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Hope College

Hope College (visited 11/11/16)

hope-signI always ask students who attend one of the “Colleges That Change Lives” just how that college changed their lives. Here’s what Hope students said:

  • It’s helped me grow in ways I can’t even describe. I joined The Pull [description later]. We practice 3 hours a day and longer on weekends. I’ve met my best friends because of it. I’ve become so much more confident in my faith, my friends, and who I am here.
  • In Basketball, I’ve been challenged and pushed to be my best. Same in the classroom. Along the way, so many people encouraged me and pushed me. To look back to where I was a freshman, there’s been so much growth and people to help along the way.
  • hope-7Professors constantly push us even when we’re struggling. They believe in us. They know we’re capable of doing more. Friends do that, too. People want the best for others.
  • The faith aspect. I grew up Catholic but wasn’t close to my faith. It’s not shoved down your throat, but it’s present and I was able to grow in that area.
  • I’ve met amazing people. It’s an interesting culture – genuine and open. The community was attractive to me; I didn’t have that at my previous college. I have coffee with the chair of department and dinner at professors’ houses all the time. That’s how invested they are. I feel 100% prepared for whatever comes next.
hope-student-circl

Part of the student circle in the Pine Grove

Hope is ranked as the friendliest college in the US: “every person feels welcome, fully included, and will flourish in the way that they’re gifted by God to flourish,” said Hope’s President. On the day I visited, days after the election, there was a student-run silent demonstration in the pine grove to make a statement: No matter your background, your beliefs, your politics: you’re supported and welcome here.

It seems like students actually walk the walk here: they’re inclusive and support each other in whatever endeavors they choose to undertake. Some examples:

  • hope-music-bldg

    The Music Building

    The basketball teams (women’s and men’s) led the nation in DIII attendance last year.

  • I saw Jane Eyre: The Musical on opening night. Although well-supported by the community (and, I assume, parents/families), a huge part of the audience was comprised of students. Beyond that, I was highly impressed at the talent and the theater They bring in guest artists (actors and back-stage techies) to expose students to experts and benefit from their experience and talent. For this musical, the guest artist played Rochester, but all the others were students, including the musicians.
  • hope-archThe Pull, the oldest campus tradition in the US, is a massive tug-of-war across the Black River between freshmen and sophomores and coached by juniors and seniors. They dig trenches and build barricades so they can’t see the other team; the 18 pullers are helped by “cheerers” who can tell them what’s going on.

Hope makes the Top 10 of “Colleges where Students are Most Satisfied with College Choice,” tying with Stanford! Students come and persist until graduation. In fact, they have one of the highest in retention and graduation rates in the state, competing with UMich.

hope-chapel-service

Friday morning Chapel Service

Although affiliated with the Reform Church, the largest self-identifying group is Catholic (20%). An optional 20-minute Chapel is held on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings. The building fits about 1/3 of the study body, and these events tend to be standing-room only. “It’s a fun atmosphere because the people who are there have chosen to be there. No one is ever forced – but no one is made to feel bad for not coming, either.”

hope-quadThe President said, “We encourage all students to explore Christianity and figure out their own faith. We don’t expect you to fit a mold, but we want you to seriously consider what it might offer you.” The two required religion classes don’t even need to be Christian based. There are “tons of opportunities to grow in your faith if you want it” such as mission trips and Bible studies. Several students on the panel mentioned that they liked the Christian aspect on campus.

The town of Holland is a wonderful bike- and pedestrian-friendly community. Several blocks of locally run stores and restaurants sit right off campus, and students can get some discounts in town. Hope owns about 30% of the apartments in town as housing for students (with the same expectations as dorm living such as being a “dry campus”). The white sand lakeshore beaches are a couple miles away; shuttles run there as well as to stores. The train station is 2 blocks from campus running to Chicago and Grand Rapids.

hope-cottage

An off-campus cottage about a block from campus

Students were out and about on campus, including on Saturday morning. Freshmen and most sophomores live on campus. Juniors and many seniors often move to one of the 80ish off-campus, Hope-owned houses (mostly upperclassmen live in these, but sometimes sophomores get in). “It’s a nice transitional period.”

About 20% of student join Greek Life. Rush is in the spring; “No one feels left out if they aren’t in it – it’s just another club,” said one student. Another said, “Our chapters don’t have the negative connotations that come with some of the bigger schools.”

hope-academic-1

Some of the academic buildings

“You get a personal hand-crafted education here. We’re focused on helping you discern what’s important. We want to make sure that your time here will help you consider all the options available to you and help you prepare for them.” Students’ favorite classes have been:

  • Religion and Atrocity: “it explores hard issues that would be easy to sweep under the rug. It focused a lot on Holocaust. They talk about where god fits in: did he let it happen? Did he not? It was a deep thinking class and changed how I looked at things.”
  • Social Work Interviewing: “I was so nervous for the class. Once I got into it, I loved it. We worked through scenarios, got strategies, etc. It was difficult but in a real situation, you know how you need to prepare.”
  • hope-leavesFrench 3: “I took this freshman year, and once a week, a native speaker came in. It was cool to speak with her, learn about France. We did group projects, recite poems, etc. I didn’t get any of that in high school.”
  • PE and Health for Elementary School teachers: “as a math person, that was different. I learned how to integrate movement in the classroom. Lots of speakers talking about dance in the classroom, and I can apply a lot of things I learned.”
  • Marketing Management: “I love business and marketing. I’m involved in analytics and creative thinking, thinking outside the box. The director of the program talked to companies who want to hire the class. We have to dissect everything – branding, logo, everything. It was a real hands-on experience.”
hope-engo-lab

One of the Engineering labs, complete with a Maker-bot and 3D printer

Management is the biggest major (175/800 graduates this year were in the major). Nursing and Education are next in size. Engineering requires a comprehensive core before students specialize. “It’s hard to find a job that’s strictly in 1 discipline; you’re going to work with a lot of other types of engineers,” said the head of the department. “This isn’t the typical engineering department: people are engaged in other things. They’re athletes, in student government. People minor in languages, dance, etc. It’s a tight major. You have to plan carefully but it’s doable!” Seniors in the department complete a 2-semester design project from a needs statement all the way through to building the design.

hope-dorm-2

One of the dorms

Hope runs an off-site center in Philly with more than 800 options for internships and experiential education. There’s a New York City internship for theater: on- and off-stage (including the business side). Summer terms allow students to spend 3-4 weeks abroad (I spoke with 3 students who did this. They studied: Spanish in Avila; Northern Ireland and Scotland: Peace and Reconciliation; and Mental Health issues in Liverpool: “I want to do international social work, so this was a great opportunity.”) Some scholarships are available.

“Hope is not the most diverse campus, but they look it in the face and deal with it. At a Christian school, it’s easy to sweep things under the rug. Here, they want to talk and deal with it. I have a lot of respect for them not shying away from tough problems,” said one student. Another student said she was helping to get more people involved in the Latino Student Union: “It’s open to everyone, not just Latinos. It’s a great way to learn the cultures.” Other groups put on cultural talent shows or International Food Fair: “Eat all you want for $5. I never had African food until I came here. Best thing ever!”

© 2016

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Case Western Reserve University

CASE WESTERN RESERVE (visited 4/11 and 1/13)

~CWR bikes and quadOne of the admissions reps described Case Western students this way: “Every place says that their kids are nice. . . . it’s bizarre here.” So nice, in fact, that students regularly take up the Million Minute Community Service Challenge.

~CWR 5Students are also very competitive, very smart, and very demanding on themselves. Many double or even triple major. “Our kids are focused but not so set in their one path that they aren’t willing to try other things.” However, about 2/3 do end up graduating in the division in which they entered, although not necessarily the same major. Nursing is the exception to this with about 95% continuing.

CWR students

Students collaborating in a Business School lounge.

Students can be creative and innovative here: they design, fail, break things, and try again. The school isn’t setting kids up to fail. Often, this is the first time they’re with a lot of people who were in the top of their classes in high school but learn quickly that this is ok.

~CWR dorms and track

New residential area surrounding some of the athletic facilities

This is a big campus for 4500 undergraduates (about ¼ of whom are from Ohio); there are actually more graduate and professional students than undergrads, but CWR is actively increasing research opportunities for undergrads who can start as early as the first year. Case actively looks for ways to “expand” campus by encouraging students to utilize all the wonderful things at their doorstep in the city of Cleveland. Campus borders University Circle, a renowned cultural, artistic, medical, and educational center.

Case’s SAGES program (Seminar Approach to General Education and Scholarship) includes 5 semester-long, writing-intensive seminars. These classes, limited to 17 students, include 3 interdisciplinary classes over the first two years, 1 class in the student’s major, and a capstone project. Students can no longer test out of their writing requirement based on AP scores, and faculty say that this helps with writing skills. The content and sequence is “integrated and intentional. Students are well-coached and well-practiced in skills employers want.”

~CWR 7The first seminar (taken in the first year) focuses on skill building by providing extensive feedback about writing, speaking, engagement, etc. Students have several options meant to engage them in life of the mind. The built-in “Fourth Hour” includes events scheduled in the institutions around the Circle (Art museum, Natural History museum, etc) so that students take advantage of the region’s cultural capital. Before the end of sophomore year, students also complete 2 University Seminars meant to extend knowledge by exploring topics at a more sophisticated level. They produce longer writing projects and oral presentations showing a more advanced analysis. The Seminar in Major allows them to become facile in disciplinary knowledge and the modes of communication in that discipline. Finally, the Capstone allows them to define a problem or ask a question, then find a solution or answer. It could be an experiment, an artistic creation, an extensive research project, etc. Both written and oral presentations are required.

~CWR 6About 2/3 of the students are in the Science and Engineering departments. Biomedical Engineering draws the most students followed by Mechanical Engineering. Systems and Control Eng., Engineering Physics, Civil Engineering, and Polymer Science and Engineering are the “small but mighty” departments. In the Sciences, the Gerontological Studies, History and Philosophy of Science, and Evolutionary Biology programs are worth noting.

~CWR Applied SSTheir Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences departments are smaller but still strong; these departments will feel much more like a small Liberal Arts college with discussion courses. There are several Collaborative Programs that link CWR with other schools and programs throughout the city. Their music department is a bit unusual in that they teach musicology and music history but not theory or performance: students looking for those can cross-register at the Cleveland Institute of Music and neither can complete degrees without the other. They do the same with the Cleveland Institute of Art: students at either school interested in Art Education complete part of their degrees at the other school. All CWR students can take up to 4 credits per term at either the CIA (Art) or CIM (music).

~CWR business 3

Business School

The Business School is booming and housed in a modern, well-designed building. Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Organizational Leadership, International Business, and Supply Chain Management are particularly worth taking a look at.

~CWR nursing

Nursing building

The nursing program is particularly strong and is named as one of the top 15 in the country. This is a direct-entry program with classes starting in the first semester – and clinicals starting in week 3! Students complete 1600 clinical hours before graduation, almost 2 times the national average. If that weren’t impressive enough, students can also study abroad through articulation agreements with programs in China, Cameroon, and Alaska (yes, they know that this isn’t abroad – but students say that it sometimes feels that way in the small villages they’re placed in!). One student from Pittsburgh did her capstone in Hong Kong where she audited classes and studied increasing obesity in high schoolers. Also unusual is that students in the program can double major. One student from Cincinnati is also getting a degree in PoliSci.

Applications have increased more than 200% in the last 8 years; international apps are up from 500 to over 4000. Applicants get ranked in 22 academic, leadership, and extra-curricular categories. They currently admit about 42% of applicants. Students who visited campus, went to the HS visit, or did an alumni interview are twice as likely to be admitted. “We can still take kids with a 1200 SAT. We don’t want to have it harder to do that.” They have a single-door admission except for music (audition requirement) and art (portfolio requirement).

~CWR north Res VillageFreshmen are housed in 4 residential communities helping Case with their excellent 93% retention rate. There are also residential complexes for 2nd year and for upperclass students. Their Graduating Senior Experience program is one of the few I’ve run into. Almost 1/3 of students are Greek-affiliated (and many live in Greek Housing). 20% of students stay on campus to take classes, do research, or just take advantage of other opportunities during the summer. The college-owned Squire Valleevue Farm is about 8 miles from main campus. Aquatic Biology is offered in May Term so students can go into the streams for hands-on learning. There’s also a ceramics area out there.

© 2015

Union College

Union College (visit 7/31/15)

Union's main quad

Union’s main quad

The ceiling and 3rd story of Nott where the study carrels are located

The ceiling and 3rd story of Nott where the study carrels are located

Union, with its sprawling quads and light-brick and stone buildings, is physically bigger than you’d expect for the 2200 undergraduates housed on campus. The iconic building seen in all the promo materials is Nott Memorial, one of only a few 16-sided buildings in the world and is now a National Landmark. Once the school’s library, it’s used for lectures on the first floor, an art gallery on the second floor, and study carrels on the third. “I wish I could pull an all-nighter in here,” said the tour guide, “but they do eventually kick us out.”

Nott Building

Nott Building

Unusual for a liberal arts college, about half of the students study math, science (including Astronomy, Neuroscience, and Geology), or engineering (specialties include bio-, computer, electrical, and mechanical with minors in energy studies, nanotechnology, and environmental engineering). Students who want to integrate the sciences into the humanities or business should check out their Science, Medicine, and Technology in Culture major or the joint Leadership in Medicine program, an 8-year program that allows students to get the Bachelors and Masters degrees at Union (MS or MBA) AND an MD at Albany Medical.

~Union 5Their facilities rival those at bigger schools. We stopped at the aerogel lab on the tour: it’s amazing! Two of the students, a sophomore chem major and a senior mechanical engineering major came out to explain Aerogels to us (“Imagine jello without the liquid”) and tell us about their research. First they passed around some samples and said, “Don’t worry about breaking them. We’ll make more.” They’re working on making these gels out of copper for catalytic converters because they’re lighter and much cheaper than what’s being used now. They’re currently replacing a car exhaust system in the lab.

As an interesting side-note, 80% of engineers study abroad in Prague (only 60% of the total student population study abroad). There are also plenty of clubs revolving around engineering such as Engineers Without Borders, Society of Women Engineers, and National Society of Black Engineers.

~Union 3All students take a FY Preceptorial Class (2 terms long with 15 students each) and a Sophomore Research Seminar. Students can choose to do either a thesis or a seminar/capstone class. There’s plenty of flexibility in academics: students can Double Major or complete an Interdepartmental Major which meshes 2 areas of interest. For example, one student is majoring in Climate Change, combining environmental studies and geology.

~Union dorm90% of students live on campus all 4 years. Freshmen dorm rooms are small-ish but livable, “and they get better as you go up.” The college just bought a hotel right off campus which is now student housing. “Having a bathroom in the room is a big deal.” Only 10% of seniors are “released” to live off campus: “People fight to get off,” said the tour guide; the admissions rep gave a different impression. I was left wondering how much of either impression was true.

Something really unusual at Union is the Minerva House System (named for the Goddess of Wisdom): all students are assigned to 1 of the 7 houses; these provide social connections across years and majors as well as leadership opportunities. House Councils (mad up of 15-20 people) determine how the $25,000 yearly budget gets spent. “There’s lots of food,” said the tour guide. Programs could be large like OctoberFest or smaller like Dinner with a Professor, Pizza and Politics (lunch once a week); Waffle Wednesday; Sundaes on Sunday. Each Minerva House has about 300 total students plus faculty and staff. Students can apply to live in their house after their first year.

One of the food options on campus

One of the food options on campus

There’s also a Minerva Fellowship; students apply to be selected to complete a global service project for 10 months directly after graduation (July to April) in 1 of 6 countries. In May, they are back on campus debriefing, giving presentations, work with the next group of Minerva Fellows, etc. I spoke with a recent returnee from Ecuador who was working for admissions through the summer and is off to law school in the fall.

Admissions is Test-optional but they will superscore both tests if they’re submitted. Interviews are recommended but not required and can be done on skype if necessary.

~Union dance pavilionAlthough Schenectady isn’t the most impressive of cities (it was hit hard when the GE plant all but closed), both the town and Albany (right next door) provide a lot of off-campus things to do. It’s also a transportation hub: the Amtrak and bus stations provides service to NYC (2.5 hours south) and Boston (2.5 hours east) and the airport is close. The Adirondacks aren’t that far north, so there’s plenty of skiing, hiking, etc. Ski trips are popular; for $20, students get transportation, lift tickets, and equipment rentals.

Jackson Garden

Jackson Garden

On campus events are plentiful, so there isn’t even much need for “escaping.” Hockey is big here and the only DI team. All others are DIII. Jackson Garden provides a 10-acre get-away right on campus. “Some professors come out here for class. It’s a great place to hang out.” One of the big annual traditions is Lobster Fest; an alum donates 1 lobster and a t-shirt for every undergrad.

(c) 2015

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