campus encounters

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University of Bridgeport

University of Bridgeport (visited 10/11/16)

bridgeport-3

A view from one of the tall buildings on campus with classrooms, admissions, and administrative offices. The university is integrated right into Bridgeport.

This is one of the most racially diverse campuses I’ve visited, and I learned from the admissions rep that they’ve been ranked 17th in the country for diversity. Both the admissions rep and the tour guide talked about the racial and geographic diversity represented on campus; 20% of the population is international, as well. The tour guide was proud to be part of such a community, and felt that people really got along; rather than being cliquey, people were open with each other. However, he was less able (or maybe not as comfortable) answering questions about religious and LGBTQ diversity and acceptance on campus. He did tell me that there were some clubs on campus for different groups, and I was glad to see several women wearing hijab.

bridgeport-stu-cntrPeople are really connected and seem to work together. “I don’t know what causes that, other than it’s an open and welcoming community,” said the rep. “It really sets them up to succeed in the workforce when they’ll be working with people from all over.” Part of this may also stem from the fact that campus is integrated into the surrounding community without much of a centralized campus or quad. Bridgeport is a largest city in Connecticut with lots of Fortune 500 companies and other perks of living in a city. (It’s also the 2nd largest Park City … only Paris beats them on this front!)

bridgeport-dorm

The biggest dorm on campus

About 60% of students live in the 4 res halls, many with specialized floors including Freshman Achievement and Community Service. A great, unusual feature is that students get a free Knightflix account with new movies every month. Unless they’re commuting from home (and there is a decent commuter population), students live on campus for the first 3 years. Once they’re 21 or have 90 credits, they can move off. All students can have cars on campus for free. There are also UB shuttles and the public transportation is free with student ID. The MetroNorth train station is 5 minutes away; from there, Grand Central is an hour away.

bridgeport-2This is a career-focused university with lots of internationally focused majors. Many of the faculty have real-world experience. My tour guide’s Intro to Criminal Justice class (also his smallest class with 18 students) was taught by a lawyer; he loved the stories the professor told in class and how relevant the topics were. Classes average 20-25 students; the tour guide’s largest class, Art History, had 80 students. He loved his Abnormal Psych class (and was excited to tell me things he learned) and Criminology.

bridgeport-mural

A mural painted by a Cuban student to depict the history of the city and the university. PT Barnum (once a mayor of the city) is on the right.

A few programs to mention include:

  • Martial Arts Studies: this is the first major of its kind. Students in this program compete internationally.
  • The School of Design includes Graphic Design (BFA), Fashion Merchandising (AA or BS), Interior Design (BS), and Industrial Design (BS) — and a Fashion Journalism concentration is offered under the Mass Communications major.
  • English Language Institute offers small classes (maximum of 15) to allow students to strengthen their language skills to study at the university level.
  • Mechanical Engineering is new; they’re bringing their first class of freshmen on campus fall of 2016.
  • Nursing: They just absorbed the Bridgeport Hospital School of Nursing, so now in addition to the RN to BSN program, they’ll be accepting 120 freshman for fall of 2017 into the Pre-Nursing They take a prescribed freshman curriculum of pre-requisites then apply to the Nursing program for sophomore year.
  • Students built a mini-sub and turned it into an ocean cleaner. They beat MIT in a competition.
  • Criminal Justice and Human Security offers 3 concentrations: Comparative Justice, Criminology, and Human Security.
  • International Political Economy and Diplomacy
bridgeport-quad-1

One of the green spaces on campus

“This is an events-based campus with at least 3 or 4 a day. They had 692 events last year,” my tour guide told me. They have 13 DII teams; Southern Connecticut State and American International College are big rivals. Students get really involved in things like MUN (which competes nationally and tends to do well), Student Government, and Student Activities Board. Students who hold formal leadership positions (study body president, etc) get a scholarship from a fund set up by alumni.

bridgeport-walkway

A walkway between academic buildings

The university is working hard on improving retention which was at 54% last year. They hired new retention specialist and new provost. Students who aren’t as prepared as they should be can be accepted into a pre-program; the president is committed to working with those students, and they understand that this often causes retention rate to take a hit. Interested students can apply to the Bridge Program that allows students to complete their FYE and Freshman Comp over the summer. This past year, they accepted 50 students and are hoping to grow it to 75. Students pay only $200 which covers everything including tuition and housing.

© 2016

Flagler College

Flagler College (visited 2/12/16)

Flagler studentsOne thing that makes Flager stand out is that they’re rooted heavily in the liberal arts: there’s no engineering, no math major (yet; they have a minor), and no science departments – with the notable exception of their new Coastal Environmental Science program, now one of their biggest departments.

Coastal Environmental Science is the hardest major to get into. The difference between this and general Envi Sci is that “this is specific to the Coast. We don’t do volcanoes or tundras or mountains. Go to App State if you want the mountains. The coast is where most of the stress is; it’s where most of the population of the world lives; it’s where most of the job opportunities are. The job prospects are never going away.”

Flagler walkwayCurrently there are only 2 labs “and they’re pretty standard on purpose. The program is designed around our location. A lot of the teaching is done outside.” Students spend time in and around the water, including a nearby lighthouse where students can stay overnight. They don’t teach organic chemistry but they do aquatic and other specialized chemistry (one professor specializes in bio-geo-chemistry): “We do have students who go off to med school from here; they just need to plan ahead and do a couple summer courses somewhere else.”

Flagler 6A few other strong or unusual majors are:

“It’s not enough to have a college degree; you need to be able to show what you’ve done and talk about what you want to do with it.” All majors and minors require a capstone experience of some sort whether is research, an internship, or something else. Overall, 71% of students completed an experiential learning opportunity. Currently, some students are working on “Fish Communities and effects of plastic on the environment.” This hasn’t been done before and is going to end up in a publication for the students.

Flagler 4When asked, “Who Is a Flagler Kid?” we were told this: they look for “an academic kid who wants to be involved, wants smaller class sizes, and who appreciates where we’re located” (historic city, historic building). They do a great job with the B/middle-of-the-road kid who comes in liking 2 or 3 things and are willing to take some time to try them out. They should be somewhat self-motivated to look for internships, etc. There’s help and resources, but no one is going to force them to use them. Students should be invested in themselves.

Flagler Edison towerFlagler has no Greek Life but there are honor societies. There are about 55 student clubs including a Surf club, Deaf Awareness, creative writing, religious groups (Christian, Jewish, general religion), and political groups. Students agree that there’s a good split of politics on campus, but “people get along. There’s lots of discussion. “

Flagler male dorm

One of the male dorms

 

The average GPA hovers around a 3.5 with 1050 SAT or 23 ACT. International students need a TOEFL of 75. The exceptions to this are students applying to the Education and Coastal Envi Sci departments. Just over half of the 2,500 undergraduates come from Florida. The 40% out-of-state domestic students come from all over with the NY, NJ, MD, VA, and GA being the next most represented states. Just over 5% of the population is international from 43 foreign countries. They are actively trying to increase racial diversity on campus. They offer an additional scholarship to students “if they’re diverse in any way.”

Flagler 4

The Flagler Hotel – now a main building on campus with the dining hall and women’s dorm

The cost also makes Flagler stand out: at their current rate of $26,500 per YEAR (tuition, R&B), they run about 50% of the national cost of a liberal arts school. Most students receive financial aid, but “you aren’t going to see huge scholarships because our costs are already so much cheaper than other places.” The top merit scholarship is about $3,000.

Flagler female dorm

Hallway in the women’s dorm

There is a first-year residency requirement. Females are housed in the historic hotel originally owned by Henry Flagler. Each room is different and houses anywhere from 2-5 girls. As a trade-off, each room has its own bathroom (no shared baths in the building) and the dining hall is downstairs. Most freshmen males are housed across the street in a large building with all doors opening to the outside; most of these are suites so they share 1 bathroom between 2 rooms. Several athletes are housed closer to the athletic fields. Coed visitation is not allowed at any time; we were surprised by this since this has never been a religiously affiliated school. It’s also a dry campus, and they have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to drugs.

Flagler dining hall

The dining hall with Tiffany windows

The main campus is contained within a 2-block area with a few exceptions. The new communications building is about a block away among city buildings, and the athletic fields are a mile or so off campus. On campus, the old Flagler Hotel dominates the scene; outside is beautiful outdoor area for student to congregate, socialize, and work. There are plenty of shaded seating areas and trees with plugs everywhere so students can stay connected. The art building next door is only open to art students who have to swipe their cards to get in. The dining hall has the largest collection of Tiffany stained glass. The library is very light and airy. The Edison Smoke Stack provided electricity to the hotel and campus 3 years before the White House got electricity.

Flagler comm bldg

The Communications Department tucked among houses on a side street off campus

We asked the students on the panel about their favorite classes and why they liked them:

  • Sign Language. All the teachers are deaf so it was intense was first. I took my first class here and knew nothing. We had an interpreter at first but then were on our own.
  • Political Leaders of the 20th Century: it was my professor, 1 other student, and myself. We would read what we were interested in and discussed for 45 minutes.
  • My internship with the Sheriff’s office. It’s not a classroom environment.
  • Criminal Behavior: the professor was amazing. We got to do a lot of profiling.

What do you love?

  • The First Year experience has been really important. Orientation was good; we had something every day and every night. Showing up at class a week later, I knew people.
  • The professors. You get to have the same ones several times, and they help us with internships. I can go to office hours for whatever. I had coffee the other day with one of them and just chatted.
  • I came here undecided. Taking smaller discussion-based classes were helpful. I was a good student in high school but not great. Being put into these classes helped me find what I really was interested in.
  • I thought I knew why I loved it until I took a class called Oral Histories. Now I’m interviewing alumni from the 60s and 70s about how it’s changed. I didn’t know how many alumni worked here. I love that!
Flagler plaza 3

The hotel courtyard

What would you like changed or improved?

  • Have some sort of building for a community center. I’d like to involve the town and the university. We should be working together and have events together.
  • We’re in a historical district, so it’s hard to get more parking. It’s an issue.
  • Add a science building with more labs, including a sterile lab.
  • Build a residence hall with a full kitchen. I like to cook!
  • Add a math department! Maybe it’ll also draw more males.
  • Have school shuttles to stores and other places (including airports) that are just for students.

© 2016

Notre Dame University of Maryland

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

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

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

Notre Dame main bldg

Main building

Chapel

Chapel

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

Notre Dame movie window 2

Step Up stairs and window

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

Notre Dame dorm

Dorm

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

Notre Dame bird feeders

Bird feeders on campus

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

Notre Dame dorm lounge

A dorm lounge

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

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

(c) 2015

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