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Archive for the tag “creative writing”

Queens University of Charlotte

Queens University of Charlotte (visited 3/30/17)

Queens quad 3“We get kids who might fly under the radar, but we get the stand-outs, as well,” said a rep. “Maybe they haven’t blossomed yet. Students get a lot of opportunities here.” A parent told one of the reps (who relayed the story): “my daughter will become a leader for life here. I think the reality of Queens is ahead of its reputation.”

Queens hammock 2Queens plays up the idea of ‘Yes, AND’ – students can do several things without having to choose. Students have the best of both worlds: a small school (about 1500 undergrads) located 2 miles from the heart of Charlotte, a major city. Students complete meaningful internships and community service in whatever industry or service they’re interested in, during the school year, right down the road. Queens requires students to complete internships and will give credit for 2 of them, although students can do as many as they want.

Queens fountain 3The school is deliberate in its mission and how it gets manifested into the academics. General education requirements are organized in learning communities. “This is one of the most unique aspects of Queens,” said the Dean of University Programs. They’ve been implanting it for a couple years and getting data in now. It’s interdisciplinary, giving students skills needed for the workplace and understanding who they are as learners.

  • Queens CS LCThe 4 years are organized progressively: Explore, Express, Engage, and Synthesis. Students are presented with complex problems, must integrate learning, build communication fluency, link global and local contexts, and understand the well-being of communities.
  • Students engage in a core issue from multiple perspectives, taking 2 courses from 4+ options within a theme. Assignments cross both perspectives. There’s intentional group work at every level; teachers work together to model what they want students to do. Themes might include:
    • The New South: Politics of the New South (PoliSci), Lit & Film of the New South (Languages), Intro to Stats, New South (Math), Landscape of Identity (English) — How is place and identity interwoven?
    • The Challenge of Global Migration: Fabric of a Nation: Refugees in the US (History), Politics of Responses to Global Migration (PoliSci), Economics of Immigration (Business), Creating Transcultural Identities (English)
    • Urban Jungle, Infections & Zombies, Quest for Identity, Familial Identities, Human Journey, Art of Storytelling, Challenges for Journeys, Culture & Media, Global Migration, Gender, Image-making
    • Pursuit of Happiness: The Happiness Project, The Pursuit of Happiness: An Economy of Well-Being, Six Questions of Socrates, Peace is Every Step

Queens statueFavorite classes of students on the panel were:

  • Principles of Management (2 students chose this): “There were 25 people in it. The culture is great. It’s discussion based. People can say whatever they want without worrying about being judged. The professor, the CEO of Sun Alliance, created such a welcoming environment.”
  • Cognitive Psych: “ I love the prof. It was probably the hardest in terms of how strict she is and what she demands. It combined psych and bio which I love.”
  • Intro to Creative Writing: “The Professor was amazing! It opened my eyes to so many methods of writing that I hadn’t even heard of. Not everyone was a major, but we were a community. I was excited to go to class.”
  • Media Design and Art: “We travelled to Germany and Switzerland for 2 weeks.”

Queens stu cntr 1Some other special academic things to point out are:

  • They have a direct-entry Nursing program; applicants need a 24 ACT/1150 SAT and a 3.5 unweighted GPA across academic classes. As long as they maintain a minimum GPA in the program, they can continue. 98% pass the NCLEX on the 1st or 2nd
  • Study Abroad: They’re ranked 7th nationally for most students studying abroad through the John Belk International Program (J-BIP):
  • Faculty Led courses: students take on-campus courses with travel components.
  • Semester or year abroad
  • Summer Business and International Studies: 4 weeks in France or Shanghai
  • Language immersion programs.
  • They have 5 NC Professors of the Year (Chapel Hill has 7 and is a much larger school).
  • Queens labA few programs of note include:
  • Queens bell tower 2A couple of their majors are shifting focus:
    • Environmental Studies is becoming Sustainability Studies
    • Religion is becoming Interfaith Studies.

Queens moved to its current campus in 1914; it’s full of beautiful brick buildings and green spaces. They went coed in 1979 (and are still heavily female). Almost half of their students come from NC; 8 % are international (155 students from 50 countries). About 1/3 of students self-identify as multi-cultural. Students tend towards the liberal side, but it’s not an overly political campus.

Students have to live on campus until they earn 90 credits; 70% of students live in the dorms. Campus is fairly active, but “closer to the holidays when it’s cold, more people seem to go home on the weekends,” said one of the tour guides. The food is pretty good: there are fewer choices, maybe, but the quality is pretty high. “Parking isn’t great on campus. You have to circle a bit, but there’s a lot of street parking.” There’s good public transportation including a street car and light rail.

Queens RexFor a school this size, they have a surprisingly strong DII athletic program (the only 2 teams not on the NCAA roster are Rugby and Triathalon), and they have a “Threepeat” Swim Team National Championship team. “DII tends to be more regional as well as more personal with a community feel,” said the Athletic Director. “We have the academics of DIII and Athletics of DI.” The major sports complex is located a couple miles off campus; shuttles run back and forth all day. Field Hockey, Soccer, Softball, and tennis all practice and play here. “If you want to be nationally competitive, our facilities are top-notch.”

Queens athletic center

One student said that she would change the fan-base and school spirit: “It feels so small at the games. It’s hard to get people out to support the teams. It definitely doesn’t have that large-school DI feel.” Also, as DII teams, they’re not fully funded programs. All sports have a certain number of scholarships. They work with admissions to help spread these out with academic scholarships.

Admissions recalculates GPA of core classes and superscores both the ACT and SAT. Their most competitive scholarship is the full-tuition Presidential Award which requires an additional application. These students tend to have a 4.0 recalculated GPA and a 30 ACT. The numbers (GPA and scores) count for 40% of the decision; the rest are all the extras. Scholarship interviewers do not have access to the applicants’ grades: if they’re at the interview stage, they’ve already been vetted academically by Admissions.

© 2017

Bard Early College at Simon’s Rock

Bard Early College at Simon’s Rock (visited 8/11/14)

Simon's Rock town

Great Barrington

~Simon's Rock bridgeLike “Big Bard” (aka Bard Annandale), Bard College at Simon’s Rock looks a bit like a camp. It’s in an idyllic setting on the outskirts of Great Barrington, Massachusetts, a “destination town” in the Berkshires

After checking in for the counselor event, a student walked me to the dorms. Andre, a sophomore from Seattle majoring in Psych and Cross-Cultural Studies, started here after his sophomore year in high school, a “normal time for students to come,” he said. He, like everyone else, dropped out of high school to attend; they will not get a high school diploma along the way. We asked an admissions rep later if they saw any problems with students not receiving a diploma. He said there were rarely problems but did show up on occasion, particularly in two areas: if students ever wants to take any enrichment programs at a community college, or if they transfer and want to play a DIII sport.

~Simon's Rock dino skull 1

Dino Skull replica in the Science Building

At Simon’s Rock, students find the rigor, support, and independence that they don’t find anywhere else. “No one has to go to college early. People who are here are really delighted to be here!” Students are “kindred spirits.” They aren’t all geniuses, but they are curious and are looking for an academic program. People don’t come here if they don’t want to dig in, to ask questions. “This is an Early College. It’s not College Lite,” said one of the Creative Writing professors. The classes are as rigorous as any other place.

~Simon's Rock dorms

Upperclassmen dorms

The admissions office, like the rest of the college, works to make sure that students are treated as a whole person. Decisions are made on a rolling basis (they will accept a small number to start in January), and they are test optional because most students just don’t have test scores yet. However, at TOEFL is required for students whose first language is not English and who have not been in an English-Instruction school for the two years prior to enrolling. They require a score of 100, but will take students in the 80-99 range if they are willing to take an extra year to complete the AA.

The application requires both an interview and a parental supplement. “If the parent isn’t comfortable with this, it isn’t going to happen.” The reps work hard to develop a good relationship with the family. The school prefers that students interview in person (“Anything can look good on in a shiny brochure; we want them to see the school and students in action.”). About 80% of students come to campus for this, but they recognize that not all the students can, so they do skype interviews as well. They want to make sure that applicants will be able to fit into the community. They will counsel students out if it’s not a fit. Their admit rate is in the 80% range and yield is about 70%. “It’s a very self-selecting population.” About 5% of students leave after first year; some transfer to a 4-year school or finish the AA at a community college. Very rarely do they go back to high school.

~Simon's Rock study lounge

Study area in an academic building.

An academic building

An academic building

About 50% of students transfer after the AA. “Big Bard” gets the highest number of transfers, but students go to lots of different places, including many of the “big name” schools. Simon’s Rock has quite a few articulated agreements, including a 3-2 with Columbia and Dartmouth (“When our students go to Columbia, their GPA goes up,” said one of the reps), a 3-1 with Vermont Law (students get a BA from Bard and a BA in Environmental Policy and Legal Studies from Vermont), Munich School of Business, the University of Manchester (Creative Writing), and more. However, students have all the resources of Bard at their disposal, and juniors and seniors can take the shuttle over to take classes there as they wish. All students end up with both Bard and Simon’s Rock degrees.

Transitioning can be a bit rough, but students have a lot of support. They meet at least once a week with their advisor, they meet with residential staff, etc. Freshmen are allowed to drop classes as late as the November of their first semester. All students are given narratives in addition to grades; students sign releases so that these are sent to parents as well, and the staff is in close contact with the family, especially the first year. “It’s the best of a college with best of a prep school.”

~Simon's Rock acad bldgStudents must have a primary and secondary concentration (or they can double major). Creative Writing, PoliSci, the natural sciences, and Psych are particularly strong. Only 10 classes have more than 25 students – and those barely go over that number (“they may have 27 or 28,” said the rep). Most classes have fewer than 15 students. There are 3 core classes that all students take, and everyone completes a senior thesis. Jody, our tour guide (a senior Math/Comp Sci double major from MD) said that his largest classes had about 15; his upper level classes were all around 3-6 students. He showed us the lecture lab in the science building that holds the biggest classes, and even that was fairly small. “We use it a lot more for things like Super Bowl parties and other fun things when we want a big screen.”

Simon’s Rock is a dry campus since all students are underage. Like most places, though, if people want alcohol or drugs, they can get them. However, the students said that usage is low, and alums have reported that they ran into far less peer pressure about drugs and alcohol than in their high schools.

During the student panel, these were some of the questions asked:

Why did you choose to come here??

  • I was taking really hard classes, not trying very hard, and getting As. I just went to school because I had to but wasn’t passionate about it. SR turned that upside down.
  • I was stuck in the HS track and studying things because that’s what was expected. Here I can choose.
  • I’ve been passionate about music, and if I had stayed, my exposure would have been band class once a week.
  • I was under-performing and there wasn’t any system of support. Coming here is an opportunity to get more out of academics and get support. There’s more expectation for my future. I’m excited about graduate school.
  • I was having a lot of trouble in school socially and academically. Classes weren’t hard, but I had trouble working in the bigger classes. I was originally going to come after my freshman year but wanted to try IP and AP classes first – but they still felt like HS classes and weren’t working.”

What’s been your biggest academic or social challenge?

  • Going into freshman seminar. We read 4 books and were told to write a paper — without a prompt. In HS, they ask a question and you answer it. Here, you don’t and it tore down my world! It took awhile to work through that.
  • I came after 9th grade so I was a little younger. As excited as I was to have the freedom, I wasn’t used to being away from home and not having the overarching supervision of parents.
  • Dealing with people in HS was like a business relationship. I showed up, said hi, and never saw them again. At first, I was always in my room, went to bed at 9, and now I seek out common areas.

I want to thank SR for ___ :

  • Teaching me how to be part of a community. I’m on a first-name basis with faculty, students can participate in student government, be active in how the community is developed. I’m living here and sharing this space. I’ve learned how I can contribute.
  • Exposing me to issues that are larger than myself. I came from a small white town, and we never talked about sexism or racism, or any of these larger things.
  • Allow me to explore my passions and find out who I am. I thought I was going to be an architect, and then a computer science until I took a class for 3 weeks and found out I hated it. I loved my psych class, though, and in my second semester, I enrolled in 3 psych classes and love it!

Describe a meaningful academic experience:

  • I took a theoretical math class and had to do a final paper. I could combine the math and computer science stuff that I loved. I did research for weeks ahead of time. I ended up getting a B+. Before, I would have been upset at getting a low grade for so much effort, but now I’m proud that I produced something that was so intrinsically meaningful for me.
  • The first was my study abroad in China. The other was more recent: One of my professors sought me out after a concert to see what I thought because he wanted to put me into his review. They genuinely care about our opinions.

© 2014

Southern Vermont College

SOUTHERN VERMONT COLLEGE (visited 4/17/14)

~Southern VT pond 2SVC sits on a sprawling, open 370-acre campus surrounded by mountains. Bennington, a small city of about 20,000 people, is about a mile down the hill from campus. The campus is divided into two sections: a modern residential section at the bottom of the hill, and a large stone mansion at the top of the hill which houses academics. The college was founded in 1926 as St. Joseph College but became independent when it was turned over to an independent board. Although it is a private institution, the tuition usually is about on-par with in-state tuition after aid is granted. About 90% of students receive Financial Aid; 35% are Pell eligible. The school only enrolls about 500 students, almost 2/3 of whom are first-gen students. They offer excellent student support on campus including LD support, tutoring, and career services.

~Southern VT 1Admitted students average about a 2.8 GPA and 940 SAT. Admission is rolling, and the do a holistic, portfolio approach to making decisions. On-campus housing is guaranteed for first-year students. Sophomores, juniors, and seniors can have cars on campus for free because many of them commute, and so many of them have internships in town. However, even for students without cars, getting around isn’t an issue. They can walk into town, and there’s a lot going on on campus. The Activities Board plans lots of things on the weekend, including trips off campus to NYC, Boston, and Northampton.

~Southern VT fire pitBefore the tour, I spoke with two of the tour guides: Stephanie, a senior from Massachusetts who is majoring in Health Care Management, and Bridget, a sophomore Nursing major from Connecticut. Stephanie was one of the few guides I’ve met who shook hands – initiated! “We came because it’s small. Instead of being another face in the crowd you can be your own person here.” Bridget said, “I can know everyone if I want to. We’re on first name basis with professors and they give us their cell numbers. They’re here to support us. If I miss class, the professor will call me out on it later!”

~Southern VT dining hallBecause of their limited enrollment, they only offer 16 majors, but they do them all well. Nursing is Direct-Entry (min 2.8 GPA, 500 per section on the SAT, and a C+ or better in Bio and Chem). The Healthcare Education Center is located 1.5 miles away. Clinicals can be done at the VA hospital, the hospital in town, at Pittfield, Mass., the SW Regional Cancer Center, and more. Our tour guide (in Health Care Management) did a 130 hour practicum with a Women’s Advocacy Center.

The Radiological Sciences, creative writing, criminal justice, healthcare management and advocacy, and business (with concentrations in management, sports management, and entrepreneurship) are also worth noting. “Business is strong because of our ability to integrate with the community. Bennington is a wonderful town. My classes always have a community component.” The bank in town provides $5000 for philanthropic funds. They do needs-assessment, write requests for proposals, solicit applications, create scoring rubrics, and do site visit checklists. Basically they go through the entire grant process.

The Castle located up the hill

The Castle located up the hill

Five things are happening this year that they wanted to highlight:

1)      They’re launching a new Women’s Lacrosse team (which will be the 11th varsity team on campus)

2)      They’re starting a new BSN program

3)      A Vet Scholars program is being initiated

4)      They’re opening a new admissions/welcome center

5)      The Everett Mansion turns 100

~Southern VT stairs 4The President was very proud of their “Book Ends of Your Education” program. Students get a book (signed by the faculty) when they enter the community and another when they leave. It seems like a wonderful idea – but I found it interesting that our tour guide, a junior, couldn’t remember what her freshman book was.

This is an excellent college choice for students who might need a little bit of academic or social support as they transition into college. It’s a small, supportive community in a beautiful location with excellent hands-on educational opportunities.

© 2014

Pacific University

Pacific University (visited 7/15/13)

Pacific theater

Theater building

I was more impressed with Pacific than I thought I’d be. The campus is beautiful, and they’re clearly a student-centered institution. Two professors (David DeMoss, Dir of Arts and Humanites, and Sarah Phillips, Sociology professor) talked to us; both were engaging and personable. “I wanted to be somewhere where I could teach. I value the messiness of learning and the time spent sitting and talking with students,” said Dr. DeMoss. He went on to say that the Pacific kids were some of the kindest and most honest students he’s met; Dr. Phillips agreed.

Pacific library

Interior of the library

The school’s specialty is letting students pursue what they’re interested in and teach them what they need to know to be successful. For example, all pre-health students take an Intro to Health Professions class to help them figure out early if that’s really what they want (and a Career Component is 1 of 4 requirements that all students have to complete to graduate). Students who succeed are those who are willing to: 1) work. It’s not a cakewalk. If they’re not ready for hard work, this isn’t the place for them. 2) consider an alternative and are not “married to their prejudices.” They may leave with the same ideas, but they’ve had to think about them and choose them rather than just inheriting them. 3) get into extra-curricular activities right away. It’s ok to be quiet and shy but they have to be curious.

Pacific Univ CntrThey have a few programs worth noting: They offer a 3-3 law program with Case Western Reserve in Ohio; Exercise Science is big; the English department offers a track in Creative Writing as well as an Editing and Publishing minor; Philosophy has an Ethics, Society, and Law track; they offer an indigenous studies as well as a peace and social justice minor; they have an accredited Bachelor’s degree in Social Work and are working on getting a Music Therapy program within the next couple years; finally, they have an Applied Theater major which I’ve never heard of before.

PacificIn their first semester, every student takes a First Year Seminar which usually has humanities-based content with a serious academic college-level bent. This is a 4-credit class with 16-20 students (plus an upper-level student mentor) who all live on the same floor, meant to help get students involved in social life. Our tour guide’s favorite class was “Global Sociology of HIV/AIDS.” Classes average about 19 students with the largest classroom space on campus holding 85.

Pacific apts

Some of the newest apartments on campus

This is a largely residential campus of about 1600 undergraduates (they also have a sizable graduate population; they have the oldest – and one of only three – Optometry Graduate program on the west coast). Our tour guide didn’t like that the town isn’t so lively (although campus is), but said that there are good gown/town relations, and several places in town give discounts to the students. She goes to Portland maybe every 4-6 weeks; they can grab a on the corner by campus; the ride to the MAX line takes 15 minutes. From there, they can get downtown in less than 45 minutes (airport is about an hour); the trip costs $2.40 total. Pacific also has 4 zip cars which cost $60 a day to rent.

Pacific indoor turf

Indoor turf in Pacific’s gym

Pacific takes the Common App and it’s free to apply if they contact their admissions rep who waive the fee for them. Students need a 3.0 in prep classes and a 1000 CR&M SAT score or 21 ACT. Those who fall under these benchmarks go to a faculty Review Committee. There are several scholarships in areas like music and theater; students don’t have to major in these areas, but they do need to participate in ensembles, plays, etc. Pacific also holds a competition in February called Pace Setters in which students compete for more scholarship money. They get $2000 for competing, and can get up to $5000. If they matriculate, they get some of their travel money reimbursed. They also have a lot of support – financial and on-campus – for First Gen and low-income students.

Pacific street

One of the streets leading off campus with cafes and shops

Located halfway between Portland and the coast, Pacific was founded in 1849 along the Oregon Trail for children orphaned on the trail. There are several old, historic buildings, including a Carnegie Library. The Cuppola of one of the original buildings still has the bell in it; this is where students “sign, shake, and ring” during orientation and right before graduation, marking the start and end of their time at Pacific: they sign the book, shake the President’s hand, and ring the bell. Although there are older, historic buildings, they’ve also done a lot of building and updating: they have a new eco-friendly upper-division dorm, and they’re working on renovating one first-year dorm, and knocking down and rebuilding another one.

Pacific 2Pacific has a high percentage of Hawaiian (and more generally Pacific Islander) students. One of the major events that students mentioned looking forward to every year was the Luau that’s thrown every year. Sports are also relatively popular, and they have a lot of options, including Rugby as a club sport. Technically, Rugby is a men’s sport but since they don’t yet have a women’s team (they’re working on that), about four or five women will practice with them (but can’t yet compete). Students can take advantage of a lot of outdoor activities, much of which is organized through “Outback,” their outdoors activities group.

Pacific mascot

A picture of the original mascot

We learned some fun facts about their mascot, Boxer. In the 1920s, a group of students studied in China and brought back a Chinese statue for the university as a “thank you” for sending them. As a joke, people started stealing it and moving it around to random places on campus. This because a tradition to see who could steal and move it. Eventually, students named it Boxer after the Boxing Day Rebellion, and it stuck. Today, all that’s left is its tail and one leg; an alumnae had the leg in his attic and donated it back to the university.

(Another interesting bit of trivia is that Tommy Thayer, the lead guitarist for Kiss, is on their Board.)

© 2013

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