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Archive for the tag “Bioinformatics”

Worcester Polytechnic Institute (Take 2)

Worcester Polytechnic Institute (visited 7/28/19) (Click HERE for notes and pictures from my visit on 3/22/14)

WPI 2I love “looping back” to schools after a few years to remind myself of what’s going on there as well as seeing what’s new. The nice thing about WPI is their consistency – with a willingness to grow! One my original trip, 2 other counselors and I sat in on the regular info session and tour offered to all visiting families. This time, I was with a group of 26 international students learning about their college options. Much of what I heard about the curriculum and the “WPI Plan” was the same as 5 years ago, but I got a broader perspective of the international experience on campus as well as finding out about some new programs/majors being offered.

WPI quad 1Just about 11% of the 4500 undergrads are international citizens. An Iranian student helped give the information session, and students from Japan, Vietnam, and Kenya spoke on the student panel. They also showed a great YouTube video (produced entirely by international students) on the International Experience at WPI. “For such a small school, I love how much I can do and get the most out of the experiences.”

WPI maker space

One of the maker spaces on campus

Engineering remains the largest concentration/school on campus. They were the first in the US to offer Robotics Engineering and is only one of a few schools with Fire Protection Engineering.

Computer Related fields are the next largest concentration at WPI; these are housed within the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Data Science is the newest major (starting fall 2019); Interactive Media and Game Development and Bioinformatics are also relatively new. Students can earn a Concentration in AI as part of CompSci major. They offer multiple math tracks including Applied, Actuarial, Financial, and Industrial Mathematics, Math Sciences, and Math for Educators.

WPI lab bldgThe Business School focuses on the intersection of technology and business. In addition to generic business degree, students can major in Management Engineering or Management Information Systems.

There’s lots of academic and social support. Admissions is test-optional because they know that these exams don’t measure creativity and problem-solving ability. They want people who can work in a team and who are passionate about math and science since they’re taking those classes from the beginning.

WPI dorm 2WPI Plan: It’s what makes it unique; they implemented in 1971. It has 4 parts:

  • The Academic Calendar is divided into four 7-week terms; students take 3 classes each term. Summer is almost 4 months long, giving students more time for internships. Students only need 45 credits to graduate (equivalent to 15 terms) but most will complete 48 (16 terms) by graduation.
  • Non-punitive grading policy: students earn A, B, C, or NR (no record). They want students to feel more comfortable challenging themselves with classes they may not have taken otherwise. If they get a grade lower than a C in a class needed for the major, they need to retake it (“Who wants to drive over a bridge built by an engineer who didn’t pass some of their classes?”). There is also no + or – in the system so people don’t compete over points; it creates a more collaborative environment.
  • WPI mascot 3

    “Gompei the Goat,” WPI’s mascot

    They offer a Flexible Curriculum: “We Advise, You Decide.” There are no pre-requisites, only recommendations.

  • Project-based curriculum (it’s worth checking out the YouTube video Innovate Everything)
    1. 1st year: Great Problems Seminar: Students look at a world-wide problem (like water shortage) and try to solve it.
    2. 2nd year: Humanities and Arts: All students have to take 6 courses in a concentration within the Humanities or Arts, 1 of which is an immersive project.
    3. 3rd year: Interactive Qualifying Project. Students work with a community, NGO, or company. They come up with a project that will help the community such as making a hospital more accessible for hearing and visually impaired people.
    4. 4th year: Major Qualifying Project, equivalent to a capstone or thesis for the major. This is a 3-course equivalent (FT for 1 term or PT for 3 terms). All students get a $5000 global scholarship to help cover travel and project costs. They have 40+ project centers around the world.

WPI 7WPI boasts a retention rate of 95%, well over the national average. They take excellent care of students, starting with almost all freshman (97%) living on campus which is proven to help students succeed academically and socially. They have more than 200 clubs; the rep said, “We have plenty of more serious clubs like math club – there are 5 of those – but also a lot of fun things like Underwater Hockey and 2 cheese clubs, 1 for making and 1 for eating. Worcester itself is the 2nd largest city in New England and ranked 9th (by Forbes) Most Livable City with easy access to Boston, NYC, beaches, and Skiing. With 12 area colleges, there are over 38,000 area college students so local establishments cater to them well.

© 2019

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Towson University (Take 2)

Towson University (visited 4/16/19) (click HERE to see notes and pictures from my first visit on 9/30/16).

We asked the students to tell us about something that is uniquely Towson:

  • There are so many different places to go like Glen Woods or Freedom Square.
  • “The res halls are great. I hadn’t seen such diverse housing options at other places I toured.” Housing is guaranteed for 4 years in the Honors College, 2 years otherwise.
  • “Our health center is really great.”
  • It’s a great location – there’s downtown Baltimore and “uptown” Towson with shops and restaurants and the cinema.

This is the 2nd largest and fastest growing state school in Maryland. “There’s a huge momentum on campus” with an investment of $1.7B in real estate and a recently built new Science complex. However, they still keep classes at reasonable sizes with 24 students in an average class. There are a couple lecture halls with 125 seats, a couple more with 90. Those are the largest spaces on campus so no class can ever have more than that number of students. Some of their more unusual majors include Earth-Space Science, Metropolitan Studies, Deaf Studies, Dance Performance and Choreography, Bioinformatics, and Gerontology.

Students interested in merit scholarships must apply by 12/1 Early Action for consideration. They do NOT take Common or Coalition Apps. The $45 application fee can be waived in a variety of ways: College Board/SAT, College Bound, Baltimore City/County Top 10%, Alumni Admissions Nomination, Military Service, or Financial Hardship. The Personal Essay is an original TU Prompt: next year, it’ll be “Topic of your Choice” with suggestions. They’ve also changed requirements so interested students can use the same essay as their Honors College App.

The Honors College (open to incoming and enrolled students in any major within the first two years of study) enrolls approximately 700 students with 50 majors represented. Class sizes max out at 20. When interested students apply to Towson, they’ll check “yes” for honors on the application. This will trigger a prompt for the Honors Essay which is then used for both admission to Towson and for the Honors College. Applicants who click “no” will only write the essay for admissions (a different prompt). Decisions for Honors are done AFTER admission to the university; all honors decisions are sent out at once in February. Towson very intentionally builds community within the Honors Program with housing and Co-curricular programs run by students such as First Day Coff-Ay, Generation Jeopardy, First-Year Flapjacks, Smoothie Saturday, and Honors Helping Hands. One of the student panelists was in the honors program and said that she was a little apprehensive going in, but “Classes are seminar style. They’re a collaboration. They aren’t scary and they aren’t like AP classes.”

Towson offers a Freshman Transition Program which is a collaboration between CCBC and TU. This is an invitation-only program to selected freshman applicants. Usually 175-200 are in the program any given year. Students take Community College courses taught by CCBC faculty on TU’s campus in the late afternoon and evening. However, they are treated like full TU students with the exception that they cannot participate in intercollegiate or club sports. A major benefit is that they pay CCBC tuition and fees (cheaper than TU tuition) but TU Room & Board. If they hit certain criteria in the first semester, they can then segue directly into being a fully enrolled TU student in the 2nd semester (about 80-90%). If not, they have another chance in 2nd semester to meet that criteria. Students are assigned to an FTP advisor to help them through the process..

© 2019

UNC – Charlotte

UNC-Charlotte (visited 3/19/18)

UNCC 10A fun fact from the info session: there are 16 state institutions in NC, each with a specific designation. UNC-C is the Urban Research school. Opening in 1965, this is the fasting growing campus: 22 new buildings have gone up in the last 7 years. It’s an attractive, easy-to-navigate campus (complete with a botanical garden!) with top-notch technology. This is also a fairly diverse campus with 40% of students self-reporting as underrepresented. Most students do come from North Carolina. Surprisingly, they have a slightly higher male population than female which may stem from their strong engineering program.

UNCC creekFor students who want a large-ish school (24,000 undergraduates) with a fairly strong athletic culture but also good academics, this is a good choice. There is going to be plenty for students to choose from on campus, in and out of the classroom. “Game days get crazy,” said one students. Another agreed: “Game days are really fun!” with tailgating, marching bands, drum lines, and dance groups. Marching band is open to anyone who plays an instrument. Clubs and sports at all levels are plentiful. There is a Greek presence, but fewer than 10% of the students tend to join.

UNCC 4Campus is located 9 miles north of the center of Charlotte, the largest metro in the Carolinas. A light-rail station opened on campus the day before I visited; students can ride for free with their ID. The CATS buses and the Airport Sprinter are also free for students. Cars are allowed on campus for all students; parking decks are “in close proximity to the residents halls so you aren’t parking on one side of campus and sleeping on the other.”

UNCC dormsStudents are not required to live on campus, but they strongly recommend that freshmen do: “There is a strong correlation between living on campus and having a higher GPA.” They don’t technically guarantee housing, but they’ve never been in a position where someone wanted to live here but couldn’t be accommodated. About 80% of freshmen live on campus; 2/3 of students live “on campus or within walking distance,” according to the rep. There are many apartments across the street – it’s technically off campus and there are shuttles, but they can walk. Housing applications are not complete without the deposit (currently $200); some students have lost their spots because they didn’t deposit.

UNCC 3There are 7 academic colleges with 139 majors:

  • The most competitive (those with higher admissions criteria) include: Business, Engineering, Computing and Informatics, and Nursing.
  • University College is for students who come in Undeclared. If a student indicates a competitive major on the application but isn’t qualified, admissions will change that to Undeclared and will assess the application that way.
  • UNCC 8Seminars, taught by alumni or community members working in the field, are offered in all areas to talk about tracks within the schools. Students have to attend this before declaring a major. Students who come in with a declared major must take the Intro class in that field.
  • Some majors worth noting include:

UNCC medicinal garden“You will experience large classes here, but they’re the early ones.” The average class has 35 students; the tour guide’s largest class had 300 (Intro to Psych) and smallest was 10 (Civil Procedure). “It falls on you to build the relationships. Showing up to class regularly and going to office hours go a long way.” They offer Supplemental Instruction which is like a mix of discussion groups and Group Tutoring. They may reteach some class material but will also have time to practice skills, etc.

UNCC 12UNC-C requires that an application file be complete by the stated deadline, including all supplemental materials such as transcripts and test scores. Students must plan ahead if they want to apply; hitting the submit button the application at 11:58pm on the day it’s due will not meet their deadline. If anything is missing for Early Action, they automatically default it to Regular Decision and the student will not get a decision until March. However, many of the “higher volume scholarships” require that students meet the 11/1 deadline (or whatever the Early deadline is for the year if that changes!)

UNCC libraryAs per NC policy, students must have 4 units of English and Math (Algebra 1 & 2, Geo, and an advanced level math that requires Alg2 as a pre-req. Stats would count; business math would not), 3 science (bio, physical, lab), 2 of history, and 2 of the same foreign language. Most admitted freshmen take more than this. “Your senior year should be a full course-load: it should look pretty much the same as the rest of your years.”

UNCC shuttleThere are a couple special scholarship opportunities:

  • Levine Scholars: 20 students get selected annually for this 4-year program including study abroad, summer experiences, and community service. Studentsust be nominated by a HS counselor by October.
  • University Honors Program is the umbrella program with 28 department or school-specific honors programs. Certain scholarships are available to students within the UHP:

© 2018

Wheaton College (MA)

Wheaton College (visited 9/12/17)

Wheaton pond 3

Peacock Pond

There are several colleges with ponds on campus, some of which have traditions surrounding them. Wheaton’s reminded me of my own alma mater in Upstate NY – it’s the only other one I know of with a similar tradition, but this was much more formalized than my school! “There are two traditions with Peacock [the name of the pond],” said a rep. “Swim across it before graduation – but no one really does that – and the Head of the Peacock!” During this annual race, students build their own boats and race across the pond in the style of a crew regatta.

Wheaton science lab

A class in action

“There are very few schools that are truly unique. We offer progressive education with timeless values. We push the envelope.” Wheaton is undergoing a full overview/overhaul of their curriculum. Now it includes the following:

  • Connections: Students must take 2 two-course or 1 3-course interdisciplinary Connections classes. This helps students see the value of a liberal arts education through the intersection of topics. They choose courses that have pre-determined connections, or one that they’ve identified in their path:
    • Wheaton art studio 2An art studioBiology and Art History pulls in Scientific Drawing, Art Conservation, DaVinci. 1 prof is a cell biologist; the art historian looks at medieval cathedrals. Together, they look at structure and strength to determine why some still stand and others are in rubble.
    • Lexomics combines Computer Science and English driven by data science and digital humanities. Google analyzes all the texts they can get their hands on. “It’s the new way people analyze literature. It generates results that generates more questions.” They write algorithms that allow people to dissect texts. Linguists can discover when, where, and by whom things were written and pieced together
    • PoliSci and Geologists: They look at the political ramifications of melting ice caps as new waterways form. Countries are claiming ownership: who gets that and the oil underneath? They look at plate tectonics, etc. If you’re working in geology, you’d better understand PS, and if you’re in politics, you need to look at money, etc.
    • The Astronomy department runs an extensive observatory including 7 telescopes that are controlled online, and there’s 1 in Australia that they’re hooked up to so they can access night skies almost 24/7 as well as see the Southern Hemisphere. They pair with a couple departments for Connections classes:
      • Ancient Astronomy pairs with Classics.
      • They pair with Biology for florescent imaging looking at bright against dark – this works on cells as well as in space!
  • Wheaton 10

    One of the new science buildings

    Wheaton Edge: This guarantees access to financial support for experiential learning such as research or an internship before senior year. This is a 4-year process for academic preparation, access to grad school, and preparing for the professional world. If by the end of junior year, students haven’t found a paid internship, they can apply for a stipend for up to $5000 to support them for an internship over the summer. When the new president came, he asked how many – could be true internships or with Mass Challenge, research, etc. What was preventing the 30% from not doing them?

Wheaton 1I asked students on the panel to share the best class they’ve taken:

  • You Are What You Ate looking at history through food. “I changed my major because of this class!”
  • A history class from a professor who specialized in Charlemagne: “We read a lot of articles based on his daughter and helped research for his book.”
  • Quantitative Research Methods: “I want to be a neuroscience major. The real-world application of class was interesting to see what people in the field had really been doing. Now I’m a research assistant with that professor.”

This is a typical small liberal arts school; it started as a women’s college and went coed in 1988. They’ve traditionally hovered around 1600 students (with about 1/3 from MA, 1/3 from the rest of New England, and 1/3 from outside the region), but brought in 528 last year and they’d like to keep it at about 500 students new students per year. They’re breaking ground on Southern Campus for a new res hall. The Board has committed $100 million to improvements, tackling areas with biggest impact on students first (ie the dining hall).

Wheaton 4“We’ve seen increased energy and diversity over the last several years,” said a rep. Diversity is big here in all its forms. A student on the panel said, “I think there’s enough for me to feel welcome and safe here. I didn’t understand the women of color thing until I got here, and being here has made me figure that out. It’s given me a chance to figure that out and talk about it and celebrate it in a positive light.” Another said, “People are receptive of things and will talk to anyone, even with people who don’t have experience with people of other backgrounds. We have safe spaces like the Black Student Union. Everyone is welcome.” People are open around and accepting of LGBTQIA students. There are gender-neutral bathrooms, clubs, etc. Campus Conservatives are a minority – but they dialogue a lot with Campus Democrats “who have been some of our biggest supporters,” said an officer in the club.

Wheaton dorm

A dorm

Located in a safe town about 45 minutes south of Boston and 20 minutes north of Providence, it’s easy for students to have the best of both worlds. There’s plenty to do within walking distance, and there’s a free shuttle to the train station that will take them to either city. The college also maintains a fleet of rental cars. For students wanting to study somewhere else, they do have a relationship with a university in Bhutan, and 60% have a formal study abroad experience for either a semester or year.

Wheaton quad 4

Students studying in “The Dimple”

Teachers want to be at Wheaton and work with students, they know students’ names, and classes are small. Students are curious and are willing to keep trying: “they’re definitely persistent!” said a professor. The President teaches an accounting class at 8am – “and it’s full,” said one of the students. His educational background is in accounting and finance but wants to work at a liberal arts school: “I’ve spent my life trying to convince finance students that the last thing they need is another finance class. Life is too complex for that.”

Wheaton flowersIn terms of academics, one rep said, “The Liberal Arts doesn’t have the fancy, pretty spaces that the sciences have, but we’re strong!” Other things to know about the academics are:

  • Students can major in Business & Management during which they can take courses in finance and other more specific areas. They concentrate on the core, providing abroad base with the experience of applying it in the real world. Every class has experiential learning, often consulting for small businesses. They can’t graduate without an internship AND a capstone project (highly unusual for business), extended research based on their interests. A current senior is combining her love of marketing with her hatred of vaping, researching whether packaging makes a difference in people’s inclination to vape.
  • Sciences are strong, and 80-90% are accepted to med schools each year. Many students are on the health-science tracks including vet, dental, PT, Nursing, OT, etc.
  • Music and Theater/Dance: students have access to extensive facilities and groups. Students can participate for credit or for fun. There’s a black box theater which is entirely student run (acting and directing) and is sometimes used as a “jazz club.” Music ensembles include a World Music ensemble and a chamber orchestra.
  • They offer majors in areas such as Animal Behavior, African/African American Diaspora Studies, Bioinformatics, Development Studies, Arabic, Medieval/Renaissance Studies, and Digital Humanities. Students can rent equipment for this.

Wheaton GhanaAdvising is also different than at many places, recognizing that students are different: “The same technique isn’t going to work for everyone. Are they missing deadlines? Do they not think it matters?” Clearly they’re doing something right: retention and graduation rates are significantly higher than the national average, and students are flocking to excellent grad schools (for example, they send an average of 13 students to Harvard every year) and they’re in the Top 10 in graduates getting Fulbrights.

Wheaton is test-optional, including when it comes to awarding merit scholarships; many of these come with a guaranteed $3000 grant for use after sophomore year. Of those who submitted, the average came in at mid-high 1200s. The typical student has a B+/A- average with some APs. English proficiency is shown with a minimum TOEFL 90 (they have a little bit of wiggle room if it’s a point or 2 under if other things line up).

© 2017

Virginia Commonwealth University

Virginia Commonwealth University (visited 3/13/17)

VCU 1

One of the dorms; much of campus sits on streets like this

Students looking for an urban campus with lots of diversity, school spirit, and big sports will do well here. However, they need to be willing to advocate for themselves.

This is a state school with 24,000 undergrads, 37% of whom are male and 89% coming from in-state. Gen Ed classes run 150-200 students in lecture halls, but the upper level major classes average 27 students. “It’s the students’ job to take advantage of the opportunities.” Classes are varied, as you’d expect from a school this size. A couple favorite classes were Cultural Text and Context about Egypt and Women in Global Politics.

VCU ped walkway

The pedestrian walkway part of central campus

Campus sits in the middle of Richmond with almost no “central campus” in the traditional sense. However, location means there’s plenty to do, and students have opportunities to connect to the community, get internships, and apply what they’ve learned. The James River is minutes away from campus with hiking and other activities. Richmond itself is centrally located, only 1.5 hours to Virginia Beach and a little more than 2 hours to DC.

VCU 2

One of the older buildings on campus

VCU is a relatively new institution, starting in 1968 when 2 colleges merged. The main campus sits on the site of one school; all the medical programs (including graduate schools) are on the other one a couple miles away. The do offer a Guaranteed Admissions Program for some honors students into several of the graduate health programs as long as they meet the minimum requirements. This is not binding so it’s ok if they change their mind. Applications for this have a hard November 15 deadline; students need a 1330 SAT or 29 ACT and a 3.5 unweighted GPA. Beyond that, they should have done something to stand out such as shadowing or volunteering.

Engineering and the Arts are big here:

  • Engineering has offerings in Biomedical, Chemical and Life Science, Electrical and Computer, and Mechanical and Nuclear.
  • VCU arts 1

    One of the art studios

    The Arts Department includes both visual ad performing arts.

    • Visual arts are very much studio-based. “It allows us to establish ourselves and experiment,” said a junior painting/printmaking major from Kansas. “I wanted to go somewhere where I had the resources of an entire university.” He loves the program and is very happy with his decision to come to VCU, but said the downfall is that they don’t get any help in establishing a design portfolio. “We’re on our own to figure that out.” There also aren’t really any internships easily available or at least advertised. “I looked online; I think this major is the only one with nothing listed for internship opportunities,” he told me.
    • Unusual offerings include Kinetic Imaging and Craft and Material Studies.
VCU plaza

The plaza outside the main dining commons (to the left). The library is the glass building on the right.

Humanities and Sciences, of course, is the biggest school. A few unusual offerings are Military Science and Leadership, Statistical Sciences and Operations Research, Kinesiology, and Forensic Science.

The smallest majors/schools are Social Work (35 freshman) and Life Sciences with 51 freshmen (this includes Bioinformatics, Envi Sci, and Integrative Life Sciences; biology and other sciences are in the Arts and Sciences division).

Students really like the diversity on campus. “Campus shows off the spectrum of people there. I’ve made friends from all over,” said one of the tour guides (we had 3).

VCU LLC 1

An LLC building

There are plenty of living opportunities such as LLCs and Global Living. There is no residency requirement, but 74% of freshmen do live on campus. Food gets good reviews from the students: “There’s so much food! They keep adding new options every year.” The dining hall sometimes runs what they call ‘Upper Cuts’ which serves “really, really great food!” according to one of the tour guides. It requires a second swipe on the meal plan. Restaurant Row, on one of the main streets running through campus, takes Rams Bucks. For students living off campus, it’s easy to find apartments and houses to rent near campus.

VCU dormAdmissions is rolling, and it takes about 4-6 weeks to get a decision after application is complete. They recommend that students include their SSN on the app to facilitate the link to FAFSA. This streamlines, the process, reduces mistakes, and allows them to get the package to students earlier. Students applying by Jan 15 will get an answer by April 1 at the latest. Test scores are optional for students with a 3.3 GPA at the time of application BUT are required for merit scholarships, the Honors College, Engineering majors, and for homeschooled applicants. If you want to get considered for automatic-consideration scholarships – apply by 11/15!!!

VCU stu cntrThe Honors College will look at writing on standardized tests; regular admissions does not. Priority deadline for freshman Honors Program is 2/1. The Guaranteed Admissions program falls under the honors college: if you’re admitted to GA, you’re admitted to HC, but not vice versa! The application for GA is on the Honors College website and is completely separate from the Common App.

© 2017

Towson University

TOWSON UNIVERSITY (visited 9/30/16) (Click HERE for updates and more information from my visit on 4/16/19)

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

 

College of St. Rose

College of St. Rose (visited 7/29/15)

~St. Rose sign 2Have you ever dreamed of producing your own CD? Come St. Rose, win the yearly Battle of the Bands, and you’ll be able to do just that! St. Rose runs its own label: Saints and Sinners.

Or perhaps you want to work in a biology lab with animals like Skittles the tarantula and Bradford the mystery lizard. You can do that, too, at St. Rose!

The Meditation garden room in the chapel is used by people of all faiths

The Meditation garden room in the chapel is used by people of all faiths

One of the biggest surprises for me about St. Rose is that it’s no longer under the Diocese of the Catholic Church. It was started by four Carmelite nuns in the early 1920s; men (veterans primarily, at least at first) were admitted to evening and graduate programs after WWII; in the 1970s, the decision was made to go coed; the Diocese said no, but the Board of Trustees felt strongly that this was the way to go so they broke ties with the Church. “There’s still a relatively strong sense of our history, but there is no affiliation,” said the rep.

The St. Rose TV Studio

The St. Rose TV Studio

The school is still approximately 2/3 women, and almost 90% come from New York with New York City (about 2.5 hours south) strongly represented. More than 20% self-identify as ALANA, so the student body is relatively diverse.

The St. Rose Recording Studio

The St. Rose Recording Studio

Much of the work done at St. Rose is cross-disciplinary and based in real-world experiences. For example, it’s not unusual to see musicians working with Communications majors to produce work. The Hearst Center for Communications and Interactive Media is the only communication building in the US with the Hearst name attached to it. Students can study journalism as well as TV, video, and film with lots of hands-on experience. The school runs its own broadcasting studios and students then move on to intern at local stations. Jimmy Fallon is one of the most famous alums coming out of here; although he had dropped out of St. Rose 1 semester short of graduating (surprise – he took the SNL job instead of sticking around!), they gave him his honorary degree in 2009 (they figured he had enough life experience to qualify at that point).

Concert Hall

Concert Hall

Music is a fairly big major here. Music Education, Music Industry (they rank in the top 10 nationally for this degree), and Music Performance majors all must audition to get in. These degrees are either BA or BS degrees; they do not offer BFA in music (but do offer one in Studio Art and Graphic Design). They have a full music library in addition to an Educational Curriculum and the main libraries. Currently, they’re “80% Steinway,” said the rep.

Classrooms are left unlocked; students can go in to study or use the technology for presentation

Classrooms are left unlocked; students can go in to study or use the technology for presentation

Education is another large, strong department here. Options range from Early Education (birth – 2 year) all the way up to high school. Speech Pathology has become increasingly popular in the last several years.

Unusual majors include Forensic Psychology, Bioinformatics (part of the Computer Science department), and Biology-Cytotechnology. They also have a new Public Health major.

~St. Rose Business

The Business department

There’s a great deal of school pride here both from students and staff. Alumni donate a great deal to the college. The school does a wonderful job of creating community through their Freshman Experience classes as well as through Residential Life. Housing is guaranteed; 90% of freshmen live on campus, but that drops to about 50% after that. Campus is located in a residential area of Albany, so housing is easy to find. The college is actively trying to get those numbers up and have just built new campus apartments with a burger station in the building.

The main quad

The main quad

However, even those who move off campus remain active in campus life. Sports (DII) bring out a lot of fans (and Women’s soccer recently won a championship title). There are several traditions that the students rave about including Rose Rock (aka Spring Fling) which brings live music to campus. The favorite tradition, however, seems to be TPing the big tree on the Quad every Halloween. The President, after learning the hard way that this wasn’t going to be something that could be stopped, now throws the first one: “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!”

© 2015

UC San Diego

UC SAN DIEGO (Visited 7/18/15)

~UCSD 1UCSD is clearly doing something right: they boast a 94% freshman to sophomore retention rate, and the average time to graduation is 4.3 years. Students who are engaged in their own learning and are ok making their own way will do very well here.

UCSD library walk

LIbrary Walk; you can just see the Geisel Library in the background.

Campus is sprawling and not-quite-attractive, located only a couple miles from the beach. Architecture is mixed: old and new, concrete and wood. The Library Walk is the campus’ main artery. “During the school year, this place is packed. Clubs try to sign you up. Students are everywhere.” Geisel Library (on one end of the walk – the Med library is on the other end) is the most impressive structure we saw (I would have gotten a picture except it was pouring!). It was named for Dr. Seuss who lived in La Jolla. His widow donated many of his things to the university. Many trees on campus look like the Lorax.

~UCSD 2

A residential area

Much of the tour focused on housing. They have a 6-college system based on Oxford, and it’s supposedly the only other university with the same system. At first this seemed wrong but they didn’t explain it well: both the admissions rep at the info session and the tour guide made them sound like residential colleges at many other schools. I walked away without knowing what made them different. I went to their website to figure it out.

~UCSD 4

Another residential area

These colleges (like residential colleges at other large schools) make this 24,000 undergraduate institution seem smaller. Students rank the colleges in order of interest. “It’s like Harry Potter. You get accepted into Hogwarts and then get split into living areas later.” What makes the colleges different are the themes, philosophy, and general education requirements based on where they live. “You should consider the college’s philosophy and the architecture when deciding where to live.” The tour guide was stuck on the architecture but none of the 3 colleges walked through were all that different. We didn’t go into any rooms – or even any of the buildings – because of the supposed differences.

~UCSD 10

Engineering building

The most significant difference is the general education requirements. This gives students some control over how and what they study.

~UCSD mascot

Mascot

Housing is guaranteed for 2 years for freshmen and 1 year for transfers. There are singles, doubles, and triples in most colleges. Finding off-campus housing is relatively easy with websites such as a Facebook page to help find potential roommates, apartment-shares, etc. Shuttles to popular off-campus housing areas run about every 15 minutes, and students can use public transportation on the weekends with student ID. The campus loop shuttles run about every 20 minutes.

~UCSD Residential areaAdmissions is competitive; approximately 1/3 of the 78,000+ applicants are admitted. They look at only 10th and 11th grade weighted GPA; if a high school doesn’t weight, UCSD will weight it with a cap of 8 AP or honors classes given the boost. Testing must be completed by December. This was one of the first schools I’ve heard that talked up summer programs while discussing activities. Scholarships are few and far between (only about 200).

~UCSD 6The student body is about 81% in-state. There are no quotas; the rep said that admissions generally reflected the application pool. The UC application – and test scores (“Don’t waste your money by sending them to more than one,” said the rep) – can be viewed by all UC schools to which the student applies, but be aware of any supplements required by some campuses – and yes, the $70 fee must be paid for each application!

Students are admitted to the university, not to a major. Currently, engineering is the only impacted major. Students may get accepted to UCSD but cut from engineering. “If you want engineering, aim for higher than the averages.” Switching majors is easy to do except into engineering: “Don’t make it your first choice plan,” said the rep.

~UCSD grafiti art park

Graffiti Art Park

Introductory classes can have up to 400 students. The tour guide put a positive spin on it: “It gives you something to say later in classes of 5. Otherwise, those small classes would be too intimidating.” Her largest classes did hit the 400 mark with discussion sections of 25 and labs of 40-50. Her smallest class has been 5, “but I’m in a pretty small major.” TAs rarely teach classes except in the summer, but they will have TAs for discussion sections, labs, etc. The tour guide said that the exception of this would be when “they’re the most qualified, like the woman teaching the forensic science class who had worked in the LA coroner’s office.”

There’s a Pass system for registering for classes: students are ranked according to their earned credits. Students can then register for 2 classes per “pass” – everyone can register for 2 before the first group gets their 2nd Pass and can register for 2 more.

Students who are struggling can buy lecture notes for about $30 a semester. The notes are taken by student who has already earned a B+ or better in class, and are then looked over by the professor. The guide also really pushed office hours. Professors are only required to have 1 hour a week of office hours; having attended a college where professors had 4 or 5 hours a week, this seemed light.

Some of their more unique majors include: Urban Studies and Planning, Nanotechnology and NanoEngineering, Math – Scientific Computation, Bioinformatics, Pharmaceutical Chemistry, and Literatures of the World.

I didn’t get a good sense of social life on campus other than getting the normal run-down of clubs and that each college holds social events. Greek life apparently isn’t huge, but the tour guide wasn’t able to answer questions other than to say that the Social Greeks are not as big as the Academic Greeks.

(c) 2015

Rowan University

ROWAN UNIVERSITY (visited 7/30/13)

Rowan meetingOne of Rowan’s claims to fame is that it hosted a meeting in 1967 between President Johnson and Soviet Premier Kosygin at the Hollybush Mansion, the university president’s home. They met here because of its location halfway between the UN and DC. Apparently, Lady Bird Johnson took the chairs which are now in the Smithsonian with a tag that says “Donated by Rowan” – the tour guide says that if we go there, we should tell people that they were taken from Rowan, not donated!

I had no idea what to expect from Rowan, one of New Jersey’s public universities, but I walked away with a good impression. Students are happy and enthusiastic about the programs and the opportunities they’ve had. This school of 10,750 undergraduates has recently been designated as a state Research Institution, and they’re proud that they do not do research at the expense of the undergraduate. Instead, they’ve been doing a great deal to expand their offerings and opportunities for their students. More money has been going into resources for students, and more scholarship money is available than ever before. They’ve increased their academic offerings for students, including eight new PhD programs and several new Masters programs are in the pipeline. Their Med School is highly competitive, receiving 3,000 apps for 50 seats, and it’s only the second university (after Michigan State) to offer both an MD and a DO (osteopathic medicine) degree. This has had a “trickle-down effect” into their undergraduate programs, and every undergraduate college on campus has a pre-med program, even the performing arts, including using dance as part of therapy. They’re getting away from the traditional model of pre-med prep.

Rowan academicsThey are proud of their Four Pillars program which includes: Economic Engine (helping students getting job and becoming involved in the community); Affordability (they froze tuition by keeping efficiencies in the system); Accessibility (making education available even though they’re getting more selective); and Growth (they’ve built the Stratford Campus for the medical and graduate programs, and they’ve built a partnership with Rutgers for a biomedical school). They’re looking to DOUBLE their student population over the next 10 years. They’ve already shown tremendous growth in their numbers; they used to only serve students from 4 or 5 counties; now they’re a well-known regional university, and they want to become better known across the country. Their out-of-state applications have been rapidly increasing, almost doubling last year from 400 to 700. In the most current freshman class, students had an average of a 3.6 GPA and 1200 SAT or 26 ACT.

Rowan Sci outside

Outside of the new science building

Inside the Science Building

Inside the Science Building

Some of the students’ favorite classes have been the History of WWII, the Arab-Israeli Conflict, and Developmental Psychopathology. Their classes range from 10-35, and they appreciate the small classes and the chance that they know the professors; people notice if they aren’t in class, and they’re able to get a lot out of classes. Rowan has a strong business program, including Supply Chain and Logistical Systems, Management Info Systems, Entrepreneurship, and other more usual concentrations. Engineering students can choose to specialize in Chemical (ranked 3rd in nation, top among public universities), Civil and Environmental, Electrical and Computer, or Mechanical (ranked 8th in nation). Within the Humanities and Social Sciences College, their Africana Studies, Law and Justice Studies, and Planning are the most unusual majors. In the Science and math division, students can choose from all the usual majors, plus Bioinformatics and Child Behavioral Services. Education is strong at Rowan, and they have a program that allows students to graduate before student teaching, as long as they’ve fulfilled all the other requirements. Two of the tour guides had just graduated but were staying for one more semester to do their student teaching requirement.

Rowan quadAlthough there’s a lot to do on campus, students love that they’re only 20 minutes from Philly, 45 minutes to the shore, and halfway between NYC and DC. The school is doing a lot to do more outreach into the local community, and the activities on campus give students a real sense of community within campus and into the wider town. Unless students commute from a parent’s house, they have to live on campus for the first 2 years. There are freshman-only dorms which are mostly traditional style, but some have suites where they have to clean their own bathrooms. The university is building a 5-block-long apartment complex with Honors housing, B&N bookstore, Starbucks, retail shops and restaurants, arts and entertainment district. Ten percent of the student population joins Greek life.

© 2013

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