campus encounters

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Archive for the tag “HBCU”

Virginia State University

Virginia State University (Visited 1/27/19)

VSU 10I arrived on Sunday to walk around and talk to some people; I was pleasantly surprised to see how active students were on a weekend. Students were playing football, walking across the street to the church, hanging out in the gazebo, walking between buildings. It had a lively vibe that not all campuses have on a weekend, particularly on a relatively chilly day in January.

VSU 9This HSCU is located in Petersburg, a small city about 20 minutes south of Richmond. Campus is very pretty – and is completely gated which surprised me. They’re in a slightly more residential area less than a mile from the downtown area of the city; there is public transportation available, and the train station is about a mile away. Students said that there’s been an increase of things to do on and around campus recently. They still say that a lot of it is “make your own fun,” but if you put some effort in, it’s fine. There are just over 4,000 undergraduates, about 2/3 of whom come from Virginia. Most freshmen (and just under 2/3 of the total study body) live on campus which explains part of why there was still a vibrant feel on campus on a weekend.

VSU 8As a land-grant school, it’s not surprising that majors within the College of Agriculture are strong here (Hospitality Management and Dietetics fall within this school in addition to Agriculture and other more traditional majors you’d expect). They also run a 400+ acre Agricultural Research Station about 2 miles from campus.

VSU 4However, students had a lot to say about other departments, especially Business. The College of Engineering and Technology offer 2 engineering majors (Computer and Manufacturing) as well as 3 in Engineering Technology degrees (Electronics, Information Logistics, and Mechanical).

I’m a bit concerned about retention and graduation rates; fewer than 45% of students graduate within 6 years. However, for students looking for a good bargain (tuition is less than $6,000 for in-state and less than $16,000 for out-of-state) at a medium-sized university where faculty will likely know who they are, this might be a good option.

© 2019

Norfolk State University

Norfolk State University (visited 1/31/19)

NSU 2I was impressed with the spaciousness, greenery, and attractive brick buildings on NSU’s campus (and I found out later that the campus used to be a golf course! That helps explain the terrain and why it’s so open and green). This is located in a great group of college-towns with schools like Old Dominion, William & Mary, Christopher Newport, Hampton, Virginia Wesleyan, and others all less than an hour away.

NSU 9This is one of many HBCUs in Virginia and is a member of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund. It was started as a chapter of Virginia Union (another HBCU near Richmond) (It seems like a lot of Virginia schools were off-shoots of other schools).  Not surprisingly, they pull about ¾ of their students from Virginia, and the student body is heavily female (about 2/3).

NSU 7Students like NSU’s size – it gives enough for some options and variety, but not so large that you fall through the cracks. Students said the professors are accessible and want to teach. However, they say that although a lot of the academic buildings have been worked on and the main quad gives a great first impression, the dorms and some other student life areas need a lot of work. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of support transitioning into college life.

NSU 5I visited campus in the late afternoon, around 4pm. There were almost no students around campus which was a disappointment. I was unable to get much of a sense of the campus culture from the students I encountered. While a majority of freshmen live on campus, well under 40% of the overall population lives there. The number of commuters give it a “touch and go” feel (and the parking lots were nowhere near full at 4:00 which tells you how quickly people leave classes after campus). Parking seems to be adequate; there’s that going for the school. “Social life isn’t all that active. We have good sports [they’re DI] but we go off campus a lot,” said one student. The city provides a decent amount to do, “but it’s the typical stuff in town – but the beaches are great, or we’ll go to Hampton to hang out.”

This all may feed into retention. While their freshman-to-sophomore retention rate was decent (hovering around 75%), they can definitely do better – and their graduation rate (in the mid-30%) worries me a great deal. I would not feel comfortable sending students here based on that alone. Students mentioned that financial aid was a bit of a hassle (but I’m not sure if it’s any more so than at other schools); this may be one of the barriers to completion.

© 2019


Lincoln University (PA)

Lincoln University (visited 5/2/18)

Lincoln quad 2

The Quad

Surprisingly, this is a fully gated campus with security booths at the entrances (although to be honest, the fences are pretty low; they wouldn’t actually keep anyone out – but you can only drive onto campus at the couple check-points).

This is a fairly rural campus; the nearest small town is about 3 miles. Students are NOT impressed with the location simply because there is nothing to do. “Cars are pretty necessary to have a social life off campus.” Lancaster is just under an hour away, and both Philadelphia and Baltimore are just over an hour from campus. “Students need to create their own fun here.”

Lincoln Greek patio

One of the Greek “patios” with benches, grills, and affiliation sign

Students like the camaraderie on campus. Almost all of the 2,000 undergrads live on campus. It’s small enough to know people, see people all the time, and get to classes easily. “Everyone is social. You kind of have to be since there’s nothing else to do around campus.” There is some stuff going on around campus “but it’s a dry campus, so don’t expect they typical large party scene.” There is some Greek life but it does not dominate the social scene. The DII sports are fairly strong, and they do have a football team. Games are actively attended.

Lincoln library 2

The Langston Hughes Library

This is the country’s first degree-granting HBCU; it was renamed for Abraham Lincoln after the Civil War. There is a lot of history to the campus, and many of the buildings are named for famous alumni including Thurgood Marshall and Langston Hughes. The school went coed in the 1950s, and like other liberal arts schools, is a little more than half female at this point.

Lincoln science cntr

An academic building

They offer majors that are typical at a liberal arts school with the exception of Pan-Africana Studies and Biochemistry-Molecular Biology. Students say that it’s easy to connect with professors and they seem to care. However, their retention and graduation rates are pretty low, and not much seems to be in place to help students persist through their undergrad degree.

© 2018

University of Maryland, Eastern Shore

University of Maryland, Eastern Shore (visited 4/27/18)

UMES 2UMES is a land-grant HBCU located in Princess Anne on the lower Eastern Shore, about 15 minutes south of Salisbury. Much of campus is attractive and well-maintained. It’s one of the smaller schools in the UM system with just under 3,000 students. It’s relatively easy to get around, and parking is plentiful; “you definitely need a car here!” said a student. Town is about a mile away; there are a few fast-food restaurants and shops, but students are more likely to go to Salisbury for entertainment. Students are not really impressed with the social life on campus. There’s not a lot going on which may help explain part of the school’s retention and graduation rates.

UMES quadMost freshmen live on campus, but many move off after that. Many live close: driving into campus, I passed several small apartment complexes with signs up advertising space for students. There’s also some student-specific housing in Salisbury just off the SU campus that is open to UMES students (although about 90% of students in that housing do attend SU). Greek Life is an important part of campus life, with each organization given a small area on a quad for benches, signs, and grills. Students seemed to think that the food on campus was mediocre at best. “It gets the job done, but that’s about all I can say about it!”


Aviation Complex

Surprisingly for a school this size, athletics are DI, mostly typical sports. They do have Women’s bowling and Men’s golf.

The faculty did get rave reviews from students. Classes are relatively small, particularly for a state school. There are a great deal of unusual/specialty majors offered at UMES such as:

UMES Food Sci Tech

Food Science and Tech building

I love that they have more hands-on, career-specific academics that prepare students for the workforce, but I’d be a bit concerned about sending a student here. Enrollment has been going down the last several years, but they are working hard to try to reverse that trend. They also are not graduating students well, although they seem to be on par with many HBCUs. There were not many students around, even though it was a beautiful day. Most students were walking alone or with one other person. The price is right, though – and for students looking for some more specialized majors and who like a quieter life, this might be the perfect place for them.

© 2018

Shaw University

Shaw University (visited 3/14/17)

Shaw bridge

Bridge over a city street connecting the academic and residential sides

This is the first college I’ve heard of that requires a criminal background check of their applicants. “That’s not to say that they will automatically deny. It’s a safety thing for the campus,” said the rep, herself an alum of the college.

This small, liberal arts HBCU with about 1800 students is located right near downtown Raleigh. Despite being in the city, it still manages to have a cohesive campus that’s compact and easily walkable. “Classes as small as 7 here. Professors are going to know who you are or if you’re in class.”

Shaw sign

Mural under the pedestrian bridge

Shaw was the first HBCU to admit women; today they enroll almost 60% females. Almost ¾ come from North Carolina.

I was not impressed with the organization, communication, and willingness to help on campus. No one seemed to really know what was going on. Even something as simple as parking and finding the admissions office was off. I stopped and asked a security guard and got pretty good directions, but the security officer inside the building near where I parked was on her cell, barely acknowledged me, and when she did, didn’t bother moving the phone when I asked if I was ok where I was parked. She waved dismissively and said “You’re fine if you’re down at the bottom” and turned her back. I was concerned that my car was going to get towed. The Admissions/Welcome Center was no better: the woman at the desk said I needed to check in upstairs with Admissions. Once upstairs, the Rep in an office near the stairs kept an earbud in while telling me that I had to go downstairs, check in with the Receptionist (the one who just sent me upstairs) and wait there for the tour. When I went back down, she had no idea what I was talking about or how to help. She called upstairs and got told a different story from what I was told. I almost left …

Shaw chapel

The chapel

Affiliated with the Baptist church, the religion major and Divinity Schools are well known. Chapel is active but not required for undergrads. Some of the health sciences are also strong such as kinesiotherapy and athletic training. Social Work and Education are also noteworthy.

Shaw dorms

The two dorm buildings

Dorms are mostly traditional. Only freshmen have to live on campus, and they and the sophomores have priority for housing. If space remains, upperclassmen can stay on campus; otherwise, they have to move off. There are some triples (not forced) as well as some rooms with double beds available for an extra charge. Food is “ok.” Fried Chicken Wednesday and Fish Fridays (“We are in the south,” said the rep) got special mention. For those interested in Greek Life, all Divine Nine are on campus. They have plots in Greek Park. Students have to meet minimum GPA and credit hour requirements, and so they can’t rush until at least sophomore year.

Shaw mascot 2Athletics are DII, and the student ID gets students into all the games, all of which are held on campus except for football that plays at the Durham County Stadium. Buses are available to get students out there. Women’s basketball is the most competitive team with a National Championship, but “All games are packed out. Even the community comes. The women’s games are full because they’re so good.” The Marching Band has become increasingly good over the past few years.

Shaw quad and cityStudents must have a minimum 2.0 GPA for admissions. Although they don’t require a minimum test score, all students must take a standardized test and submit the scores. These are used for scholarships and placement purposes. “There are lots of scholarships available.”

SShaw bell towerhaw has instituted a First Year Experience that encompasses mentoring, seminars (even covering financial literacy), and a required attendance at monthly Cultural and Spiritual Enrichment Seminars (which upperclassmen are “highly encouraged” to continue attending). Students must attend CASES in order to graduate; they’re held once a month. Students are issued blazers, a tie (men) or scarf (women), and must wear grey or black slacks or skirts and a white button up shirt. I’m not sure The FYE has done much … Only about 45% return for sophomore year and only 25% graduate within 6-years. However, it is an excellent deal at about $25,000 (Tuition, Room & Board, and fees) for the year.

© 2017


North Carolina Central University

North Carolina Central University (visited 3/14/17)

NCCU 1Although not flashy, NCCU’s campus of mostly brick buildings is well kept up, attractive, and easy to navigate. Many of the dorms are tall, utilitarian, and older/less attractive than other buildings providing traditional hall-style rooms. Students do have to live on campus for the first year, and the university is adding suites and apartment options to the traditional halls (particularly for those students who stay on campus after the first year).

NCCU 2Founded in 1910, NCCU is now part of the UNC system. This HBCU (currently 78% African-American) is nationally recognized as a community engaged institution. Students need 60 community service hours to graduate; the rationale is that this gives students connections with the community, networking opportunities, and a chance to build skills.

NCCU Greek Bowl

Some of the Greek plots/decorations along the side of the Greek Bowl

Located in Durham (ranked as the 4th best place to live in the US), students have no shortage of opportunities. In addition to 3 other major universities (and their basketball teams) in the Research Triangle (Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill), Durham is known as the City of Medicine and the Technology Hub of the east coast. There are plenty of job and internship opportunities around. The campus is only about a mile from downtown and a few miles from Duke.

NCCU sciencesDuring the info session, the rep told us that NCCU offers 78 degrees (majors) with 146 Degree Concentrations, but this includes graduate degrees. Undergraduates can get degrees in about half of those. The biggest majors include: Nursing, Business Admin, Criminal Justice, Pharmaceutical Sciences, and Hospitality and Tourism. A 3+2 Dual Degree program is offered: students major in Physics at NCCU and then complete an Electrical Engineering degree at NC State, Duke, or Georgia Tech. Another noteworthy program is the Early Medical School Selection Program in conjunction with Boston University. Students qualify during sophomore year and then transition to BU in senior year to complete their degree (they remain jointly matriculated at NCCU) and can begin taking a couple med school classes).

NCCU footballThe 6000 undergraduates seem pretty active on campus. There are 310 athletes playing on the school’s 14 DI teams. Their big rival is NC A&T in Greensboro, and the Ag-Eagle Classic is a huge game/tradition. Greek Life is also big with all of the Devine Nine represented. Students need 30 credits and a 2.75 GPA to rush. All the Greek Organizations have a plot circling the “Greek Bowl,” aka the Library Bowl (the library sits on one side of the area) or the Unity Bowl, so named because during the 10:40 all-school break on Tuesdays and Thursday, students tend to congregate in there in good weather. There are DJs or other fun things planned during this time.

NCCU fountain

The fountain next to the library in the “Library/Greek/Unity Bowl”

Admission decisions are done on a rolling basis. North Carolina high school seniors can apply for free during the mid-November Free App week ( Dates change every year so check the website! For out-of-state students, they’re looking for a 2.75 GPA or higher, and applicants must submit the writing portion of the SAT or ACT. Students will be automatically considered for most scholarships and can apply for 75 more at: The Students interested in the Honors College need to apply to the program; the rep said that the students selected for the program generally have a 1530 SAT (with writing) or 23 ACT + 3.3 GPA to come in as a freshman.

I’m not impressed with the graduation rate here (slightly under 50% graduating in 6 years), but for students who do get involved, are willing to seek out opportunities, and who are looking for a medium school in a small city, this might be a good choice of school.

© 2017

Saint Augustine’s University

Saint Augustine’s University (visited 3/14/17)


SAU library

The library

SAU is a small HBCU in Raleigh, NC. It only offers undergraduate programs and serves about 1,000 students. The population is about equally split between in- and out-of-state students. The university is located in a highly residential area with not much within immediate walking distance, but shuttles and city buses run regularly. A city bus was dropping students off at the main gate as I was touring.

SAU dorm 2

The largest dorm on campus

This is a small, manageable campus. There’s a central quad area with dorms sitting on one side and academics on the other. Athletic facilities are easily accessible outside this main circle. Students can get from dorms to classes in about 5 minutes, 10 if they’re slow! The dining hall is small but gets the job done. Overall, facilities are decent but could use some updating. This probably stems from some of the recent financial troubles the school has faced. A new president was appointed in 2015 which they’re hoping will help stabilize the school’s finances.


SAU Greek 1

A Greek display with the quad in the background

Greek life is highly active on campus and chapters are displayed prominently in the middle of campus with plagues and other decorative items. Sports are also a big deal here, particularly Track & Field. They have sent a couple runners to the Olympics, and their coach is highly regarded, taking the team to Nationals several times!


SAU chapel

The historic chapel (this is an Episcopal school).

Although I was visiting relatively early on a chilly day, students were out and about on campus. There was a nice vibe around campus. Students made eye contact and said hello to people. However, their graduation rate is abysmal with a little under 1/3 of the students graduating within 6 years. Approximately 75% of students are Pell-Eligible, and there is no real program to help students stay and persist to graduation. I’d be concerned about students choosing to attend here other than needing a stepping stone to another school.


© 2017

Bennett College

Bennett College (visited 3/15/17)

Bennett chapel

The chapel sits on the far end of the quad

Interestingly, this small women’s college began as a coed institution. Started in 1873 in a church basement, it was later moved to the current site when several freed slaves bought the property, but retained its affiliation with the Methodist church. About 50 years later, it was changed to single-sex. It’s in a fairly residential area of Greensboro, not far from downtown. A city bus stops on campus making the area highly accessible for the students.

This is a tiny school with less than 500 undergraduate students, about half of whom come from outside North Carolina. The students who thrive here “want a small community, are looking for networks, and want to stay in contact with profs,” said the rep. Students who leave are ones who find the pace of life too slow here. Their mascot is the “Bennett Belle” and that really speaks to who they are. “Students have a manner of moving here, a way of carrying themselves.”

Bennett 2

Quad with a volleyball net

“There are always things to do. We’re small. We need people who will step up and get things done, form clubs, whatever,” said the rep. She said that students love the sisterhood here. It’s inclusive. “Students need to pool together. They need to make things happen. Students can’t be onlookers here. I’ve seen some students who have expected things to happen for them – work, entertainment – but they’re the ones who need to step up.”

Bennett new bldg

New Global Studies building

If it gets too small or they need a class not offered on Bennett’s campus, students are welcome to take advantage of the consortium in the Greensboro area. The Heat bus runs loops to all the campuses in the area, and many Bennett students got to A&T or even Elon.

Psychology, biology, and journalism/media are their most popular majors. They have a new Global Studies building.

Traditions include:

  • Initial Convocation: students sign the registry and become official Bennett students. They wear all white for the ceremony.
  • Big/Little Sisters
  • Senior Day: seniors get their superlatives.
  • Graduation when they’re allowed to walk through the gates; these open only at certain times of the year.
  • Convocations are held for an hour on Thursdays. They bring in a range of people from authors to political figures. Oprah, Danny Glover, and Maya Angelou have all come.

Bennett 3

Another building on the quad

For admissions, they’re looking for at least a 2.4 GPA but they have an Emerging Scholars program for students falling below that; students in ES come to campus over the summer to complete 6 credits in math and science. They’re also “test flexible” – they do want scores but have no minimum number that they’re looking for.

Bennett is struggling a bit financially, and they do have a low graduation rate (a little under 50% within 6 years), but at just under $27,000 for tuition, room, and board, this is a great deal. Shy, unsure students will blossom and find a place here. “It’s not for everyone, but if someone needs some care and pushing, this is the place.”

© 2017

Howard University

Howard University (visited 9/13/16)

howard-long-walkHoward is set apart from other HBCUs because of its reputation; it’s not regional like many others. This is a diverse campus, geographically, socio-economically, religiously, etc. “One of the best quotes I’ve heard about Howard is, ‘You can find everything in the black world and its opposite here’,” said the admissions rep. This is a highly tolerant and accepting campus. There are lots of Muslims, lots of non-religious students, etc. LGBTQ students are comfortable here; they’re out and accepted. “People get called out on things if they’re being derogatory or exclusive. People will say, “You may get away with that at home, but it’s not going to fly here.”

howard-6“People are pushed to be better. There’s nothing you can’t do here,” said the admissions rep, also an alum. “Come here if you want to maximize your potential. Students are serious about fun AND serious about work.” She said that if students are not academically prepared or can’t handle the social scene, they won’t make it.

Founded on March 2,1867 to ensure that black students could come to the nation’s Capitol to get an education, Howard now has a long list of distinguished alumni including Thurgood Marshall, Toni Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston, politicians, actors, and plenty more. Today, the 7,000 undergrads come from 44 states/territories and 23 countries; the biggest feeder country is Nepal!


The view of the Capitol from campus

Students have formed state clubs and will often host students visiting from that area. “They’ll reach out to prospective and new students to help make the transition easier.” For example, the university does not run shuttles to the airport, but current students will make sure that new students know how to use the Metro or MARC systems to get to and from campus.



One of the Greek Trees

Campus/extra-curricular life is busy. There are 19 DI sports; this is the only HBCU with Women’s Lacrosse (Hampton has Men’s). Debate is strong with an annual competition against Hampton, their big rival. They try to have it on the same weekend as the football game. The “Greek Letter Organizations” include honors and major-based (journalism, business, etc) groups as well as social. The Devine 9 were created in response to mainstream white Greek life. Five of those were created on Howard’s campus; members from all over come to campus to “see the birthplace” and visit their chapter’s “tree.” Each organization is assigned a tree that they have painted. Students can Pledge starting in sophomore year.



One of the campus fountains

The biggest campus event is Homecoming in October drawing huge crowds of alumni and friends. Georgia Ave is blocked off for concerts and other fun. First Fridays are also hugely popular. Students looking to get off campus have no shortage of options: the Howard Theater and 930 Club host all sorts of concerts all year, and are within a 10 minute walk. Further afield are all the options available in DC, accessible via the metro stop only a couple blocks from campus.



Lower Quad

There are 11 res halls; students are separated by gender for the first year (women by the Valley/lower quad, men by the football stadium) and then mixed. Freshmen are required to live on campus (with some concessions/ exceptions). Upperclassmen can usually live on campus if they want to, but they have the option to move off.


Academically, there is a lot to brag about ranging from their amazing Fine Arts programs to the sciences (and they start kids early! The Middle School for Math and Science – or (MC)2 – is right on campus). Howard is ranked #1 for graduating black students who go on to med school and PhDs in STEM fields. This is the only HBCU named as a Tier 1 research institution.


The Business building

There are 70 undergrad majors in 6 schools. The top 5 majors are bio, psych, PoliSci, Media/Journalism/Film, and Chem. Among other notable programs are:


  • A 5-year BArch program allowing students to sit for their exam right after graduation.
  • Direct-Entry Nursing
  • A 6-year fast-track BS/MD Only 12-15 students get admitted every year and must have passed high-level math and sciences in high school. They complete the Bachelors in 2 years (including summers). Students must be accepted to the university first, then apply to the program by 3/1.
  • Several BFA programs in Interior Design, Fashion Design, Electronic Studio, Painting, Photography, Sculpture, Theater Tech, Musical Theater, Dance, Theater Administration, and Acting.
  • Supply Chain Management
  • Administration of Justice (combining Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminal Justice)
  • Several Engineering options (Chemical, Mechanical, Civil, Electrical, and Computer)
  • Physician Assistant
  • Radiation Therapy
  • Business students start right away; they have to wear business attire 2 days a week.


The biology department with greenhouses on the roof

Students in the Arts & Sciences, Business, and Communications schools can be invited into the Honors program in those areas. Applicants will be considered and invited as long as they declare a major coming in. If they aren’t invited upon entry, students can be invited to start as a sophomore. “The criteria is vague kind of on purpose because each year will be different,” said the rep. These programs open up honors classes and the opportunity for a faculty advisor for a thesis presented at symposiums at the end of the year.



The campus chapel for students wanting to take advantage of its offerings

“The intellectual life here extends outside of the classroom.” For example:

  • The Freshman Class always reads a common text. Last year, it was Citizen by Claudia Rankin. She came and spent the day with the freshman.
  • All freshmen take a Freshman Seminar; they come together once a week for a lecture then once more for smaller section. During these times, they talk about the Common Text, adjusting to campus, and more.
  • The Freshman Leadership Academy focuses on Asian languages (particularly Mandarin). They meet as a cohort for the year and go abroad for 4-8 weeks during the summer after freshman year. After that, they serve as mentors to the new groups coming in.
  • Internships: most students do at least 1, but it’s rare to meet a student who hasn’t had one each year starting sophomore year. “It’s a very professional environment. They’ll go to class in suits because they have to leave for an internship right afterwards.” Students get great internships over the summers at places like Johnson & Johnson, Chase Bank headquarters, etc.
  • 12 schools in and around DC have articulation agreements for students looking to expand their academic options.
  • “Our kids are politically inclined. It’s part of the reason they want to come to DC. They’re always protesting something.”
  • To participate in Study Abroad, students must have sophomore or junior standing, 1 year of residency at Howard, and have at least a 3.0 GPA.
  • Student-led Alternative Spring Break is popular: Students have gone to Flint, Memphis, New Orleans, and other places to work on Anti-gun violence, Water stuff in Flint, tutoring, and housing. Some went to Haiti and Costa Rica (Engineers w/o borders).
  • Air Force ROTC is housed on Howard’s campus. Students wanting Army ROTC can do so at American University.

Howard only accepts the Common Application for admission. Accepted students generally have around a 3.5 unweighted GPA and 1150 SAT 1150 or 25 ACT (which tends to be higher than the national average for African-American students).

© 2016

North Carolina A&T State University

North Carolina A&T University (visited 3/22/13)

Several things surprised me about NCA&T. First, I had driven by campus and had seen a tiny portion of it; from this small glimpse and from what I had heard from others, I expected the campus to be fairly ugly. It wasn’t! Second, as an A&T, I expected the sciences to be strong (and they are), but they have an impressive array of other majors and programs as well.

The Greensboro 4 statue

The Greensboro 4 statue

A&T 2

The newest dorms on campus, named for the Greensboro Four

Most of the campus is beautiful. There are a few older buildings that could use work, but those are being taken care of bit by bit. There is a lot of construction going on around campus. A new Union is being built and the school recently completed several new dorms; the four newest and nicest are named after the Greensboro 4, the students from A&T credited for starting the Sit-In movement at the Woolworths counter in downtown Greensboro. They have a large statue memorializing the Greensboro-Four, and every year on February First, they commemorate the sit-in. The three men who are still living come back to campus every year, and after a large breakfast on campus, the three lead a march to the Woolworth’s (which is now the International Civil Rights Museum, complete with most of the original counter – part of it has been donated to the Smithsonian US History Museum).

The new Union building

The new Union building

There are lots of open spaces and gathering places for students to congregate. “The Bowl” is a large space near the new union; this used to be the school’s football field and is now used for large campus events – fairs, orientation, etc. There were lots of students using these spaces and interacting with each other on the day I visited, even though it was chilly. People really seemed to enjoy being on campus, even though no one is required to live on campus. The dorms are decent with both traditional and suite style to choose from, and most people who want to live on campus can. They also have several theme-based Learning Living Communities. Interested students fill out application and agree to certain aspects of behavior. Students find that this helps them to focus. The tour guides (we had two) both agreed that the food is good, and there’s plenty of variety. Campus is safe; gates close at 11pm so students need ID to drive onto campus, and officers will ask students they see walking around at night for ID, as well. Neither tour guide could remember anyone ever needing to use the blue lights. There was one incident last year off campus involving A&T students but nothing has happened on campus that they’ve heard about.

A&T libraryFor the first hour of the counselor day, about a dozen students had research posters set up around the room where we were eating breakfast. Some sat and ate with us before getting up to stand with their posters to explain their research. I had a chance to talk to about eight of them during the hour. A sampling of what these students were doing include:

  • A sophomore Agricultural Education Major. These majors are usually in high demand, and since she’s already done internships in the field, she has a job waiting for her when she graduates as long as she keeps a 3.0. “If you’re an Ag major and you don’t have an internship every single summer or if you graduate without a job offer – it’s something YOU’RE doing wrong. There are a ton of opps.”
  • A&T acad bldgsA sophomore Computer Engineering major who completed her research in a different department helping to analyze handwriting by using a computer matrix. She’s from Maryland, and was ready to go to GMU but was tempted here for a summer program attracting women into engineering. She and her cohorts got a full semester of college under their belts before they started. She LOVES it here and is glad she came. She can’t imagine anything better.
  • A senior engineering major who designed a robot to enter into a competition and proudly showed off the robot which was able to pick up materials and sort according to color.
  • A Social Work major and Philosophy minor who, as a freshman, has already done quite a bit of original research and oral histories of people in the foster care system, and has presented at several major conferences such as the Daniel Memorial National Foster Care Conference in Canada, the UPenn Multi-disciplinary conference, NACAC, and more.

A&T 1

One of the newest Academic buildings

One of the many eating places on campus, with an attached courtyard.

One of the many eating places on campus, with an attached courtyard.

The students couldn’t say enough good things about A&T. They gushed about classes, professors, academic and social opportunities, and the city. Their class sizes ranged from 6 to 60. The best classes that a couple students said they had taken taken include Soil Science (she said it was really hard, but she walked away with a lot) and a Hazmat class (mostly grad students so it really pushed him). I had a chance to ask some of them what they would like to change. An agriculture major wanted more money invested in the A&T farm: “a lot of students don’t even know we have a farm.” An engineering major wanted more equipment because the technology is changing so fast. Another wanted more money for scholarships. Although there are several available, students who get merit aid are really the top of the top; he would like more students to be able to afford to go. I asked our tour guides how they felt about the administration’s push towards more diversity. A&T is a HBCU, and they’re trying to get more racial/ethnic diversity. He said it was a good thing, and went on to talk about the diversity already on campus. There’s a bunch of religious and political diversity already, and students come from across the country. There’s so much of this geographic diversity that they actually have clubs based on where people are from (like the 336 Club is the local group named after the area code).

A&T dormsA&T dorms 2The application process is fairly straightforward. Students can use the Common App or, for NC residents, through CFNC. The application fee is waived during CFNC week! However, if students are going to do this, don’t start an app through CA. When students start two apps, A&T will attach a transcript to the FIRST app started, so the app submitted through CFNC will register as missing documents and this will slow down the process. The UNC system has set minimum guidelines for all state schools: 2.5 GPA and SAT 800 (M&CR) or ACT 17, but each university can create thresholds above that. NC A&T, like lots of other state schools, is becoming more competitive. Applications are up almost 40% from last year. The average GPA is up from a 3.2 to 3.4. SAT is up a bit; ACT is about the same. About a quarter of accepted students are the top 5th of the class. Because of the increasing competitiveness, denied students who want to appeal need to write a letter and attach new academic information (new test scores, new grade report with a higher GPA, etc). Otherwise, it’s just like saying, “please” which is nice, but won’t get you far in this situation. The Director will read all appeals and respond.

A&T acad bldg 2There are 6 academic schools and programs within the university:

  • Honors: Students take 24 honors credit which includes two required interdisciplinary seminars. The classes are smaller, they have a specialized lecture series, they have a dedicated Fellowship/Scholarship advisor, and students tend to do better and progress more quickly towards a degree. To get in, students need a 3.75 GPA and a 1160 SAT (CR&M) or a 26 ACT, and must maintain a 3.5 to stay in the program.
  • Agriculture: This is the world’s largest industry. “We’ll have to produce more in the next 30 years than we have in the last 10,000 years.” There’s a lot of variety of majors that fall within this school. Family and Consumer Sciences falls under this school. They also have the only accredited landscape architecture undergraduate program in NC. There is also a 540 acre farm not far from campus. They do agricultural work and also have 8 species of animals such as goats, emus, cattle, and poultry. This is a learning-lab, so it’s very much a hands-on place. Students learn about plant and soil quality, forestry, etc. The equine riding and training team is housed there, as well.
  • Nursing: This has been going for 60 years. Students need a 3.0 GPA and a 930 SAT for entrance. Students are admitted into Pre-Nursing and remain there during the Lower Division (Fr/So years). The minimum GPA is a 2.8 to apply into the Upper Level Nursing program, but they really need a 3.0 to be competitive. 85-90% of students persist and graduate.
  • Arts and Sciences: this is the largest college at A&T with about 1/3 of the students. Most of the minors (which is a new thing at A&T) are in the A&S college. They don’t have majors in foreign languages anymore, but they can minor in French and Spanish and can take elementary Japanese. Their Secondary Teacher Education program is in the A&S division since students major in a subject area found within the school.
  • Technology: One of their unusual majors is Applied Engineering and Built Environments. They also offer architecture. Students can be admitted directly to the Technology School with 1000 SAT and 3.0 GPA.
  • Education/Human Performance and Leisure Studies: This is one of the fastest growing departments on campus. Majors include Pre-Physical Therapy, Hotel Management, Tourism, Parks and Rec Admin, Business Admin, Athletic Training, Sports Management/Athletic Management, and Elementary Education.

(c) 2013

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