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High Point University

High Point University (visited 3/16/17)

HPU waner cntr 2High Point has come a long way in a very short time. I brought a group of students here 8 years ago; the changes since then are astounding. They have a few more buildings in the works to be completed by 2020: a res hall opening August 2017, and Schools of Health Science/Pharmacy and Undergraduate Science. An arena (ice hockey) and conference center just got approved: “45% of our students are from the north.” When these are finished; they’ll expand the endowment.

HPU Galileo statue

Statues of famous people, like Galileo, are all over campus

The current president has made a big difference changing the mindset on campus. “You don’t get an education by picking up information. Knowledge isn’t understanding. You can get trained anywhere, but education better be holistic.” The campus is purposefully designed to change how students approach education. “I want people to think about WHY, not just how. Why do we have a steakhouse on campus? So students can learn business etiquette. Be a human being of relevance. This takes knowledge, understanding, and human relations.”

HPU stu cntr 2It’s important to take much of this with a grain of salt. I spoke with 2 former students currently studying at HPU. They enjoy being there, but were open about problems facing the school. “It’s all about appearances. There’s not as much substance as they like to make people think.” The people who thrive here are confident and have a passion for something. It’s easy to get connected to resources. They both gave the career center and internship programs big thumbs up. “It’s one of the best things about the college, but it is very much NC based. There’s some stuff on the East Coast, but not much beyond that.” Counseling services were also given high ratings.

HPU pool

The pool outside the student center

“It is a country club. That isn’t a false reputation.” A lot of people here are into Greek and/or social life, or they’re here to take advantage of networking/Business connections. They both agreed that it’s an expensive school, and Financial Aid isn’t great. “Take advantage of everything here. You’re paying for it.”

“People here are image driven. It’s homogenous and easy to get caught up in the shallowness. People who are different are fish out of water; they’re probably going to transfer.” There is a great deal of apathy towards diversity. “It’s tolerated but not celebrated. It can be frustrating. Racial diversity seems to be the hardest because it’s the most visible,” said one. The other said, “LGBTQ students will be fine here if they’re not way out there. I’ve never heard overtly hostile comments or felt threatened, but sometimes hear ignorant comments.” That being said, they did agree that there is a lot of room to grow at HP. “You’ll struggle in a constructive way.”

HPU business interiorGrowth mindset is at the center of all they do: HPU has trained faculty and offer Growth Mindset Grants for faculty research projects, student scholarships, etc. Over the course of the counselor program, the Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) was repeatedly brought up. The entire education is built on Four Pillars: Academic Excellence, Experiential Learning, Character Development, and Life Skills.

All classes are taught by faculty. Professional grad programs (physical therapy, physician assistant) means no TAs. The number of faculty with PhDs is lower than some other schools but they pull a lot of people directly from the field. For example, Joe Michaels teaches here. He directed The Today Show for 8 years, won an Emmy, directed the opening ceremonies for the Olympics, etc. “He doesn’t have a PhD. Who cares?? He’s an amazing resource for our students.” They also bring in Innovators in Residents like Steve Wozniak. Check out all the speakers at http://www.highpoint.edu/innovators/.

HPU sport med 1They’ve seen a sharp increase in undergraduate health sciences because of the grad programs. Generally anything labeled as “pre-“ is not a major except pre-pharmacy (one of the top-10 freshmen majors). Pre-pharm students complete 2 years of intense pre-reqs and then transition to a 4-year DPT program without their undergrad degree. Applicants need at least a 550 math on the SAT: “We don’t have a single exception to that … we’ve never had a student score lower who could do it.”

HPU 3Other strong programs include Visual Merchandising, Graphic Design, Actuarial Science, and International Relations. Unique programs include:

  • Interior Design: ranks in the top 10 in the country. High Point is the furniture capitol of the world. By junior year, students can be designing for major companies.
  • Business Admin: Entrepreneurship, Sales & Entrepreneurship, and a 5-year MBA.
  • Communication, including interactive Gaming & Game Design, Event Management (#1 in the world, beating out the reigning 5-year champs from Korea), and a 5-year Masters – strategic Communication.
  • Education including LEGO education and a 5-year Masters in Elementary Education.
  • 3-2 Engineering with Vanderbilt. “No students do this. They end up staying here all 4 years,” said the rep, “but the option is there.”

HPU amphitheaterAll classes are worth 4 credit hours to account for mandatory experiential learning: service-learning, internships, or problem-based inquiry. English classes could tutor local children, and Business Ethics partners with the Chamber of Commerce to interview and work with 30 Under 30.

They’re on their way to reaching an enrollment goal of 5,000 undergrads. Retention is increasing 1-2 points per year, and they bring in 1,375 new freshmen each year (21.5% from NC). They haven’t reached a gender balance (42% male), and racial diversity is still something to work on. However, they’ve seen a recent grown in Hispanic and African-American students. The 1-1 study abroad exchanges help diversity.

HPU dorm hammocks

Hammocks in front of one of the dorms

Part of their retention comes from the Common Experience, including:

  • All students take a Seminar on Life Skills from President Qubein. Two students said, “It’s not all it’s made out to be. I learned a few things, but it’s not all that.”
  • Common Read
  • In-hall educational programming and Community Meetings
  • First Year Seminars or Eng 1103: students are grouped in res halls based on what they’re enrolled in.
  • Freshman success coaches (they transition to a major-specific advisor in their field later).
  • Undergrad Research and Creative Works: students in all disciplines can research as early as freshman year, even sometimes a 2-month summer project before freshman year. Students do the bulk of the research in the summer and write it up over the year. Meals and housing are covered and get a $3000 stipend.
HPU dorm 2

One of the dorms with a sand volleyball court in front

Students must live on campus through Junior year, but few leave because the dorms are so nice that there’s no reason to leave. They even have single-family houses for students. There are 5 tiers of housing with Tier 1 being the lowest price-point. “It’s hard to get into Tier 1 Housing unless you move to one of the off-campus areas and shuttle in,” one of the student told me. For a 3rd consecutive year, HPU ranked #1 in Aramark’s Student Satisfaction Survey of college food.

HPU classroom

A typical classroom in the business building

Classes are small. No one on the student panel had a class with more than 30 students; smallest classes ranged from 4-7. Their favorite classes were:

  • Astronomy taught by a guy who had discovered 5 new stars.
  • Linear Statistics: “We learned models and methods. For the last month, we did a project to apply this to whatever we wanted. I looked at airline delays and what caused them.”
  • Debating the Death Penalty: “I went in with a narrow idea of what I thought I believed. We filled out surveys about things like mental illness and pregnant criminals. We had to talk about what we believed, and she put out “What if?” situations. I loved that it was controversial and discussion based.”
  • Intro to Women and Gender Studies. “I had a narrow view of the topic. We did an action project involving the community. I partnered with a sorority about domestic violence and organized speakers and a candlelight walk.”
  • Intro to Event Management. “I didn’t think it would be so interesting. Speakers came to every class like a manager from the Sheraton. We had opportunities to work in the field and get hands-on experience.”
  • Science Fiction Philosophy: “I had a paradigm shift of how I look at the world, as simple as “who am I? Am I the same as when I was 7?”

HPU fire pitAbout 33% of students go Greek. Rush happens in spring semester, but one of the students (she’s affiliated) said that’s being changed next year to fall. Almost all affiliated students stay through graduation because it creates community, but “It’s not the end-all and be-all by any means.” There is Greek housing, but they each only hold about 15 people.

Campus has tons of activities, including a full movie theater and a bowling alley. The Concierge plans trips off campus ranging from Hanged Woods to Panthers home games to midnight premiers of Twilight. For students traveling home, free transportation is given to the Greensboro airport (about 20 minutes away) or to Charlotte or Raleigh-Durham, “Free if we were HP gear!”

Students on the panel were surprised by:

  • “I come from a big football area and I was a bit bummed that there wasn’t a team, but I love how much more attention the other sports get because there’s no football team.”
  • “How many opportunities there are. I knew it would be caring, but not how much people would be there for me. People do research all the time. It kind of woke me up and said “go do that!””
  • “How many professors have been in the field. One of my psych profs ran her own clinic. She uses real case studies to bring in real-world applications. My advisors worked at Lifetime and NBC. They want to help you with those connections.”
  • “We have the freedom to run with ideas.”
  • “How much it means to the community and people who work here. There are signs in town that say, “High Point’s University.” Businesses paint their buildings purple.”

During admissions, “The first place we’re going is the ‘Why do you want to attend HPU?’ question. We want them to be able to vocalize that they understand it’s a little different, otherwise they won’t enroll.” 125 students who look like they might be good fits but aren’t quite there academically are invited to complete Summer Experience. They recalculate to an unweighted GPA and will include everything with a grade on the transcript. EA students won’t get deferred, but they’ll be clear with students if they want to see new grades and/or test scores. Once supplied, they’ll make a decision.

HPU fountain 2Fellowship Applications are due 2/1. Students can apply to all 3 but can only enroll in 1.

1) Honors Scholars: Suggested eligibility: 1310+SAT, 28 ACT, and a 3.45 unweighted GPA.

  • The core curriculum includes 39 credits over 4 years in small, interdisciplinary classes. There are 5 foundation courses, Modern Language at 2nd semester level, 2 scholar seminars, a year-long signature project, and a senior professional portfolio.
  • Classes must be project-based, involve research, and be writing- and reading-intensive to qualify as Honors.
  • “It’s Qualitatively Different,” not just harder and more work. It’s work that gets them thinking in new ways. Our tour guide said, “Now it’s worth looking into. It’s not like when I came in 3 years ago.”
  • Students are housed in Finch.

2) Media Fellows: 16 Communication majors get a $3000 stipend, access to industry innovators, a living-learning community, and special trips (including international)

3) Leadership Fellows: Demonstrated leadership ability and potential.

© 2017

Eckerd College

Eckerd College (visited 2/8/16)

Eckerd beach“Eckerd brings out the good in us,” said the student sitting at our table at lunch. “It taught me that I’m pretty tough. I can roll out of bed at 2:00 am and go save people off a sinking boat.”

Eckerd skateboard parking

Skateboard “Parking” can be found around campus

Eckerd sits on about a mile and a half of waterfront property; not a bad place to spend 4 years! However, the administrators are quick to point out a line from Colleges That Change Lives: “On a sunny lush plot of land on Florida’s Gulf Coast, Eckerd College might seem like the perfect spot for an easy college career, four years marked by sun, surf and sand. But if you’re looking for a vacation, you should enroll elsewhere” (http://www.eckerd.edu/about/colleges-that-change-lives). Students describe classes as “intense and rigorous.”

Eckerd hammock 2

Hammocks are all over campus

People are excited about being here and are genuinely nice. “Very few places make the homesickness worth it. This is one of them,” said our tour guide. Less than ¼ of the students come from Florida (and about 5% are international); in fact, the average distance a student travels to attend Eckerd is about 1000  miles. The best way to describe students here are “beachy,” and students will even take extensive use of the yellow bikes on campus to get from place to place … they just grab one that’s free and scoot off to wherever they need to go! If they prefer to use a skateboard, there are even places provided to “park” them inside the buildings. The overarching feel is liberal, according to several students. They’re definitely relaxed and outdoorsy, taking full advantage of their surroundings, but not at the expense of their studies.

Eckerd water center

Waterfront equipment

The Waterfront substitutes for a campus rec center, and students come here for both fun and academics. Students, faculty, and even relatives can rent tents, coolers, fishing rods, and other equipment. In addition to a multitude of organized waterfront events (Fall FunFest, Hoedown, SplashBash, and the Talent Show to name a few), they have daily 2-hour windsailing and waterskiing trips and frequent overnight trips throughout the year such as a 4-day snorkeling trip to the Keys. Classes (wind-surfing, sailing, etc) are discounted for students, and anyone can sign up assuming they’ve passed the swim test. Clubs will also go scuba diving.

Eckerd water front

Boats at the waterfront

Faculty will bring classes to the waterfront; students will go out in kayaks or boats as part of their academics. Students may paddle to islands and read or write there for an English class. Environmental or Marine Science classes use the water and coast as a lab.

EC-SAR (Eckerd College Search and Rescue) is the only college water rescue in the country. It’s entirely student run (with some staff oversight!); they train and certify students to go out. They’re on-call 24 hours a day and go on about 500 calls a year (2nd to the Coast Guard). There’s also a land-based rescue: dispatch for 911 calls to help stabilize people on campus.

Eckerd chapel 1

The campus chapel

This is a Presbyterian-affiliated school, but you’d never know it; although there’s a chapel on campus, it’s non-denominational and there are no other statues or paraphernalia to indicate a religious affiliation.There are no attendance requirements or classes dealing with religion. They have an active Hillel and a club called “Scubie Jew” in which anyone (they don’t have to be Jewish) can get Scuba Certified. “I think they may be changing the name because people thought you did have be Jewish, but it’s kind of catchy so I hope they don’t,” said a tour guide. Students can get free transportation off campus to any service they want in the area. The school also holds alternative services on the beach sometimes.

Eckerd acad quad

Part of the Academic Quad

Admissions looks to bring about 500 first year and about 50 transfer students in a year. “It’s a challenge not to grow,” said one of the admissions representatives. Admissions decisions are done holistically, but scholarships are awarded based on grades and test scores (they’ll superscore ACT and SAT). The application fee is waived if the application is submitted by November 15 – with a guaranteed answer by 12/15. International students need a 550 CR SAT, a 79 TOEFL, or a 3000 word essay.

Eckerd library int

The study room on the main floor of the library

First-year students arrive 3 weeks before upperclassmen to complete orientation and the first class. This is called Autumn Term: “It should be called Sweaty term. There’s nothing Autumn about it,” said a rep. Transfer students CAN do an Autumn term but are not required to. Class runs from 9-12, and then students participate in orientation activities in the afternoons. Of the 25 classes offered, students can choose 6 classes that they’re interested in. Completing this class is a requirement for graduation, but it does not count towards the major. Orientation helps them learn about balance and other things.

Instead of “General Education” requirements, students complete Perspectives. The largest classes for our 2 tour guides were 40 (Chem 1) and 23 (Introduction to Anthropology); smallest were 2 (Latin) and 6 (Religion). Eckerd awards AP credit for 4 or 5 on the exams. Students can come in with up to 9 classes worth of AP, IB, or Dual Enrollment.

Eckerd Sci Cntr 1

The entry to the new science building

The most popular majors are the Natural Sciences (about 1/3 of students), followed by the Social Sciences (just under 1/4 of the students), Business (about 20%), then Arts & Communications and Humanities (both just over 10%). Marine Science, Geosciences, Human Development, International Business are particularly strong. They offer a 3-2 Engineering & Applied Science program with Columbia and Wash U; “Not as many people take advantage of this as we’d like. Usually they’re here for a reason and will stay for all 4 years to take advantage of the opportunities here.” There’s also a 3-3 Pre-law program.

Eckerd music cntr

The Music building

They’re getting a new Arts center in the Spring of 2017. “You might see a building coming down today. It’s intentional … if they hit the right one,” said the Dean. The main Academic Quad is fairly small; all the buildings have classroom doors that open to the outside. There are no long halls in the buildings. They have recently built a new science center. However, much of the campus is in need of a face-lift; people are mostly willing to overlook it because of the natural beauty of campus, and students see that improvements are being done over time.

Eckerd marine sci bldg

The Marine Science building

Experiential and Service Learning components are built into the fabric of life here. Research is everywhere, and a Mellon Foundation grant allows up to 25 freshmen to start researching immediately. All freshmen have to attend career services and complete 40 hours of reflective learning by junior year. The 2 aspects of this include both course content (1 example: Becoming Visible: Sex and Gender in American Society in which students look into how people can work with diverse populations) and an individual project or alternative spring break trip. They run trips to places like Cuba (looking at faith and lifting the embargo), Panama and Quito (working in orphanages), and Kentucky (poverty in the Appalachians). They’re ranked the #12 college in the US for short-term study abroad and study away: they travel internationally, but also at Ghost Ranch, NM; the Sundance Film Festival, UT; the United Nations, NY; and Woods Hole, MA. They’ve recently partnered with the University of Havana, Cuba so students can study Marine Biology there.

Eckerd dorm 4

One of the bigger dorms on campus sits right on the water

The dorms (all of which are mixed-classes: there are no freshman-only dorms) are named after Greek letters “partially to thumb our noses at Greek Life.” 86% of students live on campus, even though they only are required to live there for the first year. They have themed living, including Gender Neutral dorms. They opened their first one last year, and it’s so popular that they now have a 2nd one.

Eckerd dorms

Another set of dorms

There’s also Pet Friendly living; the Department of Pet Life provides oversight, health and wellness checks, flea and tick medication, and vet visits twice a year. Ten buildings allow pets; dogs have to be at least a year old and owned by the student for at least 10 months; Cats have to be 6 months old and owned for 3 months. “This is to make sure that the students know the pets well and how they react to things.” Usually parking is fine, but it’s been more of a challenge this year with the construction. Kids who fly in will usually take SuperShuttle or have friends who pick them up.

 

When students get sick of campus and/or the water, there’s plenty to do off campus, and the school runs free shuttles off campus to various locations and runs buses downtown to First Friday every month.

© 2016

Rollins College

Rollins College (visited 2/9/16)

Rollins waterfrontWinter Park is a charming small-town, conveniently located on the outskirts of Orlando. It’s an attractive location because it’s a mix of small town with an accessible urban area; they can be at the beach in 45 minutes or downtown Orlando in 25. Rollins students interact with town every day, partly by choice and partly because of the community service-based learning and civic engagement that’s women into the fabric of the education. Students are connected to – and they contribute to – the community.

Rollins Chapel ceiling hand painted

Interior of the Chapel

This is a residential liberal arts campus with a clear mission. The campus is well kept-up and attractive with a couple buildings on the National Register (the non- denominational Chapel which has a hand-painted ceiling and the Theater are listed).

The President talked extensively about fit when he addressed us. They want students who are going to take advantage of the school and fit into the fabric of the college. “I felt compelled to come here because of synergy of mission and location. It’s education tuned into the 21st Century; it’s diverse and provides a skill set to be global citizens and responsible leadership.”

Rollins walkway stones 2

Walkways are lined with stones carved with people who’ve done great things “to inspire us!”

“Rollins is not a spectator sport.” There’s all the learning that happens in Dialogue (their General Eds), in relationships between faculty and students, between peers, etc. They live in this community that has been well-suited for exactly this purpose.

The curriculum has 3 main components:

  1. “Dialogues” or General Education:
    1. It’s developmental in that students move together as a cohort, completing an FCC in the first semester and then into Neighborhoods in the spring of freshman year. This is to help them make connections because of the thematically based classes. Some examples are: Physics and Superheroes; Identities: Mirrors and Windows; Writing About the Magic Kingdom; Men, Masculinity, and Movies (“We watched Fight Club and Magic Mike. What’s not to like?”
    2. Skill-building. This program ensures that they have identifiable, marketable skills
    3. 100-level classes stress written communication and information literacy. They can test out of language, writing, and math, but must do health and wellness at Rollins. The Scuba class final exam was in the Caymans
  1. Major Requirements
  2. Electives: students must complete 16 credits outside of their major and Gen Ed

Rollins courtyard 1Classes are capped at 25. Many of the tour guide’s classes (in the business program) are at the cap, but she’s also had classes of 5 (Art History).

The Accelerated Management Program allows students to graduate in 3 years. Every year 35-40 students start. The yield is not as high as they’d like; many students start then start getting interested in a lot of things and don’t want to finish in 3 years, even though they can. Some simply change their mind. For students who are motivated and know what they want, it’s a great option.

Rollins hammockThe 3+2 Engineering program offers joint degrees with Wash U, Auburn, and Columbia. Only a few do this; more do it as a 4-2. They also have a program in Forestry with Duke, but this is done less frequently than the Engineering program.

Study Abroad is part of the culture here. They offer lots of summer programs to accommodate double majors, athletes, and others who can’t or don’t want to be away for a full year or semester. “We try to be mindful that not all students can take an entire semester off and still graduate on time, so faculty will offer field-study in May, summer, and winter that will carry academic credit.” They’ll work with people to find the program they want, and students can also do Study-Away in the US. Additionally, they offer a Pre-matriculation program: students arrive 2 weeks before orientation and go to Costa Rica with a professor. They accept about 15 students; they send out info to all accepted students and can apply after they deposited.

Rollins greek housing

Some of the Greek housing on campus

There’s a perception that students at Rollins are super rich, but a larger percentage attend with scholarships and financial aid. The average aid package is $35,000 and average indebtedness at graduation is $29,500. The Alfond Scholars Program is the most competitive program, providing up to 10 full scholarships (tuition, R&B, and fees). This is funded by the Alfond Inn near campus; the family donated the funds to build it with the stipulation that all proceeds go into the scholarships. “The competition is like American Idol for Brainiacs who also have a passion for global learning and giving back.”

Rollins 2Classes are small. There’s no going to class unprepared. If you don’t know what you’re doing, there’s no hiding it. The professor calls you out – but there’s also a lot of support. “There was this one time that I just wasn’t getting stuff. Class ended at 6pm, and I literally sat on the ground with my feet out in front of my staring at the board, not getting it. The professor sat on the ground next to me and stayed until 9 to make sure I got it.”

Rollins Presidents ScooterStudents say that there’s a lot of openness in regards to political views, but it’s “very left-leaning” according to the student panel. “We’re trained to dialogue and not debate in res life. I feel that there needs to be more dialogue because that’s the way to learn.” Students generally are very happy on campus, but given the opportunity, they’d spend money on scholarships, parking, and lab space. Freshmen can’t have cars except for medical reasons, if they work, and a few other reasons. The President even takes a scooter to work!

The students love Fox Day, and the tour guide took us past the spot on campus where the fox statue gets rolled out in the middle of the night; when it’s placed out, it’s a day off of classes. “There’s even a camera you can see online so you don’t even have to get out of bed! You can just go back to sleep.”

© 2016

Roberts Wesleyan College

Roberts Wesleyan College (visited 10/20/15)

~RWC quad 1I decided to swing by Roberts because I had a couple hours to kill before flying out of the Rochester airport. It’s a very pretty, traditional-looking campus. There were only a few people walking around, and at first, mostly adults. We did finally see some students walking around campus; when we asked people if campus was usually this quiet, they looked a bit like they had never noticed, and said that they thought that classes were probably in session so there weren’t likely to see too many people.

~RWC quad 4Although this is very close to Rochester (probably 15-20 minutes into downtown), the campus definitely has a rural feel. There isn’t much in easy walking distance, but students can have cars on campus. I stopped and talked to a couple students around campus (often the best way to get the unfiltered view since they aren’t working for admissions!). One student said that the thing she doesn’t like is that there’s not much to do on the weekends, but most students do stick around campus. There’s a $1 theater and laser tag nearby and sometimes people will go into Rochester, although she wasn’t sure if the school offered shuttles: “My roommate has a car so I haven’t paid attention.”

Some of the dorm buildings

Some of the dorm buildings

The first student I spoke to was a freshman. “I’d rate the school an 8.” She loves the faculty who she says are friendly and really willing to engage with students. This seemed to be true. I talked with two adults who were both talkative and willing to reach out to people. The first asked us if she could help us find anything and then helped us get to the admissions office; the other was a music professor. She walked with us across campus and chatted: she’d been at the school more than 20 years and loved the changes that were happening. “You wouldn’t recognize it! There’s been a lot of additions and improvements.”

Theater lobby

Theater lobby

Original building, now housing some of the Music department

Original building, now housing some of the Music department

Music is fairly big here. In the few minutes I spent talking to a student outside one of their major music and theater buildings, students walked by carrying French Horns, trombones, violins, and more. The music professor said that there are between 60-90 students in the department each year, and they’ve just started an honors chorus and honors band. The old theater building (now practice rooms, offices, classrooms, etc) is supposedly haunted; it had belonged to Mr. Roberts who donated the land to start the school. His funeral was held there.

~RWC acad bldg 3The school offers fairly standard liberal arts major offerings. Unusual ones include Economic Crime Investigation, Social Work, and Medical Technologist. They offer a 3-2 Engineering program with RIT, RPI, and Clarkson, as well as accelerated 3-year programs in Psychology and Social Work.

~RWC acad bldg 3Advice one student gave to pass onto students thinking about Roberts is, “Make sure they’re ok with the chapel requirement.” Students have to earn 22 chapel credits each semester (attendance at 1 chapel = 1 credit). Monday is a more traditional, non-denominational service; Wednesday tends to be student-led services or programs; Friday is a discussion session. Students can earn 3 chapel credits if they participate in one of the community service projects on Saturdays.

(c) 2015

SUNY Potsdam

SUNY Potsdam (visited 7/27/15)

Potsdam 3This is a solid school located about a mile from Clarkson and about 15 minutes from SUNY Canton and St. Lawrence University. “We may only have 4,000 students on campus, but you have about 15,000 college students in a 15-minute radius. There’s stuff going on,” said the tour guide. Potsdam is a bustling town with plenty to do within about a 10-minute walk from campus. Town-Gown relations are good. The first Saturday after freshmen move in, all the stores downtown open late. There are concerts, good deals at restaurants, huge checkers games, and more. All students can have cars on campus for a $112 fee, but the college will also run the Bear Bus to Albany, Syracuse, and NYC for breaks.

~Potsdam quad

Quad

The most notable “hook” at Potsdam is its Crane School of Music. Students must be admitted by Potsdam through the regular application process AND be accepted into Crane through auditions. Many students will audition on campus, but they know that not everyone can get there. Most international students and those living across the country will send in a DVD, but they also hold auditions in New York City which is much easier to travel to. They also hold scholarship auditions in October; it’s also a great chance to visit campus and meet with the music faculty.

~Potsdam 1The campus is attractive and walkable. A main road divides the academic and the residential sides. Many of the academic buildings are connected “which is great in the winter when you want to keep warm.” In the middle is a large, well-used quad.

Student lounge

Student lounge

There are only 3 lecture halls on campus. The tour guide’s largest class was Intro to Biology with 150 students; his smallest was a PoliSci elective with 6. He’s found all the professors to be very encouraging and willing to go out of their way to help – and that’s not limited to the school year. He’s been talking to and emailing a professor throughout the summer. There are also plenty of tutors available. He described how a tutor for one class came in on the second day and introduced herself early in the term so they knew who they could come to for help.

~Potsdam art studio 2

Ceramics Studio

Unusual majors include Interdisciplinary Natural Science, Music Business, Archaeological Studies, and Business Economics. Some unusual minors include Biological Anthropology, Wilderness Education, Nutrition, Jazz Studies, and Therapeutic Education.

~Potsdam 2There are several Joint-Degree programs:

~Potsdam restroomThere’s a residency requirement for freshmen and sophomores. The Freshmen Quad has 2 FYE dorms; some freshmen are housed in the 3rd dorm because of space issues. They are typical doubles that are coed by floor. There are suites for upperclassmen that fit up to 8 people as well as Townhouses. Food is available somewhere on campus from 7am to 1am. The dining hall will show movies on the weekends and often have an associated activity to go along with it such as “make your own minion” with Despicable Me or Superhero Sundae with The Avengers. Becky’s Place is an on-campus place to eat that’s a bit more fancy.

Students don’t have to look far to find things to do. Greek life is pretty big here; students can rush starting second semester. There are plenty of active clubs, including a Step Team, Rugby, Law Enforcement and Tactics Club, Stitch-n-Bitch, and Japanese drumming. The Harry Potter Club hosts Quidditch games, and another club runs Cardboard Duct-tape Boat races. The river is about 2 miles away and is a popular kayaking spot. The Outdoor Club and other groups run frequent trips to the mountains for hiking and skiing. There are 3 big skiing centers are within an hour of campus. There are 400 artistic things on campus every year such as dance, music performances, art shows, and theater; students can submit art for consideration for display at the professional art gallery on campus.

© 2015

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

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

Birmingham-Southern College

Birmingham-Southern College (visited 4/2/14)

~BSC quadOne of the counsellors asked our tour guide, a senior majoring in religion, if she agreed with the reputation that Birmingham-Southern students “are smart and out-there.” She said yes: “You can be nerdy, and that’s cool here.” BSC, a CTCL school, does place a lot of emphasis on the whole student and making sure that they aren’t pigeon-holed. For their senior capstone, students have to complete a major project outside of the major. Our tour guide’s project was writing about modern issues in the style of Camus.

The college President is General Krulak, a dynamic leader who is well respected by the students and staff. He spoke to our group; he’s funny, well-spoken, has great ideas, and clearly cares about the college. He impressed us with his energy and ideas for the college as well as his plans on how to carry them out.

~BSC quad 2One complaint students seemed to have about BSC is that it’s not ethnically diverse – “but it is intellectually diverse. Students are open to diversity. There are plenty of passionate discussions.” BSC doesn’t have a great deal of religious diversity, but it is there. One of my colleagues went to BSC and loved it; as a Jewish student, she felt supported and had a community that met her needs. The city of Birmingham also has a great deal of diversity, so students can attend local Synagogues, Hindu Temples, Mosques.

Dorm room

Dorm room

Dorms are (mostly) new and comfortable. Freshmen are housed in traditional dorms; all other students live in suites. They have a relatively new Frat Row with 6 buildings (built mostly with private donations), each housing about 24 students. BSC also served as the Olympic Village for the Soccer players, and they have an Olympic torch in the fitness center. Basketball and baseball get best fan turn-out, and lacrosse is getting more popular. Their lacrosse, Track & Field and football field is called The Battlefield.

Some of their notable academic points are:

  • Frat houses

    Frat houses

    A new Human Rights and Conflict Studies Minor. Current students interested in this program can use previous classes towards meeting the requirements because it’s so new. They complete classes in 4 categories: History, Personal experience (internship), lit, and writing.

  • Their arts program. Students can earn a BA (Art History, Art Education, Film and Media Studies, or Studio Arts), a BFA (Studio Arts, Print, Photo, Sculpture, Painting, Clay), or both. A portfolio is needed for scholarships.
  • Their Critical Languages cross-registration with Samford and UAB. Our tour guide is studying Hindi, and BSC has Arabic-speaking Fulbright Scholars on campus. One of the professors at dinner said, “Here’s something you aren’t going to hear anywhere else: Sanskrit on Demand!”~BSC hammock
  • The Science Center purposefully put large windows for all the labs to make it a “science on display” building.
  • The Birmingham Area Consortium for Higher Education allows students to cross-register at UAB, Samford, Miles, and the University of Montevallo.
  • Their Urban Environmental Studies major is strong and fairly unusual.
  • They maintain an archaeology site at Turkey Creek (an old mill).
  • They offer 3-2 programs in Nursing (in conjunction with Vanderbilt) and in Engineering (at several institutions)
  • Their Honors Interdisciplinary classes include choices such as: “Lit, Medicine, and the Body,” “American Art and Conventions of the Body” (Art History), “Harry Potter Bigger than Jesus” (religious themes in HP), “Crucible Steel” (Human Rights/Creative Writing), Senior Research
  • Hess Fellows Advocacy Internships gives $3000 stipends/scholarships to selected sophomores and juniors. They are partnered with companies and non-profits in NYC, DC, San Fran, Birmingham, and Montgomery in order to work on projects for two months over the summers.

~BSC bikesThe student panel was enlightening. Students were articulate and forthcoming about information:

1) BSC is one of the Colleges that Changes Lives. How has BSC changed your life?

  • Study abroad opened my eyes to the rest of the world. I grew up in a small town, and I have a much more global view now. I appreciate that BSC is so supportive – financially and otherwise – of students who want to go abroad.
  • I’m friends with everyone. It’s not cliquey here. I get real world interactions.
  • I got involved in things I never thought I would or could do. I was really shy in high school, and here I’m pushed out of my comfort zone. In high school, I wouldn’t be up here talking to you or leading a club, but now it’s just what I do.
  • It’s empowering. They give us opportunities and expect us to take them.
  • I’m less apathetic than in HS. I’ve learned so much about people and the world.

2) What should BSC never change?

  • The small classes.
  • January term (BSC works on a 4-1-4 system. J-Term is “the exploration term.” All students must complete 2 of these, although many students do more. Some majors require specific ones, including freshmen education majors who are placed in schools (and later, they can teach in Ghana), or pre-med students who work in the hospital. This is to make sure it’s what they want to do.
  • Greek Life. I wouldn’t have rushed at a bigger school.

3) What needs to change?

  • Diversity
  • The caf. The food is ok, but it gets boring.

© 2014

Pepperdine University

PEPPERDINE UNIVERSITY (visited January 17, 2014)

Deer on the lawn heading into campus

Deer on the lawn heading into campus

~Pepperdine panormaI’ve never been to a campus before with deer grazing on the lawns leading into campus! Pepperdine is a beautiful campus with a stunning view of the Pacific coast in Malibu. It is built on a hill, so there’s a lot of climbing involved, but the school took care with the architecture to make the best use of their buildings and to highlight the beauty of the area. Windows and balconies overlook the water. Obviously, the climate there is wonderful, and students spend a lot of time outside so it was easy to see students interacting with each other. People seemed happy and engaged, greeting each other as they walked around campus.

~Pepperdine treesOur tour guide, Joan, was a freshman business and communications major from New Jersey. Pepperdine 1Although she came a long way from home, she said she felt comfortable immediately. The week long orientation went a long way in helping. She said one of her favorite parts was the My Tie Dance. The boys’ ties are put into a box and the girls pick one out; the owner becomes their date for the night. She’s also impressed with the President’s level of involvement with the student body; he walks around campus and talks to people regularly. He hosts parties and makes attempts to get to know people around campus. (As a side note, he’s also in a band called Mid-Life Crisis).

~Pepperdine bowerSeaver College is the undergraduate unit of the university; there are four graduate schools in Law, Education, Business, and Public Policy. There are about 3,500 undergraduates and about that number again of graduate students.

Dining Hall

Dining Hall

Only about 60% of students live on campus. Freshmen dorms have suites comprised of 8-10 people with two showers and a main room. Triples are cheaper and have an ocean view as a trade-off for having 3 people in the room. All dorms are single-sex. Coed hours are 10am to 1am in the rooms, 7am to 2am in the main area. It’s also a dry campus, but they do have the HAWC which is a 24/7 hangout. Both the single-sex dorms and the lack of alcohol reflect the religious identity (Church of Christ affiliation) of the campus. Their Gen Ed requirements include 3 semesters of religion classes (interestingly, one of the classes is on the history and religions of Israel; as someone who works at a Hebrew academy, that caught my attention, and I would be interested to see a syllabus for the class!). Students must also complete 14 credits of Convocation each term. There are over 100 opportunities each semester that they can attend. Each one is meant to help students dig into their faith by presenting speakers or other presentations. This is considered a class, and if they attend 14 events, they earn an A.

The Chapel

The Chapel

Student life does not all revolve around religion. There are a lot of special activities throughout the year (including one day when they actually bring in truckloads of snow and dump it in the parking lot so students can play with it!). 30% of students are involved in Greek Life; they pledge the 3rd or 4th week of school. There are 8 men’s sports (including Water Polo and Volleyball!) and 9 women’s sports (including both Indoor and Sand Volleyball). Study abroad is a big deal, and their study abroad is highly ranked. They have 7 “Pepperdine Abroad” programs lead by Pepperdine professors. Students can complete the same gen eds there as they would on campus, and the tuition/R&B is the same; students do pay for flights and a one-week field trip

Pepperdine 5 Students can choose form 40 majors (Nutritional Science, Integrated Marketing Communication, Creative Writing, and Media Production are the most unusual). They offer a 3/2 engineering program in which they spend 3 years at Pepperdine earning a BA in Natural Sciences and then transfer to Southern California School of Engineering or Wash U in St. Louis for 2 years. Sciences are fairly strong at Pepperdine, and they even have a cadaver lab. They boast an 82-85% acceptance rate into “medical schools of the student’s choice.” They also offer several languages (our tour guide pointed out the Language Building which was ways up the hill: “The language majors get quite the workout!”)

(c) 2014

University of Oregon

UNIVERSITY OF OREGON, Eugene, OR (Visited 7/18/13)

Quad

Quad

“Big nerds and sports fanatics can both fit in here,” said the admissions counselor, a 2010 alum. The University of Oregon is a flagship Public Research University; taking undergrad research so seriously is no small feat for a school their size. “Intellectually, it’s a game-changer.” Students do research in labs, on study abroad trips, and just about any other possible place (including an on-campus Cultural Museum in which Anthropology and Archaeology students do research). “Research allows students to find that spark, and that’s what we’re most interested in doing here. We want them to create knowledge, not just hear about it from others.”

UO 2 academic

Main Library

Main Library

I was half expecting UO to feel like other large, sprawling state universities, but it didn’t because of all its outdoor spaces and gardens. The campus is a federal arboretum with an arborist in charge of all the plants. School spirit/pride is high; for example, a lot of the dorm windows had O stickers in them. Athletics, of course, are a huge part of life here. Hayward Field, home of their Track and Field team, is famous because the Olympic trials are held here (which students can and do attend); they showed this off to us before any other facility. (As a side note, Animal House was filmed here). U of O is expanding their rec center, including adding a 16-lane pool, which a scheduled opening in the fall of 2015. Out of their 20,800 undergrads, just under 10,000 a day use their rec center (as compared to Ohio State: 6,000 of their 55,000 students use their rec center). An alum donated money towards the Jacqua Student Athlete Success Building for DI athletes. When we were shown this on the tour, a several eyebrows went up; the general feeling was, “Why are the athletes being treated so much better? What about academic success for non-athletes?” When we expressed this, the answer came in two parts: first, they don’t have control over what the alumni want to donate money for, and second, they do provide a lot of services to everyone; they’re just located in other spots on campus. “We’re well libraried,” said our tour guide (and interesting, the faces on the main library are major thinkers in the Canon).

UO pedestrian areaThe university prides itself on providing relevant and interesting academics within attractive buildings meant to inspire students and showcase the academic work being done in them. Allen Hall, for example, looks like one of the top PR firms in the country. The Willamette Science Center has a huge atrium that has integrated several aspects into the architecture that reflect science: quarks are shown in tiles on the floor, stars are reflected in lights across the ceiling, DNA strands wind around the staircase, the lampposts are designed after botanical structures, and there are cell structures around the walls. An additional science building will open this winter that will take on an interdisciplinary focus because “real world problems don’t get delivered as ‘chemistry’ or ‘biology.’” The physics has an Applied Physics program designed to help grads go directly into a job or move into a grad program.

Oregon is “Big enough to be good, small enough to be great,” says Roger Thompson, VP for Enrollment. It feels smaller than it is because of orientation and how students can interact with resources and faculty. Small classes help them define their interests and paths. “Secretly we believe that most students are undeclared at that age.” It’s ok to be undeclared, tentative, or to change their minds later, and the university offers 269 academic programs split between 7 schools:

Art Museum

Art Museum

  • The Arts and Sciences school has the state’s highest ranked programs in bio, chem, physics, math, poli sci, econ, psych, English, and history. The Center for Nanotechnology, the Oregon Institute for Marine Bio (only one in the pacific NW), and the Pine Ridge Observatory are worth noting. They’ve installed large electron microscopes which are bolted to the floor; companies that want to use them must come to campus; this actually gives undergraduates a chance to work with professionals. They do not have an engineering major; the tour guide said that their sciences tend to be more theoretical, but they do have a 3-2 engineering program with OSU.
  • Students interested in Business come into the pre-business program; to move to a full business major, they need a 3.0 in their classes at Oregon.
    • The school is fully accredited for both accounting and business. Fewer than 5% in the world are dually accredited.
    • They have the first and best sports business program (ranked by ESPN, Sports Illustrated, WSJ)
    • They run a Center for Sustainable Business Practices, Finance and Securities Analysis Center, Entrepreneurship, Sports Marketing Center.
    • Within the Journalism and Communication school, students come in as Pre-journalism majors and complete a Gateway to Media course cluster integrating multimedia storytelling and critical thinking. Once they meet the minimum GPA of 2.9, students are eligible for entry as full journalism majors. Two areas of note within this school are their Media in Ghana program and the Full-service student-run advertising firm
    • The College of Education is ranked in the top three public colleges of education in the US (the Special Education program is ranked 3rd in the nation). This is also the top funded education school for research per faculty member.
    • The Architecture and Allied Arts is 6th among public universities, in the Top 15 undergrad programs overall, and 1st in sustainable design practices and principles. They offer a BArch degree, a 5 year program requiring a portfolio for admission. The portfolio can be anything – ceramics, art, even creative writing. They are looking for higher grades and scores, but also analytical and aesthetic ability. The Art department offers media areas including ceramics, digital arts, jewelry and metalsmithing, and photo.
    • Like Architecture, the Music and Dance program requires additional admissions criteria. Oregon offers one of three comprehensive music programs on the west coast. There are thirty ensembles and over 200 music and dance events every year, and the university hosts the internationally recognized Oregon Bach Festival. They boast a 100% job placement for music education
    • The Honors College enrolls 220 new students every year (out of about 1500-1800 apps). The average GPA of students admitted into the program is 3.85, but there is no required minimum. They look for students with the spark, the initiative, the willingness to ask questions. If the students can prove through writing and teacher recs that they have these qualities, they’ll consider other GPAs. The 4-year curriculum is compatible with every major, and every CHC student researches, writes, and defends an honors thesis. Over 80% of CHC alums attend grad school within 3 years of graduation.

OSU quad 130 years ago, Oregon pioneered the concept of the Freshmen Interest Groups. Although students are not required to sign up for a FIG, they are strongly encouraged to do so; the university has found that those students who participate end up performing much better than those who do not. They put students into small, thematically grouped cohorts of 25. The classes, made up of 25 students grouped according to a common interest, satisfy a gen ed requirement. The classes fill up quickly, and they’re trying to increase opportunities.

About 35% of the university’s students come from outside of Oregon (and every state is represented); 10% of the students come from 70+ foreign countries. Almost 20% self-identify as students of color. Twelve percent of students join Greek life, so it’s available but not a major social force on campus. Much of the social activities are based out of the Union, a funky, unusual building that looks a bit like a labyrinth. It’s a multi-level building made of wood and concrete with old beams across the ceiling; it smells like old wood in a good way. The building has all the typical things people expect at a union: food, student groups, etc. They have an extensive outdoors club, and anyone can be trained to lead trips for this group. Residential life is comprised mostly of freshman: 90% of first-year students live on campus but that drops to about 7% of sophomores, 5% of juniors, 2% of seniors. There’s a ton of cheap housing in the area; our tour guide hasn’t lived more than 2 blocks away since she moved off campus. The university is trying to increase their numbers of non-freshmen on campus. They offer a variety of housing such as Living-Learning Communities, several of which have classrooms in the dorms. The Global Scholars Residence is an incredible new building that houses about 400 Honors and College Scholars students. The rooms are suites, there’s a beautiful dining facility on the first floor, and there are lots of meeting and lounge spaces in addition to having Faculty in residence.

© 2013

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