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Archive for the tag “engineering”

University of Dallas

University of Dallas (visit 3/3/15)

~Dallas sculpture 1

Statue outside the Chapel

~Dallas tower 4UD is a “Catholic university for independent thinking.” They assert that there’s a truth and wisdom to be known and that it’s in people’s nature to question. They don’t expect students to know or learn everything but to take strides in that direction. In order to accomplish this, they have set up an extensive Core Curriculum: students complete 60 Core credits studying great thinkers and scientists as well as the questions posed by these people. This sets UD apart: think Great Books meets Liberal Arts. Students take many of their core classes in the first year but also usually take 2-3 core courses each of Junior and Senior years.

~Dallas in Rome

Pictures from the Rome Semester

The Rome Semester, called “The Core of the Core,” covers 5 Core classes: Western Theological Traditions, Lit Traditions III (Tragedy and Comedy: Greek to Shakespeare), Philosophy of the Human Prison, Western Civ II (Greek to Renaissance), Art and Architecture. Because only Core classes are taken here, students of all majors can attend.

  • Offering this to sophomores (80% go then) means that everyone can get a taste of another culture; many still study abroad separately as Juniors.
  • Students live and learn on the UD-owned campus just outside of Rome in Due Santi (it’s believed that Sts Peter and Paul passed through there; there’s a well that dates back to then). Students have easy access to Rome on Public Transportation: a 100-yard walk to a bus stop will get to the train.
  • The campus has a tennis courts, a soccer field, and a small pool.
  • Tuition is exactly the same; all institutional and federal aid transfers over. Students pay for the flight and any spending/travel money there.
  • Campus capacity is 118. Usually 110-115 students are there at any given time.
  • Students travel to Rome, Florence, Assisi, Naples, Pompeii, and Greece (10 days) as a group. They stand in places they’ve been reading about.
  • They also kick students off campus for 10 days; they have the freedom and responsibility to explore Europe and take care of themselves. They come back with the confidence that they can do anything. Students do everything from backpacking through Poland to hiking the Camino de Santiago is Spain.

~Dallas walkway~Dallas acad bldg 3Parts of the Dallas campus are very pretty; other parts are reminiscent of a ‘70s elementary school. “I’m not in love with the campus, but it’s not about the classrooms. It what happens inside them. That’s been really good to learn,” said one student. Another added that “the grounds are wonderful. They do a great job with the plants and all that – but the buildings aren’t great.” They do have a beautiful chapel, and it’s clear from looking around campus and inside the buildings that this is a Catholic school: sculptures, paintings, crosses, and other religious icons are visible. We talked to one student who wasn’t Catholic who did not feel that this was a disadvantage. “I don’t feel ostracized or left out.”

Dallas lionOne student described UD as “a small school trying to be a large school. We have Big 12, a metroplex of 6 million people, great facilities – but also still have small classes and faculty who want to mentor students.” Another added that the “location is a little isolated. We can’t walk to Chic-fil-a or a grocery store but it makes you want to have fun here and people are really creative about their fun. People have fun in the bubble.”

~Dallas swing and treeKids who are passionate, love to argue, want to look for truth (and believe that truth can be found), and are goofy will do well here. The feeling is that there’s room at the table for everyone. People complain, but not in a cranky way: they want to fix it. The nice thing is that “everyone is working as hard as everyone else. They love learning. We don’t have to convince them that this is worth it. They study science and philosophy and history in a way that pushes them,” said one of the professors. “Students talk about what they’re learning. It doesn’t end in the classroom.” Clearly the university is doing something right: they have a 91% retention rate.

~Dallas art village

Arts Village

Academics are generally strong here, but “there aren’t a ton of majors,” said one student.

  • They offer 4+1 programs in Accounting, Cyber Security, Business (MBA), and Finance. Students apply as a Junior and will complete 4-5 grad classes done as a senior.
  • Strong pre-health programs. Med school acceptance rate is about 80%. 3 mock interviews for med schools.
  • They offer a cooperative program in Engineering with the University of Texas at Arlington.
    • Students complete a team-based Senior Design project with about 20 students. They spend a full year solving a real-life problem posed by a company in the metroplex.
  • The arts are strong here.
    • They offer a BFA Program: students must audition to get in. They can appeal once at the end of the freshman year if they didn’t initially get into the program. They no longer have minors in dance or theater because it was detracting from the majors.
    • UC was the first university to give a degree in ballet.
    • “If I meet an actor who is outward focused, who wants to use the craft to make the world a better place, that person will fit in well here.”
  • They offer unusual concentrations in Biblical Greek, Business for Non-Business Majors, Pure Math, Applied Physics, and Pastoral Ministry.
Dallas library int

The interior of the library

Dining Hall.

Dining Hall.

The faculty are engaging and clearly interested in helping students learn. “We won’t coddle you. We won’t tell you you’re good if you’re not, but we can do that and be kind at the same time. We’ll help you get better.” The classroom setups include Writable Walls; students use them to summarize homework, do problems, brainstorm, whatever. Students are actively engaged, are thinking critically, etc. Their favorite core classes to teach are:

  • Am Civ 1: Mostly freshmen take the class. “For lack of a better word, they’re “innocent.” We use a lot of primary sources that contradict each other.
  • The Divine Comedy: “It changes their lives.”
  • Intro to Stats: “It teaches them to be critical about how stats are used. . . and sometimes I get a Stats major out of it!”

© 2015

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Southern Methodist University

SMU (visited 3/2/15)

~SMU fountain~SMU muslim group displayContrary to what people may believe, “you don’t have to be either Southern or Methodist to go here.” The school is actively fighting the rich, white, preppy stereotype, and the student population is “relatively diverse” and improving every year. Although 40% of students are from Texas, “we make an effort to have students from everywhere,” said the director of admissions. They’re looking for a balance between in and out of state, not so easy with a state the size of Texas. Religiously, “we have all faiths (including Muslim, Jewish, and Buddhist) and no faith.”

~SMU walkway 2SMU is a much larger campus than many of us expected but still easily walkable. They’ve kept the same beautiful architecture as they’ve expanded. Although campus is 5 miles north of Downtown in a residential area, there’s quite a bit to do directly off of campus. Favorite places include Mustang Donuts and JD Cookies. Students can have a car but don’t need it; a DART pass costs $5 – which lasts all 4 years!

The students aren’t lacking for things to do on campus.

  • ~SMU mustangs

    Go Mustangs!

    Sports are a huge deal.

    • People tailgate on Bishop Boulevard (they call it Boulevarding, not Tailgating). Our tour guide is a little disappointed that more people tailgate than go to the game.
    • Basketball tickets are in the highest demand. The school makes an effort to let students support the teams — they even got to go to the Final 4 for free.
    • A lot of sports are not on campus which is something the tour guide said he’s like to change.
  • ~SMU Greek house

    One of the Greek Residences

    About 1/3 of students go Greek, pledging in the spring.

  • SMU sponsors lots of concerts and speakers both on campus and in Dallas.
  • The first Saturday on campus is “Night at the Club,” basically a huge club fair. “You can get the free t-shirt, cactus, goldfish, whatever they’re giving out.” The tour guide appreciated that the students have ownership.
~SMU res commons 2

A Residential Common

SMU is in the middle of a massive expansion of their residential spaces. They’ve already added several new Residential Commons and are building more. Students are assigned to 1 of the 11 Commons as freshmen and will stay there through sophomore year. Each Common has faculty-in-residence.

~SMU 3“Aggressive students who are independent learners will do well here,” said the Director of Admissions. A faculty member added: students who want to learn to lead and aren’t afraid to take risks fit right in.” Students are in charge of planning a lot on campus. For example, they’re given the $250,000 budget for homecoming. Advisors help them frame the event (“How will you be inclusive?” etc), but ultimately, it’s in the students’ hands.

The 6000 undergrads have access to 100 majors and 75 minors.

  • ~SMU business lobby

    Business School lobby

    Humanities and Sciences is the largest school.

    • It’s the home to Pre-Health and Pre-Law tracks; the advice of the Dean is to “major in something you love and will do well in, and then go to them for advising.” Selected students are invited into the Scholars Program to participate in Seminars, work with faculty for the LSAT, etc.
    • There are several new interdisciplinary programs such as Health and Society (either physiological or sociological) and minors in International Studies and Public Policy and Jewish Studies (what is it to be part of this culture across the globe and across time).
    • Unusual majors include: Statistical Science, Geophysics, and Medieval Studies.
  • ~SMU dining hall

    One of the dining halls

    The Meadows School of the Arts is highly selective; one of the tour guides came here because she was sold by the great arts program. Dallas has one of the largest art complexes in the world so students can get quite a bit of experience. SMU’s program is entrepreneurial in nature; since 60% of artists are self-employed, they learn how to manage a website, develop a business plan, etc. The goal to get students to fluidly adapt to the changing arts landscape in order to make a living as an artist.

  • Education and Human Development is the smallest school, home to Education (100% pass rate on national exams), Psychology/counseling, Applied Physiology, Sports Management, and Health Care Management.
  • Lyle School of Engineering School: Interesting majors include Cyber Security and Video Design Engineering. Just over 1/3 of the students are female (twice the national average).
    • In the first semester, students work in a group to do a project such as building a robot that can maneuver through a maze, find water, test to see if it’s potable, and if it’s not, remediate it. It’s a true group effort: the mechanical engineer needs to build it; the electrical needs to design the eyes, the environmental needs to design the test probe, the civil needs to make sure it isn’t collapsing under its own weight.
  • Cox School of Business: Students can earn a BBA or minor in Business or Business Administration.
    • Unusual majors include Financial Consulting, Real Estate Finance, and Risk Management and Insurance. Concentrations include Energy Management and Entrepreneurship.
    • About 100 incoming freshmen are selected as BBA Scholars each year.

~SMU outdoor patioWe asked the student panelists what they liked about SMU and why they chose to come here. It was refreshing to hear that one of them didn’t originally want to come! She didn’t get excited until week 2. “Once they see how inclusive people are and how excited they are to be here, they’ll want to come here too.” Other answers included:

  • Grills in a residential area

    Grills in a residential area

    Quality of the faculty and the program. The reputation of programs increase all the time.

  • Access to the faculty
  • Location: not just the city, but the attitude. “It’s a can-do place.” Many graduates take their first jobs here in town.
  • The campus. Everyone helps take care of it. “Life is too short to go to college on an ugly campus!”
  • “I like the other students. We go to school with really really really cool kids!”

© 2015

 

Loyola University Maryland

Loyola University Maryland (visited 2/19/15)

Loyola statue 2This is clearly Jesuit in spirit as well as name: 2 statues stand prominently on the Academic quad; the chapel is central on campus; paintings, murals, and crucifixes are placed throughout buildings. Almost ¾ of the students self-identify as Catholic. Sean Bray, the new Director of Campus Ministry, calls their approach “Jesuit Care-ism,” inviting people to engage in the larger questions such as how they make meaning, how they engage in the community, etc. “Our mission and values stand squarely in faith and diversity.” They hold retreats at the campus-owned property in western Maryland. These give people a chance to get off campus and connect with other students and faculty. Trips have a variety of themes such as a silent retreat or “Navigating the Journey.”

Loyola chapel exterior 2One of our tour guides goes to mass regularly “which I didn’t do at home, but the priest here is awesome! I never thought that church could be fun.” Another tour guide agreed: “They relate church services to life. They just had a Super Bowl Mass.” Mass is offered on campus every day. While it’s not required, many people participate either in simply attending mass or in other capacities. 30-40 students sing regularly in the choir and many others work in other capacities in Campus Ministry. Different schools in the consortium hold different types of services at different times. Hopkins has a 10 pm service on Sunday that some students go to.

Loyola chapel interiorDespite the overwhelming sense of Catholicism on campus, there’s a significant population of non-Catholics and even non-Christians. One Muslim student said, “I came here because I knew I wouldn’t have to explain myself. People understand my devotion and prayer even if they don’t understand my specific customs.” There’s a Jewish Student Association that hosts celebrations to anyone on campus. A Rabbi will come on campus to work with students, and the JSA hosts a Holocaust Survivor speaker every year. Loyola will also give students free shuttle rides to any service of their choosing (doesn’t have to be Catholic/Christian) within 20 miles.

Before the tour, I spoke with several students. A sophomore from NJ said, “I’m religious but was not looking for a religious school.” She applied to about 8 schools; only one other had any religious affiliation. A junior from western MD said, “I was mostly looking at Jesuit schools, and this has a good psych program.” A freshman from CT said that “this wasn’t my first choice originally, but loved it once I came. I liked the size and distance from home, and it’s got a great business program.” The freshman from Western NY had wanted to go to Bucknell but didn’t get in. She loves it here, though. “It’s got a good engineering program and I can also be pre-law, too.”

Loyola 1Campus is beautiful and safe; they’re located in a residential area of north Baltimore. The students feel very safe and walk around all the time without being worried. “I called for a ride once when it was really really cold at night and I didn’t want to walk!” They’ve never heard of anyone using the blue lights except “one father who pushed it on a tour. I think he thought it was fake or something. He got fined $250.”

Loyola Student Cntr

Student Center

Dorms are some of the best I’ve seen; it’s easy to see why they’re ranked #2 in the country, “number 1 if you’re a boy since the number 1 school in the country is a women’s college!” (I looked it up online later – it’s Bryn Mawr). They even have some apartments for some freshmen. 95% of students stay on campus all 4 years even though it’s not required. This is not a dry campus, but all students in an apartment, suite, or room must be 21 if they want alcohol in the residence. Dining halls “can get really busy during the rush times. You have to time it right. They run out of seating sometimes – but I heard they were going to build another one in a couple years, but right now, it can be tough.”

The Admissions Office is aiming for a freshman class “a little north or 1100 students.” They offered Early Decision for the first time this year and accepted 102 of the 150 applicants. A significant number of ED applicants were athletes and legacies. Students applying (ED or Regular) can choose the test-optional path but will need an additional recommendation or essay in its place.

Loyola Acad lounge

Interior of an academic building

The Engineering program got good reviews. “They we get an overview the first year: we do 6-7 weeks in each area to get a taste and then declare our specialty in sophomore year.” She also has taken advantage of the Baltimore Consortium (Towson, Goucher, Johns Hopkins, U Balt, MICA) by taking classes at Johns Hopkins. Music and Fine Arts are also big here. “You can learn any instrument except the bagpipes.” Students can major in photography, advertising, digital art, and more.

Freshman can sign up for the Messina Living Learning Program. They take a class each term that is linked thematically, and their cohort meets with a mentor for an hour a week. Students are generally very happy here: almost 90% return for sophomore year. Students who transfer out do so for the usual reasons: they changed their major, wanted a bit more of a party school, etc. One guide knew someone who didn’t make the lacrosse team; another left for health reasons even though she loved Loyola.

Loyola quad 3Most of the students stick close to campus for their social lives. “There’s a ton of school spirit here. Everyone is in Loyola gear.” They were a bit disparaging of their next-door neighbors, the students from Notre Dame. “We share a library. We know they’re around, but I don’t ever see anyone wearing ND stuff. I think it’s too much of a commuter campus.” Some of the big traditions are Loyolapalooza (a huge party with music, games, etc held a couple weeks before finals in the spring) and Lessons and Carols before Christmas. Chord Busters, the a cappella group, also puts on a big concert every year that’s well attended.

Lacrosse is the big sport here, but most teams have a good fan base. One student wishes they had a football team. “I’m a cheerleader, and football was a big thing for me in high school.” Their crew team is “small and injured.” Two of our tour guides (we had 1 “official” guide and 2 in training) were on the crew team.

80% of students will study abroad in the true sense of the word (a summer, a semester, or year). They do not consider the short-term (1-2 week) study trips to be study abroad like so many other universities do. Athletes and students majoring in Engineering and Elementary Ed generally can’t do a full semester or year so they often go during the summer for 2-3 months. True study abroad programs carry the financial aid with them since students remain registered at the universities. Short term (summer) and the short study-trips cost students out of pocket.

(c) 2015

University of Michigan

University of Michigan (visited 1/31/15)

Archaeology Museum

Archaeology Museum

~Michigan bldg and tower 2I did not get a conventional tour at Michigan because their admission office is not open on Saturday (except for a few rare dates scattered throughout the year). I’m a little shocked at this. It’s a major university; people want to visit and tour. I got the feeling from talking to their admissions office that it just didn’t matter; they assumed people would conform to whatever schedule they put forth, and really, they’re mostly right. They’ve got the name and reputation. Therefore, they clearly don’t have to try. However, this also seems to be indicative of how the university runs as a whole. They’ll give you a world class education, but you’re on your own to seek it out, meet them on their terms, and do what you need to do by yourself.

One of the streets surrounding the university

One of the streets surrounding the university

The "Diag"

The “Diag”

Because I couldn’t rearrange my schedule in order to arrive on a weekday for a conventional tour, I reached out to a friend doing a graduate program at the university. She spent a few hours walking around with me. Although I didn’t get the “party line” and couldn’t ask the tour guide about his/her experiences, I think that I ended up getting much more than I would have on a school-based tour. We walked through much of the area surrounding campus, walked through a lot of the university buildings, had lunch at a local restaurant, and I got the uncensored impressions of the students and school from someone not working for admissions.

The lobby of the Business Buiding

The lobby of the Business Buiding

The Business school

The Business school

“The classes are great, but they’re big.” She said that it’s hard to get advising sometimes, hard to make sure you’re taking the classes you need, hard to get access to some classes. She’s a TA and knows that a lot of the undergrads’ educations were coming from people like her. I asked her what she thought of the university in relation to Berkeley where she did her undergraduate work. “They’re a lot alike. You need the sharp elbows here, too.” However, she said that the students are very different at Michigan. “Maybe I’m jaded after Berkeley, but Michigan is supposed to be this bastion of liberalism. It just isn’t.” She described the overall student body as “rich and conforming.” There are a lot of girls with the stick-straight hair and the “right clothes and right bags.” That’s not to say that there’s not diversity. Clearly there is. It’s a huge school (about 28,000 undergrads); you’ll find some of everyone here. However, there seems to be an overarching culture of conformity. The students I saw as I walked around campus backed up that assessment.

The "fishbowl" - one of the computer labs on campus

The “fishbowl” – one of the computer labs on campus

~Michigan bldg 5Students who will do well here are those who want to study on Saturday afternoons and those who are hyper-independent with “sharp elbows” (aka who will fight classes, housing, etc) and who can figure out what they need and then know which questions to ask in order to get what they need – academically and socially – without help. “It’s the type of school where you can easily fall through the cracks, especially the first year. You don’t know what you need until it’s too late and you’ve missed an opportunity or a deadline.”

~Michigan bikes~Michigan treeAs we walked through the library and then the union, students packed every available space and were studying. There was some socialization going on, but very little. Books were open, papers were being written, areas were relatively quiet. It’s the sort of scene I would have expected more on a Sunday afternoon than on a Saturday. Students here clearly take their learning seriously. However, there were also a lot of students out on the “Diag” (diagonal path cutting across the quad) and heading in and out of buildings. Even on a cold, dreary day, there was plenty going on around campus. The blocks surrounding campus are clearly geared towards meeting students’ needs. There’s a vague sense of “counterculture” but most of the stores were typical college-student places: cafes, restaurants, book stores. There’s no shortage of things to do on or around campus.

Law School quad

Law School quad

Most students study in the Liberal Arts College (LSA: Literature, Science, and the Arts). Freshmen can also apply to Architecture, Engineering, Performing Arts, Kinesiology, and Nursing. Students interested in Education, Business, Social Work, Pharmacy, Public Policy, and some other programs must apply and be accepted into the program during freshman or sophomore years (although some give Freshman Preferred Admissions, aka guaranteed placement, when they’re accepted to the university).

Unusual majors include: Arabic, Armenian, Persian, Turkish, and Islamic Studies; Interarts Performance; Microbiology; Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering; and Screen Arts and Culture.

(c) 2015

Purdue University

PURDUE UNIVERSITY (visited 9/15/14)

Twenty-three astronauts, including Neil Armstrong (for whom their engineering building is named), graduated from Purdue.

~Purdue quad 2 Purdue is Indiana’s land-grant public institution, home to 29,400 undergraduates: 57% are male, 57% are in-state, and 17% are international. We visited on a drizzly day, but the students were out in droves. The level of diversity seen in the student body impressed me.

~Purdue Boilermaker

The Boilermaker

As part of the counselor tour, some of us chose to ride the “Boilermaker,” a small “train” that goes around campus. We had about five minutes to talk to the students who ranged from sophomores to seniors. Most were in-state; 2 were from other Midwestern states. They were all thrilled with their education and excited to talk about their experiences. One student said that she was surprised at how manageable the campus felt for such a large school; the others agreed that it feels small quickly through the majors, living communities, clubs, etc. Three were involved in Greek life (about 20% of all students are, making it one of the largest Greek systems in the state). The unaffiliated ones didn’t feel left out of the social scene or pressured to rush.

Purdue sign and acad A few things the students particularly like about Purdue are:

  • The President who was a 2-term Indiana Governor. He’s making some good initiatives, including freezing tuition for 3 years.
  • The town. It’s very walkable with lots to do. They are two hours from Chicago; shuttles run all the time. (Freshmen are not allowed to have cars on campus because of parking limitations).
  • SPORTS! Students can buy a “Boilermaker VIP card” for $250 which gets them tickets to the games.
  • The strong ROTC program in all 4 branches.

There is no residency requirement but almost all freshmen live on campus. “It cuts in half about every year after that,” said the tour guide. A total of 11,500 students live in one of 16 dorms or a learning community (each housing 30-40 students) A new Honors College residence hall is about to be built. Greek housing is cheaper than other on-campus housing.

~Purdue walkwayStudents can be directly admitted to most of the 200 majors; undecided students enter the Exploratory Program. Many of the programs are largely hands-on with the goal of graduating marketable students. The admissions rep talked about their 4-3-2-1 “program” (although it’s not really advertised as such): they want students to graduate in 4 years, keep a 3.0 average, complete 2 hours of study for every hour of class, take 1 leadership role. The university boasts the largest student-run job fair in the country, and students do tend to transition easily into the job market. Our tour guide, an agri-business major, has a job already lined up for graduation (almost a year away!)

Purdue acad bldg 5Classes tend to be large. There are 2 lecture halls with 470ish seats and other halls that hold 120 students. Our tour guide’s smallest classes were 30 (Instructor-led) and 20 (TA-led). There’s support for people who want it, but no one will hold their hands. The OWL lab (writing center) is free. “It’s available online; I used it even as a high school student,” said the tour guide. However, other tutoring costs money.

During our visit, there were two sessions where we had options of seeing several different departments. I first went to the anthropology department and got a tour by one of the archaeologists who works in Egypt. She took us into the osteology lab where a several-thousand-year-old Sudanese skeleton was assembled on the worktable. She showed us some of the discoveries about lifestyle, and explained what type of work the students do in the class she teaches. Eventually it will go back to Sudan, but since they don’t have facilities to store human remains for study, they’re not anxious to get it back.

One of the kitchen classrooms for the Hospitality School.

One of the kitchen classrooms for the Hospitality School.

~Purdue fountain 3The second tour was the school of Health and Human Sciences. This encompasses everything from Hospitality and Tourism Management and Consumer Science to Nursing, Psychological Sciences, and Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences. I talked to a Dean and a current Hospitality student. He showed off the school, including the sit-down restaurant on campus where all students must complete an internship.

Notable majors include:

  • Hospitality and Retail. Students can specialize in things like Sporting Events or get certified in Wine Tasting. Students all complete 4 concentrations including labs and internships on campus and must also complete 3 paid internships in different positions, totalling more than 300 hours. There’s one in China at the Shangri La Resorts. The student I spoke to had all his expenses paid, including travel and uniforms. He completed a research project in Employee Retention, so he spent a lot of time with HR.
  • PHASE (Purdue Hearing and Acoustics in Science and Engineering) which includes Acoustic Engineering and Biomedical Acoustics.
  • A new Brain and Behavioral Science Major, popular with the pre-med crowd (as is the Nutrition Science program).
  • Fashion Merchandising: They can spend their junior year at FIT in New York.
  • Financial Planning (one of the majors requiring an internship).
  • Aviation – complete with an airport on campus.
  • Selling and Sales Management. “They do lots of improv; they know how to deal with lots of situations,” said the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.
  • Education – they work in their first year.
  • Pharmacy is # 7 in the country. Students complete 2 years of pre-pharm then 4 years of pharmacy.
  • Film/TV and Communications is overlooked.

Purdue acad bldg 1Students must apply by November 1 to be eligible for scholarship money. They will superscore the SAT or take the highest composite ACT. They only need 1 recommendation letter which can come from the high school counselor.

© 2014

Olin College of Engineering

Olin College of Engineering (visited 4/14/14)

Collaborative lab space with stickies as students work through problems

Collaborative lab space with stickies as students work through problems

“Olin in a nutshell: students take ideas, develop them, share them, and improve the community.” Group work is highly valued here, and all students complete a minimum of 10 major group projects tackling real-life problems. It’s a creative, collaborative place. “You can learn anywhere, but if you want to be in control of that learning, come here! You can go into Boston, India, wherever and put things into place.” Twenty percent of students study away at some point. There are Direct Exchanges in South Korea, Belgium Germany, France, Thailand, Chile, and across the US.

The academic complex

The academic complex

The university was chartered in 1997 by the Olin Foundation (which has built landmark buildings on 74 campuses across the country) after a study came out that said that engineers were not being educated in a way to be competitive in the work-place. The first 30 students, dubbed the “Olin Partners,” came in 2001 and graduated in 2006 when the school also became accredited. Now with a full-time enrollment of 350 students (with a gender balanced student population!), Olin has redefined engineering as a profession of innovation with an education based on 1) a curriculum that emphasizes teamwork, project-based learning, practical skills, business knowledge, and a multidisciplinary approach to engineering; 2) developing leadership and communication skills; 3) emphasis on undergraduate teaching and learning in a small supportive community. They offer majors in Mechanical, Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Engineering with concentrations in Bioengineering, Design, Systems, Computing, Materials Science, and a self-designed option.

Student projects

Student projects

Olin has been ranked #2 for “Students who Study the Most” and #11 for “Best Quality of Life” – a good combo! Students are doing what they love. Students can complete research and self-study topics that interest them. One of the tour guides is working in a group to develop a Rubiks cube that solves itself. “It’s completely ridiculous and probably impossible, but we’re doing it anyways because it’s awesome!” The Robotics team is creating an underwater robot that mimics the tuna. They also have a Robotic Sailing Team. “The Hopper” is one class project in which students have to design a plastic toy that hops – and kids judge the results.

SCOPE (Senior Capstone, Program in Engineering) put teams of 4 or 5 students to work on a project for a company like Bose, DePuy Mitek, Facebook, Intuit, Harley-Davidson, Trip Advisor, Raytheon, HP, IBM, Boeing, AGCO, or Army Research Lab. They have to figure out what the problem is, how to fix it, and implement the solution. Projects could be anything from designing a lighter airplane seat or a better vending machine for Pepsi to figuring out how to use the revving on motorcycles for better power.

Students must take a year of Calc and a year of Physics before coming to Olin. They do not take any AP, IB, or transfer credits. Olin has a unique and rigorous program; because of that, the first year is graded on a Pass/No Record system; starting sophomore year, they get traditional grades. “Sometimes that first C is hard to swallow,” said the rep. The lack of grades in the first year gives students a cushion to adjust to the Olin way and to take some risks. They graduate 96% in 4 years and 99% in 6 years.

The 2 dorm buildings

The 2 dorm buildings

Accepted students have a 2190 median SAT or 34 median ACT. Applicants attend a Candidates’ Weekend if they want to come to Olin. Group exercises and individual interviews are evaluated – everything else is for fun. Parents are welcome, but not required. Of the 998 applications last year, 220 were invited to Candidates’ Weekend; 102 were admitted and 30 placed on waitlist. Waitlisted students can opt to enroll at Olin the following year. They enrolled a class of 84, 20 of whom deferred from the year before. Students can also defer for military service or religious missions.

campus map.  Babson is in the upper right corner.

campus map. Babson is in the upper right corner.

The campus is small and runs right into Babson’s campus which whom they share athletic and health services (the health service building is closer to Olin dorms than to Babson dorms). There are only two residence halls on Olin’s campus: West Hall houses freshmen and sophomores; East Hall has juniors, seniors, and exchange students. There are fully stocked kitchens in both dorms. Students can cross-register at Brandeis, Wellesley, or Babson, and shuttles run between these campuses every 20-30 minutes. One student created a solar-powered trash compactor with a student from Babson. Olin also owns a van that students can use for any academic reason (or other school-sponsored event). There are 71 clubs on campus and they can also join clubs at the other two universities. Olin has club-level sports, soccer and Frisbee, and they can play on Babson’s teams (and women can play at Wellesley).

Students are quirky, funny, and think outside the box. As we started the tour, one of the guides said, “Please don’t feed the students, and keep your hands and feet inside the tour at all times!” Olin is home to the only collegiate level conductor-less orchestra. “It’s the only varsity sport on campus,” said the tour guide, and students have to try out, but there are other musical groups to join and even sound-proof practice rooms. The culture on campus allows the students to pursue passions, even if it isn’t dealing with engineering. For example, one student loves making truffles and can see going into chocolate-making. They even have a Fire Arts Club!

Teachers see it as coaching rather than teaching. They ask questions. Students ask questions, build relationships, etc . Students have the skills to start a business or go into a field that’s not exactly engineering. Some go into MBA programs. Top Grad schools are Harvard, MIT, CMU, Babson, Stanford, and Cornell. They’ve had 41 NSF Fellows, 11 Fulbrights (one of the top producing universities in the country), 2 National Defense, and many more major scholarships and competitions.

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University of South Carolina

UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH CAROLINA (visited 4/4/14)

~USC fountainUSC had one of the best organized visit programs I’ve seen; in a way, it has to be with the numbers of people visiting. They had an individualized welcome packet for each person, info sessions in two areas to make it feel less impersonal, and tour guides with a list of people assigned to their tour, partially based on region so they could talk to a student as close to home as possible. My tour guide, a PoliSci and Journalism double major from Burlington, NC, transferred here after freshman year because she wanted a big town feel and liked the idea of being in a capitol city for the political science opportunities. She feels like she has plenty of opportunities for education and recreation; off campus, she likes to go to 5 Points which is like their version of College Town.

~USC flowers 2~USC bikes 2Almost 2/3 of USC’s 20,000 students are from in-state, but they attract students from all states and more than 100 countries. NC, VA, MD, GA, and NJ are the most highly represented states outside of SC. Campus is breathtaking; the central campus has trees, bushes, and flowers everywhere, and students were out enjoying the quad. Although there are major roads surrounding campus, this is very much a pedestrian campus. All students can have cars, and there are garages available which alleviates parking issues and helps maintain the beauty of campus. Campus is highly walkable, and people walking in groups and socializing, but there is a campus shuttle for those who want it. It’s also very safe; the only time our tour guide had heard of anyone using the blue light was when someone who was allergic was stung by a bee and needed an epi-pen.

~USC hammocksQualified students wanting more of an academic challenge can participate in one of two “challenges”: the Capstone Scholars, a two-year program to which applicants are given automatic consideration. The scholars live together in one of the largest residence halls, located in the Humanities area of campus; it looks a little like a “spaceship” which also has a revolving restaurant on the top floor (the only one in SC). They take special classes and take a trip abroad every May (last year it was to Iceland; this year it’s Greece). It is possible to transfer into the Honors Program afterwards. The other option is the Honors College which has been ranked as #1 in the nation. This is a four-year program and is highly competitive, requiring an additional application consisting of six essays and two letters of recommendation. Classes are much smaller; students get priority registration as well as other benefits.

Museum

Museum

Students wanting an “Early Answer” (their version of Early Action) must submit their application AND have all test scores and transcripts in by October 15. They’ll take the highest composite for ACT and superscore the SAT. To be considered for the Capstone or Honors and for scholarships, applications must be in November 15. Scholarships are given to approximately 1/3 of students and are awarded based on GPA and test scores. Since the applicant pool changes every year, they don’t have specific GPA or score cut-offs. Notifications are sent out after 2/1 when the see the complete application pool. Their application includes an “Optional Personal Statement.” The rep said, “Use it!! Here’s an Insider Tip: Tell your story! Brag on yourself a bit. We’re holistic; we want to admit a well-rounded person.”

~USC quad 4Students tend to continue being well-rounded and involved once they get on campus. Last year, students completed 472,152 service hours and raised $1.3million for charity. 1100 students studied abroad last year in 50 countries. All freshmen must live on campus; housing options include 17 Living-Learning Community as well as more traditional dorms. There are 22 dining options in 13 buildings (and they brought us into one of the traditional dining halls about halfway through campus and let us get drinks). About 20% of the students are involved in one of the 40 fraternities and sororities on campus, and housing is available in the Greek Village. They have 400 organizations and an active performing arts community (their theater was used as a Civil War Morgue; theater students do a haunted tour in there every Halloween). Gamecock Pride is huge. Many people participate in sports, and many more go out to support the athletes at games.

They m~USC observatoryake admissions decisions without taking a declared major into consideration, so no major is capped. Students complete a Common Core in first two years so it’s easy to change major or double major. Of the 95 majors, some of the more unusual or noteworthy include:

  • Arts & Sciences: Criminology, Marine Science, Religious Studies
  • Business. International Business #1 in the country for 16 years straight
  • Mass Communication: Journalism is most comprehensive of its kind, including Print, broadcast, and more
  • Engineering and Computing: undergrads can minor in Aerospace Engineering (and stay for a Masters)
  • Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management. Students complete internships at places like Gucci, the NFL, Marriott, Verizon, and the Olympics.
  • Health Sciences: They offer a 6-year PharmD as well as Nursing which is competitive: students are admitted to lower division of nursing and start clinicals in first two years.

~USC theaterOnly 3% of classes have more than 150 students; 75% have fewer than 40. Our tour guide’s classes have ranged from 19-200. Her favorite class so far has been her Environmental Studies class. She liked the practical nature of the education, such as when they walked around campus at night to study the university’s energy usage and see what might be improved. She also loved her National Parks elective because it was so unusual.

The USC campus also houses the National Advocacy Center which trains 15,000 judges, lawyers, and others in the legal profession every year.

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Vermont Tech

VERMONT TECHNICAL COLLEGE (visited 4/14/14)

Vermont Tech sculptures and quadVermont Tech has some wonderful, unusual programs. About a third of the students enroll in one of the engineering programs, and another quarter in nursing and allied health programs. The Dean of Enrollment said that during a conversation with a CEO of a company, he was told “Vermont Tech grads are ready to work on the first day.”

Vermont Tech sculptureVermont Tech Clarke HallThe main campus houses about 950 students with another 700 more using the satellite campuses around the state. Only about 500 students live on campus in one of the 4 residence halls. Some degrees are only located on particular campuses, such as the Aviation Degree at Williston because of the proximity to Burlington airport (students in this program can graduate with their pilot license). Other campuses are primarily nursing and some respiratory majors. Architectural Engineering is math and science based. A Farm is attached to campus. The equine and agricultural majors have chores.

Vermont Tech dorm

A VT dorm

VTC hosts the Vermont Academy of Science and Technology (or VAST) for HS seniors; now in its 25th year, this is an early-entry program in which students complete 1 year of college while finishing High School (they can go back to walk in their home ceremonies). They live on campus with other VAST students. It’s free for Vermont students, and “reasonable for out-of-staters.” The dean described this as a program for “academically hungry students.”

Vermont Tech dining hall

Dining Hall

There’s not a lot going on around campus. Our tour guide said that weekends can be slow and that a lot of people leave, but they’re working on providing more to do so people stick around. Karaoke drew a big crowed. A couple big events on campus include Spring Bash (with fireworks, dunk tank, slip and slide, and more) and Country Dance (complete with a mechanical bull), and trips to Boston. Basketball (their teams are DII) draws a big fan base, but “soccer, not so much.” They have a small ski slope with a tow-rope on campus, and students built a heated ski hut at the bottom.

Vermont Tech vet lab

The Vet Tech lab

They have rolling admissions except for nursing, dental tech, and vet tech which all have a 12/1 deadline because of limited spots in the programs. Admissions are looking for “good solid students who know what they want to do.

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Cal Poly Pomona

Cal Poly Pomona (visited 1/16/14)

The library and triangular main Admin building

The library and triangular main Admin building

California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (or Cal Poly Pomona), one of the 23 CSU campuses, has traditionally been both a regional campus and the “little brother” of the better known Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Because of the nature of the CSUs which serve specific areas in the state, they do tend to draw heavily from the local area. However, this seems to be changing due to increased national awareness of the university’s offerings and more aggressive marketing by the new Director of Enrollment. They’re seeing an increased number of out-of-state students at the transfer level; this is trickling down to the freshman level.

CPP 2

Some of the planes built by students

~CPP 5During our visit, we met with Mario Cordova, an Admissions Representative. Applications have risen over the past four years from 20,000 to 32,000. Admitted students have about a 3.5 GPA and an 1100 on the CR and M sections of the SAT or a 26 on the SAT. Acceptance rates now hover around 50%, but Mr. Cordova said that this is a little deceiving since it fluctuates by major. Engineering is the most popular major, but other academic strengths include programs such as hospitality management, vet tech (CPP is 1 of 3 schools in the country where students can take the Vet Tech exam directly after graduating without additional training), architecture, sciences, and even music industry studies! About half of their impacted majors are in the engineering fields; the others are in architecture, some sciences including animal sciences and kinesiology, and a few in the social sciences. The architecture department needs more space; currently, they’re only taking a few students each year in order to provide them with appropriate studio work space.

CPP 1

One of the original buildings dating back to when the property was a horse ranch

Mr. Cordova told us that their goal class is about 3,000. Currently, only 18% of students live on campus, and they’ve added 600 new beds over the last three years. Demand to live on campus isn’t overwhelming since they’re still pulling so many kids from the local area who don’t need to live on campus. First-year dorms are stereotypical dorms. Suites with 4 bedrooms and kitchenettes are newer and tend to house upperclassmen; these are located behind the bookstore. The Village is the off-campus apartment area. The traditional dining halls are in the dorms and utilized mostly by freshmen. There are a lot of fast-food options (sushi, subway, Qdoba, etc) in the Union which was busy as we came through to get lunch at about 12:45, but not overwhelming. We didn’t wait more than 5 minutes for food and we were able to get a table.

This get repainted several times a year by students intrepid enough to climb up the hill

This get repainted several times a year by students intrepid enough to climb up the hill

“You Hour” is held from 12:00 to 1:00 on Tuesdays and Thursday. No classes are held during this hour, and the quad was full of student groups advertising their activities, holding fund-raiser BBQs, and more. One of the BBQs was sponsored by Delta Alpha Beta, a Hispanic/multi-cultural frat. They do a lot of community service, especially with kids. We stopped to talk to the guys to ask them about their experiences. One of them does AF ROTC on the USC campus and enjoys being here but having access to the other campus. The boys told us that Greek Life at CPP was small and had been on the decline, but seems to be picking back up again.

~CPP acad bldg 3Although there seems to be a lot to do on campus, we were told that we hit a “busy time” when a lot of people were out and about, but the crowds we saw only represented a fraction of the students. There are certainly people who don’t feel like there’s enough of a social scene and transfer out. Another reason people give for transferring is that the quarter system is a little too intense for them. Some students aren’t fans of the local area; town is not always safe and there’s not much within walking distance.

CPP 4

The Japanese Garden

As we walked across campus, two students were helpful in helping us find the building we were looking for; they were both freshmen recruited athletes from California (the volleyball player was from Stockton; the baseball player was from Temecula). Both are happy with their choice and felt that they fit here and were getting good educational and athletic experiences. The school is starting to get recognized nationally, partly because they just won a DII basketball title. Later, we had lunch with a brother (senior) and sister (freshman) from the area who answered a lot of our questions. The sister was an architecture major and part of the Honors College and was loving her experiences so far; she felt part of the community already. The brother was a big fan of the Integrated General Education requirements; instead of separate, lecture-based classes, the IGE program brings together social sciences, humanities, writing requirements, and more into the program. He felt that this approach was more interesting and conducive to his learning style. He’s studying Industrial Engineering. A lot of people in that area tend to specialize in supply chain management, and graduations have gone on to work at major companies like UPS, Netflix, and Amazon. He’s a member of Hillel which he said has 20-25 active members, and Shabbat Dinners are a regular things. They’re always looking for regular donors since it costs about $300 per dinner.

© 2014

UC Riverside

UC RIVERSIDE (visited 1/16/14)

some of the citrus trees

Some of the citrus trees

UCR students“Riverside is up and coming – it’s the place to be,” said our tour guide, Sierra, a local third-year student majoring in biology with hopes of being a large-animal vet. Although now one of the 9 UC campuses, UCR started as a Citrus Research Station extension of UC Berkeley just over 50 years ago. They still have extensive citrus groves on campus with 2 trees each of 1000 different citrus trees on campus (we got to sample the kumquats!) – and we learned that Cuties were developed on campus!

UCR 3There are a lot of wonderful academic things going on at UCR. The College of Arts and Sciences is the largest on campus, housing about 2/3 of the majors.UCR 2 This is the only UC that offers a major in Creative Writing – and they house the world’s largest collection of fantasy, SciFi, Horror, and dystopian literature with 100,000 volumes. They offer a Law and Society program combining Sociology, PoliSci, and Anthropology. This corresponds to the current year’s “theme” of Justice; the campus hosts activities, lectures, and other special events to highlight this theme.

One of the Engineering projects

One of the Engineering projects

Sciences are strong, particularly Health and Agricultural departments, with UCR ranking “Top 2 in Bugs.” There’s a seismograph on campus, and they boast the most complete mastodon skeleton. One of the Botany Profs worked as an advisor creating the plants on Avitar. Biology is one of the biggest majors, and the university opened a med school this year, setting aside 24 seats for UCR students.

UCR studentsTen percent of their students are in the Engineering program (which is also the most-funded department). They offer a BS/MS in 4 of their 9 engineering programs; students major in physics and then the engineering of their choice. Their facial-recognition program is better than MIT’s! Students interested in business (another of the three biggest majors) start in the pre-business track for two years; with a minimum GPA, they can continue on and then concentrate starting the 3rd year.

UCR 6The student body is diverse, with UCR ranking #1 in California and #12 in the country in terms of diversity. The Student Activity Board works towards building school spirit, particularly revolving around the 17 DI sports teams with things like bonfires and sporty birthday parties. Seventy-five percent of freshmen live on campus, and housing is guaranteed for two years. 4000 students total live in the dorms. UC owns apartment complexes on and off campus, but there are no RAs in these buildings like there are in the traditional dorms. There are a lot of things do around campus; the Transit Authority is free for students with their IDs (the metro station is close to campus), and students can rent Zip Cars (and can have their own cars on campus).

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