campus encounters

"Get the first-hand scoop about colleges and universities"

Archive for the category “Pennsylvania”

Widener University (Take 2)

Widener Old Main 2

Old Main, the original building when this was Pennsylvania Military College

Widener University (visited 2/25/19)

(Click HERE to see notes and pictures from my previous visit on 11/20/15)

What makes students a good fit for Widener?

  • “We’re told by co-op employers that our students have grit and no sense of entitlement. There’s a drive that pushes them.”
  • “Kids come in with so much on their plate – but they keep going. They’re all passionate about something. They’re resourceful and innovative. They want to try new things and to connect.”
  • “We’re a smallish campus and a family style environment. People aren’t anonymous. You know the groundskeeper, the president, the person serving you in the dining hall, the student next to you in class.”
  • “We’re plugged in here. We’ll do wellness checks.”
Widener mascot

One of the Pride mascots (female, male, and cub)

“Student success is at the core of everything we do,” said an admissions rep. This ranges from a 3-year residency requirement (“data points say that students are more successful if they live on campus”) to experiential education “which is harder to find than you think!” Some students have never engaged in diverse environments, dealt with communities struggling with hunger insecurity, etc. They work with students to appreciate civic engagement for what it is and deal with it as career preparation. Students deal with privilege and power on a variety of levels.

Widener 1Widener uses their location to their advantage; some people worry about safety in that area, but “No one talks about all the rich things that happen in terms of service. All major cities have stuff. If you go to a rural campus, there are rural issues. If you go to an urban campus, there are urban issues. We talk to kids about being savvy about where you are. Because of all the lights, it’s like Yankee Stadium in the middle of a game. There are more than 100 cameras. There are tons of ways to keep campus safe.”

Widener hospitality cooking lab

One of the Hospitality lab/classrooms – the top slides back to expose stovetops

Widener students are 20% more likely to participate in research, internships, and high impact practices through Civic Engagement, hands-on education, Co-ops, and more. In the Philly region, Drexel and Widener are co-op powerhouses with two significant differences:

Widener tv studio 1

One of the student-run tv studios in the communications department

Although I had visited Widener several years earlier, I was glad to revisit and see many of the departments I hadn’t before; they did an amazing job getting us the academic facilities and talking to professors who were passionate and clearly care about the students. I can see why students do so well here! A professor told us that “one of our competitors on the accreditation team said, ‘We say we care; you guys really care’.”

“This is the place where you have dinner at the President’s House. You get that up close and personal. More than 1000 students have dinner there every year: she invites sports teams, Bonner’s Program, etc. The dogs come out and the pool is open.”

Widener computer forensics

One of the Computer Forensics labs

We asked the students on the panel, “Why should we send students here? What’s appealing?”

  • “During a revisitation day, two science professors sought me out. I’m 1 of 7 biochem
  • “It’s the only school in the area that goes to the European Simulation. It’s one of the most life changing things I’ve done.”
  • “Family and Growth. I’ve seen myself grow compared to my friends at other colleges. You can create your own legacy and leave your mark.”
  • “I run track and miss random classes for meets, but it’s easy to work with professors to make sure I keep up.”
  • “They’ll work with you to match you with internships because professors have connections. They have no problem helping out and linking students with their contacts.”
  • “I came for the accelerated PT program. I’ll starts grad classes in senior year to shave off a year of my graduate studies, but I keep my scholarship as a senior.”
Widener geology lab

A geology lab

With 3,000 full-time undergrads and 3,000 graduate students, Widener provides what many larger schools offer while giving students a smaller college feel and personal attention with an average of 25 students per class. “It’s a blessing and a curse because we’re put in with larger institutions, so we get hit with rankings.”

Student panelists said that their favorite classes were:

  • Genetics: “my research prof teaches it. She’s helped with med school, MCATs, shaping me as a person. This taught me resilience.”
  • “I don’t have a specific favorite, but I’ve taken 4 classes with one professor. He embodies the involvement faculty have =. He checks in with how I’m doing. He knows I ski.”
  • Constitutional Law: “The Prof engages without PowerPoints for 3 hours. I’m learning the same things as Villanova Law students.”
  • “I had one professor in fall of freshman year who helped me find my internship. We got close because I was always missing his class for meets so I was working a lot with him.”
  • Business Law: “I want to go into that. I took it with a professor who’s a lawyer. I learned things I could apply in the field.”
  • Environmental Engineering: “I had the professor for 3 classes and did research with her.”
Widener nursing 1

The nursing building

The largest major is nursing: about 200 of the incoming 750-800 freshmen declare that major. Overall, they have strong Health programs (especially PT) and are starting OTD and PA programs. They accepted 16 into next year’s PT accelerated 3+3 cohort: to be offered a spot, students need 570 math SAT (1200 composite) or 24 math ACT (24 composite). If they don’t meet that but are admissible to Widener, they’re offered a 4+3. PT students work in a pro-bono clinic and complete in-patient, out-patient, and 1 choice internship; some do sports, pediatrics, even abroad (currently in Belize or Italy; Costa Rica and China are potential future possibilities).

Widener library 1

The library

All majors can study abroad: “going abroad should not delay your education.” Students can also study away in the US. “There’s a diversity of options without even leaving the North America: HBCUs, sea grants, French-speaking in Quebec, Spanish speaking in PR.” Widener owns property in Costa Rica, often used for short-term abroad programs, research projects, etc.

Over 90% of students live on campus in a variety of options including gender-neutral. Housing is guaranteed all 4 years and required for 3 unless they live with family within 25 miles. All students can have cars; permits are $230/year. There are 2 nearby train stations (Chester and Swarthmore) and buses to get around town.

NCAA athletes (23 DIII teams) make up 25-30% of the freshman class. “Academics and graduating are the most important. That being said, we hate losing more than we love winning.” Just over half of the athletes made the honor roll, and athletes are the highest retaining cohort.

Widener has been named among the top 150 most affordable colleges (out of 1700 researched by LendEDU) for freshmen with financial need. The “Average Joe” gets about $26,000 in merit aid.

© 2019

 

Advertisements

Mercyhurst University

Mercyhurst University (visited 3/18/19)

Mercyhurst M and Main

The main entrance

Sometimes visiting a college without knowing much about it first is the best way to approach this. This is definitely the case here. I loved driving onto campus under the metal arch and up the drive leading to the stunning main, original building. This has the feel of a strong faith-based community – there’s no question that this is a religious institution with the statues and the chapel – but I never got the heavy-handed feeling that some other religious institutions have. It just had a sense of calm and purpose permeating much of what goes on.

Mercyhurst chapel 1

The main chapel

The Sisters of Mercy (the first non-cloistered order) started Mercyhurst with 23 female students in 1926 (they went coed in 1969 with the addition of a men’s crew team). Their 2 major tenets include health care and education. If people needed help, they got it. They took care of soldiers on both sides of the Civil War, for example. Someone described them as being on the liberal edge of Catholicism, telling me that it was the Campus Ministry that started the LGBTQ group years ago. “They see the problem, not the details of who the person is. They want people to feel welcome and at home. If you want to be here, they want you to be here. Students seem respectful of people’s opinions and people can say what they feel.” The tour guide agreed: “It’s a supportive environment where you can be yourself.”

Mercyhurst lab

One of the cybersecurity labs

This is still something of a regional school with many students coming from a two-hour radius. Much of this is program driven: the academics have strong reputations, and the university has specialized majors such as Interior Architecture and Design, archaeology/anthropology (including concentrations in Bioanthropology and Bioarchaeology), and Applied Forensic Sciences (with concentrations in Criminalistics/Forensic Bio, Forensic Anthropology, and Forensic Chemistry). They’ve developed majors that enable students to train for jobs that industries need, and have done a great job of being future-focused by creating programs in data science, cybersecurity, and Business and Competitive Intelligence.

Mercyhurst Applied Politics

Institute for Applied Politics polling room

They have created specialized institutes as well, including one for Ethics and Society and one for Applied Politics (Students can work here to conduct public opinion polls on a variety of things, including politics and environmental issues).

Mercyhurst offers a strong Learning Support program as well as Institute for high-functioning students on the spectrum. I met with representatives from both programs and ate lunch with 3 of them. They’re wonderful and clearly love what they do!

  • Mercyhurst nontrad apts

    Some of the non-traditional apartments where students in AIM can choose to live

    LDP (Learning Difference Program) offers two levels of academic support.

    • Students with a current documented disability will be able to get accommodations such as extended time for testing, Assistive technology, etc. For extended time, students get a form that indicates which accommodation they’ve been approved for; they have that signed by the professor and comes back to the office for scheduling at least 5 days before the test date.
    • The Academic Advantage Program is a fee-based program with about 10 openings for the coming year. “Sometimes it’s hard for kids coming from a high school with a real reach-around program. This service focuses much more on organization and executive functioning to make sure they’re getting things done on time and then making sure that they seek out the content help somewhere else. They need to be advocating for themselves.” Students get weekly check-ins with academic counselors who will help create a document to track what they have due, create a weekly time management calendar, and other things to help students stay on track. They’ll also track grades through an early alert programs. Counselors can help students get tutoring.
    • Freshmen also have the option to participate in the PASS summer program; 12-15 students each summer move in at the end of July and take a 3-week, 3-credit class. It counts for the REACH (see below), and it alleviates the fall course load. They can move into their dorm room to get settled early. They also have workshops so they know what the accommodations look like.
  • The Autism Institute at Mercyhurst (AIM) provides support for students on the Spectrum; they support the students’ adjustment to college and provide social and other support to make sure they’re successful. There is specialized housing available, but this is optional. Students can choose to live there or in other available dorms.
Mercyhurst 1

The library and an academic building connected by an overhead walkway

The Core Curriculum is called REACH in which they take 10 classes in 10 disciplines, 2 in each of the following areas: Reason & Faith, Expression and Creativity, Analytical Thought, Contexts & Systems, and Humans in Connection. Freshman also take two semesters of Intro to Mercyhurst classes which purposefully mixes students of different majors and different geographic areas so they interact with people they might not have. These classes help to ensure that students know where resources are on campus.

Mercyhurst sky roof

The “sky ceiling” in one of the academic buildings.

The university has recently revamped their academic calendar to incorporate “mini-terms” into their semesters. This effectively splits the semester into 2 8-week sections, and students can go on “mini-semester travel.” They also have a campus in Dungarvan, Ireland “that’s really an extension of our campus.” Freshmen can go if they’re in the honors program (but this option is not always available every year). Depending on the major, they might be able to take some of the requirements for the major. About 25% of students will study abroad.

Mercyhurst reading room

One of the reading rooms

They do have a 4-year residency requirement. “People aren’t leaving en masse on the weekends. They’re here and doing things.” Freshmen are not allowed to have cars on campus, but all students get passes for public transportation. There’s a lot to do in Erie including an indoor water park, mini-golf, theaters, Target, etc. “There’s cool local music downtown,” said the tour guide. Presque Isle (about a 15 minute drive; the bus line also goes there) is a popular spot with walking trails and beaches; sometimes the college hosts events there. “Erie is like Buffalo, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh,” said the admission rep. “We’re trying to come back from being primarily an industrial city so things are getting revitalized.” Gannon University is also in Erie, so a lot of places cater to college students.

Mercyhurst motto

The college motto

A couple fun campus traditions mentioned by several people are:

  • The Sister Damien Spirit Bell is a fixture at hockey games. The tour guide told me that she was such a supporter of the Mercyhurst teams (and about 30% of students are athletes) that “she would tell the opposing team that they’d go to hell if they beat her boys.” The bell is still rung at athletic (“and personal”) victories. They have 3 DI sports (men’s and women’s ice hockey and men’s crew). All other sports are DII.
  • The new President (well, sort of new – he’s in his 4th year) established Hurst Day. On a random fall day, he cancels classes with a big scavenger hunt (based on the history of campus, etc), games, activities, competitions, and a big dinner.
Mercyhurst quad

The quad

Improvements are student-focused (such as the new sophomore res hall being built). “Things aren’t done blindly on campus; it’s done on purpose.” They just opened a bar on campus in Mid-March. It’s run by the cafeteria so food can be bought with their card; they need cash for alcohol which is served with a 2 drink limit “for student safety,” said the rep. The tour guide said, “It’s great. It’s been open 3 days and I’ve been there twice.”

Mercyhurst birds 2

Artwork by one of the art professors (also a Mercyhurst alum)

Admissions is fully test optional; those who don’t send scores are still eligible for Honors Programs, scholarships, and any major. They’ll superscore both the SAT and ACT if sent, and admissions will counsel students if they aren’t sure if they should send in scores. “We’re not super selective. We work well with students who aren’t your traditional A student or who needs more hands-on.” They have a 15-to-finish initiative: they work with students to take at least that many credits per semester so they’re on track to graduate. “But it’s not just random credits. We have advisors who make sure they are taking the RIGHT 15 credits.”

© 2019

Gannon University

Gannon University (visited 3/18/19)

Gannon archThis is more urban than I had expected it to be, but it still has enough of a campus feel to make students feel like they have “a place.” Campus is about 2 blocks wide and 5 or so long. “You can walk across campus in 2 Spotify songs!” said the tour guide. Having the size of a campus described that way was a first for me – and I think that sums up Gannon in a lot of ways!

Gannon student cntrErie is the only port city in Pennsylvania. They get a lot of traffic from Routes 90 and 70, but it’s not a major city. Costs are reasonable, and the city opens up lots of options for social life including “funky brew pubs and lots of cool museums,” said the tour guide. The rep said, “The city and the college grew up together in the 1920s, and now we’re adults and we help each other out. We’re a weird city! It’s cool to be in Erie as a young person. This is an international place. 18% of the population isn’t from here. That’s also reflected in our student population. In the time it takes you to walk across campus, you’ll hear 5 or 6 languages.”

Gannon upperclass housingStudents are typically involved in 5 or 6 things on and off campus. The tour guide told me that “student like Greek Life. It’s there but not overarching. Many groups are volunteer based, and often dues are donated to community organizations. You join knowing you’re going to be involved. There are no rowdy parties because we’re in a residential neighborhood.” They discourage rushing Freshman year because there are so many other opportunities to take advantage of. “Greek Life isn’t the umbrella. It’s just one thing UNDER the umbrella of our entire experience.”

Gannon 2Gannon is a 5 minute walk to Presque Isle bay on Lake Erie. “The freshwater and marine biology students and the crew team don’t mind the lake access!” said an admissions rep. In addition to having access to the lake for their crew team, they have an amazing interior turf field on campus. They take athletics seriously and have strong (DII) teams: “We can put ourselves on par with the lower 20% of DI schools.” They offer women’s wrestling (the 1st in the state and still 1 of only 3 in PA). Football, baseball, lacrosse, women’s soccer, and volleyball tend to pull in the most crowds, but they also offer water polo, competitive cheer (co-ed and all female) and competitive dance teams. Inner-tube water polo is the most popular intramural “and it is hilarious! They’re bouncing all over the place,” said the tour guide.

Gannon chapel 2This is the only university in Pennsylvania run by the Catholic diocese. It’s named after its founder who saw an influx of homeless newspaper boys so “he rounded them up to give them an education.” Catholicism is still a part of the identity with about 50% of students self-identifying as Catholic. There are very few things around campus to indicate that this is a relisious institution (there are a few small crucifixes around, but no statues, the chapel is not obvious, etc). The tour guide said that the religious aspect “not in your face. It’s there if you want it, but really easy to ignore it if you don’t.” She’s not Catholic and hasn’t felt isolated, pressured, or anything else. Students do have to take two theology classes of their choice; nothing is scripted, and mass/chapel attendance is never required.

Gannon atriumThere are about 4000 students on campus, 1000 of whom are grad students. Many of these are Gannon undergraduates who move right into grad programs. “A lot of our engineers are torn between here and RIT for graduate school. We’re not unhappy about being in that league.” The average class has 19 students; the largest classes will cap at 60ish because the largest lecture halls aren’t really bigger than that but those classes are rare. Professors are known by their first names. “It’s peer to peer. Students are walking their dogs, having coffee with them, babysitting their kids.”

Gannon performance lab 1One of the coolest things I saw on my tour was the Human Performance Lab. The tour guide said she normally doesn’t get to take people in there, so she was excited to show it off. She was raving about the director of the program who happened to be in there working out on the treadmills. “Come on in! I’m just killing time before the next group comes in!” He showed off the amazing technology and machines in there, and also had the tour guide chime in about some of her labs that she did in the room. This is absolutely an incredible facility that a lot of undergraduates do not have access to and most universities.

Gannon library“Gannon is riding the sweet spot of becoming a top-tier university without being elitist.” There’s no shortage of offerings for students, and Gannon provides strong job training without losing the ethos of who they are as a personalized, liberal arts institution.

Gannon stained glassAdmissions is rolling but “most students apply in the fall.” They will superscore both the SAT and ACT. Tuition is affordable, and they’re generous with scholarships. “The top price anyone will see is $48K with the highest tuition for health sciences, engineering, and CompSci because of the labs, but there are scholarships for those, too.” Some other scholarships include:

  • Diversity Service and Leadership (diverse racial backgrounds; $1000 for just applying as a student of color; if you visit and write an essay, you get an additional $2000)
  • Schuster Memorial Music/Patron of the Arts. Some stipulations apply such as a commitment to community service in the arts
  • MUN Scholarships (up to $3,000)
  • Full Tuition (students must apply by 12/15). The top 10% of applicants get invited to be in a full-tuition program. Those who choose will come to campus to give a presentation (could be everything from Irish Dancing, bringing in models they built, etc).

Athletes can be recruited with scholarships, as well, since they’re DII.

© 2019

Arcadia University

Arcadia University (visited 2/26/19)

Arcadia 1This is a hidden gem that I wish more people knew about. This is the school that will take care of its students, provide tools to succeed, and give them a chance to develop their voices and their passions.

My tour guide is from Nevada and transferred from UN Las Vegas. That’s a huge switch, so I asked how she found Arcadia. She said that she was really unhappy at UNLV and told her sister (who lives in the area) that she was dropping out of school; her sister told her that “No way is that happening!” and took her on college tours in Eastern PA. As soon as she got to Arcadia, she knew. She’s now a senior and couldn’t be happier that she ended up here.

Arcadia global business“UNLV was easy, and I was expecting to fly through classes here, but I got a C on my first paper. I was devastated. I had never gotten a C in my life! I almost dropped out. But my professors pulled me in to work on my writing. I learned how to pull apart an argument and present it. I may not write that way all the time, but it made me a better writer overall and I’m so much more confident now.” All students have to write a Senior Thesis (“the bio majors start in Junior year because it’s so difficult.”). She wrote hers on class ranking and discrimination in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

Arcadia library and flags

The library

The tour guide’s favorite class was Education and Inequality; “I took it because I’m interested in the subject even though it’s not in my major.” The campus itself seems to be incredibly inclusive. “There’s a lot of activism here,” she told me. When I talked with the rep after the tour, she told me, “We have a strong LGBTQ community on campus. The new president is very much social-justice oriented.”

Arcadia castle 1

T

Arcadia is perhaps best known for its global perspective. Flags hang all over campus “representing countries where our students or faculty are from or places students have studied.” Students must take a language at least through the 102 level; they offer about 8 languages, including ASL. They rank as #1 for number of students going abroad. Wording is important here: not everyone goes abroad, and some go more than once. (Compare this to Goucher in MD which requires EVERY student to study abroad; they just have a smaller student population!). However, this does not minimize Arcadia’s commitment to global perspectives, getting students out of their comfort zones, etc. Not surprisingly, they offer a Certificate in Peace Corps Prep.

 

Arcadia pondThey offer a First Year Study Abroad Experience (FYSAE) in London and Sterling. Students are identified as candidates in the admission process and offered a spot. Sterling is capped at 15 students; London has more flexibility because it’s run by Arcadia. They are implementing a new Second Year program (SYSAE) in 6 locations but with more stipulations on which majors are eligible (some examples: bio, education, and nursing can’t go). Students interested in SYSAE interview as part of the application. “It’s just another layer to make sure they’re ready for it,” said the rep.

Arcadia quad stu and castle

The main quad with the Castle to the left and new Student Center to the right.

They offer traditional semester and year-long programs, “but for students who want to try out travel or aren’t sure they’re ready, there are spring travel classes,” my tour guide told me. Spring Preview classes are open to any student in their first year at Arcadia (freshman or transfer) and costs $595 (cheaper for students in the Honors College) regardless of location: this covers airfare, the hotel, most meals, and any scheduled group activities. My tour guide went to London on one of these and then did a semester abroad in her Junior year.

 

Gray Towers Castle (a National Historic Landmark) which had been their home. (Fun fact: Creed 2 was filmed in this building). The 3rd floor of the Castle is a dorm – for first-year students! “In keeping with the way the owners set up the house – with his side and her side – the males are housed on one side and females on the other.” Males are in quads; females have rooms ranging from 2-7! The tour guide was quick to point out that the room with 7 is huge, and she showed me a room on the first floor of equivalent size.

 

The Arts Department is housed in two buildings, one of which is older than the Castle. The Power House (it had actually powered the Castle) has traditional/2D (painting, etc); the other houses 3D (ceramics, etc). Students can earn either a BFA or BA in Art or Theater. The largest auditorium (400 seats) is an annex to the building; my tour guide loves the theater program. “I go to every production. They do such a good job!” They now offer a musical theater concentration. They have extensive offerings in the Arts including Pre-Art Therapy, Arts Entrepreneurship and Curatorial Studies, and Scientific Illustration.

Arcadia stack house 2

One of the Arts Buildings with the theater annex to the right.

I didn’t realize that Arcadia had such strong graduate PT and PA programs (PT is ranked #2 in Pennsylvania). They pair with UPenn to run a clinic on Arcadia’s campus. Undergrads are “almost assured entrance” into the program; they offer both a 3+3 and 4+3 Pre-PT/DPT. They have also paired with Drexel Law School to offer either an Accelerated 3+3 BA/JD or an Assured Admission 4+3. Entrance is extremely competitive to these: Students must have a minimum of a 1330 SAT or 28 ACT and 3.5GPA and graduation in the top 10% of the class (if the high school ranks).

Arcadia old wellTheir new Student Center (which is geo-thermically heated/cooled as well as having light sensors and other green initiatives) opened in 2011 and has a lot of comfortable spaces for students. One of the large lounges was almost full when we walked through. All the student engagement offices are there. She was very happy with the number of things to do on campus: a couple favorite events were Laser Tag (spring) and Carnival (fall). Night Madness and Midnight Bingo – held at least once a month – “are huge here! They give away amazing prizes!” Weekends are fun. “You don’t see students much in the daytime – because you realize that they’re sleeping all morning – but they come out at night!”

If anything, the tour guide would love to see renovations in the dorms. There were several dorm clusters where 2 or 3 dorms are linked; the buildings we walked through looked like typical dorms, but the rooms were more spacious than many I’ve seen. In some dorms, the beds can’t be fully bunked because of the height of the ceilings (lower than some but didn’t feel claustrophobic), but students can add risers. Food is pretty good here, but the dining hall is kind of small for 2300 undergrads. They do have a cool program for the use of to-go containers (they don’t provide things that can be thrown out). Students can buy a reusable container for $5. They can bring it back after using it to get cleaned; they’re given a token/coin that they can then turn in for a clean container when they need it to go again.

© 2019

Ursinus College

Ursinus College (visited 11/12-13/2018

Ursinus chapel ext 1J.D. Salinger attended Ursinus (although never graduated). In recognition of him, the college offers a $40,000 (per year) scholarship to an outstanding creative writer; the winner also gets to live in his old dorm room for a year. There are also 9 finalist awards (thanks to Salinger’s 9 Stories!).

“We’re a 150 year old start-up,” said the President. “There are great traditions, but we also need to think ahead.” They’ve done that, and they did a great job showing us what made them different from many other small liberal arts institutions:

  • Ursinus studentsThe Common Intellectual Experience (CIE) started in 2000. “I can’t imagine another place where students are watching something that combined physics and dance in connection with the Galileo work that they were reading,” said one professor.
    • The syllabus, voted on by the faculty, is the same for every section. Only 25% of the curriculum can be changed in any given year, ensuring that all students – freshmen to seniors – have at least some of it in common.
    • Sections are capped at 16 students to keep the focus on close reading of texts, writing, and discussion. How that happens within the class differs. “Texts are springboards for them to think about their own experiences and lives. It creates a culture of students who are able to discuss things.” Discussion counts for 40% of their grades; the remainder is from writing, including required first drafts and extensive revisions.
    • Ursinus mascot

      Ursinus’ mascot (the college name comes from the Latin for ‘bear’)

      Four essential questions thread through the experience: what should matter to me, how should we live together, how can we understand the world, what will I do?

    • CIE classes are taught by faculty across the college and supported by upper-class leaders (Writing and CIE Fellows). “We don’t see it as interdisciplinary – we see it as transcending disciplines,” said a professor. Topics are integrated into campus life with regular Common Events (lectures, etc).
  • Ursinus sculptures

    Sculptures are found all over campus

    Experiential Learning Project (XLP): students must apply what they’ve learned through an Internship, Study Abroad, Summer Fellowship, Independent Research, or Student Teaching. These is done in junior or senior years to ensure a solid academic footing.

    • Students have completed internships at places like Mote Marine Lab & Aquarium, Chewy.com, a microbiology lab at Johnson and Johnson, and BigStuff Studios. One student interned at the NJ Festival of Ballooning, dealing with all the vendors; he ended up with multiple job offers including with Coke.
    • The Philadelphia Experience “Philly Ex” takes a small cohort to live in Philadelphia (at Drexel) and use it as a classroom. Classes (often core requirements) are taught by Ursinus faculty, and students complete internships (including Office of General Counsel, National Museum of American Jewish History, radio stations, Drexel Athletic Departments, Penn University Hospital, Broad Street Ministry, Dance Fusion, and Wilma Theater).
Ursinus housing

Some of the housing options on campus

“You can’t pigeonhole people here,” said one rep, but students who want a smaller environment (there are 1500 undergrads) and are willing to engage are most likely to arrive and thrive. “It’s a great place to explore things and figure yourself out,” said a student. They offer a huge diversity in extra-curriculars created for a variety of students. “Even if you aren’t a stereotypical extrovert, you can still find like-minded students who are looking for the same things you are.”

Ursinus chairs 2Students have to be accountable for themselves and to others. They need to ask questions and be curious. “Being able to connect to others and express thoughts is important,” said one professor. “It doesn’t mean you have to be good at it right away, but you should have curiosity and you have to be willing to work with others to figure out answers.”

People tend to be kind and encourage each other. A counselor asked the student/faculty panel, “What happens at Thanksgiving if you can’t go home?” Without missing a beat, one of the professors said, “Come to my house.” If students have a social anxiety or disorder, they often do well here. One student has severe ADD and loved the support. Clearly things are going well: they have an impressive 89% retention rate and 77% graduation rate, both well above the national average.

Ursinus 2Ursinus definitely deserves its spot on the Colleges That Change Lives list.

  • “I came in a hotshot senior thinking I was going to be a neuroscience double major. Then I took FYS and went head-to-head with a world-class philosophy professor. I lost. My world got turned on its head. I figured things out.”
  • “This isn’t an extension of high school,” said one of the professors. “I do hold them accountable. There’s a lot in there to do, but don’t have a fear of failure. The more small failures you have, the less likely it is you’ll have a colossal one later.”
  • Students get real-world experiences such as being put into a group of 4 (without a choice of who they work with!) to solve a problem for a real client. “That was the hardest part!” said one of the students which is exactly the point of the exercise. “You don’t always know who you’ll work with or get along with them, but the job has to get done.
  • Ursinus 12A student on the Diversity Panel was transgendered, they’re a member of the first Frat to go gender-neutral (as a side-note, 60% of students join Greek Life, mostly in local chapters). “They’ve been doing better with the gender-neutral bathrooms,” they told us. “I’ve been fortunate that my professors have validated my identity.”
  • Study abroad experiences must be at least 6 weeks (or 4 weeks plus another significant component) – this is not one of those schools that uses spring break trips to pad study abroad numbers. They hold a pre-departure class to address culture shock, safety, and health. 26% complete a semester or yearlong experience for credit!
  • Ursinus walkwayEach year, 70-80 sophomores and juniors get selected as Summer Fellows with stipends up to $4000 stipend and free housing. They work in the sciences, social sciences, and humanities. “Abstracts can look scary; I show them to first-years and tell them that this will be them in a couple years. We’re the school that can get them there. This isn’t the recipe for McDonald’s Secret Sauce. We spent 20 years building a culture where the history, psych, English, and other professors want to do the research with the kids.”

© 2018

West Chester University of PA

West Chester University(visited 11/13/18)

The Ram mascot in front of the main library. 

I didn’t expect WCU’s main quad to be so beautiful – there are old stone buildings surrounding most of it (there is one glaring exception withfairly hideous ‘70s architecture). Many of the buildings, including Recitation Hall, date back to (or soon after) the university’s 1871 founding. With an undergrad enrollment of just under 14,500 students (total enrollment of 17,500),WCU is the 4th largest college in the Philly metro area and the largest of the 14 PA state-system schools (which doesn’t include Penn State,Temple, or Pitt).

The Frederick Douglass statue in front of one of the oldest buildings on the quad

Campus (ranked as 37th safest in the nation) is a 10-minute walk from downtown West Chester where there are lots of restaurants, shops, etc. It’s been named one of the best college towns in America and as Best Town where grads stay after college. They’re only 30 miles from Philly: “Ideally, it’s 45 minutes, but realistically an hour,” said the rep. Amtrak and SEPTA aren’t far from campus, and they provide shuttle to the Exton train station. They also now run shuttles to shopping centers even though much is walkable off campus.

All classes are taught by faculty, not TAs. They have a 67.3% 6-year graduation rate (almost 10 points above the national average). They offer 120 undergrad majors across 5 colleges plus Exploratory Studies and a School of Music.

  • All Business majors are pre-business: they have to satisfy pre-reqs because of accreditation. Transferring between majors is fairly easy as long as you’ve met the GPA requirements. A new business building went up in 2017, making it the newest on campus. They have a variety of options including Urban and Environmental Planning.
  • Arts and Humanities includes fine arts.
  • College of Sciences and Math:
    • Multiple accelerated programs are available.
    • Overthe past 35 years, 95% of pre-med students who receive Pre-Medical Committee Support got placed into med schools.
    • Two students each year are granted scholarships through the PA Space Grant program.
  • Health Sciences:
    • Nursing is probably their most popular major within this school. Currently, students do their pre-reqs on the main campus and will shuttle to Exton for classes in the major. This will be moved back onto the Main Campus by Fall 2020.
    • Exercise Sciences include concentrations in pre-chiropractic, Pre-OT, and Pre-PT. They have articulation agreements with places like NY Chiropractic College and Arcadia University for the graduate programs.
  • Honors College is by invitation; students are considered after acceptance to WCU. In the past, a 1350/3.5 GPA would put them in initial consideration.
  • The School of Music allows for multiple concentrations including Music History, Composition, Performance, Theory, and even Elective Studies outside the School.
The planetarium

The university is split between North (main) and South Campuses, located about 1.5 miles apart. “It’s definitely walkable, although most people don’t want to.” South campus has all the athletic fields where the DII teams practice and play (there is a fitness center on North campus), dorms, and currently houses the Health Sciences academics. Shuttles run between campuses every 5 minutes, 20 hours a day (basically corresponding to library hours). They have a Philly campus for a few majors (Social Work, Business Management) mostly for adult students or upperclassmen who need to finish up amajor.

Some of the dorms on North Campus

About 90% of freshmen are on campus, usually housed on North Campus; most students don’t want to live on campus after that. There areseveral large (8+ story) dorms on North Campus which mostly are traditional andsuite style. South Campus has traditional dorms and apartments. The food here is fairly good with several options including dining halls, a food court, PODs (like airport kiosks), and food trucks: “we take those very seriously here… Imay have had that for lunch today!”

A few traditions are worth mentioning that students talked about:

One of the main quad buildings
  • Banana Day! “It’s like a big festival day with games around campus. There are competitions to win a Banana T-shirt.” Last year, they won “Best Campus Tradition” because of this.
  • MLK Day: They pair up with the Frederick Douglass Institute (housed on campus) for events that day. Douglass gave his last public lecture on WCU’s campus in 1895.
  • Black and Latino Greek Council Step Show
  • Rams After Hours which happens every Friday night for food and entertainment.

There are multiple support programs at WCU. They have the well-established DUB-C Autism Program (or D-CAP) for students on the Spectrum. They provide a multitude of skill-development and social interaction supports for students needing these. They also have a Learning Assistance and Resource Center (LARC)

© 2018

Lafayette College

Lafayette College (visited 4/23/18)

Lafayette chapel 1

The chapel with a statue of Lafayette and the insured Japanese maples.

A few fun facts about Lafayette: the original letters from Lafayette to Washington are in their archives; the 2 Japanese maples by their main building are insured for $1million each; and their Civil Rights Hall, built during the Depression, was the most expensive building on any campus at the time.

Lafayette students lawn

Students on the quad

“Students who thrive here are passionate. They tend to be extroverted, or at least not mind getting to know people,” said a rep. “This is a great networking school with great outcomes. It’s collaborative. There’s a lack of pretense here.” I’m not sure I can entirely agree with that last statement having met several students. There seems to be a great deal of pride in being a Lafayette student (not a bad thing or unusual) but it seems like students know they’ve “made it” to a selective school! However, they’re also taking advantage of all the opportunities here, and they clearly love where they are. They are highly social; students were all over the main quad in groups during their free time; that was refreshing to see!

Lafayette 3Their motto is “Why not?” Students are not sectioned off into colleges; they are simply Lafayette students. “It’s easier to take electives or change our major. It’s not unusual to see things like Computer Science majors in a History of South Africa or a Martin Scorsese class. People are well rounded,” said our tour guide.

Lafayette 6“Lafayette has been great because of the size and there are no TAs.” The intro classes are capped at 80 students; others are capped at 40 “but rarely get that big.” Professors do a lot of research, and students can get funding for this through the Excel scholarship. They don’t compete with graduate students for research. It’s fairly common to be published with the professors.

Lafayette engo lab

An engineering lab

About 25% of students are in the Engineering college; most typical engineering programs are offered as well as Engineering Studies and an interdisciplinary Engineering and International Studies Dual Degree program. Lafayette does not have a business college but offers economics. “We also have a good geology major!” said the tour guide.

I asked a couple students what their favorite class was:

  • “Cybersecurity class is pretty awesome! I’ve never been a super math person; what I like about the class is that it’s beautiful math! We learn why passwords are better than others and how to encrypt things It’s like code-breaking. This is the only class where I’ve filled up a notebook with notes; I usually don’t get past page 10!”
  • AI: “We were given a problem that we had to solve in a group using AI. It was self-driven and learning from each other.”

Lafayette arts complex 1

The Arts Complex

There is a big new $30m art complex at the bottom of the hill from Main Campus. There are steps “but it’s easier to take the shuttle back up!” There’s a new movie theater and classrooms. Students said good things about the Film and Media Studies as well as Theater. “About 1/3 of the students in the arts also major in Engineering,” said a rep.

I asked students if they felt that they could help differentiate between here and Lehigh, one of their big rivals. “Liberal Arts more of a focus here than at Lehigh; Lafayette is smaller, fewer students in Greek life, less engineering.” Lafayette students also come across as preppier (think blazers and salmon-colored pants!).

Lafayette 8

The Civil Rights House

Their Gateway career services program is one of the oldest programs around, and 93% of the class of 2020 enrolled in it. This provides 1-on-1 meetings, externships (3-5 days of shadowing), networking, and other programs with alumni (which helps keep alumni involved in the college).

Lafayette stadium 2Most students live on campus until Senior year when many move off. Food got good reviews, and a lot of local restaurants (and the CVS!) will take flex-dollars. “The food in town is amazing! There are so many restaurants. You can’t go wrong with them,” said a student. Campus life is active. Watching and participating in sports (including rugby and fencing) is popular, and they offer about 200 scholarships in 11 of their 23 DI sports teams. Approximately 30% of eligible students join Greek Life; “that’s a bit higher than some schools, but it’s not exclusionary.” Rush is delayed until sophomore year; they must have a minimum GPA (some chapters are higher) and must be in good standing with the college to rush. Most chapters have a 1-semester residential requirement: “I love it! It’s the greatest experience!” Most have 20-30 (usually juniors) living there at any given time.

 

© 2018

Kutztown University of PA

Kutztown University of PA (visited 4/25/18)

Kutztown 1“If you want to be a rock star, you can here because of the size and personal attention. DII athletes can also shine!” Several NFL players have come out of Kutztown as well as some basketball, baseball, and other players. Sporting events are definitely a visible part of campus life.

Kutztown fountain 3KU is an attractive school set along a major street. Although downtown is right next to campus, shuttles run regularly around town. Allentown and Bethlehem are only about 20 minutes away, and shuttles run there on most Wednesdays and weekends. For students wanting to venture further afield, they have buses that run into Philly and NYC. However, there’s a $150 shuttle/transportation fee included in the bill.

Kutztown libraryThis is one of 14 schools in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Ed (separate from Penn State which is part of the Commonwealth System along with Temple, Pitt, and Lincoln). For a medium-sized school (about 9,000 undergrads), they have an amazing array of facilities including a planetarium/observatory, a German Heritage Center, and a Marine Center located in Virginia.

Kutztown 4They offer international students a scholarship equal to 40% tuition (and students who have already studied in the US for at least 1 full year do not need to submit TOEFL for consideration for admissions/scholarships), and there are full-tuition scholarships for all eligible students.

Students interested in continuing music can do so here without majoring in it. Students selected for their string quintet get full-ride scholarships!

Business is internationally accredited, and the education program is strong – not surprising since this started as a teacher’s college.

© 2018

Moravian College

Moravian College (visited 4/23/18)

Moravian 2I had no idea that Moravian is the nation’s 6th oldest college! Founded in 1742, it beats out several Ivies. The Moravians who settled in the Lehigh Valley started it as a school “for all things women” because they believed that you couldn’t have a society without educating the women. It was also the first to educate Native Americans in their own language. The college’s first President rejected Harvard when they said they wouldn’t educate women and the poor. “We have more 18th century buildings than Williamsburg and ours are real!” said Moravian’s current President. They have one of George Washington’s end tables and desks “because he was trying to get his grand-nieces into the school. It worked.”

Moravian chapel

Interior of the Chapel

Although still associated with the Moravian Church, the college does not have an overtly religious feel to it; there is a beautiful chapel, but other than that, if you walked on campus without knowing anything, you’d never know it was affiliated. There are no religious requirements placed on students. This is a fairly diverse campus: 27% self-identify as students of color; 42% are Pell-eligible. However, it’s still very much a regional university with many students coming from a 100-mile radius (and only ¾ of freshmen live on campus). They work hard to connect with and engage students to help make sure they’re getting support to persist through graduation. Their retention rate is close to 85%.

Moravian 4

One of the newer academic buildings

Moravians are big believers in practical education. Small classes and personal experiences start in freshmen year. There are a few big classes: “A&P and Intro to Chem might have 60-70 students.” They have a robust education program, and are ranked #4 in the state for nursing (with a 97% NCLEX pass rate). It’s one of the few places that put education and nursing students into their fields in their freshman year. They also offer good Rehabilitation Sciences (OT, PT, SP); students in most of these areas will shadow physicians or other specialists for 100+ hours over the course of a semester. They provide almost $40,000 in internship stipends, particularly for non-profit work. Local corporate sponsors or alumni will help pay for this. Non-profit and service work is part of the ethos here; Moravian even offers a Peace Corps Preparation Program.

Moravian sculpture patioAll students get a MacBook Pro which they can keep once they graduate. They give everyone the same platform to even the playing field and help build cooperation. Students don’t just hear about technology in their discipline; they produce things using it. “Just because they’ve been doing something doesn’t mean that they know how to do it really well,” said the President. “They are consumers of technology but that doesn’t mean they know what they’re doing. They’ve been writing since kindergarten, but we still teach writing. Can they communicate with tech? Make spreadsheets? Publish an app?”

Moravian shuttleThis is a bifurcated campus; they had separate men’s and women’s campuses that merged in 1953. There are several buildings still in downtown Bethlehem; it’s walkable (less than a mile), but there are shuttles that run every few minutes throughout the day. Students can live on either campus. “I might have to leave about 10 minutes earlier than I would otherwise,” said the tour guide. He loves living there. Freshmen can’t have cars on campus, and some often say they don’t want to live over on the downtown campus at first – but they see how cool it is. For students wanting to venture further afield outside of Bethlehem, the school runs a lot of weekend trips: Dorney Park, snow tubing, water parks, baseball games, etc.

Moravian dorms and hammock 2The Gen Ed (LINC: Learning In Common) curriculum is designed to be meaningful and many are interdisciplinary such as Math and Origami or Walking in Peace and Justice (cross of sociology and religion). Since Moravian is part of the Lehigh Valley Association of Independent Colleges, students can cross-register at any of the other 5 schools. Our tour guide had a few friends who took classes at other LVAIC schools, but no transportation is provided. “I haven’t taken any because the classes I need have been here.” I asked the student panelists about their favorite classes:

  • Refugee Crisis: This is a special-topics class (not offered every year). “We focused mostly on Syria. She brought in people from the counseling center because she was worried about the students processing things. There were also speakers from the area who had worked with refugees in Greece.”
  • Anatomy & Physiology 2: “the professor is the smartest person I’ve ever met and was really cool to learn from her. It’s hard and a lot of work but worth it when the teacher is so excited about the subject.”
  • Zoology: “The Prof worked at the Smithsonian and does a lot a research.”
  • Microbiology: “We did research on e coli on kosher and conventional chicken.”

Moravian greyhound

Mo, one of the 2 greyhound mascots who live with the President. Walking them is a work-study position

I asked a couple students to sum up Moravian – who would fit in/arrive and thrive. One said, “This is the place that people say hello and good morning; people hold doors. We have a saying, ‘When you call one hound, the entire pack comes running.’ It’s true here. It sounds stupid, it’s true.” Another one said, “I feel like they’re aware of issues around campus and they do their best to fix things.” This aligns with what the President said when he spoke to us when we first arrived on campus: “My door is open. Students come in with suggestions all the time. I have to say that I appreciate their candor and their thoughtfulness in what they tell me. They aren’t asking for frivolous things; they aren’t whining or asking for Jacuzzis in dorm rooms. They come with ideas and suggestions. We can work with that.”

© 2018

Muhlenberg College

Muhlenberg College (visited 4/24/18)

Muhlenberg 4The tour guide at Muhlenberg was one of the best I’ve ever had! If the other students are half as much fun as him, I can see why people really want to be here. “There is a palpable sense of welcome here. People hold doors. I hope you get the sense that the students matter … because they do. They can be their true selves while they are with us,” said one of the reps.

Muhlenberg sculpture 3The rep went on to talk about what makes Muhlenberg distinct; I found this refreshing since most schools don’t – or can’t – articulate this.

  • Students are active and definitely goal-oriented. They want to do things with their lives. They want to capitalize on their experiences without sacrificing interests, so many have double discipline degree: “It’s not unusual to see people majoring in theater and physics, Neuroscience and Jewish Studies, or Bio and Business. This makes sense at Muhlenberg. We help them make it work.”
  • This is one of the most religiously diverse campuses around. “We’re 1/3 Catholic, 1/3 Jewish, 1/3 mix of others.” The Hillel pairs up with Cedar Crest, located about a mile away. Jewish life is incredibly active.
  • They offer Liberal Arts with strong professional development: “We’re just as committed to preparing for Accounting and Finance as for pre-med/law.” They’re a Top-30 accounting school where students earn 150 credit hours in 4 years! They sit for their CPAs at the end.
  • Muhlenberg book sculpture 2They’re nationally recognized for theater and the arts: “There are 350 music lessons on campus in any given week. We don’t have 350 music majors!” said a rep. “We’re in tech-week every week of the semester.” There’s a dance, theater, and/or musical production every other week. Theater, Dance, and Music are all BA degrees, not BFA. This is intentional so they can double major. There is a huge selection of classes so they can direct, do technical work, etc. The university name carries weight!
  • They’re nationally ranked for their food. Kosher dining is integrated into the dining hall so they can still eat with their friends.

As a member of the Lehigh Valley Association of Independent Colleges, Muhlenberg students can cross-register at the other 5 schools, but because they have such a range of options on campus, they usually do not. However, there are some groups that collaborate, students are able to attend events on other campuses, etc.

Muhlenberg library intFaculty are “fiercely devoted.” They are invested in who the students are and who they’ll become. Students make things happen every day at Muhlenberg and they’re empowered to collaborate with administration to make that happen. For example, they now offer a Public Health Major; prior to 2016, this was a minor with over 100 people in the program. Because of student engagement, they made it a major, and there are 2 partnerships with BU and in Philly that wouldn’t have happened without the students pushing for it.

Muhlenberg chapel int“We want to fill our seats with people who want to be here. We fill almost half the class through ED.” They will do an early read for merit and financial aid if that’s an issue before they enter into that partnership. Interviews are really important here; they value that interaction and getting to know students. They’re armed better in committee to advocate for the students.

“We don’t just have one friend group because we all do so much, so we know a lot of people who we go to support,” said the tour guide. Almost all students live on campus which helps build community. Their DIII and club sports teams are popular (to participate in and to watch) as are all the artistic performances. About 20% of students join Greek life. Traditions are really important on campus. Our tour guide said that his favorite is Candle Lighting. At Freshman orientation, they receive their candle which they light; they keep this all 4 years and will relight it again the night before graduation with their families looking on. “Usually it’s lit by alumni while an a capella group sings the alma mater right. It’s kind of transcendent. Generations before us did this. I’ve lost my laptop, but I know where that candle is.”

Muhlenberg Victor's LamentCampus is mostly attractive; there’s a large sculpture that looks very out of place against the stone buildings: “Its name is Victor’s Lament,” explained the tour guide, saying that it was meant to represent a wounded soldier being carried in Vietnam. After it was donated to the school, it was painted red because of the school colors. The sculptor was furious and withdrew his other donations.

© 2018

Post Navigation