campus encounters

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UT Dallas

UT Dallas (visited 10/19-20)

UTD 2“UT Dallas is hard. I didn’t take those words seriously when I started. I thought they weren’t serious or that it didn’t apply to me. But it’s hard,” said a recent alum (and current staff member). “We’re one of the best undergrad institutions out there if a student wants to partner with us – but so much of education has to be outside the classroom and beyond the curriculum. It’s so important for them to understand that learning is an intentional action. It needs to be a choice that they’re engaging at the highest level they’re capable of.”

UTD plaza 1UT Dallas spends $40 million on academic scholarships, the same amount that a lot of schools spend on their football teams. “This isn’t to say that our sports aren’t outstanding. Our men’s basketball went to the Sweet 16 because of a buzzer-beating 3-point shot.” They’re regularly audited because so many of the athletes are on merit-based scholarships. “We get asked why our athletes get such high GPAs … because we’re admitting smart athletes.”

UTD fountain 2“We get amazing support surrounded by great peers. We push each other!” said one student. However, one student said that “undergraduates sometimes get left behind” but feels that this is getting better. “Research is there if you look for it.” The Student Success office hires students: tutoring and mentoring tends to be peer-to-peer. They find that this helps the tutors as well.

UTD muralThe admissions department is going into their first year of a holistic review. “We’re careful. We don’t want to admit people who can’t hack it.” As per Texas state policy, students get automatic admission if they fall within the top 10% of their class and have followed a Texas-track curriculum (essentially 4 credits each of English, Math, Social Science, 3 of science). If a school does not rank but the student would be in that level, a letter from a counselor will suffice. About 1/3 of UTD students ranked in the top 10% in high school.

UTD fountain

The fountain that runs along the center of campus

UTD does not accept Common App; applicants should use http://www.applytexas.org. The $50 fee can be waived if they attend a senior admission day. To be considered for scholarships, applications must be in by January 15th! They offer:

  • Academic Excellence Scholarships
    • Academic Achievement: $6000/year: SAT 1400/ACT 30
    • Academic Distinction: complete tuition and fees, $2,000/year cash stipend for other expenses. SAT 1470, ACT 32
    • Academic Honors: complete tuition and fees, $6,000/year cash stipend for other expenses. SAT 1530, ACT 34
  • UTD activity center

    The Activities Center

    Diversity Scholars: “This is not based on race, but is diversity broadly defined,” said an admissions rep – this can include ability, age, and experiences in addition to the categories most people associate with diversity. This requires a separate application (with essay) due by 2/15. To qualify, students must have a 3.0 and have financial need. Recipients must volunteer 5 hours a semester with the Office of Diversity and Community Engagement.

  • Collegium V Honors: They tend to take students with SATs in the mid-1400s (and applicants need a 1410 to even apply/be considered) and are generally in the top 3% of their class. They are starting a Liberal Arts cohort within the Honors Program. Students who don’t make it into this as incoming freshmen can apply during freshman year if they have a 3.9 GPA.
  • The McDermott Scholars Program: This is the most selective of the Scholars Programs/Scholarships.
    • Cohort Trips: Santa Fe (only the freshmen coming in) – 10 days before classes start; Washington at the end of Freshman year.
    • McDermott Housing is in South Hall close to central campus and close to the dining hall.
UTD lab

One of the many labs

The school is “relatively expensive for the state of Texas, but relatively cheap when you compare across the country.” They offer a guaranteed tuition plan: there’s no increase in tuition or fees for 4 years, and additional courses beyond 15 credit hours are essentially free. Academics get a lot of praise, particularly:

UTD 6

Interior of the Student Center

This is clearly a large state university with 27,000 students. “This is smaller than some other state schools and it’s not a party school,” said one of the students. “There are times that there isn’t much going on, but there is no shortage of things to do. You get used to going off campus for fun. The benefit to this school is location because there’s so much to do.” There isn’t a ton within immediate walking distance of campus: “You kind of need a car to get off campus,” said one of the students. Parking is available (there are numerous lots on the periphery of campus), but it’s a bit of a hassle sometimes and “they’re serious about tickets.” There are 3 DART stations within 10 minutes of campus. Both airports (DFW and Love Field) are 40-45 minutes away. The orange line DART goes to DFW.

UTD dorm and DH

Dorms and the dining hall

UTC started strictly as a graduate school and “worked backwards” to become an undergraduate institution. Because of this, it’s still very much a commuter school, but they’re working on increasing the housing available. Currently there are about 6000 beds, and housing has all been built since 2009 mostly in suite and apartment style housing. Suites are assigned by the gender you applied to the school with, and students can also choose gender-neutral housing. Housing costs are charged like rent at an apartment and averages about $815/month which covers utilities. Each student is charged separately, so roommates don’t have to worry if someone leaves.

Safety is good on campus. The university police are technically State Troopers since this is a state institution. Although this is a Conceal Carry state, the university law states that guns are not allowed in residence halls, library, dining hall, etc – basically anywhere where other people could get access to the firearm.

© 2017

University of Puget Sound

University of Puget Sound (visited 6/20/17)

UPS quad 2Puget Sound offers students a juxtaposition of the natural beauty within the city of Tacoma. It’s idyllic but still accessible. Students choose Puget Sound because there are a lot of resources that impact their educational journeys and prepare them for jobs. They have flexibility to be career-focused without giving up chances to explore and be creative. This school provides an immediacy and practicality to their education. Students are heavily involved in experiential learning: restoring habitats in the backyard, traveling abroad, interning at Boeing or Amazon. However, those don’t mean much if there’s no reflection involved: “this is what I did and learned; here’s how it’s important to me, my career, and my work.” Puget Sound both provides this opportunity AND expects students to do this. This goes a long way in helping the school stay on the Colleges that Change Lives list (although it’s far from the only reason).

UPS 8I usually ask students at CTCL schools how the school actually changed their lives. Here’s what Puget Sound students said:

  • It’s a different environment from my high school which was very driven, very Ivy-focused. When I first got here, I was less comfortable with myself. Now I don’t feel like I have to worry about what I’m doing or wearing. I’m used to a cutthroat environment but no one asks your GPA here. They’re personally motivated. They care about their school. They came here because it’s the most comfortable, not because they’re trying to impress anyone. I’m excited to be back in this environment after Study Abroad.
  • UPS 11The amount of support I’ve received from professors, my job in catering, my coach is just amazing. I can call on any of them. My best friends are here. I can ask for a pushback of a due date, and they will allow it because they want my best work. I’m ready to go back into the real world and have something here to fall back on.
  • I was much less independent. One of the best things is that I feel cared about by students, faculty, staff. We promote a culture of caring. It’s not about holding your hand. It’s still challenging intellectually and emotionally, but it puts me in a mindset so I know what I can expect from others. I can have educated discourse while maintaining empathy and a positive outlook on life.

UPS gardenStudents are curious, engaged, reflective, and committed. Academics are practical and rigorous without being cutthroat, and the school is large enough (2600 undergrads) for choices without being overwhelming. “You’ll see students spending hours in the library, but also they’re involved in so much! It’s very typical to see people over-involved, including professors,” said one of the reps. A student said, “Professors are a little quirky here; that made me even more happy.” Some examples include:

  • UPS observatory

    The bell tower built up around the observatory

    One of the Chem professors. In the mornings, he’s always a little disheveled, always entertaining, and uses examples that just make you say, “What??” … but you kind of get it, even though you don’t feel like you should! You’ll see him wearing a helmet and riding his scooter around campus.

  • A Musicologist has been teaching here since the ‘70s. He has every presentation memorized and his mind moves a mile a minute. It’s hard to follow him because his mouth doesn’t keep up with his head. He’s so excited, he’ll start dancing around the room. He’s downloaded his presentations to cassette tapes just to make sure it works since he seems to destroy AV equipment.
  • A Sculpture professor. This is a tough guy you don’t think you want to mess with. He has 9 fingers so you take his safety lectures seriously! But he’s the sweetest guy ever. I’ve cried in his office when I got really stressed but he’ll talk me through it. I know he’ll be a life-long friend.
UPS science quad, gazebo

The Science Complex courtyard. The glass “gazebo” is in the shape of a salt crystal and holds one of the campus coffee shops.

Academic offerings are varied, including lots of interdisciplinary programs. The tour guide’s largest class, History 101, had 27 students in it (the smallest had 3). Programs worth mentioning are:

  • The Music School attracts a lot of people, even though it’s a smaller program. About 1/3 of the total student population is involved in music is some way because it’s open to everyone. They offer Music Education with a 1-year Masters. It’s one of the most credit-intensive programs. “I don’t have much room for electives,” said one student
  • UPS theater

    The theater building

    Bioethics which you rarely see at liberal arts schools!

  • Gender and Queer Studies
  • International Political Economy
  • Global Development Studies
  • An 84% acceptance rate into med school (the Biochem & Molecular Bio major is particularly strong).
  • The natural history museum has a whale skeleton that the students helped clean and put together.
UPS hanging art

Glass artwork hanging prominently in windows

Passages is a special Orientation program where students go to the mountains for 3 days (orientation itself lasts over a week). It becomes part of the culture to experience nature. Freshmen continue building community through their 2 First-Year Seminars. They also get to experience Tacoma and learn what’s available.

UPS dormsCampus keeps people busy, and students like sticking around. “Students will get what they’re looking for, but this isn’t a party school.” Many campus programs have generous budgets are student-run to provide jobs (44% of students on campus work). Students took the initiative to found club sports. Scuba and kayaking classes/clubs use the pool. Varsity sports are DIII, and PLU is their big rival. They’re the Loggers which came about early in the school’s founding when the football team was hired by a logging company to replace workers gone to war. Football, basketball (men’s and women’s), and women’s volleyball bring in the crowds.

UPS greek housingAbout 35% of students go Greek with spring recruitment; they have a 2.6 GPA requirement, although most are higher. Sophomores are usually the ones to move into Greek Housing (the beautiful houses have about 30-40 beds each). Students not affiliated or who don’t want to live in Greek Housing can choose themed houses (like the “OutHouse” for outdoor-themed activities). They have a gender-neutral house and floors.

UPS 5

Dorms

Some of the students we talked to wish there were more international students and more study abroad options. Another said that she wished more students would take advantage of the UPS Pacific Rim program. This runs every 3 years; students spend 9 months in Asia studying in at least 8 countries.

Admissions is test-optional but there are 2 100-word essays to replace test scores.

© 2017

Beloit College

Beloit College (visited 4/15/15)

~Beloit cafe

Campus Cafe

The students at Beloit were some of the most open, forthcoming, articulate students I’ve met. I was hugely impressed with them and the school as a whole. They’re doing something very right there. It’s clearly earning its spot on the Colleges that Change Lives list!

~Beloit acad bldg 4Beloit is great for students who like to do more than one thing. The professors also demonstrate this range of interests. For example, a physics professor teaches “The Physics of Asian Sounds” and co-teaches a class with a Music professor on “Keeping it Real.” Students tend to be jacks-of-all-trades who want to do a lot and maybe need help focusing (in a good way). About half the students become involved in the arts in some way during their time here just because they enjoy it. The campus has a lot of facilities for performances including a thrust stage and 2 black box theaters.

~Beloit sci lab

Science Lab

The happiest students engage across the curriculum. “There are excited students who want to do this and excited faculty who want to work with them,” said one admissions rep. Faculty work with them to show how to fit things into their majors. “They help students move into the driver’s seat of their own education” by letting them articulate what they’re interested in and why. The ability to articulate their own narrative is important. A student put it this way: “We’re challenged in different ways at different times. Be ready to have your world turned upside down in a good way.”

~Beloit students quad

Quad

Students are collaborative, not competitive. Students are internally motivated, not grade-grubbers. They’ll ask “What did you think about the reading?” not “What did you get?” They want to know what they can do better. “They take the responsibility for their education,” said one professor. “They’ll ask, ‘What can I do differently next time?’ not ‘Why did you give me that grade?’”

~Beloit sci bldg interior

Science Building

Students here learn by doing and are expected to do something with what they learn in class. Beloit calls it Liberal Arts in Practice: “We want them to graduate with a resume, not just a transcript.” All students complete a significant project such as research or an internship – and Beloit makes it easy to do this. Students don’t even have to leave campus for real-world experience (although many still do):

~Beloit 1

Archaeology Museum in a converted chapel

  • There are 2 teaching museums on campus: Art and Anthropology/Archaeology (and there are 20 Indian Mounds on campus). Many students work here as researchers, curators, and educators since the museums only have 4 staff members
  • Students who like to make things happen are supported in the Entrepreneurship program CELEB.
  • There’s a fully functional campus TV station.

~Beloit student on quadThere’s a high degree of flexibility in the Curriculum. Rather than Core or Distribution Requirements, Beloit has 5 Domains (such as Creative Processes and Scientific Inquiry) and 3 Skills (Writing, Cultural Competency, and Quantitative Analysis) that they want graduates to have. There’s vast amount of choice involved; many of these can be fulfilled within a major.

~Beloit bridge“It just kind of worked out that no more than 10% of students in any given year are in a major. We don’t do that on purpose,” said an admissions rep. “Professors are hands-down the best here,” said one student. Some of the unusual majors or programs of note include:

  • 3-2 and 4-2 Engineering: Two to four students a year will take advantage of program. Many more come in saying they’re interested but change their minds. Students spend 3 or 4 years at Beloit earning a B.S. and then will earn a 2nd Bachelors or a Masters in Engineering from Columbia, RIP, Michigan, Wash U, or Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
  • Environmental Management and Forestry: this is a cooperative program with Duke. The accelerated program (3-2) is competitive; students can also start at Duke after the full 4 years at Beloit.
  • Critical Identities Studies
  • International Political Economy
  • Geology
  • Languages: Beloit offers classes in many languages beyond the “traditional” including Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, and even Hungarian. About 75% of students will study another language even without a language requirement. The Modern Languages major lets students combine more than one language.
  • Comparative Literature
  • Creative Writing: this is a full major, not an afterthought within the English Department
  • Health and Society
  • Anthropology: Rated the top undergrad program in the country and #2 for students who go on to get a PhD

~Beloit quad 4Favorite classes include:

  • Thinking Queerly: “It was about identity, and a really rigorous class. It pushed me in a unique way.”
  • Women, Race, and Class: “It was a wake-up call.”
  • Masculinities: “We did a lot of research.”
  • “Social Technology Entrepreneurship: “There were 6 professors and 4 students. Where else will that ever happen?”
  • Anthropology of Race and Identity

~Beloit frat houseAlthough there is only a 3-year residency requirement, 95% stay on campus all four years. Housing options include special interest and Gender Neutral housing. The alcohol policy is for students to be responsible and respectful. “There aren’t a lot of regulations here. It’s much more laid back so there’s no pressure to binge drink,” said one student. “People can reach out for help if they need it without fear of repercussions”.

~Beloit dorms

Dorms

Athletics are big but not overwhelming (they’re DIII). The Athletic Director (also the baseball coach) told a story about one of his players who was going to miss practice for the opening of his Senior Art Show. He felt bad about missing practice and proactively told the coach — who not only told him not to worry about it, but delayed the start of practice by about an hour to allow the rest of the team to support their teammate at the opening. “If we’re good, we’ll win without the extra practice.” Because they’re DIII, they don’t have much influence, if any, on admissions: “Admissions reps don’t show up to practice and tell us how to bunt. I don’t tell them who to admit.”

~Beloit quad 3Admissions is competitive, but applicants tend to be fairly self-selecting. They will recalculate GPA to a 4.0 unweighted scale. This year, they’re Test Optional for the first time. International students need to demonstrate skills with TOEFL or SAT/ACT.

Students love Beloit. The town is cute with lots to do. One student did say that “sometimes it can be a bit isolating. The good side is that it makes us a community, and there’s so much to do here that there’s no reason to leave anyway.” Some of the favorite traditions on campus are:

  • “Bizarro” held at the on-campus bar. Students dress up as someone else on campus.
  • Bell Run: “You can be naked on the residential side, but not the academic side. The bell sits just over the line on the academic side; students run across the “line” to ring the bell.”
  • The 2-day Folk and Blues Music Fest
  • Spring Day Carnival
  • Ultimate Frisbee Championships between faculty and students. “We also joke about whether “Old School” (faculty) will be any good this year.”

(c) 2015

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