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SUNY Geneseo

SUNY Geneseo (visited 3/9/20)

Geneseo quad 1If you’re looking for a medium sized school with strong academics, an active and engaged student body, and lots of things to do on and off campus – all at an affordable price-point, this is a school you want to take a closer look into. It seems to offer the best of all worlds.

Geneseo main street 1

Main Street running by campus with Emmaline the Bear on the pole of the fountain – keep reading for more information on her! 

The town of Geneseo is smaller than I anticipated (but is listed as having a population of 10,000+ so not tiny!) – but that doesn’t mean there’s not stuff to do. The town caters to students. Main Street, with a myriad of restaurants, bars, and cafes, runs right along campus. Chain stores like Target are about 1.5 miles from campus and buses run out there about every 20 minutes.

Geneseo bear

Closeup of Emmaline

Outdoorsy students will not be at a loss for options: Letchworth State Park (the “Grand Canyon of the East”) is 20 minutes away, and there are plenty of trails, waterfalls, ski resorts and other things around. For students wanting more urban options, Rochester (with a million people in the greater metro area) is only 35 minutes north of campus and Buffalo/Niagara Falls is a little over an hour away. However, the frequent on-campus events (including cool sounding events like the “Insomnia Film Festival”) mean that there’s never a shortage of things to do.

Geneseo main 1

The old High School, now housing Admissions, study spaces, and more

Campus is great. The college does a great job repurposing as well as updating buildings; the old town high school and elementary schools are on campus, upgraded and used for a variety of things (like the admissions office is in the old high school). “It’s kind of cool to be in the old elementary school with the lockers in the hall!” said the tour guide. They’re currently in the middle of a massive $25m renovation of the library that’s expected to take a few years. They had to move things out of the building and got creative with how they’ve spread resources and study spaces across campus. When I arrived at Admissions, there were several students studying in lounge full of couches and windows (and a Keurig!) outside of the office; I asked the tour guide if this was normal. He said that this is one of many study new spaces popping up around campus for students to use while the library is being worked on.

Geneseo quad students

Some of the patios and other outdoor spaces, overlooking part of the valley in the distance. The Gazebo is directly to the right from this vantage point.

The rep, herself a Geneseo alumna, said, “the undergrad population [about 5,500 students] is the star of the show here.” There are only 100 grad students on campus in two programs, accounting and education. “We’re not a research institution per se, but we do the same types of research as peer institutions, and undergrads are doing it because there grad students aren’t here.”

Geneseo 4

The Gazebo

They have a 90% FT faculty rate so there are fewer adjuncts; “it’s much easier to meet outside of the classroom,” said the tour guide. He loves the access to the professors. Upperclassmen can serve as TAs but don’t ever teach; they tutor and give extra help for recitations and exam prep. Most programs also provide Learning Centers for students. “We won’t have them for the smallest things like Biophysics, but those students will go to bio or physics for help,” he said.

Geneseo integrated sci cntr

The Integrated Science Center

Geneseo is fairly well known for its sciences and have put a lot of money into its new Integrated Science Center. They’re ranked in the top 10 for alumni who’ve gone on to get doctorates in STEM fields (and physics in particular). They’re even the only school in Western New York with a Pelletron particle accelerator!

They do offer some impressive academic offerings, particularly for a school of this size, and they have some interesting interdisciplinary majors. A few to take note of are:

  • Geneseo sci atrium

    The Science Center atrium (with a wall displaying the periodic table)

    Sociomedical Sciences: I can’t think of another school off the top of my head that offers this, although I’m sure that some of the large schools probably do. This combines biology, psychology, anthropology, sociology – all the background students will need for careers in areas like bioinformatics, public health, health admin, or health services.

  • Geophysics, Geochemistry, Biophysics, and Biochemistry
  • Black Studies
  • Theater & English (yes, a combined degree) – again, I don’t know of another school that specifically does this (although I’ve seen theater as a concentration in English).
Geneseo flags

The tour guide wasn’t entirely sure what was going on with the statues over the door, but they’re a fun addition to the room!

My tour guide was in International Relations major, and he said that he felt that the non-science majors are also very strong here. “They’re setting us up for success. We have a lot of opportunities here.” The IR students have to study abroad; my tour guide was heading to Holland for a month. “I don’t speak the language, but I imagine that I’ll pick some up. I did it because the class sounds great!” They have an extensive study abroad program – particularly since students can access the entire SUNY system to choose programs if Geneseo doesn’t offer something they’re interested in.

Geneseo Seuss tree

The Seuss Spruce

I asked the tour guide about his favorite classes:

  • He took one on Woody Guthrie (who influenced him and who he influenced). “I love music and am a big Woody Guthrie buff, so this was great.”
  • He said he also loved his Geology class that, admittedly, he took to fulfill a requirement but ended up loving it. “Every Thursday at 8am, I was out hiking in the woods right near campus. The professor got us outside a lot. We did water samples and all sorts of stuff.”

Geneseo quad 3Athletics are another bragging point, with a lot of their teams (all but 2 last year) qualifying for post-season tournaments. I wish I had more time so I could’ve checked out the stables used for the Equestrian Program. These are located less than a mile from campus so they’re easily accessible. The students do need to be there a certain number of hours a week for practice and maintenance, but students can work around their class schedule. The college will also be adding a women’s golf team in fall of 2020.

Geneseo Greek tree

The Greek Tree

A few cool traditions or interesting trivia about campus include:

  • The Seuss Spruce which has become the (unofficial?) icon of the college. “It got damaged in a storm, and the college was going to take it down, but the students protested and they left it up,” my tour guide explained.
  • The Bell tower plays every couple hours. “You hear some weird stuff coming out of there!”
  • Greek Tree: “It’s got years worth of paint on it. It used to be tradition that they’d paint as far up as they could go, but you can see that kind of fell by the wayside!”
  • Geneseo knightSigning a Knight: Seniors get to sign a suit of armor that is then displayed on campus.
  • The Gazebo: people go there to watch the sunset across the valley. They’ve been named the top 10 sunset-watching spot!
  • Emmaline the Bear: This actually isn’t on campus; it stands on a fountain on Main Street. It had been there for about 100 years without any incident; about 10 years ago, it got knocked down by a truck that ran into the fountain “and has been knocked down about 3 times since then.”

© 2020

Converse College (soon Converse University)

Converse College (visited 2/25/20)

Converse main bldg 2

The main building

Here are a few fun facts: 1) “Our pool is famous!” said the rep. “This is where Julia Robert’s character learned to swim in Sleeping with the Enemy.” 2) They have one of the largest music libraries in the south. 3) This is the only women’s college (for a little while yet!) in the nation to compete at the NCAA DII level, including an acrobatic/tumbling team. They do have an IHSA Equestrian team (which is NOT part of the NCAA).

Converse 4Converse is well worth taking a look at if you’re want a smaller school with a lot of academic, social, and athletic options located in a small city with accessible off-campus options and near an airport and other public transportation (so easy to get to for students coming from a distance!).

I knew almost nothing about Converse before arrival other than it was a small women’s college located in Spartanburg, about 5 minutes from Wofford. I expected it to be a bit overshadowed by its neighbor – but quickly learned that it’s holding its own. This is a pretty campus with plenty of green space and easy access to the wider Spartanburg community. I left impressed with the school. I was a little bit put off at first … although they had clear admissions parking spots and signs for Admissions pointing to the main building, once I walked into the main entrance, it was eerily quiet (granted, it was about 4:15 in the afternoon) and no sense of where the admissions office might be. I had gone a little too far and went in the main entrance rather than a door down the building a bit the right. I guess the couple balloons tied to the porch banister should’ve been a giveaway!

Converse quad 1

Some of the academic buildings

In February 2020, the Board voted to change their name to Converse University AND to go coed by 2021. They’ll continue to have Converse Women’s College under that umbrella as well as Converse University International. “We already have male students on campus for evening and graduate classes. It’s just broadening that.” Eight campus buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, including the large main building. In addition to offices, the dining hall is in there, so all students come through on a regular basis. There’s also dorm space in one wing.

Converse statue 2

Part of the quad with one of the many statues around campus

They recently slashed tuition by 43%, so that now sits at $19,500 (2020-21 school year). Scholarships are now lower since they’re already starting at a much lower price-point. Out-of-state can get an additional $1,000 scholarship. Sliding Scale is 60% GPA, 40% test scores. Went test-optional in November. If they don’t want to submit, they select that on the app. They scrutinize the transcript more and work off a different scale. They have some stackable awards: to get a named Music scholarship, you have to major or minor; for smaller ones, you only have to participate in an ensemble. For Dance, they have to be in the minor (there’s no major); for Musical Theater/theater, you don’t have to major or minor.

A few of their traditions include:

  • Converse dorms 2

    Some of the dorms

    Big Sis/Little Sis – incoming students (including transfers) gets paired with someone in junior class. They get hints and gifts during the first week, and then there’s a reveal night.

  • Every student in Even Years become Pink Panthers; Odd Years are Red Devils. The Bigs will make horns/tail or panther ears/tail for their Littles (and sometimes these get worn at graduation!). Sometimes there are competitions.
  • Opening Convocation: Faculty and Staff in are regalia, the Honor Code gets signed (And then hangs in the Main Building), and there are picnics and other frivolity.
  • Founders Day with a picnic on the lawn with fried chicken and Strawberries & cream for dessert (the founder’s favorite meal).
  • Each class has a special ceremony in the spring. Freshman pick their mentor (advisor, another student, coach, etc – whoever helped navigate the first year) and they present the pin to the student. Sophomores get a Sisterhood Bracelet. Juniors get Class Rings.

Classes are typically capped at 25 students (usually those are Gen eds); most classes are smaller. All students take a First Year Seminar which is fairly typical to what you’d find at other schools.

They have a few fairly specialized majors for a school this size (a little over 1,000 undergrads):

© 2020

 

Salve Regina University

Salve Regina University (visited 4/29/19)

Salve gate

The entry arch to campus leading up to Ochre Court, the original college building

“I’ve never been as happy as when I’m here. It’s a special place.”

You will find very few schools in such a stunning location (I’m going to go on a ledge and say that Salve is like a smaller, East Coast Pepperdine): campus sits among the Newport Mansions on 80 ocean-front acres (not surprisingly, it’s ranked as a Top-10 School for Surfers). The original college building, Ochre Court, is itself a mansion that the owner couldn’t afford to keep up. It was offered to the Episcopalians who declined (oops); it was then sold to the Sisters of Mercy for $1. Campus has an eclectic mix of buildings ranging from historic mansions or other buildings (many of which were donated; the historical society will work with the college to restore them) to more modern places. Several films have been made on campus including True Lies (the tour guide pointed out the building that people rappelled down in the movie).

Salve 7“Salve is not our campus. It’s terrific and we love it and are glad to have it, but Salve is our mission: ‘To work for a world that is harmonious, Just, and Merciful.’ When students are fortunate enough to receive an education, they should use it for the benefit of others,” said one of the admission reps. The founding Sisters were known as the Walking Nuns of Dublin because they weren’t cloistered. They talk about mercy rather than charity, and about a responsibility to lift up/help others around them.

Salve 1“This place is magical, but if we had an airplane hanger with these kids in it, we’d be happy,” said the President. “There’s a transformation here. This senior said she wanted to come here to be anonymous, but she’s a tour guide, and she just got up to give a recital in front of 50 people. Sister Jane showed up to her recital. That’s really rare.” If this student is any indication, it’s not a surprise that Salve was ranked #18 most transformative college in the country. One students we spoke to transferred in. “I was here visiting a friend, and we sat around talking to the guy who sold spell check to Bill Gates. I didn’t have two nickels to rub together, and here’s this multi-millionaire hanging out and talking to two random kids on a Saturday, one of whom didn’t even go to school here. Who wouldn’t want to study here?”

Salve statue 1As a Catholic institution, they embrace that “the Liberal Arts is the foundation of what we do.” Corporations value a value an ethical foundations. They want to know that they’re bringing in people who will represent the organization. Students complete a 23-credit core with a broad liberal arts foundation providing a basis for academic growth and that empowers innovation and discovery. Part of the core includes 2 consecutive semesters of a language and 4 religion/ philosophy classes: 2 of these are religion classes of the student’s choice plus Quest for the Good Life (philosophy) and one upper level philosophy class. Our tour guide was taking “Saints, Superheroes, and Sinners” as her upper level class. Masses are offered on campus but never required (Although the dog in the chapel is a big draw!).

Salve chapel

The chapel

In First Year Experience, students take 2 conjoined classes: a 1-credit seminar on the transition to college and a full seminar class. The admission rep, an alum, took one about refugees. “The point of the FYE is to exercise the mental stuff to make it stronger. We began to see refugees as real people with real issues who might be our neighbors. The choices people made to emigrate from their home was informed less on the idea that they wanted to take something than on the idea that they wanted to give their family something. We’re now informed about how to implement policy.”

Salve BLM rally

Part of the Black Lives Matter rally

During the reception, I had a fairly in-depth conversation with one of the seniors. He feels that the non-visual diversity is fairly solid. There’s good religious diversity for a Catholic school. He started a group called Diversity to bring up ideas of discussion and mutual understanding around issues of religion and politics. “Artists fit in very well here.” Students who are looking for a philosophical community and who are maybe religiously minded (but also open minded about it) will do well here. “We’re on the liberal side of Catholic institutions.” He did say that racial diversity needs some work. Only about 15% of domestic students self-identify as students of color. “They’re working on it, but it’s slow.” However, there was a fairly vocal Black Lives Matter rally on campus when we got there with a lot of white faces in the crowd for support.

Salve 6“It hurts my heart to say that a lot of the jocks aren’t on a steep learning curve,” said one of the seniors I talked to. “Over 50% of our males are athletes (they have 3 nationally ranked DIII teams; the only 2 teams not in this division are Sailing – DI – and equestrian which is its own thing) and they don’t catch on as quickly that they shouldn’t be making snarky comments. I came in as a rugby player. As a freshman, I definitely did the swaggery thing, but I figured it out. A lot of people do not.” I asked the Dean of Admissions about this later. “We’ve developed Green Dot, a program targeted to athletes to help them understand language and bystander training. We have a responsibility to stand up. There’s been a huge decline in problems.” I asked how this decline showed itself around campus; he said that far fewer students were being brought up for issues and there was uptake in activity participation.

Salve loungeStudents must live on campus for 2 years (freshmen live in LLCs), but then are allowed to move off. Some upperclassmen stay, but it’s not guaranteed after the 2nd year. There are places to rent within a few minutes of campus. Although there are a lot of ritzy places in Newport, “It’s also one of the most diverse areas in the state. There’s abject poverty. You see that in the elementary schools and other areas,” said one of the reps. Parking isn’t really an issue, according to the students, but freshman can’t have cars. They all get free RIPTA access and there are campus shuttles. They also have an agreement with Uber. Our tour guide gave the food on campus a 7: “It’s not home-cooked, but there’s always something to eat.”

Salve 11There are 2100 undergrads with classes averaging 19 students. My tour guide said classes ranged from 10 – 30. There are lecture halls that are used for events but not for classes. They’re probably best known for nursing or education:

  • Students have to apply directly to the nursing program; transfers into the program aren’t allowed. NCLEX pass rates are high. The tour guide told us that a lot of the tests during the last year reflect the questions for their Boards to help them review, and the author of one of the review books teaches on campus.
  • Our tour guide would like to see more variety in majors offered on campus. There are a lot of unusual minors and certificates/concentrations (like Cybersecurity and Health Care Administration, Administration of Justice, and Spanish for Health and Service Professions) but it would be great to see these as majors as well.
  • Salve runs the PELL CENTER for international relations and public policy which approaches these from an interdisciplinary viewpoint.

Salve 8Salve is test-optional (Except for nursing and education). Students who are awarded a merit scholarship are invited to apply for Honors. Those in the program take 2 additional classes, usually in sophomore year. “There’s work; there’s more rigor but it’s more about the fit.” Honors students must do an internship and study abroad. There are 200 study abroad programs in 45 countries open to any Salve student.

Salve 9

Some of the newer dorms

The admission committee reads need-blind, but it’s rare that they can meet 100%. “We do what we can as a tuition-driven institution. A lot is driven by the application. The better the fit, the more we can do.” I asked a couple students about this, and they were happy with their scholarships and financial aid. “We’ll support DACA as well as we can. We’re a Sanctuary campus. It’s obvious fairly obvious when they don’t do FAFSA. We have the Mercy Fund since they can’t receive federal aid. We can’t get a student all the way there, but we work with other foundations to connect them to other sources of income. Of course, not all Dreamers have full need. Once they’re here, we think it’s our job to protect them and we use FERPA to do that since we don’t share information with the government.”

© 2019

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