campus encounters

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Archive for the tag “3+2 Engineering”

Salisbury University

Salisbury University (visited 4/26/19)

Salisbury towerI was impressed with Salisbury; this is an amazing medium-sized institution located in a small city with a lot within walking distance. Campus is architecturally attractive with lots of upgrades, statues, and trees. When one of the new administrators came to Salisbury, he said, “The Academic Commons is better than anything I saw at Dartmouth.” One of the students said that SU is “the perfect size” both in terms of student population and the physical campus.

Salisbury LC 2

Academic Commons

Academics are rigorous and well supported. “It’s a fun place, but it’s a serious task. It’s about adult life and figuring it out,” said one of the reps who is also a Salisbury alum. “We serve a wide range of students. We’re moderately selective. Some students are here ready to go … and then there’s the group who need to still figure it out and realize they actually have to study.”

Salisbury quadSkill-building (critical thinking, writing, presenting ideas) is weaved into all programs, and faculty give early assessments to give students a feel of what’s expected and catch them if they flounder. SU has doubled the number of advisors to make sure students have access and guidance. They’re clearly doing something right; they have a strong retention rate and higher-than-average graduation rate.

Salisbury 3

Some of the academic buildings

Professors are highly engaged with students: “the interaction is different here. People actually transfer from College Park (the state flagship) where they’re only incentivized to do research. Here, they’re rewarded for their mentorship skill; that includes research but it goes far beyond that. This is a real gem.”

I asked the student panelists what their favorite classes were:

  • Media and Terrorism: “We talked about different groups using social media to recruit. I took it because I had heard that the prof was good and it was awesome!”
  • Stats through Baseball: “I’m bad at math but this was real life.”
  • Leadership: “We get to connect with the community. Speakers come in and we can talk to other people.”
  • “A class taught partially by Ghandi’s grandson! He taught about half the classes – the first few we discussed world problems like the war in Ireland. We read The Gift of Anger and talked about it with him. At the end of the class, groups took an issue from the book and did something with it. We had to decide what it was, so we could take a lesson that resonated and turn it into something like a painting or an activity to “find your worth” – it definitely made some people made uncomfortable.”
  • Scriptwriting classes: “I never had a chance to do to that before.”
  • “Geography was the most interesting class I’ve ever had. The professor was so passionate about weather. He’d go on rants about how cool tornados were. I started the semester in the back of the class. By the end, I was sitting in front.”
  • Grant Writing: “It was practical and we could focus on what we’re interested in.”
  • History of Africa Post-1865: “It wasn’t from an American viewpoint.”
Salisbury dorms

Some of the on-campus housing

There is a lot of new or renovated housing for students, including some “off-campus” apartments that are across the street. Those are open to any student so there are a few from the Community College and UMES, but “about 90% of them are from Salisbury.” Most freshmen (but only 1/3 of the 8,000 undergrads) live on campus; they’re trying to increase that, but with so much nearby housing, the campus is still vibrant and students are around. The food is amazing and it’s one of the nicest dining halls I’ve ever seen with lots of food stations and well laid-out seating areas in small pockets and rooms around a centralized location rather than a massive hall.

Salisbury dorms 5

Off-campus student apartments across the street from campus (There’s a tunnel running under the main road connecting campus to this area) 

There are 4 academic schools, all endowed (unusual among public universities). They have several stand-out and/or unique programs:

  • Liberal Arts:
  • Science and Technology:
    • Dual Degree in Bio and Envi Sci
    • Physics: Students can focus on Microelectronics, Engineering Physics, or a 3+2 Engineering They aren’t there to wash people out. If the student meets the qualifications, they have guaranteed slots, but rigor is fairly significant. Usually 30-40 will start in a cohort; maybe 10 end up deciding that it’s what they want to do. Many switch to Computational Physics. They’re employed to look at many larger/non-specialized engineering problems.
    • In addition to traditional Math, they can choose Applied, Actuarial Science, Computational Math, or Statistics.
    • Geography/Geoscience includes Human or Physical Geography, GIS, and Atmospheric Science.
  • Salisbury glass

    This glass was made on campus!

    The Business School is the University’s smallest with about 1650 students. It’s dual accredited and has “Gated Admissions” (2.5 minimum GPA). “We do dismiss students if they get Ds.” Internships are required.

    • Entrepreneurship is strong with one of the oldest competitions.
    • Sales/marketing: Companies on the Eastern Shore pay to interview students on campus. “It’s not just a degree. It’s getting a job at the end.”
    • Accounting: “We don’t graduate enough students. There are more accounting firms than we have students ready to graduate.”
    • Finance students have to manage portfolios of $1m minimum. “You’re on a treadmill, and someone else is controlling the speed. You’re going to have to run.”
    • International Business majors need to go abroad for at least 6 months; their internship must have an international component.
  • Health and Human Services:
    • Several Health Sciences are gated: students get accepted to SU, complete preliminary work, and then can get into the program. Respiratory Therapy and Nursing are capped at 24 seats for accreditation purposes. They produce the most Baccalaureate-trained Respiratory Therapists in the country.
    • 3+3 Pharmacy: they hold 5 slots at UMES. Students usually need a 3.7 GPA to earn a spot.
    • They offer Medical Laboratory Science and Applied Health Physiology as majors.
Salisbury Student Center

Dining hall/student center

Students who have a 3.5 wGPA (4.0 scale) are eligible for test-optional admissions. They can be considered for additional merit money if they submit additional grades or scores. There are some competitive area-specific (like STEM) scholarships but students must declare the major on their application. On the website, students are encouraged to check out “Academic Works” and answer 10 questions to match with scholarships they’re eligible for. This CLOSES in mid-January, so do it early! The majority of scholarships are for incoming students; these are stackable to the merit scholarships given by admissions.

© 2018

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Hendrix College

Hendrix College (visited 3/27/17)

Hendrix bellHendrix sits right on the edge of Conway, about 30 minutes from Little Rock (they run shuttles to the airport before and after breaks). The town is large enough to provide opportunities but small enough to get around easily. There are 3 colleges in Conway; UCA is more visible because it’s bigger. Fun fact: Conway has more roundabouts than traffic lights. Campus is gorgeous (and even has a Creek Reserve): “Our facilities are exceptional; the people are more so.” This isn’t surprising as a school on the Colleges that Change Lives list!

Over breakfast on our Counselor visit Day, we were greeted by President Tsutsui (prounounced “suitsuey”). “How many people have been to Arkansas before? Not bad! Thanks for wanting to come back!” He went on to talk about the Top 5 questions he gets asked (as well as his answers to them) about Hendrix:

  • Hendrix quad 2

    Students outside enjoying the weather in one of the many open spaces on campus

    “Was it founded by Jimi Hendrix?”

    • Nope, but Bishop Hendrix of MO gave as much money as Jimi Hendrix so he might as well have!
  • “Wow, Arkansas, huh??”
    • There isn’t a single 17-year-old who wakes up and says, ‘I want to go to school in Arkansas, including people in this state!’ But it’s beautiful. It’s green. There are some of the friendliest, most curious people you’d ever want to meet. It’s not the saccharine, deep-south sweet. People here have time for each other. People who care about each other means something. This is a one-phone-call state. There’s someone on this campus who can pick up the phone and call anyone to arrange internships, an interview for a project, etc.
  • Hendrix class hallway

    One of the classroom buildings; classes are on the upper level with a hallway looking over faculty offices on the left. 

    “What’s that Odyssey Program all about?”

    • Students learn to take risks and craft personally meaningful learning experiences outside the classroom. They learn which paths may not be such a good fit. They prepare through research, skill building, leadership. Not all of these are unique, but here it’s not cookie-cutter. Students take charge and responsibility. We give them the power AND RESOURCES to create something that is meaningful.
  • “So what are your big plans for Hendrix?”
    • A clear student-centered mission that delivers on the rigorous Liberal Arts education that celebrates and encourages differences. There won’t be a business or engineering school or an online or graduate school. We aren’t going to grow. We want people to know each other. We’re adding a new center for teaching and learning (creative work), enhanced career services, expanded multi-cultural centers, more growth in diversity, some construction (dorms), new music/film/visual arts facilities.
  • “What makes Hendrix different than other colleges out there?”
    • It can’t be distilled down. We’re authentic and grounded. Students and alumni are smart and are good people. Staff want to be here. Watch the staff in the cafeteria. They know the students’ names. They give hugs. They ask how breaks went.

Hendrix 15Hendrix is a bubble. Compared to much of Arkansas, it’s pretty liberal, but “compared to the coastal areas, it’s much less so!” It’s a good halfway point. “Football has diversified us. There are a number of evangelicals on the team which makes us look more like America as a whole,” said one of the admission reps. “It’s not about us and them, it’s about interacting person-to-person,” said the President. He told a story about 2 students becoming good friends: “She was the first Muslim I ever met; I was the first scary-rural-American she met.”

Hendrix dorm

One of the dorms

This is a mostly residential campus with almost 90% of the 1,300 students living on campus. Campus feels vibrant with students everywhere. SOAR runs trips every weekend: ice skating, movies, etc. There are also tons of festivals around town: Toad Suck Daze Festival got rave reviews from several people, especially catching toads in the creeks to race! Students are never short of activities on campus or around town.

Food is excellent; they’re highly ranked on several lists. It’s all locally run, not a corporation. Students can – and do! – bring in recipes from home, and they get a cake on their birthday. They periodically bring out food carts: gyros, soft pretzels, etc. Tuesday Talks are held in the dining hall, bringing in people to talk about what jobs they do and how they got there.

Hendrix tunnel 1

A pedestrian tunnel with music and lights; if you know the secret code to tap the sensors, you can make it play specific songs — you need 2 people, 1 at each end!

Odyssey is their signature program, started in 2005. All students participate, not just the few who can fit it in. It’s integrated, connected to the classroom, and goes on the transcript (Research and Internships). They provide over $400,000 in support (not including study abroad). Students start with a course called Engaged Citizens and then must complete at least 3 of the 6 categories (a handful graduate each year having completed all 6):

  • Artistic Creativity: opportunities are spread across spectrum to produce something. There has to be a publicly-viewed product at the end.
  • Hendrix art 2

    Their art complex is extensive with 3 buildings. They offer everything ranging from ceramics to sculpture to woodworking

    Undergraduate Research: disciplinarily based. One professor does research on ants (social organization, etc). Students can get Odyssey credit if they do a public presentation such as a conference (even on campus).

  • Global Awareness: study abroad but can be domestic (did Somali community work)
  • Service to the World: at least 30 hours of volunteer or civic engagement (work on a campaign, animal shelter)
  • Professional and Leadership Development: They have a partnership with Heifer International (headquartered in AR) for leadership, global awareness,
  • Special projects:

“The secret sauce is reflection,” said the Odyssey Director. “You can’t just do the thing. You have to THINK about the thing. We have a lot of failed internships … they completed it fine, but it turns out that this isn’t what they want to do! If you have to present it, you have to think about it first.”

Hendrix gazebo“I’m struck by how earnest students are here and how hard working. It’s a great combination. They aren’t just falling back on being smart. They’re engaged… not that that’s 100% true across the board, but I don’t really find negative experiences with kids not wanting to be here,” said one of the professors. Academics are good across the board, but pre-Med and sciences seem to be particularly good here, including majors in Chemical Physics, Molecular Biology, Health Science, and Neuroscience. “I’ve been challenged almost too much,” said a student. There’s a 3+2 program with physics (at Hendrix) and engineering at WashU, Vanderbilt, and Columbia. can get their . “If they aren’t 100% sure they want to do engineering, it’s a great place to start. Often they think they want engineering and don’t,” said a physics professor.

Hendrix 16Students on the panel were asked about their favorite academic experience:

  • I was in an 8:15 class. People were late or overslept a lot, one in particular. One day, the professor had us call the student on speaker phone and told him we’d wait until he got to class.
  • Zoology: “We had literally thousands of things to memorize. All bio majors have to take it, usually in sophomore year. I just about quit college. I spent hours in the lab. I would sleep there. I eked out a C and am proud of that. The next summer, I found that I could identify all the shells on the beach during a family vacation. I thought I got nothing out of the class, but realized that I remembered so much.
  • Advanced Cell Bio: “The lab was the most challenging thing I’ve done. We had to think critically and design our own lab. We also learned how to read scientific journals.”
  • “I spent a semester in Oxford studying Tolkien and Lewis.”
  • “The school takes the advising process seriously.” The first year advising is sort of random to mix it up a little. They get training. Teach an Explorations class.

Hendrix quad 1What makes this a place to be unique:

  • I came out of my shell. Now it’s cool to tell people I write fiction.
  • This campus has spaces where things can happen. “I’m a queer person of color and I’m here. Like any campus there are issues, but there’s a willingness to check themselves, to realize they aren’t ready to talk about it, to want to learn. There are also a ton of alternative spaces on campus where students can be who they are. They may not be that visible, but they’re there. You can also occupy multiple spaces at once.”

 

© 2017

 

 

 

University of North Carolina – Wilmington

UNC Wilmington (visited 3/13/17)

UNCW seahawk 2

The main building and Seahawk (mascot) sculpture at the main entrance to campus

I have sent several students here over the years, all of whom had good things to say about it. I finally had a chance to visit, but because I was not able to get into town in time for an official tour, I got in contact with a former advisee who is currently a bio major and psych/neurobiology double minor with sights on med school. I walked away from campus incredibly impressed. They seem to really take care of the students with amazing academic and social opportunities and up-to-date facilities. Their retention rate of 85% indicates that they’re doing things right!

 

UNCW quad

bike racks are all over campus

“What surprised me is how smart people are. They study and go to class.” She said that it can be difficult to find seating in the library because it’s so well used. “Students who have the work-play balance figured out are going to do great here!” Students will spend time at the beach and still get to class and study. “You’ll see a lot of people using long boards and bikes here, and they go barefoot a lot. People wear surf shorts to class. Sometimes they’re coming right from the beach. That kind of sucks if you’re sitting in the chair after them and you end up in a damp seat.”

 

UNCW 6Long known as the place to go for Marine Biology, particularly in the UNC system, this school offers much more. Oceanography falls within the Earth and Ocean Sciences department, and there’s also a Physical Oceanography program within the Physics department (URI is the only other university in the country to offer this degree).

UNCW health sci bldgs

Two of the new health science buildings

The Health Sciences (including Nursing, Social Work, and Allied Health) are also strong and have been growing. They’ve added a couple new buildings with talk of more in the near future. Along with majors you’d expect, they offer Recreation Therapy and Public Health Studies.

 

UNCW 5UNCW doesn’t have Engineering but offers a pre-engineering program with 2 tracks in conjunction with NC State. The 2+2 allows students to choose from 11 majors including the more unusual Agricultural, Construction, Material Science, Paper Science, Textile, and Nuclear Engineering. The 3+2 program is a little more limited: students complete a Computer Science, Environmental Science, or Physics major at UNW and then go into Computer, Electrical, or Environmental Engineering at State.

UNCW apts

Some of the apartment buildings.

About 40% of students live on campus although there’s no residency requirement. There is a “village” of apartments that even freshman can live in. “I wish I knew that this was an option when I first got here. I ended up in a traditional hall which kind of sucked, but I did make a lot of really good friends. We definitely bonded over the experience!” Off campus housing is cheap and easy to find: “Rent is really cheap, and I’m hoping to move closer to the beach next year. We’ll see how that goes.”Students living within a mile of campus cannot park on campus.

UNCW greek dorms

A more traditional dorm where Greek affiliated students get room together on floors. Lettering is on the side.

Shuttles run frequently around and off campus, and there are monitors to show where they are on the route and time to arrival at a particular spot. Dining hall food at the main dining hall is “not so good” but there are a lot of other options. Only about 10-15% of students go Greek. “There are only 114 women in my sorority.” Something she would do to improve campus is to build Greek Housing and put in another dining hall.

 

UNCW Chancellors walk

Chancellor’s Walk

UNCW stu cntr

The Student Center

This is a medium-sized public institution with about 13,000 undergraduates. Campus is fairly big but manageable. Chancellor’s Walk is the main pedestrian thoroughfare, acting kind of as the main center of campus, stretching about half a mile through the middle. “People use it to run because it’s easy to plot out distance.” On sunny days, people pour out of the academic buildings that line the walk. “Even though it’s a big school, I see people I know everywhere.” This certainly seemed to be the case; she was greeting people by name everywhere we went on campus.

UNCW seahawk and clocktowerIt was raining when I visited; even in the increasingly heavy rainfall, it’s a beautiful campus! “I wish you could see in it the sun! It’s gorgeous!” The rain didn’t dampen the attractiveness, but students were not out in the numbers they normally are – although there were plenty of people out and about. “One of the drawbacks on campus is that it floods/puddles easily. Given the rain we get here, you’d think they would have figured it out by now and fixed it!

UNCW porchA lot of students stay all year to do research or other work on campus. “Plus, it’s a beach town. It’s easy to find jobs.” The Greyhound station is only a couple miles off campus making getting to campus easy (although all students can have cars).

© 2017

North Carolina Central University

North Carolina Central University (visited 3/14/17)

NCCU 1Although not flashy, NCCU’s campus of mostly brick buildings is well kept up, attractive, and easy to navigate. Many of the dorms are tall, utilitarian, and older/less attractive than other buildings providing traditional hall-style rooms. Students do have to live on campus for the first year, and the university is adding suites and apartment options to the traditional halls (particularly for those students who stay on campus after the first year).

NCCU 2Founded in 1910, NCCU is now part of the UNC system. This HBCU (currently 78% African-American) is nationally recognized as a community engaged institution. Students need 60 community service hours to graduate; the rationale is that this gives students connections with the community, networking opportunities, and a chance to build skills.

NCCU Greek Bowl

Some of the Greek plots/decorations along the side of the Greek Bowl

Located in Durham (ranked as the 4th best place to live in the US), students have no shortage of opportunities. In addition to 3 other major universities (and their basketball teams) in the Research Triangle (Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill), Durham is known as the City of Medicine and the Technology Hub of the east coast. There are plenty of job and internship opportunities around. The campus is only about a mile from downtown and a few miles from Duke.

NCCU sciencesDuring the info session, the rep told us that NCCU offers 78 degrees (majors) with 146 Degree Concentrations, but this includes graduate degrees. Undergraduates can get degrees in about half of those. The biggest majors include: Nursing, Business Admin, Criminal Justice, Pharmaceutical Sciences, and Hospitality and Tourism. A 3+2 Dual Degree program is offered: students major in Physics at NCCU and then complete an Electrical Engineering degree at NC State, Duke, or Georgia Tech. Another noteworthy program is the Early Medical School Selection Program in conjunction with Boston University. Students qualify during sophomore year and then transition to BU in senior year to complete their degree (they remain jointly matriculated at NCCU) and can begin taking a couple med school classes).

NCCU footballThe 6000 undergraduates seem pretty active on campus. There are 310 athletes playing on the school’s 14 DI teams. Their big rival is NC A&T in Greensboro, and the Ag-Eagle Classic is a huge game/tradition. Greek Life is also big with all of the Devine Nine represented. Students need 30 credits and a 2.75 GPA to rush. All the Greek Organizations have a plot circling the “Greek Bowl,” aka the Library Bowl (the library sits on one side of the area) or the Unity Bowl, so named because during the 10:40 all-school break on Tuesdays and Thursday, students tend to congregate in there in good weather. There are DJs or other fun things planned during this time.

NCCU fountain

The fountain next to the library in the “Library/Greek/Unity Bowl”

Admission decisions are done on a rolling basis. North Carolina high school seniors can apply for free during the mid-November Free App week (www.CFNC.org). Dates change every year so check the website! For out-of-state students, they’re looking for a 2.75 GPA or higher, and applicants must submit the writing portion of the SAT or ACT. Students will be automatically considered for most scholarships and can apply for 75 more at: www.nccu.edu/scholarships/. The Students interested in the Honors College need to apply to the program; the rep said that the students selected for the program generally have a 1530 SAT (with writing) or 23 ACT + 3.3 GPA to come in as a freshman.

I’m not impressed with the graduation rate here (slightly under 50% graduating in 6 years), but for students who do get involved, are willing to seek out opportunities, and who are looking for a medium school in a small city, this might be a good choice of school.

© 2017

Washington College

Washington College (visited 8/19/16)

WAC statue and stu cntr

Washington bust in front of the new (2009) Student Center

WAC (pronounced “whack”) is a beautiful, traditional-looking campus in the historic town of Chestertown along the Chester River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. It is named for George Washington who not only agreed to having his name used, but he donated money to start the school and sat on what was essentially the Board of Trustees.

WAC sign and performing arts

WAC’s performing arts center

Because of this tie to Washington, they also have a connection to Mount Vernon where two of the big college traditions are held. During orientation, freshmen spend time out there where they also sign the Honor Code. Right before graduation, seniors return as a class to spend some final time together before they graduate and go their separate ways. During this time, people give toasts (including one by a Washington impersonator) and students leave via a boat to cruise up to the National Harbour. The college also throws an annual Birthday Ball on the weekend of Washington’s birthday. Dubbed “Prom 2.0,” students, faculty, and alum come together in a non-academic setting to have fun and just enjoy each other’s company. They turn the field house into a beautiful space: “It doesn’t seem possible, but they do it!” This is usually themed: in the last couple years, they’ve had Narnia and Harry Potter. This is decided by a vote of the students.

WAC’s 1500 undergraduates have access to some amazing resources, including waterfront property about a mile from main campus. This area houses the boathouse for the crew team (including a rowing tank for winter training), the sailboats, kayaks, and research vessels for Biology and Environmental Studies/Science classes.

WAC quad

The quad

They have 17 DIII sports competing in the Centennial Conference: “We’re the smarty pants conference,” said the admissions rep, also a WAC alum. The “student” in student-athlete really does come first here. If class and practice overlap, you’re going to class. Teams have an annual competition for which team has the highest GPA. “It usually flip flops between lax and rowing, but sometimes the women’s soccer team sneaks in there, too!” The Men’s Lax has a huge rivalry with Salisbury: the “war on the shore” game alternates campuses every year, and there’s always a giant campus tailgate. Baseball and soccer also draw big crowds.

WAC dorms

2 of the specialty dorms

Housing is guaranteed all 4 years, and 90% of students live on campus until graduation. The four dorms (2 all female, 2 coed) located across the street house mostly freshman and are fairly typical freshman dorms with bathrooms down the hall. There are 3 smaller dorms located in the middle campus that are Special Interest Housing: Middle is for the Arts (“This dorm puts on the BEST Halloween haunted house – not surprising with all the theater people there!” said our tour guide), East for International Studies and international students, and West is for math and science. Upperclassmen tend to get the suites located across campus. WAC has a partnership with local apartment complex where they rent out a block of apartments: WAC furnishes them, provides wifi and security, etc.

WAC Case bldgWAC is far from a suitcase school: 85-90% of students stay on campus any given weekend. “WAC students are busy. They join a lot of clubs, Greek life (4 frats, 3 sororities with rush happening in the spring), and sports teams. People stick around,” said the admissions rep. Clubs getting school funding must commit to completing community service, so they get involved in the Chestertown community as well.

WAC egg

The Egg

 

The new Student Center with the dining hall was opened in Fall 2009. The Egg, a round multi-purpose room in the middle has Open Mic nights, games, performances, etc. The first floor of the Student Center has food areas open from 11 am to 11 pm; the second floor, the more traditional all-you-can-eat, is open from 7:30 am to 7:30 pm. Our tour guide told us that students used to rush over for mozzarella sticks when they were offered; they were so popular that they started offering them a lot more! Now students get excited about the theme nights, midnight breakfasts, and Thanksgiving dinner.

Almost all majors have some sort of experiential learning component. They offer quite a few “Tourism study” classes (this makes so much more sense than calling these short-term, 2-3 week, classes “study abroad”). They also offer research trips and the traditional semester and year-long programs. South Africa, Hong Kong, and South Korea have become popular destinations.

WAC sci cntr

Part of the Science Center

Summer research is big, and lots of students stick around campus – or go to other facilities – to complete things. The Toll Fellows Program is math, sciences, psychology, and computer science majors, but there are plenty of other internships and programs for other students including the National Security Fellows Program, Maryland General Assembly Internship, Comegys Blight Fellowship (Studying vanishing islands of the Chesapeake), the Roy Ans Fellowship (Jewish American Experience), and the Frederick Douglass Fellowship.

WAC offers most of the majors you’d expect from a quality Liberal Arts college. A few unusual ones include International Literature and Culture and excellent dual degree programs:

  • Engineering: students complete 3 or 4 years at WAC and 2 at Columbia University
  • Pharmacy: students complete 3 years at WAC majoring in biology OR psychology with a minor in behavioral neuroscience, then complete 4 years at the University of Maryland.
  • Nursing: Students complete 3 years at WAC majoring in biology or psychology, then complete 2 years at either the University of Maryland or the University of Delaware.

The minors offered at WAC are amazing, especially for a school this size. Some of the more unusual ones include:

WAC acad bldg 2Classes usually are in the 15-30 range, but my tour guide’s classes have been as small as 7 (“Friends of mine have had them as small as 3”) and as large as 35 for an intro class. His favorite class was his Freshman writing class called “Life in 140 Characters” looking at social media.

For admissions, they’ll take either the Common App or their own institutional app. It’s free to apply because “We don’t think it money should stand in the way of applying to college,” said the admissions rep doing the presentation. On the Common App, all students can choose the WAC fee waiver.

© 2016

Russell Sage College

Russell Sage College (visited 7/28/15)

~RS old bldg

The inside of one dorm

I want to move into some of the upperclassmen housing on the Russell Sage campus! They have some beautiful old homes with large wood staircases, vaulted ceilings, and large common rooms. In fact, “Age of Innocence” with Daniel Day Lewis and Winona Ryder was filmed in one of them.

~RS frosh quad

Freshman dorm quad

About 60% of the 800 Russell Sage students live on campus. “This is still a fairly regional school pulling students from the Capital Region,” said the rep. They would like out-of-area students to live on campus for their first year but do not require it. All freshmen are housed in one building in traditional doubles (and the health center is attached to building; “it’s really nice when you sick for the first time away from home,” said the tour guide). There are some triples but “they aren’t forced and they’re bigger rooms.” Upperclassmen housing provides several options including Honors housing (requiring a 3.4 GPA), French/International and Spanish houses (requiring participation in language and cultural activities), and several other options with singles or suites.

~RS old church

The old church

Campus is an eclectic mix of buildings. They have some older buildings with cinderblock halls that look like elementary schools of old – and new beautiful buildings. They own an old church that still has two original Tiffany Stained Glass windows. Sage Plaza (really the closest thing they have to a quad) sits in front of the church. The first Brueggers is across the street.

~RS dorm lounge

Lounge of one of the upperclassmen dorms

I hadn’t realized that this was still a women’s college; I thought it had gone coed several years ago. They’re one of the two Sage Colleges, the other being Sage College of Albany which is coed. Men from SCA can major here (and vice versa). Nursing and Education is housed on this campus. The Albany campus is a little more interdisciplinary (see separate blog entry for that). Shuttles run every 30 minutes between the Sage campuses.

~RS 4“We’re hardly in a convent,” said the tour guide. “RPI is up the road which is still predominantly men, and we have SCA guys in classes.” The students say that RS gives them a space to find their own voice. They’re there for school; everything revolves around them. Even the fitness center’s equipment is 20% smaller to better accommodate the females – and PT and exercise science students staff it, giving them more hands-on experience.

~RS lobby

The atrium of the science building with the school seal on the floor

The students have a great deal of ownership over their education because of the cross-registration which allows for increased flexibility. WORLD (Women Owning Responsibility for Learning and Doing) is a 3-class core that all students complete. Two of the classes are taken in freshman year and the third is completed senior year as a capstone. The tour guide’s largest class was her freshman WORLD class with 24 students. Her smallest class, Conducting, had 8. All students must complete an internship.

Unusual majors include Public Policy, Advocacy, and Civic Engagement (PACE); International and Globalization Studies; Creative Arts in Therapy; and Forensic Science.

They have more than a dozen accelerated or linked programs.

  • Physical Therapy or Occupational Therapy can be done in a 3+4 or 3+3 program. If a student has a 3.25 GPA, a seat is saved for them automatically in the graduate program. Otherwise, they’ll have to apply and hope for the best. I asked what would happen if they were close like at a 3.2. “If they’re that close, the professors are going to know it and get on their case about their grades. They’ll give them the support to get the GPA up.”
  • They have a 3+2 engineering program with RPI. Students get their math degree at RS and then the engineering degree at RPI. They can apply for this program at any point.
  • They have a 3+3 program with Albany Law or Suffolk Law. Albany Law is located next to Sage College of Albany so student can share housing there with grad students.

~RS4Traditions are a big deal here.

  • “Big-Little” is a Big Sister-Little Sister option that many students elect to be part of. “It’s a great connection to an upperclassman. Some people get really into it and meet all the time; others just do coffee one a month or semester.”
  • Each class is placed in a Cohort on a 4-year cycle: Blue Angels, Purple Cows, Red Devils, and Golden Horseshoes. “This gives classes an identity and a connection to alumni who might have been in the same named cohort,” said the rep.
    • Every year they hold a Rally, a competition between classes to raise money. Alums even come back for this.
  • Ring Ceremony: this is another optional event. Student can get a class ring during Junior year; they’ll keep it turned in until graduation and then will turn it out to “Face the world.”

(c) 2015

Notre Dame University of Maryland

Notre Dame University of Maryland (visited 2/19/15)

Notre Dame swingND is a lovely, small campus in a residential neighborhood of northern Baltimore. It borders Loyola University; the two campuses share a library, and are the first universities in the country to do so. ND’s traditional undergraduate division, the Women’s College, is still single-sex, but the graduate and evening/weekend (“Adult Undergraduate”) programs accept men.

The admissions people are friendly, helpful, and will go WAY out of their way for visitors. I was highly impressed with their dedication and humor. My local rep is a recent alumnae of Notre Dame; she gave me a tour so I got perspectives from both sides of the desk.

Notre Dame main bldg

Main building

Chapel

Chapel

Started in 1895 by the Sisters of Notre Dame, nuns still live on the top floors of the main building. The Chapel, built just a year after the college was started, occupies the 2nd floor of the same building. Almost all the windows are still original; a couple panes have been replaced over the years, but they had the original designs that were copied. The paintings in the chapel were done by students and alumnae. Although it does not fit all 450 undergrads, it is a comfortable size and accommodates all students wishing to attend Mass (offered every day but never required). There are also several small prayer/reflection spaces (including a Muslim prayer space) in the dorms and other locations around campus. Students must take 1 upper-level religion class as part of their distribution requirements but there are a lot of options such as Christian Ethics or Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The Admissions Rep giving me the tour had taken this; she went to services at a Mosque and a Temple as part of the class.

Notre Dame movie window 2

Step Up stairs and window

Notre Dame auditoriumSeveral of the buildings (including the main building, an academic building, and the athletic complex) are connected which was especially nice on the very cold day that I visited campus! One of these buildings has the staircase and stained glass window made famous in the movie “Step Up” with Channing Tatum. They also used the auditorium (which got trashed in the movie). This auditorium is used for large group gatherings such as guest lecturers and Honors Convocation. At HC, the freshmen get the cap and gown that they’ll graduate in. “It’s a great bonding experience. We’re all in there pretty tightly and have to help each other get everything on and looking good.” After that, they sign the honors pledge and get more privileges. Before Convocation (held usually about the 2nd week of school), “there are certain things we can’t do like have guests in the dorm. I think it’s supposed to be so we focus on making friends and getting used to life on campus.” After they sign the pledge, they can have guests, have unproctored exams, etc. “That was a new experience for me. Professors would give out the exams and then tell us that they would be in their office if we needed them.” I asked her how seriously people took this. “Really seriously. I’ve never seen or heard of anyone cheating on test. There’s an Honor Council if anyone got reported, but I don’t know of anyone who even went to that.”

Notre Dame dorm

Dorm

The University pulls many students in from the surrounding area. 80% of the students come from Maryland, and only about 45% live on campus. Housing is good, comfortable, and attractive. Freshmen, Sophomores, and Juniors live in single-sex housing. Seniors can choose to live in single-sex housing or move to another dorm that also houses graduate students and is therefore co-ed. They have both a dining hall and Gator Alley, but neither is open late. Students can walk over to Loyola if they want a late-night option, but they will pay separately for that.

Notre Dame bird feeders

Bird feeders on campus

As a member of the Baltimore Consortium, students can register for classes at other institutions in the area including Goucher, Towson, Johns Hopkins, Loyola, MICA, Morgan State, and University of Baltimore. A free Circulator bus runs from Towson and Goucher (located north of Notre Dame) down to Penn Station (near MICA and UBalt). It’s easy to get around to other campuses. From Penn Station, students can also take a Baltimore bus to Inner Harbor and other locations around town, so even though they can have cars on campus, it’s not necessary.

Notre Dame dorm lounge

A dorm lounge

The student body is highly diverse. About half of the student body are women of color. They pull in students from about 15 other states and almost as many countries. They have an International Center which offers an 8-10 week intensive English Institute in the summers to students who need help with English before classes start. 

Nursing is highly regarded, as are the Radiological Sciences and the 4+3 Pharmacy programs. Students interested in Engineering complete a 3-2 program, earning an BA from Notre Dame and a BS from Johns Hopkins, University of Maryland, or Columbia University. Students can complete a 5-year BA/MA in Business/Management and Teaching/Education. Other notable majors include Marketing Communications, Behavioral Neuroscience, Criminology, and Environmental Sustainability.

(c) 2015

Juniata College

Juniata College (visited 11/20/14)

~Juniata students 2With all the small, selective liberal arts colleges around, it’s refreshing to find one that goes out of its way to illustrate what distinguishes them from other, equally nice, selective schools. At Juniata, they offer students a Program of Emphasis rather than traditional majors. Sixty-five POEs are already created which is robust for a population this size. “A designated POE walks and talks like a regular major,” said an admissions reps. However, somewhere between 25% and 33% of students will write their own by creating both long- and short-term goals. When students say that they “write their POE,” it’s a deliberate verb. They control the breadth and depth of their experience. One example is a recent graduate interested in digital production and African Studies. She got an internship in an NGO in Uganda help women with AIDS be independent and take care of their children. She is now working full time to get a business up and running and is the Digital Manager of their tv station.

~Juniata dogsThere’s a strong sense of values at Juniata including Pacifism, Service, Community (both in term of people and the place), and Nonconformity. As one of 7 First Brethren Colleges left, students tend to be “conscientious non-submitters.” They choose their own path. There’s a history of service and learning and they have a Peace Chapel designed by Maya Lin (Vietnam Memorial). There’s a real sense of individualism. No orthodoxy means that there is space for students to explore. The school is intentional about meeting students where they are, supporting them, and moving them to places they didn’t even know about. “We live our mission.”

~Juniata dorms

Dorms

In the Provost’s welcome, she spoke about her own recent move to the college: “I got a generous. warm welcome. That matters if we want to convey Juniata to you. People make this place their career. What matters to me as a parent and professional is the personal experience.” They engage a personal education to help students develop skills and values. Someone is always reaching out to the freshmen: How’s it going? How are classes? How’s the separation from the family?

~Juniata 6It quickly became very clear why Juniata is a CTCL school. At the panel, I asked students how it had changed their lives:

  • It gave me opportunities to do things I never imagined. I’m astounded by the research here. I’m interested in theater, and I could audition even as a biology POE. I even went to Dublin for a Theater program.
  • I’m a German and Chem major who wants to go to Med school. They’re willing to help me figure out where things fit as long as I’m willing to work.
  • I developed my critical thinking skills, recognized my biases, and can converse in a more informed manner
  • I was quiet and shy. Now my professors would tell me to shut up if they could. I’m involved in a lot on and off campus. I’m confident as a student and a person.
  • It gave me my independence and set higher goals than I would have for myself. I’m looking abroad for job opportunities.

~Juniata nobel prizeSome unique POEs include: Environmental Geology; Philosophy, Politics, and Economics; Professional Writing (Publishing or Digital Writing); and Integrated Media Arts. Last year, 7 students from IMA were hired by Penn State over Penn State Grads. Students majoring in Physics or Engineering Physics can complete a 3+2 program with Penn State, Columbia, Wash U, or Clarkson. The National Society of Physics Outstanding Student Award was given to a Juniata student 16 years in a row, and Bill Philips, Nobel Prize winner, donated the replica of his medal (given at the same time as his original award) to the college.

~Juniata field station 1

Drawing of the Field Station

The Raystown Field Station, located 20 minutes away, provides environmental research opportunities for students. 18 students can live on-site in the 2 dorms. The fall semester focuses on field ecology and environment; the spring semester focuses on organismal ecology. The application includes an essay bout about their comfort level with coed living and why they want to go.

Juniata has a 4-year graduation guarantee: if they don’t graduate in 4 years because they weren’t able to complete their program, they can come back for free. They’ve had this on the books for 5 or 6 years and never had a single student need to take advantage of this. One reason is because all students have 2 advisors. Jamie White, a physics professor, said that Juniata does things that others would say is inefficient: “The Double Advising system – if you think about it, it’s really stupid! It’s twice the work that needs to happen!” However it’s just one more way Juniata can claim ‘Education with a Personal Touch.’

~Juniata 2Research is a big buzz-word at colleges, but Juniata seems to be following through. It’s expected that faculty include students when they write grants. Natural sciences funding has been most robust, it’s not exclusively in that area. Research is credit-bearing; students aren’t just given mundane tasks. Students design their own project, answer their own questions, work directly with professors. At a conference, students presenting research on genomics were asked what year of grad school they were in.

~Juniata quad

Main quad

80% of students have internships. Every intern gets coaching and can share what they did and learned. “Some of the best internships are the ones you hate. You’ve just learned a whole lot!” In the Innovations for Industry class, students team up and get assigned an outside client for a semester. One student who took the class before (they can take it up to 3 times) is assigned as Project Lead. A student is currently working on a gaming app for exercise.

~Juniata choir

One of the Choirs performing in the Student Center

Students are just as engaged outside the classroom. “If you’re bored . . . what are you missing? The biggest mistake I made freshman year was not reading announcements,” said one student. The music scene is strong despite no music POE. “Science students don’t have to give up the clarinet or can travel with the choir to Costa Rica or Budapest.” About 1/3 of students participate in a varsity sport; about half participate in some sort of athletics (club, etc). Volleyball and Football are the best attended sports, especially in games against Susquehanna, their main rival. When they need to get off campus, there’s plenty to do: art gallery, cafes, movie theater, bowling alley, kayaking, swimming.

Several well-loved traditions include:

  • Mountain Day: Classes get cancelled for a day in the fall. There’s a BBQ at the lake, they play tug-of-war, play on inflatables, etc.
  • Madrigal: a formal dinner in the winter. They get dressed up, get served by profs, sing. Each table gets assigned parts, and students will sleep in tents on the quad so they can be first in line to buy tickets for the tables that gets the “5 Golden Rings” part.
  • Storming of the Arch: The rugby team guards the arch and freshmen try to run through. There are stories about what they get if they make it through, but no one has succeeded yet.
  • LobsterFest: students get steak and lobster on the quad
  • Mr. Juniata: a major fundraiser (it costs a can of food or $1 to get in) and the audience votes for the winner.
  • Physics Phun Night: “We blow up things and set things on fire.”

(c) 2013

University of San Francisco

 UNIVERSITY OF SAN FRANCISCO (visited 7/19/12)

USF stepsUSF 1This is a physically impressive campus (and academically impressive, too). We got dropped off at the base of the “infamous steps” and trekked up them (not nearly as bad as I had feared!). There were spectacular views of the city which they consider to be part of their classroom. One admissions rep described it as “423 smaller classrooms in 1 giant one.” The admissions video doesn’t show a single classroom; everything shows students in the city. First year students get this “city as classroom” feel starting right away in their First Year Seminars with classes such as San Francisco Urbanism, Telling San Francisco’s Stories, and Writing in the Gold Gate Park. They bring the city to the classroom and vice versa.

USF courtyard

Part of the campus with the city in the background.

USF windowThe university began in 1855 to educate the children of the gold rush. There were originally two separate colleges for males and females. The nuns got the huge building at the top of the hill which was rare since those Jesuits “like their views” as the tour guide said. Although there’s still “upper” and “lower” campuses separated by a residential block, it’s very easy to get around, and there’s still some campus feel to it. Students can get from one end to the other in 10-15 minutes. It’s also located between the two safest police districts in SF and the students said they felt really safe walking around, even in the residential area dividing the campus. The university is mission driven: education plus service/social justice. As an illustration of the university living their social justice mission, in 1950, their football team (they compete at a DI level, by the way,) had a 9-0 record and were invited to Orange Bowl – but only if they left their black players at home. The team (not the school) declined the invitation to play.

Library reading room

Library reading room

USF chapelThey believe in integrated hands-on research and are nationally ranked for this. USF has strong sciences and a new science building. Nursing is particularly strong. 96% of the nursing students pass the NCLEX on their first try; 98% are employed. Entrance into the nursing program is highly competitive: fewer than 60% are accepted as freshman. The program has high-tech simulation rooms, and clinicals start the sophomore year. Nursing students, since they can’t do a traditional study abroad, can do two international immersions: one in a hospital in Vietnam and the other assisting midwives in Guatemala at a clinic. Management/business is also strong with 7 majors; Entrepreneurship ranks 12th in the country. USF also has a 3+2 engineering program with USC; students spend 3 years in USF’s physics department and then transfer to USC to finish up the BS in engineering.

USF libraryThe Director of Admissions was “our kind of people” as one of the college counselors at my lunch table said: friendly, spoke with ease, was dressed in business casual, and relaxed but not unprofessional. He had the kind of demeanor that put people at ease quickly. He told us that USF just admitted their largest freshman class with 1265 students. Their student population is about 5300 – the “Big end of small or the small end of medium, whichever floats your boat.” No ethnic or racial group makes up more than 36% of the student population. They don’t look at writing on the SAT. Students should apply by the Early Action deadline of 11/15 to be considered for merit aid which is not available for international students, although they don’t have to take the TOEFL if they graduated from an English speaking school.

(c) 2012

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