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Union College

Union College (visit 7/31/15)

Union's main quad

Union’s main quad

The ceiling and 3rd story of Nott where the study carrels are located

The ceiling and 3rd story of Nott where the study carrels are located

Union, with its sprawling quads and light-brick and stone buildings, is physically bigger than you’d expect for the 2200 undergraduates housed on campus. The iconic building seen in all the promo materials is Nott Memorial, one of only a few 16-sided buildings in the world and is now a National Landmark. Once the school’s library, it’s used for lectures on the first floor, an art gallery on the second floor, and study carrels on the third. “I wish I could pull an all-nighter in here,” said the tour guide, “but they do eventually kick us out.”

Nott Building

Nott Building

Unusual for a liberal arts college, about half of the students study math, science (including Astronomy, Neuroscience, and Geology), or engineering (specialties include bio-, computer, electrical, and mechanical with minors in energy studies, nanotechnology, and environmental engineering). Students who want to integrate the sciences into the humanities or business should check out their Science, Medicine, and Technology in Culture major or the joint Leadership in Medicine program, an 8-year program that allows students to get the Bachelors and Masters degrees at Union (MS or MBA) AND an MD at Albany Medical.

~Union 5Their facilities rival those at bigger schools. We stopped at the aerogel lab on the tour: it’s amazing! Two of the students, a sophomore chem major and a senior mechanical engineering major came out to explain Aerogels to us (“Imagine jello without the liquid”) and tell us about their research. First they passed around some samples and said, “Don’t worry about breaking them. We’ll make more.” They’re working on making these gels out of copper for catalytic converters because they’re lighter and much cheaper than what’s being used now. They’re currently replacing a car exhaust system in the lab.

As an interesting side-note, 80% of engineers study abroad in Prague (only 60% of the total student population study abroad). There are also plenty of clubs revolving around engineering such as Engineers Without Borders, Society of Women Engineers, and National Society of Black Engineers.

~Union 3All students take a FY Preceptorial Class (2 terms long with 15 students each) and a Sophomore Research Seminar. Students can choose to do either a thesis or a seminar/capstone class. There’s plenty of flexibility in academics: students can Double Major or complete an Interdepartmental Major which meshes 2 areas of interest. For example, one student is majoring in Climate Change, combining environmental studies and geology.

~Union dorm90% of students live on campus all 4 years. Freshmen dorm rooms are small-ish but livable, “and they get better as you go up.” The college just bought a hotel right off campus which is now student housing. “Having a bathroom in the room is a big deal.” Only 10% of seniors are “released” to live off campus: “People fight to get off,” said the tour guide; the admissions rep gave a different impression. I was left wondering how much of either impression was true.

Something really unusual at Union is the Minerva House System (named for the Goddess of Wisdom): all students are assigned to 1 of the 7 houses; these provide social connections across years and majors as well as leadership opportunities. House Councils (mad up of 15-20 people) determine how the $25,000 yearly budget gets spent. “There’s lots of food,” said the tour guide. Programs could be large like OctoberFest or smaller like Dinner with a Professor, Pizza and Politics (lunch once a week); Waffle Wednesday; Sundaes on Sunday. Each Minerva House has about 300 total students plus faculty and staff. Students can apply to live in their house after their first year.

One of the food options on campus

One of the food options on campus

There’s also a Minerva Fellowship; students apply to be selected to complete a global service project for 10 months directly after graduation (July to April) in 1 of 6 countries. In May, they are back on campus debriefing, giving presentations, work with the next group of Minerva Fellows, etc. I spoke with a recent returnee from Ecuador who was working for admissions through the summer and is off to law school in the fall.

Admissions is Test-optional but they will superscore both tests if they’re submitted. Interviews are recommended but not required and can be done on skype if necessary.

~Union dance pavilionAlthough Schenectady isn’t the most impressive of cities (it was hit hard when the GE plant all but closed), both the town and Albany (right next door) provide a lot of off-campus things to do. It’s also a transportation hub: the Amtrak and bus stations provides service to NYC (2.5 hours south) and Boston (2.5 hours east) and the airport is close. The Adirondacks aren’t that far north, so there’s plenty of skiing, hiking, etc. Ski trips are popular; for $20, students get transportation, lift tickets, and equipment rentals.

Jackson Garden

Jackson Garden

On campus events are plentiful, so there isn’t even much need for “escaping.” Hockey is big here and the only DI team. All others are DIII. Jackson Garden provides a 10-acre get-away right on campus. “Some professors come out here for class. It’s a great place to hang out.” One of the big annual traditions is Lobster Fest; an alum donates 1 lobster and a t-shirt for every undergrad.

(c) 2015

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Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences

Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (visited 7/29/15)

~ACPHS quadCentrally located amongst hospitals, Albany Law, and Sage College, this unassuming main building on the main street opens onto an attractive campus behind it which is much larger than it appears at first glance.

ACPHS lab

One of the Pharmacy labs

Obviously, this is a specialized school. They know who they are, and they do it very well.

  • They offer 6 Bachelor of Science programs: Biomed Tech, Chemistry, Clinical Lab Sciences, Health and Human Sciences, Microbiology, and Pharmaceutical Sciences.
  • They offer a PharmD program.
    • This is accelerated and is one of the few Doctoral level schools that admits international students. Graduates can get licensed in many states, and international students can do a 1-year optional practical training program on their visas.
  • They offer several Joint-Degree Programs:
    • Several BS/MS degrees (Biomed Tech/Cytotech and Molecular Cytology, Pharmaceutical Sciences, and Physician Assistant Studies)
      • The PA program is 6 years: 3.5 at ACPHS and 2.5 and Albany Medical
    • A BS/JD degree with Albany Law
    • Healthcare Management/Clinical Management (BS or PharmD/MBA or MS)
    • a BS/MD degree with Albany Medical
      • This program is not accelerated; students still do 4+4 years, but the MCAT requirement is waived. Students must be US citizens for this program.

“We’re about getting you to the end goal,” said the admissions rep. The school provides the tools to help students do that.

~ACPHS library

Library and gym building

Students who do well here are fairly organized, type-A, focused, less Liberal Arts type of kid. Those who transfer out are split between those who change their majors and those who are not committed to the rigor. They like the community of a liberal arts school in a building crossed with specific goals.

~ACPHS student cntr

Student Center

Applicants tend to be fairly self-selecting, but they’re still a selective in admissions process, looking to bring in about 250 first-time freshmen each year. They are Common App exclusive and will superscore the SAT. They look for recs from a counselor and either a math or science teacher. International students must turn in the TOEFL unless English was the language of instruction for 4 years. For scholarships, the look at math, science, and composite scores.

Sophomore dorm

Sophomore dorm

~ACPHS track and apts

Campus Suites and the ACPHS track

Students must live in campus housing for 2 years, and upperclassmen who want housing can get it; usually seniors are off campus completing credit-bearing internships, so space is rarely an issue. They have room for 900 of the total 1300 undergraduates. Housing is spit by 1st year, 2nd year, and 3rd+ years. The tour guide really liked this system: “There are always people in the dorm taking the same classes, so when we’re stuck on something, there’s always someone to help.” The freshmen dorms were getting work done, so I saw a sophomore dorm. We went into a 7-person suite (1 double, 5 singles) that had a bath and common room. Even the freshmen dorms have bathrooms in the rooms! Campus Suites is a privately-owned apartment complex on the edge of campus. Students from all the area colleges can live here: the tour guide had people on her floor from Sage and Albany Law which she said was really cool. Students can have cars; parking is assigned by lot, but not by specific spots. The guide said she never had problems with parking.

~ACPHS dorm quad

Common room in one of the quads

Students can do some internships abroad. One requirement is a community health stint. They can do 3 weeks in Cambodia, Haiti, and others; usually they can choose from 8-10 international sites each year.

I don’t get the sense that there’s a ton of activities going on around campus. They only have 4 DIII sports and a few club sports. The gym is under the library and is shared by Albany law. There are a couple coed professional fraternities.

Although much of their coursework is geared specifically around their professional work, students have to take a 3-course history sequence and a communications course. Students can participate in the Hudson-Mohawk cross registration program and can take 1 class each semester off campus. It shows up on their ACPHS transcript as if they took it on campus. For example, they can do dance classes at Sage or languages at SUNY.

(c) 2015

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