North Carolina A&T University (visited 3/22/13)
Several things surprised me about NCA&T. First, I had driven by campus and had seen a tiny portion of it; from this small glimpse and from what I had heard from others, I expected the campus to be fairly ugly. It wasn’t! Second, as an A&T, I expected the sciences to be strong (and they are), but they have an impressive array of other majors and programs as well.
The Greensboro 4 statue
The newest dorms on campus, named for the Greensboro Four
Most of the campus is beautiful. There are a few older buildings that could use work, but those are being taken care of bit by bit. There is a lot of construction going on around campus. A new Union is being built and the school recently completed several new dorms; the four newest and nicest are named after the Greensboro 4, the students from A&T credited for starting the Sit-In movement at the Woolworths counter in downtown Greensboro. They have a large statue memorializing the Greensboro-Four, and every year on February First, they commemorate the sit-in. The three men who are still living come back to campus every year, and after a large breakfast on campus, the three lead a march to the Woolworth’s (which is now the International Civil Rights Museum, complete with most of the original counter – part of it has been donated to the Smithsonian US History Museum).
The new Union building
There are lots of open spaces and gathering places for students to congregate. “The Bowl” is a large space near the new union; this used to be the school’s football field and is now used for large campus events – fairs, orientation, etc. There were lots of students using these spaces and interacting with each other on the day I visited, even though it was chilly. People really seemed to enjoy being on campus, even though no one is required to live on campus. The dorms are decent with both traditional and suite style to choose from, and most people who want to live on campus can. They also have several theme-based Learning Living Communities. Interested students fill out application and agree to certain aspects of behavior. Students find that this helps them to focus. The tour guides (we had two) both agreed that the food is good, and there’s plenty of variety. Campus is safe; gates close at 11pm so students need ID to drive onto campus, and officers will ask students they see walking around at night for ID, as well. Neither tour guide could remember anyone ever needing to use the blue lights. There was one incident last year off campus involving A&T students but nothing has happened on campus that they’ve heard about.
For the first hour of the counselor day, about a dozen students had research posters set up around the room where we were eating breakfast. Some sat and ate with us before getting up to stand with their posters to explain their research. I had a chance to talk to about eight of them during the hour. A sampling of what these students were doing include:
- A sophomore Agricultural Education Major. These majors are usually in high demand, and since she’s already done internships in the field, she has a job waiting for her when she graduates as long as she keeps a 3.0. “If you’re an Ag major and you don’t have an internship every single summer or if you graduate without a job offer – it’s something YOU’RE doing wrong. There are a ton of opps.”
- A sophomore Computer Engineering major who completed her research in a different department helping to analyze handwriting by using a computer matrix. She’s from Maryland, and was ready to go to GMU but was tempted here for a summer program attracting women into engineering. She and her cohorts got a full semester of college under their belts before they started. She LOVES it here and is glad she came. She can’t imagine anything better.
- A senior engineering major who designed a robot to enter into a competition and proudly showed off the robot which was able to pick up materials and sort according to color.
- A Social Work major and Philosophy minor who, as a freshman, has already done quite a bit of original research and oral histories of people in the foster care system, and has presented at several major conferences such as the Daniel Memorial National Foster Care Conference in Canada, the UPenn Multi-disciplinary conference, NACAC, and more.
One of the newest Academic buildings
One of the many eating places on campus, with an attached courtyard.
The students couldn’t say enough good things about A&T. They gushed about classes, professors, academic and social opportunities, and the city. Their class sizes ranged from 6 to 60. The best classes that a couple students said they had taken taken include Soil Science (she said it was really hard, but she walked away with a lot) and a Hazmat class (mostly grad students so it really pushed him). I had a chance to ask some of them what they would like to change. An agriculture major wanted more money invested in the A&T farm: “a lot of students don’t even know we have a farm.” An engineering major wanted more equipment because the technology is changing so fast. Another wanted more money for scholarships. Although there are several available, students who get merit aid are really the top of the top; he would like more students to be able to afford to go. I asked our tour guides how they felt about the administration’s push towards more diversity. A&T is a HBCU, and they’re trying to get more racial/ethnic diversity. He said it was a good thing, and went on to talk about the diversity already on campus. There’s a bunch of religious and political diversity already, and students come from across the country. There’s so much of this geographic diversity that they actually have clubs based on where people are from (like the 336 Club is the local group named after the area code).
The application process is fairly straightforward. Students can use the Common App or, for NC residents, through CFNC. The application fee is waived during CFNC week! However, if students are going to do this, don’t start an app through CA. When students start two apps, A&T will attach a transcript to the FIRST app started, so the app submitted through CFNC will register as missing documents and this will slow down the process. The UNC system has set minimum guidelines for all state schools: 2.5 GPA and SAT 800 (M&CR) or ACT 17, but each university can create thresholds above that. NC A&T, like lots of other state schools, is becoming more competitive. Applications are up almost 40% from last year. The average GPA is up from a 3.2 to 3.4. SAT is up a bit; ACT is about the same. About a quarter of accepted students are the top 5th of the class. Because of the increasing competitiveness, denied students who want to appeal need to write a letter and attach new academic information (new test scores, new grade report with a higher GPA, etc). Otherwise, it’s just like saying, “please” which is nice, but won’t get you far in this situation. The Director will read all appeals and respond.
There are 6 academic schools and programs within the university:
- Honors: Students take 24 honors credit which includes two required interdisciplinary seminars. The classes are smaller, they have a specialized lecture series, they have a dedicated Fellowship/Scholarship advisor, and students tend to do better and progress more quickly towards a degree. To get in, students need a 3.75 GPA and a 1160 SAT (CR&M) or a 26 ACT, and must maintain a 3.5 to stay in the program.
- Agriculture: This is the world’s largest industry. “We’ll have to produce more in the next 30 years than we have in the last 10,000 years.” There’s a lot of variety of majors that fall within this school. Family and Consumer Sciences falls under this school. They also have the only accredited landscape architecture undergraduate program in NC. There is also a 540 acre farm not far from campus. They do agricultural work and also have 8 species of animals such as goats, emus, cattle, and poultry. This is a learning-lab, so it’s very much a hands-on place. Students learn about plant and soil quality, forestry, etc. The equine riding and training team is housed there, as well.
- Nursing: This has been going for 60 years. Students need a 3.0 GPA and a 930 SAT for entrance. Students are admitted into Pre-Nursing and remain there during the Lower Division (Fr/So years). The minimum GPA is a 2.8 to apply into the Upper Level Nursing program, but they really need a 3.0 to be competitive. 85-90% of students persist and graduate.
- Arts and Sciences: this is the largest college at A&T with about 1/3 of the students. Most of the minors (which is a new thing at A&T) are in the A&S college. They don’t have majors in foreign languages anymore, but they can minor in French and Spanish and can take elementary Japanese. Their Secondary Teacher Education program is in the A&S division since students major in a subject area found within the school.
- Technology: One of their unusual majors is Applied Engineering and Built Environments. They also offer architecture. Students can be admitted directly to the Technology School with 1000 SAT and 3.0 GPA.
- Education/Human Performance and Leisure Studies: This is one of the fastest growing departments on campus. Majors include Pre-Physical Therapy, Hotel Management, Tourism, Parks and Rec Admin, Business Admin, Athletic Training, Sports Management/Athletic Management, and Elementary Education.