campus encounters

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Archive for the tag “BFA”

Arcadia University

Arcadia University (visited 2/26/19)

Arcadia 1This is a hidden gem that I wish more people knew about. This is the school that will take care of its students, provide tools to succeed, and give them a chance to develop their voices and their passions.

My tour guide is from Nevada and transferred from UN Las Vegas. That’s a huge switch, so I asked how she found Arcadia. She said that she was really unhappy at UNLV and told her sister (who lives in the area) that she was dropping out of school; her sister told her that “No way is that happening!” and took her on college tours in Eastern PA. As soon as she got to Arcadia, she knew. She’s now a senior and couldn’t be happier that she ended up here.

Arcadia global business“UNLV was easy, and I was expecting to fly through classes here, but I got a C on my first paper. I was devastated. I had never gotten a C in my life! I almost dropped out. But my professors pulled me in to work on my writing. I learned how to pull apart an argument and present it. I may not write that way all the time, but it made me a better writer overall and I’m so much more confident now.” All students have to write a Senior Thesis (“the bio majors start in Junior year because it’s so difficult.”). She wrote hers on class ranking and discrimination in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

Arcadia library and flags

The library

The tour guide’s favorite class was Education and Inequality; “I took it because I’m interested in the subject even though it’s not in my major.” The campus itself seems to be incredibly inclusive. “There’s a lot of activism here,” she told me. When I talked with the rep after the tour, she told me, “We have a strong LGBTQ community on campus. The new president is very much social-justice oriented.”

Arcadia castle 1

T

Arcadia is perhaps best known for its global perspective. Flags hang all over campus “representing countries where our students or faculty are from or places students have studied.” Students must take a language at least through the 102 level; they offer about 8 languages, including ASL. They rank as #1 for number of students going abroad. Wording is important here: not everyone goes abroad, and some go more than once. (Compare this to Goucher in MD which requires EVERY student to study abroad; they just have a smaller student population!). However, this does not minimize Arcadia’s commitment to global perspectives, getting students out of their comfort zones, etc. Not surprisingly, they offer a Certificate in Peace Corps Prep.

 

Arcadia pondThey offer a First Year Study Abroad Experience (FYSAE) in London and Sterling. Students are identified as candidates in the admission process and offered a spot. Sterling is capped at 15 students; London has more flexibility because it’s run by Arcadia. They are implementing a new Second Year program (SYSAE) in 6 locations but with more stipulations on which majors are eligible (some examples: bio, education, and nursing can’t go). Students interested in SYSAE interview as part of the application. “It’s just another layer to make sure they’re ready for it,” said the rep.

Arcadia quad stu and castle

The main quad with the Castle to the left and new Student Center to the right.

They offer traditional semester and year-long programs, “but for students who want to try out travel or aren’t sure they’re ready, there are spring travel classes,” my tour guide told me. Spring Preview classes are open to any student in their first year at Arcadia (freshman or transfer) and costs $595 (cheaper for students in the Honors College) regardless of location: this covers airfare, the hotel, most meals, and any scheduled group activities. My tour guide went to London on one of these and then did a semester abroad in her Junior year.

 

Gray Towers Castle (a National Historic Landmark) which had been their home. (Fun fact: Creed 2 was filmed in this building). The 3rd floor of the Castle is a dorm – for first-year students! “In keeping with the way the owners set up the house – with his side and her side – the males are housed on one side and females on the other.” Males are in quads; females have rooms ranging from 2-7! The tour guide was quick to point out that the room with 7 is huge, and she showed me a room on the first floor of equivalent size.

 

The Arts Department is housed in two buildings, one of which is older than the Castle. The Power House (it had actually powered the Castle) has traditional/2D (painting, etc); the other houses 3D (ceramics, etc). Students can earn either a BFA or BA in Art or Theater. The largest auditorium (400 seats) is an annex to the building; my tour guide loves the theater program. “I go to every production. They do such a good job!” They now offer a musical theater concentration. They have extensive offerings in the Arts including Pre-Art Therapy, Arts Entrepreneurship and Curatorial Studies, and Scientific Illustration.

Arcadia stack house 2

One of the Arts Buildings with the theater annex to the right.

I didn’t realize that Arcadia had such strong graduate PT and PA programs (PT is ranked #2 in Pennsylvania). They pair with UPenn to run a clinic on Arcadia’s campus. Undergrads are “almost assured entrance” into the program; they offer both a 3+3 and 4+3 Pre-PT/DPT. They have also paired with Drexel Law School to offer either an Accelerated 3+3 BA/JD or an Assured Admission 4+3. Entrance is extremely competitive to these: Students must have a minimum of a 1330 SAT or 28 ACT and 3.5GPA and graduation in the top 10% of the class (if the high school ranks).

Arcadia old wellTheir new Student Center (which is geo-thermically heated/cooled as well as having light sensors and other green initiatives) opened in 2011 and has a lot of comfortable spaces for students. One of the large lounges was almost full when we walked through. All the student engagement offices are there. She was very happy with the number of things to do on campus: a couple favorite events were Laser Tag (spring) and Carnival (fall). Night Madness and Midnight Bingo – held at least once a month – “are huge here! They give away amazing prizes!” Weekends are fun. “You don’t see students much in the daytime – because you realize that they’re sleeping all morning – but they come out at night!”

If anything, the tour guide would love to see renovations in the dorms. There were several dorm clusters where 2 or 3 dorms are linked; the buildings we walked through looked like typical dorms, but the rooms were more spacious than many I’ve seen. In some dorms, the beds can’t be fully bunked because of the height of the ceilings (lower than some but didn’t feel claustrophobic), but students can add risers. Food is pretty good here, but the dining hall is kind of small for 2300 undergrads. They do have a cool program for the use of to-go containers (they don’t provide things that can be thrown out). Students can buy a reusable container for $5. They can bring it back after using it to get cleaned; they’re given a token/coin that they can then turn in for a clean container when they need it to go again.

© 2019

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Suffolk University

Suffolk University (visited 9/14/17)

Suffolk 1“Students here demonstrate a fair amount of common sense,” said one of the professors. “They’re not afraid to work hard because they already work to pay to be here.” Suffolk is a truly urban school with its buildings integrated into the city of Boston. “This is like an NYU but with a small liberal arts mission.”

Students who want a school with a campus should look elsewhere: “This is the wrong place if that’s what you’re looking for, but it’s a perfect place if you want all the resources of an urban environment.” Its main building used to be a corporate office building that the university has been taking over as other companies’ leases run out. Students have to present their IDs to get into most of the campus buildings which are all within two blocks.

Suffolk lobby

The lobby of the main academic building.

Suffolk got its start as a law school in 1906; their mission followed shortly thereafter: giving opportunities to people who may not otherwise have them. There is a great deal of diversity on campus in many of its forms including socio-economic. Teachers are trained for diversity and inclusivity. “Religion isn’t a deal here,” said a professor. The LGBTQ community is welcomed and accepted.

Suffolk quad

The closest thing they have to a “quad” – an activities fair was going on the day we visited.

A common misperception is that Suffolk is still a local commuter school, but this is no longer the case (although this still makes up much of the study body). They have two dorms and the residential population is growing. There are 2 T stops within 2 blocks of school which allows students to commute in easily if they live at home or want to move off campus. They also draw lots of international students because of the urban environment and the strong business programs.

Suffolk art gallery

One of the Art studios

The university offers and amazing range of majors, minors, concentrations, dual and accelerated degrees, etc. However, students tend to complain about class availability and getting into what they need. That being said, there are a number of opportunities for students with strong preparation for jobs post-graduation.

© 2017

Emerson College

Emerson College (visited 9/15/17)

Emerson 1“We take a lot of joy and pride in our work,” said one of the students. “If you’re applying, we hope you’ll want to bring that here.”

There’s a unique vibe about the place, the students, and the faculty. “Folks are dedicated, but in a collaborative way that’s atypical of some of the industries they go into. These fields can be very competitive. The focus here is learning the skills needed to be successful but it’s about collaboration, pulling in the people to be successful: they need to work together. Filmmakers need writers and actors and tech people,” said the rep. “Students have to be proactive,” said a student running one of their Roundtables – an info session for Performing Arts applicants. “It’s up to us to take advantage of things. Sometimes opportunities fall into your hands, but you have to recognize them and surround yourself with the right people.”

Emerson 2Out of this collaboration comes a great deal of trust in the students. Students manage many things on campus such as staffing the visitor center, including supervising other students. “They let us run with things,” said one student. “We get to plan orientation, for example. It’s our task to communicate the values and expectations of the place. We have help, but it’s our job.”

Students get involved in a lot outside of the classroom, as well. About 8% of the students go Greek; timing of Rush depends on the organization. They have 14 DIII teams, “but nothing involving water, ice, horses, or a sword,” said the rep. They have the only subterranean gym in the city. Lots of freshmen came in who want to play hockey, but “we need enough people to pay for ice time. Right now, we don’t really have a critical mass,” said the rep. Students interested in particular activities not currently offered do try to fill gaps in activities when they see the need.

Emerson alleyStudents who come here must really want the big city feel. This is very much an urban campus right in the heart of Boston. There is no central campus; most of the campus buildings sit right on Boylston and Tremont Streets along Boston Common with 90% of buildings within about two blocks. Buildings have good security, and students need IDs to get in. A couple alleyways bisect the campus; there’s a res hall and the dining hall on one of the alleyways. “I’ve heard good things about the new dining,” said the rep. Many local vendors also work with the EC cash system: students can load money and use it like a debit card. Campus is walkable to the North End, the financial district, Boston Public Library, and downtown. A green line T stop is right across the street on Boston Common. There are other lines within a few blocks.

Emerson diningFreshmen and Sophomores must live on campus, and when renovations at 80 Boylston (buildings are usually referred to by their address) are complete, juniors will also be required. Finding off-campus housing “is a process and takes some looking around. The housing office will help them, do roommate speed-dating, provide tips on realtors and rentals, etc. They’re responsible, but we’ll help teach them. Housing they find isn’t necessarily downtown, but definitely in the nearby neighborhoods. It can be an adventure, but I don’t know anyone who hasn’t gotten housing,” said the admissions representative. Sometimes they can accommodate older students under a lottery.

However, students are not “stuck” in Boston … Emerson runs 2 other campuses as well!

  • Kasteel Well in the Netherlands can hold 85 students at a time who are chosen at random, and applications are due a year in advance. This program is meant for sophomores since much of the coursework fulfills the GenEd requirements, but others can attend if their schedules permit. BFA Acting and Musical Theater students may only go in the summer.
  • Los Angeles: juniors and seniors can spend a semester in LA interning and taking classes.

The curriculum is highly experiential, and the degrees are oriented towards Communications and Arts. Because the academics are relatively unique, they’re worth spending some time looking into. Majors are always evolving and new majors are created because they recognize a need. Their newest programs include:

  • Comedic Arts BFA, a truly unique program (the only one in the country!) which draws from performing arts, creative writing, and visual media arts and then adds the comedy. There is an internship semester option in LA, typically for seniors. They have a partnership with Citizens Upright Brigade, but they’re allowed to do internships with anything.!
  • Business of Creative Enterprises BA, a mash-up of communication classes with the arts. This is meant for students who want to do business but in a creative environment. This is the only type of business degree Emerson offers.
  • Writing, Literature, and Publishing
  • Sports Communication: PR, journalism, sports diplomacy (engaging through sports with organizations, community, etc).

Other noteworthy programs include:

  • Political Communication, marketing,
  • Media Art Production BFA: film, sound, animation, photo, tv, writing for film and tv, etc.
  • Visual Arts: they can start right away as freshmen.
  • Stage and Scene Design/Technology, Stage and Production Management, and Theater Design/Technology.
  • Communication Sciences and Disorders
  • Theater: “We’re pretty multifaceted. We’re actors but we’re a lot more.”
    • Students must audition: Early Admission applicants audition in November. “Don’t try to confuse your auditioner! Do what YOU love, even if it’s overdone. You do it differently than anyone else.”
    • Musical Theater applicants perform 2 contrasting monologues, 2 contrasting 32-bar cuts, and dance. Because the acting portion is the same as the acting audition, they can express interest in either if they don’t make it into Musical Theater.
    • Theater and Performance
  • There are productions organized by the school and directed by professionals/ professors but are designed, stage managed, and acted by students. This provides and Artistic Training Lab. Freshmen can’t audition because they all do stage crew assignments that first year. Everyone gets the experience and interacts in a professional environment to get a feel for how things run.
  • The other productions are through the Student Theater organizations: there are 5 main ones and others that pop up occasionally. There are 7 comedy groups, 2 dance companies, 5 a capella groups, etc. “Everything is student run and we get our hands dirty. We fail sometimes and have spectacular comebacks. You’re really doing it,” said one of the students.

Students must fulfill liberal arts components, and classes involve a lot of writing/communication components regardless of what major students are in. Students can complete a BFA in some areas, but these are not considered Conservatory Style with the exception of Musical Theater and Acting (in Theater & Performance): these are only conservatory style for the 3rd and 4th years after completing the liberal arts requirements. They have learning support for students who need it.

There is an Honors College which allows students to substitute LA classes. Instead of history or science, for example, they have interdisciplinary classes that will fulfill these. This is highly writing focused and students must complete a thesis at the end as part of their program! A merit scholarship is attached to being in the program; this is the largest merit opportunity. It is a “very small and very competitive program,” said the rep. From the 900 incoming freshmen, the Honors program takes a maximum of 50 students; they only consider academics in deciding who is selected, including grades and a specific honors recommendation if not submitting test scores.

After submitting the Common App (including the Honors Supplement should they choose to do this), applicants get access to their Portal, and they absolutely have to log into this. The writing supplements get submitted separately. This is where they’ll upload their Test Optional Supplements and Financial Aid documents.

Some majors are a little more competitive. Performing Arts is “super rigid.” Students can opt to go test-optional buy submitting a portfolio piece or essay if that represents them better. The Performing Arts have to audition, Design Tech/Management submits a portfolio review/interview, and Comedic Arts submits a writing or performance piece.

© 2017

 

Emory & Henry College

Emory & Henry College (visited 11/4/16)

eh-quad-1This is the only college I know of that has a “retirement home” for horses – and the only I’ve heard of that enable students to earn a semester’s worth of work for through-hiking the Appalachian Trail (or another of similar scope).

eh-barn-1

The Equestrian Center barn

When E&H bought Virginia Intermont University in 2014, they took over their barn and equestrian program. One student rider we spoke to told us, “I’m glad they bought it because I wouldn’t have achieved this success without it.” About 50 horses live at the Equestrian Center, 16 miles from the main campus (3 shuttles a day run back and forth). All the horses are donated, including “some famous ones” like a horse from the Beijing Olympics. An alum, concerned about what would happen when they got too old for the 60-ish riders in the Equine Studies program, donated $250,000 for a retirement barn for the older horses. That barn, currently with 5 residents (and room for 6 more per year after this) sits adjacent to the main campus.

eh-studentE&H is another CTCL school that did not disappoint. Students we spoke to – ranging from tour guides to random kids in the café to the singers performing for us over dinner – couldn’t say enough about the school. One said, “People are so nice, it’s almost creepy!” Another one had this to say about academics: “Classes are challenging but not so much that you get down on yourself.”

It’s no wonder kids rave about their classes: E&H has more Virginia Professors of the Year than UVA and VTech combined!

eh-quad-and-chapelAt any CTCL school, I ask students how the institution has changed their lives. Here’s what I got:

  • “I can be myself here.”
  • “The music program is amazing and I’ve learned so much. It’s pushed me well beyond my comfort zone.”
  • “Individual attention I get here is outstanding. I really didn’t expect that from college.”
  • “People are really accepting. We’re not labeled here. We can spend hours in rehearsals or in a practice room. People don’t see that as weird. They just say that we’re hard working.”
  • “We go to a lot of auditions. We met people from schools where the students there didn’t even know each other. Here we do, and we support and help each other all the time.”
eh-statue-henry

The Patrick Henry statue

E&H is named for Patrick Henry (yes, of “Give me liberty or give me death!” fame – also the 1st Governor of Virginia) and John Emory (a Bishop of the Methodist Church); statues of the 2 men stand prominently in the middle of campus facing each other (and will often get dressed up

eh-statue-emory

The John Emory statue

by students for special occasions). A third statue of Ephraim Wiley (the longest standing college president) sits on top of one of the main buildings. This statue and the Chapel are the same height to show Wiley’s belief of their equal importance in the students’ education. E&H is associated with the Methodist church, and students must take 1 religion course. However, that’s where the religious requirements end.

There are a few academic programs worth highlighting:

  • eh-tech-workshop

    The theater tech workshop

    The music and theater programs are great, with BFAs offered in Acting, Directing, Musical Theater, and Production & Design. They put on 4-6 productions a year. They were putting on Rocky Horror Picture Show right after we visited (including a midnight performance!), so the students performed several numbers for us during dinner. There are several scholarship for music based on audition. The Chorale competes internationally (they went to South Africa last year). Students tend to get involved cross-disciplines (ie, the marching band Drum Major is in chorale).

  • eh-art-displayThe Art program is developing a Museum Studies Track. Students curate shows from the college’s permanent collection. They bring in visiting artists who give talks to the students (the community is invited as well). When we visited, the art on display in the main gallery was fresh from Renwick Gallery (Smithsonian). 30-35 students from all disciplines including EnviSci helped to install it. The insects are all real, mostly from SE Asia and the Pacific Rim. The exhibit is meant to make a positive out of negative; the Skull symbolizes what could happen and the eye is meant to represent the Evil Eye.
  • Lyceum Program: students must attend a certain number of lectures and cultural events. All arts count towards this.
  • Along with standard majors, they offer unique programs like Civil Innovation; Politics, Law, and International Relations; and a 5-year, BA/MA program in Community and Organizational Leadership. Students can build their own major if they choose to do so.
eh-debate-room

The Hermesian Literary Society room

Something unique are the debate rooms set aside for the 2 main Literary Societies/Debate clubs on campus. The Hermesian Literary Society (Lincoln-Douglass style debating) was founded when the school was founded; it stopped for awhile and was restarted 4 years ago; students interested in joining must take part in an introductory debate in which they can decide the topic. The Calliopean Room is across the hall; they debate in Parliamentary Style. There’s a friendly rivalry between them, and they’ll have intersocietal debates.

eh-dorm-1

One of the new dorm buildings

Most freshmen and 80% of all students live on campus. Two new apartment-style dorms have been built recently, both having about 250 beds. About 35% of the students join one of the 15 Greek organizations. While there’s no Greek Housing, members can choose to live together on a floor (although the college limits the number of students from any particular organization who can live on a single floor). This used to be a dry campus but that’s been rescinded, although a clear alcohol policy remains in effect.

eh-outdoor-arena

One of the outdoor riding areas

This has been named a Best Small School for Outdoor Activities. The Outdoor Program is well utilized by students. They’re located near the 2 highest peaks in Virginia, and they have a 9-hole golf course on campus. One of the most amazing programs is the Semester A.T.rail which lets students hike the length of the Appalachian Trail for a semester. They plan their program with the Director, but Nature Writing (an English Course) is required of all hikers.

eh-chapelStudents admit that there’s not much going on in the town of Emory, but “There’s a good farmer’s market in town.” On campus, however, there’s plenty to do. Football brings out big crowds. Homecoming is a big deal; lots of alumni come back for it. Tailgating becomes a networking event in addition to just being fun.

© 2016

University of Bridgeport

University of Bridgeport (visited 10/11/16)

bridgeport-3

A view from one of the tall buildings on campus with classrooms, admissions, and administrative offices. The university is integrated right into Bridgeport.

This is one of the most racially diverse campuses I’ve visited, and I learned from the admissions rep that they’ve been ranked 17th in the country for diversity. Both the admissions rep and the tour guide talked about the racial and geographic diversity represented on campus; 20% of the population is international, as well. The tour guide was proud to be part of such a community, and felt that people really got along; rather than being cliquey, people were open with each other. However, he was less able (or maybe not as comfortable) answering questions about religious and LGBTQ diversity and acceptance on campus. He did tell me that there were some clubs on campus for different groups, and I was glad to see several women wearing hijab.

bridgeport-stu-cntrPeople are really connected and seem to work together. “I don’t know what causes that, other than it’s an open and welcoming community,” said the rep. “It really sets them up to succeed in the workforce when they’ll be working with people from all over.” Part of this may also stem from the fact that campus is integrated into the surrounding community without much of a centralized campus or quad. Bridgeport is a largest city in Connecticut with lots of Fortune 500 companies and other perks of living in a city. (It’s also the 2nd largest Park City … only Paris beats them on this front!)

bridgeport-dorm

The biggest dorm on campus

About 60% of students live in the 4 res halls, many with specialized floors including Freshman Achievement and Community Service. A great, unusual feature is that students get a free Knightflix account with new movies every month. Unless they’re commuting from home (and there is a decent commuter population), students live on campus for the first 3 years. Once they’re 21 or have 90 credits, they can move off. All students can have cars on campus for free. There are also UB shuttles and the public transportation is free with student ID. The MetroNorth train station is 5 minutes away; from there, Grand Central is an hour away.

bridgeport-2This is a career-focused university with lots of internationally focused majors. Many of the faculty have real-world experience. My tour guide’s Intro to Criminal Justice class (also his smallest class with 18 students) was taught by a lawyer; he loved the stories the professor told in class and how relevant the topics were. Classes average 20-25 students; the tour guide’s largest class, Art History, had 80 students. He loved his Abnormal Psych class (and was excited to tell me things he learned) and Criminology.

bridgeport-mural

A mural painted by a Cuban student to depict the history of the city and the university. PT Barnum (once a mayor of the city) is on the right.

A few programs to mention include:

  • Martial Arts Studies: this is the first major of its kind. Students in this program compete internationally.
  • The School of Design includes Graphic Design (BFA), Fashion Merchandising (AA or BS), Interior Design (BS), and Industrial Design (BS) — and a Fashion Journalism concentration is offered under the Mass Communications major.
  • English Language Institute offers small classes (maximum of 15) to allow students to strengthen their language skills to study at the university level.
  • Mechanical Engineering is new; they’re bringing their first class of freshmen on campus fall of 2016.
  • Nursing: They just absorbed the Bridgeport Hospital School of Nursing, so now in addition to the RN to BSN program, they’ll be accepting 120 freshman for fall of 2017 into the Pre-Nursing They take a prescribed freshman curriculum of pre-requisites then apply to the Nursing program for sophomore year.
  • Students built a mini-sub and turned it into an ocean cleaner. They beat MIT in a competition.
  • Criminal Justice and Human Security offers 3 concentrations: Comparative Justice, Criminology, and Human Security.
  • International Political Economy and Diplomacy
bridgeport-quad-1

One of the green spaces on campus

“This is an events-based campus with at least 3 or 4 a day. They had 692 events last year,” my tour guide told me. They have 13 DII teams; Southern Connecticut State and American International College are big rivals. Students get really involved in things like MUN (which competes nationally and tends to do well), Student Government, and Student Activities Board. Students who hold formal leadership positions (study body president, etc) get a scholarship from a fund set up by alumni.

bridgeport-walkway

A walkway between academic buildings

The university is working hard on improving retention which was at 54% last year. They hired new retention specialist and new provost. Students who aren’t as prepared as they should be can be accepted into a pre-program; the president is committed to working with those students, and they understand that this often causes retention rate to take a hit. Interested students can apply to the Bridge Program that allows students to complete their FYE and Freshman Comp over the summer. This past year, they accepted 50 students and are hoping to grow it to 75. Students pay only $200 which covers everything including tuition and housing.

© 2016

Towson University

TOWSON UNIVERSITY (visited 9/30/16)

towson-bball-field

Baseball Field and campus buildings

As the second largest university in the Maryland system, I expected more of a state-school feel with large somewhat sterile buildings. I should know better. There are definitely parts of campus that fit this description: parking garages, plain (even outdated, not attractive) concrete buildings. The worst of these, an imposing concrete tower, had been a dorm until they closed it with the intent to knock it down, making way for an updated building.

towson-cola

College of Liberal Arts building

That being said, there are gorgeous parts of campus with historic and new buildings. Some of the newest buildings are in West Village, new residential units with Hotel-Style (bathrooms in each room; these rooms cost $600 more per semester), apartments, suites, and more. West Village Commons has a buffet-style dining hall, grab-and-go eateries, meeting rooms, and a group exercise room. There’s also a new union under construction in the middle of campus. In addition to the 2nd of 3 buffet-style dining halls and more meeting space, this will house an American Ninja Warrior Course. The new, LEED-certified Liberal Arts Building might look familiar to House of Cards fans; an episode was filmed inside.

towson-towersI went on tour with several families and 2 tour guides, 1 of whom was training. Because of this, I overheard things that they’re supposed to include on tours: the already-trained tour guide said (either not knowing or not caring that he was saying this within earshot), “I don’t usually bother telling people about that place down there because how many people care? But if you don’t say it on your evaluation, you’ll fail.” He was incredibly hard to get “off script” during the tour; sometimes he would give perfunctory answers and/or say, “We’ll get to that later.” They’re clearly trained to only talk about certain things at certain times. For example, I asked when the last time he heard of anyone using the blue lights. His answer: “We’re 5 years crime free. We’ll talk about security later.” That’s great but didn’t answer the question.

towson-4The guide-in-training was more personable, willing to answer questions, and give insight into what it was like to be a student. She walked some of us across campus to where we had parked (the tour ends at the bookstore – go figure! – nowhere near where we parked and started the tour!). During those 10 minutes, I learned more about the student experience than during the entire 2-hour tour. She picked Towson over another Maryland school because of its diversity. “I see a lot more people like me here, and I have friends from all over, of many different races, different religions. It feels more like the real world.” She is thrilled with the academic offerings, the social life, the location, and pretty much everything here. She didn’t have much she’d want to change other than the parking situation. Freshman are no longer allowed to have cars on campus; parking on campus costs “$300-something per semester. It’s a lot.”

towson-stevens-hall

Stevens Hall, the iconic building that shows up on several of the marketing materials for the university.

Admission is selective but not overwhelmingly so: mid-range ACT scores are 21-26 (average of 23), and with the new SAT, they’re expecting at least a 1000 (CR&M). They use their own online application with a personal statement. “We want to know your story: Who are you, and what can you contribute to the Towson community?” said the admissions rep. “Make it as close to 500 words as you can get.” Applicants can expect an answer within 3-6 weeks. They will start releasing decisions in November and keep going until the class is full. However, students who want a guaranteed review for scholarships should apply by December 1.

towson-mascot

Towson’s  mascot

The Honors College application is built into the regular application, needing a 3.6 to be considered. If you indicate that you’re interested, an additional writing prompt pops up. The HC operates like its own college. Students must earn 24 Honors credits, including 9 seminar and 6 thesis credits. Honors students are guaranteed premium housing without the additional cost, $1000-3000 additional scholarship, and priority registration (right after the athletes and students with accommodations).

towson-dorms-2

West Commons dorm buildings

Housing is guaranteed for Freshmen. There are a couple dorms without AC that apparently have the highest retention rate at the university. The tour guide suggested it was because there was a real community feel because “everyone leaves their doors open for the breeze.” Residential freshmen must get a weekly meal plan and “use it or lose it” (it doesn’t roll over). Upperclassmen and commuters can choose a Block Plan with a set number of meals per semester.

towson-psych-bldg

Part of the academic side of campus

Towson requires 14 core classes. No classes are taught by GAs or TAs which is wonderful for a school this size. All freshmen get a FYE advisor (in their major if they’ve declared one, otherwise they’re assigned at random); they get a new permanent advisor as a sophomore. Average classes sizes over around 24-30. The tour guide said that “classes are maxed at 35” but this is clearly not the case. The tour guides said that they’ve had classes of about 100 students (Microbiology and Intro to Psych); their smallest ranged from 7 (a seminar class) and 20 (ASL).

towson-enviro-cntr

Part of the Environmental Center

They have a great, albeit small Environmental Center on campus with 121 indigenous plant species. There’s a pedestrian walkway over part of this as well as outdoor classrooms, picnic tables, benches, etc. Freedom Square, surrounded by academic buildings, is a favorite hangout for many students. There are 2 chalkboards for students to write comments, put up ads for campus events, etc. There are plenty of benches and other places for students to congregate.

There are several “Screened” majors. Students interested in these come in as “pre-____”, take preliminary classes, and apply to the major once they’re here. Some of these include:

towson-cafe-enactus

Cafe Enactus was a “senior thesis” by a business Honors student in the class of 2015.

Other programs of note include:

Students in all programs can study abroad for 2 weeks to 2 years, or they can participate in the US Exchange program to study at another university for a period of time.

© 2016

 

Chapman University

Chapman University (Information Session/Lunch, 9/26/16)

I haven’t yet had the pleasure of visiting Chapman, located in Orange Country, California. However, they hosted a lunch in DC last week; in attendance was an admissions rep and 5 or 6 recent alumni residing in the DMV area. I sat across from one (class of 2015) and 2 seats down from another (class of 2013). After a brief update from the Rep on programs and new things on campus, we had the rest of lunch to speak with alumni. This was a fabulous way to get to know about the feel of the school and some of the programs.

I was impressed that the Admissions office could send a blanket invitation to about 50 alumni in the DC area inviting them to lunch in exchange for talking to us. They did not screen the people who came; they trusted that they were excited about their experiences. They were right. The alumni couldn’t say enough about Chapman. They were articulate, excited, happily employed – and they say they’re the rule, not the exception. The woman across from me had been accepted into many of the UCs but chose Chapman. “It was absolutely the best choice. I was able to do so much there that I couldn’t have done other places. For examples, I had an idea for a conference, went to people, pitched it, and it happened. That’s what makes Chapman unique. I could plan, run, and budget a program. This isn’t unusual. Students do it all the time.”

She was also a First-Gen student so I asked her about support systems. “It’s there. It’s REALLY there. I had people reaching out to me all the time. However, I was not far from my family, I feel like I had a lot of support and knew how to run with things. I didn’t take advantage of these things, but in some ways, it was comforting to know it was there if I did need it. I finally reached out to them, told them I was doing great, and said that they could take me off the list so they could focus their energy on other students who might need the help more than I did.”

The Honors Program is a minor and takes an interdisciplinary approach. “That was the coolest part for me,” said the alum sitting a couple seats down. They have AMAZING minors (in addition to a lot of usual, more traditional ones) such as Holocaust History, Organismal Biology, Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual Studies, and Law/Justice/Social Control.

Updates on programs, buildings, and academics include:

Dodge College of Film and Media Arts is one of the best in the country. Most of the programs in this college are BFAs, including Screen Acting, Screenwriting, Creative Producing, and Television Writing and Production. Film Production is their most competitive major with a 5-10% acceptance rate (Compared to about a 51% acceptance rate for other programs. Students should put in a second choice, but know that there is rarely a space to transfer in.

Chapman has 6500 undergraduates. This year, they have 100 more freshman than anticipated, so there are going to be some more students in triples. They guarantee first year housing but not past that. Generally, though, people who want to stay, can. They’re located in a residential area: there are lots of nearby houses and apartments to rent within a 5-10 minute walk. Usually, they learned about places through older friends already off campus. Both of the alumni had lived off campus and never had a problem finding a place. One of them, as a senior, lived closer to her classes than she did in the dorms.

Average GPA of accepted students is 3.76. They look at 10th and 11th grade classes plus first semester of 12th grade if the student applies Regular Decision. They recalculate GPA based on Core Classes (including religion if it’s required at the high school) plus any classes related to the major. They’ll add weight to IB and AP classes; if the high school does not offer these, they’ll add weight to honors classes. Average test scores are 1880 (Old SAT) and 28 ACT; they superscore SAT but not ACT.

© 2016

Howard University

Howard University (visited 9/13/16)

howard-long-walkHoward is set apart from other HBCUs because of its reputation; it’s not regional like many others. This is a diverse campus, geographically, socio-economically, religiously, etc. “One of the best quotes I’ve heard about Howard is, ‘You can find everything in the black world and its opposite here’,” said the admissions rep. This is a highly tolerant and accepting campus. There are lots of Muslims, lots of non-religious students, etc. LGBTQ students are comfortable here; they’re out and accepted. “People get called out on things if they’re being derogatory or exclusive. People will say, “You may get away with that at home, but it’s not going to fly here.”

howard-6“People are pushed to be better. There’s nothing you can’t do here,” said the admissions rep, also an alum. “Come here if you want to maximize your potential. Students are serious about fun AND serious about work.” She said that if students are not academically prepared or can’t handle the social scene, they won’t make it.

Founded on March 2,1867 to ensure that black students could come to the nation’s Capitol to get an education, Howard now has a long list of distinguished alumni including Thurgood Marshall, Toni Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston, politicians, actors, and plenty more. Today, the 7,000 undergrads come from 44 states/territories and 23 countries; the biggest feeder country is Nepal!

howard-view-of-dc

The view of the Capitol from campus

Students have formed state clubs and will often host students visiting from that area. “They’ll reach out to prospective and new students to help make the transition easier.” For example, the university does not run shuttles to the airport, but current students will make sure that new students know how to use the Metro or MARC systems to get to and from campus.

 

howard-greek-tree

One of the Greek Trees

Campus/extra-curricular life is busy. There are 19 DI sports; this is the only HBCU with Women’s Lacrosse (Hampton has Men’s). Debate is strong with an annual competition against Hampton, their big rival. They try to have it on the same weekend as the football game. The “Greek Letter Organizations” include honors and major-based (journalism, business, etc) groups as well as social. The Devine 9 were created in response to mainstream white Greek life. Five of those were created on Howard’s campus; members from all over come to campus to “see the birthplace” and visit their chapter’s “tree.” Each organization is assigned a tree that they have painted. Students can Pledge starting in sophomore year.

 

howard-fountain

One of the campus fountains

The biggest campus event is Homecoming in October drawing huge crowds of alumni and friends. Georgia Ave is blocked off for concerts and other fun. First Fridays are also hugely popular. Students looking to get off campus have no shortage of options: the Howard Theater and 930 Club host all sorts of concerts all year, and are within a 10 minute walk. Further afield are all the options available in DC, accessible via the metro stop only a couple blocks from campus.

 

howard-lower-quad

Lower Quad

There are 11 res halls; students are separated by gender for the first year (women by the Valley/lower quad, men by the football stadium) and then mixed. Freshmen are required to live on campus (with some concessions/ exceptions). Upperclassmen can usually live on campus if they want to, but they have the option to move off.

 

Academically, there is a lot to brag about ranging from their amazing Fine Arts programs to the sciences (and they start kids early! The Middle School for Math and Science – or (MC)2 – is right on campus). Howard is ranked #1 for graduating black students who go on to med school and PhDs in STEM fields. This is the only HBCU named as a Tier 1 research institution.

howard-business

The Business building

There are 70 undergrad majors in 6 schools. The top 5 majors are bio, psych, PoliSci, Media/Journalism/Film, and Chem. Among other notable programs are:

 

  • A 5-year BArch program allowing students to sit for their exam right after graduation.
  • Direct-Entry Nursing
  • A 6-year fast-track BS/MD Only 12-15 students get admitted every year and must have passed high-level math and sciences in high school. They complete the Bachelors in 2 years (including summers). Students must be accepted to the university first, then apply to the program by 3/1.
  • Several BFA programs in Interior Design, Fashion Design, Electronic Studio, Painting, Photography, Sculpture, Theater Tech, Musical Theater, Dance, Theater Administration, and Acting.
  • Supply Chain Management
  • Administration of Justice (combining Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminal Justice)
  • Several Engineering options (Chemical, Mechanical, Civil, Electrical, and Computer)
  • Physician Assistant
  • Radiation Therapy
  • Business students start right away; they have to wear business attire 2 days a week.
howard-bio-bldg

The biology department with greenhouses on the roof

Students in the Arts & Sciences, Business, and Communications schools can be invited into the Honors program in those areas. Applicants will be considered and invited as long as they declare a major coming in. If they aren’t invited upon entry, students can be invited to start as a sophomore. “The criteria is vague kind of on purpose because each year will be different,” said the rep. These programs open up honors classes and the opportunity for a faculty advisor for a thesis presented at symposiums at the end of the year.

 

howard-chapel

The campus chapel for students wanting to take advantage of its offerings

“The intellectual life here extends outside of the classroom.” For example:

  • The Freshman Class always reads a common text. Last year, it was Citizen by Claudia Rankin. She came and spent the day with the freshman.
  • All freshmen take a Freshman Seminar; they come together once a week for a lecture then once more for smaller section. During these times, they talk about the Common Text, adjusting to campus, and more.
  • The Freshman Leadership Academy focuses on Asian languages (particularly Mandarin). They meet as a cohort for the year and go abroad for 4-8 weeks during the summer after freshman year. After that, they serve as mentors to the new groups coming in.
  • Internships: most students do at least 1, but it’s rare to meet a student who hasn’t had one each year starting sophomore year. “It’s a very professional environment. They’ll go to class in suits because they have to leave for an internship right afterwards.” Students get great internships over the summers at places like Johnson & Johnson, Chase Bank headquarters, etc.
  • 12 schools in and around DC have articulation agreements for students looking to expand their academic options.
  • “Our kids are politically inclined. It’s part of the reason they want to come to DC. They’re always protesting something.”
  • To participate in Study Abroad, students must have sophomore or junior standing, 1 year of residency at Howard, and have at least a 3.0 GPA.
  • Student-led Alternative Spring Break is popular: Students have gone to Flint, Memphis, New Orleans, and other places to work on Anti-gun violence, Water stuff in Flint, tutoring, and housing. Some went to Haiti and Costa Rica (Engineers w/o borders).
  • Air Force ROTC is housed on Howard’s campus. Students wanting Army ROTC can do so at American University.

Howard only accepts the Common Application for admission. Accepted students generally have around a 3.5 unweighted GPA and 1150 SAT 1150 or 25 ACT (which tends to be higher than the national average for African-American students).

© 2016

Carnegie Mellon University

Carnegie Mellon University (visited 11/7/15 and 5/25/16)

~CMU signCMU has a wonderful reputation for Computer Science and other STEM fields … but did you know that they also are highly ranked for Dance? It’s also 1 of 2 schools in the country to offer a degree in Bagpipe Performance. They take their Scottish heritage very seriously here! The official color is plaid, but “that’s hard to accessorize” so people wear maroon, gray, and white. The official mascot is a tartan, but unofficially, it’s the Scottie dog.

~CMU quad students

Students on the quad

In many ways, this is a nicer campus than the University of Pittsburgh in terms of it being an actual campus (rather than Pitt’s more urban feel). There is lots of activity on the campus between classes, and students tend to be a bit on the quirky side. When walking around on our own, we talked to a few students, two of whom were Computer Science majors, one from Seattle and one from Florida. “It’s the #1 program in the country,” said one when we asked why she chose Carnegie Mellon. Neither had much to say about the university itself which in some ways is telling.

~CMU walkway

The CS buildings with the raised walkway.

Students here are smart and motivated. Many of the kids here sailed through high school. They don’t know what it’s like to spend 4 or 5 hours a night doing work. “I’m stunned by the volume of people using the tutorial services and study sessions. Almost all the freshmen classes have them, and beyond that, any class that historically has been a sticking point will have them.” About 2/3 of classes have fewer than 20 students. The only class not taught by a full professor is English 101; these sections are led by PhD candidates in order to keep them small.

About 40% of students have a minor and 10% double major. The School of Humanities and Social Sciences is the most diverse and most flexible with 60 options for majors. Students can wait until the end of sophomore year to declare their major. Science and Engineering students don’t declare until end of the first year.

CMU dramaGenerally, double majoring in any BFA (drama, music, art) area will be difficult because of the number of credits in the arts required for the degree. The drama department actively discourages double majoring because they really want the students to focus on their major. Music, however, seems to be more accommodating. However, the BXA Intercollege Degree Program does allow students to combine a BFA and others. Students sacrifice a bit of depth in the original field, and participating in this program requires students to make connections and intersections between the 2 chosen fields. This program really is for those who want to investigate how the 2 inform each other. For example, students have combined Psych and Music or Chem and Ceramics. The students must be admitted to both the academic and the fine arts departments.

~CMU outdoor classroom

CMU’s outdoor classroom

Another notable interdisciplinary program is IDeAte (Integrative Design, Arts & Technology Network). The coursework students complete is equivalent to a minor in areas like Educational Technology, Game Design, Intelligent Environments, and Sound Media Design. They put together an interdisciplinary team and then apply creativity and teamwork to technology.

Many of CMU’s programs tend towards the interdisciplinary, even if they aren’t specifically stated as such. For example, their Business programs are more quantitative than most. “Quantitative analysis is our wheel house. What does the data tell us to do?” Students earn a Bachelor of Science so “it’s hard core.” Because of this focus, “I took math classes alongside engineers,” said one of the students. They’re learning from each other rather than students in different majors being separated out.

~CMU quad 1However, when students apply, they get accepted by a college, not just to the university. Students can transfer between schools as long as there is space and they qualify, but it’s more difficult into the more competitive schools. Econ, CS, and Engineering tend to over-enroll. For example, they got 7000 apps for 350 spots in CS.

The BArch program also requires that students demonstrate that they really want to be there. The application ask a lot of questions to get at whether students have a realistic view of what the profession is really like. “Architects look like science students – lots of math and science, but with an artistic portfolio.” The program is 5 years (required for the credential) with an additional 2-year apprenticeship before taking the exam. CMU highly recommends completing a pre-college architecture program.

~CMU acad bldg 4If CMU can’t admit a student to their first choice major, what’s listed as the second choice can determine admission. “There are some combos we know are historically going to mean that students will be unhappy. We look for genuine interest in the 2nd choice and evidence that they really will be happy in that major,” said the Dean of Admission.

According to the Dean, Cornell is their big competitor (“They do what we do but on a grander scale”), but they also compete with MIT for straight STEM programs, followed by Princeton, RPI, and Penn. Surprisingly, the top feeder state is CA (with 2 times as many Californians as any other state), followed by NY, PA, and NJ.

~CMU athleticsEarly Decision accounts for 20-25% of incoming classes. Demonstrated interest can factor into regular decisions, but it plays much more of a roll in the waitlist process. They only pulled 12 kids off waitlist this year, but they do all financial aid packages in March so even waitlisted students know what they’re going to get. This is the first year they’ve met full financial need. “We like to make a solid commitment, but right now it has to be year-to-year. It’s been challenging.” There is no financial assistance for international students, but there may soon be merit awards for them.

~CMU food truckThere’s a wide variety of housing options included themed living, single-gender (both male and female), and gender-inclusive housing. There is no centralized dining hall. Instead, venders come in. “It keeps people from going to the same place over and over and getting bored.”

© 2016

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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