campus encounters

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Archive for the tag “Kinesiology”

SUNY Brockport

SUNY Brockport (visited 3/9/20)

Brockport main signStudents who want a medium-sized school (just over 7,000 undergrads), located in a nice town not far from a major city (Rochester), with lots of school spirit (including high quality athletics), and great academic options at an amazing price-point (including for out-of-state students) will like this school and need to put this on their radar.

Brockport underpass

One of the underpasses under the railroad tracks with art murals done by students. 

“You hit the nail on the head with the size,” said the rep when I mentioned that this seemed like a manageable campus. “You aren’t schlepping across a huge campus, but there’s always something to do and people to see. There are lots of opportunities to network with faculty, to go abroad, to do an internship. Students can do hands-on work in the first year. It’s a nice community. There’s no sense of being in a silo; people are into a lot of things.” Campus is split by some railroad tracks (“They hardly ever come through. I think I heard them about 3 times in my 4 years here,” said the tour guide): one side feels more traditional/historic with brick buildings; the other has more open spaces, modern feeling buildings, and athletic facilities. Covered walkways connect a lot on this side of campus, and there’s an attractive Alumni Walk runs up by the Liberal Arts building.

Brockport covered walkways

Some of the covered walkways on one half of campus

I loved our tour guide! It’s so refreshing to get one who isn’t scripted and can carry on authentic conversations with people on the tour. I was on a small tour with only 2 other families, and we had great conversations with the guide. I walked away feeling like I knew a lot about the school – and that I’d feel good about pointing students in this direction (which is exactly what schools are trying to do with these tours – but not enough of them hit the mark the way Brockport did.)

Brockport sculpture

A sculpture commemorating the Special Olympics which are frequently held on campus

There’s a big sense of social justice at Brockport. “Students are active. They’ll protest peacefully if there’s something they don’t agree with. They profile things in the magazine, write editorials in the paper, bring groups together to share ideas which are then shared with staff,” said one of the reps. “There are a lot of focused clubs, and even those that aren’t specific, it’s still at their core. We’d like to open up our international student population to bring more people into the community.” Diversity is generally good: the LGBTQ community is visible, active, and accepted. There’s an active Hillel on campus. Financial aid and HEOP programs are strong which increases socio-economic diversity. “Things are welcoming and personalized here. I’d love to get the message out on that more.”

Brockport library int 1The rep at lunch said, “This is place where you can find your niche, and then find someone doing it better than you who can mentor you and push you.” The average class size is 23; I asked my tour guide about his classes: the largest had 60 and smallest was 20. He took a grad class with 3 other people. His favorite classes were Abnormal Psych (“the professor shared a lot of first hand experience stories”) and his Cross-Cultural Psych class which he took during a Study-Abroad in Austria.

Brockport skeletons library

I’ve never seen skeletons on reserve in a school library before!

I’m really impressed with the sciences here. Even students who aren’t in a major are doing real things in their core requirements. The tour guide said, “I took a science class where they took bacteria swabs in the gym. Some things you can’t unsee.” Among some of the cool options for majors include Water Resources, Meteorology (there’s also a Broadcast Meteorology minor!), a Bio/PharmD combined degree, Medical Technology, Kinesiology, EnviSci/Ecology joint BS/MS, and Chemistry with ACS Certification.

Brockport liberal arts building

The new Liberal Arts Building as seen from the Alumni Walk

The nursing major is an “Intent program,” said the rep. Students come in having declared their intent to major in that. A strong B average and a 1060 SAT usually gets them into the Intent major. “There is some drop because they realize it’s not what they want or they can’t handle the sciences. We’ll work with them to find if they have something else they want that speaks to their interests if it’s the science or working with people.” Students work on pre-reqs and then apply in Sophomore year; usually there are about 40 spots, but this can change year to year. A 3.5 minimum GPA keeps them competitive.

Other academic programs that reps or the tour guide brought up were:

Brockport LLC infoI asked the rep at lunch what he most wanted to brag about: “Study abroad. We have the most extensive program in the SUNY system. There are over 100 programs in 33 countries, and if students don’t like those, we can funnel them through other SUNY programs, too.”

Brockport freshman quad

Freshman Quad with the sand volleyball court

There’s a two-year residency requirement, and about half of the campus residents live in LLCs. They just built a hotel-style residence hall “which is great!” said the tour guide. There’s a freshman quad which has a sand volleyball court in between the dorms; they often hold a Battle of the Buildings. There’s some Greek life but “not a big deal.” Off-campus housing is easy to find. “It’s cheap, and the school has a list of reputable landlords.” The food is very good; one of the reps came to lunch with us after the tour so we got to check it out. In the dining hall we went to, it felt a bit like a high school food line, but the food itself was amazing! They’re ranked 3rd in the SUNY system for food quality (I need to find out who beat them out!). It did get busy at lunch, but they moved people through the line quickly and there was enough seating.

Brockport 3Although athletics are DIII, they’re “DI in quality. We’re the national wresting and gymnastics champions.” Club sports often compete against DI teams. Students tend to come out and support the teams. Students looking for other things to do can head into Rochester, located 25 minutes away (where they can see professional baseball, soccer, and hockey teams as well as hit restaurants, museums, etc). The Rochester Airport is only 15 miles away, so it’s easy to get to and from campus.

© 2020

CSU San Marcos

CSU San Marcos (Visited 7/9/18)

CSUSM union 1

The Student Union on the hillside

CSUSM has a new, well-maintained campus sitting on a hillside. When I parked on the first floor of the parking garage during my visit, I was surprised to see a sign that said “Walkway to campus, 6th floor” – but that’s definitely indicative of its hilliness. “It’s nickname is CSU Stair Masters” said one student. Buildings and landscaping are attractive; this is one of the newest CSU campuses (the 20th out of 23) with the first class of freshman starting in 1990.

CSUSM 3Campus is easy to navigate; it’s a medium-sized school with just over 13,000 undergrads; they are steadily increasing their enrollment with record freshman classes for the past several years. It’s still primarily a commuter campus, pulling almost all of the students from California (about 2-3% are from outside the state). Because the school still pulls so many commuters, “Parking is a real problem,” said a recent graduate. “It costs something like $340 per semester to park on campus in the garages! I paid $270 for the dirt lot that was a bit of a hike to my classes.”

CSUSM quad

The main quad

The students I talked to said that the professors were the best part of CSUSM. “They’re really accessible and know what they’re talking about.” One student had transferred in from the local community college and loved his Sociology program. “I loved my classes! Academics are about the only thing to rave about there, but we are there for an education, so I guess that’s a good thing.” A few unusual majors include Global Business Management, American Indian Studies, Biotechnology, and Kinesiology. Because they’re so close to the Mexican border (they’re about an hour away), it’s not surprising that they offer a Border Studies minor. Cool minors include Electronics, Music Technology, and Arts & Technology.

CSUSM disc golfOther than academics, diversity is definitely worth mentioning. This is classified as a Hispanic-Serving institution, but “religion and the LGBTQ communities are very well accepted here.” Another student said that “anyone can find a home here.”

This is considered a less-selective school, maybe because they’re increasing their numbers. First-to-second year retention is almost 80% which isn’t too bad, but their 6-year graduation rate is just over 50% which worries me. However, they do tend to take in many transfers and part-time students, so that may not be as surprising.

CSUSM University Village

The Village Apartments as seen from main campus

The University Village Apartments are right across the street from the main campus. This is considered on-campus housing since the university owns this. There are a lot of amenities, including grills, a fire pit, a pool, and fitness centers. There are also some apartments affiliated with the school, but run independently. The food on campus is not well-liked by students. Much of it is run by outside venders (Panda Express, etc) but students say that “the food is horrible. It’s all pretty much centrally located with is good, but that’s the extent of it.” Apparently, breakfast and dinner options are limited because so few students live on campus. “Live in an apartment so you can cook for yourself.”

© 2018

Pacific Lutheran University

Pacific Lutheran University (visited 6/19/17)

PLU 3“PLU makes you figure out who you are,” said one of the tour guides. Students and professors alike tend to be inquisitive and engage in critical thinking. “People learn quickly that their personal view isn’t the only one or even the right one. It doesn’t mean you have to change your ideas or that you’re wrong, but we acknowledge that our own experience is limited. We listen and engage with each other,” said another tour guide.

PLU chapel

The chapel

PLU is 1 of 2 ELCA schools on the west coast (the other is Cal Lutheran). “There are several flavors of Lutheran. This is the most liberal branch.” They espouse the Lutheran philosophy of higher education as well as freedom of thought and expression. There’s no statement of faith required by staff or students, but there are 2 class requirements, 1 Christian-based and one global. “You can get very theological or not,” said a student, referring to the choices for these classes ranging from the Hebrew Bible to environmental ethics to Native American Religions. There are even travel classes such as Ancient Religion in Greece or Asian Religions.

PLU statueLike the Jesuits, they tend to be highly inclusive; graciousness and hospitality are also hallmarks. People of most – and no – faith feel comfortable here. Last year’s commencement speaker was Muslim, the immediate past president was Episcopalian, and the current president “is no flavor.” Care is intentional here which is not seen in many mission statements. Teachers have 2 jobs: teach and be a mentor. “Students know that we have their backs.” They’re clearly doing something right with an 83% graduation rate within 4 years which is nearly double the national average.

PLU bell towerLocated in a residential Parkland, PLU is 15 minutes away from downtown Tacoma by bus and 45 minutes from Seattle on a good day. “On a bad day, we don’t talk about it.” There are a few blocks of restaurants, cafes, and stores right off campus with apartments over them, many of which are rented by upperclassmen. Students can use their dining dollars at 208 Garfield and a pizza place; there’s also sushi, Vietnamese, Starbucks, and more within walking distance either on that stretch or on Route 1, the main drag through town. There are plenty of outdoor activities available in the area (and this is the closest university of Mount Rainier).

PLU pondOne student said, “We’re stereotypical Pacific Northwest: pretty liberal and accepting.” This was mirrored by one of the admissions reps: “As with most of the region, we’re left of center.” There are people on all parts of the political spectrum, and they engage in dialogue. This is a safe space to have the discussions, and students will listen to each other.

PLU dorm

One of the dorms

There’s a 2-year residency requirement but housing is guaranteed all 4 years and about half of the students stay all 4 years. On-campus students have higher overall GPAs and higher graduation rates. All but 1 of the residence halls have linked learning components. Old Main is the only all female dorm with an empowerment hall. There are 3 non-gender/coed wings that students can apply for. The Lavender Wing is for LGBTQ students and allies. There’s First-Gen floor (43% of the students are First-Gen) and another for students of color (more than 25% self-identify). There’s an active Diversity Committee and an annual POC retreat.

PLU glass artFood gets high ratings from the students. The dining hall employs an executive chef who plans menus. “It gets creative. We get things like Taiwanese beef stew, Pacific Islander meals, schnitzel and brats, Norwegian, Korean short ribs. One of the favorite traditions is State Olympics: each group brought a “State Game”

PLU 2Although there are only about 2,700 undergrads (70% of whom come from within 100 miles of the school), PLU is considered a comprehensive Liberal Arts school because of the professional schools (business, education and Kinesiology, Nursing). “There’s a healthy tension between the Liberal Arts and Professional Programs here. Part of the mission is Vocational Discernment. It’s very real world here!” said one of the Deans. Some of their stronger or more unusual majors include:

  • PLU scandinavian cultural cntr

    Scandinavian Cultural Center

    Norwegian: The King of Norway has been to campus twice, once as a commencement speaker. The Queen has received an honorary doctorate.

  • Geosciences
  • Holocaust & Genocide Studies within the History department
  • Dual Engineering-degree. Students need a 3.3 GPA for guaranteed admission. Of the 40ish students who express interest every year, 25-30 end up completing the 3+2.
  • PLU theater

    One of the theaters: they offer a BFA and a BA in acting/directing as well as technical theater

    They offer a broad Business Admin degree with concentrations in the other areas (accounting, finance, marketing). They don’t offer a specific International Business program because all of their programs have an international focus. Students interested in a Fast-track MBA program for the MBA can start pre-reqs as an undergrad and then complete the MBA in 1 more year.

  • Education: Only elementary is offered at the undergrad level. Those interested in secondary education can major in area they want to teach and then do the fast-track 1-year masters. The program boasts a 100% placement rate.
  • Kinesiology offers 2 options:
    • The BS offers a pre-PT or an exercise science track.
    • The BA is more for Phys Ed teachers.
  • PLU 10Direct Admission to the Nursing program (#1 in the state): separate app by 1/15. Want to see advanced math and science and write a specific essay about why they want to be a nurse. 40 spots in fall and in spring. Better to do Calc than Stats in HS. They have 1 year of pre-reqs and 3 years of clinicals. They call it “conditional admission” – they’re in the program as long as they pass their pre-reqs with a 3.3 GPA. Last year they had a 100% pass rate with a longer-term average of 94% passing on the first attempt.
  • Students in Interdisciplinary Programs (Global, Scandinavian Area, Environmental, Chinese, and Women’s/Gender Studies) have to double major.

PLU quadThe biggest class students will ever see is 40, but classes average under 15. Even the largest lecture halls don’t have more than 80 or 90 seats, and these are used for visiting speakers. “Missing class isn’t really an option.” Some of the students’ favorite classes included:

  • Astronomy: “it changed my understanding of the world and how it worked. It really challenged me. I was taking a religion class at the same time, and I was able to question a lot and make connections.”
  • Sociology of the Body: “I walked out of the class with more questions than answers. It think that’s the sign of a good class.”

PLU 8All students complete some sort of capstone which could include an internship or research among other options. The results of the capstone have to be presented to several professors at the end. Research can be “as far as Africa and close as Rainier.” Facilities on campus are also amazing: graduate students from UW come here to use facilities to analyze atoms/molecules.

PLU international dorm

Sign in the lounge of the international dorm

This is the first American university to offer Study Away programs on all 7 continents at the same time. About half of the students participate in at least one program; about half of those are during J-Term. Only 4 programs are domestic.

Applications are free on Common App. A “3.3-ish GPA will start qualifying students for merit aid,” said one of the reps. There are 5 full-tuition scholarships which are competitive. They offer Fine Arts Scholarships (requiring an audition) ranging from 1,000-10,000 for music, theater, dance, art, and speech & debate.

© 2017

Virginia Commonwealth University

Virginia Commonwealth University (visited 3/13/17)


One of the dorms; much of campus sits on streets like this

Students looking for an urban campus with lots of diversity, school spirit, and big sports will do well here. However, they need to be willing to advocate for themselves.

This is a state school with 24,000 undergrads, 37% of whom are male and 89% coming from in-state. Gen Ed classes run 150-200 students in lecture halls, but the upper level major classes average 27 students. “It’s the students’ job to take advantage of the opportunities.” Classes are varied, as you’d expect from a school this size. A couple favorite classes were Cultural Text and Context about Egypt and Women in Global Politics.

VCU ped walkway

The pedestrian walkway part of central campus

Campus sits in the middle of Richmond with almost no “central campus” in the traditional sense. However, location means there’s plenty to do, and students have opportunities to connect to the community, get internships, and apply what they’ve learned. The James River is minutes away from campus with hiking and other activities. Richmond itself is centrally located, only 1.5 hours to Virginia Beach and a little more than 2 hours to DC.


One of the older buildings on campus

VCU is a relatively new institution, starting in 1968 when 2 colleges merged. The main campus sits on the site of one school; all the medical programs (including graduate schools) are on the other one a couple miles away. The do offer a Guaranteed Admissions Program for some honors students into several of the graduate health programs as long as they meet the minimum requirements. This is not binding so it’s ok if they change their mind. Applications for this have a hard November 15 deadline; students need a 1330 SAT or 29 ACT and a 3.5 unweighted GPA. Beyond that, they should have done something to stand out such as shadowing or volunteering.

Engineering and the Arts are big here:

  • Engineering has offerings in Biomedical, Chemical and Life Science, Electrical and Computer, and Mechanical and Nuclear.
  • VCU arts 1

    One of the art studios

    The Arts Department includes both visual ad performing arts.

    • Visual arts are very much studio-based. “It allows us to establish ourselves and experiment,” said a junior painting/printmaking major from Kansas. “I wanted to go somewhere where I had the resources of an entire university.” He loves the program and is very happy with his decision to come to VCU, but said the downfall is that they don’t get any help in establishing a design portfolio. “We’re on our own to figure that out.” There also aren’t really any internships easily available or at least advertised. “I looked online; I think this major is the only one with nothing listed for internship opportunities,” he told me.
    • Unusual offerings include Kinetic Imaging and Craft and Material Studies.
VCU plaza

The plaza outside the main dining commons (to the left). The library is the glass building on the right.

Humanities and Sciences, of course, is the biggest school. A few unusual offerings are Military Science and Leadership, Statistical Sciences and Operations Research, Kinesiology, and Forensic Science.

The smallest majors/schools are Social Work (35 freshman) and Life Sciences with 51 freshmen (this includes Bioinformatics, Envi Sci, and Integrative Life Sciences; biology and other sciences are in the Arts and Sciences division).

Students really like the diversity on campus. “Campus shows off the spectrum of people there. I’ve made friends from all over,” said one of the tour guides (we had 3).


An LLC building

There are plenty of living opportunities such as LLCs and Global Living. There is no residency requirement, but 74% of freshmen do live on campus. Food gets good reviews from the students: “There’s so much food! They keep adding new options every year.” The dining hall sometimes runs what they call ‘Upper Cuts’ which serves “really, really great food!” according to one of the tour guides. It requires a second swipe on the meal plan. Restaurant Row, on one of the main streets running through campus, takes Rams Bucks. For students living off campus, it’s easy to find apartments and houses to rent near campus.

VCU dormAdmissions is rolling, and it takes about 4-6 weeks to get a decision after application is complete. They recommend that students include their SSN on the app to facilitate the link to FAFSA. This streamlines, the process, reduces mistakes, and allows them to get the package to students earlier. Students applying by Jan 15 will get an answer by April 1 at the latest. Test scores are optional for students with a 3.3 GPA at the time of application BUT are required for merit scholarships, the Honors College, Engineering majors, and for homeschooled applicants. If you want to get considered for automatic-consideration scholarships – apply by 11/15!!!

VCU stu cntrThe Honors College will look at writing on standardized tests; regular admissions does not. Priority deadline for freshman Honors Program is 2/1. The Guaranteed Admissions program falls under the honors college: if you’re admitted to GA, you’re admitted to HC, but not vice versa! The application for GA is on the Honors College website and is completely separate from the Common App.

© 2017

Jacksonville University

Jacksonville University (visited 2/12/16)

J'ville waterfrontSitting directly on the St. John’s River (which is one of two rivers that runs north – the other being the Nile), JU’s Marine Science Research Institute is top-notch. The city of Jacksonville is industrial, and the university does a lot to help lower the impact of the city on the local environment. It’s a “sweet water river” which flows out of the swamps. The water’s brown color has nothing to do with pollution; instead, it’s from tannins in the swamps.

J'ville Marine Sci Inst

Marine Science building

J'ville Marine lab

Tanks on the first floor of the Marine Science building.

The Marine Science building is new with amazing resources. The ground floor has tanks, flumes to simulate currents, and more. The 2nd floor has classrooms, labs, and meeting rooms. Several students were there studying; when I spoke to them, they were excited about the major and the school in general. “It’s an 8.5 on a 1-10 scale,” and “Tell your students to come here! The faculty ratio is great,” they said. They love that they can do cross-disciplinary work such as assessments of Coral Reefs: aviation majors fly the drone, engineering students run the tools, marine science majors examine the coral reef health. “There’s also an abnormally high number of people who start their own business,” said the Director of the program.


J'ville swing“Trans-disciplinary learning is nothing new here,” said one of the deans. This is the only school in Florida to require a class in economics: “Macro-economics requires a holistic view of the global economics.” The school invests in personal enrichment and community engagement. “The community today is the globe.” This leads to innovative research that students are excited about. “We are at the top 4% nationally for the number of submissions and acceptances for national undergraduate research conferences. We beat all the Ivy-league schools.” They had the highest number of accepted proposals (126) beating out even the top Ivy (Cornell had 115).

Business, Health Sciences, and Fine & Performing Arts are strong

  • Their Kinesiology program is highly hands-on and cross-disciplinary; one well-liked project is the bio-chemical assessment of athletes which lets students in that department work with biology, chemical engineering, and other students.
  • J'ville nursing lab

    Nursing department

    The Nursing department is selective; faculty interviews potential students as part of the admissions process. They have direct entry, but students can also apply during freshman year.

  • Their Emergency Nurse Practitioner program is 1 of only 7 in the country.
  • The Education department has a pre-school on campus for 2-5 year olds; students intern there all the time.
  • Business majors can specialize in International or Sport Business or Accounting.
  • The Fine Art Complex is amazing, including a glass-blowing major and minor. A
    J'ville glass 2

    The glass-blowing studio

    freshman gave us a glass-blowing demonstration and almost finished making a bowl in the 20 minutes we were there. “The oven typically runs at about 2200 degrees; it’s running cool today at 2000.”

  • In additional to the traditional types of art, students can also do sculpture, animation, illustration, and graphic design.
  • They have a Dance major in addition to Theater Arts.
J'ville flight sim 3

The Advanced CRJ simulator

The size and quality of their Aviation Management and Operations major surprised me. Of the 160 students in the program, 22% are women. When asked who attends here versus Embry-Riddle, the Director of the program said, “ERAU is more the engineering, building of aircraft, etc. You can learn to fly at either place, but if you want to learn the business end of things, this is where you want to be.” The flying aspect costs an extra $65,000 over the student’s time at school.


J'ville aviation bldg

Inside the Aviation building

NROTC has 54 students who take classes on campus; they’re ready to be commissioned right out of college. They participate in many local events including at the nearby base. They complete 4-6 week training cruises (or an equivalent: a Nursing student spent a summer at Walter Reed) all 3 summers.

J'ville outdoor work area

The outdoor working area with tables and electrical outlets

The new President, an alum, has invested a great deal of money into the university. He had been in the business world for a long time, and he’s invested in making the school better. “Our campus has never looked more beautiful. There are a number of improvements: a new residence hall for freshmen, a new outdoor leisure space (which is used extensively as a study place, and even has electrical outlets), and a new workout center. We’ve also created new scholarships to appropriately reward students.”

J'ville apts 2

Some of the apartment buildings for upperclassmen

There’s a 3-year residency requirement, but many students stay because of the new apartment buildings; the surrounding area also doesn’t get rave reviews, but all students can have cars on campus. The current president sent people up to look at UVA’s dorms and replicated them, adding study spaces, fireplaces, etc. They want to make the most of their location and their buildings. The River House had been the President’s house, but eventually was slated to be taken down for parking. When the current President came in, he nixed that: “we don’t need a parking lot with this view.” It overlooks the water, the campus pool and sand volleyball court, and more. Now it’s used for meetings, the Ratskeller, and more. Lots of students have cars on campus.

J'ville golf practice

The golf practice area

Greek life is very small, but sports are a big deal and they’re very proud of their teams. They currently have 501 student athletes, and 18/20 teams have a 3.0+ GPA. Retention rate among athletes is 94% with a good graduation rate. They’re DI “mid-major” (no PAC, Big 10, etc), including Beach Volleyball, Shooting, and Crew (“The women’s team is great! The men’s team… meh”). Campus has a practice green for golf, intramural fields, even an outdoor workout station. They just hired a Director of Ticketing, Sales, and Game Day Experience; attendance and school spirit is way up. The Athletic Director is also a full-time business professor who talked to us for a few minutes. “We win with honor and win in the classroom.”

J'ville art studio

One of the art studios

Students who have left have done so for a variety of reasons: some had bad experiences with a coach, didn’t want to go to class, wanted to hide in a bigger class, bombed their first year and lost a scholarship, etc. That being said, JU is “pretty good at second chances.” One student spoke of a friend who failed a class and was put on probation but dug her way out of the hole and is doing great now. “Send us your B+ students. We can change their lives.”

© 2016

University of Michigan

University of Michigan (visited 1/31/15)

Archaeology Museum

Archaeology Museum

~Michigan bldg and tower 2I did not get a conventional tour at Michigan because their admission office is not open on Saturday (except for a few rare dates scattered throughout the year). I’m a little shocked at this. It’s a major university; people want to visit and tour. I got the feeling from talking to their admissions office that it just didn’t matter; they assumed people would conform to whatever schedule they put forth, and really, they’re mostly right. They’ve got the name and reputation. Therefore, they clearly don’t have to try. However, this also seems to be indicative of how the university runs as a whole. They’ll give you a world class education, but you’re on your own to seek it out, meet them on their terms, and do what you need to do by yourself.

One of the streets surrounding the university

One of the streets surrounding the university

The "Diag"

The “Diag”

Because I couldn’t rearrange my schedule in order to arrive on a weekday for a conventional tour, I reached out to a friend doing a graduate program at the university. She spent a few hours walking around with me. Although I didn’t get the “party line” and couldn’t ask the tour guide about his/her experiences, I think that I ended up getting much more than I would have on a school-based tour. We walked through much of the area surrounding campus, walked through a lot of the university buildings, had lunch at a local restaurant, and I got the uncensored impressions of the students and school from someone not working for admissions.

The lobby of the Business Buiding

The lobby of the Business Buiding

The Business school

The Business school

“The classes are great, but they’re big.” She said that it’s hard to get advising sometimes, hard to make sure you’re taking the classes you need, hard to get access to some classes. She’s a TA and knows that a lot of the undergrads’ educations were coming from people like her. I asked her what she thought of the university in relation to Berkeley where she did her undergraduate work. “They’re a lot alike. You need the sharp elbows here, too.” However, she said that the students are very different at Michigan. “Maybe I’m jaded after Berkeley, but Michigan is supposed to be this bastion of liberalism. It just isn’t.” She described the overall student body as “rich and conforming.” There are a lot of girls with the stick-straight hair and the “right clothes and right bags.” That’s not to say that there’s not diversity. Clearly there is. It’s a huge school (about 28,000 undergrads); you’ll find some of everyone here. However, there seems to be an overarching culture of conformity. The students I saw as I walked around campus backed up that assessment.

The "fishbowl" - one of the computer labs on campus

The “fishbowl” – one of the computer labs on campus

~Michigan bldg 5Students who will do well here are those who want to study on Saturday afternoons and those who are hyper-independent with “sharp elbows” (aka who will fight classes, housing, etc) and who can figure out what they need and then know which questions to ask in order to get what they need – academically and socially – without help. “It’s the type of school where you can easily fall through the cracks, especially the first year. You don’t know what you need until it’s too late and you’ve missed an opportunity or a deadline.”

~Michigan bikes~Michigan treeAs we walked through the library and then the union, students packed every available space and were studying. There was some socialization going on, but very little. Books were open, papers were being written, areas were relatively quiet. It’s the sort of scene I would have expected more on a Sunday afternoon than on a Saturday. Students here clearly take their learning seriously. However, there were also a lot of students out on the “Diag” (diagonal path cutting across the quad) and heading in and out of buildings. Even on a cold, dreary day, there was plenty going on around campus. The blocks surrounding campus are clearly geared towards meeting students’ needs. There’s a vague sense of “counterculture” but most of the stores were typical college-student places: cafes, restaurants, book stores. There’s no shortage of things to do on or around campus.

Law School quad

Law School quad

Most students study in the Liberal Arts College (LSA: Literature, Science, and the Arts). Freshmen can also apply to Architecture, Engineering, Performing Arts, Kinesiology, and Nursing. Students interested in Education, Business, Social Work, Pharmacy, Public Policy, and some other programs must apply and be accepted into the program during freshman or sophomore years (although some give Freshman Preferred Admissions, aka guaranteed placement, when they’re accepted to the university).

Unusual majors include: Arabic, Armenian, Persian, Turkish, and Islamic Studies; Interarts Performance; Microbiology; Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering; and Screen Arts and Culture.

(c) 2015

Sonoma State University

SONOMA STATE UNIVERSITY, Sonoma, CA (visited 7/18/12)

Someone described Sonoma State as a place where “people actually talk to people” and it seems to live up to that! I would recommend this school to a lot of people. It’s simply amazing!

Sonoma dormsSonoma housing plansThe housing at SSU is probably the best I have ever seen. Students live in beautiful suites starting in freshman year. They have a variety of options: single or double rooms within suites, suites with or without kitchens, different layouts, different numbers of people, townhouses, and Student Interest Groups. Costs vary according to space. The townhouses are so good that they rent them out as houses over the summer. For the special interest housing, the students do not need to major in that area, just be interested in that subject. However, they do have to test in with good SAT or ACT scores. Different Residential Units have dining halls; the food is good. I like that the college let us eat in one of their halls to experience what the students get.

Sonoma housing areaSonoma libraryThis is the newest of the CSU campuses at about 50 years old. It’s also the most residential of the CSU campuses at about 64% residential. Dorm quiet hours are 10-8 during the week, midnight-8 on weekends. They pull a large percentage of students from San Diego, San Francisco, and San Jose. On the weekends, they offer lots of trips into SF, the ocean, national parks, etc. They also have the largest study abroad per capita in the system and have the largest EOP grant of the CSUs for California residents.

Sonoma acad bldgTheir student population hovers around 8,600 with the best retention and graduation rate in the CSU system. About 20% of the student population is Hispanic right now; the university would like to get that up to about 25%. This would label them officially as “Hispanic serving” and make more grant money from the state to help them continue improving services. They’re also looking to attract more STEM and more academically qualified students.

Sonoma libraryTheir impacted majors (those that have more applicants than space in the program) are EnviSci, Liberal Studies (create your own major with a 4 year graduation guarantee), business, psych, kinesiology, and criminal justice. The average graduation time is 4.5 years because of double majors or late advising. The average class size is 26. The largest lecture hall on campus is 120 so they have some of the smallest lecture classes in the system.

Sonoma gymSports are big on campus and school spirit is high. However, the football stadium is now an observatory for astronomy because they don’t have a football team anymore. Soccer is the new football in terms of homecoming games, attracting fans, etc. Women’s softball and Men’s baseball are both competitive and several pros have come out of the university.

Sonoma 1The campus is pretty and easy to get around. They have two things worth mentioning: First, they have 1 of 12 saplings grafted from a tree that Anne Frank planted (another one is at the White House) and a Holocaust Memorial. Second, there are two ponds stocked with fish; students can fish with their ID which doubles as a fishing license. There are even geese and ducks walking across the quad between the ponds!

(c) 2012

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