campus encounters

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Archive for the tag “crew team”

St. John’s College, Annapolis

St. John’s College, Annapolis (visited 1/5/17)

st-johns-4This small, historic campus sits on the outskirts of downtown Annapolis, across from the Naval Academy; from the front lawn, you can see both the Academy Chapel and the State House. The college sits on the original site of King William’s School (started 1696); in the 1780s, St. John’s merged with it, making it the 3rd oldest college in the country! McDowell Hall was the first building on campus (and the country’s 3rd longest continually-in-use academic building).

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The Front Lawn

Campus is mostly brick and easily walkable; “We’re pretty well locked in in terms of land,” said the rep who showed me around campus, who is also a 2016 alum. However, it works well for the population: the average graduating class hovers around 100 students.

 

st-johns-fs-key

Key was a Johnnie: “We have a monopoly on anthem writers!”

The Front Lawn is a popular place to hang out and where several traditions are held including graduation and the annual Annapolis Cup, a croquet game against the Naval Academy Middies. Last year, over 6000 people flooded campus: “there were tents, picnics. It was great!” Although there are varying stories of how the Cup started, one of the favorites was that sometime in the early 1980s, Middies said that Johnnies couldn’t beat them in a sport so Johnnies challenged them to croquet. “Students take it really seriously here! Last year after a snow storm that dumped almost 2 feet of snow, we saw a shoveled out square on the front lawn. It was done so they could practice!” Johnnies have won 10 National Intercollegiate tournaments at this point. “Navy has become more serious about it now because they hate to lose!”

 

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The Great Books study room in the library

In terms of curriculum, St. John’s is one of the most unique schools out there. Students do not have majors; instead, they all follow a common Great Book-based curriculum and graduate with a BA in Liberal Arts. That being said, they rank in the top 4% for students who complete science and engineering degrees as well as in the humanities. Law school is also a big deal; they know that Johnnies are able to think critically and formulate well-reasoned arguments.

 

st-johns-library

The interior of the library which had been the MD Hall of Records before being turned over to the college.

“There’s a weird shift in thinking here. What we read and are expected to do seems intimidating at first, but it’s done in a way that’s accessible. It’s not easy, but we know we can do it.” Students write major essays every year (each getting a little longer) followed by an oral defense: “it’s really a 15 minute discussion about what you read and wrote rather than an exam.” Students definitely need to know the whole text well, because the discussion could be about any part of it, not just on the portion covered in the essay.

 

st-johns-5

Foucault’s Pendulum

A major form of evaluation is the “Don Rag”: Freshman through Juniors meet with tutors who give a report on how things are going, both positive and negative. Students always have a chance to respond and ask questions. Juniors have the option of doing a flipped conference when they tell the professors how they believe they’re doing. Grades, however, don’t come up.

At the end of the 2nd year, all students go through Enablement. Tutors meet to discuss the students; they will recommend for them to continue, to maybe complete some work elsewhere or completion of another requirement, or rarely, that students not continue at St. John’s. “Usually students know way in advance if this is coming, if they’re at risk. You really have so much contact with tutors all the time here. It should never be a surprise.”

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The exam room; friends and family are invited to watch the seniors defend their final papers

In the spring of senior year, students are given a month to read, research, and write a 20-40 page essay. This often comes from the canon, but sometimes not. “This is a good chance to write about something still bugging you.” They have a committee of 3 tutors who will evaluate it and then lead their final panel.

st-johns-lab

One of the science labs

Students take both Seminars (2 tutors and 16-20 students) and Tutorials (1 tutor and a maximum of 16 students). Math, Language, Music, and Lab science are taken in Tutorials (held like regular classes during the day); everything else is covered in Seminars (held Mondays and Thursdays from 8-10pm). “Often the quad is packed well past midnight after seminars with people continuing the discussions we’ve had; we’ve big on discussing things here – in and out of class!”

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The room where the First Concert is held; upperclassmen pack the balcony

Required classes include 2 years of Greek (translating Plato and Aristotle among others), 2 years of French, 3 years of science (organized more thematically rather than the traditional bio/chem/physics), 4 years of math (they start with Euclid and move forward through Ptolemy, Decartes, and Einstein among many others), and 2 years of music: Freshman chorus and Sophomore Chorale. All students become familiar with basic notation and have to pass an exam in this. “That and Algebra are the only exams we take in the traditional sense, but we have as many chances as we need to get through it.” Music classes are mostly singing-based “but no one is required to sing well. Chorus was my favorite class. It was fun without having to worry about being good.” The annual First Concert is put on by the freshman music class. Upperclassmen pack the balcony to watch. “It’s a great welcoming tradition on both sides.” Often, the singers will go through songs twice – once by themselves and once when upperclassmen join in.

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Conversation Room

The Conversation Room has a large harkness-style table with more chairs around the outside. It’s used for meetings, long music classes, and even long labs (specifically done in a long block to combine experiments and discussion at one time). On Friday nights, there are often lectures which are not required but are well attended. Students are invited to continue the conversation in this room afterwards: “they often last longer than the actual lecture; the longest I’ve been to ended at midnight.” Because of the placement of the microphone, this is usually the only time that a tutor or lecturer will sit at the head of the table.

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Dining Hall

The dining hall is small, but “there’s never an issue with seating, and the longest I think I ever had to wait for food was about 5 minutes.” There’s a private dining room on one side which can be used for club or student government meetings or other events; if it isn’t reserved, students can use that as “overflow” seating if needed. He pointed out the ice cream case on the way out, telling me that it was a requirement of a donor that there always be ice cream. Outside the dining hall are some cubbies for people to leave belongings; they had been asked not to bring bags into the dining hall, but “this year is the first time in my five years on campus that there have been thefts. I don’t know what’s going on, and I hope it stops – it changes the tone of things around here. When I was a student, I never worried about leaving a bag or a laptop out here.”

st-johns-planetarium

The planetarium with the Ptolemy stone on the left side. “I don’t remember exactly how it works, but the circle turns to show the angles of different astronomical features.”

Both campuses have operational Ptolemy stones – the only working ones in the country. There is also a Foucault Pendulum used in freshman science “and we use the area in other classes when we need to drop things from a height.” There’s an Observatory and a planetarium which are used in sciences and by the Astronomy Club. They have a boathouse right on College Creek (running along the edge of campus); their only sports are crew, sailing, and fencing.

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College Creek on the back side of campus.

The only study abroad option they have is a new program offered 2nd semester in France; they send over St. John’s professors to teach the classes since the curriculum is proscribed. If students want a more traditional experience, they’re welcome to do a summer program. Students can take advantage of the Pathways program which offers a $2000 stipend or a $4000 internship program; students are eligible for 4 summers starting after freshman year (so they can do one after senior year).

© 2017

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La Salle University

La Salle University (visited 7/19/16)

La Salle walkway

The walkway over main street running through campus

This is a great school for students who want a real campus in an urban environment and are sports-oriented, either to watch or to participate in. Although this is in the city, it’s a safe area, and campus is well patrolled and gated; students and faculty swipe IDs to get through the gates at the entrances. A major street runs through campus, but the students seem to like it. “It actually ties the campus together,” said our tour guide. “Students hang out there.” In First Year Odyssey, students learn how to get around the city and use it as a resource. They can’t have a car as freshmen, so they really have to learn SEPTA (which stops just up the street) and the buses.

La Salle 1“We take the B+ student who plugs away and has potential. They thrive here,” said an admissions rep. This year, they’re bringing in 826 freshmen from 26 states and 11 countries.

“Students who are looking for a Villanova feel but maybe don’t have the grades will probably do great here,” said our tour guide. Currently, freshman to sophomore retention is at 78%, but they’re working to get it to 85%. They just hired a new person who can work with “those kids that all schools miss,” an admissions rep told us.

La Salle grottoThis is 1 of 6 Christian Brother colleges in the US. Part of the Christian Brothers’ ethos is to work with under-served students. More than 50% of La Salle’s students are First Gen and about 35% are PELL eligible. Serving people extends to the wider community, as well. A Community Service requirement is tied to the major.

About 35 Brothers live on campus, and many teach and work there, as well. (As a side note, they’re building a new retirement home on the edge of campus because “Brothers live forever. It’s a known fact,” joked our tour guide.) Our tour guide had a business class with one, and another works in Admissions and is charge of all the CB high school applicants. He talked to us and said that Community separates them from other schools. They’re part of the school, Philadelphia (“It’s our largest classroom”), and the CB community worldwide.

La Salle quadStudents eligible for the Honors Program are pulled during the admissions process based on GPA and test scores, but students can apply separately if they want to be considered. These students take an interdisciplinary Philosophy, History, and English class for all year. After freshman year, they have honors electives. Normally 2 philosophy and 2 religion classes are required, but the honors electives fulfill that.

In addition to the typical majors you would expect at a medium sized school, a few unusual (and most interdisciplinary) ones stand out: Integrated Science, Business, and Technology; Political Science, Philosophy, and Economics; Economics and International Studies; and Business Systems and Analytics.

La Salle 4This is the first school I’ve heard of that does completely random lottery selections for class registration; seniors might be last to register. Class sizes are pretty typical for a school this size. There are 3 lecture halls on campus which hold about 100 people; big classes have tutors and supplemental instructors. English classes are capped at 18.

International Students can take advantage of the English Language Institute and/or additional support with the English.

  • Regular Admit: Students need an 80+ score on the TOEFL can enroll without the extra support.
  • Pathways: First year students with a 65-79 TOEFL will receive tutoring and extra support as they start their classes.
  • ELI: This is a Conditional Admissions program for students without at least a 65 on the TOEFL. Students can enroll in ELI to gain proficiency and have to reach level 5 for undergrad or 6 for graduate work.
La Salle townhouses

Some of the townhouses for upperclassmen

About 80% of freshmen live on campus. Housing is guaranteed all 4 years; some students do move off campus, but many stay. North Campus has most of the freshman dorms along with some singles usually taken by upperclassmen. La Salle just put up a new dorm with mostly suites interspersed with some doubles. There are 5 frats and 5 sororities but no Greek housing. Students like the dining options.

La Salle baseball field

The baseball diamond

Their DI sports are strong here. There is no football team (except for an intramural, non-tackle team), but they have all the typical sports as well as water polo and crew for both men and women. They have lacrosse for women but not men. Rugby and softball are new. All events are free for students to attend.

© 2016

Washington College

Washington College (visited 8/19/16)

WAC statue and stu cntr

Washington bust in front of the new (2009) Student Center

WAC (pronounced “whack”) is a beautiful, traditional-looking campus in the historic town of Chestertown along the Chester River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. It is named for George Washington who not only agreed to having his name used, but he donated money to start the school and sat on what was essentially the Board of Trustees.

WAC sign and performing arts

WAC’s performing arts center

Because of this tie to Washington, they also have a connection to Mount Vernon where two of the big college traditions are held. During orientation, freshmen spend time out there where they also sign the Honor Code. Right before graduation, seniors return as a class to spend some final time together before they graduate and go their separate ways. During this time, people give toasts (including one by a Washington impersonator) and students leave via a boat to cruise up to the National Harbour. The college also throws an annual Birthday Ball on the weekend of Washington’s birthday. Dubbed “Prom 2.0,” students, faculty, and alum come together in a non-academic setting to have fun and just enjoy each other’s company. They turn the field house into a beautiful space: “It doesn’t seem possible, but they do it!” This is usually themed: in the last couple years, they’ve had Narnia and Harry Potter. This is decided by a vote of the students.

WAC’s 1500 undergraduates have access to some amazing resources, including waterfront property about a mile from main campus. This area houses the boathouse for the crew team (including a rowing tank for winter training), the sailboats, kayaks, and research vessels for Biology and Environmental Studies/Science classes.

WAC quad

The quad

They have 17 DIII sports competing in the Centennial Conference: “We’re the smarty pants conference,” said the admissions rep, also a WAC alum. The “student” in student-athlete really does come first here. If class and practice overlap, you’re going to class. Teams have an annual competition for which team has the highest GPA. “It usually flip flops between lax and rowing, but sometimes the women’s soccer team sneaks in there, too!” The Men’s Lax has a huge rivalry with Salisbury: the “war on the shore” game alternates campuses every year, and there’s always a giant campus tailgate. Baseball and soccer also draw big crowds.

WAC dorms

2 of the specialty dorms

Housing is guaranteed all 4 years, and 90% of students live on campus until graduation. The four dorms (2 all female, 2 coed) located across the street house mostly freshman and are fairly typical freshman dorms with bathrooms down the hall. There are 3 smaller dorms located in the middle campus that are Special Interest Housing: Middle is for the Arts (“This dorm puts on the BEST Halloween haunted house – not surprising with all the theater people there!” said our tour guide), East for International Studies and international students, and West is for math and science. Upperclassmen tend to get the suites located across campus. WAC has a partnership with local apartment complex where they rent out a block of apartments: WAC furnishes them, provides wifi and security, etc.

WAC Case bldgWAC is far from a suitcase school: 85-90% of students stay on campus any given weekend. “WAC students are busy. They join a lot of clubs, Greek life (4 frats, 3 sororities with rush happening in the spring), and sports teams. People stick around,” said the admissions rep. Clubs getting school funding must commit to completing community service, so they get involved in the Chestertown community as well.

WAC egg

The Egg

 

The new Student Center with the dining hall was opened in Fall 2009. The Egg, a round multi-purpose room in the middle has Open Mic nights, games, performances, etc. The first floor of the Student Center has food areas open from 11 am to 11 pm; the second floor, the more traditional all-you-can-eat, is open from 7:30 am to 7:30 pm. Our tour guide told us that students used to rush over for mozzarella sticks when they were offered; they were so popular that they started offering them a lot more! Now students get excited about the theme nights, midnight breakfasts, and Thanksgiving dinner.

Almost all majors have some sort of experiential learning component. They offer quite a few “Tourism study” classes (this makes so much more sense than calling these short-term, 2-3 week, classes “study abroad”). They also offer research trips and the traditional semester and year-long programs. South Africa, Hong Kong, and South Korea have become popular destinations.

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Part of the Science Center

Summer research is big, and lots of students stick around campus – or go to other facilities – to complete things. The Toll Fellows Program is math, sciences, psychology, and computer science majors, but there are plenty of other internships and programs for other students including the National Security Fellows Program, Maryland General Assembly Internship, Comegys Blight Fellowship (Studying vanishing islands of the Chesapeake), the Roy Ans Fellowship (Jewish American Experience), and the Frederick Douglass Fellowship.

WAC offers most of the majors you’d expect from a quality Liberal Arts college. A few unusual ones include International Literature and Culture and excellent dual degree programs:

  • Engineering: students complete 3 or 4 years at WAC and 2 at Columbia University
  • Pharmacy: students complete 3 years at WAC majoring in biology OR psychology with a minor in behavioral neuroscience, then complete 4 years at the University of Maryland.
  • Nursing: Students complete 3 years at WAC majoring in biology or psychology, then complete 2 years at either the University of Maryland or the University of Delaware.

The minors offered at WAC are amazing, especially for a school this size. Some of the more unusual ones include:

WAC acad bldg 2Classes usually are in the 15-30 range, but my tour guide’s classes have been as small as 7 (“Friends of mine have had them as small as 3”) and as large as 35 for an intro class. His favorite class was his Freshman writing class called “Life in 140 Characters” looking at social media.

For admissions, they’ll take either the Common App or their own institutional app. It’s free to apply because “We don’t think it money should stand in the way of applying to college,” said the admissions rep doing the presentation. On the Common App, all students can choose the WAC fee waiver.

© 2016

Jacksonville University

Jacksonville University (visited 2/12/16)

J'ville waterfrontSitting directly on the St. John’s River (which is one of two rivers that runs north – the other being the Nile), JU’s Marine Science Research Institute is top-notch. The city of Jacksonville is industrial, and the university does a lot to help lower the impact of the city on the local environment. It’s a “sweet water river” which flows out of the swamps. The water’s brown color has nothing to do with pollution; instead, it’s from tannins in the swamps.

J'ville Marine Sci Inst

Marine Science building

J'ville Marine lab

Tanks on the first floor of the Marine Science building.

The Marine Science building is new with amazing resources. The ground floor has tanks, flumes to simulate currents, and more. The 2nd floor has classrooms, labs, and meeting rooms. Several students were there studying; when I spoke to them, they were excited about the major and the school in general. “It’s an 8.5 on a 1-10 scale,” and “Tell your students to come here! The faculty ratio is great,” they said. They love that they can do cross-disciplinary work such as assessments of Coral Reefs: aviation majors fly the drone, engineering students run the tools, marine science majors examine the coral reef health. “There’s also an abnormally high number of people who start their own business,” said the Director of the program.

 

J'ville swing“Trans-disciplinary learning is nothing new here,” said one of the deans. This is the only school in Florida to require a class in economics: “Macro-economics requires a holistic view of the global economics.” The school invests in personal enrichment and community engagement. “The community today is the globe.” This leads to innovative research that students are excited about. “We are at the top 4% nationally for the number of submissions and acceptances for national undergraduate research conferences. We beat all the Ivy-league schools.” They had the highest number of accepted proposals (126) beating out even the top Ivy (Cornell had 115).

Business, Health Sciences, and Fine & Performing Arts are strong

  • Their Kinesiology program is highly hands-on and cross-disciplinary; one well-liked project is the bio-chemical assessment of athletes which lets students in that department work with biology, chemical engineering, and other students.
  • J'ville nursing lab

    Nursing department

    The Nursing department is selective; faculty interviews potential students as part of the admissions process. They have direct entry, but students can also apply during freshman year.

  • Their Emergency Nurse Practitioner program is 1 of only 7 in the country.
  • The Education department has a pre-school on campus for 2-5 year olds; students intern there all the time.
  • Business majors can specialize in International or Sport Business or Accounting.
  • The Fine Art Complex is amazing, including a glass-blowing major and minor. A
    J'ville glass 2

    The glass-blowing studio

    freshman gave us a glass-blowing demonstration and almost finished making a bowl in the 20 minutes we were there. “The oven typically runs at about 2200 degrees; it’s running cool today at 2000.”

  • In additional to the traditional types of art, students can also do sculpture, animation, illustration, and graphic design.
  • They have a Dance major in addition to Theater Arts.
J'ville flight sim 3

The Advanced CRJ simulator

The size and quality of their Aviation Management and Operations major surprised me. Of the 160 students in the program, 22% are women. When asked who attends here versus Embry-Riddle, the Director of the program said, “ERAU is more the engineering, building of aircraft, etc. You can learn to fly at either place, but if you want to learn the business end of things, this is where you want to be.” The flying aspect costs an extra $65,000 over the student’s time at school.

 

J'ville aviation bldg

Inside the Aviation building

NROTC has 54 students who take classes on campus; they’re ready to be commissioned right out of college. They participate in many local events including at the nearby base. They complete 4-6 week training cruises (or an equivalent: a Nursing student spent a summer at Walter Reed) all 3 summers.

J'ville outdoor work area

The outdoor working area with tables and electrical outlets

The new President, an alum, has invested a great deal of money into the university. He had been in the business world for a long time, and he’s invested in making the school better. “Our campus has never looked more beautiful. There are a number of improvements: a new residence hall for freshmen, a new outdoor leisure space (which is used extensively as a study place, and even has electrical outlets), and a new workout center. We’ve also created new scholarships to appropriately reward students.”

J'ville apts 2

Some of the apartment buildings for upperclassmen

There’s a 3-year residency requirement, but many students stay because of the new apartment buildings; the surrounding area also doesn’t get rave reviews, but all students can have cars on campus. The current president sent people up to look at UVA’s dorms and replicated them, adding study spaces, fireplaces, etc. They want to make the most of their location and their buildings. The River House had been the President’s house, but eventually was slated to be taken down for parking. When the current President came in, he nixed that: “we don’t need a parking lot with this view.” It overlooks the water, the campus pool and sand volleyball court, and more. Now it’s used for meetings, the Ratskeller, and more. Lots of students have cars on campus.

J'ville golf practice

The golf practice area

Greek life is very small, but sports are a big deal and they’re very proud of their teams. They currently have 501 student athletes, and 18/20 teams have a 3.0+ GPA. Retention rate among athletes is 94% with a good graduation rate. They’re DI “mid-major” (no PAC, Big 10, etc), including Beach Volleyball, Shooting, and Crew (“The women’s team is great! The men’s team… meh”). Campus has a practice green for golf, intramural fields, even an outdoor workout station. They just hired a Director of Ticketing, Sales, and Game Day Experience; attendance and school spirit is way up. The Athletic Director is also a full-time business professor who talked to us for a few minutes. “We win with honor and win in the classroom.”

J'ville art studio

One of the art studios

Students who have left have done so for a variety of reasons: some had bad experiences with a coach, didn’t want to go to class, wanted to hide in a bigger class, bombed their first year and lost a scholarship, etc. That being said, JU is “pretty good at second chances.” One student spoke of a friend who failed a class and was put on probation but dug her way out of the hole and is doing great now. “Send us your B+ students. We can change their lives.”

© 2016

Lawrence University

Lawrence University (visited 4/17/15)

~Lawrence backpack“Lawrence takes the weirdest, quirkiest, most awkward people and puts them all in one place. Go with it,” said one student.

~Lawrence SLUG and river

The “SLUG”

I loved Lawrence. Students were open, straight-forward, and interested in lots of things – and therefore were interesting people. Students sat with us at breakfast and provided great information that didn’t come up in the more formal presentations. One student was active with the Sustainable Life Undergrad Garden (“SLUG”); another rowed on the crew team. A third told us that he wasn’t sure he wanted to come to Lawrence. “What convinced me was the conversations in the cafe. People are smart, and that doesn’t end in the classroom. They want deep, meaningful conversations and want to know what others think.”

~Lawrence underpassPeople are extremely open and accepting here. This is a great place for LGBTQ students or who just want be themselves without judgment. Interestingly, though, religion isn’t talked about much. Students talk about just about everything else: politics, race, sexuality. The yearly Campus Climate survey data supports that students of faith sometimes feel left out; the administration is aware that this is an area of growth. However, there are student-run religious groups and a Religious Studies major so there’s a space for these discussions to happen.

~Lawrence chapel ext 2Lawrence is a College That Changes Lives. I asked the student panelists how it has changed their lives:

  • It forced me to learn how to deal with people I don’t necessarily agree with. I can manage difficult relationships. That’s a good skill. It’s shaped me to be prepared for the world as it is.
  • I’m from a tiny town and fortunate to be here. I’m engaging with diversity, going to eye-opening speakers, taking part of great conversations.
  • The opportunities – there are so many ways we can engage with each other.
  • The conversations are different. My friends at big schools don’t talk late into the night about big-picture, real-world problems trying to figure things out. It’s life changing.
  • Lawrence’s mantra is teaching you how to think differently. I used to roll my eyes, but I’ve looked back on papers, and I thought, ‘Wow, I was WAY less smart!’ I’m a better thinker now.
  • I was a leader in high school in terms of being able to do things I was told to do, but here, I’m a leader in terms of pursuing my own interests.
  • There’s so much passion here. It’s why there are so many groups and so many individual studies. We want to learn things and bring other people along for the ride.

~Lawrence ampitheaterOne counselor asked, “What frustrates you?”

  • Sometimes the people. It’s a small school. Usually that’s great, but sometimes we push each other’s buttons.
  • There’s so much on campus and people get stretched thin.
  • High and low is the size of the school. Now it feels a little too small. I wish I could have lived in an apartment and had a bit of independence.
  • The bugs . . . but we aren’t supposed to mention them!
  • The winter but Lawrence handles it well.

Someone asked, “What surprised you?”

  • How many smart people there are.
  • The talent. You’re always finding out new things. There’s a girl in my house who yodels. How cool is that?! Next thing you know, there’s someone there with a fiddle.
  • The Academic and Social Honor Codes. People take them so seriously.
  • The campus has a fully functioning cinema including free popcorn.
~Lawrence acad lounge

Student lounge overlooking the Fox River

~Lawrence quad 1Campus is a manageable size with the Fox River running along one side (although much of the sports complex is on the opposite side of the river, hockey being the only exception; the rink 4 miles away). The Club Sailing and Crew teams practice on the river, and the on-campus gym has an erg loft for rowers. They have 22 DIII sports and Club fencing that competes on DI level (against Notre Dame, Ohio State, Northwestern, etc). About 25% of students participate in sports. Basketball, soccer, hockey, and volleyball draw the most fans.

Students hanging out outside a dorm

Students hanging out outside a dorm

~Lawrence Gaming House

Gaming House

Housing is mostly clustered together, and except for one upperclassman-only dorm, has a mix of majors, years, etc. They have 2 floors of Gender-Neutral housing, substance-free housing, and group houses. Groups such as Gaming, Swing Dancing, and Multicultural clubs, must be in existence for 3 or more years before applying for a house. Clubs are generally highly active, and there’s more to do on campus than time to do it in. Favorite traditions include the 50 Hours of Trivia and Stealing the Rock.

Greek Life attracts 20% of students. Three students spoke about Greek life. One got a scholarship from the frat he ended up joining; at the dinner for scholarship recipients, he was blown away by how much it wasn’t about the social aspect but more about philanthropy and helping each other with school. The 2nd person said, “Each one is different and provides a different sort of support system.” The 3rd wasn’t even thinking about joining a frat when he came to college. “I didn’t think it was for me but all my friends were joining. It’s inclusive. Events are open to all of campus.” Rush is delayed to winter term so students have the fall to establish themselves.

~Lawrence sci bldg

Side of the science building

Classes range from 40 (Biological Anthro) and 60 (Intro to Biology) to 2 (Independent Study) and 8 (Sr. Experience and Statistics). Students call professors by their first names. Favorite Classes include:

  • Topics in Middle East and India Through Ethnomusicology
  • Geology
  • Intro to Drawing: “I draw like a 5 year old, but that’s ok at Lawrence!”
  • Computer Science: “So hard and so good!”
  • Gender in Cinema: “We watched Clueless and Top Gun. We queered up that movie so bad! We talked for 2 hours about the relationships in that movie.”
  • Magic, Witchcraft, and Religion – uses HP to learn about Medieval Witchcraft
  • Defining Frenchness

Notable majors include: Linguistics, Neuroscience, Cognitive Science, Biomedical Ethics, Chinese, and Innovation & Entrepreneurship.

~Lawrence Con building

Conservatory with a food truck – makes for easy lunches between rehearsals

Lawrence has an excellent music conservatory. Classes in “The Con” are open to all students regardless of major. Productions are inclusive and mostly based on ability: if you can do it, you can get in. We asked if there was a divide between the Con and other students; most agreed that if there was any divide at all, it was between the Conservatory and Athletics. In an effort to keep that at bay, they hold “Flip-flop Weekend” when those 2 groups go to the other one’s activities.

There’s only one application regardless of whether a student applies to the Conservatory or not. Con students apply ONLY regular decision and go through the audition process then without a pre-screening. If a student can’t attend an on-campus or one of the 12 regional auditions, they can send in a video. They’ll get the decision for admission to Lawrence and the Conservatory at the same time. If a student applies for a dual-degree program, they’ll still be looked at academically for the university if they aren’t eligible for the Con.

Appleton is a great small college town; town-gown relations are good. The airport is 10 minutes away making it easy for the international students and others who need to fly to and from school to get there and back home.

(c) 2015

Milwaukee School of Engineering

Milwaukee School of Engineering (visited 4/14/15)

MSOE walkway

Entry into the quad area. Bikes are big on campus .

I didn’t even know this school existed; I had a couple free hours before another college tour in Milwaukee and spent it walking around the city to get a sense of the place. I saw on a tourist map that I was only a couple blocks from MSOE so I headed over there. The school surprised me in a good way!

MSOE mapThis is a small school of about 2,600 undergrads (not surprisingly, males outnumber females 3-to-1) allowing for a lot of hands-on opportunities for students. One student I spoke to chose MSOE specifically for this reason. “I did not want to be sitting in a large lecture hall. I knew I’d get a better education here than some of the bigger name schools because I can apply what I’m learning and ask questions.” His classes are small: his largest had 28 students; the smallest had 4. He absolutely loves it here. “I’m really well prepared.”

MSOE field and dorm

The outdoor athletic field and dorms in the background.

Incorporated into the city, MSOE is a small, manageable campus within walking distance of many things and accessible to many more through the city’s public transportation. It’s close to downtown but not right in the middle of the busiest part. Freshmen and Sophomores must live on campus unless they come from within 50 miles of campus; about 80% live on campus. Options range from traditional rooms to suites to apartments (those are reserved for juniors, seniors, and international students). The new tower with apartments has brought up the total undergrad residential percentage to about 35%. For the upperclassmen who move off, it’s very easy to find close, affordable housing in the city.

MSOE stud cntr int

The top floor of the student center building.

Food is “ok . . . it’s campus food,” said one student. You aren’t going to go hungry, and if you get bored, you have the whole city at your disposal. The hours aren’t always great. “Dinner is over at 6 or 6:30” but the late-night place is open until 11 Sunday to Thursday. They do offer commuter plans as well.

Despite the school’s name, students can major in more than just Engineering although that is their “flagship.”

  • MSOE nursing

    Nursing Department

    There is a good Nursing program that boasts a 97% placement rate of their graduates.

  • The Business school offers majors in Management, International Business, Management Information Systems, and Technical Communications.
  • The Math department offers both Actuarial Science and Operations Management.
  • Engineering offers degrees in Architectural, Biomedical, BioMolecular, Civil, Computer, Construction, Electrical, Industrial, Mechanical, and Software.
    • Their Mechanical Engineering program has the most students (126) and ranks in the top 10 in the country.
  • MINORS: Students can minor in 7 areas: Business Management, Chemistry, German Studies, Marketing and Entrepreneurship, Math, Physics, Psychology, and Technical Communication
MSOE Engo Bldg

Engineering Building

One of the students I talked to is a senior Civil Engineering major. “It’s pretty new. I was one of the first classes, so I feel like I get to help shape it.” He’s an active member of the American Society of Civil Engineers and has competed in Steel Bridge and Concrete Canoe competitions against places like Notre Dame, Purdue, and Indiana. He’s completed a Senior Design project which is an applied project to solve a problem. All students present their work to professionals at the end. He’s a structural specialist, but his senior project wasn’t specifically on that. He would like to see this change in the future; right now, they bound a bit by the project availability, but he did say that it was good to expand out a little bit and gain that experience in other areas of civil engineering. He’s completing a 5-Year freshman-to-MSE program. Students who have a minimum GPA can complete their 5th year for free.

MSOE museum ceilin

The ceiling of the museum building

I’m impressed with the study abroad opportunities. I think an advantage to going to school at a specialized university like this is that they create opportunities for students that align with what they need for graduation. MSOE has agreements with Lille Catholic University in France, Czech Technical University, Florence University of the Arts, Lubeck University of Applied Science in Germany, and Manipal Institute of Technology in India. They also have a travel-study course on Doing Business with China.

Admissions is moderately selective. Although Engineering and Math students need a minimum GPA of 3.0 (nursing requires a 2.75), typical admitted students have about a 3.65. Engineering and Nursing students need at least a 22 composite ACT (Engineers need a 24 math sub-score). Math majors need a 24 composite and 26 math sub-score on the ACT. All students need to have completed pre-calc in high school. They will grant credit for almost all AP classes with a 4 or 5; only a couple areas will grant credit for a 3.

MSOE LibraryI asked a student whether people stuck around campus or went downtown for fun. “Depends on their age . . . I’ll leave it at that.” One of the favorite campus traditions is St. Patrick’s week — apparently he’s the patron saint of engineers. Who knew? This is a big deal in the city as well as on campus. MSOE has parties, students dress up, some professors have their ties cut, classes sometimes get canceled, etc. Quiz Bowl is another event that the students mentioned as an activity they look forward to.

There are things to do on campus. Sports are popular, and they have a large rec facility which includes a hockey rink. Some of their more unusual sports offerings are crew (DIII – “It’s a good team,” said one of the students), fencing, judo, cheerleading, badminton, rugby, and weightlifting (all club). Greek life is fairly small in terms of numbers of students who affiliate, but they do run several social events around campus. There’s an active performing arts contingent on campus, as well.

(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

Mills College

MILLS COLLEGE, Oakland, CA (visited 7/16/12)

Mills clock towerMills 1I was hugely impressed with Mills in every way – the people, the campus, and the programs. It lives up to the small liberal arts school reputation of paying attention to its students, and also of the Women’s College reputation of empowering people. They are proud of being “women-centered” with the aim of helping women (with students as young as 16 and as old as 95) and giving them room to grow. There are only two other women’s colleges in CA (Scripps and Mount St. Mary’s); Mills was the first west of the Rockies. The school is described as being a little more crunchy than the east coast. I’m not sure that’s so true in terms of the type of student, but maybe in terms of being more flexible with their curriculum. In 1990, the school was going to go coed. When they announced this (and it was already in the works to move in that direction), the students went on strike in protest. This has been the country’s only successful reversal of a decision to go coed.

Mills libraryThe students I met were poised, enthusiastic, and engaged, although I know that’s a bit skewed: they aren’t going to bring the unenthusiastic students to talk to us, and the students on campus during the summer loved it and want to be there. Their retention rate speaks volumes in terms of the fact that the college is doing something right. Not surprisingly, Mills’ goals include making the students feel at home, retaining the students who come to campus, and having students graduate on time. First year students are put into Learning Living Communities based on a variety of interests; there are two dorms set aside solely for first years. 80% of all dorm rooms are singles. Normally, at a women’s college it would go without saying that these dorms would be all female. However, as students move up, they can opt for coed dorms because Mills does have male graduate students. Housing options range from traditional halls to apartments; many of them are way up a hill – which is also where the dining hall is. Our tour guide joked that by the time they hike up the hill, they’re not even hungry anymore, and often forget why they trekked up in the first place.

Mills wish treeMills businessThe most unusual major on campus is PLEA: Political, Legal, and Economic Analysis; the biggest majors are psychology and English. An unusual component to the English major is the emphasis on writing. Mills offers a 2+2 nursing program with Samuel Merritt (which several other schools also partner with) and several 4+1 programs in business, public policy, computer science, and music. Any student in any major can get an MBA in only 1 more year with good advising; the only undergraduate option for business is to major in business economics, not straight business. The Graduate School of Business building is one of the newest on campus, built to be environmentally sustainable. Public Policy draws a lot of students because Mills is part of a new national project at the State Department level to entice women into public policy careers. Bio and Chem are strong and popular (so much so that they’ve had to add more class sections) with lots of opportunities for research, working with professors, and internships. There is no physics major. Not surprisingly for a college this size, classes are small; the tour guide’s biggest class was 40; her smallest was 8. The average size is 15. Overall, academics are strong, and Mills is one of only 5 schools in Northern California with a Phi Beta Kappa chapter. Lots of internships are available, mostly off campus, but some are done on campus, particularly in the summer in the science labs. Most of the students we talked to at lunch and who gave tours were science majors doing research. One of them said that the only thing she would change would be to put more money towards better lab equipment, but she recognized that she’s a bit biased.

Mills courtyardWhen we arrived on campus, they took us right across campus to the Alumnae House for lunch on the patio where we were assigned seating based on geographic area so we could talk to the admissions rep for our area and a student. Before sending us out on tour, the Director spoke with pride that Mills provides close attention and support it the students; the students and the facilities backed that up. They have multiple lounges for different groups of commuter students (Parent’s lounge, complete with toys; 23+ or the “old women lounge,” traditional student lounge, etc). Our tour guide was a non-traditional student and had access to the 23+ lounge so she took us in. There were several couches, a full kitchen, mailboxes, showers, tables, and white boards. She said that people will come in to take naps and write notes on the board asking someone to wake them up at X time, and people will. People here look out for each other; they want everyone to do well. For example, in the Arts Building, there is no competition for space. Everyone has their own studio, and the place is “humming at 3 in the morning.”

Mills archesCampus activities abound with a lot of clubs, traditions, and activities. The tour guide told us of a tradition that everyone looks forward to: the Rubber Ducky Races that are held every spring on the stream that runs through campus. Mills competes at the DIII level in 7 sports: crew, soccer, tennis, volleyball, cross country, track, and swimming; about 1/3 of the students participate. “Mills is small. We don’t have many of any type of kid;” this is good and bad. Cliques don’t tend to form, but it’s sometimes harder to form community. However, because they are so close to so many other universities and the resources of a large metropolitan area, students from a variety of places will join up to form groups or expand their circle. For example, the Jewish students join up with Berkeley’s Hillel, and the Mills students hosted a Seder on campus that was “very feminist and new age.”

Mills 1Oakland is urban and has the same problems that other big areas have, but they don’t feel urban at all. Busses run right by the front gate so they have access to quite a bit and the city offers a great deal to the students. They’re an active part of Oakland but also of the SF community so there are lots of interactions there for internships, shopping, and in art and music. Oakland is urban and has the same problems that other big urban areas have. They can take classes at UC Berkeley or 11 other schools in the Bay area after the first year. They run free shuttles, so they can take advantage of parties and social lives there if they want in addition to the academics

They receive 2800 applications for a class of about 325; students can use the Common App plus the Mills supplement in which they have to submit a graded paper from a class. Merit Scholarships range from 10-20K and applicants are informed of what they have received with their admissions decision. They do their best to meet full need with their extensive Financial Aid program if students file the FAFSA and Profile.

(c) 2012

Marietta College

Marietta College (visited 4/18/12)

Marietta 2At first glance, it seemed like there were way more jocks/athletic types walking around campus than there had been at other colleges; however, as we got going on the tour, we ended up seeing more of the jeans and t-shirt clad students walking around. Sports are fairly big here; they are particularly proud of their Crew teams (the women recently ranked #7 in the country and the men compete at the DI level despite the size of the college) and their basketball programs (the men just won the championship). Socially, I did not see as much interaction between students as I had seen on some other campuses. Not everyone was listening to music, but quite a few were; even a majority of the baseball players, who were in full uniform and huddled in a group waiting for transportation to a game, had music going. Some had their earphones out, but several others would either talk over the music if they wanted to talk to a teammate, or just not engage in conversation at all.

Marietta 3The campus was pretty; someone had described it as having some “New England charm” and while it did have a bit of that rolling-hill, older brick-building feel to it, I’m not sure I’d completely agree with that description. However, campus was clearly cared for: buildings were neat and maintained, although several were older and starting to feel a bit worn-out. During the student panel, one of the counselors asked the students how they would improve campus if they had $10 million to donate; one said they would improve the student center since it was older and not much of a student center (in terms of spaces for students to congregate, feeling comfortable, etc) and another said she would build a new theater/fine arts building since it didn’t really fulfill all the needs and demands for the space. A third student said that she would add a pool to the athletic facilities. Food was also on the list of things to fix: across the board, the students gave Food Services mediocre ratings at best. One student said that the food itself is ok (not great), but flex dollars/meal swipes didn’t roll over from week-to-week. Other students said that the food quality was better than it had been a couple years ago, but still not great. There isn’t a ton of variety, nor is it prepared especially well. She told us that she was hopeful that it would change next year; the contract with the current company is ending this year so she hopes they will get a new group in to provide the food.

MariettaStudents do tend to stay on campus on the weekends. The school just completed a study based on the use of Student ID cards – swiping into meals, athletic center, dorms, etc, and found that 80-90% of students are on campus on any given weekend.

Three unique things stood out for me on campus:

  • First was the Planetarium, which was funded mostly through a major donation from an alum after the school considered downgrading the physics department from a major to a minor or even eliminating it completely. People energized and rallied around the major, and now they have a full-time astronomy professor and a planetarium. Astronomy 101 is one of the most popular science classes on campus. They also give generous scholarships to physics majors; clearly they are in high demand on campuses, and Marietta is doing everything they can to attract these students to campus.
  • The second unusual program on campus was the Petroleum Sciences/Engineering major within the Geology major, both of which fall under Marietta’s Energy and the Environment signature program. Marietta is the only small Liberal Arts college with a major in Petroleum Sciences/Engo. Because it has grown so quickly in popularity, they are now limiting the incoming class to 90 students in that major; last year, they had three times more applications for the major than spaces for students.
  • Finally, the McDonough Leadership Program is well developed and is listed in the top five in the country; Harvard is loosely basing their program off of Marietta’s. Marietta has partnered with Harvard’s Center for Public Leadership, a pilot project with the New York Times, and a leadership program at Annapolis. The department offers two majors (Leadership Studies and International Leadership Studies), and three certificate programs (Leadership Studies, Leaders in Action, and Teacher Leadership – only 1 of 2 in the country at the undergraduate level).

Marietta 1A major teaching focus at Marietta is critical thinking/problem solving, although these are common “buzz words” on a lot of campuses these days. They want to graduate students who know how to look at issues from a variety of lenses. Communication skills – verbal and written – are a major component of the education here, as well as demonstrating practical applications of what they learn in the classroom. There are heaps of internships available. Our tour guide had her internships set up for both this summer AND next one already. There is an expectation that students will be involved on and off campus. This extends Internationally as well; there are some unusual majors including Asian Studies with a focus on China (which makes a lot of sense given the current trends in globalization) and Latin American Studies in which students can study Portuguese in addition to Spanish.

Several scholarships are available, including 1 entirely free ride. The Scholars Program targets the top 30-ish% of the incoming class. This group comes to campus to compete for varying levels of scholarships; they write a timed essay, meet with students and faculty, and participate in a class-type discussion with 12-15 other competitors and two faculty. One student gets everything covered; about 20 students get a full-tuition scholarship, and another 60 or so get a half-tuition scholarship.

(c) 2012

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