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American International College

American International College (visited 5/29/19)

AIC quad 2

The quad

AIC has a small campus along a couple main roads near downtown Springfield. The brick buildings are in decent shape; most are clearly not new – and while not rundown, some look like they could use a bit of updating. However, there is an attractive main quad area, and while there, it’s easy to forget that there are main streets on the other side of the buildings. There are also several new buildings around campus, including an incredible Exercise Science building located across the street. This houses many of the OT and PT classes, a Human Performance Lab, and more.

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The new exercise science building

The admissions rep I spoke with is a fairly recent alum; the best change she’s seen since coming here is the school’s rebrand including renovations of buildings. “It’s like 2 different schools. They’ve redone the library and put up the brand new Exercise Science building. That’s about when they overhauled Student Life, too. That was much needed. “Now there are Thursday movies, nighttime breakfasts, and even a pub in basement of Dining Commons.” They expanded the departments and hired more people to help the students. The Model Congress is housed under that, as well – it’s the oldest running one in the country!”

AIC 3Most colleges will tell you that they have a strong sense of community and family, but few will give examples. “The President will come to the quad and play football with students. He’s on a first-name basis with them. You learn everyone here from the professors to the dining hall staff,” said my tour guide. There are only 1400 undergraduates, but with an additional 2400 graduate students, it feels a little bigger. This is great for students who are looking for more individual attention but want the feel of a slightly larger university.

AIC mascot

Th mascot

School spirit is huge, and not just for athletics although they do have strong sports, competing in the DII division (except men’s ice hockey which is DI). Student Productions are huge including fashion shows (just had their 50th annual show) and theater production. The community comes to them, and the campus allows community members to use the library. “Some areas like residential units might be gated, but otherwise, we try to be good neighbors. Campus is open.” Students spend a lot of time in the community, as well, including tutoring at the local school and working at the MLK Center next door.

AIC flag roomCampus diversity is something to brag about; AIC was founded to educate the immigrant population in Springfield and they were the first (traditionally male) university in New England to admit women in the 1890s, less than 10 years after its founding. They still have a high international population with about 50 countries represented at any given time and 72 flags in the Flag Room representing all the graduates’ home countries. However, they don’t usually recruit abroad much. “It’s not intentional; it just naturally happens. People are just attracted here,” said the admissions rep. In terms of English proficiency, they look for a score of 80 on the TOEFL, but this will often be waived if they’ve graduated from an English-speaking high school.

AIC patioBeyond international diversity, there was an initiative a couple years ago to increase the LGBTQ community. They started hosting events such as an annual drag show and Breaking the Silence dinner. Politically, the campus leans a little more liberal (“This is Massachusetts!”) but there’s a variety of opinions on campus. Religion isn’t a big deal. The admissions rep wears a hijb. “I’m very clearly Muslim, and I’ve never felt like it was an issue or I didn’t have a space here.”

AIC rock

The Rock to advertise events

On the whole, AIC is a good starting point for students who need a bit of maturing. Students have to live on campus with a full meal plan for the first two years unless they live within 30 miles (or are returning students over the age of 24). There are a couple dorms on the main part of campus. First year females can choose to live in an all-female dorm (Pouch) that houses all level of students including grad students, or they can go to an all freshman dorm (coed by floor). Many of the dorms are on the other side of campus, about a 10 minute walk if they don’t take the shuttle.

AIC dorms

Some of the dorms on the main part of campus

They’ve adjusted their core curriculum to include APEX, The AIC Plan for Excellence. Instead of a traditional First Year Experience, they’ve expanded the program to stretch over a student’s four years. It covers topics ranging from adjusting to college and study skills (first year) to “what’s next?” in senior year. In between they cover areas such as cultural competency and Career Development. Part of this is that all students have to complete an internship. “We’ve seen an increase in retention because of the program,” said the rep.

AIC art galleryFor students who need it, Learning Support is available. Students have the same advisor for at least 2 years. Students have their first semester schedules built for them but then taught how to do it themselves. If they’re athletes, they also have an athletic advisor who can help make sure they’re on track. Coaches stay on top of them and all athletes attend study hall. Student athletes get a lot of support to make sure they’re staying on top of things. “There’s a 3.0 Club to celebrate when they do what they need to,” said the rep. All students will get 5 week warnings if they are falling through the cracks. If they need weekly check-ins, it’s with a grad student.

AIC nursing 2

One of the infant simulation mannequins in the nursing labs

I was here after graduation but still saw several students around. My tour guide said this was normal since a lot of students on the fast-track or doing graduate work were taking summer classes or doing research. A few of the Health Sciences are direct-entry (PT to DPT and OT to MSOT). Their entire School of Education is basically housed in the graduate program, although they offer an education minor and a 4+1 program. They offer a 4+1 MBA as well as an Accounting and Taxation MSAT. They offer a couple unusual minors such as Fraud and Financial Crimes and Advocacy for Social Change.

My tour guide would like to see additional money spent on the teaching staff, especially in the Business, Arts, and Sciences division. “There are a lot of adjuncts, so seeing more full-time staff to develop the programs to have a more diverse program and curriculum would be really cool!” Her favorite class was Cultivating Creativity, offered jointly through the Communications and Visual Arts department. “It’s like an art class taken a step further. We took a lot of field trips to the art museums downtown, and I felt like we could take risks even if we weren’t artistic.”

© 2019

University of Evansville

University of Evansville (visited 11/15/16)

evansville-walkway-2Evansville is a surprising school; on the surface, it appears to be a low-key school, but they have amazing programs ranging from DI athletics to a highly selective theater department. “You have all sorts of people here. We all fit in. If you want a close-knit feel, this is it.”

This is a traditional, residential liberal arts college with additional professional options offering over 80 majors. The university is organized into 4 schools: Liberal Arts & Sciences, Business, Engineering, and Education & Health Sciences (the only division with Grad programs). They are currently starting several new programs:

Health sciences and pre-med are strong: they boast a 100% placement rate at Med School for the last 10 years). Many allied health programs are Direct Entry either for the undergrad program or for a spot in the graduate school (as long as benchmarks are met along the way). They’ll require an interview from some applicants (it can be by phone).

  • evansville-lab-2Nursing: They want someone who is passionate about the subject AND has a minimum skill set. They take about 25 students a year.
  • Physician Assistant (started last fall): This year, they brought in 20 direct-entry freshman on the PA path who will have a spot in the grad program.
  • Physical Therapy: This is a little more competitive than Nursing: applicants must have a minimum test score to get invited to interview for Direct Entry. Those selected will earn a spot in the DPT program. Students not accepted into DE can still come, do the program, and apply to the graduate school. The program averages about 70 students per year.
  • Baccalaureate to MD: This is an accelerated program only open to IN residents.
evansville-acad-bldg

The theater building

More than 1000 students audition annually for 40 spots in Evansville’s Theater program; this number includes students interested in behind-the-scenes work (costumes, tech, etc), requiring a portfolio review/interview instead of audition. They put on a musical every fall (but it’s not a Musical Theater program) and Shakespeare every spring along with 3-4 other productions. Tech students do everything from making their own wigs and make-up to sets and ticket sales. There are several well-known alumni including Rami Malek, Ron Glass, Kelli Giddish, Kelly Preston, and Jack McBrayer.

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The main building

UE now offers a 5-part Guarantee:

  • 4-year graduation: UE will pay for additional time if students can’t graduate in time as long as they’re in good standing with the university (not failing things, have met regularly with the advisor, not changing major in senior year, etc).
  • No classes are taught by TAs.
  • Scholarship guarantee: all freshmen this year receive one. Most scholarships range from $10K-20K. Some are more (ie, National Merit finalists get full tuition).
  • Internship or Co-op experience. Co-ops are mostly offered to Engineering students (Toyota is a big place for co-ops; there’s a plant about 30 minutes up the road).
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Several engineering projects

About 2/3 of classes have 20 students or fewer; 18 is the average. The largest class (Organic Chem) has 40. Some of the students’ favorite classes have been:

  • Organic Chem (2 students chose this!): “It can be scary, but as a Pre-med, it’s applicable. The prof is one of those teachers who makes something so complicated seem so easy. He’s really personable and puts students first. He’s just awesome.”
  • Business Law: “The professor makes the class. He’s a full-time lawyer and takes real-world cases and applies them to what we’re learning. He’s also really funny.”
  • Intro to Theater and Intro to Ancient Greek Philosophy: “These are so different from my major and I get a bit of a break. I didn’t know how great the theater program was until I saw it in action. The philosophy makes me think in a way that I don’t in my math and science classes. It challenges me in a way that I’m not in math.”
  • Spanish Conversation: “We had to read, write, and speak all the time. We got to write and act out plays. We’re terrible actors, but we got to display the skills we had.”
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The fountain commemorating the basketball team that was killed in a plane crash in the ’70s

Last year, they saw a 4% increase in the freshman class with 3 enrollment records:

  • 540 new freshman including an increase of international students (71 started this fall, bringing it up to 15% of the population).
  • Domestic Diversity is up from 10% to 15%. They’ve set a new goal of 18%.
  • Retention has gone up to 89% with the class that started in fall 2015.

UE owns Harlaxton, a “castle” (Victorian Manor) located in an hour north of London. “It’s our version of Hogwarts,” one student said. “Do you like Hogwarts? How about Downton Abbey? No? Then you can’t go.” Almost 60% of undergrads will study there, either for a 5-week summer program or a full semester, with150-160 attending per semester including 16 senior nursing students doing clinical rotations. To be eligible, students must have a 2.0 GPA after finishing 2 semesters at UE. Classes are not held on Fridays to encourage travel. Some trips are built in, and others are offered at a reasonable cost. Everyone takes a British Studies class taught by a British UE faculty member. There’s no difference in cost to study there (but students pay airfare and travel within Europe that they choose to do); all financial aid and scholarships get applied.

evansville-chapel-1We asked students what surprised them about the university. They said:

  • How friendly everyone was. People would smile and say hi, ask how you were and meant it, and asked if you needed help.
  • How challenging the academics were.
  • How different college is from high school. You don’t see the same people all the time. You can find your niche and spend time there.
  • How easy it is to get connected and meet people.
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The opening basketball game of the season; the stands get increasingly full as the season goes on. 

This is one of the smallest DI schools in the country. Basketball and soccer pull in a lot of fans. They’re starting Track and Field (indoor and outdoor) this coming year; the coach they have on board was asked to coach the High Jump at the Olympics.

About 30% of students go Greek, and those tend to join a lot of other activities. They plan a lot of events open to everyone including philanthropic events. “There are lots of events to raise money” such as Friday Night Live, Watermelon Bust, and cook-outs.

evansville-pep-band

The pep band at the game

Some favorite traditions include:

  • Road Trip: “I love meeting new people.”
  • Freshman orientation and being a leader: “you get close to other leaders and get to meet the freshman before other people which is cool – and going through orientation with them and helping them deal with things and seeing campus again through their eyes is great.”
  • “Basketball season!”
  • Fall Festival: This is the 2nd largest street festival in the nation after Mardi Gras in New Orleans.

evansville-4Evansville itself offers a lot; it’s a decent sized city with a population of 120,000 (300,000 in the metro area). Everything is close; students don’t need cars: There are bike-shares, buses, shuttles, and friends with cars.

© 2016

St. Louis University

SAINT LOUIS UNIVERSITY (visited 4/12/13)

SLU 1 SLU (pronounced “slew”) impressed me immediately with the vibrant atmosphere and the gorgeous campus. Although it was a cloudy, chilly day, students were out in booths selling cupcakes, doing martial arts, etc. We asked a student for help getting to the admissions office, and she was perky, helpful, and just plain nice. It’s true what they say about getting an immediate gut reaction to a school; SLU delivers.

SLU 6SLU is clearly doing something right since they have an 88% retention rate. Our tour guide was one of the best couple tour guides I’ve ever had. Completely excited, passionate, and knowledgeable about the school, he described it as one that lets students discover and explore passions. There’s very little he doesn’t like here; the only thing he thinks he would like to change is making Atlas Week (when the school brings in a ton of speakers) longer. He is “still deciding” (aka what SLU calls “undeclared,” and is the most popular “major” for freshmen). He works closely with advisors dedicated to students who are still figuring out what they want to do.

SLU 7

The aviation building.

SLU works to expand academic offerings and have recently added several new programs to keep up with student interests and job projections. They’re very proud of their extensive list of “firsts”: the first college west of the Mississippi, America’s first federally licensed school of aviation in 1927, the first US university with its own campus in Europe, and more. Aviation and Aeronautics (Flight Science, aviation management, and engineering) are strong here. Health Sciences (including Investigative and Medical Sciences, Radiation Therapy, and Nuclear Medicine Technology) and Engineering (including Engineering Physics) are also popular. The most recent additions are Public Health, Health Information ManagementAfrican-American Studies, and Anthropology. All majors are direct-entry so students can start their major as early as freshman year. However, students who want to major in Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, or Nursing must begin as freshman if they want to graduate on time, and they must complete the entire major at SLU. Students interested in these majors must apply by 12/1 because they tend to fill up; if students are unsure about majoring in one of these areas, they recommend listing it as the intended major on the application; switching out is easy but students cannot transfer in.

SLU 5

One of the many statues around campus.

Applying is easy; SLU will take either the Common App or the school-based app, and there’s no application fee. They recommend an interview, a resume, and letters of rec. They will not super-score either the SAT or ACT, but will take highest composite. They start accepting apps on September 1 and make decisions on a rolling basis, but they set a priority deadline of 12/1 for scholarship consideration; they don’t guarantee consideration for scholarships after that. The Honors and Scholars deadlines vary between 12/1 and 2/1 with decisions announced by 3/1.

SLU 4

An academic building.

Their honors and scholars programs include the Cook program (students finish in three years), Accounting (a 5-year program in which students finish with a CPA license), Medical (students are guaranteed an entry interview a year before other candidates, and the MCAT score does not factor into the application), Prelaw (guaranteed entry into their law school if they maintain the minimum GPA), and Honors (students take at least 24 hours of Honors Credits, do an honors thesis project, can register for classes earlier, and get a fancier diploma).

The Carnegie Foundation has ranked SLU as a High-Research-Activity University, a testament to the level at which students get involved in their academics. Our tour guide’s classes have ranged in size from 12 (Spanish class) to 200 (Intro to Bio). There are only three lecture halls in the entire university, and they’re located under a small quad. Often the large classes of 150-200 students are introductory level, usually in the sciences; students will be assigned to smaller break-out or lab sections. The school has strong sciences and a popular pre-med track (anything “pre” is a track, not a major); students have to take those science classes here at SLU. As a side-note, SLU is rated #1 in Health Care Law, as well!

One of the Residential complexes in the middle of campus.

One of the Residential complexes in the middle of campus.

Living on campus is about the “Four-Frees: wifi, cable, laundry, and shuttle.” About 3800 students live on campus, located in the middle of St. Louis (although once you’re on campus, it’s easy to forget that you’re in a city). Freshmen and sophomores are required to live on campus unless they live with parents within a 50 mile radius. SLU offers several living options for all students. First, there are several Learning-Living Communities based on academic or extracurricular interest; the language floors require a signed contract that only that language will be used on the floor. The Griesedieck Complex, located conveniently in the middle of campus, is comprised of one 15-story building (coed by floor) flanked by two 5-story buildings (1 male, 1 female). These are traditional double-occupancy rooms with hall baths, but each room has a sink. Reinert Hall houses 400 freshmen about two blocks from campus, but rooms are bigger and it has private bathrooms. It’s also located right across the street from a Starbucks and Chipotle (a popular spot). The Upperclassman-only Marchetti building is a 12-story complex with everything from studios to two-bedroom apartments. All apartments above the first floor have balconies. No freshmen live here. The Village Apartments are probably the best, according to students. It’s mostly Juniors and Seniors with a “few lucky sophomores.” “Off-campus housing” usually means within two blocks of campus where there are plenty of apartment complexes and houses for rent; it’s very easy to find places to live, and the SLU police force (the third largest in the state!) will also patrol a couple blocks off campus. Students feel safe and will walk around campus at night without worrying.

There are extensive options of activities to keep busy on and off campus, including over 200 clubs and organizations on campus. Their DI athletics place them as the only St. Louis school in the Atlanta 10 Conference, and about 20% of students participate in Greek life with Rush happening during first semester of freshmen year. They is no Greek housing, but students can choose to live on a floor with others in their organization. The campus is located centrally in the city giving students the Fox Theater is only a block away, and students can get the “best available seat” for $20 with their ID. They’re only a couple miles from the Riverfront (the Arch) and Busch Stadium. In the other direction, they’re not far from Forest Park (which is bigger than Central Park in NY), the Science Center, Botanical Gardens, and other free things to do.

SLU 2This is the second oldest Jesuit school in the nation after Georgetown, and the small crucifixes and pictures of St. Ignatius prominently displayed around campus serve as reminders of its Jesuit identity which revolves around “men and women for others.” They pride themselves on the combination of education and service, education of the whole person, and doing things in an ethical manner. Students participate in over a million hours of service each year through a variety of organizations such as Campus Kitchen, Relay for Life, and a Business student group. Next to the beautiful campus chapel is a large apartment-style building; I asked if it was a dorm, and our tour guide told us that they were apartments for the Jesuits, many of whom teach or otherwise work at the university. This area has the largest Jesuit pop in the US.

Their mascot is a Billiken (they’re the only school in the country to have this) which is a mythical creature that originally looked a little like a Buddha combined with . . . a smurf? A goblin? It’s hard to describe. It was created in the early 1900s by an art professor and is seen as a good-luck charm or “The god of things as they ought to be.” It’s become this cute little ghostish-smurfish-impish creature.

(c) 2013

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