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Jacksonville University

Jacksonville University (visited 2/12/16)

J'ville waterfrontSitting directly on the St. John’s River (which is one of two rivers that runs north – the other being the Nile), JU’s Marine Science Research Institute is top-notch. The city of Jacksonville is industrial, and the university does a lot to help lower the impact of the city on the local environment. It’s a “sweet water river” which flows out of the swamps. The water’s brown color has nothing to do with pollution; instead, it’s from tannins in the swamps.

J'ville Marine Sci Inst

Marine Science building

J'ville Marine lab

Tanks on the first floor of the Marine Science building.

The Marine Science building is new with amazing resources. The ground floor has tanks, flumes to simulate currents, and more. The 2nd floor has classrooms, labs, and meeting rooms. Several students were there studying; when I spoke to them, they were excited about the major and the school in general. “It’s an 8.5 on a 1-10 scale,” and “Tell your students to come here! The faculty ratio is great,” they said. They love that they can do cross-disciplinary work such as assessments of Coral Reefs: aviation majors fly the drone, engineering students run the tools, marine science majors examine the coral reef health. “There’s also an abnormally high number of people who start their own business,” said the Director of the program.

 

J'ville swing“Trans-disciplinary learning is nothing new here,” said one of the deans. This is the only school in Florida to require a class in economics: “Macro-economics requires a holistic view of the global economics.” The school invests in personal enrichment and community engagement. “The community today is the globe.” This leads to innovative research that students are excited about. “We are at the top 4% nationally for the number of submissions and acceptances for national undergraduate research conferences. We beat all the Ivy-league schools.” They had the highest number of accepted proposals (126) beating out even the top Ivy (Cornell had 115).

Business, Health Sciences, and Fine & Performing Arts are strong

  • Their Kinesiology program is highly hands-on and cross-disciplinary; one well-liked project is the bio-chemical assessment of athletes which lets students in that department work with biology, chemical engineering, and other students.
  • J'ville nursing lab

    Nursing department

    The Nursing department is selective; faculty interviews potential students as part of the admissions process. They have direct entry, but students can also apply during freshman year.

  • Their Emergency Nurse Practitioner program is 1 of only 7 in the country.
  • The Education department has a pre-school on campus for 2-5 year olds; students intern there all the time.
  • Business majors can specialize in International or Sport Business or Accounting.
  • The Fine Art Complex is amazing, including a glass-blowing major and minor. A
    J'ville glass 2

    The glass-blowing studio

    freshman gave us a glass-blowing demonstration and almost finished making a bowl in the 20 minutes we were there. “The oven typically runs at about 2200 degrees; it’s running cool today at 2000.”

  • In additional to the traditional types of art, students can also do sculpture, animation, illustration, and graphic design.
  • They have a Dance major in addition to Theater Arts.
J'ville flight sim 3

The Advanced CRJ simulator

The size and quality of their Aviation Management and Operations major surprised me. Of the 160 students in the program, 22% are women. When asked who attends here versus Embry-Riddle, the Director of the program said, “ERAU is more the engineering, building of aircraft, etc. You can learn to fly at either place, but if you want to learn the business end of things, this is where you want to be.” The flying aspect costs an extra $65,000 over the student’s time at school.

 

J'ville aviation bldg

Inside the Aviation building

NROTC has 54 students who take classes on campus; they’re ready to be commissioned right out of college. They participate in many local events including at the nearby base. They complete 4-6 week training cruises (or an equivalent: a Nursing student spent a summer at Walter Reed) all 3 summers.

J'ville outdoor work area

The outdoor working area with tables and electrical outlets

The new President, an alum, has invested a great deal of money into the university. He had been in the business world for a long time, and he’s invested in making the school better. “Our campus has never looked more beautiful. There are a number of improvements: a new residence hall for freshmen, a new outdoor leisure space (which is used extensively as a study place, and even has electrical outlets), and a new workout center. We’ve also created new scholarships to appropriately reward students.”

J'ville apts 2

Some of the apartment buildings for upperclassmen

There’s a 3-year residency requirement, but many students stay because of the new apartment buildings; the surrounding area also doesn’t get rave reviews, but all students can have cars on campus. The current president sent people up to look at UVA’s dorms and replicated them, adding study spaces, fireplaces, etc. They want to make the most of their location and their buildings. The River House had been the President’s house, but eventually was slated to be taken down for parking. When the current President came in, he nixed that: “we don’t need a parking lot with this view.” It overlooks the water, the campus pool and sand volleyball court, and more. Now it’s used for meetings, the Ratskeller, and more. Lots of students have cars on campus.

J'ville golf practice

The golf practice area

Greek life is very small, but sports are a big deal and they’re very proud of their teams. They currently have 501 student athletes, and 18/20 teams have a 3.0+ GPA. Retention rate among athletes is 94% with a good graduation rate. They’re DI “mid-major” (no PAC, Big 10, etc), including Beach Volleyball, Shooting, and Crew (“The women’s team is great! The men’s team… meh”). Campus has a practice green for golf, intramural fields, even an outdoor workout station. They just hired a Director of Ticketing, Sales, and Game Day Experience; attendance and school spirit is way up. The Athletic Director is also a full-time business professor who talked to us for a few minutes. “We win with honor and win in the classroom.”

J'ville art studio

One of the art studios

Students who have left have done so for a variety of reasons: some had bad experiences with a coach, didn’t want to go to class, wanted to hide in a bigger class, bombed their first year and lost a scholarship, etc. That being said, JU is “pretty good at second chances.” One student spoke of a friend who failed a class and was put on probation but dug her way out of the hole and is doing great now. “Send us your B+ students. We can change their lives.”

© 2016

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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

Adrian College

Adrian College (visited 1/31/15)

~Adrian mall

The “mall”

I had high hopes for Adrian; I had heard the name and knew the basics so I was curious to find out more. I was a little concerned about the retention rate; unfortunately my visit didn’t entirely alleviate my fears in that realm. However, I really liked the students I spoke to, the people in the admission office, and the campus. Athletes, B to B+ students, and students who will get involved and who want small classes will thrive at Adrian.

~Adrian 1~Adrian auditoriumMy tour guide was surprised at how much he loved Adrian. “I really had wanted to go to Notre Dame but didn’t get in. I got into Michigan, had put down my deposit, had a roommate picked out – but then came back here to visit. I changed my mind that day and deposited.” His parents both went to Adrian and were thrilled that he chose to go – and he got a legacy scholarship which helps! People he knows who have left did so for a variety of reasons: some wanted to be closer to home, one joined the army, some thought college wasn’t for them. A lot of football players were recruited from Florida and hated the winters in Michigan.

~Adrian mural

Mural outside the Student Center

fabric samples for Interior Design students

fabric samples for Interior Design students

The campus is nice, even in the middle of winter. Every year, they hold a Creativity Awards contest. The winner gets $10,000 to improve campus. So far winners included a large mural outside the student center, bike racks/bike share, International Walkway with things written in multiple languages, etc. “During the year, there’s something like 1000 flower baskets,” said the tour guide. “I wish you could see it then. All the art on campus is student-created. They have an extensive art program with a dance studio, photo labs, pre-architecture, and Interior Design. One studio has 90 styles of lighting for the architecture students! Music is also big here, and the city of Adrian has a symphony that uses the college’s theater.

Adrian Thinker

The Thinker in front of the Theater

~Adrian stud centr 2

The new student center; study boxes are on the upper left

The oldest building on campus, once a stop on the Underground Railroad, is a three-story stone building now used as the theatre. They do a great job refurbishing buildings for updated purposes. The student center is the old gym. They spectator boxes are now study boxes that are open 24/7. The Salon in the basement advertises “nails, hair, and tanning.” The Starbucks in the first floor takes flex bucks.

About 20% of the students go Greek. “There are a lot of Greeks in Admissions. They tend to be most involved in campus life. They love the school.”

Adrian baseball practice

Baseball practice

Almost 2/3 of the students are athletes and there’s a lot of support for the teams. There was a cheer competition in the gym as we went through around 10am on a Saturday. Several girls had pulled exercise bikes over outside the glass doors to watch as they worked out. Adrian’s hockey rink is the only one in the area, so community teams use it as well. A Community Team was using it that morning. 200 Adrian students play hockey on one of 6 teams (4 men, 2 women). They have DI club teams for both men and women; varsity is DIII. They also have synchronized skating and figure skating. Hope is the big rival. They’re quadrupling the size of the weight room (it’s currently tiny).

~Adrian quad

Quad and the library

A popular study area in the Science Building

A popular study area in the Science Building

The tour guide’s largest class was 30 in his Intro to Sociology class. Smallest were 6 (Freshman Writing) and 3 (upper level Econ). “They’re getting rid of the Econ major, so I’m taking a lot of upper level classes and individucal studies so I can finish before they phase it out.” He took Kitchen Chemistry – they did a lot of baking to experiment with how different things influenced the outcome; they ate an fruit that blocked most taste receptors and ate different foods before and after to test this; worked with yeast, etc. He loved his Movies and Culture class in which they discussed social aspects of films starting back in the 30s.

~Adrian dorms

The convenience store on campus with dorms in the background

There are lots of housing options. The freshman dorms are traditional style and old. “I think they’re the same buildings my parents lived in when they were here.” However, after first year, students can live in dorms, apartments, one of 24 theme houses (which can be as small as 4 students), themed houses, fraternities, etc. There are also plenty of flexible meal options. One style is Block Style (students get a certain number of swipes per semester which can be used back-to-back if they want to swipe in a guest). Another style is the 14- or 18-meal-per-week (which can be used once every 4 hours). “The quality of the food is fine but it gets boring.”

~Adrian chapel interior

Chapel

This started as a Methodist school but is now loosely affiliated at best. My tour guide was a Methodist and will go downtown to services; Catholic students often go over to Siena Heights University which is a few miles down the road. There’s a non-denominational service on Wednesdays in which a religion student will give the sermon. Students can bring lunch to chapel.

~Adrian music wing

The music wing: offices and practice rooms.

Their Accounting and Business program is strong with 11 concentrations to choose from including Event & Facilities Management, Health Care Management, Sports Management, and Fashion Merchandising. The Director of Entrepreneurship brought Dominos and Little Ceasars pizza to Israel before he started to teach. Criminal Justice, Social Work, and Art History are also worth noting.

The college offers several Internal Masters (open only to Adrian students). Several students will use the Athletic Training and Industrial Chemistry Masters as a gateway to Med School. 98% of students get placed in med schools or in to the health field upon graduation.

(c) 2015

University of Mississippi

OleMiss (visited 4/19/13)

OleMiss stadiumThis was one of the best Info Sessions I’ve attended (WashU being the other one competing for the top spot). Jasmine, one of the Admissions Reps, was bubbly and personable, and she related well to the people in the room. As a 2010 grad of OleMiss, she spoke intelligently about being there as a student as well as from a Rep’s standpoint. She said that she didn’t even consider OleMiss until she took a school trip here but is thrilled that she made the choice to attend. “Except for the bees flying around, it’s perfect!” She described it as the best of both worlds – the small school feel with the large public school benefits. If you walk around The Grove, you get the small liberal-artsy school feel, but on weekends, you’re going to school with 60,000 friends. She said the school size is perfect: it’s a good medium-school size (16,000 undergrads) with all the options and opportunities that go with that, but not so large that she wouldn’t be able to meet people or recognize other students. She joked that “If I saw a guy walking around, I wanted to be able to stalk him on facebook.”

OleMiss 4

Where the famous OleMiss tailgating happens

OleMiss archOur tour guide was a junior from Massachusetts who came to OleMiss because she was recruited for the Rifle team and is thrilled with her decision. The school spirit is intense on campus. Tailgating is a huge deal; people rush the Grove and stake out spots; it’s an all-day event, and she loves that alum will come back all the time, and she loves that she always gets to meet new people. (However, football isn’t the only sport getting attention. I had parked near the tennis courts, and there was a match going on – the stands were packed, and there was a LOT of enthusiasm in cheering for the players). Our tour guide also loves the other traditions on campus, including the fact that there are 25 things to do before graduating, “not all of which are technically allowed” such as jumping in the fountain. She also appreciates that you can get anywhere on campus in 10 minutes (amazing for a larger state university), but if people don’t feel like walking, they can take the shuttles that run every 11 minutes. She brought a car for her first semester (parking is $80 for the year), then took it home second semester and left it because it was more hassle than it was worth. When asked what she would like to do to improve campus, she said, “Knock down one of the older dorms and build a garage . . . oh, and get more guys!” (The freshman class is 75% women this year!).

OleMiss studentsOxford is very much a college town and is ranked as the safest place in the SE Conference and #9 in the nation. The university has a family feel and the study body is “super-diverse.” Forty percent come from outside of Mississippi (TX, TN, AL, GA, FL, LA, MO, CA, IL, and AR are heavily represented). She said that OleMiss feels very much like Alabama both in terms of how people treat each other and the town (Auburn is like Oxford) but Alabama is much bigger, and some of the majors offered at the campuses differ a bit. Sixty-two percent of students come in as undecided, and entering a major or switching is easy, particularly within the same college, but depending on requirements and when the switch is made, it may take a little extra time to finish the degree, and it’s sometimes easier to switch out of a major than getting into it (business, for example). Some of the majors that Ole Miss is particularly known for are:

  • OleMiss 1

    One of the Academic Buildings

    Liberal Studies: for students who want to create their own Major or combine several interests, they can complete 3 minors which becomes their Major.

  • Forensic Chemistry: ranked #2 in the country
  • Integrating Marketing and Communications: This combines Business and journalism
  • Center for Manufacturing Excellence: This competitive program combines engineering and business, teaching them the lingo of the other field so they can work together.
  • Political Science and preLaw: They have the 5th oldest law school in the country, and a HUGE network in politics (all but 5 Mississippi politicians went to OleMiss Law).
  • Languages: Chinese and Arabic are ranked at #1.
  • International Studies is ranked at #7. The Croft Institute is competitive; students must study abroad and take a language in this major.
  • Accounting offers a 5-year BA/MBA with a 100% job placement rate.
  • Pharmacy: they have an early-admit program which is competitive.
  • Engineering
  • Medical professions (OleMiss has the only medical, dental, and pharmacy school in the state). 79% acceptance rate into med school.
  • Journalism: Students in this major can specialize in anything, but they have to take classes in everything (digital media, interviewing, filming, etc).
  • Education: Students major in their teaching area, and then spend 1 additional year getting an EDU MA. Certification reciprocity works everywhere but TX and FL.

OleMiss3Students can apply as early as July 1 after Junior year. The application is straight-forward: no essays, no recs, no list of activities. Simply hit submit and pay the application fee. Once this is done, they’ll send an email which asks for three years of transcripts and the senior schedule (they’ll take this through Naviance/edocs, faxed, or mailed) and scores. Once the file is complete, they’ll let applicants know within a couple weeks. If you meet the basic requirements by completing the required number of high school courses (non-MS residents don’t need the Computer App class), have a 20 ACT or 980 SAT (single sitting – they do not superscore), and a 2.5 GPA, you’re in. Once you’re admitted, you can access the scholarship application. Students coming in with AP scores can get credit for 3s or better, but to guarantee credits for a specific class, get a 4 or 5.

OleMiss volleyballThe honors college is one of the most popular programs, and is ranked #12 in the country. Entry is highly competitive: 4000 students applied last year for 300 spots. To even get LOOKED at, students need a 28 ACT and 3.5 GPA, but last year, maybe 15 accepted students didn’t have a 30 on the ACT; the average score was a 31. Once a student is identified as having the minimum requirements, they need to get recommendations and write essays. The Admissions rep also said that students need to show real involvement outside of school: “Do some REAL stuff this summer! Teach kids English, back-flip off the Empire State Building, something!” Students accepted in the program are go-getters at college, too: there have been 25 Rhodes scholars (only Vanderbilt has more from the Conference) plus Goldwater and Truman winners, among others.

OleMiss 2

The newest Residential buildings on campus, opened in 2012

Millsaps quadFreshmen must live on campus and are required to have a meal plan. Our tour guide loves the food: “you can’t go hungry!” Options include traditional dining halls, a food court with choices like Topios, frozen yogurt, Chick Fil-A, a burger place, etc. There are several tiers to the meal plans. The lowest is the Greek Meal Plan which is heavy in fall, light in spring (and recommended if you’re planning on going Greek); plans extend up all the way through the 21 meals per week. There are also several levels of living options. Residential Colleges are suite-style and the most expensive. The traditional style dorms (bathroom down the hall) is cheapest; these are cinderblock buildings with large lounges (home of Monday Night Football parties and Open Mic nights), and large laundry facilities in the basement. Although there are only about 15 machines for the whole 7-storey building, one of the guides said he’s never had trouble getting a machine. “Contemporary Housing” is in between these two, and just opened this past year. Rooms are slightly bigger and each has its own bathroom. Students have to be in a Freshman Interest Group (FIG – there are 2) or a LLC (7 of those) to live there. Each has a kitchen and several study rooms. Greek Life is big, and there are about 20 Greek Houses lining the aptly named street “Fraternity Row,” and several more houses on the other side of campus near the Residential Colleges. Sophomore Pledge Classes each have a floor in one of the dorms. The newer dorms are attractive and clean, and fit in with the style of some of the other buildings around campus.

(c) 2013

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