campus encounters

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Archive for the tag “Agricultural Science”

University of New Hampshire

University of New Hampshire (visited 10/17/16)


Students stretch out in the grass in front of the UNH sign and main building


Food trucks get tucked around campus

UNH should be on far more people’s radars. This is just an amazing school. I liked the vibe here; students were friendly, outgoing, outdoorsy (including just wanting to be out and about on campus), and smart. For a state school, it is not an overwhelming size, either physically or in population numbers. It’s beautiful with a mix of historic and new buildings, with facilities that offer a great deal to the students in the academic and social realms.


unh-2There’s something to be said for the liberal arts within a comprehensive research university. Students who are most successful here want to be challenged and stretch themselves in and out of the classroom. Students who like UVM should also seriously consider UNH. It won’t disappoint; they take care of students, and students want to stay. Freshman-to-sophomore retention (86%) and graduation rates (67% in 4 years, 79% 6-year) are above average.


Not an uncommon scene on campus: students were everywhere!

Last year, applications topped 20,000 for the first time with the out-of-state population growing. Part of this is demographic (there are fewer college-aged students in NH); the other part is reputation. In the admission process, they focus mainly on the transcript: have students taken the minimum (at least!) and done well (looking for mostly Bs or better)? The SAT/ACT is not crucial for admission, but comes more into play for merit awards. They only require 1 letter, preferably from the counselor. In terms of admissions, Nursing and OT are the most competitive to get into.



Shuttles get students around campus, but it’s also very walkable

A major distinction for UNH is its location and size. The physical campus size is manageable, but more than that, there are so many options accessible to campus. They’re only 30 minutes from the ocean and beaches, and the mountains and urban areas aren’t much further. Portsmouth, a medium-sized city, is 20 minutes away, and students can use UNH transportation to get there. There’s even an Amtrak stop on campus; students can be in Boston in an hour, or head up the coast into Maine to Portland or Freeport (home of LLBean!).



One of the dorms

Housing is guaranteed for 2 years. Of course there are lots of social options, as at any school of this size (13,000 undergrads at the Durham campus; there are about 1,000 more at the non-residential Manchester campus). Something the students appreciate is that “One thing doesn’t dominate campus: we have Greek life, we have football and hockey, etc – but none of those dominate the others. You don’t have to belong to a certain group or do a certain thing to belong here.” Only 10% of students go Greek. Hockey is one of the most popular sports.



One of the engineering labs

This is a great option for students who want engineering at a medium school. However, their excellent academic choices and resources go far beyond that. Started in 1866 as New Hampshire’s Land Grant institution, UNH has now also earned Sea and Space Grant designations and offers over 100 majors. It’s not surprising that the College of Life Sciences and Agriculture options are strong and varied, including EcoGastronomy, Sustainable agriculture and food systems, and Marine, Estuarine, and Freshwater Biology.


unh-hammockTheir sustainability efforts are amazing: they get almost ¼ of their food from local and/or organic sources, and they’re the first land-grant school to have an organic dairy farm, and they make their own ice cream on campus. They gave us scoops for dessert; not only did they have great flavor options, but it tasted better than most I’ve tried!

Discovery is their Core curriculum, comprised of 11 disciplines they need to take classes in, including a World Cultures class (which can be fulfilled with study abroad – they offer over 600 options) and a Capstone or “Integrative Understanding.” Research is defined broadly here: they call original projects (musical compositions or a business proposal) as “research.”

unh-loungeResources are strong across the board, but Ocean Engineering and Marine Biology have some unique resources at students’ disposal. UNH co-runs the Isle of Shoals Marine Lab with Cornell University. Students spend a great deal of time researching out there, particularly in the summer (they can live on the island!). The Ocean Engineering labs have 2 wave pools; the military even asks to use this for research. Computer Science students have labs to try to break into a variety of systems as part of CyberSecurity training.

© 2016

Ferrum College

Ferrum College (visited 11/5/16)

ferrum-chapel-2Ferrum is “small but has connections I appreciate.” It’s safe, friendly (“people talk to each other”), and not so big that you get lost in the crowd. The mission is about access for a range of abilities: “The college was set up by Methodists (a socially-engaged religion) to give students in this part of the state access to higher education. It’s about people and upholding the historical mission.” Students are 60% PELL eligible and 30% First Gen. It’s a diverse, inclusive community. Currently, they only have about a 60% retention rate that they’re actively trying to improve with the Gateway Seminar which provides mentors for freshmen.


An intramural field with a dorm in the background

Sports are a fairly big part of the culture here. “I was told that 75% play sports, but it’s less than that,” said one student on the panel. “Maybe it hits that high if you add in all the intramurals and clubs.” One student said he’s like to see more funding for club sports: “I had to pay for a lot of things out of pocket.” Ferrum live-streams away games so students can watch from campus. One of the students who came originally to play sports (and no longer does) says, “Sports were grueling, but one of the most rewarding things on campus.”

ferrum-fountainPeople do plenty of things beyond sports. This is a mostly residential campus so students are active in clubs and activities. Most upperclassmen dorms are great, but the students seemed to agree that the freshmen dorms could be improved. Off campus, there are plenty of outdoor activities; Ferrum definitely play up their location among the Virginia Blue Ridge Mountains. They do have “some equipment” that students can use for free, but it didn’t sound like a lot. Freshmen can have cars on campus, and they also have a bus system. Parking “is there, but it isn’t always great.”


The pond with dorms in the background. The Blue Ridge Institute and Museum are also on that side of campus

The overwhelming favorite tradition on campus was the Blue Ridge Folklife Festival. It’s an annual event with Appalachian Mountain activities. Everyone gets involved and volunteers. “I’ve been coming to the festival since I was born. It was another reason to come to Ferrum,” said one student on the panel. Another from out of state said, “I’m understanding more about the culture all the time.” When I asked our tour guide about any other traditions or annual events, she finally said that Homecoming and the bonfire on the intramural field was usually well attended, but other than that, there wasn’t much.

ferrum-chapelChapel services are held on Monday nights (“What college student wants to get up on a Sunday morning?” said the tour guide) and are optional. However, students do need to take a Bible-based class (“We use the King James version”) and a religion/philosophy-based course.

ferrum-labThe tour guide’s classes ranged from 8-22 students. Her anatomy class was her favorite: they got 2 bodies from the Body Farm in Kentucky to work on. Some students would like to see the academic programs expanded. The majors that are offered are fairly standard with a few exceptions: In their School of Natural Sciences and Math, they offer Agricultural Sciences (“ the farm has 12 head of cattle and 6 sheep. I’d like to see the livestock numbers improve,” said one student), Forensic Science, and Environmental Planning and Development. Democracy, Justice, and Civil Engagement as well as Recreation Leadership are housed in the Social Sciences and Professional Studies Department.

ferrum-dorm-extThere are a few more unusual minors such as coaching, ecotourism, and Russian Area Studies.

The Honors Program requires students to study abroad (it can be in the E-term, a semester, or a year); they’re provided with a $3000 scholarship to go abroad. Honors students live in the same dorm.

E-Term, a 3-week term in May, lets students go abroad or study away. One student went on the International Comparative Law trip to England. Others have gone to the US Virgin Islands (Tropical Marine Ecology) and to Ireland. Other students take advantage of semester and year-long study abroad or study away programs. One of the students on the panel was planning on spending a semester at the American in DC and wants to intern with the Supreme Court.

© 2016

University of Wisconsin – Madison

University of Wisconsin – Madison (visited 4/15/15)

~UWM food trucks

Food trucks line one of the streets going through campus.

~UMW dormsUW-M is a typical large, sprawling state university that is integrated into the city of Madison. A current student gave great advice for survival on such a big campus: “Don’t be afraid to ask questions and advocate for yourself! You can make the campus small but you have to work for it.” Students who do well are willing to stick up for themselves and to think about how to make choices. They have to be able to sort through a lot of options. The university will try to make students aware of opportunities, but the students have to go out and take advantage of them. It seemed that students are taking advantage of things that are there. Students were everywhere (not difficult with an undergraduate population of just over 30,000 students), including hanging out in the union late into Wednesday night, reading, talking, etc.

~UWM 1~UMW balconyMadison has the same college-town vibe as Ann Arbor and some other cities with flagship universities. There’s a lot within walking distance; city streets run through campus. One counselor asked about the school’s party reputation; the tour guide said, “there are students who want to do that. State Street (a 6-block pedestrian area) has a good bar scene and great ethnic restaurants.” There was a definite sense that he was dodging the issue. I asked for the real scoop; he just said, “there’s drinking at any school.” Several of us discussed this later and felt like we were being given the canned, prescribed answer . . . as one counselor said, “Not answering is an answer in itself.” Later in the visit, someone asked another student about the types of discussions people had about a variety of topics, in or out of class. Did it seem like the university, faculty, and/or students want to discuss diversity, typical college topics (like the sexual assaults in the news), etc? Her answer: “It seems that if people want to participate in that discussion, they can, but there’s no real comprehensive discussions about other points of view, wellness, sexual assault, or any of that.”

2 of the dorms buildings

2 of the dorms buildings

Most new students (93%) live in campus housing but are not required to do so; about 75% of all residents are new students. There are 19 residence halls (4 first-year only, 4 upperclass only, the rest mixed years) split into Lakeside (“the peaceful and more traditional side,” said one student) and Southeast Neighborhoods. Ten are Learning Communities, including Women in Science and Engineering, GreenHouse, Open House: Gender Learning, and Career Kickstart. Students in LCs complete a 1-3 credit learning component taught by live-in faculty.

One of the few areas with an expanse of green

One of the few areas with an expanse of green

About 20% of students enroll in a First-Year Interest Group, or “FIG” which includes 3 thematically-arranged classes on one of about 60 tthemes. “I heart FIG,” said one student. “To this day, I have a group of students I keep in contact with. We study together, help each other out, still talk to the professor. He even came to zumba with us.” Clearly the university is doing something right: 95% of freshmen return for sophomore year – although they attract passionate students who are committed to education in the first place.

~UMW sculpturesIn terms of the academics, one student said, “It’s super competitive here. Everyone here was at the top of their class in high school.” Over 4000 courses are offered; 10% have under 10 and another 10% have more than 100. Each college within the university has an Honors program; students admitted to the university will be invited to apply. Like all large universities, there are a ton of options for majors, minors, and certificates across colleges:

  • Agricultural and Life Sciences (notable programs: Ag Business Management, Community and Environmental Sociology, Life Sciences Communication, Landscape Architecture)
  • Business (including Operations and Technology Management, and Real Estate and Urban Land Economics)
  • Education (Notable programs: Rehabilitation Psychology, Athletic Training, and Communication Sciences and Disorders)
  • Engineering (unusual programs: Geological, Naval, Nuclear, and Materials Science)
  • Human Ecology (including Textiles and Fashion Design, Community and Nonprofit Leadership)
  • Letters and Science (unusual programs include Social Work; Cartography and Geographic Information Systems; Medical Microbiology and Immunology; Applied Math, Engineering, and Physics; and History of Science, Medicine, and Technology)
  • Nursing
  • Pharmacy (undergrads can earn a B.S. in Pharmacology-Toxicology)
  • Journalism and Mass Communications
A statue of Lincoln overlooking the original section of the campus. The tradition is to rub his foot for luck and take graduations pictures at the statue.

A statue of Lincoln overlooking the original section of the campus. Students rub his foot for luck and take graduation pictures at the statue.

One of the coolest academic facts is that 87 languages are taught here including several African Languages (Swahili, Zulu, Hausa, Arabic, Yoruba, and more), Ojibwe through the American Indian Studies program, all the Scandinavian languages (including Sami, Icelandic, and Old Norse), and several Slavic languages (Czech, Polish, Russian, and Serbian/Croatian). Students can receive retroactive credit by testing into and taking a higher level class (ie, if they test into 202, they’ll get credit for all 4 classes for taking 202).

There’s a huge sports culture here, as you might guess. The crew team rows right by campus; we saw boats go by from our reception in the union. The students said that the only real traditions they could think of revolve around sports: band performances are huge; they have “5th Quarter” which sounds like an after-game party/event. The only other tradition one student could think of was “Battle for Bascum” which is a giant snowball fight between the Lakeside and Downtown dorms.

~UMW crew teamDespite the number of applicants, admissions is holistic. Because of the competitive, selective nature of the school, “we do have to make split some hairs sometimes when making admissions decisions,” said one admissions rep. Numbers alone do not determine admissibility but do guide the process.

~UMW pedestrian mallThe admissions office believes that the more students do in high school and their communities, the more they’ll contribute to campus. They’re looking for people who have dug deep and found roots – in other words, quality of involvement over quantity. They look at essays to see if students write concisely at a college level. Recommendations are not required, but the most serious students send them (please don’t send more than two!).

They won’t recalculate GPA but don’t hold unweighted GPAs against applicants. They no longer require the writing section of the ACT (and won’t for the new SAT, either).

Scholarship applications are separate and can be found at This must be completed every year that a student wants merit-based aid. Wisconsin and Minnesota grants reciprocity for in-state tuition. However, they have a total allowable non-resident enrollment rate of 27.5%.

UW-M works on Notification Periods, NOT early action! Apply by 11/2, hear by end of January; apply by 2/1, hear by end of March. They may “postpone” (aka defer) during the first round; they will rarely waitlist a student who has already been deferred, but it can happen.

(c) 2015

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