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Hollins College

Hollins College (visited 11/2/16)

hollins-4

One of the Academic Buildings

Hollins “is transformative. We enhance what’s there,” said a faculty member.

Hollins, named the 3rd Most Haunted campus in the country (the Tinker ghost got particular mention), is celebrating its 175th anniversary this year. “We’re not going anywhere but up,” said one of the Deans. This beautiful liberal arts university, dedicated to educating young women, takes an approach based on depth and breadth, both academically and co-curricularly.

hollins-indoor-ring

The indoor rink during one of the lessons

The equestrian program is of special note. A rider from Oregon told us, “I didn’t even know this place existed until they contacted me! They have one of the best writing programs and riding programs in the country; it’s great.” Usually they get about 45 riders per semester of all levels, “but we have the horsepower to do more.” The school-owned horses are donated, and students can board their own for $1100 a month (full-service including turnout: “if they need a buddy or are used to being on their own, we’ll make that happen,” said one of the riding coaches). The barn manager lives on premises.

hollins-horse-fields-4

Some of the outdoor areas for the equestrian programs

Riders are students first; they work lessons around academics. They teach hunter-seat but welcome riders from other styles (stock seat, dressage, saddle seat). They have a range of horses up to show-horses to accommodate all levels. Riders on the equestrian team pay $1195 per semester which includes 2 lessons a week, coaching, and all fees for travel and competition. “Students who ride regularly know that’s a deal.”

Beyond the Equestrian program, things that differentiate Hollins include:

  • The Internship program:
    • These often happen during January Term. Students get stipends, many from alumna who will come back to run workshops and other programs for students. “Speed Connection” (like speed dating) helps make connections. Alumna even help with small things like finding housing.
    • Students intern at places like National Geographic, Amas Musical Theater, Wiley Publishing, the National Cathedral, and the National Dance Institute.
  • Research: There is no honors program, but students have the option to participate in honors seminars starting first year.
  • Study abroad: they run specific historic programs in London and Paris
  • Leadership classes, including how to negotiate such things as their first pay raise. The Batton Leadership Institute comes with a scholarship. It challenges students to think outside the box.

hollins-quadI appreciate that Hollins is deliberate in their curriculum. A Dean said that they’ve been working with the following questions: What capacities do we and our students need to address the challenging issues of the 21st century? Are we doing what we need to do for students to be successful, in however they define success? Do we have the right co-curricular options in place? The answers to these have led to a few recent changes to curriculum:

hollins-libraryA few other academic programs worth mentioning include:

  • The 3-year Accelerated Program: Students need to elect this coming in, maintain a minimum GPA, and complete 40-44 credits per year.
  • Their Creative Writing program graduates 30+ seniors each year.
  • Certificates in Arts Management, Leadership, Piano Teaching, and Musical Theater Performance.
  • Their theater department has been ranked #19 for Best College Theater, and they offer a London Theater Immersion

hollins-chapel-2Faculty are teachers first and invested in the students. A handful live on campus. Students babysit for them and get invited home for breaks. However, they’re also experts in what they do and have a lot to brag about including being a 2015 National Book Finalist, having won a $100,000 Mellon grant for professional development, an NSF grant for technology in early education, and an award for best article in Critical Race Theory (Sociology).

hollins-5NSSE information allows Hollins to compare themselves to peer institutions: They’ve ranked Better or Much Better on: Asking questions, class presentations, working with classmates on projects, discussing academic work outside of class, writing and speaking clearly, and effectively working with others. Students here solve real world problems. The video “Women who are going places start at Hollins” is worth seeing.

The students like the all-female environment. “You can be yourself. You don’t have to fit into a group. People will love you for it. I’m shy. My roommate hugged me when I arrived. I’ve never felt so loved or accepted. You get the opportunities you ask for. Sky’s the limit. People do unimaginable things. If you take the initiative, they’ll figure out how to help you!” said a student sitting with us at dinner.

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Some of the dogs at the barn

They also want people to know that a women’s college doesn’t mean they’re cut off from other people. Students get involved in the Roanoke community: “We have a cool downtown!” and shuttles take students to the mall, downtown, and Target. The Amtrak will start coming back through in 2017 and flights from the Roanoke airport go to major hubs. They can get taxi vouchers to the airport. Roanoke College (coed) and Hampden-Sydney (all male) are “right down the road, and they [HSC] have a Women’s House for people to stay in if we visit campus.”

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Tinker Mountain from the Library

A favorite tradition is Tinker Day: classes get cancelled, and people get dressed up in wacky costumes and hike up Tinker <ountain (“The average person can hike it in 1.5-2 hours”). Another favorite thing is the Therapy Dog program (and several dogs hang out at the barn). Finally, there’s Ring Night: Seniors adopt juniors who get their rings. They have to “Earn” them: they’re given tasks (singing songs, etc) by freshmen and sophomores. Then the juniors get a box of things for senior year such as a bottle of apple cider for the beginning of the year. The “First Step” is when seniors step on the front quad in the fall: they decorate their gown, step on campus, and get sprayed with cider.

Last year’s 224 freshman was the largest incoming class in 17 years. The Admission office promises an answer (including scholarship information) in 2 weeks as long as applicants have submitted a FAFSA. They’re need-blind for admissions but aggressive with scholarships. “What does it hurt to apply?” said one rep; a student at dinner told us that it was cheaper for her to come here than to go to her state school. They have a special Secular Society Scholarship: it’s not just for the best grades but for students who show a “glimmer of moxie” and will contribute to the larger community and world.

© 2016

Roberts Wesleyan College

Roberts Wesleyan College (visited 10/20/15)

~RWC quad 1I decided to swing by Roberts because I had a couple hours to kill before flying out of the Rochester airport. It’s a very pretty, traditional-looking campus. There were only a few people walking around, and at first, mostly adults. We did finally see some students walking around campus; when we asked people if campus was usually this quiet, they looked a bit like they had never noticed, and said that they thought that classes were probably in session so there weren’t likely to see too many people.

~RWC quad 4Although this is very close to Rochester (probably 15-20 minutes into downtown), the campus definitely has a rural feel. There isn’t much in easy walking distance, but students can have cars on campus. I stopped and talked to a couple students around campus (often the best way to get the unfiltered view since they aren’t working for admissions!). One student said that the thing she doesn’t like is that there’s not much to do on the weekends, but most students do stick around campus. There’s a $1 theater and laser tag nearby and sometimes people will go into Rochester, although she wasn’t sure if the school offered shuttles: “My roommate has a car so I haven’t paid attention.”

Some of the dorm buildings

Some of the dorm buildings

The first student I spoke to was a freshman. “I’d rate the school an 8.” She loves the faculty who she says are friendly and really willing to engage with students. This seemed to be true. I talked with two adults who were both talkative and willing to reach out to people. The first asked us if she could help us find anything and then helped us get to the admissions office; the other was a music professor. She walked with us across campus and chatted: she’d been at the school more than 20 years and loved the changes that were happening. “You wouldn’t recognize it! There’s been a lot of additions and improvements.”

Theater lobby

Theater lobby

Original building, now housing some of the Music department

Original building, now housing some of the Music department

Music is fairly big here. In the few minutes I spent talking to a student outside one of their major music and theater buildings, students walked by carrying French Horns, trombones, violins, and more. The music professor said that there are between 60-90 students in the department each year, and they’ve just started an honors chorus and honors band. The old theater building (now practice rooms, offices, classrooms, etc) is supposedly haunted; it had belonged to Mr. Roberts who donated the land to start the school. His funeral was held there.

~RWC acad bldg 3The school offers fairly standard liberal arts major offerings. Unusual ones include Economic Crime Investigation, Social Work, and Medical Technologist. They offer a 3-2 Engineering program with RIT, RPI, and Clarkson, as well as accelerated 3-year programs in Psychology and Social Work.

~RWC acad bldg 3Advice one student gave to pass onto students thinking about Roberts is, “Make sure they’re ok with the chapel requirement.” Students have to earn 22 chapel credits each semester (attendance at 1 chapel = 1 credit). Monday is a more traditional, non-denominational service; Wednesday tends to be student-led services or programs; Friday is a discussion session. Students can earn 3 chapel credits if they participate in one of the community service projects on Saturdays.

(c) 2015

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (visited 7/28/15)

RPI Troy

The city of Troy as seem from campus.

The armory

The armory

Located up the hill from downtown Troy, RPI is a beautiful campus with eclectic architecture ranging from a new glass performing arts center to an old armory. The university itself feels very separated from the city even though it’s mere blocks away from downtown. Troy itself doesn’t have a great reputation, but the university itself is in a nice, relatively safe neighborhood.

~RPI fishbowl

The “Fishbowl”

The university has a long-standing reputation for engineering. In fact, it was the first university to offer civil engineering in the English-speaking world. Don’t let this reputation fool you, though. “I was surprised at the students. I thought it would be full of engineering nerds, and it’s not that way at all!” said the tour guide. Unfortunately, that was one of the few times I could get him “off script” so I don’t feel that I have as good a grasp on what life is like on campus – other than students are active and very focused!

~RPI frat house

One of the Frat Houses

RPI has a 92% retention rate so they’re doing something right. Almost 1/3 of students affiliate with a Greek organization; Greek houses are located all over including downtown (although this can be a bit sketchy; Troy as a whole doesn’t have a great reputation – but the campus itself is in a nice, relatively safe neighborhood. Just be forewarned!). The university has one of the few student–run unions left, and they’re controlling an $80m budget. Clubs range from Cheese-lovers and Cheerleading to Quidditch and What is a Club? Club. The largest lecture hall on campus (in addition to holding a couple classes and sometimes exams) is where they show $1.50 movies every weekend.

~RPI 5A couple of RPI’s bragging points:

  • They have two Supercomputers: Amos and Watson, the supercomputer that beat jeopardy contestants. The only prerequisite to use this computer is to take the Intro to Computer Science class which most people take freshman year.
  • They have a complete virtual lab; students put on a black suit and become part of the game. They also host a gaming conference on campus.
~RPI dorm quad 2

The Dorm Quad

Students must live on campus freshman and sophomore year. The freshman quad has 7 buildings: 6 with doubles, 1 with triples and quads (2 rooms and a bath). Freshmen can’t have cars, but all students have access to the free public transportation, and the school runs shuttles to the Albany airport and the train station.

~RPI dorms 2

Upperclassmen housing

Co-ops are open to all students and are completed over a semester and a summer. During this time, students are not officially enrolled at RPI so they are not taking classes or paying tuition. Co-op students go wherever the company sends them; they’re paid and are sometimes given housing. Only about 30% of students complete this because many don’t’ have time to take a semester off from classes and still graduate on time. Those who do co-ops usually come in with credit or will take some extra classes here and there. Internships mostly are during the summer. Students can get paid OR get credit, but not both. About 70% will complete an internship. About 80% of students who do internships or co-ops end up getting a job with that company.

~RPI engo bldg 1

An Engineering building

Engineering is the largest school at the university with about 50% of each incoming class entering this division. Undecided students can have until the 3rd semester to declare one of the 11 specialties within this department. The school puts a strong emphasis on practicalities with a Professional Development sequence built into the curriculum. For example, some lectures discuss soft skills (presentations, communication, etc.) needed to be successful but are often glossed over in many engineering programs.

~RPI observatory

The Observatory

The Architecture school admits approximately 70-80 students a year. Applicants must submit a creative portfolio of drawing, painting, etc. They don’t want technical or CAD Drawings. Students can choose between the 5-year BArch program or the 4-year Building Science program. BArch students are ready to sit for the certification exam. Students wanting to study off campus can go abroad for a semester in China, India, or Italy, or they go to the CASE program in NYC.

~RPI arts bldg

The new arts building

Business is another small school accepting maybe 50 students per year. The only Bachelor’s degree they offer is in management Tech, but students can minor in subjects at any school as well as complete concentrations within the business school. Students coming out of this program boast an 89% success rate with start-ups.

~RPI playhouse

The RPI Playhouse

The department that most people don’t expect to find at a school like this is Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. They call this the “liberal arts school for the 21st Century.” All students have to take 8 courses (24 credit-hours) in this division. In fact, many students dual major with a major in HASS OR complete a co-terminal degree (BS and MS in 5 years). They’ll Students coming in with AP credits can use some of them towards this requirement. Like in other divisions, they place a strong focus on teamwork and collaboration. For students looking for the co-terminal degrees, RPI extends scholarships and Financial Aid for the 5th year by letting students retain undergrad status.

RPI offers several accelerated programs; students selected to participate in these programs may not double major, and those in the Med program must be US Citizens.

  • The Accelerated-Med program combines 3 years at RPI and 4 years at Albany Medical. Students accepted into this program do not need to take the MCATs. Students must apply as incoming freshmen to this highly competitive program: Only 30-40 students a year are selected from 600 applicants. They do run another program with Mt. Sinai which is less competitive; students can apply once they get to campus.
  • Accelerated Law students have several options: They may major in Business & Management OR in Science, Technology, & Law. Both of these are 3+3 programs starting at RPI and completed at Albany Law, Columbia Law, or Cornell Law (Business only).

© 2015

Sage College of Albany

Sage College of Albany (visited 7/29/15)

~SCA quadWhile I was waiting to talk to the admissions rep and then go out on tour, I had the opportunity to speak with a student who transferred in from a community college, got his Bachelors at Sage, and is now doing grad work here. “I wish I had known to get involved more when I was an undergrad,“ he said.

SCA had been a 2-year college for a long time and had that feel of come, take a few classes, and go again. In WWII when there was a bigger need for medical field training, this school blossomed. It’s now a thriving 4-year college with extensive graduate programs; there are approximately 1500 students split about 50-50 between undergrad and grad.

Old armory

Old armory

I get the feeling that the campus activities program is getting more and more robust all the time. There’s definitely stuff to do on campus, there are several other colleges nearby, and Albany isn’t lacking for things to do – even so, the college is also trying to get more things on campus to bulk up the residential life. The DIII teams get a lot of support from the students, particularly the basketball, soccer, and volleyball teams. The old armory building has artificial turf for winter practices as well as for general student use. They hold things like Spring Carnival and dances there.

~SCA 1The campus is small and easy to navigate. It runs directly into the Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Science campus; they even share some privately owned housing, the University Heights College Suites. While these are technically on the ACPHS campus, they act as kind of the dividing line between the two colleges. Those suites are no more than a 6 or 7 minute walk from any other point on the main SCA campus.

~SCA 2All SCA students can take classes at Russell Sage (the other Sage College located in Troy) and even major in an area offered on that campus. There are some females who choose to be an SCA student and live in Albany but who will major in areas offered at Russell Sage. “I think it’s because of the boys,” said the tour guide. “I think they like the coed environment.” Both places are warm, friendly, and highly supportive. “You feel like a celebrity because everyone is always saying hi,” said the rep. People give hugs. People know who you are, and even professors are called by their first names. It’s a bad place if you don’t want to participate or have people in your business.

~SCA Art&Design“Academics here aren’t siloed,” said the rep. It’s not just art or bio or creative writing. Students can do applied writing with bio, business with art/photo, whatever works for them. A lot of the majors are interdisciplinary by nature already. For example, Writing and Contemporary Thought combines English, Philosophy, and Humanities. Law and Society combines Criminal Justice, psych, pre-law; students pick a track to focus on (ie, L&S with a psych track) so it turns into something close to a Major-Minor pair.

Ceramics Studio

Ceramics Studio

They offer a BFA in Fine Arts, Photography, Interior Design, and Media Design. The studios are spacious and well-stocked. Students even learn to make their own clay.

Students have the option of participating in several linked and/or accelerated programs. Students in the Business department can go on to earn Masters in Health Services, Business, or Organizational Management at Sage. Students interested in a Doctor of Physical Therapy can do a 3+3 or 4+3 program, completing an Applied Biology program at Sage and then continuing on for the DPT. An accelerated JD program with Albany Law is available for qualified students. The accelerated program holds your spot – but you still need to take the LSAT.

Admissions to SCA is test-optional except for linked programs with other schools. If students want to apply when they’re here, they can apply in-house. Generally, the Law program looks for an 1100 and a 90 average.

(c) 2015

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