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Eastern Michigan University

Eastern Michigan University (visited 11/20/19)

EMU YouareWelcome

The massive “You Are Welcome Here” sign; there are other versions of this around campus

Few schools have surprised me as much as EMU did. Although this may feel like it gets lost in UMich’s shadow (they’re only about 20 minutes from Ann Arbor), this vibrant, attractive campus offers students a huge array of academic, athletic, and social opportunities at an amazing price point – and it’s been named as “A Best Campus in the Midwest” for 17 years running by Princeton Review. It’s also one of the most diverse campuses I’ve seen: 1/3 of students self-identify as domestic students of color; many students were wearing hijb; students come from all 50 states and 83 countries; 48% are Pell recipients; and 25% are First-Gen students.

EMU CommonI would absolutely recommend this college to students: it’s accessible (physically, financially, and academically); it has a great vibe; and it has all the academic and social options/ opportunities of a larger school without the crazy cut-throat feeling at some places. “I love the eclectic mix of students here. You learn so much because there are a lot of perspectives,” said one of the tour guides.

EMU student Center

The student center and part of the pond.

One of the most impressive about the college is their cost: starting in 2016, they stopped charging additional tuition for out-of-state students; I’ve seen other colleges provide scholarships to qualified students that can bring the cost down to in-state tuition, but not just a flat price at a state school. The total Cost of Attendance is just under $25,000 for students living on campus! That’s almost unheard of. They base tuition on 26 credit hours per year; it could go up a bit for more credits (that is a little unusual; traditional credit load is 30 per year). On top of that, they provide scholarships (students may qualify for more than one but may only receive one) such as:

  • EMU 54Ward Graduation Scholarship: Students with a 3.0 GPA and a 1030 SAT/20 ACT can apply for this; after successfully completing the first 2 years and paying fixed-rate tuition, EMU will pay the tuition for years 3 and 4. Students must live on campus all 4 years to get this scholarship. They must complete 30 credits a year (aka be on track to graduate on time) and keep a 2.0 GPA while at EMU.
  • The Presidential Scholarship is the only competition-based scholarship with applications due by 11/1. Students need a 3.5+GPA and 25+ACT, must write an additional essay, and interview. Usually about 20 students are selected a year for this.
  • Emerald Scholarships are worth up to $8,000 per year depending on grades and scores.

EMU 3For admissions purposes, the lowest GPA they’ll accept is a 2.0 but “we’re on a sliding scale,” said the rep. “If you have a 2.0, you’ll need a higher test score.” However, they’re still a selective school with under a 50% acceptance rate.

Campus is impressive; while there are still a few buildings with utilitarian 1970s architecture, much of it is updated and attractive. Founded in 1849 as a teachers college (the first in Michigan and the first outside of the original 13 colonies), now it offers over 200 majors. 88% of classes have 35 or fewer students. Interesting things about their programs:

  • EMU elem sci class

    Elementary Science Education classroom

    They have an Elementary Science Education classroom! Students get a feel for what it’s like and they teach real lessons in the community. “It gets them all geeked up. It’s the least antiseptic science class you’ll ever see because we have all the kid stuff,” said the professor we spoke to in the classroom. She’s was incredibly engaging! “We teach them a lot of fun stuff about how we eat – chocolate, spice, etc. Even Chili Day to learn how it affects the body.”

  • “The Rocks in the science building get moved around. We don’t know how,” said one of the tour guides. There are astronomy classes and $5 planetarium shows on Tuesday and Thursday. There’s a specialized Science Writing Center.
  • EMU sci rocks

    The Science Department rocks

    Within the School of Engineering &Tech:

    • Visual and Built Environments department which houses Construction Management, Fashion Marketing Innovation, and Simulation/Animation/Gaming majors, among others.
    • Tech & Professional Services houses Hotel Management (the university owns a hotel), Paralegal, Aviation Flight Management and Management Technology.
  • They have some strong interdisciplinary programs including Data Science & AnalyticsChildren’s Lit and Drama/Theater, EnviSci and Society, and Africology and African-American Studies.
  • They have multiple specialized science programs including Fermentation Science (in Chemistry) and Science Literacy (specialized for different science majors).

EMU project centerThey have a Project Center (like a writing center) in library where students can get help for all types of projects including how to put together presentations. Students can get prizes for studying: they check into study centers, writing center, the library, etc. They’ll actually have areas where people will check to see if they’re on social media – “3 strikes and you’re out for the day! You have to give up your study carrel.”

EMU fountain 1About 5,000 students live on campus; about 2/3 of first-years and almost 25% of all undergrads live on campus. There are a lot of off-campus housing options for students who want to move off; the tour guides said that housing was fairly easy to come by. They do encourage people to stay on campus by providing housing stipends for living in the traditional dorms (not the campus apartments).

EMU quad 1Campus life is active. There are movies shown every Friday, they offer great trips like to Zoo Lights, there’s Greek life, and athletics keep athletes and fans busy. They’re NCAA DI except for football which is NAIA.

We got to eat lunch with our tour guides as part of the tour (it was optional – it was placed on purpose at the end if people had to leave, but we stuck around). This was smart on EMU’s part! The food was good, although it was fairly standard dining hall fare. There were enough options to satisfy different dietary styles. This particular dining hall was a bit on the small side for a university this size; it was busy but never packed during our time there (at peak lunch times). There are plenty of other options, as well.

© 2019

Hollins College

Hollins College (visited 11/2/16)

hollins-4

One of the Academic Buildings

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

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

hollins-indoor-ring

The indoor rink during one of the lessons

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

hollins-horse-fields-4

Some of the outdoor areas for the equestrian programs

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

Beyond the Equestrian program, things that differentiate Hollins include:

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

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

hollins-libraryA few other academic programs worth mentioning include:

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

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

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

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

hollins-barn-dogs

Some of the dogs at the barn

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

hollins-mt-tinker

Tinker Mountain from the Library

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

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

© 2016

Chapman University

Chapman University (Information Session/Lunch, 9/26/16)

I haven’t yet had the pleasure of visiting Chapman, located in Orange Country, California. However, they hosted a lunch in DC last week; in attendance was an admissions rep and 5 or 6 recent alumni residing in the DMV area. I sat across from one (class of 2015) and 2 seats down from another (class of 2013). After a brief update from the Rep on programs and new things on campus, we had the rest of lunch to speak with alumni. This was a fabulous way to get to know about the feel of the school and some of the programs.

I was impressed that the Admissions office could send a blanket invitation to about 50 alumni in the DC area inviting them to lunch in exchange for talking to us. They did not screen the people who came; they trusted that they were excited about their experiences. They were right. The alumni couldn’t say enough about Chapman. They were articulate, excited, happily employed – and they say they’re the rule, not the exception. The woman across from me had been accepted into many of the UCs but chose Chapman. “It was absolutely the best choice. I was able to do so much there that I couldn’t have done other places. For examples, I had an idea for a conference, went to people, pitched it, and it happened. That’s what makes Chapman unique. I could plan, run, and budget a program. This isn’t unusual. Students do it all the time.”

She was also a First-Gen student so I asked her about support systems. “It’s there. It’s REALLY there. I had people reaching out to me all the time. However, I was not far from my family, I feel like I had a lot of support and knew how to run with things. I didn’t take advantage of these things, but in some ways, it was comforting to know it was there if I did need it. I finally reached out to them, told them I was doing great, and said that they could take me off the list so they could focus their energy on other students who might need the help more than I did.”

The Honors Program is a minor and takes an interdisciplinary approach. “That was the coolest part for me,” said the alum sitting a couple seats down. They have AMAZING minors (in addition to a lot of usual, more traditional ones) such as Holocaust History, Organismal Biology, Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual Studies, and Law/Justice/Social Control.

Updates on programs, buildings, and academics include:

Dodge College of Film and Media Arts is one of the best in the country. Most of the programs in this college are BFAs, including Screen Acting, Screenwriting, Creative Producing, and Television Writing and Production. Film Production is their most competitive major with a 5-10% acceptance rate (Compared to about a 51% acceptance rate for other programs. Students should put in a second choice, but know that there is rarely a space to transfer in.

Chapman has 6500 undergraduates. This year, they have 100 more freshman than anticipated, so there are going to be some more students in triples. They guarantee first year housing but not past that. Generally, though, people who want to stay, can. They’re located in a residential area: there are lots of nearby houses and apartments to rent within a 5-10 minute walk. Usually, they learned about places through older friends already off campus. Both of the alumni had lived off campus and never had a problem finding a place. One of them, as a senior, lived closer to her classes than she did in the dorms.

Average GPA of accepted students is 3.76. They look at 10th and 11th grade classes plus first semester of 12th grade if the student applies Regular Decision. They recalculate GPA based on Core Classes (including religion if it’s required at the high school) plus any classes related to the major. They’ll add weight to IB and AP classes; if the high school does not offer these, they’ll add weight to honors classes. Average test scores are 1880 (Old SAT) and 28 ACT; they superscore SAT but not ACT.

© 2016

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