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Ripon College

Ripon College (visited 4/16/15)

~Ripon students on quadFor a college that many people have never heard of, it has some famous alumni including Harrison Ford (who, although he didn’t technically finish his senior thesis, from what I’m told, is still considered an alum!), Spencer Tracy, Al Jarreau, about a dozen NFL and several NBA players, and McKey Sullivan (winner of America’s Next Top Model). Also, the town saw the start of the Republican Party in the 1800s “which was pretty progressive 160 years ago!” said one admissions rep.

~Ripon tablesI wasn’t even sure how to pronounce the name of this school before I got here (like “ripin’” if you’re wondering) and I walked away loving it. This is a small liberal arts college with just under 800 students although they’re working on growing to at least 1000 students and currently have the capacity to go to 1100. The majority of students come from the upper midwest but there are students from all over the country and world. They’re so serious about attracting students from other geographic regions that they’ve instituted a fly-in program where they will reimburse accepted students who submit original receipts up to $300 in travel costs for visiting. They’ll even pick up students from the Milwaukee airport.

~Ripon sculptureBecause it’s small, students can take things in a lot of different directions, dig deep, and look at things from a variety of angles. “Students here are just so excited,” said one professor. “I look at them and think, ‘Was I ever that earnest?’ They’re just really good kids!!” Faculty don’t always stick to the syllabus and can take students’ interests into account. There are several interdisciplinary majors. Students who thrive here like to be involved in a lot. “We’re too small for them to do just one thing.”

~Ripon quad 1Students are confident, want to be challenged and pushed, are willing to take on responsibilities, and can make their own way. One student said that Ripon made her more open/respectful of ideas. “You think you know who you are. You don’t.” Students and professors both brought up the fact that people on campus truly want to discuss not only academics but larger issues as well. “We have really good discussions about diversity,” said one student. The campus even now has gender-neutral bathrooms at the insistence of the students because of discussions people were having on campus.

~Ripon classOne of the Communications professors is a Ripon Alum. He did his PhD at a major research university and people expected him to take a job at another major institution, but he jumped at the chance to come back to Ripon. When asked why, “I told him it’s because I believe in this place. The guy was silent and then said that was the first time he’d ever gotten that answer.”

~Ripon greenhouseCurrently, they’re wrestling with areas of distinction. They understand that they need an answer to the “What makes you different?” question to draw people to them. They’re undergoing a curriculum review and have hired a new Dean. Despite this (or maybe BECAUSE they’re willing to be critical of their programs and be forward-thinking), there are already wonderful things happening in Ripon’s academic world. Programs of note include:

Dr. Zach Messitte, Ripon’s President, still teaches in the Political Science department and often runs a non-credit sophomore seminar on Presidential stuff. He also often leads a trip during the 3-week May term for the Liberal Arts in Focus program. 2015 trips also include an Ornithology class, Peace Studies in Jamaica, Language Immersion in Spain, and a trip to Germany.

~Ripon acad bldg 2Ripon has active, committed alumni who look out for their alma mater and the current students. They even help pay for students to go on career trips! A group of students recently went to DC for 4 days and paid only $400 for the entire trip which included airfare, hotels, meals, ground transportation, etc. The students got to attend career workshops with alumni, tour companies and other organizations, go on interviews, and more.

~Ripon loungeThey’ll take either the Common App or their school-specific application, and they don’t charge an application fee. “We want to take down as many barriers to applications as possible.” Getting a decision takes about 2 weeks after the file is complete. “If something seems off, we’ll ask the student for an interview.” Most scholarships are granted automatically but there are some that students need to apply for such as those for forensics, music/art, ROTC, diversity, etc. These additional, specialty scholarships are stackable with the automatically granted academic scholarships up to $19,000 a year.

~Ripon Lincoln 3Freshmen are usually housed together; after that, housing is generally mixed. Almost ⅓ of the students affiliate with a Greek organization and can live together on a floor in the dorm. Some apartments are available usually for Juniors and Seniors who must fill out an application; GPA is taken into account when assigning the apartments. Themed Housing is available and can be coed.

Ripon does a great job providing things to do on campus. “The town is a bit remote. We can’t do anything about that, but we can make campus fun.” They have an active performing and visual arts groups; students can and do get involved even if they aren’t majoring in those areas. Clubs range from the athletic (including 3 different Equestrian teams and a Women’s Boxing Club) to charity groups and honor societies. Students also find their own fun: “There’s a great sledding hill that’s well used,” said one students. Ripon is supposedly the second most haunted campus in the Midwest, so ghost-hunting is always an option!

(c) 2015

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University of Montana

UNIVERSITY OF MONTANA, Missoula (Visited 7/23-24/2012)

~.MSU panarama 1

A panoramic shot of the campus and town from the M Mountain

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The view of the main building and the oval from “The M Hike” on the hill behind the University

~MSU catapultUM has a classic university feel with big brick buildings and a large oval quad; it’s not only a beautiful campus, but it’s a manageable/ walkable size and it all seems to fit flow. As part of the counselor tour, we stayed in one of the traditional dorms for the first 3 nights. The rooms are a bit on the small side, but certainly livable. However, there was always a rush on the bathrooms which didn’t seem big enough to take care of the needs of the population on the hall. Some of the rooms were traditional doubles, and others were set up in “pods” – a common room with three single rooms off of it. None of the rooms had sinks, but the common rooms of the pods had a small fridge and microwave. None of the residential halls had AC, which students sited as one of the things they would change if they could. Only 2 of the dorms are higher than 4 floors, and all but 1 building are clumped together on one side of campus.

~MSU CSA sign~MSU farm 2Sustainability and locally sourced food is a big deal here. They have a garden on campus, and the food goes to the dining hall. The PEAS farm, about 3 miles away, is used by the university. In addition to 90 CSA shares, they provide 15-20,000 pounds of food for food banks. They offer classes on the farm for the environmental science and agricultural students. The class can be repeated three times: spring, summer, and fall so that students get the full range of what happens on the farm. The man who runs the program wants it to be meaningful experience for the students, and he’s clearly passionate about what he does. The farm is not organic-certified, but it is an organic farm: “we wouldn’t be doing anything differently. We already willingly adhere to all the standards, and becoming certified costs a lot of money and makes me jump through hoops, requiring hours of paperwork that otherwise could be spent on the land.”

One of the biggest issues I saw was that this is a very white campus, although that mimics the town, as well. Native Americans make up the largest minority population, but even that is low – like single digits low. However, there are 500 international students from 75 countries; one of the students on the panel was from Kenya and when asked about winters in Missoula, she said, “if I can survive it, anyone can survive it!”

~MSU main bldg and M

The main building with the M Mountain behind it.

~MSU stadiumMostly, students are really happy here. There’s a lot to do on and off campus. The Grizz-Cat (UM-MSU) rivalry is huge, and the annual football game sells out. One student said “I don’t even like football, but I look forward to the game every year!” Tailgating is huge, and people get really pumped up. School spirit is huge, and they turn out for a lot of games in different sports. They also like the accessibility of skiing and hiking, but say that even non-outdoorsy people fit in and find a lot to do. The movie theater is in walking distance as are restaurants, the local ice cream place, and pubs. Shuttles run frequently. First Friday (open art galleries) is popular. One of the on-campus perks that got a big shout-out is that there are resident IT students on call four nights a week who can be called to help trouble-shoot printer, internet, or computer problems. The biggest issues that students complained about was the parking situation(but that takes on an entirely different meaning here than on a really large campus), and off campus housing can be difficult to find, but not impossible. Most students find things close enough to walk or ride bikes.

~MSU acad bldg 2One of the first events we attended as a group was the Dean’s Panel where 9 Deans gave presentations about their respective colleges.

  • The Arts and Science college is the largest on campus with a lot of collaboration across departments and across colleges. Students can find their niche in the college but have the flexibility to try a lot of things. One of the most unique offerings in this college is Irish Studies which includes language study (the only place west of the Mississippi to offer it), culture, dance, etc. They offer exchanges with various places in Ireland. They also have a nationally recognized Native American Studies program in which student are engaged in the communities in Montana and around the country. Their Environmental Studies program is also nationally ranked, and there are lots of pre-programs (nursing, law, medicine), and advising for these programs is extensive. Their system of professional and faculty advisors for all majors is strong. The university also runs a biological research center on Flathead Lake (the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi). Why studying/doing research here, the students can live in university-provided housing.
  • ~MSU acad bldg 1The School of Business offers all the traditional majors which can be found on the website, but two are worth a special mention:
    • The Certificate Program in Entertainment Management (only Vanderbilt and Cornell offer this, as well). 600 students are enrolled in the program which is the most interdisciplinary in the business school. They’ve even been on the cover of Poll Star Magazine.
    • The Entrepreneurship Program which is an Endowed program. Students participate in a statewide competition in which 50-75 business plans get sent in. They pick 15 as semi-finalists who come for 2.5 days to compete for the $10,000 first prize; all of them get to present to investors, so even without winning, they get exposure to potential funding.
  • The College of Technology (soon to be Missoula College, Univ. of Montana) is a 2-year college attached to the main university. Students come from all over the country, and they become part of the university – they live on campus, they use all the facilities – so they get a two-year experience on a four-year Research-1 campus. They have access to smaller classes in 35 programs across five departments (including Applied Computing and Electronics, Culinary Arts, Diesel Welding/Heavy Equipment Operations, and Health Professions). Admission to the College of Tech only requires a HS degree or GED. If they earn 12 credits with a 2.0, they can transfer automatically into UM.
  • The School of Health offers complete accredited programs like Pharmacy (including a 2-4 PharmD program or a 4-3 program if they come in with a BS in a related area like kineseology), PT, Public Health, and Social Work (both BSW and MSW). All accredited. Only programs in the state.
  • In the Visual and Performing Arts College, students can do work in Fine or Visual Arts, Music, Dance, and Theater among other areas; they also have large offering for non-majors. Their $250,000 in scholarship money went largely to those majoring in the school, but some were offered to non-majors if they participated in marching band or for people who play “in-need” instruments. Many study abroad offerings for the majors include Vienna (Art History, Music, etc) and Bali. Dancers performed at Kennedy Center – selected 2/3 years to perform there. Some unique programs to be aware of are the Digital Art/Animation degree and the BFA in Sonic Art (recording engineers, sound in film or live concerts).
  • In Education and Human Sciences, students come in as a major in the particular subject and then apply to pick up licensure. Other majors include Communicative Sciences and Disorders (with a clinic open to the public providing lots of research and hands-on for the students), Clinical and School Psych, Health and Human Performance (athletic training, exercise science, health promotion) and Work physiology and Human Metabolism.
  • The Journalism School is one of the oldest undergrad journalism in the country. Students can major in print, online, photo, and multi-media areas as well as an interdisciplinary major combined with Native Studies. This is one of the schools that require internships, and students regularly get recognized with the Hearst Award. Over $110,000 in scholarships are awarded each year, largely alumni funded
  • ~MSU catapult

    This had been used to haul logs using horsepower; it now sits outside the Forestry Building.

    In the College of Forestry and Conservation, students can mix disciplines such as education, environmental law, and computer applications. It’s important to know that most students in this field will need a Masters for a permanent position. Wildlife Forestry is the largest program in the college (about 40%), and students can focus on terrestrial or water studies. The newest major is Wildland Restoration which deals with reclaiming land, invasive species, and fire control among other things. Students interested in more of a business side can major in Parks Recreation and Tourism Management to become such things as Park Rangers, Land Stewards, or work in a Nature Conservancy. Students can do work over the summer in Fiji, India, Vietnam, and other places, as well as learn winter rescue techniques in Montana and White-Water rescue in Costa Rica.

  • Finally, UM has opened up their Global Research Initiative to all students. When students are accepted to the University, they’re invited to express interest in joining the GRI. From that pool, UM gets a wide span of students and interests (not all business, not all honors, not all female). They look for a cohort that spans the range of majors and credentials. The pilot program took about 235 students in its second year. The program is privately funded, and they will keep it going as long as they can, which they hope will be a long time! Part of the program involves travel and international experiences; when accepted into the program, all US students will be given a passport (if eligible). Every year, the students focus on a specific project or theme:
    • The 1st year revolves around small seminars (examples: Doing the Right Thing, Truth vs. Truthiness) in which they explore a big, enduring question having to do with public health, world poverty, economics, etc.
    • The 2nd year moves into Models of Leadership. Students participate in retreats, lectures, workshops, etc.
    • During the 3rd year, the program will help fund an internship, study abroad, research, or service learning (maybe pay for airfare, etc). Students have to do one of those.
    • The 4th year is the capstone in which students work together in groups of about 15 on one of the big problems. For example: if they’re interested in malaria, they’ll be put into a multi-disciplinary group to problem solve, so they could be working with a biologist, linguist, business major, and education major. The project they complete could be an ad campaign, writing grants, etc.

(c) 2012

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