campus encounters

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Archive for the category “Washington”

University of Washington (Seattle)

University of Washington (visited 6/22/17)

UW fountain:mountain 2This is a huge school in both population and physical size, “but a fun fact – you’re never more than 2 minutes away from a cup of coffee!” said one of the tour guides. It’s definitely physically impressive/attractive, including a great view of Mt. Rainier! Students will need to be proactive in seeking out their people and join things to find community which could range from an athletic team to research with faculty.

UW students on quadThere’s hardly a shortage of things to do on campus. Obviously this is a DI school; students can attend most sporting events for free – but they do pay for football and basketball. Outdoorsy students will love this school – mountains and ocean are both close with lots of opportunities to get out on the water: UW even has canoes they can use. There are over 800 clubs on campus, including one dedicated to bagels. The campus bowling alleys are free to use on your birthday! Greek life is popular with 18 sororities and 36 fraternities (many of which provide housing).

UW statue and mountain

Statue of Washington overlooking Mt. Rainier

Over 31,000 undergraduates study at UW’s main campus in the University District of Seattle (the 2 satellite campuses in Bothell and Tacoma have about 5,000 on each campus – see separate entries on them). “You can walk to downtown, but it’s not fun,” said one of the students. “It’s all uphill.” Buses run around campus and to downtown; there’s also theStudents have worked in the legislature on budgets, in offices, and more.

UW towerFor the class applying for the fall of 2018, UW will exclusively use the Coalition App. The deadline is 11/15, but students can send test scores until December 31. They do NOT want recommendation letters; domestic students will self-report grade, but international students will need to send a transcript at the time of application. For fall of 2017, they admitted 20,800 of 45,000 applicants. Approximately 45% of domestic and 37% of international applicants were admitted.

Admissions happens in 2 parts:

  • UW quad 2Academic Prep: They want to see a strong level of achievement in college prep courses, test scores, a strong senior year. GPA is looked at in context of the school. They will look at previous matriculations from the high school. Although they rely heavily on academics, that’s not the whole story.
  • Personal Achievements: community service and leadership, significant responsibility, and the “extras” like cultural awareness, unique perspectives or experiences, or overcoming personal adversity can all play a part in the decision.
UW library int

The reading room in the main library

UW runs classes on the Quarter System (as do all Washington state schools now). They have 10 weeks of classes and a week of finals. Research “is truly is boundless … ok, that’s a cheesy way to tie in the motto ‘Be Boundless’” said one of the reps. Students have even gotten grants from NASA to do research. Classes can be huge – our tour guide had 700 in her Intro to Chem class, but she also had 7 in her Freshman Seminar. The 14 libraries on campus cater to different learning styles with some being more quiet or set up to encourage group work.

There are three main pathways into a major:

  • UW 6Pre-major: Most students enter this way. It might be an open major or have pre-reqs that need to be completed before being formally accepted into the major. They’ll meet with an advisor when they arrive on campus
  • Direct to major: they only accept a small percentage under this plan. If students are not accepted directly, they usually come in as a pre-major and can apply at the end of their 2nd “If you’re committed to a certain major and have an assurance from another school, it’s probably a good idea to take it. There’s no guarantee here. We’re space-constrained. Some are more competitive than others, and the competition changes every year based on who is applying.”
  • UW 10Direct to College: Students start in the college as Undeclared and get advising. From there, they place into a program. “It allows for exploration, but there’s no assurance for your first choice within that college.” For example, students interested in engineering will be guaranteed some engineering major, but may have to settle for something other than their first choice. One of the students on the panel talked about this: “I think I would’ve preferred this over Direct to Major because there were things I didn’t even know existed. I would’ve liked to know what was out there.”

Some note-worthy programs include:

They offer 2 different Honors programs: students can apply through their major or to Interdisciplinary Honors.

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Seattle Pacific University

Seattle Pacific University (Visited 6/21/17)

SPU clockSPU is Christian university affiliated with the Free Methodists. They hope people committed to faith – in whatever form that means to them – will come here. “If they are connected to their faith, great. If not, we hope they understand why other people have theirs. We want people to engage with people who are different. Our faith compels us to be a different type of institution and to be engaged: we engage the culture in order to change the world,” said one of the reps. The YouTube video Celebrating 125 Years at SPU is worth a look (as a side note, a lot of colleges in the area are celebrating their 125th year …).

SPU 1Knowing that there are plenty of liberal arts schools to choose from, the reps did a good job addressing what sets them apart. They brought up 3 points of distinction:

  • Location: “We’re in a major city but tucked into a safe neighborhood of Queen Anne Hill with connections to local business. Ten Fortune 500 companies are here. Amazon is a 10 minute walk away.”
  • SPU Blakely Island

    Classes offered at Blakely Island

    Rigorous academics and good resources: “We own half of Blakely Island in the San Juans for research.”

  • Transformational Experiences: “Christianity is at the core. Faculty and staff have to sign a faith statement, but students do not. We appreciate all the places they’re coming from.”

About 80% of the students do self-identify as Christian. There is a lifestyle expectation here, including not drinking on campus. As part of the Common Curriculum, students need to take a series of 3 religion classes including a Scriptures class. “We’re graded on how well we interact with the material, not if we believe it,” said one of the students. University Series: Formation (of the church), Scriptures, and Theology (why do we believe what we believe? What does it mean to be a Christian?).

SPU dorm

One of the dorms

The climate on campus is one of acceptance. “We even have an active LGBTQ group which some people don’t expect at a Christian college,” said a student. Like much of the Pacific Northwest, the overall atmosphere is relatively liberal, but conservatives have a home here, too. “We like having discussions.” Campus is active, and the city is even to navigate. “There’s no need for a car here. I’d recommend a bike if anything,” said the tour guide.

SPU 6Currently, SPU is granting enough PhDs in relation to the undergrad population to be classified as a National R3 university. “We train students to solve problems,” said a faculty member. “We’re small enough to be intimate but large enough to offer the same breadth and depth as a larger university.” Academics are strong across the board, but some of their particular strengths are:

  • SPU music tech

    One of the Music Tech studios

    Pre-med students get into medical schools at a 95% acceptance rate with most students scoring in the 90th percentile on the MCAT.

  • Nursing boasts a 100% employment (and most nursing students get multiple offers before graduation).
  • Theater: “This is the 3rd most important theater city in the country. The PT faculty in the arts are very strong. They’re able to offer all they do because of location.
  • Music Therapy – take 2 classes then apply. There are about 20 spots available per quarter.
  • Engineering majors participate in year long design projects.

SPU 4Unusual Majors and minors include:

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Western Washington University

Western Washington University (visited 6/23/17)

WWU 7WWU quickly became one of my favorite schools. I’m not sure what the vibe is, but whatever is going on there is working — and with an 82% freshman-sophomore retention, the students like it, too. Driving up the hill to campus, we decided it felt a little like a summer camp. We later learned that there’s a designated arboretum along the edge of campus. The wooded area opened up to a beautiful campus at the top of the hill. “This is the Goldilocks of campuses,” said one student. “It’s the right size.”

WWU dorms 1In many ways, this is an artsy campus “but that’s not all-encompassing. I wouldn’t describe the engineering department like that!” said one of the reps when we asked her if our impressions were accurate. There is a general sense of inclusive access and closing gaps starting with admissions and carrying through the way the students treat each other and the wider world. This is an open, accepting community. About a dozen students attended the counselor reception so we had time to talk to them. Their nametags listed preferred gender pronouns.

WWU 4Students are aware of and interested in what’s going on in the world. “I haven’t met an apathetic person on campus and I appreciate that,” said a tour guide. Students mobilize themselves. They’ll help get people registered to vote and hold protests for the Dakota pipeline. “There’s a general sense of wanting to talk about events and differences. Yeah, you see things that seem skewed towards the liberal, but there are also posters up about conservative talking-points as well.” It’s not surprising that for 3 years running, WWU has been #1 nationally among mid-sized universities sending graduates to the Peace Corps.

WWU sculpture 3This is a medium-sized university with 15,000 students, about 95% of whom are undergrads. Not surprisingly, most students are from Washington. Just over half (52%) self-identify as some sort of under-represented student (including low income, students of color (25%), and first gen (31%)). “People might have multiple identities: we don’t look at diversity in a compartmentalized way. It’s intersectional,” said the President.

WWU quadOne unique academic aspect stems from this approach of intersectionality: the Fairhaven College of Interdisciplinary Study is a bit like Evergreen State College in that students can collaborate with faculty to create a course of study. There are significant differences, but the spirit is there. These are students who want to look at things intentionally and systematically, usually with some component of social justice/change. Advisors help students acclimate to the learning style, the narrative evaluations, and grappling with creating their own degree. Students write an evaluation at the end of the quarter; the professor responds and decides if they get credit. “I felt like I learned so much more because there was more dialogue and in-depth conversation with peers and the professor.” It’s good for students who want to share their views and learn from each other. The college is physically located on South Campus, but not all classes are there. Students still have to take a certain number of “Main Campus” classes. Most students apply during freshman or sophomore year but can apply as an incoming freshman. Their core requirements differ from Main; they mirror each other but are specific to the campus.

WWU fountain

The fountain controlled by a sensor on top of one of the buildings; if it’s windy, the fountain height goes down

The university’s tag-line is Active Minds Changing Lives. “Students love learning and doing something meaningful,” said one of the students. Teachers are here because they want to teach, and just over half of the students will do research with a professor. Academics of note are:

  • Unusual majors include Canadian-American Studies, Decision Sciences, Manufacturing and Supply Chain Management, and Behavioral Neuroscience.
  • Unusual Minors include Arts Enterprise & Cultural Innovation, Business Analytics, Disaster Risk Reduction, and Sustainable Design
  • WWU science

    One of the science buildings

    The College of the Environment was one of the first in the country; they’ve been ranked in the top 2% in the nation for number of grads who go on to earn research doctorates. “Environmental Sustainability = Human Sustainability!”

  • Theater is ranked as #10 in the country. There are several professional theaters within 10-15 miles where students can intern.
  • There are about 150 students in Honors each year; an honor-housing option is available.
  • IDEA: Interdisciplinary Entrepreneurship in Action
  • They offer a Leadership Minor open to all students, and they’re working on a Masters. The curricular and co-curricular work together. They’re trying to get a leadership conference going through UNESCO.
  • WWU maker space

    One of the maker-spaces on campus; students do much of the engineering work in hands-on labs like this

    Engineering: All tracks are accredited (except vehicle design; there’s no accreditation for this). Students aren’t admitted directly into the program; they apply as soon as they finish the pre-reqs, much of which depends on where they start with math. This is a highly hands-on department. Students who invent/create things here will retain intellectual property (but are asked to acknowledge the school)! There’s a patent office on campus to help them with this process.

  • WWU quad 2The Fine Arts department takes advantage of the fact that this is the 2nd largest number of artists in residence after Santa Fe: film, painting, sew/knit/quilt/crochet. Art classes are open to non-majors, but majors get first pick. Open spots are then available to others.
  • A student designed the weather meter on Bond Hall – if it’s windy, the fountain gets lower so people don’t get sprayed with water. There’s a tradition that if they win at intramurals, they’ll jump in the fountain.
WWU Rockies 5

Canadian Rockies as seen from campus

The school has a strong Learning Support program. “The first year is very hands-on and progressively becomes hands-off. They’re coming out of K-12 where it was SO directed. We teach them how to ask for accommodations and how to advocate for themselves. It’s to help them move forward into being independent with this.”

WWU seatingThere’s no football and no Greek life on campus (although their rowing and soccer teams are national champions!). “That really helps town-gown relations!” Bellingham (population 82,000) is a beautiful place to live. Students get a free bus pass to get around town. The Canadian Rockies are visible from campus, and students can be at the mountains in an hour! The ocean is “right there”. The border is only 15 minutes away; Vancouver is another 30 beyond that. Students can catch the Amtrak for an easy day trip. Mt. Baker is an hour away, and Seattle (without traffic!) is 90 minutes. So many outdoor activities in the vicinity: skiing, snowboarding, kayaking, fishing, and even “hammocking if that’s your thing!” There are only 3 national chain restaurants (Starbucks, Pita Pit, and Jimmy John’s). The rest are locally owned.

WWU 1Admissions uses their own application requiring a personal essay and activity list with an optional “tell us more” section. They require a math-based course in senior year. However, if students have completed an advanced math beyond Algebra 2 before senior year, they are exempt from this requirement. This is a WUE school, but it’s treated almost like a competitive scholarship-based program. Only about 15% of students will get WUE, but then they offer 2 other award tiers for others.

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University of Puget Sound

University of Puget Sound (visited 6/20/17)

UPS quad 2Puget Sound offers students a juxtaposition of the natural beauty within the city of Tacoma. It’s idyllic but still accessible. Students choose Puget Sound because there are a lot of resources that impact their educational journeys and prepare them for jobs. They have flexibility to be career-focused without giving up chances to explore and be creative. This school provides an immediacy and practicality to their education. Students are heavily involved in experiential learning: restoring habitats in the backyard, traveling abroad, interning at Boeing or Amazon. However, those don’t mean much if there’s no reflection involved: “this is what I did and learned; here’s how it’s important to me, my career, and my work.” Puget Sound both provides this opportunity AND expects students to do this. This goes a long way in helping the school stay on the Colleges that Change Lives list (although it’s far from the only reason).

UPS 8I usually ask students at CTCL schools how the school actually changed their lives. Here’s what Puget Sound students said:

  • It’s a different environment from my high school which was very driven, very Ivy-focused. When I first got here, I was less comfortable with myself. Now I don’t feel like I have to worry about what I’m doing or wearing. I’m used to a cutthroat environment but no one asks your GPA here. They’re personally motivated. They care about their school. They came here because it’s the most comfortable, not because they’re trying to impress anyone. I’m excited to be back in this environment after Study Abroad.
  • UPS 11The amount of support I’ve received from professors, my job in catering, my coach is just amazing. I can call on any of them. My best friends are here. I can ask for a pushback of a due date, and they will allow it because they want my best work. I’m ready to go back into the real world and have something here to fall back on.
  • I was much less independent. One of the best things is that I feel cared about by students, faculty, staff. We promote a culture of caring. It’s not about holding your hand. It’s still challenging intellectually and emotionally, but it puts me in a mindset so I know what I can expect from others. I can have educated discourse while maintaining empathy and a positive outlook on life.

UPS gardenStudents are curious, engaged, reflective, and committed. Academics are practical and rigorous without being cutthroat, and the school is large enough (2600 undergrads) for choices without being overwhelming. “You’ll see students spending hours in the library, but also they’re involved in so much! It’s very typical to see people over-involved, including professors,” said one of the reps. A student said, “Professors are a little quirky here; that made me even more happy.” Some examples include:

  • UPS observatory

    The bell tower built up around the observatory

    One of the Chem professors. In the mornings, he’s always a little disheveled, always entertaining, and uses examples that just make you say, “What??” … but you kind of get it, even though you don’t feel like you should! You’ll see him wearing a helmet and riding his scooter around campus.

  • A Musicologist has been teaching here since the ‘70s. He has every presentation memorized and his mind moves a mile a minute. It’s hard to follow him because his mouth doesn’t keep up with his head. He’s so excited, he’ll start dancing around the room. He’s downloaded his presentations to cassette tapes just to make sure it works since he seems to destroy AV equipment.
  • A Sculpture professor. This is a tough guy you don’t think you want to mess with. He has 9 fingers so you take his safety lectures seriously! But he’s the sweetest guy ever. I’ve cried in his office when I got really stressed but he’ll talk me through it. I know he’ll be a life-long friend.
UPS science quad, gazebo

The Science Complex courtyard. The glass “gazebo” is in the shape of a salt crystal and holds one of the campus coffee shops.

Academic offerings are varied, including lots of interdisciplinary programs. The tour guide’s largest class, History 101, had 27 students in it (the smallest had 3). Programs worth mentioning are:

  • The Music School attracts a lot of people, even though it’s a smaller program. About 1/3 of the total student population is involved in music is some way because it’s open to everyone. They offer Music Education with a 1-year Masters. It’s one of the most credit-intensive programs. “I don’t have much room for electives,” said one student
  • UPS theater

    The theater building

    Bioethics which you rarely see at liberal arts schools!

  • Gender and Queer Studies
  • International Political Economy
  • Global Development Studies
  • An 84% acceptance rate into med school (the Biochem & Molecular Bio major is particularly strong).
  • The natural history museum has a whale skeleton that the students helped clean and put together.
UPS hanging art

Glass artwork hanging prominently in windows

Passages is a special Orientation program where students go to the mountains for 3 days (orientation itself lasts over a week). It becomes part of the culture to experience nature. Freshmen continue building community through their 2 First-Year Seminars. They also get to experience Tacoma and learn what’s available.

UPS dormsCampus keeps people busy, and students like sticking around. “Students will get what they’re looking for, but this isn’t a party school.” Many campus programs have generous budgets are student-run to provide jobs (44% of students on campus work). Students took the initiative to found club sports. Scuba and kayaking classes/clubs use the pool. Varsity sports are DIII, and PLU is their big rival. They’re the Loggers which came about early in the school’s founding when the football team was hired by a logging company to replace workers gone to war. Football, basketball (men’s and women’s), and women’s volleyball bring in the crowds.

UPS greek housingAbout 35% of students go Greek with spring recruitment; they have a 2.6 GPA requirement, although most are higher. Sophomores are usually the ones to move into Greek Housing (the beautiful houses have about 30-40 beds each). Students not affiliated or who don’t want to live in Greek Housing can choose themed houses (like the “OutHouse” for outdoor-themed activities). They have a gender-neutral house and floors.



Some of the students we talked to wish there were more international students and more study abroad options. Another said that she wished more students would take advantage of the UPS Pacific Rim program. This runs every 3 years; students spend 9 months in Asia studying in at least 8 countries.

Admissions is test-optional but there are 2 100-word essays to replace test scores.

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Saint Martin’s University

Saint Martin’s University (visited 6/19/17)

StMU chapel 1This is a very Catholic school with a Benedictine monastery on campus. The school was here before the town, founded when a student canoed up the Hood Canal; he was the only student being educated by the monks for several months. This then served as a boys’ boarding school for many years; the original location of the school is now an organic garden which provides food for a local food bank.

StMU statue 1

The statue at the top of the steps by the main building on campus

Some of the 20 resident monks (ages 27-90, we were told) teach while others have different duties such as tending to the gardens, raising chickens, etc. We ran into one of the monks in the library who was highly personable and happy to talk to a random group of counselors. “I’m in my informal summer garb. I guess I don’t look very monk-like!” he said, wearing short sleeves and a collar. I asked him if he wanted to give us a 30-second spiel about the students, college, or anything else he thought we should know. “The monks here take a vow of stability. This is home; we aren’t going anywhere. The goal is the buried in the cemetery here. This is our house. We tell the students, ‘Welcome to our household for 4 years.’”

StMU dorms

One of the dorms

Fewer than half of the 1324 undergrads self-identify as Catholic, and there are 24 faiths (and students of no faith) represented on campus. Regardless, the school holds tight to the values of Faith, Reason, Service, and Community. There is quite a bit of outreach since access to education is one of the hallmarks: 38% of students are first-gen college-goers, 35% are students of color, and 32% come from outside Washington. There is a 2-year residency requirement and just over ¾ of first-year students live on campus. The newest dorm on campus is all first year students. There are a few triple rooms which are designed as such; “they’re mostly corner rooms. There aren’t forced triples here,” said the tour guide. Juniors and seniors have access to apartment style housing.

StMU quad“It’s a unique atmosphere here,” said the monk we talked to. “It distresses us when they fall through the cracks. It’s rare when that happens.” Average classes have 12-14 students. The largest lecture hall holds 75 students; our tour guide’s classes ranged from 6-30.

They offer a fairly standard selection of majors with a couple exceptions:

  • StMU engo bldg 2

    The Engineering building; the award-winning concrete canoe is displayed under the overhang towards the left

    They have ABET accredited Civil and Mechanical engineering programs with a minor in Electrical and a 4+1 in Engineering Management (they’ll start their grad work in senior year). There’s a new building that’s partly exposed so it’s a learning lab, as well – they can see how it was constructed. The Engineering Innovation lab was donated by Boeing, and the SMU team beat UW in the concrete canoe competition.

  • Nursing is only an RN to BSN program.
  • Environmental Studies is pending approval. They’re hoping that classes will be available in fall of 2017 with the official major in 2018. Parsons Farm Partnership, Sustainability & Stewardship, climate change.
  • Although not a major, they’re designated as an official Peace Corps prep school.
StMU deer

Much of campus is wooded or undeveloped; this isn’t an unusual sight.

Campus is located in Lacey, only 8 minutes from downtown Olympia (the state capitol). They’re centrally located between Seattle (an hour north) and Portland, Oregon (2 hours south). Their ID is their bus pass for public transportation. “Students don’t need a car, but it could help,” said the tour guide. “It’s easy to have fun if you know where to find it.”

StMU 4They offer a range of merit, athletic (they’re a DII school), and other scholarships (including a Campus Visit scholarship of $400). Merit scholarships do not transfer for study abroad. One notable award is the Benedictine Scholarship to award strong students who value service. Finalists are invited to campus for the final round; up to 10 scholarships of $10,000 are awarded per year and are stackable with other merit scholarships. They also have an Honors Floor in the residency hall.

StMU mt rainier

Mount Rainier, when it’s “out,” is visible from the Chapel on campus!

We asked some of the faculty to describe the students here:

  • They put their hearts into whatever they do
  • They’re incredibly caring – about what’s going on in the world and in regards to each other. They’ll rally around others and will help.
  • Competitive: but we’ll help
  • Dynamic
  • Leaders

StMU gardens 3I asked students what their favorite class has been:

  • Complexities: It covered a lot of social justice, being aware of privileges, and how that changes people around us. It’s really poignant with what’s going on. I’m more cognizant of who I am and how I can use my voice and position to help people get where they need to go.
  • Communications/Religion class: This is one of the of gen ed classes. We learned about religions and how they communicate. It’s nothing I’d learned before.
  • History 142 which was linked class with English 102. The professor talked about major social and political issues and perspectives. In English, we’d write about that so we could research the topics. It gave us a way to think critically about different issues.
  • Theater and Buddhism: We meditated, talked about mindfulness, and performed scenes.

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University of Washington – Bothell

University of Washington – Bothell (info session on the UW main campus, 6/22/17)

For 130 years, UW was 1 campus; in 1990, they decided to expand their reach to increase access, specifically for transfer students. There are now 3 campuses in the UW system (Bothell and Tacoma in addition to the main campus in Seattle) which provide different experiences. They share characteristics of collaboration, offering students joint access to programs across campuses including 275 study abroad offerings and 306 degree programs (although not all are available on all campuses). After completing 25 credits on their home campus, students can take up to 15 credits a year on the other campuses. Technically, students at Bothell or Tacoma can be involved in the athletics on the main campus although it’s a rarity.

The Bothell campus is located about 15 miles northeast of main campus. They structured themselves specifically to serve transfers, but then opened up for first year candidates and have grown like crazy. They’ve doubled in size in the last 7 or 8 years to a total of about 4800 students almost equally divided between first years and transfers. About 75% of these are residents of Washington. They offer apartments for on-campus housing.

This is a great option for those who want a UW education but in a smaller educational environment. They have a strong commitment to affordability and access. Bothell is a majority-minority campus with almost 70% self-reporting as an underrepresented student. About half of the students are first-gen college-goers. Their mission to change trajectories. Over half of UW grads don’t have “known debt”; those that do have less than the national average. They also earn more upon graduation than any other school in the state!

Bothell has 5 schools; some of their note-worthy programs are:

  1. Business
    1. Retail Management (operations, buying, etc).
    2. Applied Computing
  2. Educational Studies: interdisciplinary
  3. Interdisciplinary A&S
    1. Community Psychology
    2. Society, Ethics, and Human Behavior
    3. Interactive Media Design (joint program with STEM)
    4. Culture, Literature, and the Arts
    5. Mathematical Thinking and Visualization
  4. Nursing and Health Studies
  5. STEM
    1. Climate Science and Policy
    2. Conservation and Restoration Ecology

© 2017

University of Washington – Tacoma

UW – Tacoma (Info session on UW main campus, 6/22/17)

“There’s nothing better in an education than getting your normal shaken,” said one of the reps. UW-T is located about 30 minutes south of the main campus in mostly refurbished buildings that were originally built for the railroads and supporting businesses in the area. They’re part of the Coalition of Urban Serving UniversitiesAccess is at the center of everything they do. About 65% of the 5,000 undergrads are first-gen college goers. “That impacts everything we do.” Although primarily serving transfers from one of the Washington Community Colleges, about 20% of their students come in as freshman.

For 130 years, UW was 1 campus; in 1990, they decided to expand their reach to increase access, specifically for transfer students. There are now 3 campuses in the UW system (Tacoma and Bothell in addition to the main campus in Seattle) which provide very different experiences. They share characteristics of collaboration, offering students joint access to programs across campuses including 275 study abroad offerings and 306 degree programs (although not all are available on all campuses). After completing 25 credits on their home campus, students can take up to 15 credits a year on the other campuses. Technically, students at Bothell or Tacoma can be involved in the athletics on the main campus although it’s a rarity.

When asked what makes them different from other institutions, they said:

  • “Our mission is to foster a thriving and equitable society by educating diverse learners and expanding knowledge through partnership and collaboration with all our communities. We have diversity in a variety of forms: age, veteran status, underrepresented students, etc.”
  • “We’re urban; who doesn’t want Thai food under the computer center?”
  • “This is where real world housing meets residential life: you have the fob to get in, but it looks like a normal dorm inside.” There are Studio, 1-, and 2-bedroom apartments, all with kitchens so students can bring their coffee pots and popcorn makers unlike most dorms. There are only 300 spaces so priority is given to out-of-region students. “We have a conversation with students about living somewhere that’s academically healthy!”

Urban Studies is a unique major to this campus. It incorporates a lot of sociology by looking not just how cities work but how humans interact with the city. Students can choose tracks in Global Urbanism, Community Development and Planning, or GIS and Spatial Planning. Other unique programs include: Ethnic, Gender, and Labor Studies, Sustainable Urban Development, and Social Welfare.

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Seattle University

Seattle University (visited 6/22/17)

Seattle atrium Chihuly

The Chihuly glass; the Bottom Line Cafe is to the right

“Students who come here are engaged and aware of the world and want to make an impact, as cliché and Jesuit as that sounds. This is further solidified when they get here,” said one of the reps. This idea of “lighting the world on fire” is even evident in the artwork around campus: hanging front and center in the Pigott Building Atrium is a Chihuly glass sculpture called “Accendo” which means “to ignite”. (Also in this atrium is The Bottom Line Café which highlights companies in Seattle).

Seattle chapel int

The interior of the chapel

This is one of the US’s 28 Jesuit universities. “We’re Catholic but incredibly inclusive. The core curriculum is centered around students thinking for themselves and how to articulate what’s important to them. We’re not telling them what to think.” Only 30% of the 4,700 undergrads self-identify as Catholic. Although never required, Mass is offered regularly in their modern, award-winning chapel. The walls are unfinished to symbolize that people’s journeys are never finished. Students do need to take 2 ethics/philosophy-based classes.

Seattle 7We asked people to characterize the type of student who would most benefit from Seattle University:

  • Someone who wants Seattle. It’s kind of an interesting place, very entrepreneurial. It’s young, alive, progressive, going someplace, dynamic. It’s been named one of 5 best for college education. The students here want urban but this type of urban.
  • Seattle library

    They’re looking for an intellectual challenge: they believe in a core curriculum that’s engaging and the foundation for a broad education. Our part is looking at how we challenge them to know what they think and why they think that

  • The professor-student relationship shows itself in independent study, research, etc. We’re particularly strong in science and engineering because of this environment and our long relationship with Boeing.
  • Seattle 2They want engagement with community and neighborhood. There’s a Community Youth Engagement Project covering 100 square blocks to the east of campus. There are 3 schools within this area, so students look at how work with education, support, language development, etc. Our students help those students graduate from high school.
  • This is the most diverse university in the state. It’s almost like an identity lab for the students. How do they bump up against The Other?

Seattle scienceAlthough in Capitol Hill in the heart of the city, Seattle U’s campus was intentionally designed to be an urban oasis and is a certified urban wildlife sanctuary. Students have the best of both worlds: they’re as close as they can be without being in Downtown. “This is the 8th most hipster neighborhood in the country – I don’t know if that’s a plus or minus! It’s an art and music hub.” It’s a 20-25 minute walk to the water and Pike Place. Professors expect Students to use the city as an extension of their curriculum; “it’s a common denominator.” Students get bus passes and tickets for off campus events.

Seattle dog park 2

The “Dog Park” … one of the quads

All classes are taught by professors despite a relatively large graduate student population. The tour guide’s largest class has been 25 students. He likes the quarter system: “students are more involved. If you don’t like something, it’s over quickly. If you love it, you can really delve in because you’re only taking a few classes at a time.”

Seattle fountain with dog

The fountain in one of the quads. Yes, that’s a dog playing in the fountain. It’s a very dog-friendly campus!

All academics are direct entry. Courses are inquiry based where students look at issues within that field.

  • Students can build their own majors through the Matteo Ricci College.
  • Pre-major (Med, Vet, etc) advisors meet often with the students and work with them to reflect “in that very Jesuit way” about what calls them to this profession. What does it mean to pursue this degree? Which program is better for them? What does it really mean to be in the health field, etc?
  • Seattle engoHonors programs were recently expanded to have themes (intellectual traditions, innovation, law & society) meant to help students find a cohort with similar interests. They apply to the programs when they apply to the university.
  • Nursing majors must declare this on the application. Once they’re in, they’re guaranteed the spot assuming they continue to meet the minimum requirements. The average accepted HS GPA is a 3.85 with a B or better in bio/chem/math. They average a 1360 SAT/29ACT with a minimum 570/24 math score.
  • Science/Engineering: the average accepted GPA is 3.72 with a B or better in science and math. The average accepted SAT/ACT scores are 1272/28 with a minimum 570/24 on the math. A few more unusual programs include:
  • They offer a 6-year accelerated business and law degree: Students need a 3.5 GPA with an SAT/ACT math score of 620/27. They completely their undergrad business degree in 3 years and then do the regular 3-year law degree.
  • Their Environmental Studies degree has 4 specialization tracks: Ecological Systems, Environmental Education and Communication, Politics/Policy/Justice, and Urban Sustainability.
  • Criminal Justice Majors can specialize in Administration of Justice, Criminology and Criminal Justice Theory, Forensic Psychology (BA or BS) or Forensic Science (BA or BS).
Seattle dorms

Some of the dorms

All freshmen and sophomores live on campus. It’s available after that, but students have the choice to move off. Thos who do usually they live within a 6 block radius and stay involved on campus. Almost 70% of students come from out-of-state so this is not a suitcase school. Signature Events that the community rallies around include:

  • Christmas Tree Lighting including live reindeer
  • Homecoming usually during January/February to correspond to basketball season
  • Dance marathon: This year will be the 11th They’ve retained their record as the largest Miracle Network DM on the west coast.
  • Luau: 500 guests from campus and community
  • Sports: SeattleU is DI. Basketball and soccer are big.
Seattle fields

Some of the sports fields

The Sullivan Leadership Award is the only extra (non-merit) scholarship that a first-year student can apply for. This is a 4-year full ride. Last year they had 350 applicants for 9 available awards. “This is really a ‘You don’t know until you try’ situation,” said the Rep. They look at the whole student, specifically leadership and how they apply that in a unique way; “we want students who are authentic in their leadership so we look at how they have applied and could apply that to the world around them. It’s not about the numbers.” Each year, the cohort looks different. Students interested must apply (both to the university and for the Sullivan) by the EA deadline. If they get past the first round, they’re invited to campus to interview.

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Pacific Lutheran University

Pacific Lutheran University (visited 6/19/17)

PLU 3“PLU makes you figure out who you are,” said one of the tour guides. Students and professors alike tend to be inquisitive and engage in critical thinking. “People learn quickly that their personal view isn’t the only one or even the right one. It doesn’t mean you have to change your ideas or that you’re wrong, but we acknowledge that our own experience is limited. We listen and engage with each other,” said another tour guide.

PLU chapel

The chapel

PLU is 1 of 2 ELCA schools on the west coast (the other is Cal Lutheran). “There are several flavors of Lutheran. This is the most liberal branch.” They espouse the Lutheran philosophy of higher education as well as freedom of thought and expression. There’s no statement of faith required by staff or students, but there are 2 class requirements, 1 Christian-based and one global. “You can get very theological or not,” said a student, referring to the choices for these classes ranging from the Hebrew Bible to environmental ethics to Native American Religions. There are even travel classes such as Ancient Religion in Greece or Asian Religions.

PLU statueLike the Jesuits, they tend to be highly inclusive; graciousness and hospitality are also hallmarks. People of most – and no – faith feel comfortable here. Last year’s commencement speaker was Muslim, the immediate past president was Episcopalian, and the current president “is no flavor.” Care is intentional here which is not seen in many mission statements. Teachers have 2 jobs: teach and be a mentor. “Students know that we have their backs.” They’re clearly doing something right with an 83% graduation rate within 4 years which is nearly double the national average.

PLU bell towerLocated in a residential Parkland, PLU is 15 minutes away from downtown Tacoma by bus and 45 minutes from Seattle on a good day. “On a bad day, we don’t talk about it.” There are a few blocks of restaurants, cafes, and stores right off campus with apartments over them, many of which are rented by upperclassmen. Students can use their dining dollars at 208 Garfield and a pizza place; there’s also sushi, Vietnamese, Starbucks, and more within walking distance either on that stretch or on Route 1, the main drag through town. There are plenty of outdoor activities available in the area (and this is the closest university of Mount Rainier).

PLU pondOne student said, “We’re stereotypical Pacific Northwest: pretty liberal and accepting.” This was mirrored by one of the admissions reps: “As with most of the region, we’re left of center.” There are people on all parts of the political spectrum, and they engage in dialogue. This is a safe space to have the discussions, and students will listen to each other.

PLU dorm

One of the dorms

There’s a 2-year residency requirement but housing is guaranteed all 4 years and about half of the students stay all 4 years. On-campus students have higher overall GPAs and higher graduation rates. All but 1 of the residence halls have linked learning components. Old Main is the only all female dorm with an empowerment hall. There are 3 non-gender/coed wings that students can apply for. The Lavender Wing is for LGBTQ students and allies. There’s First-Gen floor (43% of the students are First-Gen) and another for students of color (more than 25% self-identify). There’s an active Diversity Committee and an annual POC retreat.

PLU glass artFood gets high ratings from the students. The dining hall employs an executive chef who plans menus. “It gets creative. We get things like Taiwanese beef stew, Pacific Islander meals, schnitzel and brats, Norwegian, Korean short ribs. One of the favorite traditions is State Olympics: each group brought a “State Game”

PLU 2Although there are only about 2,700 undergrads (70% of whom come from within 100 miles of the school), PLU is considered a comprehensive Liberal Arts school because of the professional schools (business, education and Kinesiology, Nursing). “There’s a healthy tension between the Liberal Arts and Professional Programs here. Part of the mission is Vocational Discernment. It’s very real world here!” said one of the Deans. Some of their stronger or more unusual majors include:

  • PLU scandinavian cultural cntr

    Scandinavian Cultural Center

    Norwegian: The King of Norway has been to campus twice, once as a commencement speaker. The Queen has received an honorary doctorate.

  • Geosciences
  • Holocaust & Genocide Studies within the History department
  • Dual Engineering-degree. Students need a 3.3 GPA for guaranteed admission. Of the 40ish students who express interest every year, 25-30 end up completing the 3+2.
  • PLU theater

    One of the theaters: they offer a BFA and a BA in acting/directing as well as technical theater

    They offer a broad Business Admin degree with concentrations in the other areas (accounting, finance, marketing). They don’t offer a specific International Business program because all of their programs have an international focus. Students interested in a Fast-track MBA program for the MBA can start pre-reqs as an undergrad and then complete the MBA in 1 more year.

  • Education: Only elementary is offered at the undergrad level. Those interested in secondary education can major in area they want to teach and then do the fast-track 1-year masters. The program boasts a 100% placement rate.
  • Kinesiology offers 2 options:
    • The BS offers a pre-PT or an exercise science track.
    • The BA is more for Phys Ed teachers.
  • PLU 10Direct Admission to the Nursing program (#1 in the state): separate app by 1/15. Want to see advanced math and science and write a specific essay about why they want to be a nurse. 40 spots in fall and in spring. Better to do Calc than Stats in HS. They have 1 year of pre-reqs and 3 years of clinicals. They call it “conditional admission” – they’re in the program as long as they pass their pre-reqs with a 3.3 GPA. Last year they had a 100% pass rate with a longer-term average of 94% passing on the first attempt.
  • Students in Interdisciplinary Programs (Global, Scandinavian Area, Environmental, Chinese, and Women’s/Gender Studies) have to double major.

PLU quadThe biggest class students will ever see is 40, but classes average under 15. Even the largest lecture halls don’t have more than 80 or 90 seats, and these are used for visiting speakers. “Missing class isn’t really an option.” Some of the students’ favorite classes included:

  • Astronomy: “it changed my understanding of the world and how it worked. It really challenged me. I was taking a religion class at the same time, and I was able to question a lot and make connections.”
  • Sociology of the Body: “I walked out of the class with more questions than answers. It think that’s the sign of a good class.”

PLU 8All students complete some sort of capstone which could include an internship or research among other options. The results of the capstone have to be presented to several professors at the end. Research can be “as far as Africa and close as Rainier.” Facilities on campus are also amazing: graduate students from UW come here to use facilities to analyze atoms/molecules.

PLU international dorm

Sign in the lounge of the international dorm

This is the first American university to offer Study Away programs on all 7 continents at the same time. About half of the students participate in at least one program; about half of those are during J-Term. Only 4 programs are domestic.

Applications are free on Common App. A “3.3-ish GPA will start qualifying students for merit aid,” said one of the reps. There are 5 full-tuition scholarships which are competitive. They offer Fine Arts Scholarships (requiring an audition) ranging from 1,000-10,000 for music, theater, dance, art, and speech & debate.

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Cornish College of the Arts

Cornish College of the Arts (visited 6/23/17)

Cornish 1

Kerry Hall, the original building

“We’re interesting. We’re different. If students don’t come here, we’d like to help them go to one of our responsible peers that will take care of them.” Being such a small school (about 800 students with only 8 majors) allows them to offer this kind of care that extends through their entire time on campus.

Cornish view

View from campus

This small, not-for-profit school is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and the National Association of Art and Design Schools. The school was founded as Cornish School of Music in the early 1900s when Seattle was mostly a logging town. The symphony had just started so they pulled in the musicians to provide lessons. From the start, the school’s mission was to pull together all the arts. The founder wanted people to work together, so musicians worked with dancers, film makers work with actors, all disciplines learn different aspects of their craft. For example, every dancer takes choreography and creates new work in addition to being an excellent technical dancer.

Cornish dance studio

One of the several dance studios

Several famous people came out of Cornish, including John Cage, Merce Cunningham, and Martha Graham; the founder let them use facilities/give recitals in exchange for lessons. In the 1970s, Cornish became a full degree granting college. Before then, it was treated more like a community center. In 2003, the main campus its left Capital Hill home and took over several empty buildings in South Lake Union before Amazon got to the area.

Cornish dorm

The dorm


Today, Cornish is spread out into 3 locations. The original building, Kerry Hall, still sits in its original location in Capitol Hill and houses the music and dance departments. The Cornish Playhouse and Scene Shop are in the center of Seattle, and the remaining buildings (about a dozen including housing) are in South Lake Union. Students use the city bus to get in between. There’s no particular reason for students to have cars with all the public transportation around, and there’s no student parking. “There was a lot, but they’re now building a dorm on it.”

Cornish bookmaking

Bookmaking studio

For students or families wondering why go to an arts school in a place that is decidedly not Los Angeles, New York City, or Chicago, the rep said this: “Seattle won’t chew you up and spit you out. It’s not massive. Yet, this place has a vibrant arts scene. Teachers are working professionals.” There is quite a bit of music and theater. There’s a program in the city called “Teen Tics” that allow students under 20 to get free tickets. Theaters also call Cornish with extra free tickets so students can go to productions.

Cornish pianoThere are only 8 majors from which to choose:

  • The music department is about performance, not education. Spaces are almost all multiple use. All can be used to practice when classes aren’t in session. Music limited by space and instrument. They can get credit for the AP music exam but has to still pass the placement test.
  • There are about 80 dancers in the Dance department at any given time. Classes include required technical dancing as well as a range of elective options such as hip-hop, African, Jazz, men’s technique, and much more. All classes have a live accompanist musician. They have about 80 dancers in the department.
  • Cornish costume studio

    One of the costume studios

    Almost 200 students major in theater. There are lots of blackbox theaters that students use for thesis, directing, and acting. They take standard acting, musical theater, do original works (needs another audition). They produce 20 main-stage and 16-20 student productions each year. They carefully place students in a variety of roles so they know what to expect in the professional world and what to expect from the directors. “It’s not always the top student but those who take risks. It’s not all shiny every day.”

  • Performance Production pulls together all the behind-the-scenes work. They work with many of the other departments. “They do all the extra stuff like set and lighting design.”
  • Cornish int arch

    An Interior Architecture studio

    Visual Arts. All students in this program complete a 1-year Foundations class, then they commit to a concentration. They spend 18 hours a week in Foundation rotating through instructors and specialties so they get a taste of all types and are later able to work together more effectively. They also take classes in art history and theory. Part of this requires that they spend time in the library twice a week to use the resources. “If they think they’re going to come to an art school and never write another paper, they’re going to be really surprised!”

Cornish dining

Dining Hall

For admission, test scores are optional. “It’s like sprinkles. Nice, but not needed.” The required recommendation letter does not need to be from the school; it can be from a private instructor or some other person who knows the student’s work. Part 1 of the application looks like a lot of other schools, but part 2 is the audition or portfolio review either in-person or digital. “It’s scary. We get it.” They’re looking for potential, for those who will step up and take risks. “There are scary days, and we’re going to push you and ask you to do things that aren’t comfortable. It doesn’t have to be perfect. But we want you to go out of your comfort zone and try.”

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