campus encounters

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Widener University

Widener signWidener University (visited 11/20/15)

(Click HERE to see information from my 2nd visit on 3/25/19)

~Widener 1Widener is a gem hidden in plain sight. Located blocks off of Route 95 in Chester, this is a surprisingly attractive campus with modern buildings and lots of green space. Students are energetic and seem to enjoy being together. Campus had a vibrant feel even at 8:30 am when I arrived on campus: people were out and about, congregating in the student center, and otherwise utilizing spaces around campus. Even the security guard helping visiting counselors with parking was smiling and talkative. I got the feeling that people really wanted to be here.

Widener NursingOne of my former students is currently a freshman in the 3+3 Physical Therapy Guaranteed-Seat program (they also have 4+3 Guaranteed Seat and the traditional 4+3 route) and couldn’t be happier. She raves about the activities on campus ranging from sports to clubs to the typical weekend events. Off-campus, there’s a mall 1 exit down the highway and plenty of other things around town. “Shuttles and public transportation are super easy to use, and my roommate also has a car.” Parking is generally pretty easy, but can be more difficult during the school day because of the number of commuters (about 20% of students), “but after about 2pm and on weekends, there’s never a problem.”

~Widener dorm quad

The Freshman dorm quad: “which is weird since it has 6 buildings,” said our guide.

They’ve brought in their largest freshman class this year of almost 850 students but will probably try to keep this closer to 800 for the next couple years. Freshmen and sophomores are expected to live on campus (unless they’re living at home). Housing is guaranteed for four years; juniors and seniors can move off only but about 20% end up leaving. Dorms generally get good reviews from students. “My room this year is pretty small, but I’m in the dorm with the most kids in it, so rooms are smaller. It’s still livable, though, and the dorm I’m going into next year is AMAZING,” said one student. Options include all the usual styles: traditional, suites, apartments, and Greek housing.

~Widener mascot 2

The Mascot Statue (the male lion is to the right). The baby’s name is Legacy.

Greek life is fairly popular here as are varsity sports, but “there’s no pressure to join. There are lots of options. Everyone finds their own niche.” Rush happens in the spring because students need a 2.5 GPA to qualify; athletes also need to maintain a 2.5 GPA to remain eligible to play. Widener changed their mascot to the Pride Pack recently (the tour guides couldn’t remember exactly, but said within the last 10 years or so).

~Widener library 2

Library

Campus is set up well and with the students in mind. The commuters have a large lounge in the student center with lockers. The library has a lounge on the 2nd floor with a fridge and microwave for students; “this is really convenient for commuters and during exams when you don’t necessary want to leave to go eat.” There’s an interfaith chapel located right in the student center, integrating it into the rest of student activities.

~Widener benchThe largest classes are capped at 60 (the capacity of the largest lecture hall on campus) and are usually for introductory engineering and nursing classes. Most of the Gen Ed classes are capped around 30. The 2 tour guides’ smallest classes were both 12 (Criminal Justice and Public Speaking).

Widener engo car

Student-built in the Engineering department

The engineering department is extensive for a school this size, offering Chemical, Civil, Mechanical, Electrical, and Biomedical degrees. Dual degrees are offered, combining biomedical with chemical, electrical, and mechanical engineering; chemical engineering and chemistry; or electrical or mechanical engineering and physics.

Widener communications bldg

Communications Building

Almost all majors require some sort of internship, co-op, or clinical hours. With downtown Philadelphia less than 20 minutes away, there’s no shortage of opportunities, but students don’t necessarily even have to leave campus: for example, there’s a Marriott-owned Restaurant on campus that is run by the Hospitality Management students.

The on-campus observatory includes a telescope that runs through the science building is 5 stories tall and structured in such a way that it never actually touches the floor – there’s a minimum of a couple inches all around it: “if the building happened to fall, the telescope would still be structurally intact.” They open this to students and the public for sessions run by a professor with student help.

~Widener Old Main 2

Memorial Field and Old Main

The large quad is called Memorial Field (and the original building sits on one side). The Eagles used to practice here, 6 US Presidents have walked across it, and the tour guide said that the movie Invincible was filmed here, but according to IMDB, “The summer training camp scenes were filmed at Central High School in North Philadelphia. The surrounding buildings and field were fixed up to give the appearance of the Eagles real training camp location in 1976, Widener University” (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0445990/?ref_=nv_sr_1) … you can decide which source you believe!

© 2015

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Milwaukee School of Engineering

Milwaukee School of Engineering (visited 4/14/15)

MSOE walkway

Entry into the quad area. Bikes are big on campus .

I didn’t even know this school existed; I had a couple free hours before another college tour in Milwaukee and spent it walking around the city to get a sense of the place. I saw on a tourist map that I was only a couple blocks from MSOE so I headed over there. The school surprised me in a good way!

MSOE mapThis is a small school of about 2,600 undergrads (not surprisingly, males outnumber females 3-to-1) allowing for a lot of hands-on opportunities for students. One student I spoke to chose MSOE specifically for this reason. “I did not want to be sitting in a large lecture hall. I knew I’d get a better education here than some of the bigger name schools because I can apply what I’m learning and ask questions.” His classes are small: his largest had 28 students; the smallest had 4. He absolutely loves it here. “I’m really well prepared.”

MSOE field and dorm

The outdoor athletic field and dorms in the background.

Incorporated into the city, MSOE is a small, manageable campus within walking distance of many things and accessible to many more through the city’s public transportation. It’s close to downtown but not right in the middle of the busiest part. Freshmen and Sophomores must live on campus unless they come from within 50 miles of campus; about 80% live on campus. Options range from traditional rooms to suites to apartments (those are reserved for juniors, seniors, and international students). The new tower with apartments has brought up the total undergrad residential percentage to about 35%. For the upperclassmen who move off, it’s very easy to find close, affordable housing in the city.

MSOE stud cntr int

The top floor of the student center building.

Food is “ok . . . it’s campus food,” said one student. You aren’t going to go hungry, and if you get bored, you have the whole city at your disposal. The hours aren’t always great. “Dinner is over at 6 or 6:30” but the late-night place is open until 11 Sunday to Thursday. They do offer commuter plans as well.

Despite the school’s name, students can major in more than just Engineering although that is their “flagship.”

  • MSOE nursing

    Nursing Department

    There is a good Nursing program that boasts a 97% placement rate of their graduates.

  • The Business school offers majors in Management, International Business, Management Information Systems, and Technical Communications.
  • The Math department offers both Actuarial Science and Operations Management.
  • Engineering offers degrees in Architectural, Biomedical, BioMolecular, Civil, Computer, Construction, Electrical, Industrial, Mechanical, and Software.
    • Their Mechanical Engineering program has the most students (126) and ranks in the top 10 in the country.
  • MINORS: Students can minor in 7 areas: Business Management, Chemistry, German Studies, Marketing and Entrepreneurship, Math, Physics, Psychology, and Technical Communication
MSOE Engo Bldg

Engineering Building

One of the students I talked to is a senior Civil Engineering major. “It’s pretty new. I was one of the first classes, so I feel like I get to help shape it.” He’s an active member of the American Society of Civil Engineers and has competed in Steel Bridge and Concrete Canoe competitions against places like Notre Dame, Purdue, and Indiana. He’s completed a Senior Design project which is an applied project to solve a problem. All students present their work to professionals at the end. He’s a structural specialist, but his senior project wasn’t specifically on that. He would like to see this change in the future; right now, they bound a bit by the project availability, but he did say that it was good to expand out a little bit and gain that experience in other areas of civil engineering. He’s completing a 5-Year freshman-to-MSE program. Students who have a minimum GPA can complete their 5th year for free.

MSOE museum ceilin

The ceiling of the museum building

I’m impressed with the study abroad opportunities. I think an advantage to going to school at a specialized university like this is that they create opportunities for students that align with what they need for graduation. MSOE has agreements with Lille Catholic University in France, Czech Technical University, Florence University of the Arts, Lubeck University of Applied Science in Germany, and Manipal Institute of Technology in India. They also have a travel-study course on Doing Business with China.

Admissions is moderately selective. Although Engineering and Math students need a minimum GPA of 3.0 (nursing requires a 2.75), typical admitted students have about a 3.65. Engineering and Nursing students need at least a 22 composite ACT (Engineers need a 24 math sub-score). Math majors need a 24 composite and 26 math sub-score on the ACT. All students need to have completed pre-calc in high school. They will grant credit for almost all AP classes with a 4 or 5; only a couple areas will grant credit for a 3.

MSOE LibraryI asked a student whether people stuck around campus or went downtown for fun. “Depends on their age . . . I’ll leave it at that.” One of the favorite campus traditions is St. Patrick’s week — apparently he’s the patron saint of engineers. Who knew? This is a big deal in the city as well as on campus. MSOE has parties, students dress up, some professors have their ties cut, classes sometimes get canceled, etc. Quiz Bowl is another event that the students mentioned as an activity they look forward to.

There are things to do on campus. Sports are popular, and they have a large rec facility which includes a hockey rink. Some of their more unusual sports offerings are crew (DIII – “It’s a good team,” said one of the students), fencing, judo, cheerleading, badminton, rugby, and weightlifting (all club). Greek life is fairly small in terms of numbers of students who affiliate, but they do run several social events around campus. There’s an active performing arts contingent on campus, as well.

(c) 2015

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