campus encounters

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Archive for the category “Pennsylvania”

Dickinson College

Dickinson College (visited 5/16/17)

Dickinson city sign“We’re global, international, and sustainable. We’re a very green school, 12th on the Greenest School List,” said the admissions rep giving the info session. A Sustainability major was added last year, several campus buildings are certified on the 3 LEED levels, and they own/operate a certified organic farm about 10 minutes away from the main campus. Students work and do research on the farm. Some students are doing work on toads: they’re building an eco-system and a pond to attract a specific species. Others produce biofuel, grow much of the produce for the dining hall, or work on composting 600-800 pounds of waste from campus and around town. “Students will camp there for classes,” said the tour guide. Students can apply to be an apprentice there after graduation and live full-time on the farm.

Dickinson 1Another of Dickinson’s draws is the Global perspective. “We’ve been doing the global thing for a long time. We were doing it when it wasn’t fashionable. It goes back to Benjamin Rush when we were just starting,” said the rep. Over 1/3 of the faculty have international experiences. The Global Mosaics research program allows students to do interdisciplinary, international work. The college requires that students complete 3 semesters of a language; there are 13 offered to choose from (including Hebrew, Greek, Russian, Portuguese, and Chinese). Language classes got high praise from the tour guides: “We’ll do things like spend a day in the campus art gallery. We’re learning and using real-life language skills.”

Dickinson statueThe Study Abroad program has a nationally strong reputation. There are 15 Dickinson Centers (faculty chair the 2 domestic (NYC and DC) and 13 international centers including England, Australia, Japan, Beijing, and Bologna) and 24+ partner programs. “We’re not in Antarctica yet…” Students can and will study abroad in English, but many also in another language.

Dickinson townhouses

Some of the townhouses, an option for upperclassmen

Town-gown relations are good. Campus is only a couple blocks from downtown Carlisle, so there is a lot within walking distance including 35 restaurants. The college hosts a community orchestra in which local people participate. “We’re too small to have one on our own.” Getting around town is easy, and the school runs shuttles to the train and airport (Harrisburg, BWI, and others at breaks).

Dickinson 9

More housing options

Dickinson has remained financially stable through economic ups and down. They intend on staying a small school (about 2400 students), even though their incoming class is about 10-15 students higher than usual. Traditional dorms serve most of the first and second year students. Upperclassmen can live in houses and apartments owned by the campus. There’s also a range of Special Interest Houses which include language and cultural houses, the Tree House (sustainable living – they’ll have competitions to see how little energy they can use/who can take the shortest shower), Greek Housing, The Dog House (they’ll foster/raise/train puppies to be guide dogs or support animals), etc.

Dickinson lab 2One of our tour guides was a junior from Chattanooga; she came for the International Business program which is well-known and well-regarded. Social Innovation & Leadership, Biochemistry & Microbiology, Econ, Law & Policy, and PoliSci also get high praise. Classes, not surprisingly, are small (capped at 35 but rarely that big) and “real world.” The phrase “Broader Picture” got used a lot in relation to academics. When I asked about the students’ favorite classes, both cited those where they could use what they learned in practical ways. One of the tour guides raved about her Calculus class (maybe a first for me!): “We actually used it for calculating the amount of DNA there is in cells. Another guide talked about interpreting in clinics in town for her Spanish for Health class.

Dickinson planetariumThe physics department runs a Plasma Lab which can only be used in the summer because power has to be shut down around campus in order to use it! There’s also a planetarium used for more than science classes: the Astronomy Club uses it, the college runs “Star Nights,” and even the Greek Myth class will use it!

The Innovation Competition is a way to fund novel ideals or projects around campus. Teams of 3-5 students must be interdisciplinary (representing majors in at least 2 of the 3 schools) and the idea must be sustainable. Recently, an idea that won the $2000 prize was a Coffee Cart attached to a bike called “The Peddler.” They sell fresh ground and French press coffee.

Dickinson original mascot

The original “Triton”/ mermaid on display in the library

As with any school, there are a myriad of traditions, including the ubiquitous “Don’t step on the seal or else…” and the popular, symbolic walking onto campus (in this case through a building) and then back out at graduation. Senior week before graduation is full of traditions and fun for the seniors, including a beer garden on the quad and a bowling trip. The mascot, The Triton, has it’s own history and pranks revolving around it. The founder had asked a local merchant to make a Triton for the top of the cupola, but they got a mermaid. For decades, this would be stolen by seniors who bargained with professors before giving it back. The original is now on display in the library.

© 2017

Gettysburg College

Gettysburg College (visited 5/18/17)

Gettysburg 5

One of the oldest buildings on campus

So few admissions reps take the time to hone in on what makes them different from their competitors, so I was impressed that the rep took the time to address differences between Gettysburg and other nearby liberal arts schools. She also took the time to personalize the discussion based on what the students were interested in; this was one of the least-scripted/canned talked I’ve attended.

Gettysburg original interior

Although buildings have been renovated/updated, they’ve kept as much of the original structure intact

One of my students asked about diversity on campus; later I asked what the best change had been since she arrived on campus. Her answers built on each other: “We’re not the preppy school anymore. Nine years ago, students did kind of look alike. It’s just not that anymore. The diversity of types of students here is the most positive and noticeable shift I’ve seen.” Diversity is still an “active discussion topic at small Liberal Arts colleges. Most of us care about diversity. What it boils down to is that we’re still largely American Caucasian.” Right now, they pull in 7% of their population from abroad, but more this year’s freshman and incoming classes are higher. Another 15% self-identify as domestic students of color. About ¼ come from PA. Politically, students are pretty evenly split across the spectrum. There are active Muslim and Jewish populations. “We have a lot of types of diversity, and it’s growing.”

Gettysburg quadThe college is holding steady at 2600-2700 undergrads: “It’s just big enough that you’ll know some people really well; other people will show up at graduation and you’ll realize you’ve never seen them before.” This happens despite being a completely residential campus. Placement in the freshman dorms is determined by the First-Year Seminar students enroll in. After the first year, students have lots of housing options. There are theme houses (entire homes) for interests such as Science, Blue Note (music), and the Civil War. They have also bought what used to be hotels that are currently used as dorms. Food is good; we ate at one of the “Grab-and-go” options, and the students all liked the food, saying it was better than the food from the full dining hall at another school we visited. They’re currently gutting part of union to make room for more food options, and the Dining hall is being added onto.

Gettysburg 3

The library where snacks are served during finals to keep kids going!

 

Gettysburg’s academics don’t disappoint; the top 5 Academics are ranked on par with Dartmouth. Our tour guide turned down an acceptance from Cornell to come here. “There hasn’t been a day that I haven’t thought this education was worth it.” A few academics of note include:

  • Conservatory of Music: students can major or minor outside of this! That’s unusual. Also, any student can be involved.
  • Not surprisingly, history is strong, and they offer a Civil War Era Studies
  • Psychology has a strong experimental Psych focus and some behavioral components. It’s one of the largest majors. The Neuroscience minor pairs nicely with this.
  • The biggest major is Organizational Management (what they call their business program).
  • Gettysburg 6The Health Sciences major is unusual for a school this size. They combine physics, bio, and chem in how these relate to the human body.
  • Every class has a Peer Learning Associate. They students who have already taken the class, so they are able to run extra help or review sessions, supplemental labs, or provide tutoring.
  • The biggest classes are Intro to Bio and Psych could have 30 students; labs cap at 16. The tour guide’s classes ranged in size from 8 (French) to 24 (Astrophysics).
  • It’s relatively easy and common to get paid research assistant positions, even starting freshman year.

Gettysburg lincoln statueThe Honor Code mostly focuses on academic integrity but also how students interact with each other. Things can be left in the library and not touched. Students look out for each other, and even after graduation, people help others out: they have the same number of alumni connections as Notre Dame. Traditions are tightly held here. A big one is attached to Pennsylvania Hall (one of the oldest buildings) on campus: during Orientation, students file up the stairs and through the building to the other side; on Graduation Day, they do the reverse of this. During orientation, they also walk as a group to the cemetery (a mile away) where Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address. Campus sits right in town within walking distance to downtown and parts of the battlefield. Town is unique in that there are 2-3 million visitors here every year. Freshmen can’t have cars on campus unless they’re on the Equestrian Team which practices about 15 minutes south of campus.

Gettysburg original bldg

The original building on campus and one of the haunted buildings; students graduate on these steps.

Gettysburg ranks on several Top 10 Most Haunted campus lists. Pennsylvania Hall was used as a Civil War hospital, so it (along with many other buildings on campus) has its share of ghost stories, including people taking the elevator to the basement and seeing the hospital and doctors when the doors opened.

© 2017

Pennsylvania State University

PENN STATE UNIVERSITY (visit 7/31 – 8/1/16)

penn-state-4For such an overwhelmingly large flagship institution, campus is surprisingly manageable. Students can walk across the main part of campus in probably 15-20 minutes, and there are buses that loop around regularly. Beyond that, for students wondering about finding their place among 45,000 undergrads, “there are tons of ways to make the campus small.”

“We’re clearly a public university, but when you look at grad and retention rates and what students are doing here, we look like a more prestigious private university.” Their retention rate freshman-to-sophomore year is 93% (30% above average) and their graduation rate is 87%, so they must be doing something right in terms of getting students connected to the university and to each other!

penn-state-sundial-2University Park is the state’s land-grant institution and is the main campus of the Commonwealth Campus System, but there are branch campuses all over the state, some campuses housing as few as 600 students. The curriculum is exactly the same regardless of where they do the work. “Math 101 at York is the same as Erie is the same as University Park,” said an admissions rep. “Regardless of where you start or where you graduate from, the degree says The Pennsylvania State University. A common path is the 2+2 plan: students complete 2 years at another campus to do the prereqs. As long as they have the minimum GPA, they can move right over. It’s not a transfer since it’s the same system, and it’s cheaper to start somewhere else. We have our own nuclear power plant, our own airport, our own zip code,” said a rep. “It simply costs more to run this campus.”

penn-state-flowersThe University Park campus receives 80-100,000 apps every year. Currently, the only way to apply to PSU is through the My Penn State Account (although they will eventually use the Coalition App). They highly encourage students to submit applications by November 30. Although admissions is rolling, the criteria goes up after that. Students who apply by 11/30 get an answer by the end of January. Decisions are posted on their Account 1-2 days before the letter is sent; they also accept their offer through the account.

penn-state-cafeStudents can list a first and second choice campus as well as the Summer Start option. This gives them as many opportunities as possible to be admitted to the system. Summer Start is not remedial, but gives students a way to get acclimated both the campus and the academics (they’ll take 2 3-credit classes that summer). There are about 10,000 students on campus over the summer, some as part of this program, some working, and some doing research.

This is a Research 1 Institution, and they’re ranked in the top 5 in the nation for internships. Last year, they received $800 million for undergrad research; students in all majors have opportunities to participate.

penn-state-3Despite the university’s size, classes average 25-30 students, and surprisingly mostly taught by professors. “With the exception of CASS 101 (Required), I never just had a TA teach a class,” said a student on the panel. The biggest lecture hall on campus seats 725, and many of the students had at least 1 class in there. The largest classes were 650 in Intro Physiology, about 700 in Philosophy of Love and Sex; 720 in MicroEcon (“There were maybe 5 free seats in the lecture hall”), and 200 in Physics. However, the smallest classes ranged from 10 to 20 (often Freshman Seminar). Freshmen are guaranteed 2 classes of 30 or fewer: FYE and English 101.

penn-state-edu-bldgThe students on the panel listed these as their favorite classes:

  • Human Development and Family Studies. “The prof was amazing. She was really family-oriented and used her own family as examples. The class was interactive. She’d have students tell stories so I got to know people in the lecture hall. It felt unique.”
  • Forensic Science: “We’re learning about all cases like OJ Simpson from a professor who worked in the FBI during all that.”
  • Accoustics: it’s about how speech and hearing all work together “behind the scenes.”
  • Intro to Business Management: “It was taught by an interactive Prof. He played games to get people involved and would throw the football into the crowd. Whoever caught it had to answer. Sometimes people were sleeping and he’d hit them with the football to wake them up.
  • Entomology: “I’m not a bug person, but by the end, I thought it was cool because I could identify the bugs I didn’t like!”
  • Differential Equations: “I had the BEST math prof on campus. He would draw sharks on everything.”
  • Ballroom Dance class
  • Childhood Temperament and Behavior: “We got to do research for part of the class.”

penn-state-arts-and-archNursing is their one direct-admit program. “If they are not accepted as freshmen, they will not earn a degree in nursing from Penn State.” For all other majors, students start in the school they’re interested in but don’t declare their major until the end of their 2nd year after they finish the pre-reqs and have the minimum GPA. The Department of Undergrad Studies is for people who don’t know what they want to do yet. “Undeclared does not mean unguided,” said a rep. “They still get advising and help determining what they want to do.”

Schreyer Honors College is “one of the best in the nation;” students can participate in it at any of the 20 campuses. This requires a separate application; about 300 students are accepted per year. It comes with a $4500 scholarship/year and students get priority scheduling. There are separate living options that they take advantage of if interested. They need to write a thesis, which is mandatory in order to earn the honors designation on their degree. Students can do this at any of the 20 campuses. Each one also has separate honors programs.

Housing is not guaranteed, and only about 50% of people will stay on campus after freshman year. “Off-campus living is great but you have to plan a year in advance. By the end of October, you need to know where you’ll be living the next school year or you’re going to be scrambling. It’s kind of ridiculous especially for freshmen. It’s like taking a leap of faith in some ways because you jump in and don’t even know for sure if you like living with the people yet.” They have an off-campus living fair that coincides with Parents Weekend.

© 2016

Villanova University

Villanova University (visited 7/21/16)

Villanova oreo“We tend to attract students who are bright, bright-eyed, and not too cool for the room. They wear their school gear. They’re spiritual.” Clearly Villanova is doing something right: They boast an amazing 96% retention rate (freshman to sophomore years), 88% 4-year and 90% 5-year graduation rate, and a 97% placement rate 6 months after graduation!

Villanova quadVillanova makes 5 promises to its students:

  • Academic Excellence: clearly the university has earned lots of high rankings including Phi Beta Kappa and Center for Excellence for Nursing.
  • Personal Attention: the average class has 22 students with several capped at 15.
  • Strong Community: They’re highly inclusive, a hallmark of the Augustinian tradition. That’s a big deal here.
  • Service to others: Our tour guide was surprised at how service-minded students here are. People flock to service trips, etc.
  • Foundation for Lifelong Success: The 118,000 alums “metaphorically hold the door open for current students.”
Villanova monastary

The monastery

Villanova is named for Thomas of Villanova, the “Father of those who didn’t have.” This is an Augustinian Catholic institution and houses one of the largest Augustinian Monasteries (70 monks live there, 15 of whom are active on campus). St. Augustine became a bishop under one condition: he wanted to continue living and learning in a community of his friends.

Villanova chapel inMasses are held three times each Sunday in the gorgeous on-campus chapel, but masses are not required, and Campus Ministry will take students to other places of worship as asked. Students aren’t even asked to self-report religion until their exit interviews. Students are required to take 2 theology classes, 1 of which is general history.

Villanova stu cntrSports are clearly a huge deal here, especially basketball, but they attract strong athletes across the board. They’ve had a student or alum in every Olympics since 1948. Students get free basketball tickets on a lottery system, and the more games they attend, the higher their lottery number becomes. However, they really are student-athletes, and all teams have at least a 3.0 GPA. Our tour guide is a dancer, and she performs for the opening and closing ceremonies of the Special Olympics held on campus, the largest student-run event of its kind.

Villanova 8In addition to sports (both participating and watching), there are plenty of other things to do. “Cornhole is big here,” said the tour guide. “I’m not sure what that’s about!” A couple favorite traditions include Hoopmania before Basketball games, and on Fridays, people pass out lollipops at the end of classes. 20-30% of student join Greek life with Rush delayed until 2nd semester. All 3 ROTC branches are offered here, but Navy is the biggest. They produce the 2nd highest number of flag officers after the Naval Academy. For students wanting to go off campus, it’s easy to navigate through the city. Two trains run through campus, and students can be in downtown Philly in 20 minutes. They can also get to the airport easily.

Villanova gardensHousing is guaranteed for 3 years, and they triple up a lot of freshmen. They don’t currently guarantee housing for all 4 years. However, this might change with the Lancaster Avenue Project, opening in fall of 2019: The large parking lot across the street from the university is being transformed into a Performing Arts Center (the new President had been the Head of the Theater Department and a new Res Hall with 1200 beds. This will bring the total number of students on campus to 85%. They have a new parking lot already going up to replace the parking spots they’re losing.

Villanova fountainAn admissions rep said, “We want to reward hard work, not just potential.” Test scores aren’t the end-all. “Community is a verb here. We look at what people do in their free time and are productively using their time.” For the first time this year, they’ll be denying people in the Early round. “It’s the moral and ethical thing to do.” About 9% first-gen and 13% Pell-eligible enrolled in last year’s first year class.

Students interested in the Honors Program, Villanova Scholarship, and Health Affiliation need to apply by the Early Action deadline of 11/1. Presidential Scholarship applicants must apply by 12/1.

Villanova labThe university offers majors in 4 undergraduate divisions:

  • Nursing: (last year, they got 1,046 applications for 90 spots)
  • Engineering: (last year, they got 2549 applications for 270 spots)
    • They only offer 5 undergraduate majors, but they get more specialized at the graduate level. Qualified students can do a 4+1 bachelor’s/master’s program.
    • They offer a couple interesting minors including entrepreneurship and biomed.
    • The department is ranked nationally in the top 15. Students take 1 semester of multi-disciplinary work, then declare their track during 2nd They do a lot of flipped classes: they’ll watch lectures for homework and then do projects in class.
    • They run engineering-specific trips to places like Madagascar and Cambodia.
  • Villanova 1Business: (last year, they got 4697 applications for 405 spots. “It’s hard to come in through the back door. It’s highly selective,” said the rep)
    • In addition to the fairly typical majors found in most business schools, they offer 3 “co-majors” in Real Estate, International Business, or Business Analytics
  • Liberal Arts and Sciences: (last year, they got 8065 applications for 325 spots in Science and 580 in LA)

Fun fact: The sister of the Liberty Bell is on campus.

© 2016

St. Joseph’s University (PA)

Saint Joseph’s University (visiting 7/20/16)

St. Joe's 1This is absolutely an amazing school! Beautiful campus, enthusiastic students, and strong academics. Who could ask for more?

Founded by the Jesuits in 1851, St. Joe’s mission is “to educate men and women with and for others.” This is 1 of 28 Jesuit schools in the US, and they seem to live the “Care for the Whole Person: mind, body, spirit” ethos: this was the first school on the tour to have a Safe Space sign in the Admissions Office (or anywhere that I saw).

St. Joe's statue

Statue from the Institute for Jewish-Catholic relations

Another phrase you’ll see and hear all over campus, on t-shirts, etc is “That’s the magis,” which is all about more/digging deeper. “Things people do here are for the greater glory of God,” said an admissions rep. Although almost ¾ of the students identify as Catholic (although not necessary practicing), people are free to do what they want. Mass is not required. Jesuits are about finding out who they are spiritually. “Religious life is here if you want it. I’m not Catholic, and I’ve never felt out of place or pushed to go to mass or anything,” said our tour guide. There are even Muslim and Jewish spaces on campus for worship.

St. Joe's dorm

One of the dorms

Greek life is also another “there if you want it” thing on campus. There are 3 on-campus frats and 5 on-campus sororities, but no Greek housing. “We’re Jesuit. That’s not our deal.” About 20% of the population goes Greek. Students can live in suite-style dorms (6 double rooms around a common area) as freshman. “I was shy coming in, and I’m so glad I chose this option. I had 11 people to interact with instead of 1, and it brought me out of my shell,” said the tour guide.

St. Joe's 3There are just under 5000 undergrads on campus from 44 states and 36 countries. They draw heavily from the mid-Atlantic from Massachusetts down to North Carolina. This year’s freshman class is the most racially diverse so far with 19% self-identifying as students of color. “I feel like it’s diverse, but I’m a straight white male. I’m probably not the one to talk about it. That being said, I’ve never seen animosity. I feel like people are inclusive and get along,” said the tour guide. He went on to talk about a friend from Virginia who is openly gay; she feels much more comfortable and accepted on campus than she ever did at home.

St. Joe's hawk

One of the hawk (mascot) statues around campus

Philadelphia is the second largest college town in the country after Boston. Although the university is technically within the Philly city limits, when you cross the street, you’re in the suburbs of Montgomery County. A train station is about 5 minutes away; from there, the 30th St Station is one stop away where people can get anywhere, including the airport and downtown.

St. Joe's bballThis is a DI school (Atlantic 10 Conference) with 20 teams (no, football isn’t one of them!). Basketball is a huge deal; Villanova is the big rival. Students can get season tickets for $85 or $13 a game. They have a large student section set aside, and the excitement generated by students have led them to earn the ranking of #2 student section in the country. They’ve also been ranked #1 for their mascot. Two students are selected as Hawks after an extensive application process (including an essay, recs, and a physical test because they literally have to flap the entire game!). This comes with a full tuition scholarship!

St. Joe's library int 2The Jesuits are big proponents of liberal arts education and focusing on the whole person as an academic. The General Education Program requires 16-18 core classes. Average classes are 22-23 with most classes capped at 35. Since the Jesuits are big on having students question things and participate, most classes are seminar style. There are also many Experiential Learning options; most students participate in at least one of these:

  • Study Abroad
  • Co-op: specific for Business with the exception of Food Service. They take 2 semesters off for 2 paid positions. They take summer courses to make up for the coursework not taken in those 2 semesters. Food Marketing majors graduate in 5 years and complete 3 co-ops.
  • Service Learning. “500 spots filled up in 3 hours for the trip this year!” said the tour guide. “I missed out on it because I had no idea it would fill up so quickly.”
  • Internships
  • Washington Center Program

St. Joe's quadIn addition to Experiential Learning, there are several distinctive academic experiences:

  • Kinney Center for Autism Education and Support: community members can come for mentorship, students in the Autism Behavioral Studies major can work or volunteer here, and students on the spectrum can get support, as well (for a $6000 additional cost).
  • Honors program: Students with a 3.75 GPA and 1300 (old SAT) might be invited to join. They take 8 core classes at the honors level, go on field trips, have priority registration, etc.
  • Thomas Jefferson University Partnership. SJU doesn’t have PT, OT, etc; students interested in this complete 3 years at SJU then a variable number at TJU depending on the program.
  • Summer Scholars: students in all majors, not just science, can complete paid research on campus. They can do this as many summers as they want.

St. Joe's archesMajors fall into one of two schools:

Our tour guide had a hard time narrowing down some of his favorite classes. “Can I have more than one??” He talked about the following:

  • Creative writing taught by Tom Coin who has written books on golf (and was a clue on Jeopardy!) “He was more of a mentor than a teacher and encouraged me to trust my humor. I’m now signed up for a grad level screenwriting class with him this fall.”
  • His Freshman Seminar: Genesis, Sex, Lies, and Mayhem. It was a practical class and gave him a better understanding of the Bible. “If I’m at a Catholic school, that’s helpful! The Bible comes up from time to time.”
  • In the Theology/Philosophy realm, he enjoyed Religious Differences (Islam), God and Evil, and Philosophy of Death.
St. Joe's 6

The quad with the bell tower, gargoyles, and the heads of past university presidents

Here, admissions reps also serve as Financial Aid officers. Families have 1 person to connect with. Admissions is test-optional but students do have to make the decision on the application. If students say that they do NOT want their scores to be considered, SJU will not look at them even if they’re sent in. If students indicate on the application that they DO want them considered, scores are then required.

Here’s a fun fact to end with: there are no bells in the bell tower because hawks were living in there. Around the bell-tower quad, the past-presidents’ heads are depicted in stone along with some gargoyles.

© 2016

Immaculata University

Immaculata University (visited 7/22/16)

Immaculata dome 2My tour guide completely sold me on this school. She loves it and answered questions well without being insipid or gushing. She, herself, had no real interest in coming here and had assumed that she would go to her local in-state institution. As a high school senior, she came here to watch a friend play field hockey and never looked back. “The Dome is Home! We say that a lot, and I don’t think people realize how much it’s true until it’s almost gone.” As a senior, it’s starting to sink in how little time she has left!

Immaculata statue 2She feels welcomed here, and all types of diversity are important and celebrated. Although this is a Catholic institution, no one is pressured to do anything with the religion. Our tour guide was surprised about how much the nuns were involved on campus; “We’re even friends on Facebook.” There are at least 20 who are full-time faculty. Others are in the Ministry Office, theater, etc. As an IHM school, one of their tenets is hospitality. There are plenty of Catholics (50-60% of the study body), but also a lot of non-Catholics and even non-Christians.

Immaculata 3There are 600 beds on campus (And almost all rooms have sinks in them); 85% freshmen and just over 50% of all undergrads live on campus. IU just built new apartments for upperclassmen, bringing the numbers up. There are some Learning-Living Communities, but no separate Greek housing for the 5 sororities and 1 frat. I asked if this was indicative of the gender ratio, but it’s not (the university went co-ed in 2005, and the gender ratio evened out last year). “There just aren’t as many guys who want to join,” said the tour guide.

Immaculata 2“The students who won’t succeed here are the ones with an attitude or ego. Teamwork is a huge deal, and if people don’t want to work with others, they won’t last long.” This is also a dry campus; most people come in knowing this and being ok with that, but she found some who liked to complain about it and didn’t want to follow that rule. They ended transferring as well. “We provide a nurturing environment because the students here are the ones who want to interact. People need to get involved. That’s how they find their purpose and their voice. Students can be shy but they need to be proactive,” said an admissions rep.

Immaculata AT dept

Part of the Athletic Training department

There are ore than 100 degree programs offered, and the goal is to fit students into their major as soon as they’re ready. The most popular majors are Education, Psych, Music (with an emphasis on performance, music education, or music therapy), and Nursing; growing majors include Business and Exercise Science (they even have a hydrotherapy pool). The Allied Health concentrations are specialized and include such areas as Nuclear Medicine Technology, Cardiovascular Invasive Technology, Medical Dosimetry, Radiation or Respiratory Therapy, and Surgical Technology.

Immaculata acad bldg 4

One of the academic buildings

Most majors require an external experience; all recommend one. Our tour guide’s smallest class had 7 students (her Forensics class which was also her favorite). Her largest (writing) had 21 students. Students do take a religion class; our tour guide took “Exploring Yourself in God and Prayer” and found it really useful. “It was really introspective.”

They want to make sure that the 4-year graduation rate is attainable. Retention is nearly 85%, and graduation rates hover around 75%. They are taking steps to increase both, even though they’re already above the national average. Students are accountable for themselves, but everyone works as a support system. A new Center for Student Engagement should be up within 2 years.

Immaculata main

Back Campus

Immaculata rotunda

Inside the Rotunda

Back Campus, the big quad behind the main buildings, holds many of the campus-wide events such as the Block Party, Back-to-School Bash, and Movies on the Quad. Weekends are busy so students like sticking around. In addition to things on campus, trips to Baltimore Aquarium, Dooney Park, Hershey Park and more are offered regularly. Philly is about 50 minutes by car (all students can have cars on campus for $50 a year). The closest train is about 2 miles away in Malvern, but a SEPTA bus that stops on campus every hour. A favorite tradition is the Christmas tree in the rotunda. It’s decorated, people sing carols, sophomores get their pins and juniors get their class rings. It’s a huge deal.

Immaculata bball awards

The 3 National Championship awards

Immaculata sports are DIII, and the university is considered both the Birthplace of Modern Women’s Basketball and the start of NCASS divisions. The Mighty Macs movie was about the team in the ‘70s that won 3 consecutive national championships. They’re currently expanding the pool by either a centimeter or an inch (no one seems quite sure which it is!) to make it officially long enough for swim meets. Professors work with athletes to work around schedules: “they know you didn’t create your travel schedule, but it’s still on you to be responsible about it. You have to get a paper signed by you, your coach, and the teacher if you’re going to miss a class.”

Immaculata music

Setting up for a concert

Students come mostly from the mid-Atlantic, usually with between 12-15 states are represented. It’s free to apply to Immaculata online and applicants only need 1 rec (2 for nursing). Music requires an audition. There are some music scholarships ranging up to $5000, stackable with other merit scholarships.

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La Salle University

La Salle University (visited 7/19/16)

La Salle walkway

The walkway over main street running through campus

This is a great school for students who want a real campus in an urban environment and are sports-oriented, either to watch or to participate in. Although this is in the city, it’s a safe area, and campus is well patrolled and gated; students and faculty swipe IDs to get through the gates at the entrances. A major street runs through campus, but the students seem to like it. “It actually ties the campus together,” said our tour guide. “Students hang out there.” In First Year Odyssey, students learn how to get around the city and use it as a resource. They can’t have a car as freshmen, so they really have to learn SEPTA (which stops just up the street) and the buses.

La Salle 1“We take the B+ student who plugs away and has potential. They thrive here,” said an admissions rep. This year, they’re bringing in 826 freshmen from 26 states and 11 countries.

“Students who are looking for a Villanova feel but maybe don’t have the grades will probably do great here,” said our tour guide. Currently, freshman to sophomore retention is at 78%, but they’re working to get it to 85%. They just hired a new person who can work with “those kids that all schools miss,” an admissions rep told us.

La Salle grottoThis is 1 of 6 Christian Brother colleges in the US. Part of the Christian Brothers’ ethos is to work with under-served students. More than 50% of La Salle’s students are First Gen and about 35% are PELL eligible. Serving people extends to the wider community, as well. A Community Service requirement is tied to the major.

About 35 Brothers live on campus, and many teach and work there, as well. (As a side note, they’re building a new retirement home on the edge of campus because “Brothers live forever. It’s a known fact,” joked our tour guide.) Our tour guide had a business class with one, and another works in Admissions and is charge of all the CB high school applicants. He talked to us and said that Community separates them from other schools. They’re part of the school, Philadelphia (“It’s our largest classroom”), and the CB community worldwide.

La Salle quadStudents eligible for the Honors Program are pulled during the admissions process based on GPA and test scores, but students can apply separately if they want to be considered. These students take an interdisciplinary Philosophy, History, and English class for all year. After freshman year, they have honors electives. Normally 2 philosophy and 2 religion classes are required, but the honors electives fulfill that.

In addition to the typical majors you would expect at a medium sized school, a few unusual (and most interdisciplinary) ones stand out: Integrated Science, Business, and Technology; Political Science, Philosophy, and Economics; Economics and International Studies; and Business Systems and Analytics.

La Salle 4This is the first school I’ve heard of that does completely random lottery selections for class registration; seniors might be last to register. Class sizes are pretty typical for a school this size. There are 3 lecture halls on campus which hold about 100 people; big classes have tutors and supplemental instructors. English classes are capped at 18.

International Students can take advantage of the English Language Institute and/or additional support with the English.

  • Regular Admit: Students need an 80+ score on the TOEFL can enroll without the extra support.
  • Pathways: First year students with a 65-79 TOEFL will receive tutoring and extra support as they start their classes.
  • ELI: This is a Conditional Admissions program for students without at least a 65 on the TOEFL. Students can enroll in ELI to gain proficiency and have to reach level 5 for undergrad or 6 for graduate work.
La Salle townhouses

Some of the townhouses for upperclassmen

About 80% of freshmen live on campus. Housing is guaranteed all 4 years; some students do move off campus, but many stay. North Campus has most of the freshman dorms along with some singles usually taken by upperclassmen. La Salle just put up a new dorm with mostly suites interspersed with some doubles. There are 5 frats and 5 sororities but no Greek housing. Students like the dining options.

La Salle baseball field

The baseball diamond

Their DI sports are strong here. There is no football team (except for an intramural, non-tackle team), but they have all the typical sports as well as water polo and crew for both men and women. They have lacrosse for women but not men. Rugby and softball are new. All events are free for students to attend.

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Cabrini University

Cabrini University (visited 7/21/16)

Cabrini 1Cabrini is a hidden gem of a school that I hope more people will look at. It has a lot to offer! The student panelists were impressive, articulate, and gave great answers to the “Why Cabrini?” question instead of just “It feels like home!” They talked about the honors program, club offerings, quality of their academic programs, the ability to play sports which wouldn’t have been possible at a larger school, the size, and being able to get involved. Students agreed that this is a transformative experience: One panelist said, “I was a quiet average kid in high school. I didn’t do anything special or get involved. I’ve opened up more and became more independent. I say yes to trying things. It’s presented challenges but also made me stronger academically.”

Cabrini statueWe drove up a wooded lane to get to campus and stopped in front of a huge stone mansion which (as we soon learned) had been owned by the President of Campbell Soup (and the guy who invented condensed soup). The mansion was one of the few buildings on campus when this was started as a women’s college in the late ‘50s. When they went coed in the early ‘70s, they built a dorm for the males “down the way,” according to the tour guide while the mansion remained as a dorm for females. Most of the university buildings have gone up since going coed giving the campus a clean, new feel. It’s grown so quickly that it now has gained University status (as of July 1, 2016).

Cabrini chapel

The chapel

Cabrini is a Catholic college started by the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart (which, unfortunately, is a dying order according to the admissions rep). Just over 1/3 of students self-identify as Catholic; about 30% don’t report a religious affiliation. Students are required to take one religion class; our tour guide’s class was Search for Meaning. She loved it because talked about all religions and students could make it personal to their own journey.

Cabrini acad bldgEngagement with the Common Good (or ECG) is one core requirement; this is another distinctive curriculum piece that makes Cabrini stand out, and students had a lot of positive things to say about it. Students take 4 interdisciplinary classes over the four years designed to raise awareness of social issues and give students hands-on experiences in community service and/or solving problems. One student took “Our Interdependent World” which looked at things like social justice, refugees, and climate change. These classes take the place of Comp 101. It’s writing-intensive, but based on current events.

Cabrini dorms

One of the new dorms

The people we talked to said that the community is well-integrated and people are accepting of others. Of the 1300 full-time students, just under 40% (almost equally divided) self-report as African-American or Hispanic. They have doubled the number of Hispanic students in the last few years and are working on becoming a Hispanic-Serving institution (requiring at least 25% Hispanic population). They’re working on bringing in more students from South America; the Sisters are pretty active down there.

Cabrini dorm int

The interior of a dorm

The campus is in a residential area of town; not much is within walking distance, but shuttles run 15-20 times a day around town, and all students can have cars. Campus is quiet and safe. “I’ve never heard of anyone using the blue lights. Sometimes a goose will approach you … but that’s about it,” said the tour guide.

This is still mostly a regional institution. A vast majority of students come from mid-Atlantic “ranging from Connecticut to Virginia, an in Pennsylvania, east of the Susquehanna River,” an admissions rep told us. However, most freshmen (90%) live on campus. This drops to about 40% overall after first year. A couple students on the panel were commuters and never felt like they weren’t part of the community. In addition to Living Learning Communities for first and second year students, Cabrini recently created a Commuter LLC; about 25 students get involved every year, and although they don’t live there, they meet regularly.

They’ve created several new dorm options in an effort to increase the number of upperclassmen on campus. Upperclassmen can get suites that are often arranged in “pods” – 4 or 5 bedrooms with 1 bathroom. Dorms house anywhere from 20 to 250 students, and rooms are spacious. There are some triples which are huge. Singles, doubles, and triples were interspersed along the hall we saw. Food on campus “is pretty good! People get very excited about the pickles. I don’t know what that’s about.” Chicken Nugget Tuesday is also popular.

Cabrini tv studio

A tv studio

The academic program most worth noting is Digital Communications and Social Media, although pretty much anything in their Communications department is going to be excellent. The studios and technology are amazing. Comcast uses the studios on the last Friday of the month, often hiring Cabrini students to help. They share a radio frequency with Villanova. The newspaper is published every 2 weeks, but the online newspaper is done more frequently.

Cabrini radio station

A radio station

A couple other majors of note include: Molecular Biology and BioTechnology, Gender and Body Studies, and Health and Wellness Management. They also have multiple dual-degree options including:

  • Hospitality Management and Tourism (BS in any Business major, MHTM from Widener)
  • 3+3 Law Degree with Widener
  • Podiatric Medicine (3+4): BS Biology, DPM from Temple
  • Pharmacy (3+4): BS Biology, PharmD from Thomas Jefferson Univ. School of Pharmacy
  • Social work: 5-year BSW/MSW with Widener
  • Dentistry: (3+4): BS Biology, DMD from Temple
  • Nursing (4+1) with Villanova or Temple

The students’ favorite classes include:

  • Scriptwriting: “We got a great hands-on experience!”
  • Media Influences and Psychological Development: “We looked at music, music, tv, even Barney and how those things influence people.”
  • Engagements and the Common Good. “We participated in role-playing historical scenes. I was a protester at the Convention in 1968.”
  • Multimedia story Creation: “We made 3-5 minute videos that were like documentaries. It taught me all aspect of media but also a LOT of patience! Editing takes so much time.”
  • Photo for Publication: “ We got assignments from the newspaper. I did a lot of the sports games. We took trips off campus around Philly. It was very hands-on and taught lots of cool tricks with the camera.”

They do have an Honors College; students applying to the school will get flagged for this if they have a 3.5 GPA and will get a chance to apply for HC. To stay in, students take 4 honors classes the first year (including their ECG, and Search for Meaning classes) and at least 1 a year after that. The Honors LC has a Master Learner, an upper level student who has already taken those classes, and honors students have special trips (like to the Philly Orchestra) and other events.

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Chestnut Hill University

Chestnut Hill University (visited 7/19/16)

Chestnut HIll 2“You might have noticed that this campus is very Harry Potter-esque,” said our tour guide as we started on the tour, and it’s true. There are lots of large, impressive, stone buildings. One of the things the college is proud of is their annual Harry Potter Festival (complete with Quidditch tournaments) to which the community is invited.

Chestnut HIll 1This is a Catholic institution affiliated with the Sisters of Saint Joseph. About 50% of the students self-identify as Catholic; surprisingly, there are also lots of Buddhists on campus. Masses are held Monday to Friday morning and Sunday PM in the small chapel within the main building. Mass is never required, but students do need to take World Religions. This was the tour guide’s biggest class with 28. She also took a class called Spiritual Life Journey which was one of her favorites: rather than talking about a particular religion, it talked about spirituality and each person’s personal path.

Chestnut HIll lounge

One of the lounges

There are only about 950 traditional undergrads, 60% of whom live on campus. Housing is guaranteed for full-time students, and the dorms have the most amazing lounges I’ve seen! Apartments are reserved for students with a 3.5 GPA. They have to write an essay as part of the application to live there. Dorms are single-gender by floor except for suites.

Freshmen are required to take an orientation class during their first semester where they meet with a mentor professor and have to participate in a certain number of events such as lectures, attending a club fair, participating in a dorm event, etc. They get their “passports” stamped to show they attended. It’s designed to ensure that they are acculturating to campus and getting involved.

Chestnut HIll 8CHC sits on the city limits (the “Welcome to Philly” sign is right outside campus) and is 20 minutes from downtown. The train station down the street takes students to City Center. The school’s Sugarloaf Campus is a mile from Main campus, and shuttles run every 20 minutes. The old hotel (originally owned by Temple and sold to CH) is now a dorm. The Mansion, now used for events, used to be a Speakeasy.

In addition to offering the standard fare of majors, CHC offers some specialty majors like Social Gerontology, Jazz Studies, Forensic Bio, Forensic Chemistry, and biology with a Sports Med Concentration. Certificate Programs include Intercultural Foundations, International Studies, Montessori Specialization, Religious Studies, and Digital Forensics. CHU also runs Dual Degree programs with 2 local schools, Thomas Jefferson (Radiological Sciences or Bioscience Technologies) and Arcadia University (Physician’s Assistant Program).

Chestnut HIll 6In addition to departmental honors, they run an Interdisciplinary Honors Program which allows students to take a different approach to how they approach their work. Departmental Honors can be obtained by invitation after 2 years (60 credits) with at least a 3.6.

Their athletics are DII, which is amazing for a school this size. Baseball, basketball, softball, and lacrosse draw big fan bases. They just added a Sprint Football Team for men (bowling for women to balance it out – not nearly as exciting! The tour guide said she pushed for field hockey but it didn’t happen). There are only 8 schools (including West Point, Navy, and Penn) in the country with this sport. They played – and WON – against Princeton!

Chestnut HIll statueThis is also one of the only colleges with a direct connection to the UN. The send a group every year to address committees at the UN Headquarters in New York. The two Heads of the UN Club this year are African. They draw a lot of international students, both as degree-seeking undergraduates and exchange students. They have a direct exchange “bed to bed/give one, get one” program. Many of these students come from South America and Europe.

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Gwynedd Mercy University

Gwynedd Mercy University (visited 7/19/16)

Gwynedd Mercy 1Here’s a fun fact about Gwynedd Mercy: Ian Fleming got the name for his protagonist, a real-life James Bond, who was the son of the owner of the land the university now sits on. James Bond (the real one) published a book on the birds of the West Indies; Fleming, living in Jamaica, saw the name on the cover and thought it sounded perfect.

Gwynedd Mercy bells

The bell tower

The Bond family mansion was eventually deeded to the Sisters of Mercy who founded the institution; with that comes the heritage of serving community. First-Year Experience classes require 20 hours of community service. Many students do this anyway, so it becomes part of the culture on campus, including Alternative Spring Breaks. About 38% self-identify as Catholic; another 30% don’t self-identify as any religion. The only religious obligation students must fulfill is 1 religion OR philosophy class.

Several years ago, Gwynedd Mercy created an institutional imperative to increase learning in different ways. One hallmark is their study abroad program since this has been shown to be beneficial for college students as an exploration of cultures, building life experiences, and considering various worldviews. GMU makes sure it’s intentional, getting students to think about the essential questions: Who are we, who are they, and how does it all fit together?

Gwynedd Mercy libraryThe Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences spoke to us about their program; I can see why students would be excited to take classes with her. She’s been at the school for 20+ years and is passionate about teaching and providing quality experiences for the students. “This place feels like home. It may be cliché, but I think students experience this, and faculty and staff do, too.”

Study trips travel all over for intensive 2-3 week experiences such as History and Culture of New Orleans; Irish History, Lit, and Culture; Business and Lit in Rome; and Healthcare in the Bateyes (Dominican Republic). The Ireland group visits Mercy International. “They’re immersed in Mercy from the day they get here, but it really hits home here.” GMU waives tuition for summer study abroad to encourage students to go on the trips. Students interested in the traditional study abroad (semester or year-long) get connected to nearby Arcadia University for their programs.

Gwynedd Mercy library intAnother distinctive program is “E-STEM” funded by an NSF grant. This research project (primarily through the Bio and Math departments) looks at whether they can increase students’ ethical awareness in science. Eligible students (academically talented with financial need) apply by writing an essay about ethical issues, a potential ethical solution, and short- and long-term outcomes. Recipients get either $3,000 or $8000 (most get 8) and become part of a LLC and the Honors College. Monthly activities include co-curricular and social events.

Gwynedd Mercy 3The college is suburban; they have access to the city without being in the middle of it. The Griffin Link Shuttle Service runs Thursday through Sunday; this gets them to Target, restaurants, theaters. They also have bike share and car share, and the train station is 2 minutes away. There are 4 malls within 15 minutes as well as lots of stores, eateries, theaters, etc.

Students are happy with the variety of things to do on campus. The 19 DIII teams draw high numbers of participants and fans. There are also a fair number of clubs including an equestrian team. The late-night lounge is a popular place to hang out. Students like the food, especially seafood night, the fried chicken, and mac-n-cheese. A couple favorite traditions are:

  • Finals breakfast at the end of Fall Semester. Professors serve breakfast from 9-12 and prizes are given out.
  • Griffin Madness (the Griffin is the mascot), a basketball pep rally. There are student-faculty games, wing eating contests, and more.

Gwynedd Mercy nursingRight now, the gender balance is skewed with males making up only 1/3 of the 2000 undergrads, primarily because the Nursing program is well-known, highly regarded, and popular (about 40% of students are in this major). However, they have some other amazing programs:

Gwynedd Mercy 8Our tour guide’s classes have ranged in size from 3-25. His favorite was Civil War History taken over the summer with a professor who did reenactments. They went to Gettysburg, and the guy would point out where “his” regiments were.

GMU’s rolling admissions will provide an answer in about 2 weeks. Most decisions are made in the admissions office, but some programs like nursing require the file to go to committee if a student is borderline. Now with Prior-Prior Year financial aid, they’re bumping up some of their deadlines, so check the website for information as this happens over the coming year.

Gwynedd Mercy statue 2The small community allows for hand-on, personalized attention. “This is a good place for shy students who want to blossom,” said the tour guide. “That was me. I’m totally different from who I was in high school.” As another example, students who have learning differences are easily accommodated. An admissions rep said, “we’re small and can be flexible. We’ll do anything we can for students to accommodate needs.” The same goes for students with allergies.

Only about 600 students live on campus; there’s been a big push to keep kids on campus on the weekend. Housing is guaranteed but students can move off. Three of the four dorms are interconnected with one centralized entranceway to all 3 buildings. The Health Center and mailboxes are in this building which is really smart! Cable is provided in dorms. The 4th dorm has apartments housing 4 or 5 people per unit. This has kept more of the upperclassmen on campus.

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