Baldwin-Wallace College (visited 4/19/12) (now BW University)
“Ok, before we go into the lab, we have a couple rules. First, leave all food and drink outside. Second, do not lick anything in the lab. Everyone good?” Really, you can’t beat a biology professor with a good sense of humor!
First impressions mean a lot even though we’re told not to judge a book by its cover. BWC made an excellent first impression with its beautiful old stone buildings, immaculate grounds, and tulips and daffodils blooming everywhere. The good news is that the substance of the college did not disappoint! The people at BWC were the only ones on the seven-college counselor-tour who showed off what made them distinct from other schools instead of giving the typical spiel/song-and-dance. A couple other schools gave lip-service to the idea of “we’re not going to tell you that we have great faculty, study abroad options, and research opportunities, because every place you go is going to tell you that” . . . and then they proceeded to tell us about those things. BWC didn’t. Instead, we got to spend time in a lab to interact with students doing independent research, check out innovations in their athletic center and the majors associated with it (such as athletic training, exercise science, sports management and health promotion and management), and then tour their Music Conservatory and learn about programs there. I didn’t even know that they HAD a conservatory; neither did my sister who is a musician, so it’s clearly one of their best-kept secrets! The students go on to do impressive things including performing on Broadway. Seniors graduating with a Musical Theater major participate in a showcase every spring in New York City in front of several directors and producers. This happened about a week before our visit, and within a span of five days, all 13 graduating seniors had signed with agents. (As a comparison, I heard that Michigan had two at that same point in time). An audition is required for entrance into the Conservatory (accredited by the National Association of Music Schools) which offers emphases in performance, pedagogy, jazz, conducting, theory, composing, and sacred music in addition to the unusual major of Music Therapy. (Students also have to be proficient enough on at least one instrument to gain acceptance into the Conservatory if they want to major in Music Therapy).
Baldwin Wallace actively looks ahead to jobs that experts predict will be available for students in 5-10 years, and then creates majors and learning opportunities for students in order to prepare them. They created 14 new degree programs in the last four years or so. The Physician Assistant program is 1 of 6 in Ohio; they’re a year away from accreditation for a 3-2 program. They excel in Health Sciences and Allied Health majors. They utilize the nearby Cleveland hospitals, some of which are ranked in the top 10 nationally, and they work with industry professionals to develop the new degrees. Their Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing utilizes Concept-based learning; only a couple other programs in NM and NC do this. The Health Sciences are producing impressive results; this year, two students (a junior and a senior) interned with the top pediatric neurosurgeon in the country.
Other majors of note include Digital Media and Design (combining artistry/creativity and technology), their Software engineering degree starting this fall (the only one in the state), Health Care Management, Public Health (which started this fall; 29 students are already enrolled), and Recreation Sport Sciences.
One of their major goals across all majors is to create a practice-based education. Most of the faculty members come to BW from the fields in which they teach allowing them to provide practical, real examples of how the theory and knowledge they teach translates into the real world. Almost every student completes some sort of “experiential education” experience through internships, study abroad, and other types of programs. The school has 52 articulated agreements for study abroad with options for others if students find a different program they’re interested in. Students must complete a minor here in order to broaden their educational field.
Although this is a Methodist-affiliated college, it does not feel at all religious. Although we didn’t get a full tour of the school, I’m not sure they even have a chapel; if they do, it’s not obvious in the main part of campus. However, the current president is only one of two in the history of the institution who is a non-Methodist, non-pastor president; he was also only one of two college Presidents on the tour to take the time to talk to us (Otterbein’s president was the other).
BWC is a Test Optional school; applicants have the option to turn in graded paper instead of test scores. They are also committed to affordability; there have been very small tuition increases in the last several years, the lowest in their peer-group. The entire bill comes to $35,000 a year including all the fees (tech, health, etc.), although the tuition at the conservatory is higher than the rest of campus because of the private lessons. The best thing – and the first time I’ve heard of a school doing this – has to do with the Meal Plan: students only get charged for what they use. If they don’t use it, BWC will give it back!
This incoming freshmen class (fall of 2012) can sign up for a 4-year graduation guarantee. BWC has been intentional about getting students out in four years, and they’re putting their money where their mouth is. They have a mapped-out four-year plan so students can stay on track. It is a completely voluntary program and basically requires that the students do common sense things such as meet with their advisor regularly and declare a major within two years as well as attend seminars and sign a waiver that will release information to the parents (if they drop a course, if they aren’t doing well in class, etc). If they do everything they need to do but can’t graduate within 4 years, the 5th year’s tuition is free.
Students must live on campus for freshmen and sophomores years unless they are within a certain radius of campus and living with family. About 80% of freshman and sophomores live on campus and about 2/3 of the total undergraduates are on campus – that’s almost 2,000 residents on campus. Freshman can have cars on campus.
I was left with the good impressions of BW that I started with and I would definitely recommend it to my students. It has the typical smallish-college feel but with a lot of options and innovative programs that allows students to take advantage of a lot. The campus is comfortable and students are friendly. A former student of one of the counselors had joined us at lunch so we got yet another student’s perspective; he loves the college and all that he can do there.