campus encounters

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Archive for the tag “Consortium”

Massachusetts College of Art and Design (MassArt)

Massachusetts College of Art and Design (visited 9/13/17)

MassArt lobby and city

Part of the Fenway as seen from the new lobby

Mass Art (as it’s commonly referred to) is the only art school and the only public school in the Colleges of the Fenway Consortium. In fact, it’s the only public art school in the country.

Housing is offered in 3 dorm buildings, and there are several options including Gender Inclusive housing, LBGTQQIA themed living, and Substance-Free areas. While I was on campus, I grabbed lunch in the central dining hall which is shared with MCPHS and WIT. I wasn’t impressed with the food quality, the selection, the ease of getting food once inside, or the amount of seating available. However, it was centrally located in campus, but many students had to (or maybe wanted to) take food to go since there just wasn’t much seating in relation to the number of students moving through the area. They

MassArt artwork

Some of the wok from Fiber majors

The first year of study is the Studio Foundations year. Most classes are capped at 25, but for Art History (taken both semesters), everyone piles into the auditorium. One of the tour guide’s favorite classes was the 4D/time class in 2nd semester of freshman year. Students are expected to complete 9 liberal arts classes in addition to their major. Two of these are required in the freshman year: Freshman Year Seminar and Thinking, Making, Writing: Using Words with Clarity and Flair. After that, they have more flexibility in fulfilling the remaining 7 classes.

MassArt gallery 2

One of the galleries showcasing student work

There are 9 student galleries in addition to several other display areas. Students are taught early how to present their art and are expected to do so regularly. Twice a year (usually December and May), students have the opportunity to sell their work in week-long sales open to the public. Students receive 60% of the selling price with the remainder going to the college to fund student events and other programs. They also do a lot of outreach with the community, including a program called Spark the Art. They’re also a member of the ProArts Consortium that brings together both performing and visual arts institutions in Boston.

MassArt glass studio

One of the glass blowing studios

They offer all the typical majors you’d expect from an art school and have some amazing, more unusual programs such as Glass, Animation, Industrial Design, Architectural Design (also offering an M.Arch.), Art Education, Fibers, Fashion Design, and Studio for Interrelated Media.

© 2017

Emmanuel College

Emmanuel College (visited 9/12/17)

Emmanuel quad

The quad with the skyline of Boston in the background

“This is a small school, but there’s something for everyone.” As part of the Colleges of the Fenway, Emmanuel students have access to 5 other schools, and its campus is located right in between Wheelock and Simmons. “It feels a lot bigger because of the consortium,” said the tour guide. “Students from other schools are walking through campus because we’re right in the middle of things.” As part of the consortium, students can take classes (including travel courses!) and even complete full minors at another school. Intramurals are held against teams from other COF schools; students have access to libraries, some clubs and activities, and some dining halls although “We have the best food on the Fenway! It’s a 12,” said one of the tour guides. The other one agreed: “A lot of it is organic, and meals are made fresh right in front of us.”

Emmanuel chapel

The Chapel

This is a Catholic institution with 40% of the students self-identifying as Catholic, but “the Catholicism isn’t heavy-handed,” said one of the students. Mass is never required, but students do need to take 2 religion classes as part of their distribution requirements. With so many choices to fulfill this including “What is Religion?” and “Women in Religion,” there’s something for everyone. There are several priests and nuns still involved on campus, including the President (a nun) and several teachers (“Father John is cool!”).

Emmanuel lounge and quadThe Sisters founded the school as a women’s college in 1919. They went coed in 2001 and are still 73% female, but have tripled their overall population since going coed. Part of this also comes from a deal made with Merck Pharmaceuticals made about the same time as when they went coed – the college leased space to the company for a research lab which makes Emmanuel the only college in the country with a pharmaceutical lab.

Emmanuel 1Campus is attractive and easy to navigate (it is small and can’t grow because of its location in Boston). Housing is guaranteed all 4 years. 88% of first-year students live on campus with 70% staying on all 4 years. “This is not a suitcase school.” Students get involved in a great of service on and beyond campus. Saints Giving Back is a popular club; one of their big projects is providing meals for families with kids in the hospital.

Emmanuel tables“Students are just nice here. This is a door-holding school” While students seem to think that there’s room for some growth in diversity, they also say that “there’s lots of open dialogue.” Students are willing to engage in dialogue with each other and come out in droves to the speakers brought to college (Shawn King recently came).

Classes are capped at 35 but average 21. One tour guide’s largest class was 30 in Freshman Writing. His smallest was 13 in a higher-level psych class. Although on the surface, their majors seem fairly standard and straightforward, they offer a great deal of interesting concentrations within those majors:

© 2017

Swarthmore College

Swarthmore College (visited 11/23/15)

~Swarthmore tower 1This is a physically impressive campus (stone buildings, a tower, an imposing main building on a hill) located less than 20 minutes outside of Philadelphia. I had wanted to visit for a long time since I’d already seen Haverford and Bryn Mawr, the other schools in the Tri-Co (3 College Consortium). Unfortunately, the students don’t seem to be as engaging as they are at many other schools I’ve visited.

~Swarthmore main

The main building on campus

Several students independently mentioned the “Swarthmore Bubble.” There doesn’t seem to be much need or desire to leave campus, and it shows in their attitudes: no one seemed excited to get to know anyone or take advantage of opportunities beyond the campus boarders, even though the town is nice and a SEPTA train stop is literally on campus, making travel about as easy as it gets. “We go into Philly for a specific purpose. It’s not like we say ‘Hey, we’re bored, let’s go to Philly. It’s a supplement not the core of social life.” One student is part of the Tri-Co dance group so she practices on other campuses, and she has gone to hear speakers. None of the students I spoke to took advantage of other campus for class or anything else. Swarthmore is the most distant of the 3 schools – about 25 minutes away – but that’s certainly not prohibitive. I did see a Bryn Mawr van on campus dropping off students.

~Swarthmore walkwaySwatties are very smart and want an academically intense program. Almost 20% of alumni go on to complete PhDs (3rd highest in the country). Our tour guide said, “It’s intense. You have to do the work and understand it or people will know – but there’s no shortage of help around if you want it.” Tutors often have names that play on their discipline: math tutors are Pirates (they work with Pi) and physics tutors are Jedis (they work with the Force).

~Swarthmore stained glassDuring the info session, the rep said: “The question of whether or not you can do this has been answered. You’ve been admitted. Now ask about why you’re doing the work you’re doing.” Our tour guide said that one of the reasons she came here was because academics didn’t just stay in the classroom. People would continue discussions over meals and in the dorms. What they don’t discuss are grades. It’s very much like the other Tri-Co schools in this regard. They also have an honor code “which isn’t spelled out like at other places. We just do it.”

~Swarthmore peace sign 1During the first semester, classes are graded P/F “which allows you to figure out how to do laundry for the first time, make friends, etc. I took an engineering class, Modern Chinese Cinematography, an education class.” Students can and do see what grade they’re earning and don’t just do enough to get by. “They come in with the same curiosity and work ethic. The shadow grades help them understand what the expectations are.”

~Swarthmore 2Even after that semester, students have 4 more classes they can take P/F. The student speaking at the info session said, “It’s nice to know that I can calculate the structural integrity of oak vs. steal, but it didn’t have to affect my GPA.” The tour guide said that they can decide fairly late in the semester if they want the class to be P/F.

~Swarthmore archDistribution requirements are fairly flexible: 3 classes each in Humanities, Social Sciences, and Physical/Natural Sciences, a foreign language, 3 writing intensive classes (taken in any discipline), and 4 credits of PE (completed through classes or outside things like an athletic club such as swing dancing).

This is one of a few Liberal Arts colleges that has its own BSE degree (not a 3+2 program), and students don’t have to declare their major in engineering early. They can come in and test it out. Even within this program, things are somewhat interdisciplinary. For example, there’s a class call Food Engineering that’s cross-registered with biology.

Swarthmore ampitheater 1

The Ampitheater where graduation is held

The Honors Program is more like an external exam program and just a different way to study. It’s something that students decide to do while they’re here rather than a program they apply to get into. The GPA requirements differ by major, and if they do an Honors major, they also have to do an Honors minor. About 1/3 of students will take part in it, and it’s so integrated into the rest of the system that people often have no idea who is doing it unless they happen to mention it. Seminars have about 8-10 students focusing on inquiry and discussion, and they bring in someone else to write the exam as well as conduct the oral exam.

Swarthmore Sci lounge

Science lounge

In addition to the usual internships (and there are stipends available for unpaid internships), students can complete externship where they’re matched with an alum to shadow (and often live with) for a week or so. One student will be externing at the EPA this winter to learn more about policy. The rep said, “This is a great opportunity to confirm what they think about their career goals – or to let them reassess. College is a great place to push the reset button.”

~Swarthmore dorm2 2

Some of the dorms

Almost all students (98%) live on campus all 4 years. All years and majors are mixed throughout the dorms. The 2nd and 3rd floors of the main building (also home to administrative offices and admissions) are dorms. A student said, “I lived in this building my first year, and I actually met with Deans in my PJs. It’s pretty informal here.” Food does NOT get good marks from the kids. When we first asked, the tour guide paused, and then said, “Let’s wait until we get outside.” She is not impressed – and I overheard another tour guide telling his group that he wasn’t thrilled with it, either.

~Swarthmore dining hall

A section of the dining hall

In admissions, “we see the well-rounded and the well-lopsided kids.” They do not take the writing section of either exam and do not require SAT 2 but will consider them if submitted. Students thinking about engineering should do the Math 2 exam. They allow for interviews but don’t require them. The “Why Swarthmore” question is really important given their academic rigor and different approach to academics: “We don’t want to hear about our great faculty, our pretty campus, or that we have your major. You should be able to identify things that made it stand out and how you can see yourself there for 4 years.”

© 2015

Sage College of Albany

Sage College of Albany (visited 7/29/15)

~SCA quadWhile I was waiting to talk to the admissions rep and then go out on tour, I had the opportunity to speak with a student who transferred in from a community college, got his Bachelors at Sage, and is now doing grad work here. “I wish I had known to get involved more when I was an undergrad,“ he said.

SCA had been a 2-year college for a long time and had that feel of come, take a few classes, and go again. In WWII when there was a bigger need for medical field training, this school blossomed. It’s now a thriving 4-year college with extensive graduate programs; there are approximately 1500 students split about 50-50 between undergrad and grad.

Old armory

Old armory

I get the feeling that the campus activities program is getting more and more robust all the time. There’s definitely stuff to do on campus, there are several other colleges nearby, and Albany isn’t lacking for things to do – even so, the college is also trying to get more things on campus to bulk up the residential life. The DIII teams get a lot of support from the students, particularly the basketball, soccer, and volleyball teams. The old armory building has artificial turf for winter practices as well as for general student use. They hold things like Spring Carnival and dances there.

~SCA 1The campus is small and easy to navigate. It runs directly into the Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Science campus; they even share some privately owned housing, the University Heights College Suites. While these are technically on the ACPHS campus, they act as kind of the dividing line between the two colleges. Those suites are no more than a 6 or 7 minute walk from any other point on the main SCA campus.

~SCA 2All SCA students can take classes at Russell Sage (the other Sage College located in Troy) and even major in an area offered on that campus. There are some females who choose to be an SCA student and live in Albany but who will major in areas offered at Russell Sage. “I think it’s because of the boys,” said the tour guide. “I think they like the coed environment.” Both places are warm, friendly, and highly supportive. “You feel like a celebrity because everyone is always saying hi,” said the rep. People give hugs. People know who you are, and even professors are called by their first names. It’s a bad place if you don’t want to participate or have people in your business.

~SCA Art&Design“Academics here aren’t siloed,” said the rep. It’s not just art or bio or creative writing. Students can do applied writing with bio, business with art/photo, whatever works for them. A lot of the majors are interdisciplinary by nature already. For example, Writing and Contemporary Thought combines English, Philosophy, and Humanities. Law and Society combines Criminal Justice, psych, pre-law; students pick a track to focus on (ie, L&S with a psych track) so it turns into something close to a Major-Minor pair.

Ceramics Studio

Ceramics Studio

They offer a BFA in Fine Arts, Photography, Interior Design, and Media Design. The studios are spacious and well-stocked. Students even learn to make their own clay.

Students have the option of participating in several linked and/or accelerated programs. Students in the Business department can go on to earn Masters in Health Services, Business, or Organizational Management at Sage. Students interested in a Doctor of Physical Therapy can do a 3+3 or 4+3 program, completing an Applied Biology program at Sage and then continuing on for the DPT. An accelerated JD program with Albany Law is available for qualified students. The accelerated program holds your spot – but you still need to take the LSAT.

Admissions to SCA is test-optional except for linked programs with other schools. If students want to apply when they’re here, they can apply in-house. Generally, the Law program looks for an 1100 and a 90 average.

(c) 2015

Russell Sage College

Russell Sage College (visited 7/28/15)

~RS old bldg

The inside of one dorm

I want to move into some of the upperclassmen housing on the Russell Sage campus! They have some beautiful old homes with large wood staircases, vaulted ceilings, and large common rooms. In fact, “Age of Innocence” with Daniel Day Lewis and Winona Ryder was filmed in one of them.

~RS frosh quad

Freshman dorm quad

About 60% of the 800 Russell Sage students live on campus. “This is still a fairly regional school pulling students from the Capital Region,” said the rep. They would like out-of-area students to live on campus for their first year but do not require it. All freshmen are housed in one building in traditional doubles (and the health center is attached to building; “it’s really nice when you sick for the first time away from home,” said the tour guide). There are some triples but “they aren’t forced and they’re bigger rooms.” Upperclassmen housing provides several options including Honors housing (requiring a 3.4 GPA), French/International and Spanish houses (requiring participation in language and cultural activities), and several other options with singles or suites.

~RS old church

The old church

Campus is an eclectic mix of buildings. They have some older buildings with cinderblock halls that look like elementary schools of old – and new beautiful buildings. They own an old church that still has two original Tiffany Stained Glass windows. Sage Plaza (really the closest thing they have to a quad) sits in front of the church. The first Brueggers is across the street.

~RS dorm lounge

Lounge of one of the upperclassmen dorms

I hadn’t realized that this was still a women’s college; I thought it had gone coed several years ago. They’re one of the two Sage Colleges, the other being Sage College of Albany which is coed. Men from SCA can major here (and vice versa). Nursing and Education is housed on this campus. The Albany campus is a little more interdisciplinary (see separate blog entry for that). Shuttles run every 30 minutes between the Sage campuses.

~RS 4“We’re hardly in a convent,” said the tour guide. “RPI is up the road which is still predominantly men, and we have SCA guys in classes.” The students say that RS gives them a space to find their own voice. They’re there for school; everything revolves around them. Even the fitness center’s equipment is 20% smaller to better accommodate the females – and PT and exercise science students staff it, giving them more hands-on experience.

~RS lobby

The atrium of the science building with the school seal on the floor

The students have a great deal of ownership over their education because of the cross-registration which allows for increased flexibility. WORLD (Women Owning Responsibility for Learning and Doing) is a 3-class core that all students complete. Two of the classes are taken in freshman year and the third is completed senior year as a capstone. The tour guide’s largest class was her freshman WORLD class with 24 students. Her smallest class, Conducting, had 8. All students must complete an internship.

Unusual majors include Public Policy, Advocacy, and Civic Engagement (PACE); International and Globalization Studies; Creative Arts in Therapy; and Forensic Science.

They have more than a dozen accelerated or linked programs.

  • Physical Therapy or Occupational Therapy can be done in a 3+4 or 3+3 program. If a student has a 3.25 GPA, a seat is saved for them automatically in the graduate program. Otherwise, they’ll have to apply and hope for the best. I asked what would happen if they were close like at a 3.2. “If they’re that close, the professors are going to know it and get on their case about their grades. They’ll give them the support to get the GPA up.”
  • They have a 3+2 engineering program with RPI. Students get their math degree at RS and then the engineering degree at RPI. They can apply for this program at any point.
  • They have a 3+3 program with Albany Law or Suffolk Law. Albany Law is located next to Sage College of Albany so student can share housing there with grad students.

~RS4Traditions are a big deal here.

  • “Big-Little” is a Big Sister-Little Sister option that many students elect to be part of. “It’s a great connection to an upperclassman. Some people get really into it and meet all the time; others just do coffee one a month or semester.”
  • Each class is placed in a Cohort on a 4-year cycle: Blue Angels, Purple Cows, Red Devils, and Golden Horseshoes. “This gives classes an identity and a connection to alumni who might have been in the same named cohort,” said the rep.
    • Every year they hold a Rally, a competition between classes to raise money. Alums even come back for this.
  • Ring Ceremony: this is another optional event. Student can get a class ring during Junior year; they’ll keep it turned in until graduation and then will turn it out to “Face the world.”

(c) 2015

Notre Dame University of Maryland

Notre Dame University of Maryland (visited 2/19/15)

Notre Dame swingND is a lovely, small campus in a residential neighborhood of northern Baltimore. It borders Loyola University; the two campuses share a library, and are the first universities in the country to do so. ND’s traditional undergraduate division, the Women’s College, is still single-sex, but the graduate and evening/weekend (“Adult Undergraduate”) programs accept men.

The admissions people are friendly, helpful, and will go WAY out of their way for visitors. I was highly impressed with their dedication and humor. My local rep is a recent alumnae of Notre Dame; she gave me a tour so I got perspectives from both sides of the desk.

Notre Dame main bldg

Main building

Chapel

Chapel

Started in 1895 by the Sisters of Notre Dame, nuns still live on the top floors of the main building. The Chapel, built just a year after the college was started, occupies the 2nd floor of the same building. Almost all the windows are still original; a couple panes have been replaced over the years, but they had the original designs that were copied. The paintings in the chapel were done by students and alumnae. Although it does not fit all 450 undergrads, it is a comfortable size and accommodates all students wishing to attend Mass (offered every day but never required). There are also several small prayer/reflection spaces (including a Muslim prayer space) in the dorms and other locations around campus. Students must take 1 upper-level religion class as part of their distribution requirements but there are a lot of options such as Christian Ethics or Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The Admissions Rep giving me the tour had taken this; she went to services at a Mosque and a Temple as part of the class.

Notre Dame movie window 2

Step Up stairs and window

Notre Dame auditoriumSeveral of the buildings (including the main building, an academic building, and the athletic complex) are connected which was especially nice on the very cold day that I visited campus! One of these buildings has the staircase and stained glass window made famous in the movie “Step Up” with Channing Tatum. They also used the auditorium (which got trashed in the movie). This auditorium is used for large group gatherings such as guest lecturers and Honors Convocation. At HC, the freshmen get the cap and gown that they’ll graduate in. “It’s a great bonding experience. We’re all in there pretty tightly and have to help each other get everything on and looking good.” After that, they sign the honors pledge and get more privileges. Before Convocation (held usually about the 2nd week of school), “there are certain things we can’t do like have guests in the dorm. I think it’s supposed to be so we focus on making friends and getting used to life on campus.” After they sign the pledge, they can have guests, have unproctored exams, etc. “That was a new experience for me. Professors would give out the exams and then tell us that they would be in their office if we needed them.” I asked her how seriously people took this. “Really seriously. I’ve never seen or heard of anyone cheating on test. There’s an Honor Council if anyone got reported, but I don’t know of anyone who even went to that.”

Notre Dame dorm

Dorm

The University pulls many students in from the surrounding area. 80% of the students come from Maryland, and only about 45% live on campus. Housing is good, comfortable, and attractive. Freshmen, Sophomores, and Juniors live in single-sex housing. Seniors can choose to live in single-sex housing or move to another dorm that also houses graduate students and is therefore co-ed. They have both a dining hall and Gator Alley, but neither is open late. Students can walk over to Loyola if they want a late-night option, but they will pay separately for that.

Notre Dame bird feeders

Bird feeders on campus

As a member of the Baltimore Consortium, students can register for classes at other institutions in the area including Goucher, Towson, Johns Hopkins, Loyola, MICA, Morgan State, and University of Baltimore. A free Circulator bus runs from Towson and Goucher (located north of Notre Dame) down to Penn Station (near MICA and UBalt). It’s easy to get around to other campuses. From Penn Station, students can also take a Baltimore bus to Inner Harbor and other locations around town, so even though they can have cars on campus, it’s not necessary.

Notre Dame dorm lounge

A dorm lounge

The student body is highly diverse. About half of the student body are women of color. They pull in students from about 15 other states and almost as many countries. They have an International Center which offers an 8-10 week intensive English Institute in the summers to students who need help with English before classes start. 

Nursing is highly regarded, as are the Radiological Sciences and the 4+3 Pharmacy programs. Students interested in Engineering complete a 3-2 program, earning an BA from Notre Dame and a BS from Johns Hopkins, University of Maryland, or Columbia University. Students can complete a 5-year BA/MA in Business/Management and Teaching/Education. Other notable majors include Marketing Communications, Behavioral Neuroscience, Criminology, and Environmental Sustainability.

(c) 2015

Loyola University Maryland

Loyola University Maryland (visited 2/19/15)

Loyola statue 2This is clearly Jesuit in spirit as well as name: 2 statues stand prominently on the Academic quad; the chapel is central on campus; paintings, murals, and crucifixes are placed throughout buildings. Almost ¾ of the students self-identify as Catholic. Sean Bray, the new Director of Campus Ministry, calls their approach “Jesuit Care-ism,” inviting people to engage in the larger questions such as how they make meaning, how they engage in the community, etc. “Our mission and values stand squarely in faith and diversity.” They hold retreats at the campus-owned property in western Maryland. These give people a chance to get off campus and connect with other students and faculty. Trips have a variety of themes such as a silent retreat or “Navigating the Journey.”

Loyola chapel exterior 2One of our tour guides goes to mass regularly “which I didn’t do at home, but the priest here is awesome! I never thought that church could be fun.” Another tour guide agreed: “They relate church services to life. They just had a Super Bowl Mass.” Mass is offered on campus every day. While it’s not required, many people participate either in simply attending mass or in other capacities. 30-40 students sing regularly in the choir and many others work in other capacities in Campus Ministry. Different schools in the consortium hold different types of services at different times. Hopkins has a 10 pm service on Sunday that some students go to.

Loyola chapel interiorDespite the overwhelming sense of Catholicism on campus, there’s a significant population of non-Catholics and even non-Christians. One Muslim student said, “I came here because I knew I wouldn’t have to explain myself. People understand my devotion and prayer even if they don’t understand my specific customs.” There’s a Jewish Student Association that hosts celebrations to anyone on campus. A Rabbi will come on campus to work with students, and the JSA hosts a Holocaust Survivor speaker every year. Loyola will also give students free shuttle rides to any service of their choosing (doesn’t have to be Catholic/Christian) within 20 miles.

Before the tour, I spoke with several students. A sophomore from NJ said, “I’m religious but was not looking for a religious school.” She applied to about 8 schools; only one other had any religious affiliation. A junior from western MD said, “I was mostly looking at Jesuit schools, and this has a good psych program.” A freshman from CT said that “this wasn’t my first choice originally, but loved it once I came. I liked the size and distance from home, and it’s got a great business program.” The freshman from Western NY had wanted to go to Bucknell but didn’t get in. She loves it here, though. “It’s got a good engineering program and I can also be pre-law, too.”

Loyola 1Campus is beautiful and safe; they’re located in a residential area of north Baltimore. The students feel very safe and walk around all the time without being worried. “I called for a ride once when it was really really cold at night and I didn’t want to walk!” They’ve never heard of anyone using the blue lights except “one father who pushed it on a tour. I think he thought it was fake or something. He got fined $250.”

Loyola Student Cntr

Student Center

Dorms are some of the best I’ve seen; it’s easy to see why they’re ranked #2 in the country, “number 1 if you’re a boy since the number 1 school in the country is a women’s college!” (I looked it up online later – it’s Bryn Mawr). They even have some apartments for some freshmen. 95% of students stay on campus all 4 years even though it’s not required. This is not a dry campus, but all students in an apartment, suite, or room must be 21 if they want alcohol in the residence. Dining halls “can get really busy during the rush times. You have to time it right. They run out of seating sometimes – but I heard they were going to build another one in a couple years, but right now, it can be tough.”

The Admissions Office is aiming for a freshman class “a little north or 1100 students.” They offered Early Decision for the first time this year and accepted 102 of the 150 applicants. A significant number of ED applicants were athletes and legacies. Students applying (ED or Regular) can choose the test-optional path but will need an additional recommendation or essay in its place.

Loyola Acad lounge

Interior of an academic building

The Engineering program got good reviews. “They we get an overview the first year: we do 6-7 weeks in each area to get a taste and then declare our specialty in sophomore year.” She also has taken advantage of the Baltimore Consortium (Towson, Goucher, Johns Hopkins, U Balt, MICA) by taking classes at Johns Hopkins. Music and Fine Arts are also big here. “You can learn any instrument except the bagpipes.” Students can major in photography, advertising, digital art, and more.

Freshman can sign up for the Messina Living Learning Program. They take a class each term that is linked thematically, and their cohort meets with a mentor for an hour a week. Students are generally very happy here: almost 90% return for sophomore year. Students who transfer out do so for the usual reasons: they changed their major, wanted a bit more of a party school, etc. One guide knew someone who didn’t make the lacrosse team; another left for health reasons even though she loved Loyola.

Loyola quad 3Most of the students stick close to campus for their social lives. “There’s a ton of school spirit here. Everyone is in Loyola gear.” They were a bit disparaging of their next-door neighbors, the students from Notre Dame. “We share a library. We know they’re around, but I don’t ever see anyone wearing ND stuff. I think it’s too much of a commuter campus.” Some of the big traditions are Loyolapalooza (a huge party with music, games, etc held a couple weeks before finals in the spring) and Lessons and Carols before Christmas. Chord Busters, the a cappella group, also puts on a big concert every year that’s well attended.

Lacrosse is the big sport here, but most teams have a good fan base. One student wishes they had a football team. “I’m a cheerleader, and football was a big thing for me in high school.” Their crew team is “small and injured.” Two of our tour guides (we had 1 “official” guide and 2 in training) were on the crew team.

80% of students will study abroad in the true sense of the word (a summer, a semester, or year). They do not consider the short-term (1-2 week) study trips to be study abroad like so many other universities do. Athletes and students majoring in Engineering and Elementary Ed generally can’t do a full semester or year so they often go during the summer for 2-3 months. True study abroad programs carry the financial aid with them since students remain registered at the universities. Short term (summer) and the short study-trips cost students out of pocket.

(c) 2015

Birmingham-Southern College

Birmingham-Southern College (visited 4/2/14)

~BSC quadOne of the counsellors asked our tour guide, a senior majoring in religion, if she agreed with the reputation that Birmingham-Southern students “are smart and out-there.” She said yes: “You can be nerdy, and that’s cool here.” BSC, a CTCL school, does place a lot of emphasis on the whole student and making sure that they aren’t pigeon-holed. For their senior capstone, students have to complete a major project outside of the major. Our tour guide’s project was writing about modern issues in the style of Camus.

The college President is General Krulak, a dynamic leader who is well respected by the students and staff. He spoke to our group; he’s funny, well-spoken, has great ideas, and clearly cares about the college. He impressed us with his energy and ideas for the college as well as his plans on how to carry them out.

~BSC quad 2One complaint students seemed to have about BSC is that it’s not ethnically diverse – “but it is intellectually diverse. Students are open to diversity. There are plenty of passionate discussions.” BSC doesn’t have a great deal of religious diversity, but it is there. One of my colleagues went to BSC and loved it; as a Jewish student, she felt supported and had a community that met her needs. The city of Birmingham also has a great deal of diversity, so students can attend local Synagogues, Hindu Temples, Mosques.

Dorm room

Dorm room

Dorms are (mostly) new and comfortable. Freshmen are housed in traditional dorms; all other students live in suites. They have a relatively new Frat Row with 6 buildings (built mostly with private donations), each housing about 24 students. BSC also served as the Olympic Village for the Soccer players, and they have an Olympic torch in the fitness center. Basketball and baseball get best fan turn-out, and lacrosse is getting more popular. Their lacrosse, Track & Field and football field is called The Battlefield.

Some of their notable academic points are:

  • Frat houses

    Frat houses

    A new Human Rights and Conflict Studies Minor. Current students interested in this program can use previous classes towards meeting the requirements because it’s so new. They complete classes in 4 categories: History, Personal experience (internship), lit, and writing.

  • Their arts program. Students can earn a BA (Art History, Art Education, Film and Media Studies, or Studio Arts), a BFA (Studio Arts, Print, Photo, Sculpture, Painting, Clay), or both. A portfolio is needed for scholarships.
  • Their Critical Languages cross-registration with Samford and UAB. Our tour guide is studying Hindi, and BSC has Arabic-speaking Fulbright Scholars on campus. One of the professors at dinner said, “Here’s something you aren’t going to hear anywhere else: Sanskrit on Demand!”~BSC hammock
  • The Science Center purposefully put large windows for all the labs to make it a “science on display” building.
  • The Birmingham Area Consortium for Higher Education allows students to cross-register at UAB, Samford, Miles, and the University of Montevallo.
  • Their Urban Environmental Studies major is strong and fairly unusual.
  • They maintain an archaeology site at Turkey Creek (an old mill).
  • They offer 3-2 programs in Nursing (in conjunction with Vanderbilt) and in Engineering (at several institutions)
  • Their Honors Interdisciplinary classes include choices such as: “Lit, Medicine, and the Body,” “American Art and Conventions of the Body” (Art History), “Harry Potter Bigger than Jesus” (religious themes in HP), “Crucible Steel” (Human Rights/Creative Writing), Senior Research
  • Hess Fellows Advocacy Internships gives $3000 stipends/scholarships to selected sophomores and juniors. They are partnered with companies and non-profits in NYC, DC, San Fran, Birmingham, and Montgomery in order to work on projects for two months over the summers.

~BSC bikesThe student panel was enlightening. Students were articulate and forthcoming about information:

1) BSC is one of the Colleges that Changes Lives. How has BSC changed your life?

  • Study abroad opened my eyes to the rest of the world. I grew up in a small town, and I have a much more global view now. I appreciate that BSC is so supportive – financially and otherwise – of students who want to go abroad.
  • I’m friends with everyone. It’s not cliquey here. I get real world interactions.
  • I got involved in things I never thought I would or could do. I was really shy in high school, and here I’m pushed out of my comfort zone. In high school, I wouldn’t be up here talking to you or leading a club, but now it’s just what I do.
  • It’s empowering. They give us opportunities and expect us to take them.
  • I’m less apathetic than in HS. I’ve learned so much about people and the world.

2) What should BSC never change?

  • The small classes.
  • January term (BSC works on a 4-1-4 system. J-Term is “the exploration term.” All students must complete 2 of these, although many students do more. Some majors require specific ones, including freshmen education majors who are placed in schools (and later, they can teach in Ghana), or pre-med students who work in the hospital. This is to make sure it’s what they want to do.
  • Greek Life. I wouldn’t have rushed at a bigger school.

3) What needs to change?

  • Diversity
  • The caf. The food is ok, but it gets boring.

© 2014

Spelman College

SPELMAN COLLEGE (visited 3/4/13)

Spelman sculpture 2Spelman looks like a typical small liberal arts school with lots of brick and open spaces with 25 buildings on 42 acres. I was surprised that this is a gated campus. Access to campus is restricted after about 11 pm, and students have to show ID to get onto campus at that point. Men must also be off campus by midnight.

Spelman oval

Oval

Ninety-two percent of Spelman’s 2100 students are of African descent but come from all over the world. The top five U.S. states represented are GA, NY, CA, MD, and IL. The tour guide said that 30 students is a “huge class.” Spelman boasts a 92% freshman-to-sophomore year retention rate and an 82% graduation rate – the highest of the HBCUs.

Spelman acad bldgThey are part of the largest HBCU consortium in the US. Morehouse is right across the street, Clark Atlanta is also “next door,” and they’re connected to the Interdenominational Theological Center and Morehouse School of Medicine. Although there are more than 100 clubs on campus, they can and do join clubs on the other campuses. Additionally, Spelman is part of the ARCHE program (Atlanta Regional Consortium of Higher Education) which includes all these schools, plus Oglethorpe, Emory, Georgia Tech, Kennesaw State University, and more. Finally, they also have a “domestic exchange” with NYU, Grinnell, and Duke among others. Although first year students cannot have cars on campus, that doesn’t stop them from getting around to other campuses or into Atlanta itself. Public transportation is very easy to use.

Spelman chapel

Spelman oval 2US News has ranked Spelman #1 for sending women of color to med school, #1 of the schools of their size for graduates joining Teach for America, and top 20 for Best Buys. They have 27 majors, 10 pre-professional programs, and 6 minors (Anthropology, management and organization, Dance, Japanese, Child Development, and Film & Visual Culture). The Pre-professional programs add 10 or 11 classes to the student’s program of study to prep for graduate programs. They also offer a 3-2 engineering dual-degree program with GaTech.

Spelman 2Spelman 1Spelman is big on tradition and history. The students on the panel talked over and over about the feelings of sisterhood (this word was used A LOT) on campus. Students aren’t allowed to leave campus during orientation which raised a few eyebrows when the students first told us, but none of the women seemed to think that was a real restriction. They talked about how much of a community it created and how many friends they made during that time. Community is also built because all first and second year students live on campus; 1500 out of 2100 total live on campus. There is a lot of good-hearted competitions between dorms, and all the students say that their dorm is, of course, the best! Only about 10% of students join Greek Life; the students on the panel said that there wasn’t much need because they got the same community and sisterhood feeling just on campus and from the dorms. If they decide to join, they can rush after earning 30 credits. The panelists said that other favorite things about the college were the little things like getting a ‘good morning’ from others on campus, even if they didn’t know the person; a feeling that they’re all in this together; and that faculty have open door policies. With a 12:1 student to teacher ratio, they feel like they have good access to the professors. There is very little they said they wanted to change; one thing mentioned was that they’d like to change the communication through the departments.

Spelman dormThe administration is deliberate about goals they have for the institution, and even use the acronym of GOALS to list what they’re working on and they type of experience they want every Spelman woman to have: Global Involvement, Opportunities (Internships, etc), Alumni/student connections, Leadership Development, Service Learning. They are phasing out their DIII athletics in favor of intramurals and a wellness program. They were spending a lot of money on very few athletes, and this allows them to spread the money more evenly to be used by more students.

(c) 2013

Smith College

SMITH COLLEGE (visited 10/15/12) (Click HERE for information and pictures from my visit on 5/30/19)

P1000974

A view of the pond, a popular hangout on campus.

The buildings at Smith are about as eclectic as the students. The campus seems very haphazardly put up but somehow it kind of works. Instead of all new buildings needing to fit in with the buildings already up, they need to correspond with the style of the times. It was very cool. The atmosphere was vibrant; people were everywhere, even on a dreary, drizzly day. People seemed genuinely happy and comfortable on campus, and students were interacting with each other.

Smith stdnt cntr

Student Center

During our admissions presentation, the Director of Admissions talked about 5 ways Smith is different:

  1. Open Curriculum (Smith, Amherst, Brown, Grinnell all have this) meaning that there is no core. This comes with a lot of responsibility. Many students don’t know what they want to do, or they change their minds once they get there. It’s about learning how to use the open curriculum that’s open and thoughtful and deliberate. What does it mean to be liberally educated? The Liberal Arts advisors help students negotiate this process so the students pick classes, internships, study away opportunities and other educational components that complement each other. It changes the dynamic in the classroom because students want to be there and are engaged in the process.
  2. One-third of the students major in the sciences. This is the only women’s college with an established engineering major. They see this as important since only 15% of engineers are women: “What’s up with that? It’s 2012.” Women at women’s colleges do research at a higher rate than women at coed college. They’re a member of AEMES (Achieving excellence in math, engineering, and science) and they attract a lot of women of color and first gen students. They were among the best in the country for women going on into careers in the sciences.
  3. Praxis (Practical Education) guarantees an internship for every Smith student. Smithies are going to Columbia Records, the Smithsonian, ABC in London, Museum of Modern Art, Dutch Parliament, hospital in Mexico, Max Plank (sciences) and other big-name places for their internships.
  4. Smith dorm

    Houses

    They have 35 Houses, not dorms. These are places to live, not just a place to sleep; students often stay with a house for multiple years and they even graduate with their house during Commencement ceremonies. Since Smith is a little on the large side for a small college (about 2800 students, the House system helps make it smaller. The expectation for students is involvement, and that attitude starts in the Houses. They’re an “incubator for leadership” – grooming them for bigger opps off campus. Leadership comes in many forms. It’s about a sense of engagement. Along with so many houses, students have free access to all of the 15 dining rooms on campus; because they can swipe in as many times as they want, they can get the main course at one place, a desert at another, a snack at a third.

  5. Smith dormsThey’re working to change the rhetoric of Women’s Colleges. Face it – it’s as much the “Real World” as any other place. All colleges are bubbles in some regard). Many of the students like not have men around 24/7. “Let’s face it: 18-20 year old men . . . not your shining moment! When you want the men, they’re there. When you don’t, they’re not. The bathrooms are clean. What else do you want?” Women’s Colleges are challenging, empowering, encouraging, and fun. Students learn to work as part of a team; develop self-confidence, initiative, and leadership; and learn to think and write critically. They stress the idea of community which is open and accepting. The college enrolls a very diverse community, including one of the highest percentages of low-income and first gen students in the country. They meet full demonstrated need by they aren’t need blind; they need to make sure they have the right funding available. (By the way, most of the counselors applauded the Director of Admissions for saying the following: she’s offended by the “what about the lesbians?” question. People would never allow people to say “what about all the black students?”).

Smith 3One of the counselors asked “What surprised you?” to the students on the panel. Here’s what they said:

  • I was surprised at the classroom environment; you always hear how much people are encouraged to speak up and I found that it really was the case. I was always in classes I chose to be in.
  • How at home I felt and the houses were a community. People were interested in making me feel comfortable.
  • How much help you could get with academics. People want to help each other succeed.
  • How smart people are. It’s overwhelming to be in a class with brilliant women all the time.

Smith 2Another questions asked students to name a favorite class:

  • Public Policy. The professor is engaging and there are hilarious PowerPoint presentations. He gets very excited about the technology. He’s extremely accessible, and students who aren’t even taking his class can wander into office to talk.
  • The Inklings about Lewis, Tolkien, and ?? in which they looked at the texts through religious, social, and other contexts.
  • Chemistry: she hated it in high school, but had to take it as a requirement for engineering. The prof was great, thoughSmith pond, and now she’s a chem tutor.
  • Class in Costa Rica meeting with activists, community leaders, etc because it was so inspiring.

The students were asked about favorite traditions:

  • Ivy Day: everyone wears white and carries roses. The alum comes back and every class plants its own ivy. When you first come to Smith, you get little pots of ivy from previous classes.
  • Illuminations: the whole campus gets covered in paper lanterns and the class year gets written in lights on the pond.
  • Diploma Circle: when you walk up for graduation, you walk up in Houses, alphabetical within house. You don’t get your own diploma, so you stand in a circle and exchange until you get yours.
  • Mountain Day: the President declares a day off in the fall. Students go apple picking, hiking, having bbqs, etc. It’s a day to relax.
  • Tea: Friday or Sunday afternoon, they bring baked goods from the dining hall to the house and people just come down and chill. Alumni House also does it once a semester. STRIDE (students doing research as their work-study job) will tet together for tea once a month. The prof will bake for that.
  • The Smith Network: The alumnae are a cult. They’ll do Kick-Off barbecues to send new first-years on their way and do a lot during the year (and watch out for each other after graduation).
  • Big Sib/Little Sib. All first year students get assigned an upperclassman who will leave them little presents throughout the week – candy, notes, etc. At tea at the end of the week, there’s a reveal.
  • Winter and Spring Weekends. On Spring Weekend, current seniors have underclassmen write prophecies for them, and seniors will leave things to underclassmen.
P1000981

The new science building.

A counselor asked, “How do you sell a women’s college to high school girls who are done with the drama?” Resoundingly, the answer was: Take guys out of the equation and a lot of the drama goes away! However, this isn’t a convent. A couple of the students said that they forget that they’re at a women’s college because of the Consortium, and there are often men in their classes and in clubs or at parties. One student said that she got off campus a lot; Northampton has a lot going on and is one of the best aspects of Smith (this was echoed by students at other colleges, as well, who would purposefully head there on the weekends when they wanted to get off campus and spend time in a vibrant college town). One said that she chose Smith over MHC because MHC is in a much smaller town, does not have the open curriculum, doesn’t have the House system, and the campus didn’t seem as lively.

Smith 4Another question revolved around how engineering works with the open curriculum. There is more of a set path in this major: students can directly go on the path of required classes, but they can explore some other classes and still get out in 4 years. The major is technically Engineering Science; students will often go on to grad school in order to specialize, but can get employed directly after Smith, as well. One of the panelists is minoring in architecture because she wants to end up doing civil engineering.

Students at Smith seemed to take full advantage of the Consortium. One student took an intensive Spanish class during J-term at Hampshire; another was currently taking a class at Amherst. They also see the Consortium as a social resource. They go to parties, speakers, concerts, and even the circus where they learned to juggle. The busses run particularly late on the weekends so they can take advantage of late-night events.

If money were no issue, the students would want: New profs for interdisciplinary programs (just in EnviSci or Urban Studies, for example), a new pool, more dining halls (sometimes it gets crowded) and more dining hours because there aren’t many late dining options.

(c) 2012

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