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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

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

 

Stanford University

STANFORD UNIVERSITY, Palo Alto, CA (visited on 7/20/12)

A typical walkway on the campus.

Stanford lawnWow. I’m a little awe-struck by this place, and I can see why people flock here and want to apply. It’s nothing short of spectacular. After Berkeley, I was thinking that this would be another one of those Big Name schools that didn’t care about talking to us. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Not only is this an absolutely gorgeous campus, but they’re very deliberate in their intentions and in their discussions with people. They provided a lovely lunch in the conference room in the visitor’s center, and most of the admissions counselors, along with several students, came to eat with us.

Stanford montag hallThis was a surprise for me: The official name of the university is Leland Stanford Junior University. It is located on the land owned by Stanford, Senior, a major landowner in the 1800s who made money through the gold rush and the railroads. When his only child (Junior) died in his teens, the parents still wanted to be able to provide some way to educate others. There were five tenets that they used to found the university. The tour guide said “we’ll let you guess which one is no longer in place.” The three I remember from the tour was that Stanford was set up to be coeducational, nonsectarian, and tuition-free.

Stanford acad bldg 2Herbert Hoover was reported “the first student” at Stanford, and he was in the first class. Rumor has it, though, that he camped out in the dorms early to get the best room, and then proclaimed himself the first student since he moved in first.

Stanford chapelAlthough Stanford is non-sectarian, they have a large, beautiful chapel on campus with extensive mosaics on the front that had to be redone several times (mainly because of earthquakes). There are also numbered plaques lining the walkway along the front: they have one for almost every graduating class; they started placing these after the first two classes placed graffiti – their graduating year – all over the sandstone. The students settled for the plaques instead when the admin offered. There are also time capsules on campus, including one placed by Stanford’s wife somewhere on campus.

Stanford acad bldgLast year, Stanford received just over 36,000 applications and accepted about 2,500 for a final freshman class of 1,700. (As a side-note, this is the 2nd largest land-owning college in the world. It’s a little mind-boggling that there is such a huge campus for fewer than 7,000 undergrads, although there’s a significant graduate population as well). Admission isn’t so much about whether the applicants can handle to work. The vast majority of them can handle it. It becomes more about what else the student can bring to the table. Stanford is looking for engagement, impact, and passion. If these pop out of the application, students have a chance. Seventy percent of applicants have a 4.0 GPA or better, and 95% are in the top 10% of their class. Test scores “are less important than you’d think but more important than you’d wish.” They don’t only accept people with the best scores, but a vast majority have scored 700+ on their tests.

Stanford fountain 2Housing is guaranteed all four years in dorms, fraternities/sororities, co-ops, townhouses, themed Living-Learning Communities, and other options. Approximately 95% of undergraduates live in university housing, and there are also several thousand grad students (just over half of the grad population) living on campus, as well. About a quarter of the students are involved in Greek Life.

Stanford statuesFreshmen cannot have cars on campus but lots of students have bikes, and the shuttles are extremely efficient. Stanford also offers free CalTrain for staff and reduced for students; the shuttles from the train stop (on the edge of campus) is amazing – they have lines of shuttles waiting at the station during busy times, each going to different parts of campus to get people around quickly. The shuttles also get students off campus to shopping and other areas, and zipcars are accessible on campus, as well.

Engineering is a big deal here (although what isn’t, I suppose). The other undergraduate departments are Humanities and Sciences, Education, and Earth Sciences. A few of the unusal majors are Geophysics, Energy Resources Engineering, Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity, and Symbolic Systems. The quarter system allows students to study things on a more intense level, and our tour guide really liked it because it allowed for more focus.

(c) 2012

Denison University

Denison University (visited 4/13/12)

I drove into town expecting this to feel very much the same was as many of the other small Ohio towns I had been driving into. Instead, I was met with a quaint, very clean, very walkable couple blocks of “downtown” with almost a New England town feel. Traffic was light enough for me to cruise slowly down main street looking for a coffee shop and/or a place to pick up a sandwich; turns out I could do both in the same place. I took my stuff to go and drove around the block to the entrance to campus, at which point I had to wind my way up a large hill. Suddenly, I crested the hill and was on campus with imposing brick buildings and more winding roads forking off in a variety of directions.

Denison 3The campus makes the university feel like it has a much larger population than it has; the 2,000ish students have access to a huge variety of resources (and as a new person coming on campus, I was hugely grateful for the very well-marked signs getting people around campus!). Most buildings are large brick structures which contributed to what I would describe as traditional-looking. I particularly liked that the college deliberately arranged the academic departments: classes for the department and the corresponding faculty offices occupy the same hallways so that classes, labs, and most importantly, the professors are easily accessible. The campus itself is set up around several Quads; academics and some residential units are mixed together (although this is not completely the case). For example, there’s an art quad way down the hill by the entrance to the university with dorms for upper-classmen so they can live close to the majority of their classes if they choose to do so; however, there is a nice mix of where people live so it does not have a feeling of segregation by major (self-imposed or otherwise).

Denison 2Perhaps the coolest housing option I’ve seen so far is their “Homestead” which is an off-campus cooperative, alternative-energy housing option (and animals are allowed in this housing option). This is a student-run house which holds 12 students at a time who want to learn more about sustainability. Freshmen are housed in traditional-style dorms: double rooms with smallish bathrooms down the hall. However, the bathrooms have actual shower stalls with doors that close rather than shower curtains which is nicer than some other dorm bathrooms that I’ve seen. Only two dorms have more than 200 students; four housing options hold six students each. The university is in the process of building new apartments for seniors; all students are required to live on campus, but they make an effort to “reward” the upperclassmen with better housing that almost phases them into the real world. The apartments have kitchens and the residents are not required to have meal plans. There are two dining halls on campus which make it easy to get meals regardless of where students live or where they are for classes.

Denison 1My tour guide described Denison as a bit of hippy campus, although it didn’t entirely come across that way as an observer. Students are definitely independent and go-getters, but also looked a bit preppy; overall, the students I saw walking around campus were a little more dressed up than students at many other campuses I’ve been on. People on campus engaged with each other, saying hi and addressing each other by name (this went for the professor-student interactions I witnessed as well). Students and faculty were all over campus for the duration of my time there, not just during the passing-times between classes. All of this backed up the community feel that the tour guide talked about. One of the things that she particularly liked about campus was the large nature preserve contiguous with campus that students use to hike, do environmental research, and even go camping in. She appreciated two other areas about the college that she felt were worth mentioning: one was that no class is bigger than 32, and she has had many classes with fewer than 10 students. The second was that she got to take Homeric Greek which she didn’t even consider until college and realized it was an option (they also teach Portuguese, French, Spanish, German, Chinese, Japanese, and Arabic on a regular basis and some other languages as requested). Certificate Programs in some unusual areas such as Neuroscience, Queer Studies, Astronomy, and Geophysics are offered. Students interested in the Public Service, Political Science, or Government can join the Lugar Scholars Program (named for a State Senator who graduated from Denison in the 50s); the two tracks allow students to focus on American Politics or International Affairs.

(c) 2012

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