursue with a passion.

Students tend to jump into academics in the same way. Although they have several classes with more than 80 students (mostly at the introductory level), this doesn’t deter the students; they know that the size drops quickly as they move past introductory levels, but the students are also the type to actively seek help, form study groups, or in other ways make sure that they make the most of the classes, even without individual attention. Research is very popular among students, and they seek chances to do this both with professors and independently; they often come up with interesting, interdisciplinary work such as combining physics and music. Oberlin also has implemented giving grants of up to $30K to students to pursue Entrepreneurial enterprises.

Oberlin 3More interesting – and something unique to Oberlin (at least I haven’t run into it) – is the Experimental College or “ExCo.” This provides an opportunity for students to learn from each other in areas not offered by traditional classes such as Korean or a martial art. Students can earn up to 5 credits in this way. Students also have to complete at least three Winter Terms on campus. Many students will do internships, participate in study abroad trips, put on productions, work on research, or complete other types of experiences that are not always so accessible during the regular semester. It’s not uncommon for students to complete all four Winter Terms simply because they’re interested in what they’re doing. The college provides other hands-on and unique experiences for students, as well, such as opening up the large telescope twice a month for anyone who wants to come check things out. They have an active theater department that puts on more shows than most other schools I’ve visited; students do not need to be a theater major to participate in shows, and they have enough interest across the student body for every production – in fact, many of the shows are proposed by the students because they look for more opportunities.

The last thing to mention is their art-rental program. Every term, the museum decides which artwork it will not be displaying and then offers those pieces to the students for $5 a term – including Picassos and Warhols. Students camp out for chances to rent the art of their choice. In the 60 years they have done this, not a single piece of art has been lost or damaged.

(c) 2012

Marietta College

Marietta College (visited 4/18/12)

Marietta 2At first glance, it seemed like there were way more jocks/athletic types walking around campus than there had been at other colleges; however, as we got going on the tour, we ended up seeing more of the jeans and t-shirt clad students walking around. Sports are fairly big here; they are particularly proud of their Crew teams (the women recently ranked #7 in the country and the men compete at the DI level despite the size of the college) and their basketball programs (the men just won the championship). Socially, I did not see as much interaction between students as I had seen on some other campuses. Not everyone was listening to music, but quite a few were; even a majority of the baseball players, who were in full uniform and huddled in a group waiting for transportation to a game, had music going. Some had their earphones out, but several others would either talk over the music if they wanted to talk to a teammate, or just not engage in conversation at all.

Marietta 3The campus was pretty; someone had described it as having some “New England charm” and while it did have a bit of that rolling-hill, older brick-building feel to it, I’m not sure I’d completely agree with that description. However, campus was clearly cared for: buildings were neat and maintained, although several were older and starting to feel a bit worn-out. During the student panel, one of the counselors asked the students how they would improve campus if they had $10 million to donate; one said they would improve the student center since it was older and not much of a student center (in terms of spaces for students to congregate, feeling comfortable, etc) and another said she would build a new theater/fine arts building since it didn’t really fulfill all the needs and demands for the space. A third student said that she would add a pool to the athletic facilities. Food was also on the list of things to fix: across the board, the students gave Food Services mediocre ratings at best. One student said that the food itself is ok (not great), but flex dollars/meal swipes didn’t roll over from week-to-week. Other students said that the food quality was better than it had been a couple years ago, but still not great. There isn’t a ton of variety, nor is it prepared especially well. She told us that she was hopeful that it would change next year; the contract with the current company is ending this year so she hopes they will get a new group in to provide the food.

MariettaStudents do tend to stay on campus on the weekends. The school just completed a study based on the use of Student ID cards – swiping into meals, athletic center, dorms, etc, and found that 80-90% of students are on campus on any given weekend.

Three unique things stood out for me on campus:

  • First was the Planetarium, which was funded mostly through a major donation from an alum after the school considered downgrading the physics department from a major to a minor or even eliminating it completely. People energized and rallied around the major, and now they have a full-time astronomy professor and a planetarium. Astronomy 101 is one of the most popular science classes on campus. They also give generous scholarships to physics majors; clearly they are in high demand on campuses, and Marietta is doing everything they can to attract these students to campus.
  • The second unusual program on campus was the Petroleum Sciences/Engineering major within the Geology major, both of which fall under Marietta’s Energy and the Environment signature program. Marietta is the only small Liberal Arts college with a major in Petroleum Sciences/Engo. Because it has grown so quickly in popularity, they are now limiting the incoming class to 90 students in that major; last year, they had three times more applications for the major than spaces for students.
  • Finally, the McDonough Leadership Program is well developed and is listed in the top five in the country; Harvard is loosely basing their program off of Marietta’s. Marietta has partnered with Harvard’s Center for Public Leadership, a pilot project with the New York Times, and a leadership program at Annapolis. The department offers two majors (Leadership Studies and International Leadership Studies), and three certificate programs (Leadership Studies, Leaders in Action, and Teacher Leadership – only 1 of 2 in the country at the undergraduate level).

Marietta 1A major teaching focus at Marietta is critical thinking/problem solving, although these are common “buzz words” on a lot of campuses these days. They want to graduate students who know how to look at issues from a variety of lenses. Communication skills – verbal and written – are a major component of the education here, as well as demonstrating practical applications of what they learn in the classroom. There are heaps of internships available. Our tour guide had her internships set up for both this summer AND next one already. There is an expectation that students will be involved on and off campus. This extends Internationally as well; there are some unusual majors including Asian Studies with a focus on China (which makes a lot of sense given the current trends in globalization) and Latin American Studies in which students can study Portuguese in addition to Spanish.

Several scholarships are available, including 1 entirely free ride. The Scholars Program targets the top 30-ish% of the incoming class. This group comes to campus to compete for varying levels of scholarships; they write a timed essay, meet with students and faculty, and participate in a class-type discussion with 12-15 other competitors and two faculty. One student gets everything covered; about 20 students get a full-tuition scholarship, and another 60 or so get a half-tuition scholarship.

(c) 2012

Ohio Wesleyan University

Ohio Wesleyan University (visited 4/13/12)

OWU ceiling

The ceiling of a reading room.

I wish I had known about OWU when I was looking for colleges. Their slogan is “The Opposite of Ordinary” and I can see why. Before visiting, I knew that OWU was one of the Colleges That Change Lives (and they’ve also been named by as one of the top schools that fly under the radar but shouldn’t!) but knew almost nothing other than that. Now, I wish I had had access to their programs when I was an undergrad. The students I talked to raved about the Travel-Learning Courses and the university’s dedication to the Theory-to-Practice model, among other things. The school offers at least a dozen classes each spring (and occasionally in the fall) in which travel is part of the curriculum; the class sometimes travels during spring break, but more often will go “on location” for 2-3 weeks after the semester ends in May. Recent classes offered include Global Poverty (Econ class; travel to Bangladesh); Mathematical Models of Climate (Math/Comp Sci class; travel to Alaska); Beginning Chinese II; Castles and Cathedrals (History class; travel to the UK); Tectonics, Volcanology, and Geothermal Energy (Geology and Geography class; travel to Iceland); and Translational Research in Psychology (travel to Tanzania).

OWU 1The campus impressed me immediately; I drove in on the main street that cut through campus. On one side, a three-story gothic grey stone building sat at the end of a brick walkway; on the other, a wide brick pedestrian walkway stretched for at least a block in the other direction. Pulling into the visitor parking lot next to the big stone building, I got to see the mix of buildings: older, more traditional-looking buildings closer to the road (much of which was the original college) with the newer, funky architecture stretching behind them. The “JayWalk” runs perpendicular to Sandusky Ave, separating Res side from Academic side. A beautiful new student center sits along the JayWalk across form the new library. My tour guide raved about the food options on campus; I can’t think of another student who was so effusive in her praise of his or her college’s food offerings. They do, of course, have a traditional dining hall, but meal plans are organized on a point system, and these points can be used at dining hall, in any of the multiple coffee shops/grab-and-go shops around campus (which are tucked into all sorts of corners, making for great study areas), the on-campus food court with a variety of options I’m used to seeing at much larger schools, and even downtown at places like Subway and the locally run coffee shop.


The JayWalk with the new Union shown (the library is across the way)

The town of Delaware is cute and clean; although it’s nothing fancy, there are things to do on Main Street, easily accessible from campus. Standing on campus and looking at Sandusky (the main street cutting vertically through campus), it’s easy to see what kids have access to, including coffee shops and book stores. Town-gown relations are very good. The school opens up the JayWalk a couple times a year, and there are “street fairs” held there. Arts, sports, and other events on campus are open to the public and well attended. The town holds First Friday parties when shops are open late, and students take advantage of this. The ice cream shop has created a “Battling Bishop” ice cream after the school mascot; the movie theater gives discounts to OWU students. Additionally, they are only about 20 minutes from Columbus, so they have easy access to all that offers.

Athletics is a big thing on campus; about 1/3 of the students play a varsity sport, and watching the games is a big thing on campus; school spirit is strong. They have two full stadiums: one for lacrosse, field hockey, and soccer, and one primarily for Track &Field and football. T & F (who were DIII finalists last year) and Cross-Country are particularly strong, as is Soccer; the admissions counselor I spoke to said “Don’t tell the football team, but we’re a soccer school!” The new gym is large and comfortable; this is the building with the funky, wavy roof that caught my attention when I first drove on campus. They also have a newly built geothermic aquatics and rec center which includes a diving well.

About 30% of students participate in Greek Life but this does not dominate the social scene. They cannot rush until 2nd semester so students have already formed groups of friends, and it is not unusual for friends to rush at different houses. There is quite a bit of inter-house cooperation and socializing. There is also a rush – called a “Slush” – for Special Living Houses on campus. These houses are based on a variety of interests such as Habitat for Humanity, World Languages, Thought House, Women’s Studies, Black Culture, InterFaith, and Peace&Justice. Freshman dorms are the only ones with communal bathrooms.

Although this started as a Wesleyan college, they have dropped their affiliation (although they kept the name since that is now part of their identity). The two largest religious student groups on campus are the Catholic group and the Hillel. Hillel is extremely active and inclusive; the week before I toured, the students had thrown a large Seder to which everyone was invited. They host speakers and other events and will carpool to Synagogue.

OWU 2The students who tend to thrive here are usually the B-B+ students who are go-getters and who are active in the community. There is a tendency to get involved and to help others. People are not stereotyped here and are encouraged to go after their passions, recognizing that majors and outside interests don’t always intersect. Math majors participate in theater; music majors play sports. Students clearly liked their surroundings. There was a lot of camaraderie: students were studying together on the grassy areas, they greeted each other when passing, and it felt like a community. I’ve already started talking this school up to my students.

(c) 2012

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