BELLARMINE UNIVERSITY (visit 9/16/14)
Bellarmine (pronounced “Bell-are-min”) is a medium-sized (2,500 undergrads) Catholic university in a residential neighborhood of Louisville, Kentucky. Although originally an all-male institution, they merged with the all-female Ursiline College in the 1960s. Today, the student body is almost 2/3 women, due in part to the nursing program.
Both the campus and the students were impressive. The students we spoke to were articulate and weren’t “scripted” – the spoke openly about their experiences, giving personal examples of their life on campus rather than just mindlessly spouting information given to them by the admissions office. One of our tour guides, a psych major, said that one of her favorite classes had been Intro to Acting. “If it hadn’t been for that class, I wouldn’t be here talking to you now.”
Lauren, one of the Admissions Reps, presented the info session to us (a group of counselors); she prefaced it by saying that she was going to do the presentation as she would have if we were a bunch of prospective students so we would get a sense of what our students would hear. Early in the presentation, she said, “The question you need to be asking yourself is, ‘Can you see yourself succeeding here as a student?’” which is a wonderful way for students to approach the search process.
The Catholic heritage is clearly part of the university but isn’t overbearing. Many of the values are woven into aspects of campus like the full day of service that all students do during Orientation. One of our tour guides self-identified as Catholic, the other as a non-denominational Christian. Both enjoy the feeling on campus. The religion is there for those who want it. A small campus chapel holds Catholic masses and other Christian services, none of which are mandatory. Students do have to take 2 theology classes (1 in world religions and 1 elective) during their time here, which they see as very reasonable.
Students also have to take 2 lab science classes; in addition to the bio, chem, and other more traditional classes, they can fulfill this with classes like Human Health and Disease, Astronomy, or Gross Anatomy (Bellarmine is 1 of only 8 undergraduate institutions that offer this class!). As a freshman, my tour guide had to reassemble organs in the Cadaver Lab. Bellarmine has a contract with the local zoo; the university gets the animals when they die in order to provide study opportunities for the students (including once getting a giraffe which a professor was going to use to study decomposition, until they realized that they had placed it too close to the air-vents on the roof!). One of the physics professors works with a super-collider (CERN). Upperclassmen help analyze the data.
Nursing, Clinical Lab Sciences, and Respiratory Care Therapy majors make up almost 1/3 of the student population. Nursing, a direct-entry program (assuming criteria is met), counts for about 20% of students, and students speak very highly of the program.
Not surprisingly, their Theology program is strong, as is Math (including Actuarial Science), Poli Sci, Kinesiology, Digital Arts and Technology (with an emphasis in music, art, and communications), Computer Engineering, foreign languages, and Arts Management.
One of the biggest draws for students is the interaction they have with professors. The largest classroom on campus has 70 seats; the average class size is 20. “We’re setting them up for success,” said an Admissions rep. Students do get to know professors well. In exit interviews, the vast majority say they would make the same decision to do it all over again; when asked where they would like to see money spent, many of them said they would put money towards increasing salary of professors!
All dorm rooms have AC, carpet, a microwave and fridge, and are cable-ready. About ¾ of freshmen life on campus, including in 1 of 4 learning communities: STEM, Honors, Social Engagement, and Health Sciences (called Galileo). About 50% of the entire undergrad population lives on campus. There are a lot of hills on campus – one of the students said that it’s hard to gain the Freshman 15 because of this. In fact, they also give a “hybrid tour” to prospective students using both walking and trolleys because of the hills! Freshmen can have cars on campus, but there are bike rentals and buses for people who don’t have them, so cars aren’t necessary.
Louisville one of 20 largest cities in the country. It’s been named as one of the top cities for entrepreneurship, a top food city, and a great 20-something city. There’s lots going on, but students don’t often look to Louisville for entertainment since there’s plenty to do on campus. Sports are mostly DIII except for the lacrosse team (DI). Knights Nation is a group dedicated to celebrating the Knights at different games. One well-loved tradition is wearing Halloween costumes to basketball games. There are 90+ other clubs, as well, including a breakdancing club, a Pokemon League, and a Whovian Society. The Daily Knight newsletter will announce upcoming events.
The application is free and is moving to all-online. Currently there is no Common App option. The Honors program requires a 28+ ACT and 3.4 GPA, but they are moving this year to an application-based process. Most students receive scholarships of some sort. The average merit award is around $21,000; comprehensive packages average around $29,000. They do give 5 full-tuition scholarships each year; to be considered for one of these, applicants must submit an essay by 12/1. Competitive students have a 30+ ACT or 1330 SAT and a 3.4 unweighted GPA. Faculty read and invite students to come compete for the scholarship.