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Keuka College

Keuka College (visited 3/6/20)

Keuka sign

The main building from the road with the college sign

Keuka has some potential, but they haven’t utilized much of it. The people are wonderful, and the students seem content there, but this will be a very hard sell for students coming from a distance. The college sits on about 1300 feet of Keuka Lake waterfront, but they don’t seem to have made use of their location. Other than a small boathouse (students can use canoes, paddleboards, etc), they haven’t capitalized on the lake: they could’ve done quite a bit with a sailing or crew team, offered specialized marine ecology/biology programs, or somehow set up other unique programs that would be draws to the school. I did find, after some poking around on their website, that they have a Center for Aquatic Research, but can’t find any info on what they do other than some water quality tests. It would’ve been great to hear more about that during my visit if that’s really a thing since that could be a selling point for students interested in ecology or environmental science.

Keuka chapel 4

The chapel with the lake in the background and the oaks lining the path

The college owns a couple historic buildings: the main building is beautiful, and the chapel that overlooks the lake may be the focal point of campus. (One of the school symbols/traditions is the acorn. Students get one when they arrive to represent their growth into oak trees that line the path to the chapel where graduation is held). However, most of the buildings on this small, walkable campus feel dated and utilitarian. I definitely felt this in the library. It would be great if the college had a bit more money to update them. I asked the rep (a recent alum) what she thought the best change was on campus during her time there: “They built Keuka Commons across the street. It was really needed. The students needed more space. It has a café, classrooms, and study rooms.” I was more impressed with this building, and hopefully the school will continue to upgrade their facilities.

Keuka st cntr extThat all being said, they do run a special program called Field Period: this is what they’re known for and why several people choose to attend Keuka. Students must complete a 120+ hour internship each year. Students get right into classrooms, businesses, industries, etc to see if that’s the career they’d like. “They get experience early which gives them a chance to change majors if needed.” They have most of January off; almost all students complete their internship then or over the summer. Some classes have trips during January and summer where they can get some of the hours in. I asked about how students find these placements: “It’s on them to network. It’s about who they know or reaching out to professors. We also have the Field Period/internship office who will help match them up, but they have to initiate those conversations.” I was a little disappointed to hear that this wasn’t more developed; I can see this being very difficult for first-year students, but apparently whatever they’re doing works since the students are getting the requirement completed. The rep I spoke to graduated from Keuka in 2018; she did one of her experiences in Admissions and ended up loving it, leading to this job.

Keuka courtyardClass size is also a draw; students who do well with hands-on learning, small class discussion, and access to professors will do well here. My tour guide’s largest and smallest classes had 25 and 8 students. I asked the rep what her favorite class had been: “Media Writing: I learned that I loved to write! We utilized real world events and I became co-editor of newspaper in junior year.”

For a school this size, they do run a few programs I didn’t expect. Their top programs are:

  • Keuka OT classroom

    One of the OT labs

    Occupational Therapy is Direct Entry; students complete both their undergrade and a 1-year masters program at Keuka so they don’t have to transfer. For admissions purposes, students need an 85 average overall and minimum 85 in math and science classes. They only have 65 seats, but will accept basically anyone who is qualified, so they recommend that students deposit as soon as they get acceptances to hold their seat. This is refundable before 5/1 if they change their minds. The program has some great classroom and lab/practicum spaces on campus! All students also have to live for a week with some issue or disability (it could be even as simple as a broken leg) to understand the needs of different people coming into the clinic.

  • Keuka 1Nursing is technically a 1+2+1 dual degree program with Finger Lakes Community College in Geneva (about 45 minutes away). Students study at Keuka for their 1st and 4th years; they take their classes/clinicals at FLCC during the 2nd and 3rd years (they live at Keuka all 4 years and get bussed up). After the 3rd year, they sit for the NCLEX and get the AAS degree; they get the BS after the 4th There are only 20 seats so this is the most competitive program at the college. Applicants need at least an 80 average overall and at least an 80 each in Bio and Chem. Again, they encourage students to deposit upon acceptance to save the spot in the program (and this is also refundable before 5/1 if they change their minds). They usually fill the full 20-student cohort.
  • Business options include Management (including 3+1 Masters and Organizational Management options), Marketing, and Accounting. They offer minors in Sports Management and Human Resource Management.
  • Education including a minor in Teaching English Abroad
  • ASL and ASL-English Interpreting
  • E-Sports Management is the newest major to be added and should be fully running in 2020-21.

Keuka theaterE-Sports is the largest sport on campus with about 70 people involved. Keuka is DIII and is in the process of changing conferences so they’ll be playing against more local teams. They have Dance and Step-up teams on campus, and they have the Red Barn Theater (literally an old converted barn). They have a ropes course on campus.

Keuka 4It would be helpful for students to have cars here. Keuka is located in a really rural area, and this is a small campus so students have to make their own fun. “There are definitely some students who transfer out because it’s too small,” said the tour guide, “but a lot of others who like this atmosphere. You have to know what you’re getting into. If this is your thing, you’re going to do great here!” The tour guide said that there are a lot of activities on campus (although I didn’t seen many things advertised, but that could’ve been the time of year, as well). Students can go out on the lake in school-owned kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards. Students are expected to live on campus. Dorms are functional (cool fact – the doors of the dorm I saw were chalk boards so you can write on them!) and the tour guide likes the food. “It’s fairly typical college food; they’re cooking for the masses, but they’re doing a good job with that.”

Keuka library

The interior of the library

The hamlet of Keuka Park has just over 1,000 year-round residents (which means that isn’t big enough to be considered a full town!). Seneca Farms, about 2 miles up the road, is a well-loved spot for fried chicken and ice cream and is the go-to place to get off campus. Penn Yan is the closest town, about 4-5 miles up the road, but “the closest large towns are Geneva and Canandaigua, and you’d need to go there to find much of anything to do,” said the tour guide. Rochester (a little over an hour) or Syracuse (about an hour and a half) are the closest cities.

Keuka 3There are a couple traditions that the tour guide shared with me that she liked:

  • Seniors ring the bell in the Bell Tower on 100-Nights
  • First-years are given acorns “to represent the growth we’ll have during our time here. By the time we leave, we’re the oak trees that line the path to the Chapel where graduation is held.”

During admissions, students with an 80 average or higher automatically qualify for a scholarship; with a 90+ average, the scholarship will basically cut the tuition cost in half, making this an affordable option for students who are looking for this type of environment.

Keuka MLK

A display in the library about MLK visiting campus. 

For a school this size, they’re doing well with some aspects of diversity: “We have students from all sorts of backgrounds,” said the rep, although they have a ways to go to increase the numbers. They’re also about ¾ female right now, so they need to work on attracting and retaining males. “We support people and what they believe or don’t believe in.” There’s a Center for Spiritual Life and an LGBTQ Center bother of which run different programs. “I think they make people feel safe.” Keuka has a sister school in Vietnam for business program: unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to go both ways right now: “We usually don’t send students there; the Vietnamese students come here.”

© 2020

Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College

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

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

SMWC statues

Some of the statues around campus.

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

SMWC dorm room

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

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

SMWC chapel ext

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

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

SMWC shell chapel

The interior of the Shell Chapel

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

SMWC horses

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

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

SMWC grotto

The campus grotto

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

SMWC staircase

The main stairwell in the dorm

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

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

© 2017

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