campus encounters

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Weber State University

Weber State University (visited 9/26/18)

Weber quadWeber (pronounced “wee-ber” … “We’re not the grill!” said the Director of Admissions) is a dual-mission university offering 2- and 4-year degrees. “We pride ourselves in taking kids from where they are to where they want to be. We know how to challenge you, and we care enough to do it. You cannot avoid professors. They’re going to know who you are.” There are no TAs; all classes are taught by professors, half of whom are adjuncts because they work in their field and bring pragmatic experiences to the classroom.

Weber 3There is something here for all students from the high-flyers who know exactly what they want to those who may never have though that college was for them. Because there’s no community college north of Salt Lake City, Weber has an open-enrollment mission for the 2-year programs imbedded in who they are. Students who complete the AA degree in good standing and who want to continue on may do so. Many students are first-gen because of the community college aspect; they’re on the cusp of being named a Hispanic-serving institution because of the large community in Ogden.

Weber moutainsThey have six campuses in two counties; the main campus is in Odgen. “We’re where metro meets the mountains,” said an admissions rep. Many industries (“from the IRS to ski resorts”) are headquartered here. Downtown – about 1.5 miles north of campus – is “one of the most fun, eclectic areas you’ll see.” They sit directly on the side of Mount Ogden which students hike during homecoming. A ski resort sits on the other side. “Not that I recommend this, but if you wanted to hike it up and ski down the other side, I guess you could skip the lift fee…”

Weber tablesA lot of students come to Utah because of the accessibility to outdoor sports, particularly skiing. Students who live in Res Hall 3 (Yes, that’s really the name; there’s also Res Hall 1. The 2nd one got named. Go figure) get a free ski pass. “The point is to group those students together. A lot of skiers and outdoors people live there,” said the tour guide. Other places give discounts to students.

Weber W rockStudents are involved here, on and off campus. Apparently, Paddleboard Yoga is a big deal. Outdoor trips are plentiful and cheap: weekend trips cost around $35; a 5-day rafting trip cost $50. They offer 15 DI sports: Football is big and women’s soccer “is a lot of fun to watch.” Parking isn’t much of an issue: there’s plenty of space at the basketball stadium. Shuttles run every 5 minutes, and local buses also stop on campus.

Weber 2About 1100 students live on campus, many from outside Utah. Cost of housing depends on if they live in Wildcat Village (traditional style) or University Village (apartment) and if they’re in singles or doubles. Out-of-state students get a $1000 scholarship if they live on campus. Every student gets a Wildcard pass, getting them free travel on Light Rail from the SLC airport to downtown Ogden (about 45 minutes). From there, they get an express shuttle (also free) to campus. They can also take free Express Buses into Provo and SLC. Because SLC is a Delta Hub, it’s easy to get into.

Weber performing artsClasses are small; our tour guide’s largest class had 50 students (Intro to Anthropology); the smallest had 7. “That was Intro to Outdoor Pursuits. We talked about risk management and leading groups.” The 7 academic colleges offer amazing options:

Weber quad 2Applications are straight-forward and on the website (they aren’t on Common App); they do not need an essay. Test scores can come from the testing agency or the transcript. They have a 12/1 priority deadlines for scholarships. They start awarding scholarships on 12/2 and will award until they run out of money. In-state tuition is under $6,000; out-of-state is under $16,000; WUE is under $9000. They have solid scholarships (the top one brings the out-of-state cost to in-state). All tuition scholarships are guaranteed for 4 years if they maintain a 2.5GPA with 12 credit hours per semester. They award these based on an index score (ACT/SAT + unweighted GPA). Becoming a Utah resident for tuition purposes is relatively easy as long as no one claims the student on another state’s taxes, they spend 1 full year in the state, and get driver’s license/register to vote; this does not apply if they are on WUE.

© 2018

 

Catholic University of America

The Catholic University of America (visited 9/13/16)

cua-5“I assumed it was going to be really, really Catholic here, but after I enrolled I learned that it’s as Catholic as you want it to be. I was committed to another school before I came here, but it’s really friendly. It’s why I came,” said one of the students I spoke with. Religion is there if you want it. Attendance is never required at any of the daily masses, but students do have to take 3-4 theology classes.

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The Basilica

CUA is the only Papal Charter school in the US. The National Basilica borders campus (and although it gets used quite a bit by students and the university, it is not university-owned or on university property). A vast majority (80% or more) of students are Catholic. The student population is 65% white and 55% female. They have a fairly sizable Hispanic population. Other forms of diversity were harder to figure out. I couldn’t get statistics on socio-economic diversity, and when I asked about groups for LGBTQ students, I was told, “there are some unrecognized (unofficial) groups. We’re accepting but we stick close to the message and mission of the church,” the rep told me.

CUA sits in Brookland which is DC’s “Little Rome.” The neighborhood has gone through quite a bit of change in the last several years, with more stores, apartments, etc going up. The Red Line Brookland stop gives students easy access to anything in DC and beyond; they’re only 3 stops to Union Station (Amtrak).

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The student center

Freshmen are all assigned to Learning Communities for their First Year Experience; they take 2 classes each semester as a cohort in order to build camaraderie. Generally they take English and Philosophy (classical) in the first semester, then another philosophy (more contemporary) and theology in the second semester. “The theology class is more like a well-rounded view, teaching what different groups believe. It’s really cool and different from the Catholic school taught us,” said one student who was had gone to Catholic schools her whole life.

Things that surprised the students I spoke to were:

  • Every night, there’s something to do. There are so many events. Trips are offered every Saturday: this weekend we went to Annapolis. There’s ice skating, Nats games, $5 Broadway plays, pumpkin patches, they’ll rent out a movie theater so we saw Mockingjay for $5, Six Flags. Even on weekdays, they’re always catering events, clubs will run things, whatever. You can’t get bored here.
  • Campus is big enough to meet new people but I’ll still always see people I know. People are always talking to each other; it’s impossible to keep to yourself here.

cua-2The classes they’ve liked the best are:

  • Media and Rhetoric: The prof met with me on a Sunday after Odyssey day (admitted student day). Once I was here, he was always checking in on how I was transitioning, etc. It was nice that someone was looking out for me. I’m now minoring in Political Rhetoric: when and how we say things, not just what we say. He’s the connection to my internship doing digital marketing strategizing.
  • Intro to Am. Government: My prof used examples from DC and we’d go to monuments or historical places to connect what we were learning. It helped put all the pieces together.
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Part of the Architecture studios; all students get their own work space

Politics is the largest major with a lot of sub-categories under that (including Political Rhetoric). They also have other amazing, unusual programs including:

cua-law-school-lawn

The Law School Lawn

There’s plenty to do on campus, including 21 DIII sports. Football, basketball, women’s lax, and FH pull in the most fans. The Law School Lawn is a popular spot for concerts, other activities, and informal gatherings. There’s a parking lot under the lawn, “another way we go green and make the most of space,” said the tour guide. Juniors and Seniors can bring cars, but it’s almost prohibitively expensive to park. Between that and the metro stop on the edge of campus, there’s not really any reason to have a car. It’s easy to get off campus when they want to branch out: “There are SO many opportunities in DC!” said all the students I spoke to. Students like both the academic and social opportunities ranging from internships to free museums to concerts at Verizon Center (and plenty other places!).

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One of the dorm quads

Freshmen and sophomores must live on campus unless they live at home within 25 miles. After that, they can stay but housing is not guaranteed. In addition to traditional RAs, all dorms have a Resident Minister, a position held by a student to facilitate spiritual and religious activities. One of the students would like the university to spend money on Upperclassman housing/apartments. There are currently 2 suite-style dorms for upperclassmen but there should be more. However, they did just put in a new 504-bed res hall on the north side of campus. There’s also a new student center and new student lounge.

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The Music School

Other expansions on campus include changes in the undergrad divisions. Theology, business, and social work had been departments but are now schools in their own rights. The school also has recently received a $27M donation to name the business school and got a grant from NASA “somewhere north of $15M” to do research.

CUA only takes the Common Application. Big cross-over schools tend to be Loyola, St. Joe’s, American, GW, College Park, Scranton, and UDel, Admissions is Test-optional but they will take them if submitted. They un-weight GPAs to a strict 4.0, and will also rank the class strength at their own high school; that gets factored into admission and scholarships. In addition to normal sorts of academic scholarships, there are special ones for Catholic and Legacy students.

© 2016

Austin College

Austin College (Visited 3/2/15)

~Austin swings and ctyrdAustin College, despite the name, located in Sherman, TX, about 45 minute north of Dallas near the Oklahoma border, NOT in the city of Austin! This small city of about 30,000 people has a traditional downtown area which is being revitalized and hosts multiple festivals and other events throughout the year. One student raved about the amazing food in Sherman: “such good mom and pop restaurants!” There are also parks they’ll play Humans vs. Zombies. One student said that the town is ok but, “I wasn’t looking for a city. I was looking for a school.”

~Austin streamTravel to Sherman can be more of a challenge for Out-of-State students but doable. People fly into Dallas or Waco and can get shuttles provided by the college if they plan ahead. There’s also a TAPS bus (“a Roo-route”). We asked students why people should look here instead of other small, selective schools that may be closer to home. “It’s warmer!” one said immediately. Others mentioned research opportunities and the relationships developed on campus.

In addition to the main campus in Sherman, Austin College runs Lake Campus located about 15-20 minutes away. Students, faculty, and staff have access to the 30 acre area simply by scanning their ID at the front gate. Groups can use it for events, and the university often holds a Kite Festival there.

Courtyard of the Language Immersion House

Courtyard of the Language Immersion House

~Austin swings

Swings overlooking the quad

About 80% of students live on campus. Freshmen live in clusters within larger dorms, and they’re matched to their roommates based on Meyers-Briggs. Approximately 25% of students go Greek here (and another Greek chapter is being added next year). There is no official Greek housing, and it’s a delayed rush with students completing their first semester before participating. Students also have the option of living in language-immersion housing. This year, they are offering Japanese, Spanish, French, Chinese, and German. Students agree to speak in that language while in the residence. A native speaker also lives there, and there are common areas and kitchens where students can hold activities, cook meals (although they’re not required to eat there – they have a regular meal plan, as well!), etc.

~Austin chapel 1

Campus Chapel. The school is “Presbyterian in name only.”

Austin is on the College That Change Lives list, and I asked the students how it has changed their lives:

  • Through research and internships. “I love my Communication/Inquiry (CI) class with the professor who will be my mentor for all 4 years. He got me involved in molecular research 2nd semester freshman year and I’ve worked with him ever since.”
  • Through tennis. “I didn’t even plan on playing, but now I’m the captain of the team. One thing leads to another thing here. I didn’t plan on being a French minor, either. There are a lot of opportunities.”
  • The diversity. “I went to a homogenous Christian high school. Here, I’m friends with people from such different backgrounds.”
  • “Because I play basketball, I can’t go away for Jan Term. We took our own trip and it meant a lot.”
  • “Realizing that I was smart enough to do this. This is the American Dream for me. I got a scholarship that allowed me to stay and finish. People are telling me that now I can go to Law or Grad school.”
  • “It pushed me out of my comfort zone.”
  • “Everyone makes mistakes which is normal. Here there are people to help you along the way.”

~Austin sci cntr 4

Sculptures made by students.

Sculptures made by students.

One of the Admissions representatives said that “A Liberal Arts Education is the most liberating and practical.” Students have the flexibility to explore several majors, but are also taught the skills they need to be hireable: critical thinking, problem solving, writing, etc. Students must complete at least 3 Jan-Term programs (but are welcome to do all 4). Some of this is career studies. Unusual or strong majors include: Global Science, Technology, and Society; Cognitive Science; Western Intellectual Tradition; Nonprofit Organizations and Public Service; and Southwestern and Mexican Studies.

~Austin atrium 2

The atrium of the Business Office.

Business majors can declare concentrations in Administration, Finance, Econ, Accounting, or International Economics and Finance. The Student Managed Investment Fund is a class that students can take for credit in which a group of up to 20 students are given a Million Dollars to invest (under the supervision of a professor!) that “consistently beats the market.” All profits go towards funding scholarships at the college.

We asked students, “What’s the coolest class you’ve taken?”

  • Rock and Roll History
  • How Allies Broke the Nazi Code: “We learned how to do computer programing, the history of the war, we watched Imitation Game.”
  • Asian Food Culture Class. “We went to a cooking school in Dallas and rolled sushi and made Korean BBQ. It’s taught by an Econ prof just because he thinks it’s cool.”
  • Algorithmic training. They got $50K to trade and invest during an in-class competition.
  • Andean Nations (history)
  • Business Ethics
  • Tibetan Religion.
  • Monsters Among Us where they read The Lord of the Ring, made a website, analyzed and compared The Walking Dead to Dorian Gray.
  • Wine Tasting. “Next year there will be a beer-brewing class!”
~Austin library atrium

Library

Although graduates have always been successful, the college recently started the Gateways Initiative which is specifically geared towards students wanting to continue onto professional grad programs (law, medicine, etc). Austin has partnered with graduate schools to help with admissions, scholarship, internships, and other pathways towards these professional schools.

When we asked both faculty and students what they’d like to change, improve, or fix, this is what we got:

  • “We don’t want to be something else, just get better at what we’re already doing. It would be nice to increase scholarships and faculty salaries, etc.”
  • Food is ok, but gets boring.
  • “They focus a lot on the abroad experiences and it’s great and amazing but I would like to see more projects in a smaller or more local scale. I think this is something they’re working on.” (She also mentioned that Alternative spring breaks can be as little as $35.

© 2015

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