campus encounters

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Archive for the category “Wisconsin”

Beloit College

Beloit College (visited 4/15/15)

~Beloit cafe

Campus Cafe

The students at Beloit were some of the most open, forthcoming, articulate students I’ve met. I was hugely impressed with them and the school as a whole. They’re doing something very right there. It’s clearly earning its spot on the Colleges that Change Lives list!

~Beloit acad bldg 4Beloit is great for students who like to do more than one thing. The professors also demonstrate this range of interests. For example, a physics professor teaches “The Physics of Asian Sounds” and co-teaches a class with a Music professor on “Keeping it Real.” Students tend to be jacks-of-all-trades who want to do a lot and maybe need help focusing (in a good way). About half the students become involved in the arts in some way during their time here just because they enjoy it. The campus has a lot of facilities for performances including a thrust stage and 2 black box theaters.

~Beloit sci lab

Science Lab

The happiest students engage across the curriculum. “There are excited students who want to do this and excited faculty who want to work with them,” said one admissions rep. Faculty work with them to show how to fit things into their majors. “They help students move into the driver’s seat of their own education” by letting them articulate what they’re interested in and why. The ability to articulate their own narrative is important. A student put it this way: “We’re challenged in different ways at different times. Be ready to have your world turned upside down in a good way.”

~Beloit students quad

Quad

Students are collaborative, not competitive. Students are internally motivated, not grade-grubbers. They’ll ask “What did you think about the reading?” not “What did you get?” They want to know what they can do better. “They take the responsibility for their education,” said one professor. “They’ll ask, ‘What can I do differently next time?’ not ‘Why did you give me that grade?’”

~Beloit sci bldg interior

Science Building

Students here learn by doing and are expected to do something with what they learn in class. Beloit calls it Liberal Arts in Practice: “We want them to graduate with a resume, not just a transcript.” All students complete a significant project such as research or an internship – and Beloit makes it easy to do this. Students don’t even have to leave campus for real-world experience (although many still do):

~Beloit 1

Archaeology Museum in a converted chapel

  • There are 2 teaching museums on campus: Art and Anthropology/Archaeology (and there are 20 Indian Mounds on campus). Many students work here as researchers, curators, and educators since the museums only have 4 staff members
  • Students who like to make things happen are supported in the Entrepreneurship program CELEB.
  • There’s a fully functional campus TV station.

~Beloit student on quadThere’s a high degree of flexibility in the Curriculum. Rather than Core or Distribution Requirements, Beloit has 5 Domains (such as Creative Processes and Scientific Inquiry) and 3 Skills (Writing, Cultural Competency, and Quantitative Analysis) that they want graduates to have. There’s vast amount of choice involved; many of these can be fulfilled within a major.

~Beloit bridge“It just kind of worked out that no more than 10% of students in any given year are in a major. We don’t do that on purpose,” said an admissions rep. “Professors are hands-down the best here,” said one student. Some of the unusual majors or programs of note include:

  • 3-2 and 4-2 Engineering: Two to four students a year will take advantage of program. Many more come in saying they’re interested but change their minds. Students spend 3 or 4 years at Beloit earning a B.S. and then will earn a 2nd Bachelors or a Masters in Engineering from Columbia, RIP, Michigan, Wash U, or Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
  • Environmental Management and Forestry: this is a cooperative program with Duke. The accelerated program (3-2) is competitive; students can also start at Duke after the full 4 years at Beloit.
  • Critical Identities Studies
  • International Political Economy
  • Geology
  • Languages: Beloit offers classes in many languages beyond the “traditional” including Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, and even Hungarian. About 75% of students will study another language even without a language requirement. The Modern Languages major lets students combine more than one language.
  • Comparative Literature
  • Creative Writing: this is a full major, not an afterthought within the English Department
  • Health and Society
  • Anthropology: Rated the top undergrad program in the country and #2 for students who go on to get a PhD

~Beloit quad 4Favorite classes include:

  • Thinking Queerly: “It was about identity, and a really rigorous class. It pushed me in a unique way.”
  • Women, Race, and Class: “It was a wake-up call.”
  • Masculinities: “We did a lot of research.”
  • “Social Technology Entrepreneurship: “There were 6 professors and 4 students. Where else will that ever happen?”
  • Anthropology of Race and Identity

~Beloit frat houseAlthough there is only a 3-year residency requirement, 95% stay on campus all four years. Housing options include special interest and Gender Neutral housing. The alcohol policy is for students to be responsible and respectful. “There aren’t a lot of regulations here. It’s much more laid back so there’s no pressure to binge drink,” said one student. “People can reach out for help if they need it without fear of repercussions”.

~Beloit dorms

Dorms

Athletics are big but not overwhelming (they’re DIII). The Athletic Director (also the baseball coach) told a story about one of his players who was going to miss practice for the opening of his Senior Art Show. He felt bad about missing practice and proactively told the coach — who not only told him not to worry about it, but delayed the start of practice by about an hour to allow the rest of the team to support their teammate at the opening. “If we’re good, we’ll win without the extra practice.” Because they’re DIII, they don’t have much influence, if any, on admissions: “Admissions reps don’t show up to practice and tell us how to bunt. I don’t tell them who to admit.”

~Beloit quad 3Admissions is competitive, but applicants tend to be fairly self-selecting. They will recalculate GPA to a 4.0 unweighted scale. This year, they’re Test Optional for the first time. International students need to demonstrate skills with TOEFL or SAT/ACT.

Students love Beloit. The town is cute with lots to do. One student did say that “sometimes it can be a bit isolating. The good side is that it makes us a community, and there’s so much to do here that there’s no reason to leave anyway.” Some of the favorite traditions on campus are:

  • “Bizarro” held at the on-campus bar. Students dress up as someone else on campus.
  • Bell Run: “You can be naked on the residential side, but not the academic side. The bell sits just over the line on the academic side; students run across the “line” to ring the bell.”
  • The 2-day Folk and Blues Music Fest
  • Spring Day Carnival
  • Ultimate Frisbee Championships between faculty and students. “We also joke about whether “Old School” (faculty) will be any good this year.”

(c) 2015

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Lawrence University

Lawrence University (visited 4/17/15)

~Lawrence backpack“Lawrence takes the weirdest, quirkiest, most awkward people and puts them all in one place. Go with it,” said one student.

~Lawrence SLUG and river

The “SLUG”

I loved Lawrence. Students were open, straight-forward, and interested in lots of things – and therefore were interesting people. Students sat with us at breakfast and provided great information that didn’t come up in the more formal presentations. One student was active with the Sustainable Life Undergrad Garden (“SLUG”); another rowed on the crew team. A third told us that he wasn’t sure he wanted to come to Lawrence. “What convinced me was the conversations in the cafe. People are smart, and that doesn’t end in the classroom. They want deep, meaningful conversations and want to know what others think.”

~Lawrence underpassPeople are extremely open and accepting here. This is a great place for LGBTQ students or who just want be themselves without judgment. Interestingly, though, religion isn’t talked about much. Students talk about just about everything else: politics, race, sexuality. The yearly Campus Climate survey data supports that students of faith sometimes feel left out; the administration is aware that this is an area of growth. However, there are student-run religious groups and a Religious Studies major so there’s a space for these discussions to happen.

~Lawrence chapel ext 2Lawrence is a College That Changes Lives. I asked the student panelists how it has changed their lives:

  • It forced me to learn how to deal with people I don’t necessarily agree with. I can manage difficult relationships. That’s a good skill. It’s shaped me to be prepared for the world as it is.
  • I’m from a tiny town and fortunate to be here. I’m engaging with diversity, going to eye-opening speakers, taking part of great conversations.
  • The opportunities – there are so many ways we can engage with each other.
  • The conversations are different. My friends at big schools don’t talk late into the night about big-picture, real-world problems trying to figure things out. It’s life changing.
  • Lawrence’s mantra is teaching you how to think differently. I used to roll my eyes, but I’ve looked back on papers, and I thought, ‘Wow, I was WAY less smart!’ I’m a better thinker now.
  • I was a leader in high school in terms of being able to do things I was told to do, but here, I’m a leader in terms of pursuing my own interests.
  • There’s so much passion here. It’s why there are so many groups and so many individual studies. We want to learn things and bring other people along for the ride.

~Lawrence ampitheaterOne counselor asked, “What frustrates you?”

  • Sometimes the people. It’s a small school. Usually that’s great, but sometimes we push each other’s buttons.
  • There’s so much on campus and people get stretched thin.
  • High and low is the size of the school. Now it feels a little too small. I wish I could have lived in an apartment and had a bit of independence.
  • The bugs . . . but we aren’t supposed to mention them!
  • The winter but Lawrence handles it well.

Someone asked, “What surprised you?”

  • How many smart people there are.
  • The talent. You’re always finding out new things. There’s a girl in my house who yodels. How cool is that?! Next thing you know, there’s someone there with a fiddle.
  • The Academic and Social Honor Codes. People take them so seriously.
  • The campus has a fully functioning cinema including free popcorn.
~Lawrence acad lounge

Student lounge overlooking the Fox River

~Lawrence quad 1Campus is a manageable size with the Fox River running along one side (although much of the sports complex is on the opposite side of the river, hockey being the only exception; the rink 4 miles away). The Club Sailing and Crew teams practice on the river, and the on-campus gym has an erg loft for rowers. They have 22 DIII sports and Club fencing that competes on DI level (against Notre Dame, Ohio State, Northwestern, etc). About 25% of students participate in sports. Basketball, soccer, hockey, and volleyball draw the most fans.

Students hanging out outside a dorm

Students hanging out outside a dorm

~Lawrence Gaming House

Gaming House

Housing is mostly clustered together, and except for one upperclassman-only dorm, has a mix of majors, years, etc. They have 2 floors of Gender-Neutral housing, substance-free housing, and group houses. Groups such as Gaming, Swing Dancing, and Multicultural clubs, must be in existence for 3 or more years before applying for a house. Clubs are generally highly active, and there’s more to do on campus than time to do it in. Favorite traditions include the 50 Hours of Trivia and Stealing the Rock.

Greek Life attracts 20% of students. Three students spoke about Greek life. One got a scholarship from the frat he ended up joining; at the dinner for scholarship recipients, he was blown away by how much it wasn’t about the social aspect but more about philanthropy and helping each other with school. The 2nd person said, “Each one is different and provides a different sort of support system.” The 3rd wasn’t even thinking about joining a frat when he came to college. “I didn’t think it was for me but all my friends were joining. It’s inclusive. Events are open to all of campus.” Rush is delayed to winter term so students have the fall to establish themselves.

~Lawrence sci bldg

Side of the science building

Classes range from 40 (Biological Anthro) and 60 (Intro to Biology) to 2 (Independent Study) and 8 (Sr. Experience and Statistics). Students call professors by their first names. Favorite Classes include:

  • Topics in Middle East and India Through Ethnomusicology
  • Geology
  • Intro to Drawing: “I draw like a 5 year old, but that’s ok at Lawrence!”
  • Computer Science: “So hard and so good!”
  • Gender in Cinema: “We watched Clueless and Top Gun. We queered up that movie so bad! We talked for 2 hours about the relationships in that movie.”
  • Magic, Witchcraft, and Religion – uses HP to learn about Medieval Witchcraft
  • Defining Frenchness

Notable majors include: Linguistics, Neuroscience, Cognitive Science, Biomedical Ethics, Chinese, and Innovation & Entrepreneurship.

~Lawrence Con building

Conservatory with a food truck – makes for easy lunches between rehearsals

Lawrence has an excellent music conservatory. Classes in “The Con” are open to all students regardless of major. Productions are inclusive and mostly based on ability: if you can do it, you can get in. We asked if there was a divide between the Con and other students; most agreed that if there was any divide at all, it was between the Conservatory and Athletics. In an effort to keep that at bay, they hold “Flip-flop Weekend” when those 2 groups go to the other one’s activities.

There’s only one application regardless of whether a student applies to the Conservatory or not. Con students apply ONLY regular decision and go through the audition process then without a pre-screening. If a student can’t attend an on-campus or one of the 12 regional auditions, they can send in a video. They’ll get the decision for admission to Lawrence and the Conservatory at the same time. If a student applies for a dual-degree program, they’ll still be looked at academically for the university if they aren’t eligible for the Con.

Appleton is a great small college town; town-gown relations are good. The airport is 10 minutes away making it easy for the international students and others who need to fly to and from school to get there and back home.

(c) 2015

Marquette University

MARQUETTE UNIVERSITY (visited 4/14/15)

~Marquette quad 1This is the only school I’ve visited that let us into their Cadaver Lab which was much bigger than I imagined; I thought it would look more like an autopsy room with maybe 2 or 3 bodies – instead, there were probably 25 or 30 stations, most with groups of 4-6 students surrounding it working diligently.

~Marquette sim lab

One of the Nursing sim labs

Not surprisingly, Health Sciences are strong here. Students admitted into these programs average a 28.6 ACT and have a strong science background. Calculus isn’t necessarily required since programs tend more towards the statistical side.

~Marquette engo 6

An Engineering lab

When applying to Marquette, students indicate their 1st and 2nd choice COLLEGE. Students are admitted to the college, not a particular major with the exception of Nursing and Athletic Training. Generally, indicating 2 colleges allows Admissions to consider applicants for 2 places. However, since students cannot transfer into Nursing as sophomores, they’ll only be considered for that even if they list a 2nd choice college.

Colleges and special majors include:

  • Arts and Sciences
    • Unusual majors: Computational Mathematics, Social Welfare and Justice, and Physiological Sciences
    • Students an do an art minor with Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design!
  • ~Marquette edu cntr

    The Education Center

    Education

    • Elementary Ed students major in a subject area AND education. They have a full teaching area that looks like an elementary school with rugs, books, etc. Upper level students run reading labs and have clients all semester.
  • Communications
  • Health Sciences
    • Doctor of Physical Therapy: Students can do a 6-year combined degree by majoring in anything but Education or Engineering and then jumping into the graduate degree. They receive about 1400 applications for an enrollment of 62.
    • Physician Assistant: they get about 900 apps and accept 14. Students apply after their first year; if admitted, they can finish in 5 years instead of 7. Exercise Physiology or Athletic Training majors work well with the PT program but students can major in almost anything.
  • Business
    • This is the first university to offer Business Ethics
    • Applied Investment Management Program. Students invest real money and must present the outcomes to the Board of Trustees at the end of the year.
    • 75% pass the exam the first time (national average is 40%). Students must intern during the summer between Jr and Sr years.
  • ~Marquette engo 5

    One of the Material testing labs in the Engineering Building.

    Engineering: This program is 4 years old; facilities are top-notch! We talked to students who were building easily foldable/portable children’s walkers for use on playgrounds and will easily go over wood chips and grass. There was a local need for this, so students were designing, building, and donating several of these.

  • Nursing: Nursing is highly selective: 100/1800 applicants are admitted.
    • Students go on mandatory spirituality retreats, “but not JESUIT retreats!” said the Dean. They want students to grapple with larger issues starting with “Who are you?” to issues of life, death, and dying – from whatever religion (or no religion) a student is coming from.
    • Marquette statueUnlike many nursing programs, study can study abroad on a few programs include maternal health in Peru, partnership with SLU.
    • The Simulation lab like a professional area. Everyone in there is in uniform and treats it like a job.
~Marquette sculpture

One of the sculptures on campus

Milwaukee is a great college city with the country’s 6th largest student population per capita. Marquette is integrated into downtown. Students have a wealth of cultural and job opportunities at their fingertips. The Courthouse and an Art Museum are each a block away, both of which provide internships – as do places like National Mutual and other businesses. There are several theaters, and free concerts happen regularly in Cathedral Square. Milwaukee hosts a 10-day Summer Fest, the largest music festival in the country. The stadium is a few blocks away, as is River Walk, a walking/jogging path. The Old Warehouse District has been revitalized with pubs, stores, and restaurants. Students can ride city public transit for free while school is in session. When (if!) students get bored in Milwaukee, the Amtrak station is 7 blocks from campus, making it easy to get into Chicago (1.5 hours away).

~Marquette union extMarquette is one of 18 Jesuit universities in the US. Jesuit schools share a educational philosophy of using knowledge and service to make the world better. Rooted in the Liberal Arts, they stress critical thinking and teach their students HOW to think, not WHAT to think. Approximately 60% of Marquette students self-identify as Roman Catholic; others represent a range of religious diversity.

~Marquette chapel 2

Chapel of St. Joan of Arc

The Chapel of St. Joan of Arc is on campus. Built in the 1500s, it was dismantled and brought to Long Island from France in the 1920s. In the early 1960s, it was given to Marquette. Masses are still held here. Although we didn’t get to go inside to check this out for ourselves, the tour guide told us that there’s one spot near the altar that’s always a couple degrees colder than the rest of the building. Science students have done experiments to try to figure out why.

~Marquette streetStudents are serious about their education but are also active outside the classroom. People need to want to be involved. Greek life is there, but not huge (about 15% of students affiliate). There’s some Greek housing but it’s small. The theater department puts on 5 big shows a year. “Late Night Marquette” got mentioned a couple times by students where they’ll have a chocolate theme, a casino night, and other things like that.

~Marquette jarsSome University-wide special programs include:

  • ROTC: Marquette is the host institution for all 3 branches for students in Milwaukee.
  • Honors: They’re looking to grow this. They currently get about 400 apps for 100 spots; the application is due by 2/1 and requires several essays. Honors students take small core classes with other Honors students, meant to bring together as a group. After that, they can contract with professors to make any class as an Honors class.
  • Study Abroad: If Marquette doesn’t have a program a student wants, they have the option of going through Loyola in Chicago.
~Marquette dorms

Some of the dorms

Almost all freshmen and about half of all students live on campus; a new residence hall is opening in the fall. There’s a variety of housing types ranging from singles to quads; many triples and quads have their own bathrooms. Students can live in suite styles as a freshmen. One student said that dorms are “good, not great” and large. Honors Housing is in a “Tower” with lake views – some of the best housing around. “Food is good. There are options in different dining halls like Italian, 50s diner, traditional buffet.” Students can eat in any of the dozen or so spots on campus with their meal cards.

© 2015

Ripon College

Ripon College (visited 4/16/15)

~Ripon students on quadFor a college that many people have never heard of, it has some famous alumni including Harrison Ford (who, although he didn’t technically finish his senior thesis, from what I’m told, is still considered an alum!), Spencer Tracy, Al Jarreau, about a dozen NFL and several NBA players, and McKey Sullivan (winner of America’s Next Top Model). Also, the town saw the start of the Republican Party in the 1800s “which was pretty progressive 160 years ago!” said one admissions rep.

~Ripon tablesI wasn’t even sure how to pronounce the name of this school before I got here (like “ripin’” if you’re wondering) and I walked away loving it. This is a small liberal arts college with just under 800 students although they’re working on growing to at least 1000 students and currently have the capacity to go to 1100. The majority of students come from the upper midwest but there are students from all over the country and world. They’re so serious about attracting students from other geographic regions that they’ve instituted a fly-in program where they will reimburse accepted students who submit original receipts up to $300 in travel costs for visiting. They’ll even pick up students from the Milwaukee airport.

~Ripon sculptureBecause it’s small, students can take things in a lot of different directions, dig deep, and look at things from a variety of angles. “Students here are just so excited,” said one professor. “I look at them and think, ‘Was I ever that earnest?’ They’re just really good kids!!” Faculty don’t always stick to the syllabus and can take students’ interests into account. There are several interdisciplinary majors. Students who thrive here like to be involved in a lot. “We’re too small for them to do just one thing.”

~Ripon quad 1Students are confident, want to be challenged and pushed, are willing to take on responsibilities, and can make their own way. One student said that Ripon made her more open/respectful of ideas. “You think you know who you are. You don’t.” Students and professors both brought up the fact that people on campus truly want to discuss not only academics but larger issues as well. “We have really good discussions about diversity,” said one student. The campus even now has gender-neutral bathrooms at the insistence of the students because of discussions people were having on campus.

~Ripon classOne of the Communications professors is a Ripon Alum. He did his PhD at a major research university and people expected him to take a job at another major institution, but he jumped at the chance to come back to Ripon. When asked why, “I told him it’s because I believe in this place. The guy was silent and then said that was the first time he’d ever gotten that answer.”

~Ripon greenhouseCurrently, they’re wrestling with areas of distinction. They understand that they need an answer to the “What makes you different?” question to draw people to them. They’re undergoing a curriculum review and have hired a new Dean. Despite this (or maybe BECAUSE they’re willing to be critical of their programs and be forward-thinking), there are already wonderful things happening in Ripon’s academic world. Programs of note include:

Dr. Zach Messitte, Ripon’s President, still teaches in the Political Science department and often runs a non-credit sophomore seminar on Presidential stuff. He also often leads a trip during the 3-week May term for the Liberal Arts in Focus program. 2015 trips also include an Ornithology class, Peace Studies in Jamaica, Language Immersion in Spain, and a trip to Germany.

~Ripon acad bldg 2Ripon has active, committed alumni who look out for their alma mater and the current students. They even help pay for students to go on career trips! A group of students recently went to DC for 4 days and paid only $400 for the entire trip which included airfare, hotels, meals, ground transportation, etc. The students got to attend career workshops with alumni, tour companies and other organizations, go on interviews, and more.

~Ripon loungeThey’ll take either the Common App or their school-specific application, and they don’t charge an application fee. “We want to take down as many barriers to applications as possible.” Getting a decision takes about 2 weeks after the file is complete. “If something seems off, we’ll ask the student for an interview.” Most scholarships are granted automatically but there are some that students need to apply for such as those for forensics, music/art, ROTC, diversity, etc. These additional, specialty scholarships are stackable with the automatically granted academic scholarships up to $19,000 a year.

~Ripon Lincoln 3Freshmen are usually housed together; after that, housing is generally mixed. Almost ⅓ of the students affiliate with a Greek organization and can live together on a floor in the dorm. Some apartments are available usually for Juniors and Seniors who must fill out an application; GPA is taken into account when assigning the apartments. Themed Housing is available and can be coed.

Ripon does a great job providing things to do on campus. “The town is a bit remote. We can’t do anything about that, but we can make campus fun.” They have an active performing and visual arts groups; students can and do get involved even if they aren’t majoring in those areas. Clubs range from the athletic (including 3 different Equestrian teams and a Women’s Boxing Club) to charity groups and honor societies. Students also find their own fun: “There’s a great sledding hill that’s well used,” said one students. Ripon is supposedly the second most haunted campus in the Midwest, so ghost-hunting is always an option!

(c) 2015

University of Wisconsin – Madison

University of Wisconsin – Madison (visited 4/15/15)

~UWM food trucks

Food trucks line one of the streets going through campus.

~UMW dormsUW-M is a typical large, sprawling state university that is integrated into the city of Madison. A current student gave great advice for survival on such a big campus: “Don’t be afraid to ask questions and advocate for yourself! You can make the campus small but you have to work for it.” Students who do well are willing to stick up for themselves and to think about how to make choices. They have to be able to sort through a lot of options. The university will try to make students aware of opportunities, but the students have to go out and take advantage of them. It seemed that students are taking advantage of things that are there. Students were everywhere (not difficult with an undergraduate population of just over 30,000 students), including hanging out in the union late into Wednesday night, reading, talking, etc.

~UWM 1~UMW balconyMadison has the same college-town vibe as Ann Arbor and some other cities with flagship universities. There’s a lot within walking distance; city streets run through campus. One counselor asked about the school’s party reputation; the tour guide said, “there are students who want to do that. State Street (a 6-block pedestrian area) has a good bar scene and great ethnic restaurants.” There was a definite sense that he was dodging the issue. I asked for the real scoop; he just said, “there’s drinking at any school.” Several of us discussed this later and felt like we were being given the canned, prescribed answer . . . as one counselor said, “Not answering is an answer in itself.” Later in the visit, someone asked another student about the types of discussions people had about a variety of topics, in or out of class. Did it seem like the university, faculty, and/or students want to discuss diversity, typical college topics (like the sexual assaults in the news), etc? Her answer: “It seems that if people want to participate in that discussion, they can, but there’s no real comprehensive discussions about other points of view, wellness, sexual assault, or any of that.”

2 of the dorms buildings

2 of the dorms buildings

Most new students (93%) live in campus housing but are not required to do so; about 75% of all residents are new students. There are 19 residence halls (4 first-year only, 4 upperclass only, the rest mixed years) split into Lakeside (“the peaceful and more traditional side,” said one student) and Southeast Neighborhoods. Ten are Learning Communities, including Women in Science and Engineering, GreenHouse, Open House: Gender Learning, and Career Kickstart. Students in LCs complete a 1-3 credit learning component taught by live-in faculty.

One of the few areas with an expanse of green

One of the few areas with an expanse of green

About 20% of students enroll in a First-Year Interest Group, or “FIG” which includes 3 thematically-arranged classes on one of about 60 tthemes. “I heart FIG,” said one student. “To this day, I have a group of students I keep in contact with. We study together, help each other out, still talk to the professor. He even came to zumba with us.” Clearly the university is doing something right: 95% of freshmen return for sophomore year – although they attract passionate students who are committed to education in the first place.

~UMW sculpturesIn terms of the academics, one student said, “It’s super competitive here. Everyone here was at the top of their class in high school.” Over 4000 courses are offered; 10% have under 10 and another 10% have more than 100. Each college within the university has an Honors program; students admitted to the university will be invited to apply. Like all large universities, there are a ton of options for majors, minors, and certificates across colleges:

  • Agricultural and Life Sciences (notable programs: Ag Business Management, Community and Environmental Sociology, Life Sciences Communication, Landscape Architecture)
  • Business (including Operations and Technology Management, and Real Estate and Urban Land Economics)
  • Education (Notable programs: Rehabilitation Psychology, Athletic Training, and Communication Sciences and Disorders)
  • Engineering (unusual programs: Geological, Naval, Nuclear, and Materials Science)
  • Human Ecology (including Textiles and Fashion Design, Community and Nonprofit Leadership)
  • Letters and Science (unusual programs include Social Work; Cartography and Geographic Information Systems; Medical Microbiology and Immunology; Applied Math, Engineering, and Physics; and History of Science, Medicine, and Technology)
  • Nursing
  • Pharmacy (undergrads can earn a B.S. in Pharmacology-Toxicology)
  • Journalism and Mass Communications
A statue of Lincoln overlooking the original section of the campus. The tradition is to rub his foot for luck and take graduations pictures at the statue.

A statue of Lincoln overlooking the original section of the campus. Students rub his foot for luck and take graduation pictures at the statue.

One of the coolest academic facts is that 87 languages are taught here including several African Languages (Swahili, Zulu, Hausa, Arabic, Yoruba, and more), Ojibwe through the American Indian Studies program, all the Scandinavian languages (including Sami, Icelandic, and Old Norse), and several Slavic languages (Czech, Polish, Russian, and Serbian/Croatian). Students can receive retroactive credit by testing into and taking a higher level class (ie, if they test into 202, they’ll get credit for all 4 classes for taking 202).

There’s a huge sports culture here, as you might guess. The crew team rows right by campus; we saw boats go by from our reception in the union. The students said that the only real traditions they could think of revolve around sports: band performances are huge; they have “5th Quarter” which sounds like an after-game party/event. The only other tradition one student could think of was “Battle for Bascum” which is a giant snowball fight between the Lakeside and Downtown dorms.

~UMW crew teamDespite the number of applicants, admissions is holistic. Because of the competitive, selective nature of the school, “we do have to make split some hairs sometimes when making admissions decisions,” said one admissions rep. Numbers alone do not determine admissibility but do guide the process.

~UMW pedestrian mallThe admissions office believes that the more students do in high school and their communities, the more they’ll contribute to campus. They’re looking for people who have dug deep and found roots – in other words, quality of involvement over quantity. They look at essays to see if students write concisely at a college level. Recommendations are not required, but the most serious students send them (please don’t send more than two!).

They won’t recalculate GPA but don’t hold unweighted GPAs against applicants. They no longer require the writing section of the ACT (and won’t for the new SAT, either).

Scholarship applications are separate and can be found at scholarships.wisc.edu. This must be completed every year that a student wants merit-based aid. Wisconsin and Minnesota grants reciprocity for in-state tuition. However, they have a total allowable non-resident enrollment rate of 27.5%.

UW-M works on Notification Periods, NOT early action! Apply by 11/2, hear by end of January; apply by 2/1, hear by end of March. They may “postpone” (aka defer) during the first round; they will rarely waitlist a student who has already been deferred, but it can happen.

(c) 2015

Milwaukee School of Engineering

Milwaukee School of Engineering (visited 4/14/15)

MSOE walkway

Entry into the quad area. Bikes are big on campus .

I didn’t even know this school existed; I had a couple free hours before another college tour in Milwaukee and spent it walking around the city to get a sense of the place. I saw on a tourist map that I was only a couple blocks from MSOE so I headed over there. The school surprised me in a good way!

MSOE mapThis is a small school of about 2,600 undergrads (not surprisingly, males outnumber females 3-to-1) allowing for a lot of hands-on opportunities for students. One student I spoke to chose MSOE specifically for this reason. “I did not want to be sitting in a large lecture hall. I knew I’d get a better education here than some of the bigger name schools because I can apply what I’m learning and ask questions.” His classes are small: his largest had 28 students; the smallest had 4. He absolutely loves it here. “I’m really well prepared.”

MSOE field and dorm

The outdoor athletic field and dorms in the background.

Incorporated into the city, MSOE is a small, manageable campus within walking distance of many things and accessible to many more through the city’s public transportation. It’s close to downtown but not right in the middle of the busiest part. Freshmen and Sophomores must live on campus unless they come from within 50 miles of campus; about 80% live on campus. Options range from traditional rooms to suites to apartments (those are reserved for juniors, seniors, and international students). The new tower with apartments has brought up the total undergrad residential percentage to about 35%. For the upperclassmen who move off, it’s very easy to find close, affordable housing in the city.

MSOE stud cntr int

The top floor of the student center building.

Food is “ok . . . it’s campus food,” said one student. You aren’t going to go hungry, and if you get bored, you have the whole city at your disposal. The hours aren’t always great. “Dinner is over at 6 or 6:30” but the late-night place is open until 11 Sunday to Thursday. They do offer commuter plans as well.

Despite the school’s name, students can major in more than just Engineering although that is their “flagship.”

  • MSOE nursing

    Nursing Department

    There is a good Nursing program that boasts a 97% placement rate of their graduates.

  • The Business school offers majors in Management, International Business, Management Information Systems, and Technical Communications.
  • The Math department offers both Actuarial Science and Operations Management.
  • Engineering offers degrees in Architectural, Biomedical, BioMolecular, Civil, Computer, Construction, Electrical, Industrial, Mechanical, and Software.
    • Their Mechanical Engineering program has the most students (126) and ranks in the top 10 in the country.
  • MINORS: Students can minor in 7 areas: Business Management, Chemistry, German Studies, Marketing and Entrepreneurship, Math, Physics, Psychology, and Technical Communication
MSOE Engo Bldg

Engineering Building

One of the students I talked to is a senior Civil Engineering major. “It’s pretty new. I was one of the first classes, so I feel like I get to help shape it.” He’s an active member of the American Society of Civil Engineers and has competed in Steel Bridge and Concrete Canoe competitions against places like Notre Dame, Purdue, and Indiana. He’s completed a Senior Design project which is an applied project to solve a problem. All students present their work to professionals at the end. He’s a structural specialist, but his senior project wasn’t specifically on that. He would like to see this change in the future; right now, they bound a bit by the project availability, but he did say that it was good to expand out a little bit and gain that experience in other areas of civil engineering. He’s completing a 5-Year freshman-to-MSE program. Students who have a minimum GPA can complete their 5th year for free.

MSOE museum ceilin

The ceiling of the museum building

I’m impressed with the study abroad opportunities. I think an advantage to going to school at a specialized university like this is that they create opportunities for students that align with what they need for graduation. MSOE has agreements with Lille Catholic University in France, Czech Technical University, Florence University of the Arts, Lubeck University of Applied Science in Germany, and Manipal Institute of Technology in India. They also have a travel-study course on Doing Business with China.

Admissions is moderately selective. Although Engineering and Math students need a minimum GPA of 3.0 (nursing requires a 2.75), typical admitted students have about a 3.65. Engineering and Nursing students need at least a 22 composite ACT (Engineers need a 24 math sub-score). Math majors need a 24 composite and 26 math sub-score on the ACT. All students need to have completed pre-calc in high school. They will grant credit for almost all AP classes with a 4 or 5; only a couple areas will grant credit for a 3.

MSOE LibraryI asked a student whether people stuck around campus or went downtown for fun. “Depends on their age . . . I’ll leave it at that.” One of the favorite campus traditions is St. Patrick’s week — apparently he’s the patron saint of engineers. Who knew? This is a big deal in the city as well as on campus. MSOE has parties, students dress up, some professors have their ties cut, classes sometimes get canceled, etc. Quiz Bowl is another event that the students mentioned as an activity they look forward to.

There are things to do on campus. Sports are popular, and they have a large rec facility which includes a hockey rink. Some of their more unusual sports offerings are crew (DIII – “It’s a good team,” said one of the students), fencing, judo, cheerleading, badminton, rugby, and weightlifting (all club). Greek life is fairly small in terms of numbers of students who affiliate, but they do run several social events around campus. There’s an active performing arts contingent on campus, as well.

(c) 2015

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