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Widener University (Take 2)

Widener Old Main 2

Old Main, the original building when this was Pennsylvania Military College

Widener University (visited 2/25/19)

(Click HERE to see notes and pictures from my previous visit on 11/20/15)

What makes students a good fit for Widener?

  • “We’re told by co-op employers that our students have grit and no sense of entitlement. There’s a drive that pushes them.”
  • “Kids come in with so much on their plate – but they keep going. They’re all passionate about something. They’re resourceful and innovative. They want to try new things and to connect.”
  • “We’re a smallish campus and a family style environment. People aren’t anonymous. You know the groundskeeper, the president, the person serving you in the dining hall, the student next to you in class.”
  • “We’re plugged in here. We’ll do wellness checks.”
Widener mascot

One of the Pride mascots (female, male, and cub)

“Student success is at the core of everything we do,” said an admissions rep. This ranges from a 3-year residency requirement (“data points say that students are more successful if they live on campus”) to experiential education “which is harder to find than you think!” Some students have never engaged in diverse environments, dealt with communities struggling with hunger insecurity, etc. They work with students to appreciate civic engagement for what it is and deal with it as career preparation. Students deal with privilege and power on a variety of levels.

Widener 1Widener uses their location to their advantage; some people worry about safety in that area, but “No one talks about all the rich things that happen in terms of service. All major cities have stuff. If you go to a rural campus, there are rural issues. If you go to an urban campus, there are urban issues. We talk to kids about being savvy about where you are. Because of all the lights, it’s like Yankee Stadium in the middle of a game. There are more than 100 cameras. There are tons of ways to keep campus safe.”

Widener hospitality cooking lab

One of the Hospitality lab/classrooms – the top slides back to expose stovetops

Widener students are 20% more likely to participate in research, internships, and high impact practices through Civic Engagement, hands-on education, Co-ops, and more. In the Philly region, Drexel and Widener are co-op powerhouses with two significant differences:

Widener tv studio 1

One of the student-run tv studios in the communications department

Although I had visited Widener several years earlier, I was glad to revisit and see many of the departments I hadn’t before; they did an amazing job getting us the academic facilities and talking to professors who were passionate and clearly care about the students. I can see why students do so well here! A professor told us that “one of our competitors on the accreditation team said, ‘We say we care; you guys really care’.”

“This is the place where you have dinner at the President’s House. You get that up close and personal. More than 1000 students have dinner there every year: she invites sports teams, Bonner’s Program, etc. The dogs come out and the pool is open.”

Widener computer forensics

One of the Computer Forensics labs

We asked the students on the panel, “Why should we send students here? What’s appealing?”

  • “During a revisitation day, two science professors sought me out. I’m 1 of 7 biochem
  • “It’s the only school in the area that goes to the European Simulation. It’s one of the most life changing things I’ve done.”
  • “Family and Growth. I’ve seen myself grow compared to my friends at other colleges. You can create your own legacy and leave your mark.”
  • “I run track and miss random classes for meets, but it’s easy to work with professors to make sure I keep up.”
  • “They’ll work with you to match you with internships because professors have connections. They have no problem helping out and linking students with their contacts.”
  • “I came for the accelerated PT program. I’ll starts grad classes in senior year to shave off a year of my graduate studies, but I keep my scholarship as a senior.”
Widener geology lab

A geology lab

With 3,000 full-time undergrads and 3,000 graduate students, Widener provides what many larger schools offer while giving students a smaller college feel and personal attention with an average of 25 students per class. “It’s a blessing and a curse because we’re put in with larger institutions, so we get hit with rankings.”

Student panelists said that their favorite classes were:

  • Genetics: “my research prof teaches it. She’s helped with med school, MCATs, shaping me as a person. This taught me resilience.”
  • “I don’t have a specific favorite, but I’ve taken 4 classes with one professor. He embodies the involvement faculty have =. He checks in with how I’m doing. He knows I ski.”
  • Constitutional Law: “The Prof engages without PowerPoints for 3 hours. I’m learning the same things as Villanova Law students.”
  • “I had one professor in fall of freshman year who helped me find my internship. We got close because I was always missing his class for meets so I was working a lot with him.”
  • Business Law: “I want to go into that. I took it with a professor who’s a lawyer. I learned things I could apply in the field.”
  • Environmental Engineering: “I had the professor for 3 classes and did research with her.”
Widener nursing 1

The nursing building

The largest major is nursing: about 200 of the incoming 750-800 freshmen declare that major. Overall, they have strong Health programs (especially PT) and are starting OTD and PA programs. They accepted 16 into next year’s PT accelerated 3+3 cohort: to be offered a spot, students need 570 math SAT (1200 composite) or 24 math ACT (24 composite). If they don’t meet that but are admissible to Widener, they’re offered a 4+3. PT students work in a pro-bono clinic and complete in-patient, out-patient, and 1 choice internship; some do sports, pediatrics, even abroad (currently in Belize or Italy; Costa Rica and China are potential future possibilities).

Widener library 1

The library

All majors can study abroad: “going abroad should not delay your education.” Students can also study away in the US. “There’s a diversity of options without even leaving the North America: HBCUs, sea grants, French-speaking in Quebec, Spanish speaking in PR.” Widener owns property in Costa Rica, often used for short-term abroad programs, research projects, etc.

Over 90% of students live on campus in a variety of options including gender-neutral. Housing is guaranteed all 4 years and required for 3 unless they live with family within 25 miles. All students can have cars; permits are $230/year. There are 2 nearby train stations (Chester and Swarthmore) and buses to get around town.

NCAA athletes (23 DIII teams) make up 25-30% of the freshman class. “Academics and graduating are the most important. That being said, we hate losing more than we love winning.” Just over half of the athletes made the honor roll, and athletes are the highest retaining cohort.

Widener has been named among the top 150 most affordable colleges (out of 1700 researched by LendEDU) for freshmen with financial need. The “Average Joe” gets about $26,000 in merit aid.

© 2019

 

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Old Dominion University

Old Dominion University (visited 1/31/19)

√P1110926

The new Education building

I can’t say that my initial impressions of the university were stellar (although I think they redeemed themselves so keep reading!). The Welcome Center (the actual admissions dept is elsewhere) was hard to find; I found out that they weren’t even offering a tour on the day I arrived despite it being listed on their website; and they had no record of me coming, even though I had confirmation from the admissions rep that I was welcome to join the (non-existent) tour/info session. The Welcome Center was a small office on the side of a large atrium in a large building off the quad … with almost no signage to get people to the right place. When I got into the right building (after calling the office to get directions which at least got me to the right building), I asked a CNU employee for help … and she had no idea that the office was even in that building. The people in the welcome center (when I finally found them!) were confused as to why I was there, although they were incredibly nice and went out of their way to help. When I went to put the parking pass in my car (visitors park on the 4th or 5th floor of the garage more than a block away), they arranged for the student intern, a senior, to give me a personal tour since there were no tours that day.

 

P1110920

The main quad (with 70s architecture)

All that being said … the student spent 90 minutes giving me an amazing tour, and he was one of the best ambassadors that ODU could have asked for. He was not at all scripted (so many tour guides can’t get off “the script” to save themselves), and I feel like I got the real scoop on what it was like to be a student. He didn’t hold back when he felt that there was room for improvement, and he didn’t sugar coat his experiences. When he got excited, that was genuine as well.

 

P1110937I think this is one of the most racially diverse campuses I’ve ever seen (and I’ve visited over 420 schools at this point). Fewer than 50% of students self-identify as Caucasian; about 1/3 self-identify as African-American and almost 10% as Hispanic. I mentioned this to the guide, and he agreed. “The mix of students you see in the classrooms aren’t staged. That’s how things are here.” In the new Student Center, there are multiple Affinity Rooms (not just for race), and students can use whichever one they identify with. I asked the tour guide about the less-visible diversity (religion, political views, socio-economic status), etc. He thinks it’s impressive; he loves that he knows all sorts of people with all sorts of backgrounds and views.

P1110941

This “monorail” was built to help move students around campus — but the builders never tested to see if it would run off the ground!

ODU is technically classified as a residential campus, but doesn’t seem to be the reality. My tour guide said that there are only about 2000 beds on campus; the university says that 24% of the undergraduate population (hovering around 19,500) – and 75% of freshmen — live in “university owned, operated, or affiliated housing” (aka not necessarily on campus). As a senior, he lives off campus, and says that there’s no issue finding housing. There are a lot of houses to rent as well as apartment complexes. Because of the high number of students commuting from home or living off campus, “parking is an issue.” However, it’s easy to walk and bike – in fact, it’s ranked #7 “most bike friendly campus” in the country. Campus is flat “and you’ll see a lot of people biking and skateboarding.” Students can get free weekly bike rentals or pay a fee of $35 a year to guarantee a bike.

 

P1110943

Some of the dorms

Only about 10% of the student go Greek. “I’m not affiliated and I’ve never felt like I’ve missed out.” There’s no Greek Housing – and they have a rule that no more than 5 (6?) members of a chapter can live together. I asked if they really enforced that, especially with the number of people living off campus. He said no, but in practicality, there were few rental places that would accommodate more than that anyway. Food on campus “is good! They even have a hibachi grill and a conveyer belt with fresh-sushi and other things to grab-and-go. You just wait for what you want to come around!”

P1110945

Freshly made sushi on the grab-and-go conveyor belt in the dining hall

Their 6-year graduation rate isn’t wonderful. Only about 55% of their students graduate within this time frame. “I think that commuting is a big reason for people who transfer out,” said the tour guide. “It’s just not conducive to the college experience.”

ODU started as the Norfolk division of William and Mary in 1930, and became its own school with university status in 1969: the main quad architecture definitely has a 1970s vibe! However, campus outside of that main quad has lots of new buildings and a modern feel. Academics are impressive, and the new buildings have amazing classrooms geared towards discussion and group work. The tour guide’s largest classes (intro level) had “about 75 students.” The smallest had 10.

© 2019

College of William and Mary

William & Mary (visited 1/31/19)

√P1110917No doubt, W&M is an amazing school with a beautiful, historic campus and strong academics. I was disappointed that along with that, I got a strong “We don’t have to try” vibe during the visit. I was glad that the info session didn’t have a PowerPoint (and therefore more of a conversational feel) but there wasn’t much insight into the college during this time. The thing that the rep got the most excited about was the Cheese Club which was started because a student liked to buy cheese and share it with his dorm-mates.

P1110905

The Sunken Garden where a lot of campus-wide events take place

 

This is the 2nd oldest college in the US (after Harvard), but they’re quick to point out that they are first in lots of other areas: oldest law school, honor code, honor society, and the oldest academic building (Wren) still in use. “It’s a tradition to take a class in there before graduation,” said the rep. With a school as old as this, there are lots of traditions. The rep highlighted a couple favorites:

  • Yule Log: In mid-December, the community (including people from town) gathers in the courtyard where there are bonfires going. Everyone gets a sprig of holy, and there’s singing, hot cider, and more. Someone reads “’Twas the Night Before Finals” and the university President shares a story, as well.
  • P1110910

    The Wren Building – the Oldest continually used academic building in the country and is used for many of the campus traditions

    Opening Convocation welcomes freshman to campus. The Provost and President give speeches, then students get ushered through Wren into the Courtyard on the other side where all other students and faculty cheer. First-years go single file and get high fives. At graduation, they basically reverse this walk and exit campus as a group.

  • The Raft Debate has 4 faculty members appealing to the audience – in highly theatrical fashion – why they should be the sole survivor of shipwreck to use the raft to get off the desert island on which they’re stranded.
W&M bridge 2

The iconic (and infamous?) bridge – as with any campus, there are legends. At W&M, if you kiss someone on the bridge, you’re going to marry that person. To reverse this, you have to push that person off the bridge.

One of the most interesting bits of information I got was that W&M operates a joint program with St. Andrews. Students spend two years at each institution and have some flexibility in the order in which they do these. I spoke with two first-year students while waiting for the info session to start, both of whom are in the incoming class’ 27-person cohort. They are both planning on spending their first and last years at W&M with the 2 years in between at St. Andrew’s. Students have a limited number of majors from which to choose if they’re in this program (Film Studies is the most competitive; others include English, History, Econ, International Relations, and Classical Studies). In order to be accepted to the program, they had to submit an additional 2000 word essay with their W&M application. They said that there’s no special orientation other than a brunch and dinner at the beginning of the year, but they’ve been taking a class throughout the semesters that covers things like culture shock.

P1110882In terms of academics, “We’re a liberal arts institution while still being a research university,” said the rep. They take an interesting approach to the Core requirements: all students take “Coll” Classes (the College Curriculum): there are 2 First-Year Experiences classes. In the 2nd year, the classes focus on academic disciplines to provide breadth of knowledge. The 3rd year has a global focus and can be covered by study abroad. The 4th year is a capstone for the major.

W&M solar charger

Solar Panels run the outlets on this picnic table!

The majority (70%) of students do research (but she had a hard time coming up with examples outside of the sciences when asked – psychology (the major is technically Psychological Sciences) was mentioned, which is another fairly common research area – and not surprisingly, the new Integrated Science building includes the psychology department). About 25% of those who do research are published before graduation.

As a medium sized university (6,000 undergrads, about 2/3 of whom come from Virginia – many people forget that this is a public institution!), they offer a good range of majors, including some more specialized ones that you’d expect to see at larger schools:

P1110902Students have the opportunity to apply for an Early Assurance entry into VCU or Eastern VA Medical School. Eligibility requirements differ between the schools, but both a 3.5 GPA from W&M and must get a minimum score on the MCAT (505 or 507) in addition to other things.

Campus is bike-friendly and easy to navigate (regardless of how you get around!). A few areas of note include “Ancient (or Historic) Campus” which has 3 of the 4 oldest campus buildings in the country. Martha Barksdale Field was created to give women a place for sports; although men were not specifically banned from this space, the stipulation she put on it was that cleats could not be worn – and since the men wore cleats to play, they had to stay off.

© 2019

Le Moyne College

Le Moyne College (visited 8/23/18)

LeMoyne statue

Statue of St. Ignatius

This is a small (just under 2,800 undergrads) liberal arts, Jesuit college in a residential section on the edge of Syracuse. It’s a quiet area, but Erie Blvd, a main drag full of restaurants and stores, is less than a mile away. Because of its Jesuit heritage, they stress the development of critical thinking and thinking outside the box; students who embrace this are likely to thrive there.

LeMoyne chalk 2Students who choose Le Moyne come because they don’t want a massive school. The Admissions Rep for my area told me that there’s a stronger sense of community here than anywhere else he has worked; he thinks it might be a Jesuit influence and the ingrained idea that people are important. “I got that sense the first time I visited.” At some large places, “you have world-renowned faculty who you may only see as a grad student and sometimes not even then. Here they want to teach the undergrads, and that comes through loud and clear.”

LeMoyne jesuit residence

The Jesuit Residence

The Jesuit influence is there, but “it’s not heavy-handed,” said the rep. There is a Jesuit Residence on campus and the priests are active. I spoke to several students before taking the tour; 2 of them said they were not looking for a Jesuit school at all; they chose this for other factors. About 60% of students self-identify as Catholic, “but there are all sorts of religions represented including Jewish, Muslim, and nothing at all.” There is no religious requirement other 1 class in religion or philosophy; there is one required community service trip usually during freshman orientation. The tour guide said that he was taking a class on Buddhism to fulfill his requirement. There is a beautiful chapel and masses are offered but never required. However, Mass on the Grass (usually at the beginning of the year) and the Blessing of the Brains (held before finals) are popular events to attend.

LeMoyne chapel 2

The Chapel

Most freshman live on campus, and dorms are fairly typical. They’re slowly renovating them. The most coveted dorm (for underclassmen) is on the top floor of the Business School which has beautiful rooms and AC. They used to alternate years between male and female, “but they guys messed that up,” said the tour guide. “I’m a little annoyed about that!” There are some townhouses and other specialty dorms for upperclassmen, but many also move off campus; there’s plenty of places for rent in the area and plenty of parking. No complaints from students about that. Food “is an 8, mostly because of the options,” said the tour guide.

LeMoyne quad 3

The Quad

Students are pretty happy with the social life on campus. Their sports teams are DII and are popular (participation and to watch). Shuttles run regularly around town to Wegmans (a favorite grocery store), Target/Walmart, and Destiny USA (a massive mall with ropes courses and more inside). There’s a pub on campus; students need to show their school ID and a license to get alcohol. Underage students can get free soda. A favorite tradition is “Dolphy Day” (their mascot is the Dolphin – an early symbol of Christianity). This is a day in the spring, usually late April, when classes get canceled. The actual day is a secret until it’s announced at midnight. The next day, students gather on the quad for barbecues, music, and more.

LeMoyne athletics 1One of the Academic programs that the Rep stressed was the Madden School of Business. “Programs are excellent, and the faculty are terrific,” which leads to a 98% job placement rate coming out of the program. They offer the typical/expected majors, but in addition to those, they also have also one of the top programs for Management Information Systems (ranked 18th in the country), Business Analytics, and HR Management. All students in the school complete at least 1 internships; several do 2-3. There are opportunities around the world, and they can take advantage of the Jesuit school network in India, Mexico, and other parts of the world.

LeMoyne Innovation labIn terms of performing arts, Theater is the only major in visual and performance arts. Minors in dance, visual arts, Arts Administration, and music are available. Auditions are not required for theater or any of the minors, but they are required to get a role in plays or in the music groups. They have several a capella groups: “My favorite is called ‘From Out of Nowhere’,” said the rep.

LeMoyne new science bldg

The new Science building addition

Health Sciences are particularly strong for a school this size, and they even have a cadaver lab. They have Direct Entry Physician Assistant, Occupational Therapy, and Nursing programs as well as a 3+3 Physical Therapy program. PA requires a 1250 SAT; the application deadline is 1/15. They will interview by invitation only; students must have completed at least 10 shadowing hours at that point (and 50 total at point of entry). Nursing is done in conjunction with St. Joe’s School of Nursing in Syracuse, located about 2 miles away. Students complete pre-reqs and capstones on Le Moyne’s campus and the nursing-specific classes and clinicals at St. Joe’s. However, they live on Le Moyne’s campus all 4 years.

© 2018

Florida Atlantic University

Florida Atlantic University (visited 2/24/18)

FAU mascot

The mascot, a burrowing owl, with the football stadium in the background

This seems like a fairly run-of-the-mill large school with about 21,000 undergraduates on the main campus in Boca Raton. “We aren’t a college town. We’re in Boca which happens to have a major state institution in it,” said the Admissions rep at the info session. They’re only 2 miles from the beach and located almost exactly between West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale (each 25-30 minutes). If students are looking for a school with solid (but not at all overwhelming or competitive) academics, warm weather/access to a beach and time to enjoy it, and a bit of a rah-rah atmosphere without the intense tailgating atmosphere of some of the SAC schools, this might be a good choice. Athletics are D1 (students get free admission to home games) with football domineering the scene, particularly after they became the 2017 conference champions. Fun Fact: their stadium is the only one in the country with a view of the ocean.

FAU walkway 2

The Breezeway

In regards to the main campus, one of the tour guides said, “It looks like such a big school, but it’s not! I can get places in 10 minutes” (although a trolley runs around campus if they don’t want to walk). Partly this comes from only 25-30% of students living on campus (about 5000). The rep described FAU as, “A bigger school with a smaller-school feel. We have resources, and we’re growing. Students can be part of that, making traditions, stuff like that.” FAU was founded in 1961 on an old Air Force Base – “in case you’re wondering why the Breezeway is so long and straight, it was built on the old runway,” the tour guide said.

FAU student union

The main entrance to the Student Union

That being said, I don’t get the sense that there is a vibrant campus social life. There is stuff going on (things you’d expect: clubs, speakers, and a movie theater with $2 tickets) but the students indicated that most of the fun is found off campus. No doubt that stems from a majority of students not living on campus, but it could also be a feature of the location with so much off campus to choose from. The beach, obviously, is a big draw. There is free bus that gets students around the area.

FAU runs five other campuses including:

  • SeaTech: FAU was the first to offer Ocean Engineering
  • Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute
  • Honors College: This is its own campus. The rep likened it to a private liberal arts college. “It’s all honors, all the time. Courses are more rigorous across the board.” Students can major in many areas, but not engineering, music, nursing or other “specialty” majors. There is an Honors Program on the main campus for students who do not want that particular environment, or who want to major in an area not offered at the Honors College.
  • Architecture: This is a 5-year program in Fort Lauderdale. Architecture isn’t capped “but is limited access.” I had to prod the rep a bit to get her to explain what that means: “there’s a supplemental application process. You have to have selected architecture on your application. Once admitted to the university, it’ll trigger the next step. Students need to do supplemental work like submitting drawing, etc.” This appears to be more like a portfolio process: if a student is qualified, they’ll be admitted into the program
FAU freshman housing

One of the freshman dorms

Freshmen are required to live on campus unless living with parents within 30 miles. There are 3 freshmen housing options: Parliament is a little newer but a little further away. Suites house 4 students (in 2 double or 4 single rooms) with 2 bathrooms. Glades and Heritage (4-person suites but 2 doubles or 1 double/2 singles) only have 1 bathroom and separate vanity. They’re at 100% capacity for freshmen but they’re adding housing. Off-campus housing is relatively easy to find. “It’s expensive around here, but it’s not more than living on campus.” The students I talked to before the tour said that they wish they had Greek housing.

FAU quadThe tour guides said that campus food is generally good, and there tends to be enough choices so it’s not boring. They love The Burrow which serves food late-night and has trivia nights, karaoke, etc. In the main dining hall, mac-n-cheese tends to draw the crowds.

FAU 3Admissions is rolling (they only accept their own application), but “merit aid is competitive, so it’s better to apply early,” recommended the rep. No essay is required, but students must self-report grades. Students can check their Application Status directly on the application page. The university can admit students for either fall or a summer-start option. Generally, the GPA requirement is higher for the fall (the incoming class averages a 3.8-4.45, summer averages 3.4-3.9). They will weight the GPA on their end, counting major classes and electives. If admitted for fall, students can switch to summer, but cannot switch back (only 1 switch is allowed). If admitted for summer, they can ask to be reevaluated for fall-entry if test scores or grades go up.

FAU 2Decisions take about 4 weeks, give or take. Decisions for Limited Access Programs like nursing or architecture take a little longer. Nursing is capped at 120 students. Art and music applicants need a portfolio or audition for admission into that program, and applicants into engineering require need a 3.0 in their math classes and have completed at least 1 math above Algebra 2.

There are a few academic programs worth noting:

FAU 1Freshmen classes can run 100-200, but the average lecture class size is 39; average labs have 20 and discussion classes are 30. The tour guide’s smallest classes were 10-13 (both English); largest classes were 125-140 (general lab science).

I asked one of the guides about the types of students who might not fit in at FAU: “People who are ignorant and unwilling to go out of their comfort zone won’t do well here. People are accepted here; they’re safe to be who they are. The people who judge or make them feel safe don’t last.”

© 2018

 

Boston College

Boston College (visited 9/14/17)

BC quad 3

Quad on Middle Campus

BC’s architecture, at least in Middle Campus, consists of beautiful stone buildings. The campus tour focused mainly in this part of campus which houses most of the academics. Lower Campus houses the athletics facilities, and most of the upperclassmen live there. Upper Campus has freshmen housing. “There are a lot of steps here,” said the tour guide. “They don’t go away!”

BC bell tower

One of the iconic buildings

This Jesuit college sits in Chestnut Hill on the outskirts of Boston; the last stop of the T’s red line gets students easily in and out of the city (it’s about a 25 minute ride to downtown). The tour guide said that he “didn’t come here because it’s Jesuit. I’m not even Catholic, but I’ve come to appreciate the culture and values here.” This is a highly residential and involved campus. Almost all freshmen (~99%) and 85% of students overall live on campus. Housing is so good that seniors tend to move BACK to campus if they moved off in junior year. Food is also great, according to the tour guide. They have a pastry chef who used to work at the Four Seasons, and the dining hall makes a New York Times rated steak sandwich!

BC sculptureThis campus falls on the “smaller size of Tier 1 Research Institutions” but it’s still a liberal arts institution at heart. “We’re trained to think in different ways,” said one of the students. There are 15 core requirements but with at least 30 choices within each one. Complex Problems is a 6-credit core co-taught classes: topics include Race, Gender, and Violence and Global Implications of Climate Change. Students are ask to grapple with critical questions of global significance, looking at where they fit into those issues and what steps they may be able to take to address them. Enduring Questions classes are similar, but are paired, thematically linked 3-credit classes such as Epidemic and Disease. This used to be a small program; now they save 1000 seats for First Year students.

BC walkwayStudents must take 2 theology courses as part of their core requirements There are plenty of options including Person and Social Responsibility Perspectives on Western Civilization. Students can enroll in the Pulse Program to fulfill this. Classes has15-20 students who do service-learning work in Boston in their choice from one of 15 or so placements. These range from GED tutoring at a Correctional Facility to suicide prevention to working in a nursing home. They connect to social justice issues and to life outside the university.

BC interior

Interior of one of the Academic buildings

Some academics worth noting:

BC library reading room

A reading room in the library

There are 2 traditions that bring all members of a class together: at Convocation (during orientation), students come together for the Common Read (the 2017-18 book is A Backpack, a Bear, and Eight Crates of Vodka). Students group together by Res Hall with banners and march down to the hockey arena where they hear the Common Read author speak. To book-end things, students come together again at commencement: they stay up all night and watch the sun rise from the top of the parking garage. After changing to cap and gown, they march together through the rotunda to graduation.

There is a lot of school spirit when it comes to athletics, and the teams don’t disappoint. The yearly “Holy War” football rivalry against Notre Dame draws a huge crowd. Hockey is particularly huge here: “It gets cold and dark here in the winter. What else are you going to do?” said the tour guide. They also play in the Hockey Round Robin with Northeastern, BU, and Harvard. Last year they lost in overtime to Harvard.

© 2017

Western Washington University

Western Washington University (visited 6/23/17)

WWU 7WWU quickly became one of my favorite schools. I’m not sure what the vibe is, but whatever is going on there is working — and with an 82% freshman-sophomore retention, the students like it, too. Driving up the hill to campus, we decided it felt a little like a summer camp. We later learned that there’s a designated arboretum along the edge of campus. The wooded area opened up to a beautiful campus at the top of the hill. “This is the Goldilocks of campuses,” said one student. “It’s the right size.”

WWU dorms 1In many ways, this is an artsy campus “but that’s not all-encompassing. I wouldn’t describe the engineering department like that!” said one of the reps when we asked her if our impressions were accurate. There is a general sense of inclusive access and closing gaps starting with admissions and carrying through the way the students treat each other and the wider world. This is an open, accepting community. About a dozen students attended the counselor reception so we had time to talk to them. Their nametags listed preferred gender pronouns.

WWU 4Students are aware of and interested in what’s going on in the world. “I haven’t met an apathetic person on campus and I appreciate that,” said a tour guide. Students mobilize themselves. They’ll help get people registered to vote and hold protests for the Dakota pipeline. “There’s a general sense of wanting to talk about events and differences. Yeah, you see things that seem skewed towards the liberal, but there are also posters up about conservative talking-points as well.” It’s not surprising that for 3 years running, WWU has been #1 nationally among mid-sized universities sending graduates to the Peace Corps.

WWU sculpture 3This is a medium-sized university with 15,000 students, about 95% of whom are undergrads. Not surprisingly, most students are from Washington. Just over half (52%) self-identify as some sort of under-represented student (including low income, students of color (25%), and first gen (31%)). “People might have multiple identities: we don’t look at diversity in a compartmentalized way. It’s intersectional,” said the President.

WWU quadOne unique academic aspect stems from this approach of intersectionality: the Fairhaven College of Interdisciplinary Study is a bit like Evergreen State College in that students can collaborate with faculty to create a course of study. There are significant differences, but the spirit is there. These are students who want to look at things intentionally and systematically, usually with some component of social justice/change. Advisors help students acclimate to the learning style, the narrative evaluations, and grappling with creating their own degree. Students write an evaluation at the end of the quarter; the professor responds and decides if they get credit. “I felt like I learned so much more because there was more dialogue and in-depth conversation with peers and the professor.” It’s good for students who want to share their views and learn from each other. The college is physically located on South Campus, but not all classes are there. Students still have to take a certain number of “Main Campus” classes. Most students apply during freshman or sophomore year but can apply as an incoming freshman. Their core requirements differ from Main; they mirror each other but are specific to the campus.

WWU fountain

The fountain controlled by a sensor on top of one of the buildings; if it’s windy, the fountain height goes down

The university’s tag-line is Active Minds Changing Lives. “Students love learning and doing something meaningful,” said one of the students. Teachers are here because they want to teach, and just over half of the students will do research with a professor. Academics of note are:

  • Unusual majors include Canadian-American Studies, Decision Sciences, Manufacturing and Supply Chain Management, and Behavioral Neuroscience.
  • Unusual Minors include Arts Enterprise & Cultural Innovation, Business Analytics, Disaster Risk Reduction, and Sustainable Design
  • WWU science

    One of the science buildings

    The College of the Environment was one of the first in the country; they’ve been ranked in the top 2% in the nation for number of grads who go on to earn research doctorates. “Environmental Sustainability = Human Sustainability!”

  • Theater is ranked as #10 in the country. There are several professional theaters within 10-15 miles where students can intern.
  • There are about 150 students in Honors each year; an honor-housing option is available.
  • IDEA: Interdisciplinary Entrepreneurship in Action
  • They offer a Leadership Minor open to all students, and they’re working on a Masters. The curricular and co-curricular work together. They’re trying to get a leadership conference going through UNESCO.
  • WWU maker space

    One of the maker-spaces on campus; students do much of the engineering work in hands-on labs like this

    Engineering: All tracks are accredited (except vehicle design; there’s no accreditation for this). Students aren’t admitted directly into the program; they apply as soon as they finish the pre-reqs, much of which depends on where they start with math. This is a highly hands-on department. Students who invent/create things here will retain intellectual property (but are asked to acknowledge the school)! There’s a patent office on campus to help them with this process.

  • WWU quad 2The Fine Arts department takes advantage of the fact that this is the 2nd largest number of artists in residence after Santa Fe: film, painting, sew/knit/quilt/crochet. Art classes are open to non-majors, but majors get first pick. Open spots are then available to others.
  • A student designed the weather meter on Bond Hall – if it’s windy, the fountain gets lower so people don’t get sprayed with water. There’s a tradition that if they win at intramurals, they’ll jump in the fountain.
WWU Rockies 5

Canadian Rockies as seen from campus

The school has a strong Learning Support program. “The first year is very hands-on and progressively becomes hands-off. They’re coming out of K-12 where it was SO directed. We teach them how to ask for accommodations and how to advocate for themselves. It’s to help them move forward into being independent with this.”

WWU seatingThere’s no football and no Greek life on campus (although their rowing and soccer teams are national champions!). “That really helps town-gown relations!” Bellingham (population 82,000) is a beautiful place to live. Students get a free bus pass to get around town. The Canadian Rockies are visible from campus, and students can be at the mountains in an hour! The ocean is “right there”. The border is only 15 minutes away; Vancouver is another 30 beyond that. Students can catch the Amtrak for an easy day trip. Mt. Baker is an hour away, and Seattle (without traffic!) is 90 minutes. So many outdoor activities in the vicinity: skiing, snowboarding, kayaking, fishing, and even “hammocking if that’s your thing!” There are only 3 national chain restaurants (Starbucks, Pita Pit, and Jimmy John’s). The rest are locally owned.

WWU 1Admissions uses their own application requiring a personal essay and activity list with an optional “tell us more” section. They require a math-based course in senior year. However, if students have completed an advanced math beyond Algebra 2 before senior year, they are exempt from this requirement. This is a WUE school, but it’s treated almost like a competitive scholarship-based program. Only about 15% of students will get WUE, but then they offer 2 other award tiers for others.

© 2017

University of Mount Olive

University of Mount Olive (3/13/17)

UMO sign

The entrance to the main campus; you can see headlights from cars on the highway behind it

UMO’s main campus is small and located along a highway, tucked behind a shopping plaza. Luckily there’s a sign pointing visitors down the entrance road. Once you’re on campus, though, you would never realize either of those things. It is a lovely, well landscaped campus with low buildings and lots of lawn space.

UMO chapel

Campus Chapel

The chapel sits centrally located in the middle of campus. As a Baptist affiliated school, UMO holds onto its Christian mission. There’s a clear religious feel on campus, and students are encouraged to explore their faith. Students attending here should be aware that this will be a big part of the culture on campus and among students.

UMO 2

Student Center and dining hall

Students say that people are generally pretty friendly here. It’s not an overly competitive environment. Social life got mixed reviews. Students are required to live on campus for the first two years if they aren’t in commuting distance from home. Because it’s still very much a regional university with almost all the students coming from North Carolina, only 40% of freshmen (and less than 20% of the total study body) live on campus. Since there are so many people who don’t live on campus (or are close enough to leave on weekends), sometimes it’s too quiet. The town is very small, but there are plenty of stores and restaurants that are walkable. Raleigh, the closest city, is an hour away. Cars are allowed and parking isn’t much of an issue.

UMO quadBusiness programs are good here and provide several tracks including Human Resources, Agribusiness, Healthcare Management, and Business Analytics. Students wanting to go into Agricultural fields at a small school would love it here: they offer Agricultural Production Systems as well as Agricultural Education certification. However, I’d steer away from here if you’re interested in sciences! There are places that will serve you better in those areas.

UMO offers the typical athletic teams at the DII level. There isn’t any Greek life.

Graduation rates are low, and I’m not sure there’s much in place to correct that at this point in time.

© 2017

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