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Wofford College

Wofford College (visited 2/25/20)

Wofford mascot

The Terrior mascot

If you’re looking for the smaller academic environment located in a small city and with DI sports and big-school school spirit, check this place out. “Wofford is unique for our area,” said a rep. “If you want a liberal arts northeast college feel but in the south, we can do that. If you’re interested in school spirit and that balance of having popular sports but on a small campus, we can do that. You can have the rah-rah game day experience without being lost in the crowd.” One of the tour guides echoed that: “About 20% of students are on varsity teams. We compete at a high level and are on TV, but you also know the students you’re cheering for on the court.” The other tour guide said that she loved the school spirit here: “You’ll see the terrier everywhere!” (As a side note, they also have an Equestrian Club – not NCAA – which is “not highly competitive, but active”).

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Near the entrance to campus

I’d wanted to see Wofford ever since a student had her heart set on it several years ago. I see why. They’re doing something right with an 89% retention rate and an 81% 4-year graduation rate (well above the national average, even compared to the 6-year rate). This solely undergrad, highly residential campus currently has 1725 students. The rep shared that they may expand by a bit over the next few years but will cap at 1800. Campus is beautiful and well maintained, people are incredibly friendly, and students seem genuinely happy and are making the most of their experiences.

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One of the fountains around campus

Wofford takes care of its students (and they take care of visitors – I can’t tell you how far good signage goes to help new people navigate; it makes a huge different when people feel welcome on campus and aren’t feeling lost). There are multiple ways for students get involved and feel connected to at least one group, but many are involved in multiple ways. They start off with a 5-day new student Orientation with a field day, Summit Adventure, community service, and more. The president makes a point of spending time with students, including randomly picking 12 names every month for dinner at the president’s house. One tour guide said that she got picked her first month on campus. “That was a bit daunting, but it was a great experience!

Wofford atrium 3They offer an impressive array of academic choices for a school of this size, and because classes are smaller, students are more engaged. “As professors, we talk less and ask students to do more.” The majors are fairly standard for a smaller liberal arts school (with the exception of Chinese, Intercultural Studies, and Business Econ). What really impressed me were the Concentrations which includes areas such as Medicine and the Liberal Arts, Middle Eastern/North African Studies, 19th Century Studies, and Computational Science. The tour guide told us that language majors/classes are the 2nd most popular on campus; this shows up on the types of majors and minors the school offers, many of which incorporate language study into the major, even if they aren’t strictly majoring in that language. All students must take a language class (they can’t test out) but they offer a lot of options, includes more unusual languages like Arabic and Chinese.

Wofford hammocks

They have multiple hammock frames around the quad for student use

They’ve been running an Interim Session (like a J-term) since the early ‘70s, so they have this down to a science. “Having it incorporated it so well into the calendar is great,” said one of the students. Students take advantage of this time to complete internships, take travel courses, do research, take a class to get ahead or just for fun, and more. They offer traditional classes as well as things like knitting or sustainable fashion, furniture design, craft brewing, and fiction telling through LEGOS and stop-action animation. For those wanting to get off campus, they often get linked with someone in the strong alumni base. “People are all over. DC, Charlotte, Atlanta, and other cities are teaming with alum who want to help current students with shadowing or internship experiences.”

Wofford greek 2

Part of Greek Village

Almost all students (about 95%) live on campus all 4 years, including local students. That speaks volumes about the community and the dorms. Seniors live in apartments in small houses clustered around a small quad that has a village feel to it. Although almost 50% of students get involved in Greek Life, there’s no Greek housing, so students do stay relatively integrated into the dorms and have diverse friend groups. They’ve recently built a beautiful Greek Village, but the houses are social/meeting spaces rather than residential. Frat houses are open Thursday through Saturday to Wofford students who are at least 18 years old. These become good places for the community to come together. The tour guides rated campus food as 8 and 9 out of 10. They said that people particularly loved the pancakes and the smoothies. Also, some local restaurants take flex bucks. One guide raved about “Miss Cathy’s” (“That’s not its real name; it’s just what everyone calls it because she runs it,” the guide said) which provides bagged lunches with a hot and cold option. “She knows who you are and your order by the end of the week.” They like that they can do a grab-n-go between classes; this is the first school I’ve seen that offers this (or at least the first that let us know that it was an option).

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Some of the senior apartments

I was a bit disappointed in one of the tour guides who seemed less able to answer questions. For example, she wasn’t able to tell me what she thought the best change had been since she arrived on campus (she was a senior, so she had 3.5 years of experience to talk about) – she gave me a vague, generic answer that change was happening all the time and rattled off a few new buildings. It’s good to know that Wofford is serious about keeping up with the needs of the college for space (they’re putting up a new dorm, for example), but it didn’t personalize the experience or give much other insight into the student experience. She also seemed surprised that I asked about traditions on campus and said she’d have to think about that (which is weird: I could tell people about traditions at my alma mater by the time I finished the 3-day orientation!). The other tour guide, a first-year student, stepped up and told me about a bunch of things:

  • Wofford bikesFirst 54: Wofford plans activities every day for the first 54 days of school; this acknowledges that they started in 1854.
  • Tailgating: They’ve been listed in the top 10 of small schools with big tailgaiting traditions.
  • They also liked that they bring carnivals, food trucks, and other fun things onto campus.

Wofford is test-optional, and they only take the Common App. There are a few specific scholarships that require test scores, but students will be given full consideration for general merit aid without standardized testing. Their acceptance rate varies greatly between applications types: about 90% in Early Decision, 60% in Early Action, and about 30% in Regular.

© 2020

Bryant University

Bryant University (visited 4/30/19)

Bryant pondBryant pleasantly surprised me. The people are great, there’s a good vibe, and the campus is attractive with lots of green spaces and a pond (complete with fountain) in the middle. Buildings are new and well kept up, and facilities align with the current educational trends they’re making available for students. Almost ¼ of their population is first-gen, and they make a great deal of resources available to accommodate for an array of diversity, including a large interfaith center where Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish services are offered every weekend. They have a full-time priest and rabbi on campus, and they have a kosher kitchen available to students.

Bryant 3“This is not a static university,” said the VP for enrollment. The university is particularly known for its business program for good reason. Most programs are highly ranked, including International Business in the top 25. They have extensive options, including Marketing Analytics, Global Supply Chain Management, and Advertising & PR in addition to more traditional offerings in undergraduate business schools. “One area we’ve moved into is Data Science.”

Bryant 5“We also have strong pre-Health Sciences (they guarantee an interview at the PA school) and a strong college of Arts & Sciences.” Students can take an EMT class to satisfy their science requirement! They have an array of traditional majors/minors as well as more unusual ones such as Chinese, Applied Psych, and Biotechnology.

Bryant gate

The arch – like most schools, tradition says that students can’t walk through before graduation.

Students must have both a major and a minor chosen from different schools. This dynamic helps to round out skill sets “and is a key towards our 99% job placement rate,” said one rep. This is the 3rd highest job placement rate in the country. “College costs too much money to not have something at the end – and that something is a job.” One of the students told us that a lot of students will major in Business (its own school) and a minor in Economics, Actuarial Math, or Applied Stats (in Arts & Sciences). He said that that’s an easy way to “kind of work the system.”

Bryant 7All first-year students participate in the IDEA Program, a 3-day, 1-credit design-based program in which teams solve a real world problem. “It’s exciting. It’s exhausting. They work around the clock. Campus is buzzing.” Students learn how to observe people, how to identify what the issues are, identify a challenge (usually this is given to them), brainstorm multiple ways of looking at the problem, break down ways to solve it, set up an experiment to see if a solution would work, and finally present it to others. The go into malls, the zoo, classrooms, etc. Some of the projects included how to make malls more accessible, box stores more efficient, and a children’s museum more interactive.

Bryant quad 4Over half of Bryant students go abroad at some point for internships, a semester/year, or for a study-trip. They created a Sophomore international Experience, a 2-week study-travel trip, to help get “students’ feet wet” – and many of the students who do this will then elect to go abroad for a semester or year as juniors. Bryant runs a campus in China and offer opportunities in 65 other countries around the world.

Bryant 8All incoming students receive an HP Elitebook laptop, and then they trade that in for a new one as a junior (or they can buy out the old one and keep it).

Bryant indoor farmers market

One of the periodic Farmer’s Markets held in the Student Center

They’re still skewed more heavily male because of the business programs. During the admissions process, they’re looking that applicants have 4 years of math with 1 beyond Algebra 2 (they prefer pre-calc and calc). Students do not need to submit test scores – but if they don’t, they need to do 3 supplemental essay questions. To be eligible for the Honors Program, students should have a 1270 SAT and about a 3.6 GPA. There’s a very little bit of wiggle room, and students must interview if they’re on the bubble. They can sometimes come in on probation for a year: under this, they’ll take 1 class first semester, and if that goes well, they take another in the 2nd semester. At that point, if they meet the criteria, they move fully into the Honors Program without probation.

Bryant fountain 3Campus is active and the students we spoke to are happy with their experiences. Every weekend has at least one big event which ranges from a trip to a major league game or an on-campus event to help people get engaged in the community or beyond. There are 4 special big weekends a year: right after students return to campus from summer, then Fall-, Winter-, and Spring-fests. The majority of seniors live in 5-7 person townhouses, allowing for a bit more independence before leaving campus. Students seem happy enough with clubs and activities (including their a cappella group that was ranked #32 in the nation).

© 2019

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