Providence College (visited 9/12/17)
I appreciated that the admission reps and other people presenting information to the visiting counselors made efforts to help differentiate Providence from other solid, similarly-sized liberal arts schools. According to them, their 4 pillars make PC different:
- Human Flourishing: learn to take of yourself now so you’re able to do it later!
- Cultural Agility: help to see through your lens AND how to learn from those people around you. “Erase the fear. Help include people who might feel different or alienated.”
- Contemplation and communication: “We do this in the Dominican tradition. We want people to be intentional about contemplation. Take the time to do it. Share that with others.”
- Integrated learning: “learning is important, but it’s not all you do. How do you put everything together – the internship, the extra-curriculars – to build yourself and get where you want to be?
A large part – really, the cornerstone – of their core curriculum is Western Civ. This is a 4 semester, team-taught, interdisciplinary course of study pulling together Theology, Lit, History, Philosophy, “really, the entirety of western civilization.” Students take this every semester of their first 2 years. The first 3 semesters cover ancient, medieval, and modern times; in the 4th semester, students complete a colloquium to “bring knowledge into a contemporary topic.” They can choose classes such as Our Monsters, Ourselves (how do we define monsters?), Ethical Practices in Business, Sustainability and Profits, etc. This is a huge part of PC’s culture and community and is almost a rite of passage: students will sport T-shirts saying things like “Done with Civ.”
This is a Roman Catholic institution, and 50 priests live on campus. This dictates much of what happens around campus from class work to student services. There are options in some aspects of how religion plays out on campus. For example, teachers could opt into having a crucifix in the classrooms but most did not. “Religion is not heavy-handed here” but it’s clearly around and available. Students must take 2 religion and 2 philosophy classes, one of which must be ethics-based, but Mass or chapel is not required. “It’s is more of a social event,” said one of the tour guides. “We have a post-mass bash.” Catholic policy does dictate other things: “We’re a Catholic school, and our Health Center follows Catholic guidelines. I’m not sure you want me to be more specific … students aren’t always happy about this, but there are referrals for outside things as needed.”
Although diversity and inclusion are, on paper anyway, part of the Dominican tradition, people we talked agreed that the college was not as diverse as they’d like but it’s gotten a lot better in recent years. “It’s the #1 strategic goal. We’re 18% non-white. We’d like to get to 25%.” The LGBTQ community is “not a closeted presence” and seems to be well supported. “Our students are overwhelmingly involved in service, athletics, etc. That’s a major characteristic.” They’ve put a lot of money into athletic facilities: all of them are new within the last 10 years (most within 5). PC has been ranked as the #1 school for intramural involvement. This is also a big hockey school.
Academic programs worth noting include:
- Arts and Sciences: every person takes classes in this school regardless of major.
- Professional Studies is the smallest school and consists of Applied Programs such as Education (Secondary and Elementary/Special), Health Policy Management (one of the fastest growing majors), and Social Work.
- The BSW is so strong that students can often start their MSW with advanced standing. “We’re the liberal arts in service to others.” This school gives them flexibility to pursue things like pre-med, MPH, hospital admin, etc.
- Business: Students become proficient in writing, oral communication, civic engagement, and diversity. They offer 4 majors in a new building (opened in January 2017).
- First-year advising workshops are offered every other week for the first semester covering career education, study abroad, the curriculum, etc. They bring in alumni and faculty to talk about what they do with the majors.
- The Finance lab has 12 Bloomberg Terminals. They’re pushing for more people to get certified on these
Admissions is test-optional: “It doesn’t drive the process. Almost 40% of applicants didn’t submit them last year,” said an admissions rep. “It will not affect merit awards” (given to about ¼ of the students). They recalculate transcripts based on a 4.0 unweighted scale looking only at academic subjects. Last year was the first time admissions didn’t pull students from the waitlist, and in fact, they’ve been slightly overenrolled. 31% came from the ED pool which they’d like to max out at 35%. “We’re talking about the people we want to bring to our community, be part of our family. They want to be here because they love the place!”