Franklin Pierce University (visited 10/20/16)
Franklin Pierce is located in Rindge, a small town in the southwest corner of NH, 10 miles from the Massachusetts border and 25 miles to Vermont. The closest small city, Keene, is about 30 minutes, as is Fitchburg, Massachusetts. From there, students can hop on an Amtrak into Boston or Albany if they want a bigger city. Being so remote, I asked about travel for the students coming in from a distance. The student on the panel who hails from California said, “Travel to campus isn’t too bad. Many of us will coordinate with friends in the area to get picked up from the train station or from the airports. There are busses, too. It’s doable.” The campus offers shuttles around campus during the day; starting at 5 pm, they go off campus. All students can have cars without any parking fees.
Pearly Pond is on the edge of campus; students can use the school’s kayaks, canoes, sailboats, paddle-boards, etc. They also have a crew team that practices on the pond. They hold an annual Cardboard Regatta at the end of orientation. Students can only use cardboard, saran wrap, and duct tape. This tends to rank highly on favorite events.
Some other favorite moments of students’ time here include:
- A trip to Ghana with a professor and 2 surgeons to work in a medical clinic. “I got to do sutures and really cool medical procedures!”
- Hiking the mountain: Students take buses over, and some compete to get to the top first “but just getting there is a feat in itself.”
- “The professors help set up internships.”
- “We can do what we have a passion for. I got to have conversations with visiting speakers.”
Students and faculty, like at most schools, talked about the community feel here. The Dean of one of the colleges sat with us at breakfast and told us about FP’s early warning system for students who struggle. “We have great NSSE Scores. They’re usually 20-30 points above national average.” However, she said they only have a 67% retention rate. I was unable to find out what steps were being taken to increase this.
Because they’re located in such a small town, there tends to be good town-gown interaction. FP will host Trick or Treating for the community: “Last year we gave away an average of a pound of candy to each kid; no wonder it’s so popular!” said one of the admissions reps. There are haunted hayrides at Halloween, too. Community members often come to sporting events. They’re DII, so they have some athletic scholarships. They will be adding women’s swimming in 2017. The school also ties the local to the academics: My Antonia is the current Community Read; Willa Cather wrote part of this in Jaffrey, 5 miles away. As part of the Community Read program, they have speakers and other events; this year, they’re including a candlelight reading at her grave.
FP hosts the Institute for Nature, Place, and Culture and recently screened an original documentary, Hurricane to Climate Change. They also have a glass-blowing studio which we would never have known about if we hadn’t walked right by it. That’s a pretty cool resource available to students!
Academic offerings are standard for a small liberal arts college. They have a couple more unusual minors such as Forensic Psychology and Public History. They now offer a direct-admit 4+2.5 DPT program with some full-ride scholarships for qualified students; students complete a Health Sciences degree in 4 years at FP; if they meet the minimum standards during this time, they earn guaranteed entry into the 2.5 year DPT program at either the Manchester or Arizona site.
I sat in on about 20 minutes of the “Drones and Thrones: Modern European History” class. The professor was from Ireland and had great interactions with the students. She knew their names and called on them. However, it seemed like there was a lot of basic review from the previous class on the PowerPoint: general topics were listed (“Remember, we went over this” with very few details, and she told students several times, “This is something you should write down” if there was a detail added. Class wasn’t overly rigorous, and while there were two or three regular contributors, there wasn’t much discussion among the students.
They just brought in their largest freshman class ever (the free applications through Common App are read on a rolling admissions). This is a highly residential campus, mostly because there are limited places nearby to rent. Housing gets progressively more independent: for example, juniors live in The Towers (not really towers) in suites with partial kitchens, and seniors move into townhouses (with full kitchens) overlooking the pond. “It’s a good transitional stage from college to adulthood.”