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Archive for the tag “Creative Writing major”

Providence College

Providence College (visited 9/12/17) (Scroll down for my 2nd visit on 5/1/19)

Providence 5I appreciated that the admission reps and other people presenting information to the visiting counselors made efforts to help differentiate Providence from other solid, similarly-sized liberal arts schools. According to them, their 4 pillars make PC different:

  • Human Flourishing: learn to take of yourself now so you’re able to do it later!
  • Cultural Agility: help to see through your lens AND how to learn from those people around you. “Erase the fear. Help include people who might feel different or alienated.”
  • Contemplation and communication: “We do this in the Dominican tradition. We want people to be intentional about contemplation. Take the time to do it. Share that with others.”
  • Integrated learning: “learning is important, but it’s not all you do. How do you put everything together – the internship, the extra-curriculars – to build yourself and get where you want to be?

Providence outdoor seatingA large part – really, the cornerstone – of their core curriculum is Western Civ. This is a 4 semester, team-taught, interdisciplinary course of study pulling together Theology, Lit, History, Philosophy, “really, the entirety of western civilization.” Students take this every semester of their first 2 years. The first 3 semesters cover ancient, medieval, and modern times; in the 4th semester, students complete a colloquium to “bring knowledge into a contemporary topic.” They can choose classes such as Our Monsters, Ourselves (how do we define monsters?), Ethical Practices in Business, Sustainability and Profits, etc. This is a huge part of PC’s culture and community and is almost a rite of passage: students will sport T-shirts saying things like “Done with Civ.”

Providence quad 2This is a Roman Catholic institution, and 50 priests live on campus. This dictates much of what happens around campus from class work to student services. There are options in some aspects of how religion plays out on campus. For example, teachers could opt into having a crucifix in the classrooms but most did not. “Religion is not heavy-handed here” but it’s clearly around and available. Students must take 2 religion and 2 philosophy classes, one of which must be ethics-based, but Mass or chapel is not required. “It’s is more of a social event,” said one of the tour guides. “We have a post-mass bash.” Catholic policy does dictate other things: “We’re a Catholic school, and our Health Center follows Catholic guidelines. I’m not sure you want me to be more specific … students aren’t always happy about this, but there are referrals for outside things as needed.”

Providence hockey

Practice time for the hockey team!

Although diversity and inclusion are, on paper anyway, part of the Dominican tradition, people we talked agreed that the college was not as diverse as they’d like but it’s gotten a lot better in recent years. “It’s the #1 strategic goal. We’re 18% non-white. We’d like to get to 25%.” The LGBTQ community is “not a closeted presence” and seems to be well supported. “Our students are overwhelmingly involved in service, athletics, etc. That’s a major characteristic.” They’ve put a lot of money into athletic facilities: all of them are new within the last 10 years (most within 5). PC has been ranked as the #1 school for intramural involvement. This is also a big hockey school.

Providence business int

Interior of the Business Dept

Academic programs worth noting include:

  • Arts and Sciences: every person takes classes in this school regardless of major.
  • Providence 8Professional Studies is the smallest school and consists of Applied Programs such as Education (Secondary and Elementary/Special), Health Policy Management (one of the fastest growing majors), and Social Work.
    • The BSW is so strong that students can often start their MSW with advanced standing. “We’re the liberal arts in service to others.” This school gives them flexibility to pursue things like pre-med, MPH, hospital admin, etc.
  • Business: Students become proficient in writing, oral communication, civic engagement, and diversity. They offer 4 majors in a new building (opened in January 2017).
    • First-year advising workshops are offered every other week for the first semester covering career education, study abroad, the curriculum, etc. They bring in alumni and faculty to talk about what they do with the majors.
    • The Finance lab has 12 Bloomberg Terminals. They’re pushing for more people to get certified on these

Providence 1Admissions is test-optional: “It doesn’t drive the process. Almost 40% of applicants didn’t submit them last year,” said an admissions rep. “It will not affect merit awards” (given to about ¼ of the students). They recalculate transcripts based on a 4.0 unweighted scale looking only at academic subjects. Last year was the first time admissions didn’t pull students from the waitlist, and in fact, they’ve been slightly overenrolled. 31% came from the ED pool which they’d like to max out at 35%. “We’re talking about the people we want to bring to our community, be part of our family. They want to be here because they love the place!”

© 2017

Providence College (5/1/19)

“I’m so content. I’m where I’m supposed to be,” said our tour guide who was amazing. It’s hard to find one who is so forthcoming about the benefits as well as any potential drawbacks. She recognizes that this isn’t the place for everyone – but it’s really right for a lot of people!

This is a Dominican university with 45 Friars living on campus. Many of them teach, particularly theology, philosophy, or the required Civ core classes. Mass/chapel attendance isn’t required, but many students will attend one of those offered on campus. “Last Chance Mass is offered at 10pm on Sundays, and it’s usually standing-room only.”

The Business school is the only one that students must apply directly to get into, however students can minor in one of the subjects without applying to the program. The Business School is big on teamwork, building much of their teaching on “The Power of We” and experiential learning. Students all attend a First Year Advising Workshop taught by their advisor. This program brings in alumni, faculty, and others to give students a broad and deep understanding of what business is. They offer a fast-track program for those wanting to go into elite firms/Wall Street. They’re also very much about building students’ cultural agility. Students can study abroad, including short-term faculty-led abroad for 10ish days. Last year, trips went to Japan and Australia. “It wasn’t hard to go to Sydney in January,” said one student. International Business majors must intern abroad.

Education majors can also go abroad to Puerto Rico, Ecuador, and Italy without worrying about losing credits or time towards graduation.

Admissions is test-optional, and 36% of applicants do not submit scores. About 1/3 of the incoming classes are admitted under Early Decision. The admissions office recalculates GPAs to an unweighted one. Last year, only 21% of students got merit scholarships. “Less merit means more need-based aid – which means more access for students. We’re putting our resources into meeting as much demonstrated need as possible.”

© 2019

 

Hollins College

Hollins College (visited 11/2/16)

hollins-4

One of the Academic Buildings

Hollins “is transformative. We enhance what’s there,” said a faculty member.

Hollins, named the 3rd Most Haunted campus in the country (the Tinker ghost got particular mention), is celebrating its 175th anniversary this year. “We’re not going anywhere but up,” said one of the Deans. This beautiful liberal arts university, dedicated to educating young women, takes an approach based on depth and breadth, both academically and co-curricularly.

hollins-indoor-ring

The indoor rink during one of the lessons

The equestrian program is of special note. A rider from Oregon told us, “I didn’t even know this place existed until they contacted me! They have one of the best writing programs and riding programs in the country; it’s great.” Usually they get about 45 riders per semester of all levels, “but we have the horsepower to do more.” The school-owned horses are donated, and students can board their own for $1100 a month (full-service including turnout: “if they need a buddy or are used to being on their own, we’ll make that happen,” said one of the riding coaches). The barn manager lives on premises.

hollins-horse-fields-4

Some of the outdoor areas for the equestrian programs

Riders are students first; they work lessons around academics. They teach hunter-seat but welcome riders from other styles (stock seat, dressage, saddle seat). They have a range of horses up to show-horses to accommodate all levels. Riders on the equestrian team pay $1195 per semester which includes 2 lessons a week, coaching, and all fees for travel and competition. “Students who ride regularly know that’s a deal.”

Beyond the Equestrian program, things that differentiate Hollins include:

  • The Internship program:
    • These often happen during January Term. Students get stipends, many from alumna who will come back to run workshops and other programs for students. “Speed Connection” (like speed dating) helps make connections. Alumna even help with small things like finding housing.
    • Students intern at places like National Geographic, Amas Musical Theater, Wiley Publishing, the National Cathedral, and the National Dance Institute.
  • Research: There is no honors program, but students have the option to participate in honors seminars starting first year.
  • Study abroad: they run specific historic programs in London and Paris
  • Leadership classes, including how to negotiate such things as their first pay raise. The Batton Leadership Institute comes with a scholarship. It challenges students to think outside the box.

hollins-quadI appreciate that Hollins is deliberate in their curriculum. A Dean said that they’ve been working with the following questions: What capacities do we and our students need to address the challenging issues of the 21st century? Are we doing what we need to do for students to be successful, in however they define success? Do we have the right co-curricular options in place? The answers to these have led to a few recent changes to curriculum:

hollins-libraryA few other academic programs worth mentioning include:

  • The 3-year Accelerated Program: Students need to elect this coming in, maintain a minimum GPA, and complete 40-44 credits per year.
  • Their Creative Writing program graduates 30+ seniors each year.
  • Certificates in Arts Management, Leadership, Piano Teaching, and Musical Theater Performance.
  • Their theater department has been ranked #19 for Best College Theater, and they offer a London Theater Immersion

hollins-chapel-2Faculty are teachers first and invested in the students. A handful live on campus. Students babysit for them and get invited home for breaks. However, they’re also experts in what they do and have a lot to brag about including being a 2015 National Book Finalist, having won a $100,000 Mellon grant for professional development, an NSF grant for technology in early education, and an award for best article in Critical Race Theory (Sociology).

hollins-5NSSE information allows Hollins to compare themselves to peer institutions: They’ve ranked Better or Much Better on: Asking questions, class presentations, working with classmates on projects, discussing academic work outside of class, writing and speaking clearly, and effectively working with others. Students here solve real world problems. The video “Women who are going places start at Hollins” is worth seeing.

The students like the all-female environment. “You can be yourself. You don’t have to fit into a group. People will love you for it. I’m shy. My roommate hugged me when I arrived. I’ve never felt so loved or accepted. You get the opportunities you ask for. Sky’s the limit. People do unimaginable things. If you take the initiative, they’ll figure out how to help you!” said a student sitting with us at dinner.

hollins-barn-dogs

Some of the dogs at the barn

They also want people to know that a women’s college doesn’t mean they’re cut off from other people. Students get involved in the Roanoke community: “We have a cool downtown!” and shuttles take students to the mall, downtown, and Target. The Amtrak will start coming back through in 2017 and flights from the Roanoke airport go to major hubs. They can get taxi vouchers to the airport. Roanoke College (coed) and Hampden-Sydney (all male) are “right down the road, and they [HSC] have a Women’s House for people to stay in if we visit campus.”

hollins-mt-tinker

Tinker Mountain from the Library

A favorite tradition is Tinker Day: classes get cancelled, and people get dressed up in wacky costumes and hike up Tinker <ountain (“The average person can hike it in 1.5-2 hours”). Another favorite thing is the Therapy Dog program (and several dogs hang out at the barn). Finally, there’s Ring Night: Seniors adopt juniors who get their rings. They have to “Earn” them: they’re given tasks (singing songs, etc) by freshmen and sophomores. Then the juniors get a box of things for senior year such as a bottle of apple cider for the beginning of the year. The “First Step” is when seniors step on the front quad in the fall: they decorate their gown, step on campus, and get sprayed with cider.

Last year’s 224 freshman was the largest incoming class in 17 years. The Admission office promises an answer (including scholarship information) in 2 weeks as long as applicants have submitted a FAFSA. They’re need-blind for admissions but aggressive with scholarships. “What does it hurt to apply?” said one rep; a student at dinner told us that it was cheaper for her to come here than to go to her state school. They have a special Secular Society Scholarship: it’s not just for the best grades but for students who show a “glimmer of moxie” and will contribute to the larger community and world.

© 2016

New Hampshire Institute of Art

New Hampshire Institute of Art (visited 10/17/16)

nhia-main-bldg

The main building on campus

This is a small niche school, right for the very focused student who knows what he/she wants to do and wants individual attention. “Going to art school is about following your passion. It’s about a lifestyle,” said an admission rep. As with many Institutes of Art, they’re hidden kind of in plain sight. “We’ve been around for 118 years and no one knows about us. We’re aiming to change that,” said the President.

 

nhia-mural

A city mural painted by NHIA students

NHIA knows what they’re doing, and they do it very well. One of its distinguishing factors is its location right in the city of Manchester (incidentally, the first planned and one of first electrified cities). The college is small, filled with people who are makers and want to contribute and make an impact on their community. The students bring service, much of it art-oriented, to the city itself; they clean parks, paint murals, and partner with the Manchester school district to bring art to the schools. They also intern in the city and beyond.

 

nhia-jewelry-making

The jewelry making studio

The five studio-based majors offer an optional 1-year MAT program; the BFA in Creative Writing does not yet have an MAT option. Almost 1/3 of the students are enrolled as Illustration majors with almost another ¼ each in Fine Arts and Photography. Ceramics, design, creative writing, and the interdisciplinary program pull 10% or less of the population. All students get a MacBook loaded with InDesign, PhotoShop, Adobe, etc with the idea that the more skills they have, the more employable they are.

 

nhia-printing-studio-2

The Printmaking studio

Regardless of major, all students take a common Foundation class that crosses disciplines. Students are presented with common topics, prompts, and questions; for example, they might look at the Holocaust, and they’ll work towards solutions and presentations through their particular lens. The interdisciplinary start allows for growth and collaboration which is so important in the art world. They’re prepared for jobs, and they’re graduating with less debt than students at many other A&D schools. “We aren’t spending money on rock climbing walls. We’re spending it on things that matter to art students,” said the president.

 

nhia-new-kiln

One of the kilns being rebuilt by ceramics students: they learn all the skills needed to be successful after graduation.

Students develop a professional practice while here; this is the only art institute that requires 3 semesters of business, and many students take advertising classes as electives. “They think about what’s in front of us and what’s ahead. I love the way the college interacts with the city. There’s networking and internships. It’s us as artists, and allows us to tailor what we’re doing to make a life and future.” The Dean of Admissions said, “More and more employers want ‘Creatives’ because things are changing so fast, they want new ideas.” They’re marketable.

 

nhia-cw-lounge

A working lounge in the Creative Writing building

My group spent an hour talking with one of the Creative Writing professors. Students “do everything here: play writing, memoirs, poetry, novels, short stories, non-fiction. Whatever they want to be, they’re going to do it well and rigorously.” There’s even a minor in Graphic Novel; they complete 2 Foundation courses (fiction and illustration), 1 trans-media class (how they work today in digital world), and 2 semesters in graphic novel.

 

With about 30 students in the Creative Writing program (they would like to grow this), students get intensive practice and personal feedback. They bring in professional, published writers every month to read their work, talk about the business side, run workshops, and even meet 1-on-1 with kids to give feedback. The Writing From the Senses class was happening while we were in the building; they had a drummer in (sound); other days, they bring in a chocolatier (taste), perfume (smell), etc to get kids to really delve into sensory descriptions.

A student came into the room as we were speaking to the professor. We asked him to sum up his experience: “I love writing here. Suggestions are relevant and it’s never boring. I’ve been stretched. I love Radical Revisions – you think on so many planes and in so many dimensions. It’s uncomfortable and challenging and great.”

All students in the major take Intro to Fiction, Intro to Poetry, either Memoir or Creative Non-Fiction, and a reading course, “not in the way they’re used to in High School. They’re looking to see how the author put it together.” Advanced workshops are required, and electives are varied, ranging from humor satire, writing the apocalypse, graphic novel, podcasts and audio narratives, and cinefiction (borrowing from film techniques). All students in the major have to be an editor on the journal: they have to create a website, put out a print version in the spring, curate it, and justify their decisions to include or not.

For parents who might be worried about their children majoring in creative writing, “tell them that employers are always looking for strong writers,” said a professor. They get professional writing preparation, and students often intern at magazines, blogs, and one is at Cambridge Writer’s Project. Most students go into editing, blogging, etc. Many will publish shorter works; “book deals don’t just happen.” Students who are go-getters who take advantage of everything at school have no trouble getting jobs. They go to events, take initiative, start radio shows, etc.

nhia-vault-gallery

The converted bank vault

Of the 500 or so undergraduate students, most live on campus. Almost 40% of students come from outside NH (13% of which are from outside New England, including some international students). There are lots of clubs and other activities. The monthly “Slam Free or Die” poetry slam gets high reviews.

 

In terms of admissions, “Think of the application as introducing yourself to us. Talk about community involvement. Show off artwork. We’re looking for people with some technical expertise, but more importantly those who have ideas and want to share them.” Creative Writing applicants should submit something that shows their thought process and voice, in whatever form that comes in. Students are encouraged to go to a National Portfolio Day. They also suggest a summer program: “Do a deep dive into making art 24/7 to see what it’s really like.”

© 2016

Beloit College

Beloit College (visited 4/15/15)

~Beloit cafe

Campus Cafe

The students at Beloit were some of the most open, forthcoming, articulate students I’ve met. I was hugely impressed with them and the school as a whole. They’re doing something very right there. It’s clearly earning its spot on the Colleges that Change Lives list!

~Beloit acad bldg 4Beloit is great for students who like to do more than one thing. The professors also demonstrate this range of interests. For example, a physics professor teaches “The Physics of Asian Sounds” and co-teaches a class with a Music professor on “Keeping it Real.” Students tend to be jacks-of-all-trades who want to do a lot and maybe need help focusing (in a good way). About half the students become involved in the arts in some way during their time here just because they enjoy it. The campus has a lot of facilities for performances including a thrust stage and 2 black box theaters.

~Beloit sci lab

Science Lab

The happiest students engage across the curriculum. “There are excited students who want to do this and excited faculty who want to work with them,” said one admissions rep. Faculty work with them to show how to fit things into their majors. “They help students move into the driver’s seat of their own education” by letting them articulate what they’re interested in and why. The ability to articulate their own narrative is important. A student put it this way: “We’re challenged in different ways at different times. Be ready to have your world turned upside down in a good way.”

~Beloit students quad

Quad

Students are collaborative, not competitive. Students are internally motivated, not grade-grubbers. They’ll ask “What did you think about the reading?” not “What did you get?” They want to know what they can do better. “They take the responsibility for their education,” said one professor. “They’ll ask, ‘What can I do differently next time?’ not ‘Why did you give me that grade?’”

~Beloit sci bldg interior

Science Building

Students here learn by doing and are expected to do something with what they learn in class. Beloit calls it Liberal Arts in Practice: “We want them to graduate with a resume, not just a transcript.” All students complete a significant project such as research or an internship – and Beloit makes it easy to do this. Students don’t even have to leave campus for real-world experience (although many still do):

~Beloit 1

Archaeology Museum in a converted chapel

  • There are 2 teaching museums on campus: Art and Anthropology/Archaeology (and there are 20 Indian Mounds on campus). Many students work here as researchers, curators, and educators since the museums only have 4 staff members
  • Students who like to make things happen are supported in the Entrepreneurship program CELEB.
  • There’s a fully functional campus TV station.

~Beloit student on quadThere’s a high degree of flexibility in the Curriculum. Rather than Core or Distribution Requirements, Beloit has 5 Domains (such as Creative Processes and Scientific Inquiry) and 3 Skills (Writing, Cultural Competency, and Quantitative Analysis) that they want graduates to have. There’s vast amount of choice involved; many of these can be fulfilled within a major.

~Beloit bridge“It just kind of worked out that no more than 10% of students in any given year are in a major. We don’t do that on purpose,” said an admissions rep. “Professors are hands-down the best here,” said one student. Some of the unusual majors or programs of note include:

  • 3-2 and 4-2 Engineering: Two to four students a year will take advantage of program. Many more come in saying they’re interested but change their minds. Students spend 3 or 4 years at Beloit earning a B.S. and then will earn a 2nd Bachelors or a Masters in Engineering from Columbia, RIP, Michigan, Wash U, or Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
  • Environmental Management and Forestry: this is a cooperative program with Duke. The accelerated program (3-2) is competitive; students can also start at Duke after the full 4 years at Beloit.
  • Critical Identities Studies
  • International Political Economy
  • Geology
  • Languages: Beloit offers classes in many languages beyond the “traditional” including Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, and even Hungarian. About 75% of students will study another language even without a language requirement. The Modern Languages major lets students combine more than one language.
  • Comparative Literature
  • Creative Writing: this is a full major, not an afterthought within the English Department
  • Health and Society
  • Anthropology: Rated the top undergrad program in the country and #2 for students who go on to get a PhD

~Beloit quad 4Favorite classes include:

  • Thinking Queerly: “It was about identity, and a really rigorous class. It pushed me in a unique way.”
  • Women, Race, and Class: “It was a wake-up call.”
  • Masculinities: “We did a lot of research.”
  • “Social Technology Entrepreneurship: “There were 6 professors and 4 students. Where else will that ever happen?”
  • Anthropology of Race and Identity

~Beloit frat houseAlthough there is only a 3-year residency requirement, 95% stay on campus all four years. Housing options include special interest and Gender Neutral housing. The alcohol policy is for students to be responsible and respectful. “There aren’t a lot of regulations here. It’s much more laid back so there’s no pressure to binge drink,” said one student. “People can reach out for help if they need it without fear of repercussions”.

~Beloit dorms

Dorms

Athletics are big but not overwhelming (they’re DIII). The Athletic Director (also the baseball coach) told a story about one of his players who was going to miss practice for the opening of his Senior Art Show. He felt bad about missing practice and proactively told the coach — who not only told him not to worry about it, but delayed the start of practice by about an hour to allow the rest of the team to support their teammate at the opening. “If we’re good, we’ll win without the extra practice.” Because they’re DIII, they don’t have much influence, if any, on admissions: “Admissions reps don’t show up to practice and tell us how to bunt. I don’t tell them who to admit.”

~Beloit quad 3Admissions is competitive, but applicants tend to be fairly self-selecting. They will recalculate GPA to a 4.0 unweighted scale. This year, they’re Test Optional for the first time. International students need to demonstrate skills with TOEFL or SAT/ACT.

Students love Beloit. The town is cute with lots to do. One student did say that “sometimes it can be a bit isolating. The good side is that it makes us a community, and there’s so much to do here that there’s no reason to leave anyway.” Some of the favorite traditions on campus are:

  • “Bizarro” held at the on-campus bar. Students dress up as someone else on campus.
  • Bell Run: “You can be naked on the residential side, but not the academic side. The bell sits just over the line on the academic side; students run across the “line” to ring the bell.”
  • The 2-day Folk and Blues Music Fest
  • Spring Day Carnival
  • Ultimate Frisbee Championships between faculty and students. “We also joke about whether “Old School” (faculty) will be any good this year.”

(c) 2015

UC Riverside

UC RIVERSIDE (visited 1/16/14)

some of the citrus trees

Some of the citrus trees

UCR students“Riverside is up and coming – it’s the place to be,” said our tour guide, Sierra, a local third-year student majoring in biology with hopes of being a large-animal vet. Although now one of the 9 UC campuses, UCR started as a Citrus Research Station extension of UC Berkeley just over 50 years ago. They still have extensive citrus groves on campus with 2 trees each of 1000 different citrus trees on campus (we got to sample the kumquats!) – and we learned that Cuties were developed on campus!

UCR 3There are a lot of wonderful academic things going on at UCR. The College of Arts and Sciences is the largest on campus, housing about 2/3 of the majors.UCR 2 This is the only UC that offers a major in Creative Writing – and they house the world’s largest collection of fantasy, SciFi, Horror, and dystopian literature with 100,000 volumes. They offer a Law and Society program combining Sociology, PoliSci, and Anthropology. This corresponds to the current year’s “theme” of Justice; the campus hosts activities, lectures, and other special events to highlight this theme.

One of the Engineering projects

One of the Engineering projects

Sciences are strong, particularly Health and Agricultural departments, with UCR ranking “Top 2 in Bugs.” There’s a seismograph on campus, and they boast the most complete mastodon skeleton. One of the Botany Profs worked as an advisor creating the plants on Avitar. Biology is one of the biggest majors, and the university opened a med school this year, setting aside 24 seats for UCR students.

UCR studentsTen percent of their students are in the Engineering program (which is also the most-funded department). They offer a BS/MS in 4 of their 9 engineering programs; students major in physics and then the engineering of their choice. Their facial-recognition program is better than MIT’s! Students interested in business (another of the three biggest majors) start in the pre-business track for two years; with a minimum GPA, they can continue on and then concentrate starting the 3rd year.

UCR 6The student body is diverse, with UCR ranking #1 in California and #12 in the country in terms of diversity. The Student Activity Board works towards building school spirit, particularly revolving around the 17 DI sports teams with things like bonfires and sporty birthday parties. Seventy-five percent of freshmen live on campus, and housing is guaranteed for two years. 4000 students total live in the dorms. UC owns apartment complexes on and off campus, but there are no RAs in these buildings like there are in the traditional dorms. There are a lot of things do around campus; the Transit Authority is free for students with their IDs (the metro station is close to campus), and students can rent Zip Cars (and can have their own cars on campus).

© 2014

Pepperdine University

PEPPERDINE UNIVERSITY (visited January 17, 2014)

Deer on the lawn heading into campus

Deer on the lawn heading into campus

~Pepperdine panormaI’ve never been to a campus before with deer grazing on the lawns leading into campus! Pepperdine is a beautiful campus with a stunning view of the Pacific coast in Malibu. It is built on a hill, so there’s a lot of climbing involved, but the school took care with the architecture to make the best use of their buildings and to highlight the beauty of the area. Windows and balconies overlook the water. Obviously, the climate there is wonderful, and students spend a lot of time outside so it was easy to see students interacting with each other. People seemed happy and engaged, greeting each other as they walked around campus.

~Pepperdine treesOur tour guide, Joan, was a freshman business and communications major from New Jersey. Pepperdine 1Although she came a long way from home, she said she felt comfortable immediately. The week long orientation went a long way in helping. She said one of her favorite parts was the My Tie Dance. The boys’ ties are put into a box and the girls pick one out; the owner becomes their date for the night. She’s also impressed with the President’s level of involvement with the student body; he walks around campus and talks to people regularly. He hosts parties and makes attempts to get to know people around campus. (As a side note, he’s also in a band called Mid-Life Crisis).

~Pepperdine bowerSeaver College is the undergraduate unit of the university; there are four graduate schools in Law, Education, Business, and Public Policy. There are about 3,500 undergraduates and about that number again of graduate students.

Dining Hall

Dining Hall

Only about 60% of students live on campus. Freshmen dorms have suites comprised of 8-10 people with two showers and a main room. Triples are cheaper and have an ocean view as a trade-off for having 3 people in the room. All dorms are single-sex. Coed hours are 10am to 1am in the rooms, 7am to 2am in the main area. It’s also a dry campus, but they do have the HAWC which is a 24/7 hangout. Both the single-sex dorms and the lack of alcohol reflect the religious identity (Church of Christ affiliation) of the campus. Their Gen Ed requirements include 3 semesters of religion classes (interestingly, one of the classes is on the history and religions of Israel; as someone who works at a Hebrew academy, that caught my attention, and I would be interested to see a syllabus for the class!). Students must also complete 14 credits of Convocation each term. There are over 100 opportunities each semester that they can attend. Each one is meant to help students dig into their faith by presenting speakers or other presentations. This is considered a class, and if they attend 14 events, they earn an A.

The Chapel

The Chapel

Student life does not all revolve around religion. There are a lot of special activities throughout the year (including one day when they actually bring in truckloads of snow and dump it in the parking lot so students can play with it!). 30% of students are involved in Greek Life; they pledge the 3rd or 4th week of school. There are 8 men’s sports (including Water Polo and Volleyball!) and 9 women’s sports (including both Indoor and Sand Volleyball). Study abroad is a big deal, and their study abroad is highly ranked. They have 7 “Pepperdine Abroad” programs lead by Pepperdine professors. Students can complete the same gen eds there as they would on campus, and the tuition/R&B is the same; students do pay for flights and a one-week field trip

Pepperdine 5 Students can choose form 40 majors (Nutritional Science, Integrated Marketing Communication, Creative Writing, and Media Production are the most unusual). They offer a 3/2 engineering program in which they spend 3 years at Pepperdine earning a BA in Natural Sciences and then transfer to Southern California School of Engineering or Wash U in St. Louis for 2 years. Sciences are fairly strong at Pepperdine, and they even have a cadaver lab. They boast an 82-85% acceptance rate into “medical schools of the student’s choice.” They also offer several languages (our tour guide pointed out the Language Building which was ways up the hill: “The language majors get quite the workout!”)

(c) 2014

Saint Mary’s College

SAINT MARY’S COLLEGE, Moraga, CA (visited 7/16/12)

St Mary's towerWhat a great school! This is a LaSallian (Catholic) college, and one of the things that the Director of Admissions talked about was the difference between the different types of Catholic schools (very helpful – I had no idea). LaSalle schools are run by the Christian Brothers, and there are no priests. They view themselves as “brothers to each other and big brothers to the students.” They came out of France in 1684 and are very intentional about education. They’re more collaborative and democratic, hence the seminar style classes that make up the Core curriculum at St. Mary’s. There are only five Christian Brother/LaSallian institutions in the US (vs 28 Jesuit). There is a definite community feel here; there are just under 3,000 students, most of whom live on campus.

St Mary's courtyardI appreciated that we got to participate in a mock Seminar Class as part of our tour. This is a Great Books College but not in the St. John’s sort of way. Students take four seminars in the Great Books (reading books by/about Dante, Freud, Wolfe, Marx, Shakespeare, etc). There are no lectures or tests; instead, participation and papers make up the grades. The idea is to pull in a lot of perspectives and look at things through different lenses. I asked one of the professors at the pre-dinner reception about how grades and feedback is done – how do they keep track of participation, etc? He talked about an extensive process meant to give direct, relevant feedback to the students, including a discussion with/among several of the professors/discussion leaders in front of the student. Although it’s time intensive, he said it was well worth it since it gave the students so much to work with; they’ve seen real improvement with the level of engagement and growth among the students.

St Mary's 1Approximately 1/5 of the students are in the business program. Pre-med is very strong, with 80-100% acceptance rate to med schools in any given year. Their dance, theater, and music is of conservatory quality but they do not offer a BFA, going back to their interest in education and the “whole person.” They want students to have a broad base to their education, hence the liberal arts focus. Creative Writing is also popular, and students can continue to an MFA. Study Abroad is a big deal here; travel-learning classes are particularly popular during this time. Approximately 90% of students will do some sort of international study during their four years.

St Mary's muralAlthough this is a very Eastern-feeling Liberal Arts college in many ways, it has its own style with Spanish architecture and “wild turkeys that patrol campus. They’re unimpressed with us.” They are an athletic powerhouse, best in the West Coast Conference. Sixty percent of students participate in some sort of athletics, and is one of the biggest employers of students on campus. School spirit is huge (Go Gaels!). Fordham and Notre Dame used to be their big rivals; now it’s Santa Clara University to the south of them. On the hillside overlooking the campus, there is a big SMC. Students from Santa Clara used to hike up and throw the rocks forming the ‘M’ down the hill (to turn it into SC instead of SMC). The letters are now concrete, and the freshmen will be sent up with red paint during orientation to give it a facelift.

As is typical of some of the smaller schools, they completely wined and dined us: hors d’oeuvres and wine in the atrium, and dinner in the faculty dining room (complete with California moscato with the crème brulee). They gave us copies of a novel by one of the professors who is also an alum. She joined us for dinner and was amazing to speak to. She also read a short excerpt from her book after dinner which gave a great flavor for the characters and how she pictures things in her head, and she signed copies for anyone who wanted it.

(c) 2012

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