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Archive for the tag “5-college consortium”

Smith College (Take 2)

Smith College (visited 5/30/19) (Click HERE to see pictures and information from my previous on 10/15/12)

Smith 2“We’re educating women of promise for lives of distinction.”

Smith 10Smith is the only women’s college with an open curriculum. There are no required classes other than 1 writing intensive class and those needed to complete the major. One student said, “It’s not about what you don’t have to take. It’s about exploring the richness of what’s out there and embracing interests.” Students take responsibility for their education, and are intentionally advised to use it intentionally to pull together extra-curricular interests, study abroad, and internships. “When we look at the classes students choose, many of them would have completed a core, but they did it on their own. They’re curious and want to learn. Everyone in the class wants to be there,” said one of the reps. One student said, “My classes definitely aren’t dull here!” Another said, “I feel like I have to bring my A game every day because otherwise I’ll be disappointing my classmates.”

Smith 5

Architecture is eclectic!

Over 40% of Smithies major in STEM fields. However, “we’re strong across the curriculum. We’re the first women’s college, and still 1 of only 2 [the other being Sweet Briar] to establish an accredited engineering program.” A student said that she does not feel like a second class citizen in the engineering classes; she’s definitely developed confidence here.

Smith 9Smith is a member of the active 5-College Consortium, the 2nd oldest in the country after the Claremonts. They share 2000 faculty, 5300 courses, resources. Students can take classes and join clubs. Smith can join UMass Marching Band “which maybe makes up for Smith not having a football team.” Figure skaters can continue skating at UMass. There are some special programs available through the Consortium, including Native American and Indigenous Studies; Culture, Health, and Science; Digital Humanities; and Buddhist Studies. On the Smith campus, they offer some unusual majors like Medieval Studies, Astronomy, Portuguese and Brazilian Studies, and Statistical and Data Science.

Smith house 2

One of the Houses

Students don’t live in dorms but in mixed-year houses ranging in size from 12-100 students (all of which have a piano). It’s a vital part of being at Smith. “It’s often the first information alumni share,” said a rep. “Houses are places to live, not just sleep. They graduate by houses.” Houses are all self-governing and provide another level of leadership development. “Leadership becomes a habit.” They are piloting Affinity Housing for 2019-20. This is a student-driven initiative; there will be one focusing on African-American culture; the other is more generally for students of color (which make up 1/3 of the student population). “This is a PWI. We’re not unlike other campuses in this regard but we’re committed to taking steps for inclusion.”

Smith student center 2

The new student center. All new construction is built based on the architecture of the time it was built

They are also working hard to shift how we talk about women’s colleges. “They’re still relevant. We talk about them in terms of what they don’t have or what they’re not. Let’s address that.” She went on to talk about a lot of the myths or “problems” that they hear about women’s colleges:

  • It’s not the real world… “Like Harvard is the real world??”
  • There’s no male perspective … “The whole world is the male perspective.”
  • There’s no fun … “They can still do what they want. The beer-drinking frat party is around. You just have to take a bus to it!”
  • Who wants the drama of all girls!/It’s all lesbians … “We don’t engage with the lesbian thing. Get over it.”
Smith botanical 1

Part of the campus botanical gardens

Here’s really want women’s colleges are:

  • Intentional communities where women are at the center.
  • Not equal opportunity but EVERY opportunity.
  • Lead from ahead and push from behind. “We surround them with bold people who can encourage them to be bolder.”
  • Empowerment is not having to compromise any part of who you are. You can choose to go – or NOT go – to UMass. You don’t have to apologize for being smart. You’re expected to hold your own. You don’t have to apologize for having a point of view.

Smith 6Smith provides extensive research opportunities. About 1/3 of faculty-published research has student co-authors. Praxis provides a $3000 stipend to all students for internships. Students have worked everywhere from a California cricket farm, ABC in London, with a doula in a maternity hospital in Mexico, and the Smithsonian in DC.

Smith 12Admissions is test-optional except for international citizens who must submit test scores. If the scores are reported (self-reported on the application or sent officially), they will consider it. However, it’s weighted “very low in the process. It’s one piece of information. If you think they reflect you as a student, send it – but there’s no red flag if scores aren’t there.”

© 2019

 

Hampshire College

HAMPSHIRE COLLEGE (visited 10/16/12)

~Hampshire swingI had no notion of what the Hampshire campus might look like. Our schedule said that we were going to arrive at and have lunch at the Red Barn – and we actually pulled into a small lot next to a red barn with organic farm stands not too far away. It feels remote, yet is only about 15 minutes out of Northampton, and with the shuttles running to the other campuses, it’s not at all removed.

Dorms

A unit of dorms on the Hampshire campus.

Hampshire is unique in a lot of ways. Everything is interdisciplinary, and there are no pre-set majors. Students complete concentrations which are self-designed with the guidance of at least two faculty members. The program is flexible enough for students to study what they’re interested in, but structured enough to give them a lot of support to figure it out, too. They’re given skills to be life-long learners. They’re expected to have excitement and curiosity. Learning takes place in and out of the classroom – projects, labs, on the farm, etc. They collaborate with each other and with faculty in addition to completing independent work. Students jump into hands-on work from the beginning whether it’s in the lab, the art studio, or someplace else. They design their own projects, labs, experiments, questions to pursue. They don’t just do the professor’s work. People say that this is one of the major reasons why Hampshire has been named in the Top 30 Most Entrepreneurial Colleges, which also includes Harvard, Stanford, and MIT. Students look for real-world solutions to problems and can figure out how to accomplish them. Stonyfield Yogurt, 7th Generation Cleaning Supplies, and other big-name companies were started by Hampshire grads.

~Hampshire arts villageThe college divides work up into the Division System:

  • DI: tutorials. Students who come here generally know what they THINK they want to do. They take several required courses across the curriculum, some social engagement, and some electives. The point here is to make sure they’ve acquired the required skills to be successful. They must present a portfolio at the end of DI to show how they’ve mastered these skills, and write a reflective essay about their work.
  • DII: concentration. What are the questions that matter to you? Can you develop questions that will take you across several areas? What areas are within the questions, and how will you develop a plan to answer them? It could be an internship, study abroad, community engagement. This often changes as it develops.
  • DIII: Capstone projects. This is a major, sustained, original work, like a master’s thesis/project. They meet with advisors/ committees once a week (no less frequently than every other week). One kid did a psychoanalytical analysis of jazz aesthetics. He was the only undergraduate to present at a major conference.
library

The outside of the library building.

~Hampshire Yurt

The campus yurt

Students also don’t get grades; they receive written evaluations at the end of the semester detailing their work, strengths, and areas for growth. Some people are concerned with accessibility of graduate programs and admissions, but Hampshire is 30th in the country for students who go on to get PhDs. The students tend to get MORE looked at by grad schools because they aren’t just numbers. They are not nervous wrecks when they start grad school. They have ownership of the process and that gives them a leg-up. Some of the students will recruit younger students to help with experiments. They had lab meetings, compared data, etc.

~Hampshire drafting room

An art studio

After lunch and a presentation by the admissions people, we went out on a tour, starting on a dirt track across a field to the main part of campus. The first area we walked through were a collection of town-house type buildings which were apartments for upperclassmen. At this point, the tour guide told us that something like 83% of all students have single rooms; this number is closer to 75% for first-years, but overall, about 7/8 of students get singles, which is really amazing. After leaving this residential area, we entered more of the main part of campus which was an odd collection of brick, glass, and modernish buildings spread out around a large, very green campus.

The campus is very much about sustainability. They have 15 acres of organic farming. They host a “Food for Farms” gala event with people coming from all over. Students tend to be hugely active in Social Justice causes, and students tend to be “practical idealists.” Because of their innovative programs and resources, they’re seeing record numbers of applications. They’re in the process of adding six new faculty positions in creative writing, math, and African studies. Film, acting, and directing are big here, as is the tech side of theater and film production. One of the bigwigs from Pixar works here. They’re committed to helping students meet need. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the James Baldwin scholarship program to serve underserved communities. The first year total fees are totally covered. After the first year, the students apply for financial aid like everyone else, but Hampshire will meet 100% of need.

(c) 2012

Mount Holyoke College

Mount Holyoke College(Visited 10/16/12)

Nice building

One of the main old buildings on campus.

~MHC quadThis is a very different type of campus from Smith. Picture a typical, older, “typical New England” campus with a lot of grand old brick buildings, lots of green areas, and big trees. That’s Holyoke. The town is also a cute, small New England town with a little town square, although I sensed that we saw most of it driving in. I asked the tour guide what she liked to do in town, and after telling us how much there was to do on campus, she admitted that she rarely spent time in South Hadley, although “there are a couple places to go eat on the Square.” She said she’ll go to Northampton if she’s looking for a town or to the other campuses for things to do.

~MHC treesThe student panel at breakfast was interesting, but the students were not nearly as articulate or insightful as some on other panels I had attended. Maybe it was too early in the morning! Favorite classes tend to be the ones where they feel supported. One student had to present a self-developed NGO to the President of the college that she said was an amazing experience. Another said that her FYE about Politics and Self was eye-opening. A third talked about a professor not letting her drop a French class, saying “You can do it.” They all agreed that professors are invested in student success. They also appreciated the sense of internationalism on campus. Faculty members speak 55 languages, and the college brings in other students for Junior Year Abroad as well as sending their own students around the world for study experiences.

~MHC ampatheaterFaculty usually only teach two classes a semester to give them time for teaching well, advising students well, and do research well. They have an integrated advising program that starts with a First Year Seminar and a “Connections” break-out session (a 4th meeting a week) that is an extension of orientation to be well positions to make the most of their MHC experience. They fund internships so the students have a meaningful work experience. They’re hoping to be broader and more comprehensive so it’s not just an internship. There’s a Nexis program – set them up for the internship, and then after, they “unpack” what happened.

~MHC 3The Holyoke students we spoke to didn’t seem to take advantage of the academic benefits of the Five College Consortium. No one on the panel had taken classes on other campuses and gave the impression that it wasn’t popular or really sought after although “people do it.” Our tour guide said that she hasn’t taken any classes at other schools, but “there are always students from other colleges in my classes.” Social events seem a little more utilized, particularly because of the co-ed factor. The students we talked to really liked the single-sex education in a lot of ways and definitely felt supported in their growth as people, but they did seek out chances to meet and hang out with guys on other campuses. The students we talked to would like the reputation of women’s colleges to change; it’s not a convent or “a place for lesbians to hang out.”

~MHC 2One-third of students are in the sciences, and the science center is the newest building on campus; an alum gave $10million to build it. There’s the “Million Dollar Tree outside” that students and alums wanted kept, so an additional million was raised in order to keep it. The alumnae are a very strong force. I met up with one of my former students at breakfast, and she is clearly happy and relaxed here. She has found intellectual stimulation and a supportive community. This seems usual for the students we met. Some, however, were a bit over-the-top to the drinking-the-kool-aid level. The tour guide got a bit creepy about Mary Lyon, the school’s founder who is buried in the middle of campus. She went on for a long time about Lyon, traditions on campus (several surrounding Lyon or her grave such as putting garlands around on her birthday), and said “I LOVE Mary Lyon!” several times. The campus has a ton of traditions. For example, each class is given a color and icon. In the library, by tradition, 2 classes are assigned a staircase on each side, and if you use the other you won’t graduate (at all? On time? I can’t remember). The traditions definitely tie students together and give them a sense of belonging at the college. The alums I know from MHC still talk about things like Mountain Day and the class parades.

One of the quads on campus.

In terms of admissions to Holyoke, there’s an enormously self-selecting group of applicants. They use a 1-9 rating scale when assessing files, and about 95% of applicants earn a rating that suggesting that they’d be successful here. Most students will submit SAT scores, even though they’re test-optional. The offer thirty 21st-Century-Scholars awards each year which provides a $25,000 merit award every year.

~MHC shabbat posterDining halls on campus got fairly high reviews. They have a kosher/halal center which can get crowded because a lot of vegetarian students eat there too. Our tour guide told us that she would expand this if she could change anything about the school since it’s sometimes hard to get served there because of all the people.

Something we learned about late in the program, sort of by accident, was that MHC has an Equestrian Program. They had brochures available in the admissions office, so I asked the rep to expand on the program; she said they offer every type of riding (ie, Western, dressage) and have 60 horses and miles of trails available to students.

(c) 2012

Amherst College

AMHERST COLLEGE (Visited 10/15/12)

chairs and field

One of the best views on campus!

I don’t know of any other college that lets the winners of a lip-sync contest get first dibs on housing. Most students live on campus, and like many campuses, there are plenty of options for living arrangements. After the first year, housing is done on the lottery system; each person is given points based on GPA, seniority, etc. Groups of people wanting to live together have their points averaged for their place in the lottery. However, one of the big traditions on campus is the lip-sync contest in which groups can compete to move up in the lottery. The winners of the contest actually get moved to the front of the line. Amherst is a bit quirky like that.

Amherst 5Coming onto this campus was a much different experience than going onto the UMass campus! This felt like the traditional campus that people come to expect from New England colleges. There was quite a bit of green, and the buildings were well maintained. The campus was also much more sedate as we were driving through; fewer students were walking around, but that might have been a result that classes were in session.

Amherst interiorA recent graduate sat with us at lunch and answered a lot of questions; she came from Buffalo, NY and applied here Early Decision because she just knew this was the place. As a history major, she got to do some great things. Her senior thesis was an analysis of Holocaust photos in context of victimization and retaking of power. She did a great deal of this at Hampshire because they have a theoretical photography department. Most of her books were used from the other libraries, so she said that the 5CC affected her academically. She also loved the social “expansion” including “Concert hopping” in the spring.

bulletin board

Lots of activities to choose from!

Amherst has a true open curriculum meaning that the students will fulfill the requirements for a major but have no distribution requirements. One student on the panel said, “It’s what drew me here. I like to dabble. I’ve taken classes in 10 departments, and I like to stretch myself.” One of the panelists decided not to double major because he was having so much fun taking a lot of different types of classes. The open curriculum is great in many ways and makes Amherst a match for different types of people – those who have no idea what they want to do all the way up to those who want to really focus in one area. The admissions person said that in some ways, having this open curriculum defines a true “liberal arts” curriculum since students are taking so many different types of classes that they probably would not have otherwise.

Amhest statueAdmission decisions are made by committee so it’s “about as fair as this can be.” Applications are read by two people and then taken to committee; those that don’t get sent to committee are clearly not admissible, and that’s agreed upon by both readers. Everyone comes in thinking everyone is more amazing and that they haven’t done anything. “Even if you ARE the 5th in the world at chess and won the debate championship and cured cancer, you feel it.” That being said, it’s not a competitive environment. People collaborate all the time and will not sabotage each other because they’re looking for that one A – “if people deserve an A, they’ll all get it.” That being said, there are a couple departments that will grade on a curve, like Econ. But even in a situation where people should be fending for themselves, they still help out. You have to want to come here and be competitive. You have to want to learn. But once you’re here, it’s not like that. It’s competition with yourself and be the best you can be. Once admitted, Amherst will meet demonstrated need without loans; students graduate debt-free unless the family took out an outside loan.

Amherst 4Currently, the student-faculty ratio is 8:1, but with 18 new faculty members being added, this will change. Introductory classes might have 80 or 90 students but this is far from the norm. One panelist has a class with 4 people in it. The faculty teaches the students how to do scholarly research and expect that sort of research to be produced. “Professors guide us, but not to hold our hands. They let us stumble and then will help to pick us up and get us back on track.” Professors are willing to spend as much time as it takes in class, and out – they teach very few sections each term so they have time to devote to the students. One of the panelists was in a music seminar class, and each class meeting “took as long as it took. The students and the prof would stay until we were done.”

Amherst 3Students are knowledgeable about the world and current events, and they like talking about what’s going on in the world and on campus. Students have a voice, and they regularly bring up issues and work with the powers-that-be to improve campus. “They actually care about student opinions. People are shocked when they sit in on meetings and see that our voices matter.” Women’s rights tend to be a big topic on campus; the students think this is because Amherst had been an all-male school for a long time. The night before we talked to the student panel, a group talked about the topic of sexual misconduct with the president. The college provides free copies of the NYT in the dining hall, and they’re widely read. “Things change in the world. We’re ready and willing to change with it.”

Amherst 5We asked the student panel the following questions and got some great answers from them:

What has Amherst done for you to prepare you for whatever you want to do next?

  • “Confidence!”
  • “Science. It’s so not true that you can’t do science at a LA school. I did an internship at the flagship UT campus but was more prepared than their students.” She learned to integrate information, to think outside the box, to think critically. “It’s allowed me to realize what’s important in the questions I’m asking and to synthesis important information.”
  • “There’s a reason why Bain and JPMorgan and others recruit here. Students here take the time to learn on their own. We’re some of the best thinkers they have because we challenge the information.”
  • “Time management. I could stop doing all the extras and concentrate on classes; I’d do marginally better grades, but that wouldn’t be a good use of my time. We get as much flexibility to organize our time, but it’s on us to prioritize.”

What do you wish you had known before you came to college that we can share with our students?

  • Try lots of new things.
  • Don’t go in thinking you know exactly what you want to do. Be open minded.
  • Look at LA schools because you’re here to challenge your ideas rather than listening to lectures.

What traditions are your favorites?

  • “The rivalry between Williams and Amherst is HUGE. Homecoming is a big deal here. Alums will get together and watch the games and there’s a bonfire on campus. A blog on ESPN listed us as one of the top places to tailgate in the US because you can tailgate 6 feet from the endzone.”
  • “We have things going on about every 2 weeks, so I can’t really talk about just one. Of course, it’s hard from me b/c I perform [in the a cappella group] about a dozen times at each of these weekends”

(c) 2013

Five College Consortium (Massachusetts)

Five College Consortium (Visited 10/15-16; see individual write-ups about each specific college)

Smith College, Mount Holyoke College, Amherst College, and UMass Amherst bound together in 1965 to form a Consortium in Western Massachusetts after about a decade of collaboration between the campuses. Their partnership resulted in the creation of Hampshire College in 1970, and the 5 College Consortium became official.

The consortium is meant to create a social exchange as well as an academic one. In addition to being able to cross-register for classes, students can participate in theatrical or musical groups, play on intramural or club teams, join clubs, and take advantage of any event hosted on any campus (speakers, concerts, movies, etc). We asked a couple tour guides on different campuses how they find out about things, and they both said that things were well advertised with fliers around campus, or friends who were taking classes on other campuses would find out and spread the word. We found out later that there’s a calendar online: http://calendar.fivecolleges.edu/FiveCol/calendrome.cgi

Once a student is enrolled in their home college, they can take classes at other campuses for free, and the credits transfer over; their degree is conferred by their home institution. There are some multi-campus certificate programs (similar to a minor) which necessitate cross-over. One panelist at Amherst is completing an African Studies Certificate, and he’s already taken “Intro to African Studies” at UMass and “African Cities” and MHC.

Busses run frequently between campuses so there’s no need for cars. Three of the colleges are less than a 10 minute drive apart, right around the town of Amherst. Smith and Mount Holyoke are a bit further, but are about a 20 minute drive.

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