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Suffolk University

Suffolk University (visited 9/14/17)

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

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

Suffolk lobby

The lobby of the main academic building.

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

Suffolk quad

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

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

Suffolk art gallery

One of the Art studios

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

© 2017

Rider University

Rider University (visited 11/14/15)

~Rider quad 3During my tour, I had a hard time figuring out what makes Rider different from other smallish liberal arts schools. It’s a lovely campus with just over 4000 undergrads on the main campus in Lawrenceville. I visited on a partly-sunny day in November; although it was a bit windy, it wasn’t all that chilly, but only a few people seemed to be around campus. I don’t know how much of that was because it was a Saturday afternoon and classes were not in session, because students maybe go home on the weekend, or because there was an open house and several students were giving tours and helping to staff some Student Life Booths (although those students only represented a tiny fraction of the total population).

~Rider quad


The students I talked to were earnest and pleasant enough but most had trouble answering questions with any substance. Everyone I talked to said that they liked the community feel on campus, but there was little talk of how that manifested itself. I had to go to the website to learn about student life on campus; there appear to be a lot of great-sounding traditions, but none of the students talked about them, even when asked. The two students who were staffing the Hillel booth at the Open House Activities Fair were the exception to this. They were enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and interesting to talk to. They said they were “small but mighty” – there is a decent Jewish population on campus, but not a huge regular group at Hillel. However, those who came were very active, and they would often do things with The College of New Jersey which is only a few miles down the road.

~Rider businessThis seems like a good university for students looking for a solid, basic liberal-arts education with some options for career-oriented majors. I caught a bit of the Business Department’s presentation to prospective students. They were up-front about the fact that many careers that students prepare for don’t even exist yet. They have a wide range of options to choose from within the business program including Management and Leadership, Global Supply Chain Management, Information Systems, Business Economics, and Sport Management. Organizational Psychology will begin in Fall 2016.

~Rider sculpture 2Rider merged with the Westminster Choir College in the 1990s; that campus now houses the Arts College. They have robust range of offerings in this division including a BA in Popular Music Culture, Musical Theater, and Arts Administration.

Classes are kept small: the tour guide’s largest class had 40 students in her Intro to Geology class and 16 in her Cognitive Psych lab. Her favorite class was Theories of Psychotherapy.

One of the dorms

One of the dorms

Freshmen must live on campus; two years of housing are guaranteed, but the tour guide said that she had never heard of anyone being denied housing if they wanted it. Some housing is geared towards specific majors, and there’s 1 all-female dorm but no single-sex housing for males. Premium housing includes the suites and apartments (with a kitchen). Health Services gets rave reviews: “I love the health services here better than my own doctor.”

Pond with housing on the far side

Pond with housing on the far side

Centennial Pond is a nice feature on campus; there’s a bridge across and 2 fountains. The Lake House is a dorm on the far side for Musical Theater Majors. There are 2 frats (also housed by the lake) and 4 sororities. The Chapel has all sorts of religious services, including Shabbat services.

© 2015

SUNY Potsdam

SUNY Potsdam (visited 7/27/15)

Potsdam 3This is a solid school located about a mile from Clarkson and about 15 minutes from SUNY Canton and St. Lawrence University. “We may only have 4,000 students on campus, but you have about 15,000 college students in a 15-minute radius. There’s stuff going on,” said the tour guide. Potsdam is a bustling town with plenty to do within about a 10-minute walk from campus. Town-Gown relations are good. The first Saturday after freshmen move in, all the stores downtown open late. There are concerts, good deals at restaurants, huge checkers games, and more. All students can have cars on campus for a $112 fee, but the college will also run the Bear Bus to Albany, Syracuse, and NYC for breaks.

~Potsdam quad


The most notable “hook” at Potsdam is its Crane School of Music. Students must be admitted by Potsdam through the regular application process AND be accepted into Crane through auditions. Many students will audition on campus, but they know that not everyone can get there. Most international students and those living across the country will send in a DVD, but they also hold auditions in New York City which is much easier to travel to. They also hold scholarship auditions in October; it’s also a great chance to visit campus and meet with the music faculty.

~Potsdam 1The campus is attractive and walkable. A main road divides the academic and the residential sides. Many of the academic buildings are connected “which is great in the winter when you want to keep warm.” In the middle is a large, well-used quad.

Student lounge

Student lounge

There are only 3 lecture halls on campus. The tour guide’s largest class was Intro to Biology with 150 students; his smallest was a PoliSci elective with 6. He’s found all the professors to be very encouraging and willing to go out of their way to help – and that’s not limited to the school year. He’s been talking to and emailing a professor throughout the summer. There are also plenty of tutors available. He described how a tutor for one class came in on the second day and introduced herself early in the term so they knew who they could come to for help.

~Potsdam art studio 2

Ceramics Studio

Unusual majors include Interdisciplinary Natural Science, Music Business, Archaeological Studies, and Business Economics. Some unusual minors include Biological Anthropology, Wilderness Education, Nutrition, Jazz Studies, and Therapeutic Education.

~Potsdam 2There are several Joint-Degree programs:

~Potsdam restroomThere’s a residency requirement for freshmen and sophomores. The Freshmen Quad has 2 FYE dorms; some freshmen are housed in the 3rd dorm because of space issues. They are typical doubles that are coed by floor. There are suites for upperclassmen that fit up to 8 people as well as Townhouses. Food is available somewhere on campus from 7am to 1am. The dining hall will show movies on the weekends and often have an associated activity to go along with it such as “make your own minion” with Despicable Me or Superhero Sundae with The Avengers. Becky’s Place is an on-campus place to eat that’s a bit more fancy.

Students don’t have to look far to find things to do. Greek life is pretty big here; students can rush starting second semester. There are plenty of active clubs, including a Step Team, Rugby, Law Enforcement and Tactics Club, Stitch-n-Bitch, and Japanese drumming. The Harry Potter Club hosts Quidditch games, and another club runs Cardboard Duct-tape Boat races. The river is about 2 miles away and is a popular kayaking spot. The Outdoor Club and other groups run frequent trips to the mountains for hiking and skiing. There are 3 big skiing centers are within an hour of campus. There are 400 artistic things on campus every year such as dance, music performances, art shows, and theater; students can submit art for consideration for display at the professional art gallery on campus.

© 2015

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