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Centenary University (NJ)

Centenary University (visited 11/12/19)

Centenary main 2

The main building as seen through the gates from the street. 

My visit totally started off on the wrong foot. I arrived about 20 minutes early for my 2pm tour. I arrived at the given address and found the large main building with the gold dome; it’s hard to miss. However, there’s no parking to be found. No visitor lot, no signs for admissions parking, nothing to direct people arriving from off campus. No signage is a huge red flag for me. I circled the area, pulled onto a couple small roads into campus thinking it might lead me somewhere. I saw a lot of old buildings, nothing that looked well kept up, no signs for anything. Pulling onto another main road, I saw a small (like the size of a sheet of paper) sign that said “Centenary Parking” with an arrow. I followed it. Saw another one indicating I was still in the right direction. I ended up at the Hackettstown train station about 3 blocks from campus (which is a bonus, I’ll say – so there’s a plus in the university’s favor). I pulled into the lot and called the admission office, explaining that I had no idea where I should be going or parking. “Oh, you need to park on the street!” – which they never indicated on the website or in any of the emails confirming my visit. I explained that I had been circling for about 10 minutes; no spots available. “Then just go to this other place.”

Centenary chapel 1

The balcony of the chapel which sits under the gold dome.

I finally found someone who had pulled out, I parked on the street, and I made my way into the building. Right inside the main doors is a Welcome Center; I figured that was maybe the admission hub since there were no other signs for admissions. I thought that was great! A lot of schools don’t have that. I went in, introduced myself, and said I was there for the 2pm tour. “You’re in the wrong spot. You want Admissions.” Nothing else. Ok … where would that be?? I got pointed in the right direction.

I seriously almost walked away at that point. It’s hard to feel good about a place that seems to almost go out of its way to not welcome people – especially when they’re trying to get enrollment up. How can I recommend a place in good faith when I’m not sure that students will be taken care of, and that starts with visiting Admissions.

Centenary quad 1

The main quad where there are often activities held, including a massive Easter Egg hunt,

Once I got into Admissions (at least it was just around the corner from the Welcome Center), the student worker at the desk was friendly, and things turned around a bit. I introduced myself, and he was enthusiastic and told me that he was going to be the one taking me on tour. While I was waiting for him to get his coat, none of the admissions officers who saw me come in introduced themselves or said hello … and this office was NOT busy. I was the only visitor there; I heard no phones ringing; nothing much seemed to be going on. As a side note, the woman who I had been emailing/talking to also never introduced herself.

Centenary tablesThe tour was fairly quick – maybe 40 minutes, and we dawdled because I asked a lot of questions. He was totally not scripted and was good about answering things openly. As a senior, he’s got a lot to say, and I walked away feeling like I had a decent grasp on the place.

So, here’s what I can say about Centenary:

  • This is a great school for students who are maybe C students in high school and who need small classes and possibly academic support: they offer a couple for-pay support programs.
  • Centenary equestrian 1It has a spectacular Equestrian Center. The center is about 8 miles away, about a 15-minute drive through some very pretty countryside.
    • “The center is amazing; the classrooms are right there and you can actually watch people riding and doing the things you’re talking about in class.”
    • They offer Equine Studies with a variety of concentrations, including: Equestrian Media/PR, Equine Business Management, Equine Training/Instruction, Animal Health (pre-vet track), Equine Science, and Equine Studies.
    • Centenary equestrian classroom

      One of the classrooms in the equestrian center that looks onto the indoor arena

      They run shuttles several times an hour to and from the center; they even have a kitchen there “Because a lot of them are there for a big chunk of the day for classes and riding; they can even use their meal swipes out there.”

  • They have a very cool “double-decker” (2-storey) chapel on the 2nd and 3rd floors of the main building.
  • Campus facilities leave a lot to be desired, although they’re slowly improving upon them.
  • Centenary theater

    The interior of the new theater lobby. The black box theater is straight ahead; the large theater is the left.

    They have new theater facilities which brings in community members both to perform and as audience members.

  • Their DIII athletic teams draw fans, including wrestling, but I get the feeling that it’s because there’s not a ton of other things to do.
  • It’s very much a regional school (70% from NJ) with a lot of commuters. “One of my friends commutes from Newark which is like an hour away.”
    • They offer 2 cool freshman dorms (attached to the main building), 2 transfer student dorms (which is incredibly smart of them), a couple sophomore dorms (“Middle Campus”) and 2 fairly new Apartment-style buildings. The apartments have 4 singles, 2 baths, a living room, and a kitchen. “You can move in here as soon as sophomore year, but usually only if you have older friends who are willing to have you live with them.”
    • Centenary middle campus

      The Middle Campus (sophomore) dorms

      They have a “Move In Crew” – volunteers from a bunch of clubs that will help unload stuff from onto golf carts and will bring them to the dorms.

    • There is no residency requirement.
    • Housing is more difficult off campus because “it’s an older town and it’s hard to find landlords to rent out houses, but there are some, and there are some apartment complexes not too far away.”
  • Centenary sci bdg

    The Science (and fashion) building

    Students have to complete 10 hours of community service. “Most of them get it done in freshman year because there’s a service project they do as a group during orientation.”

  • Enactus is a social entrepreneurship organization and/or class. Students can get a Social Media Marketing My tour guide loved this and got a social media internship between junior and senior years which he credits entirely to Enactus and his concentration.
  • They offer a fashion design major – which is housed in the science building. I didn’t get to go in and see the labs, but the building looked like an old elementary school.
  • Town is small. “It’s hard to get food late-night, so the school has offered some late night options. People love that!”

© 2019

Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College

Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College (visited 6/13/17)

SMWC 1The students who attend SMWC love it here… but it is a self-selecting sort of place. “People who come here pretty much know what they’re in for,” said the tour guide. For the student who is looking for small and Catholic – and possibly an equestrian program – this is the school. Most of campus is pretty with attractive buildings and amazing landscaping (making parts feel very wooded – go figure!); however parts of it raise eyebrows such as the weeds on the tennis courts. “You can tell we don’t have a team,” said the tour guide.

SMWC statues

Some of the statues around campus.

This liberal arts college sits 10 minutes outside of Terra Haute which is very much a college town (Indiana State and Rose-Hulman are both here). “We’re trying hard to keep kids here on the weekends. We have a great student-life staff,” said an admissions rep. There are things to do, but it’s not a bustling campus, and nothing is walkable from campus. “I would rank the craziness factor at about a 3,” said the tour guide. “There’s definitely a social life and I’ve made lots of friends, but events end early. But that means that I can also get my work done. It’s kind of the best of both worlds.” Anyone can have cars and there are currently no shuttles offered to students to help get around town. It’s also a dry campus.

SMWC dorm room

One of the dorm rooms; many are suite-style and some even have balconies!

SMWC is growing with the largest incoming class to date entering this fall. This is also their 3rd year of being coed. “In real numbers, that’s about 40 guys out of about 380-400,” said the rep. They’re actively trying to change perceptions about the school (particularly in terms of them accepting men), and they’ve added golf last year with Cross Country and Equestrian (Western Hunt Seat) starting this fall (2017). In 2018, they’ll add soccer. Our tour guide didn’t pick the college because it was all-female, “but I ended up loving it!” However, she thinks that going coed is also a positive change for the school.

SMWC chapel ext

The chapel; the dining hall is in the building attached at the left

They can currently accommodate 400 students in the dorm (there’s only 1), but there are two floors in another building that can be renovated to re-use as dorm rooms as the need arises. About 240 will live on campus this fall. The single dorm building also houses security, the chapel, some departmental offices, mailboxes, and a place for breakfast to be served. Lunch and dinner are across campus in the building attached to the convent. “Meals are good! I’d rank food as about an 8. The community can eat brunch here on the weekends. We get that as part of our meal plan.”

SMWC shell chapel

The interior of the Shell Chapel

Campus is very clearly Catholic, although mass is never required and the only religious requirement is 1 philosophy or religion class. There are statues (including a walkway with the Stations of the Cross), a large chapel, a small chapel, a churchyard where many of the nuns are buried, a grotto, etc around campus. Campus was founded by the Sisters of Providence from France, and many still live on campus, “but it’s like a retirement home. They don’t teach, but will sometimes come in to do guest lectures on campus,” said the tour guide. This order is very liberal, and they’re often seen protesting the death penalty and other social justice issues. The nuns run an alpaca farm and use the wool in fair-trade goods. Students and community members can take spinning classes.

SMWC horses

Some of the horses on campus with the barns in the background

Classes average 11 students with an option for online classes for undergraduates. Their strongest program might revolve around the extensive equestrian center. They offer Equine Studies, Equine Training and Instruction, and Equine Business Management as majors with Equine Assisted Therapy and Equine Science as minors. Students in the equestrian programs/majors are assigned a horse which they must take care of as part of their grade. The school also gets a number of yearlings that students train as part of a class.

SMWC grotto

The campus grotto

Other notable programs include Music Therapy, Professional Writing, Human Resource Management, 3+1 Leadership Development program (pairing any major with a Masters in LD), Healthcare Administration, and Nursing. Music is coming back; it had been gone for awhile because of budget cuts.

SMWC staircase

The main stairwell in the dorm

One of the favorite traditions is the Ring Ceremony. Juniors get class rings towards the end of the year during a formal ceremony after a dinner where they’re wearing their caps and gowns. This ring is presented to them by an alum, and they can choose who gives it to them. At this point, they wear it with the letters facing towards themselves. At the end of senior year, they have the Oak Leaf Ceremony where they wear oak leaf crowns (“I’m not sure if this will change now that we’re coed,” said the tour guide) and they turn their rings around to “face the world.”

In addition to regular merit scholarships, they offer a competitive, full-tuition scholarship. Students write essays for the first round; from these, admissions will select students to interview; 4 get the scholarship.

© 2017

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