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Bay Path University

Bay Path University (visited 5/28/19)

BPC main sign 2Bay Path is a small, pretty women’s college with some amazing academic programs. I learned from the tour guide that most of the sculptures (mostly by local artists) diplayed around campus were purchased by the President’s husband to donate to the college.

BPC sculpture 2Bay Path operates its traditional residential campus in Longmeadow, just outside of Springfield. Under this umbrella is the American Women’s College, an online, bachelors-granting college for adult women (although they offer a few hybrid classes that will meet occasionally on Saturday, as well). Many of the graduate programs (such as Education, Psych, and health sciences) are held on the Health Science Center campus in East Longmeadow, about 4 miles from main campus, allowing this campus to retain much of an undergraduate, traditional feel.

BPC sculpture 4The admissions building is a converted house with welcoming spaces used by current and perspective students. The President will hold dinners in one of the larger rooms as well as at her house (located by the athletic center), and all students get invited during their time on campus. “She’s very visible. We definitely can voice opinions,” said my tour guide.

BPC 5“Students who want to be a number will not do well here. They won’t make it,” said the rep. Bay Path works well with first-gen students. They recognize and work with several barriers, including cultural and financial. “Sometimes they’re not allowed to separate quite so well.” They offer Finish Line scholarships to help students persist through to graduation. “ If they’re willing to come take a chance, they’ll do great here.”

BPC 3All freshmen are housed in the same dorm; upperclassmen have a chose of 2 other buildings. The tour guide took me into Theinert, the Freshmen dorm. “Rooms are a little smaller here than the others,” she said, but I thought they were decent sizes for doubles. Campus food is an 8. “I’d like more variety especially on weekends. Lots of people go home so there’s less choice then.” She stays on campus because she plays lacrosse. “There’s definitely more going on around campus in the fall.” Residents pay a parking fee but commuters do not. Freshman can have cars on a space-available basis and there are community bikes available.

BPC Commons

The Commons

The university has been working to increase the number of weekend activities as well as participation. They’ve instituted Destination Saturdays, offering local and seasonal trips like apple picking, sledding, goat yoga, ice skating, and Celtics or Bruins games. There are free shuttles to local stores and attractions and students get discounted movie tickets. The closest theaters are in West Springfield or Enfield (20 minutes away).

A few traditions that the tour guide particularly liked include:

  • Campus Awakenings, an event held before dawn on the first day of school. “It’s kind of a way for seniors and faculty to welcome freshmen.”
  • Wacky Wildcats (like Field Day)
  • Curtain Call at the end of the year (kind of the opposite of Awakening)

BPC labNot surprisingly for a school this size, (a little under 1900 students), 80% of classes have fewer than 20 students. My tour guide’s smallest class (a Women in STEM Honors class) had 6 students in it. My tour guide and the rep shared a lot of great academic information with me:

  • Cybersecurity is a newer program with tracks in Digital Forensics and Information Assurance. Bay Path has been selected as 1 of 5 partner school with GOOGLE!
  • All students get iPads.
  • They offer 5 tracks within Forensics including Forensic Psych and Forensic Science. A Forensic Anthropologist from the Medical Examiner’s office and a Special Prosecutor for the FBI teaches here. This was one of the first programs in the area in the area, so they have great outcomes for students. They have a genome sequencing machine on campus, the same as used in the Massachusetts Crime Lab. They also have a ballistics lab.
  • BPC forensicsThey offer a 5-year OT program
  • The Business Program offers 12 specializations, although some like Strategic HR Management, Digital Marketing Management, and Food Industry Management are only offered online.
  • Interior Design: Commercial and Residential majors designed one of the academic buildings.
  • BPC learning commons int

    Part of the Learning Commons

    The Learning Commons has a law floor and an early childhood education floor. This doubles as a community library.

  • An American History class offered every year examines a time or place during the fall semester, then they tour the place in January (this year, they went to Savannah and Charleston). The trips aren’t that expensive, but can also apply for travel scholarship to offset costs. “Students can take it every year and have a different experience.” They save seats for first-year students.
  • “Things are pretty hands-on here,” said the tour guide. In her First Year Seminar, took Monster Madness, “We put Dracula on trial.”
  • WELL (Women as Empowered Leaders and Learners) is built into the core classes; students take several classes around different growth, learning, and leadership themes. The First-Year Read is incorporated into these classes, and there’s a Residential programming component as well.

BPC loungeBay Path participates in the Cooperating Colleges of Greater Springfield Consortium with Elms, American International College, Springfield, Westfield State, WNEU, and the Community College. They don’t have shuttles, but most campuses are relatively close and are on bus lines. Students can take up to 2 classes per semester (usually not the first semester), must be in good academic standing, and register for a class that is not offered at their home campus.

Admission is test-optional. However, if they submit test scores, they do not need an essay or recommendation letters (they can submit if they’d like but they’re not required). Without test score, applicants need both the letters and the essay. They will need to submit test scores for any honors program. Qualified students will be invited to apply to general honors, Women in Stem Honors (WISH) or Women in Business Honors. Regular Honors provides a $1500 scholarship; the others award $2500.

In the past years, they’ve held a Signature Scholarship Competition (the rep isn’t sure it’s happening next year). Interested students write an essay of up to 750 words on the yearly theme (last year’s was Curiosity). 40 students got invited to campus in February to compete for a Full Tuition scholarship, but everyone who came got additional money.

© 2019

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Mercyhurst University

Mercyhurst University (visited 3/18/19)

Mercyhurst M and Main

The main entrance

Sometimes visiting a college without knowing much about it first is the best way to approach this. This is definitely the case here. I loved driving onto campus under the metal arch and up the drive leading to the stunning main, original building. This has the feel of a strong faith-based community – there’s no question that this is a religious institution with the statues and the chapel – but I never got the heavy-handed feeling that some other religious institutions have. It just had a sense of calm and purpose permeating much of what goes on.

Mercyhurst chapel 1

The main chapel

The Sisters of Mercy (the first non-cloistered order) started Mercyhurst with 23 female students in 1926 (they went coed in 1969 with the addition of a men’s crew team). Their 2 major tenets include health care and education. If people needed help, they got it. They took care of soldiers on both sides of the Civil War, for example. Someone described them as being on the liberal edge of Catholicism, telling me that it was the Campus Ministry that started the LGBTQ group years ago. “They see the problem, not the details of who the person is. They want people to feel welcome and at home. If you want to be here, they want you to be here. Students seem respectful of people’s opinions and people can say what they feel.” The tour guide agreed: “It’s a supportive environment where you can be yourself.”

Mercyhurst lab

One of the cybersecurity labs

This is still something of a regional school with many students coming from a two-hour radius. Much of this is program driven: the academics have strong reputations, and the university has specialized majors such as Interior Architecture and Design, archaeology/anthropology (including concentrations in Bioanthropology and Bioarchaeology), and Applied Forensic Sciences (with concentrations in Criminalistics/Forensic Bio, Forensic Anthropology, and Forensic Chemistry). They’ve developed majors that enable students to train for jobs that industries need, and have done a great job of being future-focused by creating programs in data science, cybersecurity, and Business and Competitive Intelligence.

Mercyhurst Applied Politics

Institute for Applied Politics polling room

They have created specialized institutes as well, including one for Ethics and Society and one for Applied Politics (Students can work here to conduct public opinion polls on a variety of things, including politics and environmental issues).

Mercyhurst offers a strong Learning Support program as well as Institute for high-functioning students on the spectrum. I met with representatives from both programs and ate lunch with 3 of them. They’re wonderful and clearly love what they do!

  • Mercyhurst nontrad apts

    Some of the non-traditional apartments where students in AIM can choose to live

    LDP (Learning Difference Program) offers two levels of academic support.

    • Students with a current documented disability will be able to get accommodations such as extended time for testing, Assistive technology, etc. For extended time, students get a form that indicates which accommodation they’ve been approved for; they have that signed by the professor and comes back to the office for scheduling at least 5 days before the test date.
    • The Academic Advantage Program is a fee-based program with about 10 openings for the coming year. “Sometimes it’s hard for kids coming from a high school with a real reach-around program. This service focuses much more on organization and executive functioning to make sure they’re getting things done on time and then making sure that they seek out the content help somewhere else. They need to be advocating for themselves.” Students get weekly check-ins with academic counselors who will help create a document to track what they have due, create a weekly time management calendar, and other things to help students stay on track. They’ll also track grades through an early alert programs. Counselors can help students get tutoring.
    • Freshmen also have the option to participate in the PASS summer program; 12-15 students each summer move in at the end of July and take a 3-week, 3-credit class. It counts for the REACH (see below), and it alleviates the fall course load. They can move into their dorm room to get settled early. They also have workshops so they know what the accommodations look like.
  • The Autism Institute at Mercyhurst (AIM) provides support for students on the Spectrum; they support the students’ adjustment to college and provide social and other support to make sure they’re successful. There is specialized housing available, but this is optional. Students can choose to live there or in other available dorms.
Mercyhurst 1

The library and an academic building connected by an overhead walkway

The Core Curriculum is called REACH in which they take 10 classes in 10 disciplines, 2 in each of the following areas: Reason & Faith, Expression and Creativity, Analytical Thought, Contexts & Systems, and Humans in Connection. Freshman also take two semesters of Intro to Mercyhurst classes which purposefully mixes students of different majors and different geographic areas so they interact with people they might not have. These classes help to ensure that students know where resources are on campus.

Mercyhurst sky roof

The “sky ceiling” in one of the academic buildings.

The university has recently revamped their academic calendar to incorporate “mini-terms” into their semesters. This effectively splits the semester into 2 8-week sections, and students can go on “mini-semester travel.” They also have a campus in Dungarvan, Ireland “that’s really an extension of our campus.” Freshmen can go if they’re in the honors program (but this option is not always available every year). Depending on the major, they might be able to take some of the requirements for the major. About 25% of students will study abroad.

Mercyhurst reading room

One of the reading rooms

They do have a 4-year residency requirement. “People aren’t leaving en masse on the weekends. They’re here and doing things.” Freshmen are not allowed to have cars on campus, but all students get passes for public transportation. There’s a lot to do in Erie including an indoor water park, mini-golf, theaters, Target, etc. “There’s cool local music downtown,” said the tour guide. Presque Isle (about a 15 minute drive; the bus line also goes there) is a popular spot with walking trails and beaches; sometimes the college hosts events there. “Erie is like Buffalo, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh,” said the admission rep. “We’re trying to come back from being primarily an industrial city so things are getting revitalized.” Gannon University is also in Erie, so a lot of places cater to college students.

Mercyhurst motto

The college motto

A couple fun campus traditions mentioned by several people are:

  • The Sister Damien Spirit Bell is a fixture at hockey games. The tour guide told me that she was such a supporter of the Mercyhurst teams (and about 30% of students are athletes) that “she would tell the opposing team that they’d go to hell if they beat her boys.” The bell is still rung at athletic (“and personal”) victories. They have 3 DI sports (men’s and women’s ice hockey and men’s crew). All other sports are DII.
  • The new President (well, sort of new – he’s in his 4th year) established Hurst Day. On a random fall day, he cancels classes with a big scavenger hunt (based on the history of campus, etc), games, activities, competitions, and a big dinner.
Mercyhurst quad

The quad

Improvements are student-focused (such as the new sophomore res hall being built). “Things aren’t done blindly on campus; it’s done on purpose.” They just opened a bar on campus in Mid-March. It’s run by the cafeteria so food can be bought with their card; they need cash for alcohol which is served with a 2 drink limit “for student safety,” said the rep. The tour guide said, “It’s great. It’s been open 3 days and I’ve been there twice.”

Mercyhurst birds 2

Artwork by one of the art professors (also a Mercyhurst alum)

Admissions is fully test optional; those who don’t send scores are still eligible for Honors Programs, scholarships, and any major. They’ll superscore both the SAT and ACT if sent, and admissions will counsel students if they aren’t sure if they should send in scores. “We’re not super selective. We work well with students who aren’t your traditional A student or who needs more hands-on.” They have a 15-to-finish initiative: they work with students to take at least that many credits per semester so they’re on track to graduate. “But it’s not just random credits. We have advisors who make sure they are taking the RIGHT 15 credits.”

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UNC – Charlotte

UNC-Charlotte (visited 3/19/18)

UNCC 10A fun fact from the info session: there are 16 state institutions in NC, each with a specific designation. UNC-C is the Urban Research school. Opening in 1965, this is the fasting growing campus: 22 new buildings have gone up in the last 7 years. It’s an attractive, easy-to-navigate campus (complete with a botanical garden!) with top-notch technology. This is also a fairly diverse campus with 40% of students self-reporting as underrepresented. Most students do come from North Carolina. Surprisingly, they have a slightly higher male population than female which may stem from their strong engineering program.

UNCC creekFor students who want a large-ish school (24,000 undergraduates) with a fairly strong athletic culture but also good academics, this is a good choice. There is going to be plenty for students to choose from on campus, in and out of the classroom. “Game days get crazy,” said one students. Another agreed: “Game days are really fun!” with tailgating, marching bands, drum lines, and dance groups. Marching band is open to anyone who plays an instrument. Clubs and sports at all levels are plentiful. There is a Greek presence, but fewer than 10% of the students tend to join.

UNCC 4Campus is located 9 miles north of the center of Charlotte, the largest metro in the Carolinas. A light-rail station opened on campus the day before I visited; students can ride for free with their ID. The CATS buses and the Airport Sprinter are also free for students. Cars are allowed on campus for all students; parking decks are “in close proximity to the residents halls so you aren’t parking on one side of campus and sleeping on the other.”

UNCC dormsStudents are not required to live on campus, but they strongly recommend that freshmen do: “There is a strong correlation between living on campus and having a higher GPA.” They don’t technically guarantee housing, but they’ve never been in a position where someone wanted to live here but couldn’t be accommodated. About 80% of freshmen live on campus; 2/3 of students live “on campus or within walking distance,” according to the rep. There are many apartments across the street – it’s technically off campus and there are shuttles, but they can walk. Housing applications are not complete without the deposit (currently $200); some students have lost their spots because they didn’t deposit.

UNCC 3There are 7 academic colleges with 139 majors:

  • The most competitive (those with higher admissions criteria) include: Business, Engineering, Computing and Informatics, and Nursing.
  • University College is for students who come in Undeclared. If a student indicates a competitive major on the application but isn’t qualified, admissions will change that to Undeclared and will assess the application that way.
  • UNCC 8Seminars, taught by alumni or community members working in the field, are offered in all areas to talk about tracks within the schools. Students have to attend this before declaring a major. Students who come in with a declared major must take the Intro class in that field.
  • Some majors worth noting include:

UNCC medicinal garden“You will experience large classes here, but they’re the early ones.” The average class has 35 students; the tour guide’s largest class had 300 (Intro to Psych) and smallest was 10 (Civil Procedure). “It falls on you to build the relationships. Showing up to class regularly and going to office hours go a long way.” They offer Supplemental Instruction which is like a mix of discussion groups and Group Tutoring. They may reteach some class material but will also have time to practice skills, etc.

UNCC 12UNC-C requires that an application file be complete by the stated deadline, including all supplemental materials such as transcripts and test scores. Students must plan ahead if they want to apply; hitting the submit button the application at 11:58pm on the day it’s due will not meet their deadline. If anything is missing for Early Action, they automatically default it to Regular Decision and the student will not get a decision until March. However, many of the “higher volume scholarships” require that students meet the 11/1 deadline (or whatever the Early deadline is for the year if that changes!)

UNCC libraryAs per NC policy, students must have 4 units of English and Math (Algebra 1 & 2, Geo, and an advanced level math that requires Alg2 as a pre-req. Stats would count; business math would not), 3 science (bio, physical, lab), 2 of history, and 2 of the same foreign language. Most admitted freshmen take more than this. “Your senior year should be a full course-load: it should look pretty much the same as the rest of your years.”

UNCC shuttleThere are a couple special scholarship opportunities:

  • Levine Scholars: 20 students get selected annually for this 4-year program including study abroad, summer experiences, and community service. Studentsust be nominated by a HS counselor by October.
  • University Honors Program is the umbrella program with 28 department or school-specific honors programs. Certain scholarships are available to students within the UHP:

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