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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

Stevenson University

Stevenson University (visited 12/5/17)

Stevenson mustang

The Stevenson mascot

Stevenson is in the process of rebranding itself, and it seems to be doing an amazing job. The institution began as Villa Julie, a Catholic women’s college, but it’s been independent of the church since the ‘60s, coed since the early ‘70s, and changed its name in 2008 when it gained University status. The growth and ongoing changes are remarkable.

Stevenson shuttles

One of the shuttle buses waiting by some of the residence halls

The university has two campuses situated six miles apart northwest of Baltimore. “They have a totally different feel,” said one student. Another agreed: “There’s more nature there [Stevenson]. This one [Owings Mills] is more hussle-bussle.” Shuttles run every 30 minutes between the two, but all students can have cars, so it’s easy to drive over. The students agreed that parking was not a problem. However, Owings Mills (considered the main campus) is overhauling much of campus, including putting in a quad that will replace a large chunk of their main parking lot. This will go a long way in alleviating the predominant institutional feel when first driving on campus; their plan is to have this completed by the time return back to campus in January 2018.

Stevenson walkway

The new walkway connecting North to the main section of campus

The quad is just one example of the recent, rapid growth of both students and facilities. Buildings are modern and well equipped for what the students need to live and learn. Owings Mills has all the residence halls, the Business school, and more. The college just built a wooden walkway to connect the main part of campus to “North” Campus, officially Owings Mills Extension, where there is a new, massive (22,000 square feet) academic center housing the Design School (including fashion, film, graphic design), sciences and math, Business Communications, Marketing, PR, and more.

Stevenson Business

The Business School

Given the main campus growth, the President thinks that they’ll eventually consolidate: “It’s impractical to run 2 campuses.” The majority of classes are at OM. Although the Schools of humanities/social sciences and education are at the other campus, when people need a class (like psychology for nurses), it’s offered at OM. However, theaters, competition basketball and tennis facilities, and more are on the Stevenson campus. “Specialty equipment is harder to shift.” The master plan includes expanding the Southern part of the OM campus to make it the hub of student life, including athletic fields and more housing.

Stevenson res quad

The residence quad

About 2500 students live on campus, and students raved about the dorms. “There are no communal bathrooms,” one said. Even freshmen (85% of whom live on campus) live in 2-bedroom suites. Later, they can move into larger suites, suites with single bedrooms, or apartments. “About 75% of juniors who want them can get into the apartments,” one student told me. There are 6 on-campus and 16 off-campus dining options.

Stevenson diversityThere is excellent support here, particularly for first year students. Orientation gets rave reviews, and the optional Orientation Adventures (students go to Orioles games, Hershey Park, etc) program has grown rapidly. “They didn’t push it much when I started,” said a senior. “A lot more freshmen do it now.”

Stevenson Stu Cntr ext

Some outdoor seating by the Student Center; in good weather, this place is packed!

Additionally, they’ve changed 1st year advising: “by all measures, this is going extremely well,” said the Dean of Admissions. Students are assigned a Success Coach at orientation, and students must meet with them at least 4 times in the fall and 3 in the spring. “It’s intrusive advising;” each session has a particular purpose instead of a generic “how’s it going?” check-in. Students complete goal-setting activities and look at what they want their college experience to be. After the 1st year, students transfer to a more traditional faculty advisor, but are able to meet with success coaches whenever they want.

“Professors are my favorite thing about this place. They work outside the classroom. They have lives.” The students like that connection to the outside world, information about internships, etc. “One of my favorite classes was an Intro to Theater class. There were no theater majors in there, so the professor completely overhauled the syllabus to make it more relevant to us.”

The academics at Stevenson seem to be deliberately thought out; as they’ve overhauled the university, they’ve also innovated academic offerings to prepare students for graduate school (about 1/3 go on) or jobs. “We offer connection to careers within the liberal arts tradition.”

  • All students must complete a capstone experience. They even offer a Design-firm Capstone: students solve a problem for a community group such as working with a community center to design interactive programs for the kids. There are 40 Service-Learning classes where they work for a local non-profit.
  • Sales Management and Leadership is one of their more unusual majors. They encourage students to pair this with a minor that might correspond with their professional goals such as a minor in Chem for Pharmaceutical Sales.
  • Other unusual majors are: Visual Communication Design, Medical Laboratory Science, Public History, and Fashion Merchandising.
  • Professional Minors will be offered starting in 2018. Students take four interdisciplinary classes to build skills applicable to various job markets: Applied Management, Entrepreneurship/Small Business Development, Human Resources, Real Estate, Software Design and Coding.
  • Students can earn complete a 5-year BS/MS in 9 areas.
  • Sciences are strong: there has been an 87% acceptance rate into health-profession (med, dental, vet) schools over 5 years. Any interested student can apply; they don’t cut kids during pre-advising programs. Qualified students can do a 3+3 Pharmacy with UMD.
  • 100% of the students have been accepted to law schools; their Legal Studies major is ABA accredited. Students can complete a 3+3 with UBalt’s law school.
  • There are many music groups on campus and a music minor.
  • Film and Moving Image majors start to write and direct in their first year.

There are plenty of shops and restaurants are within walking distance, many physically surrounding campus. Given its location on the outskirts of Baltimore, there’s a myriad of other options as well, with Towson and Hunt Valley being popular. “We also go to Towson or Baltimore for parties,” said one student. There’s a metro stop on campus “but it’s mostly underground and we lose reception. I like knowing I can reach someone if there’s a problem so I don’t take it a lot, but it is convenient.” Often students will take the Light Rail from Hunt Valley if they’re heading into downtown Baltimore.

Stevenson stadium

The stadium and the athletic center which sit on the edge of campus.

Athletics are a big deal. Stevenson’s teams have had 30 NCAA championship appearances and 27 conference and national championships. Football, women’s volleyball, men’s basketball, and lacrosse all pull a large fan-base. They’re the first in the nation (and the northernmost?) to have a DIII Beach Volleyball team. All their club sports are professionally coached to give those students a solid athletic experience. A men’s club rugby team is in development, and they even have a Club E-sports (gaming) team!

The top 10% of admitted students are selected for Freshman Honors; there’s no way to apply separately for this program. There’s a new University Honors program in development for fall of 2019. The application for their largest scholarship, the Presidential Fellowship, is due 11/1. Students interested in general merit scholarship (up to $20,000 per year) must apply to Stevenson by 2/1; these are automatic consideration. There are several Specialty Scholarships (Leadership, Service, Art, Founders) scholarships that are stackable with other scholarships; these applications are due by 1/15. The invitation to apply to the Founders will be included with the acceptance letter.

© 2017

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