campus encounters

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Beacon College

Beacon College (visited 11/29-30/18)

Beacon plaza 2

One of several small gardens and other seating areas for students to gather. 

Beacon is one of the few colleges in the country (and the first to offer 4-year degrees) dedicated specifically to students with learning differences, ADD/ADHD, and ASD. Relatively new (it opened in 1989), campus is integrated into the town of Leesburg, about an hour north of Orlando. They’ve made huge strides in the last several years in terms of enrollment growing from 97 students five years ago to 400 today.

Beacon LeesburgThe physical growth has also been dramatic. “What we did inside – the academics – showed that we were serious. The outside … not so much.” They repurposed several local buildings such as using the old train depot as the fitness center and turning an old store into the library. “It’s the center of campus that spoke to academic quality.” They’ve already put $10m into buildings with another $18.5m planned for the next couple years.

Beacon writing cntr

There are multiple academic success centers around campus

Regarding academic standards, “our mission hasn’t changed. We are not allowed to modify the curriculum: it has to be academic, not functional – BUT we can modify the methods.” This is a rigorous undergraduate institution devoted to the success with learning and attention issues, including students on the spectrum.”

“We’re small and personal. We don’t have a lot of large gathering spaces, but we’re hoping to change that,” said one of the admissions reps. During the admission process, they do ask for students’ Ed Psych or other testing. “We want the whole picture to see if the students will benefit from what they’re being offered at the college. We want them to be successful. Many of them come here having failed already, and we don’t want that to continue.”

Beacon dining hall

Part of the dining hall

Students are extraordinarily successful here; this place is changing their lives. The student panelists got up to introduce themselves, and they were more articulate than students on most other panels I’ve heard:

  • “I never thought I’d be standing here saying ‘I’m a senior’ or that I did it.”
  • “I finally got an A in math.”
  • “There are systems in place to help you excel. I’m glad to be working alongside amazing people.”
  • “I was getting As in HS so flunking out of community college was a shock. Beacon has made a world of difference. I made my first semester of straight As. I left the country for the first time. It put the world in perspective.”
  • “I’m one of the most social introverts you’ll ever meet.”
  • “A lot of people around here bother with me.”

Beacon 2They boast an 83% graduation rate with a Bachelor’s degree; about 12% of the students will graduate with their Associate’s degree, even though far more start off by saying that was their goal. Once they get going, many of them continue on for the 4-year degree. One of the students we talked to was transferring to a larger state school after his AS degree; he’s going into engineering and wants to work for NASA or Lockheed Martin.

There are only 7 majors to choose from here: Human Services, Psych, Humanities, Studio Arts, Business Management (hospitality or management tracks), Computer Info Systems (Web & Digital Media or Info Systems tracks), and Anthrozoology! Students in this major often go on to work in wildlife management, park rangers, do a certificate in vet tech, etc. “It’s not the hard sciences.” Students would like to see more options for majors like culinary arts or education.

Beacon new dorm

The new dorm building

They offer a Study-Abroad program called “Beacon in Tuscany,” held in Prato, an 18-minute train ride from Florence. Students live in a family-run hostel and use the breakfast room as their classroom. There are also 10-day travel trips in June to places like Alaska, the Galapagos, and Japan.

Beacon dorm suite

A suite in the new dorm

Support services make sure students have the skills to be successful with the motto that “We support but we don’t rescue – we don’t do it for them.” They offer 1-on-1 mentoring sessions with the learning specialist (1 hour per week) and peer tutoring (3 sessions per week). Open mentoring hours are lead by learning specialists 4 hours a day, 6 days/wee. “The reality is that a boss is not going to sit there while they write reports or help them organize. Parents aren’t, either.” There are different programs such as Transitions from HS to College and an Intro to Navigator PREP program which includes weekly check-in during a student’s senior year in high school after acceptance to Beacon! This requires an earlier deposit to the college in order to participate. They focus on maximizing the pre-college and transition experience. If they’re accepted by the end of October, they get access to the 10-month coaching from Nov-Aug

Beacon fitness cntr

The fitness Center

What differentiates them? The Dean of Admissions says it’s the faculty. They’re not isolated into separate offices; students work with them to acknowledge the struggles they have in the classroom. They come here to work with students because they want to. Strategies are reinforced in the classroom. It’s a community – “You need this to guide them on their own paths.”

Almost all students (92%) live on campus to help with executive functioning and socialization, and they recently opened a new Res Hall with 74 single rooms in suites to make sure this could happen. This houses mostly freshman (traditional, 18 year old/just graduated from High School) to help ease transition into college. Transfers are housed in another building. This is a support-animal friendly campus. All students are on the 19 meals/week plan. Food got mixed reviews (although an alumni from the admissions office said that it has gotten better recently), but the dining hall is fairly small. It’s in a cool building; part of it feels very much like a ski lodge, but it’s a bit cramped.

Beacon student cntr

The student center

There’s a fair amount to do on and around campus. There are organized weekend trips and social activities. “Even 30 people is a good turnout given our population.” The student center feels like a large, sort of basic community rec center – basically a large room with some couches and ping pong/pool tables. There are informal Greek organizations on campus because they’re too small for the PHA to agree to formal chapters. They do some competitions with athletics, but there are no formal varsity teams right now. Shuttles are offered around town and to the Orlando airport. Students are also taught how to navigate bus systems since some people will not drive.

© 2018

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Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts

Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (visited 7/28/15)

Once known as North Adams State, this 1800-student college is nestled in the small but bustling town of North Adams in the Berkshires. The students rave about town: “There’s so much to do! Mass MoCA is free, the ice rink is free on Tuesdays, there are movies, pubs, restaurants. We saw Lady Gaga last week at Tanglewood [about 45 minutes away]. If we want to get out of town, there’s any outdoor activity you can think of.”

√MCLA acad bldg 1Campus architecture ranges from beautiful old houses to almost-ugly 60’s and 70s buildings to a brand-new environmentally friendly science center that has solar panels and a wind turbine on top. Many of the central buildings are connected or only steps apart. For example, one of the gyms and the theater are both attached to the student center. Campus is not huge: “You can get across it in about 5 minutes.”

√MCLA quadEnglish, Business, and Psychology are some of the biggest majors, and (not surprisingly given its history as a Normal College), Education is strong. They also have Arts Management, unusual for a school of this size. MCLA offers 2 “Jump Start” summer programs. The first is a week-long leadership initiative for approximately 30 students each year called LEAD (Leadership, Education, Action, and Development). The Second is STEM Academy which takes about 16-20 students.

√MCLA outdoor class

Outdoor classroom

The tour guide could not say enough about the teachers. “I know it sounds really cliché, but they do care.” This is one thing that really surprised her about MCLA. She had been told in high school that college professors wouldn’t care about how she did, and yet the do. She went on to say that even the librarians care about the students. One of the traditions she loves is that at the end of each semester during finals, they order food for students and will go through the library to tell them that the food has arrived so the kids can take a break.

New tower dorms

New tower dorms

Townhouses on campus

Townhouses on campus

MCLA has a 3-year on-campus residency requirement, and 95% of traditional aged students live on campus. Dorms range from traditional hall-style double rooms to suites and townhouses, both of which have singles and double bedrooms and which can be coed by suite. Townhouses have full kitchens and house only upperclassmen (MCLA defines this as sophomore and up). The new towers have suites which will usually have 4 doubles and a single.

√MCLA gates

The infamous gates

Another popular tradition/superstition revolves around the gates. At the beginning of the year, freshman will enter the gates from the main road, meet the president and their peers, and then have a party. The seniors will walk out of the gates at graduation. Rumor has it that walking between the gates before then means they won’t graduate – at least on time. “I know someone who walked through them accidentally. He graduated a semester late. I like to think it’s because it wasn’t intentional . . . otherwise he’d never get out of here!”

√MCLA sci cntr 2

Science Center

The tour guide’s largest class was Intro to Bio with 45 students. “We met for 2 hours twice a week. Usually we’d have a lecture for half and a lab for half.” Her smallest, College Writing 2, had 8 “which is weird because that’s a core class.” Her favorite has been Behavioral Analysis because the professor would tell them real stories from the field.

In terms of admissions, MCLA is a state school so they generally have to follow the Department of Education regulations which include 4 units of math, one of which has to be taken in the senior year. “We have a tiny bit of wiggle room to admit a few students to don’t immediately meet the requirements but who we think will be successful,” said a rep. Usually this is saved for out-of-state students who may have graduated under other requirements. They will superscore both the ACT and the SAT.

√MCLA walkwayVery few students come from out-of-state: probably only about 10% come from outside of MA or the Capital Region of NY (technically OOS, but only an hour away – closer than Boston). These students make up about another 10% of the student body. Transportation can be a little bit of an issue, but certainly doable. “We have a student from Colorado who just grabs a ride with a friend to Albany and gets a plane from there.” There’s also a bus that will stop at Williams College only a few miles down the road. Amtrak also goes through Pittsfield which is about 25-30 miles away.

“Students who are looking for a small liberal-arts, New England campus in a great cultural center and who have a sense of community service or activism will do really well here,” said the rep.

(c) 2015

Texas Christian University

Texas Christian University (visited 3/3/15)

~TCU main sign~TCU flowersOne of the big question a lot of us on the Counselor tour had was, how Christian is TCU? The general consensus was: as much as you want it to be. The school is insistent that students figure it out for themselves and be respectful of others. “We have really interesting conversations about God,” said one of the tour guides. Students are required to complete 1 theology class as part of their distribution requirements, but the choices range from Religion in the Arts to The Afterlife in Roman/Greek Traditions (taught by a German professor). One student on the panel wishes that the university were more Christian. “It’s in the name; no one is hiding that it’s part of who we are, but there’s 1 cross on campus. I’ve actively looked.”

~TCU main quad~TCU fountainThe campus is attractive with nice architecture and wonderful landscaping; daffodils were already popping up in early March, despite the chilly weather and dreary skies. Many of the buildings are made of yellow brick, and they’re making an effort to keep consistent to the general feeling as new construction goes up. The campus is located in Fort Worth, a city described by a student as a “booming suburbia.” It has a definite residential, family feel; students and younger professionals tend to like living here. “Dallas feels more business-like than here,” said one professors. Students can take easy advantage of the city with free bus rides with their TCU ID; they also have access to bike shares. However, there’s lots to do directly off campus, as well. Students get discounts at many places in town including free lunches at some places on Fridays. 35 places off-campus will take Flex Bucks.

~TCU dorm hallway

A dorm hallway

TCU has a two-year residency requirement but currently can’t meet demand for juniors and seniors. However, they’re committed to rectifying that and are building a new res hall per year for a decade; 4 new ones are up already. Students are happy that they’re working on the residential issues.

~TCU plaza 2Greek life is a huge part of campus life with almost half of students affiliating (it’s a higher percentage of women than men affiliating – about 55% and 40% respectively – which almost matches up with the general gender mix on campus). One student wishes that she knew how much Greek life was part of campus before she came here. She said that sometimes it feels like much more than half of the students belong to one of the Greek organizations. There is a bit of Greek housing, but many end up living together in regular dorms.

~TCU studentsStudents love the academics here, but “you need to want to learn. They can facilitate the learning, but can’t do it for you.” Favorite classes include:

  • Literature and Civilization: they spoke with a woman from Rwanda
  • Speech Pathology (she’s had her own clients for 2 years now).

~TCU main bldgAs with any university, there are a number of colleges to choose from including:

  • Business
  • Liberal Arts (notable programs: Geography, Criminal Justice, and Hispanic Studies). Students wanting to take classes in Aerospace Studies or Military Science can do so through the Air Force or Army ROTC (respectively).
  • Communications including Communication Studies, Film-TV-Digital Media, and Journalism.
  • Fine Arts: Art, Dance, Music, Theater, Interior Design and Merchandising, and Arts Administration
  • Education
  • Science and Engineering including Physics and Astronomy, Engineering, Computer Science, and the School of Geology, Energy, and the Environment.
  • TCU Honors volleyball

    Sand Volleyball Court

    The Honors College provides small classes and specialized housing (complete with a sand volleyball court!). Honors students have the opportunity to attend a special orientation and have access to Honors Study Abroad trips.~TCU mascot

~TCU mascot statue

Football stadium

Football stadium

Sports are a big deal here. Super Frog the Horned Frog is the beloved mascot (and listed in the top-10 weirdest mascots!); students rub the nose of the Horned Frog statue for luck before exams, and the university even owns a real horned frog. It’s housed at the FW Zoo because it’s an endangered species. TCU’s teams are DI; in addition to the common teams, there are women’s Equestrian and Rifle teams, and men’s DIA football. TCU ranks #1 in the country for attendance at women’s soccer and men’s baseball games. Their big rival is Baylor. Intramurals and club sports are a big part of life on campus, as well. They offer bowling, ice hockey, gymnastics, rugby, and water polo in addition to many other sports. There’s even an outdoor pool with kayaks and canoes available for students.

© 2015

University of Dallas

University of Dallas (visit 3/3/15)

~Dallas sculpture 1

Statue outside the Chapel

~Dallas tower 4UD is a “Catholic university for independent thinking.” They assert that there’s a truth and wisdom to be known and that it’s in people’s nature to question. They don’t expect students to know or learn everything but to take strides in that direction. In order to accomplish this, they have set up an extensive Core Curriculum: students complete 60 Core credits studying great thinkers and scientists as well as the questions posed by these people. This sets UD apart: think Great Books meets Liberal Arts. Students take many of their core classes in the first year but also usually take 2-3 core courses each of Junior and Senior years.

~Dallas in Rome

Pictures from the Rome Semester

The Rome Semester, called “The Core of the Core,” covers 5 Core classes: Western Theological Traditions, Lit Traditions III (Tragedy and Comedy: Greek to Shakespeare), Philosophy of the Human Prison, Western Civ II (Greek to Renaissance), Art and Architecture. Because only Core classes are taken here, students of all majors can attend.

  • Offering this to sophomores (80% go then) means that everyone can get a taste of another culture; many still study abroad separately as Juniors.
  • Students live and learn on the UD-owned campus just outside of Rome in Due Santi (it’s believed that Sts Peter and Paul passed through there; there’s a well that dates back to then). Students have easy access to Rome on Public Transportation: a 100-yard walk to a bus stop will get to the train.
  • The campus has a tennis courts, a soccer field, and a small pool.
  • Tuition is exactly the same; all institutional and federal aid transfers over. Students pay for the flight and any spending/travel money there.
  • Campus capacity is 118. Usually 110-115 students are there at any given time.
  • Students travel to Rome, Florence, Assisi, Naples, Pompeii, and Greece (10 days) as a group. They stand in places they’ve been reading about.
  • They also kick students off campus for 10 days; they have the freedom and responsibility to explore Europe and take care of themselves. They come back with the confidence that they can do anything. Students do everything from backpacking through Poland to hiking the Camino de Santiago is Spain.

~Dallas walkway~Dallas acad bldg 3Parts of the Dallas campus are very pretty; other parts are reminiscent of a ‘70s elementary school. “I’m not in love with the campus, but it’s not about the classrooms. It what happens inside them. That’s been really good to learn,” said one student. Another added that “the grounds are wonderful. They do a great job with the plants and all that – but the buildings aren’t great.” They do have a beautiful chapel, and it’s clear from looking around campus and inside the buildings that this is a Catholic school: sculptures, paintings, crosses, and other religious icons are visible. We talked to one student who wasn’t Catholic who did not feel that this was a disadvantage. “I don’t feel ostracized or left out.”

Dallas lionOne student described UD as “a small school trying to be a large school. We have Big 12, a metroplex of 6 million people, great facilities – but also still have small classes and faculty who want to mentor students.” Another added that the “location is a little isolated. We can’t walk to Chic-fil-a or a grocery store but it makes you want to have fun here and people are really creative about their fun. People have fun in the bubble.”

~Dallas swing and treeKids who are passionate, love to argue, want to look for truth (and believe that truth can be found), and are goofy will do well here. The feeling is that there’s room at the table for everyone. People complain, but not in a cranky way: they want to fix it. The nice thing is that “everyone is working as hard as everyone else. They love learning. We don’t have to convince them that this is worth it. They study science and philosophy and history in a way that pushes them,” said one of the professors. “Students talk about what they’re learning. It doesn’t end in the classroom.” Clearly the university is doing something right: they have a 91% retention rate.

~Dallas art village

Arts Village

Academics are generally strong here, but “there aren’t a ton of majors,” said one student.

  • They offer 4+1 programs in Accounting, Cyber Security, Business (MBA), and Finance. Students apply as a Junior and will complete 4-5 grad classes done as a senior.
  • Strong pre-health programs. Med school acceptance rate is about 80%. 3 mock interviews for med schools.
  • They offer a cooperative program in Engineering with the University of Texas at Arlington.
    • Students complete a team-based Senior Design project with about 20 students. They spend a full year solving a real-life problem posed by a company in the metroplex.
  • The arts are strong here.
    • They offer a BFA Program: students must audition to get in. They can appeal once at the end of the freshman year if they didn’t initially get into the program. They no longer have minors in dance or theater because it was detracting from the majors.
    • UC was the first university to give a degree in ballet.
    • “If I meet an actor who is outward focused, who wants to use the craft to make the world a better place, that person will fit in well here.”
  • They offer unusual concentrations in Biblical Greek, Business for Non-Business Majors, Pure Math, Applied Physics, and Pastoral Ministry.
Dallas library int

The interior of the library

Dining Hall.

Dining Hall.

The faculty are engaging and clearly interested in helping students learn. “We won’t coddle you. We won’t tell you you’re good if you’re not, but we can do that and be kind at the same time. We’ll help you get better.” The classroom setups include Writable Walls; students use them to summarize homework, do problems, brainstorm, whatever. Students are actively engaged, are thinking critically, etc. Their favorite core classes to teach are:

  • Am Civ 1: Mostly freshmen take the class. “For lack of a better word, they’re “innocent.” We use a lot of primary sources that contradict each other.
  • The Divine Comedy: “It changes their lives.”
  • Intro to Stats: “It teaches them to be critical about how stats are used. . . and sometimes I get a Stats major out of it!”

© 2015

Austin College

Austin College (Visited 3/2/15)

~Austin swings and ctyrdAustin College, despite the name, located in Sherman, TX, about 45 minute north of Dallas near the Oklahoma border, NOT in the city of Austin! This small city of about 30,000 people has a traditional downtown area which is being revitalized and hosts multiple festivals and other events throughout the year. One student raved about the amazing food in Sherman: “such good mom and pop restaurants!” There are also parks they’ll play Humans vs. Zombies. One student said that the town is ok but, “I wasn’t looking for a city. I was looking for a school.”

~Austin streamTravel to Sherman can be more of a challenge for Out-of-State students but doable. People fly into Dallas or Waco and can get shuttles provided by the college if they plan ahead. There’s also a TAPS bus (“a Roo-route”). We asked students why people should look here instead of other small, selective schools that may be closer to home. “It’s warmer!” one said immediately. Others mentioned research opportunities and the relationships developed on campus.

In addition to the main campus in Sherman, Austin College runs Lake Campus located about 15-20 minutes away. Students, faculty, and staff have access to the 30 acre area simply by scanning their ID at the front gate. Groups can use it for events, and the university often holds a Kite Festival there.

Courtyard of the Language Immersion House

Courtyard of the Language Immersion House

~Austin swings

Swings overlooking the quad

About 80% of students live on campus. Freshmen live in clusters within larger dorms, and they’re matched to their roommates based on Meyers-Briggs. Approximately 25% of students go Greek here (and another Greek chapter is being added next year). There is no official Greek housing, and it’s a delayed rush with students completing their first semester before participating. Students also have the option of living in language-immersion housing. This year, they are offering Japanese, Spanish, French, Chinese, and German. Students agree to speak in that language while in the residence. A native speaker also lives there, and there are common areas and kitchens where students can hold activities, cook meals (although they’re not required to eat there – they have a regular meal plan, as well!), etc.

~Austin chapel 1

Campus Chapel. The school is “Presbyterian in name only.”

Austin is on the College That Change Lives list, and I asked the students how it has changed their lives:

  • Through research and internships. “I love my Communication/Inquiry (CI) class with the professor who will be my mentor for all 4 years. He got me involved in molecular research 2nd semester freshman year and I’ve worked with him ever since.”
  • Through tennis. “I didn’t even plan on playing, but now I’m the captain of the team. One thing leads to another thing here. I didn’t plan on being a French minor, either. There are a lot of opportunities.”
  • The diversity. “I went to a homogenous Christian high school. Here, I’m friends with people from such different backgrounds.”
  • “Because I play basketball, I can’t go away for Jan Term. We took our own trip and it meant a lot.”
  • “Realizing that I was smart enough to do this. This is the American Dream for me. I got a scholarship that allowed me to stay and finish. People are telling me that now I can go to Law or Grad school.”
  • “It pushed me out of my comfort zone.”
  • “Everyone makes mistakes which is normal. Here there are people to help you along the way.”

~Austin sci cntr 4

Sculptures made by students.

Sculptures made by students.

One of the Admissions representatives said that “A Liberal Arts Education is the most liberating and practical.” Students have the flexibility to explore several majors, but are also taught the skills they need to be hireable: critical thinking, problem solving, writing, etc. Students must complete at least 3 Jan-Term programs (but are welcome to do all 4). Some of this is career studies. Unusual or strong majors include: Global Science, Technology, and Society; Cognitive Science; Western Intellectual Tradition; Nonprofit Organizations and Public Service; and Southwestern and Mexican Studies.

~Austin atrium 2

The atrium of the Business Office.

Business majors can declare concentrations in Administration, Finance, Econ, Accounting, or International Economics and Finance. The Student Managed Investment Fund is a class that students can take for credit in which a group of up to 20 students are given a Million Dollars to invest (under the supervision of a professor!) that “consistently beats the market.” All profits go towards funding scholarships at the college.

We asked students, “What’s the coolest class you’ve taken?”

  • Rock and Roll History
  • How Allies Broke the Nazi Code: “We learned how to do computer programing, the history of the war, we watched Imitation Game.”
  • Asian Food Culture Class. “We went to a cooking school in Dallas and rolled sushi and made Korean BBQ. It’s taught by an Econ prof just because he thinks it’s cool.”
  • Algorithmic training. They got $50K to trade and invest during an in-class competition.
  • Andean Nations (history)
  • Business Ethics
  • Tibetan Religion.
  • Monsters Among Us where they read The Lord of the Ring, made a website, analyzed and compared The Walking Dead to Dorian Gray.
  • Wine Tasting. “Next year there will be a beer-brewing class!”
~Austin library atrium

Library

Although graduates have always been successful, the college recently started the Gateways Initiative which is specifically geared towards students wanting to continue onto professional grad programs (law, medicine, etc). Austin has partnered with graduate schools to help with admissions, scholarship, internships, and other pathways towards these professional schools.

When we asked both faculty and students what they’d like to change, improve, or fix, this is what we got:

  • “We don’t want to be something else, just get better at what we’re already doing. It would be nice to increase scholarships and faculty salaries, etc.”
  • Food is ok, but gets boring.
  • “They focus a lot on the abroad experiences and it’s great and amazing but I would like to see more projects in a smaller or more local scale. I think this is something they’re working on.” (She also mentioned that Alternative spring breaks can be as little as $35.

© 2015

Southern Methodist University

SMU (visited 3/2/15)

~SMU fountain~SMU muslim group displayContrary to what people may believe, “you don’t have to be either Southern or Methodist to go here.” The school is actively fighting the rich, white, preppy stereotype, and the student population is “relatively diverse” and improving every year. Although 40% of students are from Texas, “we make an effort to have students from everywhere,” said the director of admissions. They’re looking for a balance between in and out of state, not so easy with a state the size of Texas. Religiously, “we have all faiths (including Muslim, Jewish, and Buddhist) and no faith.”

~SMU walkway 2SMU is a much larger campus than many of us expected but still easily walkable. They’ve kept the same beautiful architecture as they’ve expanded. Although campus is 5 miles north of Downtown in a residential area, there’s quite a bit to do directly off of campus. Favorite places include Mustang Donuts and JD Cookies. Students can have a car but don’t need it; a DART pass costs $5 – which lasts all 4 years!

The students aren’t lacking for things to do on campus.

  • ~SMU mustangs

    Go Mustangs!

    Sports are a huge deal.

    • People tailgate on Bishop Boulevard (they call it Boulevarding, not Tailgating). Our tour guide is a little disappointed that more people tailgate than go to the game.
    • Basketball tickets are in the highest demand. The school makes an effort to let students support the teams — they even got to go to the Final 4 for free.
    • A lot of sports are not on campus which is something the tour guide said he’s like to change.
  • ~SMU Greek house

    One of the Greek Residences

    About 1/3 of students go Greek, pledging in the spring.

  • SMU sponsors lots of concerts and speakers both on campus and in Dallas.
  • The first Saturday on campus is “Night at the Club,” basically a huge club fair. “You can get the free t-shirt, cactus, goldfish, whatever they’re giving out.” The tour guide appreciated that the students have ownership.
~SMU res commons 2

A Residential Common

SMU is in the middle of a massive expansion of their residential spaces. They’ve already added several new Residential Commons and are building more. Students are assigned to 1 of the 11 Commons as freshmen and will stay there through sophomore year. Each Common has faculty-in-residence.

~SMU 3“Aggressive students who are independent learners will do well here,” said the Director of Admissions. A faculty member added: students who want to learn to lead and aren’t afraid to take risks fit right in.” Students are in charge of planning a lot on campus. For example, they’re given the $250,000 budget for homecoming. Advisors help them frame the event (“How will you be inclusive?” etc), but ultimately, it’s in the students’ hands.

The 6000 undergrads have access to 100 majors and 75 minors.

  • ~SMU business lobby

    Business School lobby

    Humanities and Sciences is the largest school.

    • It’s the home to Pre-Health and Pre-Law tracks; the advice of the Dean is to “major in something you love and will do well in, and then go to them for advising.” Selected students are invited into the Scholars Program to participate in Seminars, work with faculty for the LSAT, etc.
    • There are several new interdisciplinary programs such as Health and Society (either physiological or sociological) and minors in International Studies and Public Policy and Jewish Studies (what is it to be part of this culture across the globe and across time).
    • Unusual majors include: Statistical Science, Geophysics, and Medieval Studies.
  • ~SMU dining hall

    One of the dining halls

    The Meadows School of the Arts is highly selective; one of the tour guides came here because she was sold by the great arts program. Dallas has one of the largest art complexes in the world so students can get quite a bit of experience. SMU’s program is entrepreneurial in nature; since 60% of artists are self-employed, they learn how to manage a website, develop a business plan, etc. The goal to get students to fluidly adapt to the changing arts landscape in order to make a living as an artist.

  • Education and Human Development is the smallest school, home to Education (100% pass rate on national exams), Psychology/counseling, Applied Physiology, Sports Management, and Health Care Management.
  • Lyle School of Engineering School: Interesting majors include Cyber Security and Video Design Engineering. Just over 1/3 of the students are female (twice the national average).
    • In the first semester, students work in a group to do a project such as building a robot that can maneuver through a maze, find water, test to see if it’s potable, and if it’s not, remediate it. It’s a true group effort: the mechanical engineer needs to build it; the electrical needs to design the eyes, the environmental needs to design the test probe, the civil needs to make sure it isn’t collapsing under its own weight.
  • Cox School of Business: Students can earn a BBA or minor in Business or Business Administration.
    • Unusual majors include Financial Consulting, Real Estate Finance, and Risk Management and Insurance. Concentrations include Energy Management and Entrepreneurship.
    • About 100 incoming freshmen are selected as BBA Scholars each year.

~SMU outdoor patioWe asked the student panelists what they liked about SMU and why they chose to come here. It was refreshing to hear that one of them didn’t originally want to come! She didn’t get excited until week 2. “Once they see how inclusive people are and how excited they are to be here, they’ll want to come here too.” Other answers included:

  • Grills in a residential area

    Grills in a residential area

    Quality of the faculty and the program. The reputation of programs increase all the time.

  • Access to the faculty
  • Location: not just the city, but the attitude. “It’s a can-do place.” Many graduates take their first jobs here in town.
  • The campus. Everyone helps take care of it. “Life is too short to go to college on an ugly campus!”
  • “I like the other students. We go to school with really really really cool kids!”

© 2015

 

Emory College of Emory University

EMORY COLLEGE of Emory University

Dooley

Dooley

On our way to the Emory University campus, we drove through the huge medical complex with its multiple hospitals, labs, and other facilities that line one side of campus. Somehow, it’s not surprising that a school with such a massive medical school and multiple teaching hospitals would have a skeleton (named “Dooley”) as the unofficial mascot!

~Emory walkwayThe initial impression of Emory that we got from all the medical buildings was very different than we might have gotten otherwise if we had approached from a different direction. The med complex and the actual university campus are both impressive in their own ways. The medical buildings, appropriately, look sterile, clinical, and business-like. They’re clearly well-funded and growing (construction was happening in several spots). The university, itself, is housed on a beautiful, well-maintained campus with a lot of green space. Students were out in swarms, clearly enjoying their surroundings. There was a lot of interaction between people and students seemed to really enjoy being there.

~Emory quad~Emory statue and studentEmory University began in Oxford, GA in 1836 and stayed there for 80 years. That campus still operates as Oxford College of Emory University (see separate write-up for that). In 1914, a thousand acres were donated because the benefactor wanted Atlanta itself to have more educational opportunities. Today, Emory University has nine divisions – Emory College and Oxford College are the two solely undergraduate divisions; the Business and Nursing schools have both undergrad and graduate students. Students cannot start in the Business or Nursing schools until they’re juniors and have to apply to get in. They accept about 80% into the business program and about 90% into nursing.

~Emory plaza2The Emory College campus has 5500 undergraduates. About 20% of the annual 15,000 applications come from Georgia; they admit approximately 25% of the total applicant pool. Forty-eight percent of their current freshmen class came in through ED (2000 applied ED). For EDI, they’ll accept, deny, or defer into RD; for EDII, they’ll accept, waitlist, or deny.

~Emory bikesThey look for those who will thrive on campus: students who are “self-propelled, noticed by teachers, and active on campus” as one admissions counselor put it. Emory itself offers more opportunities than students know what to do with in terms of clubs, internships, and more, but that doesn’t stop students from trying to do everything. The student panelists said that typical students often take on too much. One junior said: “People go full-throttle and burn out. I feel like a crusty old man.” Despite being overinvolved, 94% of Emory students graduate in four years. Also, about 2/3 of the students opt to live on campus all four years, despite being able to move off after sophomore year, because it makes it easier to be involved and take advantage of all the extra-curricular activities. The students really appreciate that Emory gets such big-name speakers on campus such as Clinton, the Dalai Lama, and Salman Rushdie. Jimmy Carter also gives a Town Hall Meeting for every freshman class.

~Emory theater entrance

The original theater entrance which now opens into the Student Center

The kids love their classes and the professors. Less than 10% of classes are taught by TAs, so the students have access to professors on a regular basis. The two students I spoke to said that their smallest classes were 6 and 11 students; the largest classes had 56 and 82 students. There are lots of research opportunities on campus. Emory also has a 3-2 degree with Ga Tech, and there are shuttles that run regularly between the campuses to make it easy for the students. Emory is also part of ARCHE (Atlanta Region Consortium of Higher Education) which allows them to cross-register for classes at places like Agnes Scott, Spelman, Morehouse, Clark Atlanta, Oglethorpe, Kennesaw State, Georgia Tech, etc.

~Emory plazaThe college is continually building and remodeling, but they try not to wreck the feeling of the campus. The dining hall, for example, is new. As they expanded one of their older buildings to add the dining hall, the students didn’t want the exterior of the building to be demolished, so now one interior wall of the dining hall is the former exterior wall. The older building now houses theater space, so the students come through the dining hall to get into the theater, which is pretty cool.

(c) 2012

University of Northern Colorado

UNIVERSITY OF NORTHERN COLORADO, Greeley (visited 10/3/12)

UNC 6Getting off the bus, another counselor turned to me and said, “Well, we’re in farm country.” There was definitely a faint odor of manure in the air (which luckily seemed to be localized to the area where we got off the bus). We asked the tour guide about that; he said that once a week, they can get that odor from a local plant, but it’s rarely strong or long-lasting. He’s a senior and only twice did he remember it being overwhelming.

UNC3

University Center

The University Center is one of the best I’ve seen. In addition to the usual things like food kiosks and the bookstore, they also had a full hair salon, a bank branch, and several other services not usually seen in student centers. Their student ID, in addition to all the usual things it does on most campuses now (food, access to dorms), also acts as an ATM to Wells Fargo. The tour guide described the campus as being like a bowtie with the University Center as the knot in the middle of campus.

UNC dormSeveral academic programs merited special mention: the Business department has won awards, Nursing ranks in the top 5, and Musical Theater is also a top program. The tour-guide’s class sizes range from 12 (Sociology) to 125 (Public Speaking). He really likes the “mentor feel” in which students work shoulder-to-shoulder with teachers who work hard to create place where students can contribute. They help students shape and design research, publish in journals, and present at conferences. Students talked about feeling stretched and challenged; even though it was scary and they were pushed out of their comfort zone, they grew from being here.

UNC2Outdoors activities are big (not a surprise); the university has an agreement with a local ski resort; students pay $70 for three full days on the slopes that includes ski or snowboard rentals, full-day lift tickets, and rides to and from campus. There’s also a lot to do on campus, including a full Frisbee-Golf field. The yearly “Undie Run” that happens in the spring tends to be a favorite tradition; students will meet in the quad, strip down to their undies, and run across campus. The clothes they leave are donated to Goodwill or other charity organizations.

UNC1

One of the newer residential units.

UNC 5UNC has 10,000 undergraduates but has the feel of a bigger school in terms of opportunities, activities, sports, off-campus options, etc. They have DI athletics which are highly participated in as well as supported by students in the stands. Club and intramural sports are also active. There are 10 fraternities and 10 sororities. Although the actual percentage of students involved in Greek life is relatively low, they do provide a lot of social activities open to the campus at large. Students said that they like the small, safe feel on campus. I asked the tour guide when the last time he knew of that the blue lights had been used, and he couldn’t think of a time. The campus is a bit sprawling but there are a lot of open spaces, and the quads were well used by the students. Even on a dreary day, people were outside. Our tour guide says that it can take 25 minutes to walk across campus, but that’s at a leisurely pace. Parking is fairly easy to find, but not necessarily close to where you need it. Everyone can have cars, and passes cost $255 a year. Most students will walk where they need to go in town; downtown is only 10 blocks away. They like having cars to get Ft. Collins (Colorado State Univ) which is only about 45 minutes away, or to go to Denver (a little over an hour).

UNC acad bldgThe admissions rep spoke very eloquently about making sure the students’ needs are met, even mentioning Maslow’s Needs Hierarchy. They are deliberate in designing campus and the buildings with this in mind, even to the extent that students can control their environment in the dorm rooms. “They come from a home where they’re used to being able to change the temperature; they should be able to do that here. If they aren’t comfortable, they can’t learn.”

(c) 2012

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