Keuka College (visited 3/6/20)
Keuka has some potential, but they haven’t utilized much of it. The people are wonderful, and the students seem content there, but this will be a very hard sell for students coming from a distance. The college sits on about 1300 feet of Keuka Lake waterfront, but they don’t seem to have made use of their location. Other than a small boathouse (students can use canoes, paddleboards, etc), they haven’t capitalized on the lake: they could’ve done quite a bit with a sailing or crew team, offered specialized marine ecology/biology programs, or somehow set up other unique programs that would be draws to the school. I did find, after some poking around on their website, that they have a Center for Aquatic Research, but can’t find any info on what they do other than some water quality tests. It would’ve been great to hear more about that during my visit if that’s really a thing since that could be a selling point for students interested in ecology or environmental science.
The college owns a couple historic buildings: the main building is beautiful, and the chapel that overlooks the lake may be the focal point of campus. (One of the school symbols/traditions is the acorn. Students get one when they arrive to represent their growth into oak trees that line the path to the chapel where graduation is held). However, most of the buildings on this small, walkable campus feel dated and utilitarian. I definitely felt this in the library. It would be great if the college had a bit more money to update them. I asked the rep (a recent alum) what she thought the best change was on campus during her time there: “They built Keuka Commons across the street. It was really needed. The students needed more space. It has a café, classrooms, and study rooms.” I was more impressed with this building, and hopefully the school will continue to upgrade their facilities.
That all being said, they do run a special program called Field Period: this is what they’re known for and why several people choose to attend Keuka. Students must complete a 120+ hour internship each year. Students get right into classrooms, businesses, industries, etc to see if that’s the career they’d like. “They get experience early which gives them a chance to change majors if needed.” They have most of January off; almost all students complete their internship then or over the summer. Some classes have trips during January and summer where they can get some of the hours in. I asked about how students find these placements: “It’s on them to network. It’s about who they know or reaching out to professors. We also have the Field Period/internship office who will help match them up, but they have to initiate those conversations.” I was a little disappointed to hear that this wasn’t more developed; I can see this being very difficult for first-year students, but apparently whatever they’re doing works since the students are getting the requirement completed. The rep I spoke to graduated from Keuka in 2018; she did one of her experiences in Admissions and ended up loving it, leading to this job.
Class size is also a draw; students who do well with hands-on learning, small class discussion, and access to professors will do well here. My tour guide’s largest and smallest classes had 25 and 8 students. I asked the rep what her favorite class had been: “Media Writing: I learned that I loved to write! We utilized real world events and I became co-editor of newspaper in junior year.”
For a school this size, they do run a few programs I didn’t expect. Their top programs are:
Occupational Therapy is Direct Entry; students complete both their undergrade and a 1-year masters program at Keuka so they don’t have to transfer. For admissions purposes, students need an 85 average overall and minimum 85 in math and science classes. They only have 65 seats, but will accept basically anyone who is qualified, so they recommend that students deposit as soon as they get acceptances to hold their seat. This is refundable before 5/1 if they change their minds. The program has some great classroom and lab/practicum spaces on campus! All students also have to live for a week with some issue or disability (it could be even as simple as a broken leg) to understand the needs of different people coming into the clinic.
- Nursing is technically a 1+2+1 dual degree program with Finger Lakes Community College in Geneva (about 45 minutes away). Students study at Keuka for their 1st and 4th years; they take their classes/clinicals at FLCC during the 2nd and 3rd years (they live at Keuka all 4 years and get bussed up). After the 3rd year, they sit for the NCLEX and get the AAS degree; they get the BS after the 4th There are only 20 seats so this is the most competitive program at the college. Applicants need at least an 80 average overall and at least an 80 each in Bio and Chem. Again, they encourage students to deposit upon acceptance to save the spot in the program (and this is also refundable before 5/1 if they change their minds). They usually fill the full 20-student cohort.
- Business options include Management (including 3+1 Masters and Organizational Management options), Marketing, and Accounting. They offer minors in Sports Management and Human Resource Management.
- Education including a minor in Teaching English Abroad
- ASL and ASL-English Interpreting
- E-Sports Management is the newest major to be added and should be fully running in 2020-21.
E-Sports is the largest sport on campus with about 70 people involved. Keuka is DIII and is in the process of changing conferences so they’ll be playing against more local teams. They have Dance and Step-up teams on campus, and they have the Red Barn Theater (literally an old converted barn). They have a ropes course on campus.
It would be helpful for students to have cars here. Keuka is located in a really rural area, and this is a small campus so students have to make their own fun. “There are definitely some students who transfer out because it’s too small,” said the tour guide, “but a lot of others who like this atmosphere. You have to know what you’re getting into. If this is your thing, you’re going to do great here!” The tour guide said that there are a lot of activities on campus (although I didn’t seen many things advertised, but that could’ve been the time of year, as well). Students can go out on the lake in school-owned kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards. Students are expected to live on campus. Dorms are functional (cool fact – the doors of the dorm I saw were chalk boards so you can write on them!) and the tour guide likes the food. “It’s fairly typical college food; they’re cooking for the masses, but they’re doing a good job with that.”
The hamlet of Keuka Park has just over 1,000 year-round residents (which means that isn’t big enough to be considered a full town!). Seneca Farms, about 2 miles up the road, is a well-loved spot for fried chicken and ice cream and is the go-to place to get off campus. Penn Yan is the closest town, about 4-5 miles up the road, but “the closest large towns are Geneva and Canandaigua, and you’d need to go there to find much of anything to do,” said the tour guide. Rochester (a little over an hour) or Syracuse (about an hour and a half) are the closest cities.
There are a couple traditions that the tour guide shared with me that she liked:
- Seniors ring the bell in the Bell Tower on 100-Nights
- First-years are given acorns “to represent the growth we’ll have during our time here. By the time we leave, we’re the oak trees that line the path to the Chapel where graduation is held.”
During admissions, students with an 80 average or higher automatically qualify for a scholarship; with a 90+ average, the scholarship will basically cut the tuition cost in half, making this an affordable option for students who are looking for this type of environment.
For a school this size, they’re doing well with some aspects of diversity: “We have students from all sorts of backgrounds,” said the rep, although they have a ways to go to increase the numbers. They’re also about ¾ female right now, so they need to work on attracting and retaining males. “We support people and what they believe or don’t believe in.” There’s a Center for Spiritual Life and an LGBTQ Center bother of which run different programs. “I think they make people feel safe.” Keuka has a sister school in Vietnam for business program: unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to go both ways right now: “We usually don’t send students there; the Vietnamese students come here.”