campus encounters

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Archive for the category “West Virginia”

Marshall University

Marshall University (visited 4/12/12)

When I originally decided to go to Marshall, I was sure that I wasn’t going to be impressed, but I figured that I was going to be so close, I might as well see it. I was going to arrive late in the day because of other college visits, so I planned on stopping in the Visitors Center (the fancy term for Admissions Office that more colleges seem to be adopting), introduce myself to the NC rep, and then walk around campus a bit on my own. Instead, I found three talkative students in the main reception area who were more than willing to engage in conversation as I waited for the Assistant Director of Admissions to meet me for our appointment. Even though only one was “on duty,” they all joined in the conversation. They were articulate and positive about the school without “gushing” or seeming disingenuous. They told me what they were doing and why they chose Marshall. One is Junior nursing major; he was proud that Marshall had the highest passing rate in WV on the Boards. Another student was a Junior psych major and she said she loved the classes she was taking. The third specifically talked about how school spirit is big on campus; Homecoming and football games got special mention.

The woman from admissions spent a great deal of time with me about the university, including pointing out highlights on a map before sending me on my way to walk around campus after the office closed at 5. The fairly compact campus, occupying 4 blocks by 4 blocks, is a manageable size for a medium-sized university. Huntington’s official “downtown, filled with movies, restaurants, coffee shops, and more, is technically four blocks from campus but there are certainly a lot between campus and what the city would call “downtown.” I was impressed at how seamlessly the campus was integrated into the surrounding part of town while still maintaining an attractive traditional campus filed with lots of brick buildings as well as open green spaces. The quad, although it had a lot of grass, was not the traditional flat, grass-filled quad. Instead, it was a rolling area with a lot of trees, bushes, flowers, and brick walkways. A couple statues (one of John Marshall) and sculptures were in the area as well as a lot of benches and other seating areas, tables, and chairs. People were out on the quad interacting extensively. Students were using the seating areas to study as well as socialize, and people were talking to each other as they walked across campus (I saw very few people plugged into their music). Students were dressed in a variety of ways; it didn’t seem like there was a “type” of kid at Marshall – some were dressed up, some were in athletic gear, some in the stereotypical college sweatpants and t-shirt getups.

Marshall is the second largest public university in WV, but with 10,000 undergrads, it’s half the size of WVU. This is a largely residential campus, but not entirely since dorm space just doesn’t allow it at this point. All students who come from outside a 50-mile radius MUST live on campus for freshman and sophomore years, although there is talk of reducing that to a 30-mile radius. The freshman residence halls are only two years old – and each room has a private bathroom. They aren’t even suites, so students only share the bathroom with a single roommate! The upperclassmen halls are suites with either two or four single bedrooms, a bath, and a common space. They do have two large dorms called the Twin Towers which are 8 or 10 floors high. Only one residence hall on campus is all-women; the rest are coed. Freshman are allowed to have cars on campus; parking is accessible and costs $150/semester on a surface lot and a little more in the garage.

The Forensic Chemistry and the Computer Forensics are unique programs on campus. Education is huge; Marshall started as a Teacher’s College, so they have kept the program going strong. Their Business program is Internationally Accredited, which is rare. They have a new Engineering facility, as well, including some new programs that will be coming along shortly. Their Fine Arts/Communications (including Journalism) programs are also worth mentioning.

In order to attract more non-WV students, they have the Horizon Scholarship for out-of-state students who meet minimum requirements; this brings the price to about what an in-state student would pay (and I was told that this makes it cheaper than what a Penn resident would pay for Penn State). They also have the Yeager Scholarship which is a full ride: students need a 30+ on the ACT and need to fill out the application on the website by 12/15. They do not need a nomination. In terms of admissions, they basically look at GPA and test scores. There is no required essay. They do have an Honors College; applicants are invited based on their application. Generally, Honors College students have at least a 3.5 GPA and 26+ ACT scores.

The students who thrive at the college tend to be involved and who stand out; they also want attention in the positive sense: they want to talk to professors, they want to be able to ask questions, they want to discuss things. Marshall is invested in making sure that their students succeed at the college. The Student Resource Center, in addition to providing resources similar to those at peer institutions, also will track the freshman, and if they see that students are floundering, will reach out to them to offer help and set out plans for success (tutoring, study schedules, etc). They also provide excellent resources for students with specialized learning needs (ADHD, dyslexia, etc).

(c) 2012

University of Charleston, WV

University of Charleston, WV (visited 4/12/12)

What first struck me about UC was how little it looked like the typical college. The buildings were all a light, yellowish brick and stone (clearly all designed to go together rather than adopting various styles as they grew), and the campus was long and compact, wedged in the block between the river and the main street and taking up about two or three blocks lengthwise. Buildings sat in two long rows with plenty of parking in the middle, effectively separating the Res life side of campus (the side away from the river) from the academics/admin side. Not only is the campus accessible from town, but everything is quickly available on campus. The Academic buildings are mostly connected with enclosed walkways/bridges so in bad weather, you don’t have to go outside. For example, the library takes up four levels of one of the buildings and it’s accessible on many levels. The river view is amazing and they love to show it off. In one of the academic buildings, they have a multi-level art gallery with panoramic views across the water. The artwork changes periodically, but all of it is by female artists from WV. They have maximized their use of space to let in a lot of light and open the buildings to the river views. One of the academic buildings, the Clay Tower, is eight floors; some colleges might put the fancy offices in the rooms with windows overlooking the river, but here, those are taken up with classroom, labs, and work-spaces for students. The Capital Building (and its gold dome) sits right across the river.

One of the most unique aspects of UC is that there is no core curriculum like at many other colleges. Instead, they integrate English (particularly writing and communication) into any major that students choose. All classes are writing and presentation intensive; they care more about having students apply what they have learned through practice rather than just spit back information on a test. They also have 6 Liberal Learning Outcomes, important traits for success in the workplace, such as critical thinking, citizenship, and infusing science and technology. These LLOs show up over and over in the classes that students take throughout their time on campus.

For a variety of reasons such as not having a core curriculum, accepting goal/career-oriented students, and the class structures, 35-40% of students graduate in fewer than the traditional four years (fabulous from an economic standpoint). Most students declare a major within the first year or so, but it is not required – however, in order to graduate early, students do need to know what they want to do fairly early on. However, they also have a Discover Program for first year students who are undeclared/undecided.

Driven, engaged, goal-oriented students tend to thrive here. Internships are available as early as 2nd semester freshman year. My tour guide, a freshman Chemistry major from Northern Virginia, was asked by one of his Chem professors if he wanted to help do research on finding traces of cocaine on paper money. Although he was a bit disappointed that they didn’t find any, he got a lot of practical research experience, and he said that they found other really interesting things in the process. The professor is going to be expanding the research, and this student is first in line to help continue the project over the rest of his time at college. He is also involved in a variety of campus clubs, including some that compete in regional and national levels. When I asked him what he’d like to change about the university, he said that he wishes more people got involved in some of the extra-curriculars. Several people were really involved, but some students got more wrapped up in the academics.


A view of the WV capitol building from campus

Health Sciences and Pre-Professional programs are strong here. There are 7 hospitals within 10 miles of campus, so internship and hands-on experiences are common and accessible. They also have a 6-year Doctor of Pharmacy program; students do 2 years of prereqs and then spend 4 years on the doctoral program. They also have a fast-track business degree in which students can get their BA in 3 years and then spend 1.5 years getting an MBA. Public Policy, politics, and pre-law are also very popular. The Capital Building is directly across the river from campus, so again, internship opportunities are there and highly sought-after. Finally, both the Interior Design and the Athletic Training programs are hands-on; students majoring in Athletic Training get assigned to different sports teams, so they work for full seasons with the same people; they also rotate through teams for different seasons to get a sense of what different athletes might need. Incidentally, UC is DII which surprised me because there are only 1,600 students at the college. They even have a large football stadium across the river, something almost unheard of for a college this size.

There are 4 residence halls: 1 for only freshman, 1 mixed, and 2 for upper level students. They also have a new graduate residence hall for the MBA, PharmDoc, and other grad students on campus. All the dorms are suites or private bathrooms. My tour guide and his roommate, for example, had a private bathroom directly across the hall from their room. They had a key for it so they knew that no one else would be using it. On the Res Life side of campus, they have a brand new fitness center (with views of the river, of course!) and a gym right behind it. That building is next on the list to be renovated with the expectation that it will eventually be joined to the new fitness center. All students can have a car on campus; parking costs $100 a semester.

(c) 2012

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