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University of Dallas

University of Dallas (visit 3/3/15)

~Dallas sculpture 1

Statue outside the Chapel

~Dallas tower 4UD is a “Catholic university for independent thinking.” They assert that there’s a truth and wisdom to be known and that it’s in people’s nature to question. They don’t expect students to know or learn everything but to take strides in that direction. In order to accomplish this, they have set up an extensive Core Curriculum: students complete 60 Core credits studying great thinkers and scientists as well as the questions posed by these people. This sets UD apart: think Great Books meets Liberal Arts. Students take many of their core classes in the first year but also usually take 2-3 core courses each of Junior and Senior years.

~Dallas in Rome

Pictures from the Rome Semester

The Rome Semester, called “The Core of the Core,” covers 5 Core classes: Western Theological Traditions, Lit Traditions III (Tragedy and Comedy: Greek to Shakespeare), Philosophy of the Human Prison, Western Civ II (Greek to Renaissance), Art and Architecture. Because only Core classes are taken here, students of all majors can attend.

  • Offering this to sophomores (80% go then) means that everyone can get a taste of another culture; many still study abroad separately as Juniors.
  • Students live and learn on the UD-owned campus just outside of Rome in Due Santi (it’s believed that Sts Peter and Paul passed through there; there’s a well that dates back to then). Students have easy access to Rome on Public Transportation: a 100-yard walk to a bus stop will get to the train.
  • The campus has a tennis courts, a soccer field, and a small pool.
  • Tuition is exactly the same; all institutional and federal aid transfers over. Students pay for the flight and any spending/travel money there.
  • Campus capacity is 118. Usually 110-115 students are there at any given time.
  • Students travel to Rome, Florence, Assisi, Naples, Pompeii, and Greece (10 days) as a group. They stand in places they’ve been reading about.
  • They also kick students off campus for 10 days; they have the freedom and responsibility to explore Europe and take care of themselves. They come back with the confidence that they can do anything. Students do everything from backpacking through Poland to hiking the Camino de Santiago is Spain.

~Dallas walkway~Dallas acad bldg 3Parts of the Dallas campus are very pretty; other parts are reminiscent of a ‘70s elementary school. “I’m not in love with the campus, but it’s not about the classrooms. It what happens inside them. That’s been really good to learn,” said one student. Another added that “the grounds are wonderful. They do a great job with the plants and all that – but the buildings aren’t great.” They do have a beautiful chapel, and it’s clear from looking around campus and inside the buildings that this is a Catholic school: sculptures, paintings, crosses, and other religious icons are visible. We talked to one student who wasn’t Catholic who did not feel that this was a disadvantage. “I don’t feel ostracized or left out.”

Dallas lionOne student described UD as “a small school trying to be a large school. We have Big 12, a metroplex of 6 million people, great facilities – but also still have small classes and faculty who want to mentor students.” Another added that the “location is a little isolated. We can’t walk to Chic-fil-a or a grocery store but it makes you want to have fun here and people are really creative about their fun. People have fun in the bubble.”

~Dallas swing and treeKids who are passionate, love to argue, want to look for truth (and believe that truth can be found), and are goofy will do well here. The feeling is that there’s room at the table for everyone. People complain, but not in a cranky way: they want to fix it. The nice thing is that “everyone is working as hard as everyone else. They love learning. We don’t have to convince them that this is worth it. They study science and philosophy and history in a way that pushes them,” said one of the professors. “Students talk about what they’re learning. It doesn’t end in the classroom.” Clearly the university is doing something right: they have a 91% retention rate.

~Dallas art village

Arts Village

Academics are generally strong here, but “there aren’t a ton of majors,” said one student.

  • They offer 4+1 programs in Accounting, Cyber Security, Business (MBA), and Finance. Students apply as a Junior and will complete 4-5 grad classes done as a senior.
  • Strong pre-health programs. Med school acceptance rate is about 80%. 3 mock interviews for med schools.
  • They offer a cooperative program in Engineering with the University of Texas at Arlington.
    • Students complete a team-based Senior Design project with about 20 students. They spend a full year solving a real-life problem posed by a company in the metroplex.
  • The arts are strong here.
    • They offer a BFA Program: students must audition to get in. They can appeal once at the end of the freshman year if they didn’t initially get into the program. They no longer have minors in dance or theater because it was detracting from the majors.
    • UC was the first university to give a degree in ballet.
    • “If I meet an actor who is outward focused, who wants to use the craft to make the world a better place, that person will fit in well here.”
  • They offer unusual concentrations in Biblical Greek, Business for Non-Business Majors, Pure Math, Applied Physics, and Pastoral Ministry.
Dallas library int

The interior of the library

Dining Hall.

Dining Hall.

The faculty are engaging and clearly interested in helping students learn. “We won’t coddle you. We won’t tell you you’re good if you’re not, but we can do that and be kind at the same time. We’ll help you get better.” The classroom setups include Writable Walls; students use them to summarize homework, do problems, brainstorm, whatever. Students are actively engaged, are thinking critically, etc. Their favorite core classes to teach are:

  • Am Civ 1: Mostly freshmen take the class. “For lack of a better word, they’re “innocent.” We use a lot of primary sources that contradict each other.
  • The Divine Comedy: “It changes their lives.”
  • Intro to Stats: “It teaches them to be critical about how stats are used. . . and sometimes I get a Stats major out of it!”

© 2015

University of Denver

UNIVERSITY OF DENVER (visited 10/4/12)

DU~DU 7Before arriving on campus, I had never heard of a Green Ambulance, aka one that is Solar Powered. It was developed at DU (yes, they call themselves DU, not the other way around. We couldn’t find someone to tell us why) and now serves the campus community. People probably don’t think of DU as a college that’s developing new things, but a surprising amount of interesting stuff is being done here. However, after learning about the types of students they are attracting to campus, it wasn’t so surprising after all. DU is committed to drawing students who will actively engage in opportunities and will think outside the box. In the application and in the optional interviews (which can be done with any of a number people – faculty, staff, alumni), they look for evidence that students are motivated to learn, that they’re concerned about honesty and integrity, and are open to difference and new ideas.

The light-rail stop on campus

The light-rail stop on campus

DU debateI visited the University of Denver right after the first Presidential Debate, and there was clearly still a lot of residual energy surrounding that. We took the light-rail from downtown to the stop directly across the street from campus (students get to ride for free with their Student ID). This beautiful campus is located in a residential area of the city called (appropriately) University Place. There are malls nearby, and the first Chipotle ever opened is located only a couple blocks away. Downtown is seven miles away; a major technology corridor is six miles south (also on the light-rail line). Students use both areas for internships. Beyond that, students have access to all that this part of Colorado has to offer, including six ski areas within 90 miles.

~DU 6Denver is a medium sized school with just over 5,000 undergraduates, but they also have a sizable graduate population which includes their law school and PhD students. Less than 40% of the undergrad population is from Colorado; they draw students from every state and 61 countries with almost 10% of the population coming from abroad. The city of Denver is a major draw for people coming from out-of-state. It’s a major metropolitan area (one of the very few in the country that has every major sports team!), an amusement park within the city limits, and more – but also has the additional appeal of being so close to several smaller cities (Boulder, Colorado Springs, etc) as well as the Rockies and other outdoor opportunities.

~DU seatingDenver runs on the quarter system with three 10-week sessions and an optional 4th summer session. Because of this, students have a 6-week winter break from Thanksgiving to beginning of January which students find helpful if they want to get seasonal employment. Students complete a Common Curriculum comprised of a series of writing classes, arts and humanities, and social and natural sciences.

Denver has 13 schools with more than 100 areas of study including interdisciplinary and pre-professional programs. More unusual DU4majors include: Rhetoric and Professional Writing, Animation and Game Development, Real Estate and Construction Management, Astrophysics, and Cognitive Neuroscience. They have a full Music school, and the opera program is reportedly excellent. Students not majoring in music still have access to many classes in that school, but students must audition in order to major in music, and can only apply under the Regular Decision deadline. The Art school requires a portfolio, and Theater students who want scholarships must audition. Students interested in Business don’t apply to Daniels until freshman year for entrance into the school during the fall quarter of sophomore year; they are interviewed and submit a resume as part of the process. Special degree programs include 3+2 and 4+1 in Business, Education, and Social Work (in which students can study something different as undergrad), and in Art History, GIS, international studies, public policy, and engineering (in which students must major in that field as an undergraduate).

~DU gardenDenver prides itself on active, not passive, learning with average class sizes of 21. Our tour guide’s smallest and biggest classes have DU2been 17 and 120. Ninety-five percent of classes have fewer than 50 students; 82%% have fewer than 30. Every first-year student works with a faculty mentor. The five-year average retention rate is 88% (freshman to sophomore year). Professors teach 99.8% of the classes and are known for cutting edge contribution to research. Ninety percent of the full-time faculty hold the highest degree in their field and/or are active in their field such as the music professor playing in the symphony or the business professor who owns her own business. Sixty-five to seventy percent of students complete at least one internship before graduation. Over 200 students participate in research with faculty each year, and the school helps to pair up students with professors; students regularly publish and present their findings. About 1,250 students participate in 80 service-courses each year. DU is on the US President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll because of the amount of service they provide in the wider Denver area. They also want students to study abroad and have started the Cherrington Global Scholars program: If students have a 3.0 GPA, they can study abroad and not pay any more than they’d pay at DU. About 70% of students participate before graduation.

DU requires that students live on campus for the first two years; 95% of first-year students live on campus (the rest living with family inDU3 town). Dorms are comfortable and modern with cable, a micro-fridge, wireless, and other amenities coming standard. As is becoming more popular on campuses across the country, they have several Living Learning Communities available to First Year students who can choose from themes such as Creativity and Entrepreneurship, Environmental Sustainability, International, Social Justice, and Wellness. DU also provides Integrated Learning Programs which span all 4 years, the Honors Program, and the Pioneer Leadership Program. Students can minor in Leadership Studies which is becoming increasingly more popular.

~DU 11The Early Action and the Regular Decisions rounds are equally competitive. Applicants can use either the Common App or the Pioneer App (specific to DU). They take either the SAT or the ACT w/o writing, and they will SuperScore both tests. They require a counselor recommendation; additional letters are optional. AP scores, if available, can help the students (but to get credit, the student must have earned a 4 or 5 on the exam). Qualifications for scholarships and for the Honors program are evaluated during application process. Those being offered a spot in the Honors program usually have just under a 4.0 GPA and about a 32 ACT or the SAT equivalent. University scholarships can carry over to the 5th year.

~DU chapelCampus has lots of activities to participate in or to watch. DU has 17 DI athletic teams; the college has earned 28 team and 109 individual champions, 308 All-Americans, and 57 Olympians. Non-athletes actively support the teams; hockey is the most attended event. The Alpine Club is particularly popular. Its goal is to get people outdoors, so they have equipment for student use, offer rides, and get discounts at local places. Homecoming, Winter Carnival, and May Days are particularly popular traditions which draw large crowds.

(c) 2012

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