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Archive for the tag “Honors Program”

University of Iowa

University of Iowa (visited 12/5/19)

Iowa students 4“If you’re interested in health sciences or STEM, this place is a gold mine,” said one student – but Iowa is well-known for many other things, including their Honors and Writing programs. Named in the Top 5% of public universities, Iowa is one of the smallest Big 10 schools. Campus is highly walkable and split by the Iowa River. West Campus has mostly the medical complex, athletics, graduate programs, and a few underclassmen res halls. East campus has most of the undergraduate programs and res halls. Iowa City is an amazing college town with a lot going on (and Cedar Rapids, the 2nd largest city in Iowa, is 25 minutes up the road). You just can’t go wrong here!

Iowa quad 3

The view towards West Campus from the Pentacrest

Iowa City has been ranked the #1 College Town; 70 restaurants, cafes, bookstores, etc are alumni owned! It speaks volumes for the town (people want to stay) and town-gown relations. The town and university grew up together in the mid 1800s. “When you’re thinking about a university, you should be thinking about the town as well,” said the tour guide, and there are lots of places to go directly off campus, and 3 bus systems (campus, city, and county) run along or through campus. There are enough students (24,00 undergrads/31,656 total) to almost make campus a city unto itself. The 4,800 first-year students participate in On Iowa!, the extensive orientation program which includes Target and Froyo runs, Kickoff at Kinnick stadium (with fireworks!), food crawls (sample foods around the city for free!), and more.

Iowa old main

The old capital building

Cars are welcome, but not for getting around campus. “This is a very walk-able campus and city.” During the Honors College Presentation, the Director asked one of the students, “When do you have to leave for your 9:30 class?” She quickly said, “9:23” – and she wasn’t kidding! The middle of campus is the Pentacrest: “We’re cooler because we added the 5th side,” said a tour guide. The old Capital building (which had been the capital before it moved to Des Moines and is now a functioning museum) sit in the middle of the Pentacrest. It’s a defining building and a good landmark. The East Side res halls are about a 3-minute walk to the middle of campus where most of the academic buildings are located. It takes 6-10 minutes from the West Side halls. Most people do walk; the Campus Bus (with 18 routes) gets used more in the winter.

Iowa 7“As a college town, this is a more liberal community, but go 20 minutes south, and it’s super conservative,” said one of the reps. “Adult-wise, we’re more liberal. Students seem to have a better balance politically.” This is also one of the most racially diverse cities in the state. “When I was a student here, there weren’t a ton of other people with my skin color, but I’ve always felt safe and comfortable here. Even my father said he was ok leaving me here for 4 years. I’m raising biracial children here and it’s fine.” There’s a huge LGBTQ community which gets plenty of support: in fact, Iowa was the first campus to have an organization. “It can be a transition from a cultural standpoint if students are coming from a heavily Hispanic or black high school, but it’s ok. There are communities,” said another rep. There are cultural houses (there’s lots of food there), events open to all, and groups which tend to be some of the most popular on campus. The university is even adding some transportation options to get them home on weekends and breaks.

Iowa honors dorm

The honors dorm

They have an impressive Honors Program with lots of facilities ranging from a separate dorm to a building with lounges, libraries, and more. The only thing students need to do is apply to Iowa. After being admitted, students are eligible to apply to Honors via the application on the Honors or Admissions website. There’s no GPA or score threshold; “We don’t have a checklist we’re ticking off.” Just over 90% of those who completed the application last year were admitted. The students who take the time to do this are striking students. “If you look like qualified Honors students, we’re going to admit you.” The total number ranges from 10-15% of a class. “Right now, it’s hovering around 12%.” There are essays involved. “Have fun with the prompt!” said the program director. “We want a peek into who you are based on the essay – and yes, it’s different from the other essay on your application. Think about how you want to introduce yourself to us. Be selfish. Be yourself. If you’re funny, be funny. If you aren’t, don’t force it! If you like research, show that off. If you don’t … maybe you don’t want to go to college.”

Iowa Greek

One of the multiple Greek Houses

They have both honors within majors AND an Honors Program – students can do either or both. To graduate with University Honors, they need 12+ Honors credits and 12+ experiential learning credits. “Experiential learning is a trendy phrase, but it’s vague.” There’s no limit to the number of classes, and students can also turn anything into an Honors class with a contract with the professor. Joining Honors right out of high school isn’t your last chance – if you regret not joining, you can apply once here. However, there are 3 opportunities that are only available in the 1st semester: “there’s no getting these back if you join later.”

  • Iowa quad 1Students can participate in the 1-credit, 4-day Prime Time program in August before classes start. They get 1 credit. “Parents love it because we avoided all the traffic.” They select top 3 areas of interest and can do some research. Varsity athletes and members of marching band will have conflicts with this.
  • Honors-only First-Year Seminar, often led by professors rather than TAs. “In Honors Classes, you learn more and have fun. It doesn’t feel like more work. It’s not accelerated. College is already hard!” Once student chose Volcanoes because it was totally different from her majors.
  • Living in the Honors Res Hall (there’s space for 350 students). “You can only live there right out of high school. Plenty of people DON’T live there and are perfectly happy; it’s just one option.”
Iowa mosaic

Mascot and mosaic in the Athletic Center

Over 95% of first-year students live on campus, but it is not required. There are no designated first-year housing. Students must apply to housing with a $75 non-refundable (but also non-committal) fee; it just secures your spot in line. There are LLC options and huge Greek Houses, some of which are located up to a mile off campus; I passed several driving into campus. There were multiple houses overlooking the Iowa River, not a bad place to spend a few years!

Campus food is some of the absolute best I’ve ever had in a dining hall; the rep said that faculty and staff often eat there because it’s so good! The counselors ate with 3 reps, and we were there at a busy lunch time, but we had a very short wait for food. The stations are well set-up and staffed, and there are plenty of tables for students. They had a spectacular noodle bar with choices of ramen, rice, and udon noodles with multiple vegetables, meats, and sauces to choose from. The coconut red curry sauce was spectacular! Students said that the River Room at the hotel is the best place to use their meal plan. “They alternate between pasta and stir-fry bars.”

Iowa brain rock 2

The Brain Rock that students will rub for good luck before exams

Admission decisions are based on the Regent Admission Index (RAI) Scale: (3xACT composite) + (30xCumulative GPA) + (5 x number of years of HS courses completed in the core subject areas). Different colleges have different requirements. “Always know which one you are applying to!” A&S is the easiest. Students must apply before 3/1 for scholarship consideration; “this is a hard deadline.” The priority deadline for need-based aid is 12/1.

There’s no shortage of academic offerings. Students say that they’re challenged (a popular tradition is to rub the “Brain Rock” sculpture for good luck before exams), and they can work in any interest they have. Business and education are competitive; Pharmacy and nursing are most competitive.

Iowa leisure pool

The Leisure pool – the hot tub is in the back left; the rock climbing wall and tv are on the right.

There’s plenty to do on campus. They field 24 Varsity (Big 10) teams which bring out a lot of fans. Most games are free, but basketball is $70 and football costs about $150 for season tickets. “Volleyball gives the best t-shirts,” said a tour guide. There’s a movie theater on campus, and the ‘Leisure Pool’ (“we’re not allowed to call it a lazy river,” said one of the tour guides) has a rock-climbing wall on the side, a gigantic screen for movies/tv shows, and a hot tub (students will laminate their notes and bring them as they watch ‘The Bachelor/ Bachelorette.”) Students will play Canoe Battleship in the main pool: “picture 3 students in a canoe armed with buckets, all trying to sink the other people first.”

© 2019

Stevenson University, Take 2

Stevenson University (visited 4/26/19) (Click HERE for notes and pictures from my first visit on 12/5/17)

Stevenson has come a long way since it changed over from Villa Julie College in 2008. Campus has been transformed even since I last visited a little over a year ago. The biggest change is that they’ve created a large green space in front of their main buildings where there had been a parking lot, making it feel more like a traditional campus rather than a commuter space. They will break ground in July 2019 on a new theater and library complex located across from the School of Design; this should take about 15 months to complete. They’re also putting in a new entrance on the north side of campus.

They’ve done a great job increasing diversity on campus. About 42% of the 3,200 undergrads self-identify as a racial or ethnic minority. I’m a little concerned about their current graduation rate, but they are actively addressing that. Their Office of Student Success provides success coaches, service learning, and more. All majors provide opportunities for internships, research, or capstone experiences (but they don’t seem to be required at this point, only encouraged/ available). My tour guide was in the Fashion Merchandizing program and had worked with Boscov’s for visual merchandising as part of a class. Students have access to professors since the average class size is 17 and there are no lecture halls on campus, so classes can’t ever be large.

There are a lot of international trips associated with classes which is a great opportunity for students. Some examples include an Herbal Remedies trip to Ecuador and Math and Art in Spain.

Academically, they’re being deliberate in helping students get hands-on experience, fast-track/accelerated Masters degrees, or providing majors that keep up with the times. They’re starting CyberSecurity & Digital Forensics and biomedical engineering majors. Many majors have tracks within them to help students focus on interests. There a number of Professional Minors such as Real Estate, Software Design and Coding, and Human Resources: these are designed to be paired with a major or another minor and developed to give student an edge in the job search. Qualified students can do a Bachelor to Masters in as little as 5 years: students can decide if they want to pursue this while at Stevenson and apply during junior year; in senior year, classes double-count for the 2 degrees.

Another way they’re increasing retention and graduation rates are through their multiple Scholars Programs. These are cohort-based programs that blend curricular and co-curricular programming. They are housed in a Living Learning Community, get priority registration for required classes, and have access to tailored curricular and co-curricular programs. Participants meet the qualifications for merit-based aid.

  • Service Scholars: this is geared to students interested in giving back and working with the greater Baltimore community and beyond. This program is only 3 years old but is the oldest of the Scholars Programs. Students become eligible for the President of the US Volunteer Service award.
  • Leadership Scholars help students develop as motivators and leaders. They attend seminars, TedX on campus, and more, including specialized programming through the Office of Career Services.
  • Honors: This is geared towards problem-solving, collaborative learners. They participate in a 4-year curriculum, take only 2 extra classes beyond the traditional GenEd/major requirements. These are smaller-than-average classes with a cross-disciplinary focus specially designed for the honors program. The students are selected by the admissions office and notified upon their acceptance to the university. Typically, students selected for this are in the top 10% of the incoming class with an average SAT of 1300 and unweighted school-reported GPA of 3.8.

Their Presidential Fellowship is an awesome opportunity – they receive about 250 apps. From those, they select 50 finalists to come to campus. Ten are named as Fellows getting full tuition for 4 years. Anyone interested must apply by the11/1 deadline in order to be considered.

© 2019

 

Hood College

Hood College (visited 11/9/18)

Hood chapel

The Chapel

Every year, Hood holds “May Madness,” a fun end-of the year festival on campus (with food, games, crab feast, prizes)… and every year, it takes place in April (despite its name).

This is a quintessentially pretty campus full of brick buildings. Relatively compact, “it’ll take you about 10 minutes to get across campus if you’re dragging your feet,” said one of the reps. Even the artsy downtown area of Frederick is accessible, sitting 3 blocks from campus. Frederick is like an extension of campus. Students do a lot of service; the hospital allows some parking in their garage; students and staff have a garden to donate food to local places. “There’s a real shop-local mentality here.” Lots of guest speakers like Bill Nye and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar come to the art center, and students get discounted tickets for the diversity series to hear people like Lavern Cox and LeVar Burton.

Hood quad 4Started as a women’s college (it was the counterpart to the all-male Mercersburg Academy), it went fully coed by 2003; male commuter students were allowed to enroll in classes in the early 70s. Starting in 2019, there will be a 3-year residency requirement (it’s now 2 years) once the new dorm goes opens in fall of 2019. The students who move off campus often live in apartments within a few blocks of campus. On-campus food is great! There’s a lot of variety and the dining room is spacious. Freshmen get “All you can eat” swipes for the dining hall which is helpful if they just want to grab a coffee or piece of fruit. “It helps them figure out how much they’re really going to eat without them feeling like they have to use-it-or-lose-it,” said a rep.

Hood Pergola 1

The interior of the Pergola which benches, bird feeders, and the poles that you shouldn’t “split”!

The campus is split roughly into academic and residential sides. Theirs is a gorgeous wisteria-covered Pergola in the residential quad; it marks the physical center of campus. Tradition says that students can’t “split the poles” – if they’re walking with friends, they have to walk on the same side rather than split apart to go around the poles. If they do, it’s said that they will not be friends after graduation. There is also a large Chapel on campus dating back to when Hood was affiliated with the Reformed Church, but they are no longer religiously affiliated. The chaplain, however, is active and well loved on campus, doing lots of interfaith work, holding “get-to-know-you” activities, meditation, and generally supporting the whole campus. “She’s here to help figure out who students want to be. Programming is very student focused and intended to pull people together when things happen.

Hood fountain 2There are all the typical majors you would expect at a small liberal arts school with 1400 undergrads, but they do offer interesting interdisciplinary things and accelerated programs – although one rep said, “I’d love to see us develop some “buzz” majors like forensics.

  • They are rolling out more concentrations in business. Many students start with Sports Management until they realize how competitive it is. It’s not unusual to see several of the athletes (who make up almost 50% of the student body!) think about this major at some point.
  • Hood quad 2Nursing is direct-entry with 32 spots, so they recommend applicants use the Early deadline. They’re looking to double that but they need more space. This is a full 4-year program but they’ll take some transfers as room allows; however, 3 years is the least amount of time they can complete this in. Campus is right next to Frederick Memorial Hospital making clinicals easy and accessible.
  • They have a new 5-year BA/MBA, bringing their dual-degree programs to 4 along with an Environmental Bio, Info Tech, and Psych/Counseling. They’re planning on adding more such as a CS/Cyber-security. Students interested in this have to apply to the program during sophomore year and maintain certain GPA requirements.
  • Some of their interdisciplinary programs include Art & Archaeology (with Archeo, Art Education, or Art History concentrations), Coastal Studies, Criminology & Deliquency, and Public History.
  • Students who major in a language must either study abroad or living in one of the Language houses where students agree to speak the target language while in the house and at least 1 native speaker lives there. These are currently housed in duplexes on the edge of campus, but they will be moved into wings of the new dorm building. These students often double major or will minor in Global Studies. Many go on to teach or work in Embassies.

Hood 1There seems to be a large global/world focus among the student body. Hood is the most racially diverse private school in the state. Last year’s incoming class had 51% of students self-identifying themselves as underrepresented students. “It helps that we have scholarships for high-achieving underrepresented students,” said a rep. The President is a big proponent of diversity, and they have a new Director of Inclusion. “There was a bit of kick-back because he’s white, but he’s been great. He’s gay and very involved in community,” said a rep. Currently, only 3-4% of the students are international, but the new VP for enrollment has a plan to expand that.

Hood mainMerit scholarships are a percentage of tuition so they go up when tuition goes up. Five full tuition scholarships are awarded each year. Students accepted into the honors program awards an extra $2000. The admissions staff recommends qualified students to the Director of the program who makes the final decisions. In this case, the writing submitted by students becomes highly important because there are no exams; classes are all taught seminar style, more than the rest of the classes. Honors students are expected to complete a service component including working a semester at a non-profit aligned with the major.

© 2018

Florida Atlantic University

Florida Atlantic University (visited 2/24/18)

FAU mascot

The mascot, a burrowing owl, with the football stadium in the background

This seems like a fairly run-of-the-mill large school with about 21,000 undergraduates on the main campus in Boca Raton. “We aren’t a college town. We’re in Boca which happens to have a major state institution in it,” said the Admissions rep at the info session. They’re only 2 miles from the beach and located almost exactly between West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale (each 25-30 minutes). If students are looking for a school with solid (but not at all overwhelming or competitive) academics, warm weather/access to a beach and time to enjoy it, and a bit of a rah-rah atmosphere without the intense tailgating atmosphere of some of the SAC schools, this might be a good choice. Athletics are D1 (students get free admission to home games) with football domineering the scene, particularly after they became the 2017 conference champions. Fun Fact: their stadium is the only one in the country with a view of the ocean.

FAU walkway 2

The Breezeway

In regards to the main campus, one of the tour guides said, “It looks like such a big school, but it’s not! I can get places in 10 minutes” (although a trolley runs around campus if they don’t want to walk). Partly this comes from only 25-30% of students living on campus (about 5000). The rep described FAU as, “A bigger school with a smaller-school feel. We have resources, and we’re growing. Students can be part of that, making traditions, stuff like that.” FAU was founded in 1961 on an old Air Force Base – “in case you’re wondering why the Breezeway is so long and straight, it was built on the old runway,” the tour guide said.

FAU student union

The main entrance to the Student Union

That being said, I don’t get the sense that there is a vibrant campus social life. There is stuff going on (things you’d expect: clubs, speakers, and a movie theater with $2 tickets) but the students indicated that most of the fun is found off campus. No doubt that stems from a majority of students not living on campus, but it could also be a feature of the location with so much off campus to choose from. The beach, obviously, is a big draw. There is free bus that gets students around the area.

FAU runs five other campuses including:

  • SeaTech: FAU was the first to offer Ocean Engineering
  • Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute
  • Honors College: This is its own campus. The rep likened it to a private liberal arts college. “It’s all honors, all the time. Courses are more rigorous across the board.” Students can major in many areas, but not engineering, music, nursing or other “specialty” majors. There is an Honors Program on the main campus for students who do not want that particular environment, or who want to major in an area not offered at the Honors College.
  • Architecture: This is a 5-year program in Fort Lauderdale. Architecture isn’t capped “but is limited access.” I had to prod the rep a bit to get her to explain what that means: “there’s a supplemental application process. You have to have selected architecture on your application. Once admitted to the university, it’ll trigger the next step. Students need to do supplemental work like submitting drawing, etc.” This appears to be more like a portfolio process: if a student is qualified, they’ll be admitted into the program
FAU freshman housing

One of the freshman dorms

Freshmen are required to live on campus unless living with parents within 30 miles. There are 3 freshmen housing options: Parliament is a little newer but a little further away. Suites house 4 students (in 2 double or 4 single rooms) with 2 bathrooms. Glades and Heritage (4-person suites but 2 doubles or 1 double/2 singles) only have 1 bathroom and separate vanity. They’re at 100% capacity for freshmen but they’re adding housing. Off-campus housing is relatively easy to find. “It’s expensive around here, but it’s not more than living on campus.” The students I talked to before the tour said that they wish they had Greek housing.

FAU quadThe tour guides said that campus food is generally good, and there tends to be enough choices so it’s not boring. They love The Burrow which serves food late-night and has trivia nights, karaoke, etc. In the main dining hall, mac-n-cheese tends to draw the crowds.

FAU 3Admissions is rolling (they only accept their own application), but “merit aid is competitive, so it’s better to apply early,” recommended the rep. No essay is required, but students must self-report grades. Students can check their Application Status directly on the application page. The university can admit students for either fall or a summer-start option. Generally, the GPA requirement is higher for the fall (the incoming class averages a 3.8-4.45, summer averages 3.4-3.9). They will weight the GPA on their end, counting major classes and electives. If admitted for fall, students can switch to summer, but cannot switch back (only 1 switch is allowed). If admitted for summer, they can ask to be reevaluated for fall-entry if test scores or grades go up.

FAU 2Decisions take about 4 weeks, give or take. Decisions for Limited Access Programs like nursing or architecture take a little longer. Nursing is capped at 120 students. Art and music applicants need a portfolio or audition for admission into that program, and applicants into engineering require need a 3.0 in their math classes and have completed at least 1 math above Algebra 2.

There are a few academic programs worth noting:

FAU 1Freshmen classes can run 100-200, but the average lecture class size is 39; average labs have 20 and discussion classes are 30. The tour guide’s smallest classes were 10-13 (both English); largest classes were 125-140 (general lab science).

I asked one of the guides about the types of students who might not fit in at FAU: “People who are ignorant and unwilling to go out of their comfort zone won’t do well here. People are accepted here; they’re safe to be who they are. The people who judge or make them feel safe don’t last.”

© 2018

 

Rivier University

Rivier University (visited 10/18/16)

rivier-archRiv is a place where faith matters – and ALL faiths matter. Started by the Sisters of the Presentation of Mary and Sister Madeleine of Jesus, this is a Catholic college, but they want students of all faiths – and of little faith – to find a home; they’ve created an environment in and out of the classroom for students to explore their own traditions (including having a Hindu Convocation; they have a lot of Indian students). For students who haven’t found a tradition yet, where do they find a spark that has meaning to their lives? Students can be who they are and figure out who they want to become.

rivier-gardenStudents at Riv can bump up against the edges; people are here to redirect and say, “try again!” Part of this exploration takes place in the Core Curriculum: Journeys of Transformation, a 4-year path to look at the big questions: Who am I and What is the World? Who is around me/who is my neighbor? How shall we live? What, then, shall we do? This is designed for students to build a reflective understanding of their lives and how they can contribute. The 2 required classes are Social Justice and World Religions.

rivier-dorms

Some of the dorms

“Students here are in the Striver Class. Our students are not entitled. They’re multi-taskers, and they’re focused. They generally aren’t political. It’s about life: getting the car fixed, picking up the younger brother.” From NSSE data, they know that there are a lot of students who work, and this is a supportive place for that. Many help out with families: grandparents, younger siblings, etc. There are a lot of commuters, so they’re intentional about when and where the co-curricular offerings happen. “About 50% live on campus and 50% commute, but 100% are busy,” said the college President.

rivier-therapy-dogs

One of the therapy dogs regularly on campus

If you walk into the dining hall, you see an engagement that goes beyond clique. Students intermingle with faculty. “This really is a place where we live the mission of transforming hearts and minds to serve the world.”

They recognize that students have a lot of options in terms of which college to choose: “You can get a business or nursing degree at a kazillion places between here and there.” Students tend to come here for a specific reason: a coach, the inclusive environment, the school’s willingness to work around students’ schedules. Many come simply for the location: They sit on the outskirts of Manchester (the airport is only 15 minutes; Boston (and Logan) are 45 minute south; buses to NYC are less than $20.

rivier-lab

One of the labs

This is an international community so they have strong global initiatives on campus, and they’re taking intentional strives in diversity.

  • Grant program: they’ve received several grants such as an NSF grant bringing in $600,000 for underrepresented students in the life sciences and a $900,000 grant for underrepresented students in Nursing. This provides Scholarships and internships.
  • Experiential Learning trips to Senegal, St John’s (USVI), Costa Rica, China, and more.
  • Global Scholars (Honors): qualified admitted students (3.4 high school GPA or higher) will be invited to participate after being admitted to the university. It focuses on looking beyond self: students engage in interdisciplinary academic seminars, leadership development, intercultural/service immersion, and trip participation. International travel as an option.
rivier-sand-volleyball

“Riv Beach,” the sand volleyball court

Career development is rolled into the content of classes. The Employment Promise is relatively new (I sat at breakfast with the Executive Director of University Career Services and the college President so I got a lot of information about it): if a graduate doesn’t get a Baccalaureate level job within 9 months of graduation, they’ll pay $5400 of SUBSIDIZED student loans or 6 graduate classes. (If a student does not have a subsidized loan, the only option is to take the graduate classes). To be eligible, students sign a contract that says they’re committed to being in the program; students must maintain at least a 3.0, meet certain yearly benchmarks (going to Career Development, meeting with advisors, etc.) and complete the 4-year, 4-tier program: 1) acclimation 2) learning 3) preparing 4) putting it together and reaching out. This year, 253 people are participating (out of 280 freshman).

rivier-entrance-signRiv is test-optional except for nursing. The minimum qualifications (this does not guarantee entry) include having earned at least 77% in math and science (including algebra, geometry, bio, and chem). The Pre-Professional Health core is the same curriculum as the nursing program. Students can reapply at the end of freshman year if they didn’t get accepted directly into nursing.

© 2016

University of Tampa

University of Tampa (visited 2/8/16)

Tampa sign

Tampa plaza

The view from a minaret of the hotel showing the Tampa skyline

This is more of an urban-feeling campus than I expected it to be. The iconic building is the hotel (complete with minarets) that the university bought in 1933 and which became the first university building; now it’s used for classrooms, offices, admissions, and more. The rest of campus is filled with modern, well-maintained, tall buildings and is incorporated into the city, but with enough green space to feel like a campus. It’s the only university in downtown Tampa and they capitalize on that. Students have easy access to a multitude of things and can walk to internships and jobs: students take advantage of the Florida aquarium, professional sports, art museum, police departments, and 2 of the top 25 newspapers in the country among other things.

 

 

Tampa hotel 4

The hotel that became the original university building

Applications have doubled in the past 4 years; last year, they had almost 1700 students on the waitlist; about 7-10% of these come for the spring semester. This year, they brought in 1800 new freshmen with all states being represented: “We even had 5 kids from Idaho.” Although the gender balance is skewed slightly (about 45% male), generally this is an incredibly diverse student body with 17% of students coming from abroad (17-18% each from the Middle East and Asia, and 11% each from Europe and Central/South America).

Tampa porchThe average student travels 894 miles from home to attend UT. “The #1 reason students leave is homesickness,” said one of the reps. “We deal with this in open houses, info sessions, etc. UT students tend to be more independent. They’re metropolitan and cosmopolitan.”

Tampa dorms 3The First Year Experience, a 1-credit, full year class, has helped a great deal with retention; students are generally grouped by major. They’re starting a themed model this year, and will also to try to group international students together. The Honors Program offers special courses, and honors floor in the dorms, a research fellowship, an Oxford Semester, and more. Applicants are automatically considered for admission with a 3.5 unweighted GPA and 1150 SAT or 25 ACT.

UT is reasonably priced for a private school at $37,866 (2015-16 school year). “Usually this increases 2-2.5% increase a year,” said the rep. Only 8% of students do pay sticker-price.

Tampa entrepreneurship 1

Some of the work spaces in the Entrepreneurship building

An amazing new Entrepreneurship building opened in the fall of 2015; it’s filled with meeting rooms, work stations, white boards, etc. all meant for creative thought and innovation. Their annual Pitch Contest is open to everyone regardless of major: last year it was won by an English major. We spoke to 2 students in the elevator and asked how they liked the school and program: “We give it a 10. We’re seniors and have an office on the top floor. They really support us here.” They’re doing some amazing entrepreneurial work already as undergraduates.

Tampa chapel

The non-denominational chapel

The most popular majors are Finance, Bio, and Marketing, but they offer an extensive range. “It’s easier to talk about what we don’t have!” said a rep; that includes engineering or architecture, but “We do science incredibly well here. I used to be at Illinois Tech and have toured a lot. No one holds anything over us,” said one professor. Some areas to brag about are:

 

  • Tampa athletic fields

    Athletic fields, the chapel, and an academic building

    Marine Science (students can specialize in Chemistry or Biology with this). The kid who fits here won’t fit at Eckerd and vice versa.

  • Nursing: they have an amazing pass rate: “I could have said that we had a 100% pass rate over the last 6 years, but 1 kid didn’t pass 4 years ago,” said a rep.
  • UT is the only College with their own booth at the Film Fest as part of the Film and Media Arts “The professor says that we blow Madison’s program away.”
  • They have their own bronze-casting facility.
  • Mathematical Programming.
  • Dance and Musical Theater. Disney recruits here a couple times a year.

The average class size is 21; only 44 classes have more than 40 students with the largest at 60 students. Our tour guides’ classes ranged from 6 (Evolution) and 16 (Honors Oral Communication) to 60 (Chemistry). One of them said that this dropped to 35 as time went on.

Just over half the students live on campus. There’s a 2-year residency requirement, and dorms are big and comfortable. Many juniors and seniors have traditionally moved off, but the school now has a 20-year contract with the Barrymore Hotel to house upperclassmen (this includes maid service!). Freshmen are not allowed to have cars unless they have a medical need for one.

Tampa greek rocks

Greek Rocks

Almost half the students (about 40%) join one of the 22 Greek organizations. There are several rules surrounding rush (such as members can’t talk to recruits for the first week). Once they join, members have to maintain their GPA (tutoring is available) and attend study hours as well as complete a minimum amount of community service. “They’ll even monitor Facebook and instagram,” said one student.

Tampa crew 2

Some of the crew boats heading in after practice

“Greek life is active but it doesn’t drive the social scene on campus,” said a student. There are plenty of clubs and the usual school-sponsored activities (speakers, movies, etc). Their DII athletic teams participate in the Sunshine State Conference; they do have a DIII Ice Hockey team. They do have a varsity women’s crew and club level for both men and women as well as club equestrian, body building, flag football, and more. Participation in sports at some level is high, as is the fan base for the varsity sports.

© 2016

Siena College

Siena College (visited 7/30-31/2015)

~Siena quad 2

Quad

“I don’t know what’s in the water, but Siena is all alumni can talk about” (and really, where else are you going to get to participate in the Blessing of the Brains before exams and then get bagels and bacon?).

~Siena statue

St. Francis

The type of education at Siena may not be available at other places. Yes, they develop competencies that they can get in a lot of places, but “we give them the way to understand the intersection of the relationships between them and the world, them and others.” The Franciscan ideals are strong and permeate everything they do. “We live in a complex reality; we help students figure out how to live in that world. We ask them to look at the ethics of our actions. For example, some people don’t want to hear the reality of global warming because of the consequences of it. Here, they can’t walk away from that.”

~Siena grotto

The Grotto

The Franciscans have a niche of inclusivity within the Roman Catholic Church. “Siena is proud to be Catholic but we welcome people of all faiths. We help them grow in their relationship with god in however they see it.” The pianist for the weekly masses is Jewish. There’s an interfaith chapel on campus that gets used by Muslim students (who also have Muslim Student Association) more than anyone else; they say they feel comfortable at Siena because people are respectful of their religious values. There’s an Eastern Orthodox and an Evangelical club and a grotto behind the admissions building where anyone can light candles, have services, or just sit.

~Siena 2It’s not even just religious diversity. LGBTQ students are out and accepted. Racial, ethnic, and socio-economic differences are celebrated. Students fall all over the political spectrum. People are willing to engage anyone and everyone in discussions about value, meaning, etc. Everyone is welcome – and people are just nice. A Brother once talked to a student who was thinking about transferring out. When he asked why, she said it wasn’t the place for her: “People are too nice here. I’m used to an edge.”

~Siena dorm 2

One of the freshman dorms

The brand new upperclass dorm that opened in 2014

The brand new upperclass dorm that opened in 2014

There’s no getting around this being a Franciscan institution: there are crucifixes all over the walls, and Friars live on campus. Masses (NOT mandatory!) are held frequently including at 5pm and 10pm in the dorms (to make it more convenient). Students take a religion class but can choose the topic; it doesn’t need to be on Christianity. St. Francis is frequently brought up in FYE and other classes like Ethics in Business. It’s part of the fabric of life here. “People really need to embody it.” The Franciscan Center for Service and Advocacy provides ways for students and staff to get off campus and but their beliefs into action with international trips, working in soup kitchen or Habitat for Humanity, etc. You name it, they’ve probably done it.

~Siena main bldg

Siena’s main building

I think my favorite part of campus was talking to the Brothers. They joined us for dinner the first night (I sat with one from a town in NH that I also lived in for 5 years!) and several of them gave presentations over the next day and a half. They were personable, funny, and down-to-earth, even Brother Ed, the college President. All the Brothers clearly loved what they were doing and wanted to be interacting with students – and it’s not just the Brothers. Professors tend to be in touch with alumni. “I’m having lunch later with a 2005 grad.”

~Siena mock courtroomAcademic opportunities here are amazing:

  • History buffs can take advantage of a semester-away program at Gettysburg (Civil War) or at William and Mary (Colonial History); both of these include internships at local historical sites.
  • 13 sophomores built a prosthetic hand for a boy in Columbus, OH. The group included 12 physics and 1 English major: “I thought people needed to know what they were doing so I’m their communications specialist.” They flew to Ohio to gave the boy his new hand – and he got to throw out the first ball at the game that night.
  • ~Siena trading room

    One of the trading rooms

    They have a Trading Room, and the Bjorklund Fund which allows upperclassmen trade with $250,000 of real money (“under the supervision of a professor!”) over the course of 2 years. They have to present the results: what worked, what didn’t, what they’ll do to fix it.

    • Professors really work hard to guide students into the proper area of business. “Finance isn’t marketing!”
    • Chad Bingo, class of 2015, developed and marketed the “I Gotta Go!” button as a sophomore.
  • ~Siena SAINT lab

    Part of the SAINT lab

    SAInT Center: Stewart’s Advanced Instrumentation and Technical Center lab has $3 million in technology used in industry such as Thermal Units, Mass Spectrometers, High Intensity Scanners, etc. Students get “extensive hands-on experience on a huge diversity of technology that they use from day 1.” One student did Coffee Research and found no difference in caffeine levels between cold and hot pressed coffee, but light roast has more than dark!

  • ~Siena telescope

    A permanent telescope used by the physics students

    Bonner Service Program: students complete 1800 hours of service during their time at Siena, earning a certificate upon completion. They’re paired with programs dealing with rural poverty, international populations, etc – including post-grad work.

  • Standish Honors Program (yes, related to Miles, back in the day”) is meant to rekindle curiosity.
  • The Center for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity (CURCA) allows students of any major to get involved in hands-on research. This summer, there are 117 fully-funded students on campus doing research.

Siena offers 17 articulation agreements :

  • The big one is probably the Albany Medical College Program. Applicants write an additional essay: What service project have you done that reflects the Franciscan values? To qualify, students need a 90 average, 1300 SAT or 30 ACT, and be in the top 10% if ranked. 44 applicants get invited for interviews (done by an admissions rep, a faculty member, and an Albany Med faculty member). They don’t do accelerated “because we think that the 4 years of the undergraduate allows them to develop into really great human beings.”
  • SUNY Upstate Medical University and Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine offer both a Dual Acceptance and an Early Assurance program
  • There are also programs for Dentistry, Pharmacy, Applied Nutrition, Physician Assistants, Occupational Therapy, and Physical Therapy
~Siena recycled costumes

Costumes made from recycled items on display in the Theater building

Applicants are somewhat self-selecting, and Demonstrated Interest is important. Students can use the Fast Forward Application, getting an answer 7-10 days from completion (the app, the counselor rec, and the transcript). SAT and ACT are optional with a stipulation: science and math majors need physics and pre-calc (everyone else just needs Algebra 2) OR test scores.

(c) 2015

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