campus encounters

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Archive for the tag “Liberal Arts College”

Houghton College

Houghton College (visited 3/19/19)

Houghton quad 2This school is a well-kept secret which is unfortunate. I drove to campus from Erie, and I had quite the scenic drive heading north off Interstate 86. There were plenty of small towns and farms; I checked my GPS at one point to make sure I had programmed it right because I didn’t see any signs for the town of Houghton (pronounced “Hoe-ton” not “How-ton”) or a college of any sort … and then suddenly, I was there.

Houghton chapelThey do NOT make a secret that this is a “Christ-centered education.” While definitely religiously focused, nothing on campus is “in-your-face” or screams “Religious School!” However, students must attend 2/3 of the chapel services held on M, W, and F; the tour guide described a lot of music happening at chapels. Masses are not required, although they are offered on campus (many of which are student-led). Many students choose to go to church in the community. The student worker in the office talked about having a group of friends that she went to church with. Students also have to take 3 religious classes as part of their Gen Eds, including Biblical Lit (“basically an intro to the Old Testament”), Intro to Christ, and an upper level elective.

Houghton 7The directions sent by the admissions office were spot-on – the brick building with the bell tower was one of the first buildings I got to. Parking was plentiful and well marked, something I appreciate more and more as I go on these visits. The welcome center, located right inside, is lovely and warm. Coffee and cookies were set out, and a student was staffing the desk to greet people.

Houghton dorm 2

One of the dorms for females, the biggest on campus. “I think about 300 people live here.”

This is a mostly residential campus. There are 4 dorms (2 each for males and females) and some townhouses for upperclassmen. There are very few commuters mostly because of the rural nature of the community. One of the students I talked to said that she’d like to improve the dorms a bit. “A couple of them are older. They aren’t terrible, but they could use upgrades.” I asked her about the food – “It’s the best I had when looking at colleges. It’s maybe an 8, but I’m not picky.”

Houghton walking trail

One of the walking trails leading from campus. 

The central part of campus is easy to navigate and has a great feeling about it. The athletic facilities and a couple dorms are a bit more of a walk, but even the furthest fields and the new athletic center weren’t any more than a 10 minute walk at a fairly leisurely pace. There are lots of wooded areas and trails for students to use for hiking or running. “Outdoorsy students will definitely like it here,” said the rep (and Letchworth State Park, the “Grand Canyon of the East” is only about 15 minutes away – lots of opportunities for hiking, rafting, camping, etc). The only part of campus that isn’t walkable is the Equestrian Center, a fairly major area a couple miles away; I drove over to see it after the tour and was impressed at the size of the facility. They offer an Equestrian Studies major and minor and an Equine-Assisted Therapy minor.

Houghton equestrian cntr

The equestrian center

I talked to the student at the admissions desk for awhile. She said was surprised her the most was how much of a community this really was. “I chose it for the community but didn’t know just how open people would be.” The 1000 undergrads do become a truly tight-knit community and people tend to get involved; the ruralness of the campus pretty much guarantees that. There are lots of traditions and community-building events, and the Rep who showed me around, herself a recent grad, couldn’t say enough about it.

Houghton 7

Students talking between classes

“Students who want a community are going to do great here. You can’t help but get involved.” Several of the major traditions revolve around the dorms. One of the male dorms always dresses up in wacky costumes and bang on drums during home games. Even the website lists that dorm as “Home of Shen Bloc, a high-energy, raucous cheering section for Highlander athletics.” One of the female dorms always throws a Thanksgiving feast and another throws a party. Other traditions that people brought up were the Bagpipes that are played at graduation and “Scarfing” for freshmen. “We get a scarf; we’re supposed to give it away at graduation to someone meaningful to our experience here, but that doesn’t always happen.”

Houghton Hammock Village

The “Hammock Village” – the only one I’ve ever seen of these on a college campus!

An area for growth that the rep sees is that “we’re predominantly white. We’re trying to increase that. Some of that happens in chapel. We’ll talk about things even if it makes people mad or uncomfortable. We hold forums and have the hard conversations. We’ve had a record high number of students of color coming in.”

Not surprisingly, they have several religiously-themed majors and minors such as Pastoral Ministries, Bible, and Theology. Their music and arts divisions are strong (offering BFAs and BAs in typical areas as well as Music Industry and Applied Design and Visual Communications); the large arts building has an EMA recording studio, practice rooms, and galleries. Students wanting to combine this with Business can earn a bachelor’s in Integrated Marketing Communications.

© 2019

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Hood College

Hood College (visited 11/9/18)

Hood chapel

The Chapel

Every year, Hood holds “May Madness,” a fun end-of the year festival on campus (with food, games, crab feast, prizes)… and every year, it takes place in April (despite its name).

This is a quintessentially pretty campus full of brick buildings. Relatively compact, “it’ll take you about 10 minutes to get across campus if you’re dragging your feet,” said one of the reps. Even the artsy downtown area of Frederick is accessible, sitting 3 blocks from campus. Frederick is like an extension of campus. Students do a lot of service; the hospital allows some parking in their garage; students and staff have a garden to donate food to local places. “There’s a real shop-local mentality here.” Lots of guest speakers like Bill Nye and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar come to the art center, and students get discounted tickets for the diversity series to hear people like Lavern Cox and LeVar Burton.

Hood quad 4Started as a women’s college (it was the counterpart to the all-male Mercersburg Academy), it went fully coed by 2003; male commuter students were allowed to enroll in classes in the early 70s. Starting in 2019, there will be a 3-year residency requirement (it’s now 2 years) once the new dorm goes opens in fall of 2019. The students who move off campus often live in apartments within a few blocks of campus. On-campus food is great! There’s a lot of variety and the dining room is spacious. Freshmen get “All you can eat” swipes for the dining hall which is helpful if they just want to grab a coffee or piece of fruit. “It helps them figure out how much they’re really going to eat without them feeling like they have to use-it-or-lose-it,” said a rep.

Hood Pergola 1

The interior of the Pergola which benches, bird feeders, and the poles that you shouldn’t “split”!

The campus is split roughly into academic and residential sides. Theirs is a gorgeous wisteria-covered Pergola in the residential quad; it marks the physical center of campus. Tradition says that students can’t “split the poles” – if they’re walking with friends, they have to walk on the same side rather than split apart to go around the poles. If they do, it’s said that they will not be friends after graduation. There is also a large Chapel on campus dating back to when Hood was affiliated with the Reformed Church, but they are no longer religiously affiliated. The chaplain, however, is active and well loved on campus, doing lots of interfaith work, holding “get-to-know-you” activities, meditation, and generally supporting the whole campus. “She’s here to help figure out who students want to be. Programming is very student focused and intended to pull people together when things happen.

Hood fountain 2There are all the typical majors you would expect at a small liberal arts school with 1400 undergrads, but they do offer interesting interdisciplinary things and accelerated programs – although one rep said, “I’d love to see us develop some “buzz” majors like forensics.

  • They are rolling out more concentrations in business. Many students start with Sports Management until they realize how competitive it is. It’s not unusual to see several of the athletes (who make up almost 50% of the student body!) think about this major at some point.
  • Hood quad 2Nursing is direct-entry with 32 spots, so they recommend applicants use the Early deadline. They’re looking to double that but they need more space. This is a full 4-year program but they’ll take some transfers as room allows; however, 3 years is the least amount of time they can complete this in. Campus is right next to Frederick Memorial Hospital making clinicals easy and accessible.
  • They have a new 5-year BA/MBA, bringing their dual-degree programs to 4 along with an Environmental Bio, Info Tech, and Psych/Counseling. They’re planning on adding more such as a CS/Cyber-security. Students interested in this have to apply to the program during sophomore year and maintain certain GPA requirements.
  • Some of their interdisciplinary programs include Art & Archaeology (with Archeo, Art Education, or Art History concentrations), Coastal Studies, Criminology & Deliquency, and Public History.
  • Students who major in a language must either study abroad or living in one of the Language houses where students agree to speak the target language while in the house and at least 1 native speaker lives there. These are currently housed in duplexes on the edge of campus, but they will be moved into wings of the new dorm building. These students often double major or will minor in Global Studies. Many go on to teach or work in Embassies.

Hood 1There seems to be a large global/world focus among the student body. Hood is the most racially diverse private school in the state. Last year’s incoming class had 51% of students self-identifying themselves as underrepresented students. “It helps that we have scholarships for high-achieving underrepresented students,” said a rep. The President is a big proponent of diversity, and they have a new Director of Inclusion. “There was a bit of kick-back because he’s white, but he’s been great. He’s gay and very involved in community,” said a rep. Currently, only 3-4% of the students are international, but the new VP for enrollment has a plan to expand that.

Hood mainMerit scholarships are a percentage of tuition so they go up when tuition goes up. Five full tuition scholarships are awarded each year. Students accepted into the honors program awards an extra $2000. The admissions staff recommends qualified students to the Director of the program who makes the final decisions. In this case, the writing submitted by students becomes highly important because there are no exams; classes are all taught seminar style, more than the rest of the classes. Honors students are expected to complete a service component including working a semester at a non-profit aligned with the major.

© 2018

Westminster College (Utah)

Westminster College (visited 9/26/18)
Westminster walkwayThis is a perfect college for students who want that mix of traditional campus, an urban environment, lots of academic and athletic opportunities, and access to a multitude of outdoor activities, particularly winter sports. Campus is located about 3 miles from downtown in the Sugar Hill section of Salt Lake City. The neighborhood has a funky, artsy, lively feel with a ton of things to do within walking distance. There’s plenty of public transportation (free for students!) to get to other parts of the city.

Westminster fountainThis is the only private, non-religious college in Utah. One of the professors said that there isn’t a big push for private education in Utah. This was started by Presbyterians in the 1800s when they came to SLC to convert (ironically!) members of the LDS church. However, the college severed ties to the church in the 1970s and has been non-affiliated ever since.

Westminster outdoor climbing wall

An outdoor climbing wall

For a school with just over 2,000 undergraduates, there are amazing opportunities ranging from DII athletics to study trips to high-tech science equipment. “As long as you’re open to opportunities and aren’t closed-minded, you’ll do really well here,” said one student we talked to in the plaza outside the Student Center. He said that there’s good racial diversity and LGBTQ support on campus. “This is a great place for people who need accommodations whether physical or learning support. Things are accessible here, and there’s something for everyone.”

Westminster chalkCreativity is embraced; along with that comes strong Fine and Performing arts. The theater department offers both a BA and BFA for acting and tech, and they just started a dance major (the director has taught in several major troupes in NYC). SLC has “a surprising amount of theater and ballet in town. Students are encouraged to do community theater; maybe 1/3 of the students stay local afterwards, and others go onto grad school, often with complete funding,” said one of the theater professors.

Westminster bench

Westminster sci sculpture 3

A sculpture hanging in the open 4-level atrium of the science building

Sciences (including Neuroscience and Geology) are also strong, providing students with an amazing array of labs and equipment. They have an Anatomy (aka cadaver) Lab and even a Chromatography lab with a mass spectrometer! Undergrads can use this “as long as we vaguely look like we know what we’re doing under supervision,” said a chemistry major who took us through the building. The Great Salt Lake Institute, Institute for Mountain Research, and Environmental Center are all housed on campus. They have gotten funding from NASA to research bacteria living in harsh environments.

Westminster bridgeA covered footbridge over Emigration Creek divides the campus into residential and academic sides. There are two traditional dorms and others with suites. “Food is an 8,” said one student. All freshmen live on campus. There is no Greek life. Almost 50% of students come from outside of Utah. “They come for the winter sports,” said one student. Seven ski resorts are in close proximity, most within about an hour. “The snow is better here,” said the student working in the Honors College building. “The outdoorsy aspect is huge here. They even have Outdoor Education and Leadership major!”

Westminster honors bldg

The main floor of the Honors College building

The Honors College building, entirely staffed by students, is on the residential side of campus. We talked to the Junior working at the desk for about 30 minutes. The building looks a bit like a ski lodge; it’s a great space for them for holding events, studying, and more. “We can basically use it any way we want.” Freshmen and First Year Honors Students (students can apply to the program as freshmen or do a lateral entry once they’re here) do Tuesday Talks in lounge. She absolutely loves the program and working (officially and not!) in the building. They’re given better opportunities (including special study abroad options) and she likes that they’re acknowledged on the national stage – a professor from Columbia has called it the best Honors program in the nation. The courses that the Honors students take are a bit different but class sizes are the same size as regular (10-28). “Sometimes we get squished for time with getting everything in.” In the last couple years, they’ve grown the program’s population; she thinks that this has made it a stronger community because “there are lots of minds and ideas.”

Westminster dorm 1

The residential side of campus

Students can fulfill Gen Ed requirements through WCore or interdisciplinary team-based honors seminars. It’s a different type of learning for students who want to be challenged. Classes are limited to 16 with discussions based around primary texts. FYS combines 2 interdisciplinary classes. One student took Mystery and Puzzles (combined math and history); another took a Genetics and Probability class; a third took a Psychology and Literature class where they looked at Spellbound by Hitchcock, read The Bluest Eye and Girl, Interrupted and more. The FYS professors serve as initial advisors for students when they start at Westminster.

© 2018

Bowdoin College

Bowdoin College (visited 7/30/18)

Bowdoin quadI haven’t found many schools that have annual Lobster Bakes. Several people I talked to listed this as one of their favorite traditions: “The entire campus goes out to the field where Dining Services have steamed 1,500 lobsters. You’re getting an intro to Maine but also an intro to this really cool community!” said one of the reps.

Bowdoin 7The Orientation Trip was another event that got rave reviews from several students. “Everyone sleeps together in the field house the first night, then they depart on their trips the next morning,” explained one student. There are multiple options for trips. One student loved it because she said, “If I backpacked for 40 miles, I can do anything.”

Bowdoin 10The sense of community is developed immediately starting with this orientation, and of course, admissions make deliberate decisions based on fit. Their supplemental essay asks students to choose one line from “The Offer of the College” and write up to 250 words about it. It talks about what they think is meaningful. “If you don’t want to do these things, maybe this is the wrong school for you,” said the admissions Rep. “We’re looking for curious people, who are looking at the world and trying to solve problems, who love learning. We want you to have a vibrant intellectual live but also an equally vibrant life outside the classroom.”

Bowdoin 2“I think Bowdoin is a remarkably diverse community considering where we are,” said one student on the panel. “It’s a pretty white state, but this stands out as a place that draws people from all over, all colors and religions. I thought my high school was diverse, but this place blows me away.” About 35% of the incoming class are American students who self-identify as POC. “We don’t want to say that we’re perfect,” said a rep. “There’s always room for growth. We want this to be representative of the world around us.”

Bowdoin House

One of the campus houses.

Because of it’s relatively rural location, a lot happens on campus. Freshmen are housed together (including in suites which have tiny bedrooms, but the sitting room makes up for that), and all first-year students are affiliated with one of the Campus Houses (about half the sophomores live in one of Campus Houses which replaced Greek Life). Affiliated students get first-dibs on the activities thrown by that house, although all students are welcome at any house on a space-available basis. They got rid of Greek life since that wasn’t inclusive enough; the Campus House system is inclusive and provides a great deal of social life as well as a way to integrate the first-year students into campus.

Bowdoin stu cntr

The Student Center

Almost 1/3 of students are athletes. The big athletic center is about a 10-minute walk from the main campus, and there are some townhouses near there for upperclassmen. There seems to be a fairly robust athletic culture on campus, both for participants and spectators. The student union is in what was the old field house (and you can tell!). It’s an interesting building with a variety of spaces, including different places to eat. The Thursday and Saturday SuperSnacks (open 10pm-1am) were brought up by a couple students. Food overall gets high marks (one student said it was a 10). The Holiday meals, particularly Thanksgiving, were mentioned more than once: “the meals are delicious meals and the community is invited. It makes me happy to see families come with kids.”

Bowdoin mascot

Their Polar Bear mascot

Getting off campus is easy, as well. The Outing Club is active and popular, not surprising because of the location in Maine. For a one-time $50 outdoor activity fee, student have access to over 150 trips per year and equipment. For students wanting a bigger city, buses run into Portland.

Bowdoin theaterOne of the students on the panel said, “This is a place where we don’t compete with each other. Students don’t ask each other what they got or say, Well, I beat you.” This is shown in the alumni network as well. They have one of the most well-connected alumni bases in the world; they want to hire Bowdoin grads. Classes incorporate collaborative projects; for example, math classes may have students list who they worked with on the problems because they want people who can work together.

Bowdoin 12There are distribution requirements in five broad areas with lots of choice. Additionally, everyone takes a First-Year Seminar (this does NOT fulfill one of the 5 areas) capped at 16 people. One of the panelists took Women at War; another took Class and Identity. “It was nice to have a space where you don’t feel intimidated by upperclassmen.”

Government and Legal Studies is their most popular and well-known program with about 20% of students majoring in that. For a school this size, they offer an amazing array of unusual programs, some of which you’d be hard-pressed to find even at some large universities:

Bowdoin 13For a school of this size, I was surprised at how large some of the classes were. Although class size averages 16 students, all the students I spoke to had large classes up to 70 students (Intro to Africana Studies). Two said their Intro to Psych was their largest (45 and 50) and Economics (40). However, they also had classes of 4 (Intro to Chinese) and 9 (Historical Simulations).

Admissions is test-optional. “Test taking a great skill, but it doesn’t tell me how you interact with peers, see the world, overcome problems, how you write or create – it tells me nothing about who you are as a person.” They’re definitely curious about the people who are applying and want them to use the application as a means to convey who they are. “Don’t use your essay to tell us what you want to do when you graduate. It’s important and part of who you are, but we’ll get that in other parts of your application. We want to know about who you are RIGHT NOW.”

A couple last fun facts:

  • Longfellow and Hawthorne are alumni (and the library is named after them).
  • The campus (or at least several of the buildings!) is haunted.

© 2018

Muhlenberg College

Muhlenberg College (visited 4/24/18)

Muhlenberg 4The tour guide at Muhlenberg was one of the best I’ve ever had! If the other students are half as much fun as him, I can see why people really want to be here. “There is a palpable sense of welcome here. People hold doors. I hope you get the sense that the students matter … because they do. They can be their true selves while they are with us,” said one of the reps.

Muhlenberg sculpture 3The rep went on to talk about what makes Muhlenberg distinct; I found this refreshing since most schools don’t – or can’t – articulate this.

  • Students are active and definitely goal-oriented. They want to do things with their lives. They want to capitalize on their experiences without sacrificing interests, so many have double discipline degree: “It’s not unusual to see people majoring in theater and physics, Neuroscience and Jewish Studies, or Bio and Business. This makes sense at Muhlenberg. We help them make it work.”
  • This is one of the most religiously diverse campuses around. “We’re 1/3 Catholic, 1/3 Jewish, 1/3 mix of others.” The Hillel pairs up with Cedar Crest, located about a mile away. Jewish life is incredibly active.
  • They offer Liberal Arts with strong professional development: “We’re just as committed to preparing for Accounting and Finance as for pre-med/law.” They’re a Top-30 accounting school where students earn 150 credit hours in 4 years! They sit for their CPAs at the end.
  • Muhlenberg book sculpture 2They’re nationally recognized for theater and the arts: “There are 350 music lessons on campus in any given week. We don’t have 350 music majors!” said a rep. “We’re in tech-week every week of the semester.” There’s a dance, theater, and/or musical production every other week. Theater, Dance, and Music are all BA degrees, not BFA. This is intentional so they can double major. There is a huge selection of classes so they can direct, do technical work, etc. The university name carries weight!
  • They’re nationally ranked for their food. Kosher dining is integrated into the dining hall so they can still eat with their friends.

As a member of the Lehigh Valley Association of Independent Colleges, Muhlenberg students can cross-register at the other 5 schools, but because they have such a range of options on campus, they usually do not. However, there are some groups that collaborate, students are able to attend events on other campuses, etc.

Muhlenberg library intFaculty are “fiercely devoted.” They are invested in who the students are and who they’ll become. Students make things happen every day at Muhlenberg and they’re empowered to collaborate with administration to make that happen. For example, they now offer a Public Health Major; prior to 2016, this was a minor with over 100 people in the program. Because of student engagement, they made it a major, and there are 2 partnerships with BU and in Philly that wouldn’t have happened without the students pushing for it.

Muhlenberg chapel int“We want to fill our seats with people who want to be here. We fill almost half the class through ED.” They will do an early read for merit and financial aid if that’s an issue before they enter into that partnership. Interviews are really important here; they value that interaction and getting to know students. They’re armed better in committee to advocate for the students.

“We don’t just have one friend group because we all do so much, so we know a lot of people who we go to support,” said the tour guide. Almost all students live on campus which helps build community. Their DIII and club sports teams are popular (to participate in and to watch) as are all the artistic performances. About 20% of students join Greek life. Traditions are really important on campus. Our tour guide said that his favorite is Candle Lighting. At Freshman orientation, they receive their candle which they light; they keep this all 4 years and will relight it again the night before graduation with their families looking on. “Usually it’s lit by alumni while an a capella group sings the alma mater right. It’s kind of transcendent. Generations before us did this. I’ve lost my laptop, but I know where that candle is.”

Muhlenberg Victor's LamentCampus is mostly attractive; there’s a large sculpture that looks very out of place against the stone buildings: “Its name is Victor’s Lament,” explained the tour guide, saying that it was meant to represent a wounded soldier being carried in Vietnam. After it was donated to the school, it was painted red because of the school colors. The sculptor was furious and withdrew his other donations.

© 2018

Cedar Crest College

Cedar Crest College (visited 4/24/18)

Cedar Crest gazebo“Women’s colleges are on the verge of a renaissance. Society benefits by the women who go there,” said Cedar Crest’s President. Just over half of women from women’s college complete a graduate degree compared to 38% from Liberal Arts colleges and 28% from flagship public universities. They’re also more likely to graduate in 4 years; more likely to engage in the high-impact experiences like research, internships, study abroad; and more likely to be in positions of leadership after they graduate. Only 2% of all people with college degrees graduate from a Women’s College but comprise 1/3 of Fortune 1000 Board members.

Cedar Crest buttons

Pronoun buttons in the Diversity House

Cedar Crest was founded in 1867 because a Lehigh Valley father who was angry that there wasn’t anywhere nearby to educate his daughters. (At the time, it had a Christian affiliation but is no longer affiliated.) Access is a big part of the mission while holding fast to its women’s college identity.

Cedar Crest diversity stairs

Steps in the foyer of the Diversity House

Almost 40% of students self-identify as a student of color, making CC the “most diverse of LVAIC campuses.” They have a beautiful new Diversity house including a Muslim Prayer room: there’s a foot-washing station and a kitchen so students can break Ramadan fast together. The Jewish students join forces with the Muhlenberg Hillel (about a mile away) for Shabbat, trips to Israel, etc. and they can stay there during High Holidays if they’d like. LVAIC schools come together 2x a year for conferences, usually one about race and one about LGBTQ issues. When students were asked if they’d be comfortable living with someone who identified as non-binary, 28% said yes (and if someone identifies as female, they can apply to CC). In terms of socio-economic diversity, they recognize that not all students can travel home or have a place to go over breaks: dorms stay open and some meals are offered. Every student can work on campus for 20 hours a week.

Cedar Crest 3“We encourage the ‘and’ here,” said a professor. “Students don’t have to choose; if they want to explore different things, we help make that happen.” They are ranked #5 in student engagement in the northeast. “We’re intrusive; I’ll even check to see if they’re swiping into the dining hall.” Several other things help make them distinctive:

  • FYE: includes First-year Friday: speakers (budgets, eating right), comedians, trips.
  • The new Sophomore Expedition: students are encouraged (but not required) to go on the all-expense-paid study trip in sophomore year. A gift from an alumna covers all expenses except the passport. “We’ve seen interesting things: students catch the travel bug, they change majors because of what they’ve seen/done.”
  • Cedar Crest 2Undergrad Research (often alongside PhD candidates).
    • Some research is done in a 2-course sequence: they set it up in the fall and conduct it in the spring. A Bio major in started in her 2nd week of college.
    • Many participate in the LVAIC undergrad psych conference. “In freshman year, I’m trying to pull them out of their shell. By senior year, I’m trying to shove them back in…We know that oral presentations aren’t everyone’s strength, but it needs to develop – but we can also encourage other strengths, too.”
  • Guaranteed Student Employment: they find that this is a valuable retention tool; anyone who wants can work 20 hours a week. They try to tie it to majors to make it more meaningful.
  • Honors is an interdisciplinary program. “It’s not harder; it’s different.” It’s not going over the reading, it’s connecting it to other things. “My favorite is Botany and Art.”

Cedar Crest quadThere are lots of interesting, specialized majors for a school this size. “We’re responsive to Gen Z; they want to get credentialed.” This shows through their hands-on, career-prep options; the sciences (in many of their forms) are particularly strong. The curriculum is adaptable with majors, minors, and certificates (and they get an advisor for each one!).

Cedar Crest 1For admissions, they superscore both SAT and ACT. Usually scholarships are given starting with a 3.4 GPA and 1070 SAT/21 ACT. They have a Departmental Scholarship Day in early November where they can earn an additional $1,500 per year up to 4 years. “The day is less about the scholarships opportunity and more about sitting with faculty and see that the focus is on teaching and learning.” The 10th Annual full-tuition scholarship competition (early February) is by invitation only; all participant gets $500 per year but can compete for 5 full-tuition 4-year scholarships. The top 25 will receive the following additional scholarship.

60-70% of incoming class will live on campus; the rest commute from 60 miles. One student said that she’d like to see more money spent on dorms because people are currently waitlisted for housing. The Food is got high marks, particularly the “Sundaes on Sunday.” Freshmen can have cars on campus; parking is free. There are lots of LVAIC inter-collegiate events (trips, sports, etc) and students get discounted tickets for events on other campuses. There’s an aquatic center on campus but it’s not run by Cedar Crest. However, students can use it for free, and several events like Battleship (using cardboard boats) and scuba classes are held there.

© 2018

Lincoln University (PA)

Lincoln University (visited 5/2/18)

Lincoln quad 2

The Quad

Surprisingly, this is a fully gated campus with security booths at the entrances (although to be honest, the fences are pretty low; they wouldn’t actually keep anyone out – but you can only drive onto campus at the couple check-points).

This is a fairly rural campus; the nearest small town is about 3 miles. Students are NOT impressed with the location simply because there is nothing to do. “Cars are pretty necessary to have a social life off campus.” Lancaster is just under an hour away, and both Philadelphia and Baltimore are just over an hour from campus. “Students need to create their own fun here.”

Lincoln Greek patio

One of the Greek “patios” with benches, grills, and affiliation sign

Students like the camaraderie on campus. Almost all of the 2,000 undergrads live on campus. It’s small enough to know people, see people all the time, and get to classes easily. “Everyone is social. You kind of have to be since there’s nothing else to do around campus.” There is some stuff going on around campus “but it’s a dry campus, so don’t expect they typical large party scene.” There is some Greek life but it does not dominate the social scene. The DII sports are fairly strong, and they do have a football team. Games are actively attended.

Lincoln library 2

The Langston Hughes Library

This is the country’s first degree-granting HBCU; it was renamed for Abraham Lincoln after the Civil War. There is a lot of history to the campus, and many of the buildings are named for famous alumni including Thurgood Marshall and Langston Hughes. The school went coed in the 1950s, and like other liberal arts schools, is a little more than half female at this point.

Lincoln science cntr

An academic building

They offer majors that are typical at a liberal arts school with the exception of Pan-Africana Studies and Biochemistry-Molecular Biology. Students say that it’s easy to connect with professors and they seem to care. However, their retention and graduation rates are pretty low, and not much seems to be in place to help students persist through their undergrad degree.

© 2018

Wheaton College (MA)

Wheaton College (visited 9/12/17)

Wheaton pond 3

Peacock Pond

There are several colleges with ponds on campus, some of which have traditions surrounding them. Wheaton’s reminded me of my own alma mater in Upstate NY – it’s the only other one I know of with a similar tradition, but this was much more formalized than my school! “There are two traditions with Peacock [the name of the pond],” said a rep. “Swim across it before graduation – but no one really does that – and the Head of the Peacock!” During this annual race, students build their own boats and race across the pond in the style of a crew regatta.

Wheaton science lab

A class in action

“There are very few schools that are truly unique. We offer progressive education with timeless values. We push the envelope.” Wheaton is undergoing a full overview/overhaul of their curriculum. Now it includes the following:

  • Connections: Students must take 2 two-course or 1 3-course interdisciplinary Connections classes. This helps students see the value of a liberal arts education through the intersection of topics. They choose courses that have pre-determined connections, or one that they’ve identified in their path:
    • Wheaton art studio 2An art studioBiology and Art History pulls in Scientific Drawing, Art Conservation, DaVinci. 1 prof is a cell biologist; the art historian looks at medieval cathedrals. Together, they look at structure and strength to determine why some still stand and others are in rubble.
    • Lexomics combines Computer Science and English driven by data science and digital humanities. Google analyzes all the texts they can get their hands on. “It’s the new way people analyze literature. It generates results that generates more questions.” They write algorithms that allow people to dissect texts. Linguists can discover when, where, and by whom things were written and pieced together
    • PoliSci and Geologists: They look at the political ramifications of melting ice caps as new waterways form. Countries are claiming ownership: who gets that and the oil underneath? They look at plate tectonics, etc. If you’re working in geology, you’d better understand PS, and if you’re in politics, you need to look at money, etc.
    • The Astronomy department runs an extensive observatory including 7 telescopes that are controlled online, and there’s 1 in Australia that they’re hooked up to so they can access night skies almost 24/7 as well as see the Southern Hemisphere. They pair with a couple departments for Connections classes:
      • Ancient Astronomy pairs with Classics.
      • They pair with Biology for florescent imaging looking at bright against dark – this works on cells as well as in space!
  • Wheaton 10

    One of the new science buildings

    Wheaton Edge: This guarantees access to financial support for experiential learning such as research or an internship before senior year. This is a 4-year process for academic preparation, access to grad school, and preparing for the professional world. If by the end of junior year, students haven’t found a paid internship, they can apply for a stipend for up to $5000 to support them for an internship over the summer. When the new president came, he asked how many – could be true internships or with Mass Challenge, research, etc. What was preventing the 30% from not doing them?

Wheaton 1I asked students on the panel to share the best class they’ve taken:

  • You Are What You Ate looking at history through food. “I changed my major because of this class!”
  • A history class from a professor who specialized in Charlemagne: “We read a lot of articles based on his daughter and helped research for his book.”
  • Quantitative Research Methods: “I want to be a neuroscience major. The real-world application of class was interesting to see what people in the field had really been doing. Now I’m a research assistant with that professor.”

This is a typical small liberal arts school; it started as a women’s college and went coed in 1988. They’ve traditionally hovered around 1600 students (with about 1/3 from MA, 1/3 from the rest of New England, and 1/3 from outside the region), but brought in 528 last year and they’d like to keep it at about 500 students new students per year. They’re breaking ground on Southern Campus for a new res hall. The Board has committed $100 million to improvements, tackling areas with biggest impact on students first (ie the dining hall).

Wheaton 4“We’ve seen increased energy and diversity over the last several years,” said a rep. Diversity is big here in all its forms. A student on the panel said, “I think there’s enough for me to feel welcome and safe here. I didn’t understand the women of color thing until I got here, and being here has made me figure that out. It’s given me a chance to figure that out and talk about it and celebrate it in a positive light.” Another said, “People are receptive of things and will talk to anyone, even with people who don’t have experience with people of other backgrounds. We have safe spaces like the Black Student Union. Everyone is welcome.” People are open around and accepting of LGBTQIA students. There are gender-neutral bathrooms, clubs, etc. Campus Conservatives are a minority – but they dialogue a lot with Campus Democrats “who have been some of our biggest supporters,” said an officer in the club.

Wheaton dorm

A dorm

Located in a safe town about 45 minutes south of Boston and 20 minutes north of Providence, it’s easy for students to have the best of both worlds. There’s plenty to do within walking distance, and there’s a free shuttle to the train station that will take them to either city. The college also maintains a fleet of rental cars. For students wanting to study somewhere else, they do have a relationship with a university in Bhutan, and 60% have a formal study abroad experience for either a semester or year.

Wheaton quad 4

Students studying in “The Dimple”

Teachers want to be at Wheaton and work with students, they know students’ names, and classes are small. Students are curious and are willing to keep trying: “they’re definitely persistent!” said a professor. The President teaches an accounting class at 8am – “and it’s full,” said one of the students. His educational background is in accounting and finance but wants to work at a liberal arts school: “I’ve spent my life trying to convince finance students that the last thing they need is another finance class. Life is too complex for that.”

Wheaton flowersIn terms of academics, one rep said, “The Liberal Arts doesn’t have the fancy, pretty spaces that the sciences have, but we’re strong!” Other things to know about the academics are:

  • Students can major in Business & Management during which they can take courses in finance and other more specific areas. They concentrate on the core, providing abroad base with the experience of applying it in the real world. Every class has experiential learning, often consulting for small businesses. They can’t graduate without an internship AND a capstone project (highly unusual for business), extended research based on their interests. A current senior is combining her love of marketing with her hatred of vaping, researching whether packaging makes a difference in people’s inclination to vape.
  • Sciences are strong, and 80-90% are accepted to med schools each year. Many students are on the health-science tracks including vet, dental, PT, Nursing, OT, etc.
  • Music and Theater/Dance: students have access to extensive facilities and groups. Students can participate for credit or for fun. There’s a black box theater which is entirely student run (acting and directing) and is sometimes used as a “jazz club.” Music ensembles include a World Music ensemble and a chamber orchestra.
  • They offer majors in areas such as Animal Behavior, African/African American Diaspora Studies, Bioinformatics, Development Studies, Arabic, Medieval/Renaissance Studies, and Digital Humanities. Students can rent equipment for this.

Wheaton GhanaAdvising is also different than at many places, recognizing that students are different: “The same technique isn’t going to work for everyone. Are they missing deadlines? Do they not think it matters?” Clearly they’re doing something right: retention and graduation rates are significantly higher than the national average, and students are flocking to excellent grad schools (for example, they send an average of 13 students to Harvard every year) and they’re in the Top 10 in graduates getting Fulbrights.

Wheaton is test-optional, including when it comes to awarding merit scholarships; many of these come with a guaranteed $3000 grant for use after sophomore year. Of those who submitted, the average came in at mid-high 1200s. The typical student has a B+/A- average with some APs. English proficiency is shown with a minimum TOEFL 90 (they have a little bit of wiggle room if it’s a point or 2 under if other things line up).

© 2017

University of Indianapolis

University of Indianapolis (visited 6/12/17)

UInday 10“What happens in the buildings is way more important than the buildings (which are still phenomenal),” said the school’s President. UIndy is a comprehensive liberal arts school with about 4000 undergraduates. “Some kids come in with a laser focus, but many don’t, and we kind of like that! The first year is meant to expose them to the range of options so they can start to articulate passions. We draw an involved faculty who are interested in helping students see the relevance in what they’re studying and to help them articulate what they’re passionate about.”

UIndy 12This fall (2017), they’ll bring in 1,150 freshmen with 52 nations represented (China is the most highly represented with 250 students followed by 175 from the Middle East). Incoming freshmen had an average of a 3.52 GPA. Because UIndy is so focused on engagement, they’ve hired more staff and added more programs. Even with the enrollment growth, the student-faculty ratio dropped from 15:1 to 12:1.

UInday expressions wallThey’re committed to keeping prices down and providing robust financial aid. They feel that this is one way to demonstrate an ethos of “Education for Service,” their motto and something they want the students to learn to apply as well. Even their sports teams have won awards for being first in their conference for community service. The athletics tend to be strong here with 600+ students in 23 DII sports, 15 of which have gone on to post-season play.

UInday ampitheaterStudents are smart and interested in their educations. “We’ve redone the library, It’s is no longer a book depository. It’s an idea factory. There’s a line at the door at 8am and we’re kicking people out at midnight,” said the President. That doesn’t mean that academics are all they do OR that they have a single focus. Students tend to have multiple interests in and out of their majors. Francesca Zappia is one of their recent alums; she was a computer science major who also loved to write. Now she’s a published author with her second novel coming out this spring: John Greene said she’s the next big thing in that genre!

UInday 1

The new Health Pavilion

Health Sciences are strong here. They even have a cadaver lab for undergraduates! The new Health Pavilion is a gorgeous building with intentional architecture to give students a taste of what the professional life will be; it’s also a place for the community to come together. One of the community hospitals has space there providing clinics (PT, OT, and psychological) for students and the surrounding community. More than 96 clinical placements for students are available on site. This is the first school I’ve visited that combines a PT or OT program with Psychology, Anthropology, and Public Health Education & Promotion.

UInday 6They offer an accelerated 3-year BSN: acceptance depends on how they do the first year and then go year-round after that. Nursing itself is not direct-entry; students complete their first year and apply. The minimum GPA is 2.82; the GPA for a fall entry tends to be higher than that. There are 80 spots in the fall semester and 64 for a spring start; “there’s rarely not a spot for students who qualify and want to be in nursing,” said the Dean of Health Sciences. “Some may have to wait until spring to start, however.” If this is the case, they’ll graduate a semester late since there is no way to catch up over the summer with the clinical rotations.

UInday 3They added 6 Engineering programs 2 years ago, and they’re phasing out the 3+2 program because it’s no longer needed. The design aspect, project-based learning, and unique curriculum makes UIndy’s engineering stand out. They complete 10-week intensive courses followed by a 5-week design experience. The university built a new maker-space supporting collaboration in a realistic setting, and they are able to utilize engineering concepts on projects with real clients.

UInday stu cntrThe new living communities has driven engagement and increased retention. There are 7 dorms, 3 of which are predominantly for first-year students. They’re coed by wing with keys only for that wing. Food is “pretty good” according to the students, “especially Wing Fridays.” The tour guide said that he had 2 traditions he would miss after graduation: Homecoming and the Celebration of Flags, an event held at the beginning of every year where students from different countries hang their flags in the student center. He also said that “President Bob” is well liked by the students and holds highly-anticipated and well-attended events at his house every year such as Super Bowl and Election Result parties.

© 2017

Wagner College

Wagner College (visited 3/24/17)

Wagner 1The students who thrive here are those who are curious and who want a theory-to-practice experience, said one of the professors. The claim to fame for this college is that they’re the residential liberal arts institution of New York City.

The Wagner Plan is their 3-level general education requirement in which students related theoretical lenses outside the classroom. This is broadly construed ranging from work in the local community to trips to museums, mosques, or other cultural sites.

  • All first-year students enroll in one of 19-21 First-Year Programs co-taught by 2 professors. They both teach 1 content-specific class; the 3rd is a team-taught, reflective, writing-intensive class to connect content to experience. Recent combinations included Philosophy/Psych, Spanish/Business, and Ways of Thinking/Sociology. “From a faculty perspective, it’s fun. We get creative and it teaches us about another discipline.”
  • Wagner main 1

    The iconic main building. If it looks familiar, it’s because School of Rock and an episode of The Sopranos were shot here.

    The intermediate class can be taken as early as 2nd semester freshman year, but usually is done in sophomore year. Two professors often teach discipline-specific classes (with some team-teaching) with common assignments to connect them; there isn’t a 3rd class.

  • The last is a Capstone/Senior Reflective Tutorial. Departments have leeway in how they define this; they’re best know how to prepare the students for the next level. Some will do summer research; sometimes it’s internships or a thesis.
Wagner anchor and dorm

The anchor with an upperclassman dorm in the background

“Lots of social dialogues happen here,” said one student panelist. Like many campuses, there’s an item that gets painted. “We’re pretty politically involved. The anchor got painted for Black Lives Matter with body outlines on the ground, for Pride week, etc.” Students agreed that there were a lot of very progressive students. Another student on the panel said, “We’re passionate about anything about our living situation and our food. The changes made since freshman year have been amazing.” They now have a Gender-Neutral floor. “We argued for it. Really, under the traditional rules, I [a male] could live with my boyfriend. It would be “safer” if I lived with a girl!”

Wagner city

The view of Manhattan from one of the dorms

The tour guides agreed that this is not a quiet campus. About 85% of all students live on campus: “Moving off campus is an option, but they’re still looking at NYC rents. It’s not the Upper East Side, but it’s still steep.” Greek Life only pulls in 16% of students so people are involved in lots of other things. “There maybe aren’t as many organized events as other campuses, but the flip side of that is there’s the city. You get college discounts everywhere, but here, you get discounts in NYC. We can see Broadway shows for $30.” Shuttles leave campus on the :10 and :40 to take students to the ferry. “You go for the first time during Orientation. It takes away the stress.” There are things to do near campus, as well, but “we’re on a hill. Most students don’t like having to hike back up it!” The city buses are not free but are easily accessible, and there are shuttles to the mall, the movies, etc.

All theater and sporting events (DI!) are free, but students say that school spirit isn’t too high. Football doesn’t draw crowds, but basketball does. (As a side note, the Women’s Water Polo team has the highest GPA of any polo team in the country). They use the Staten Island minor league stadium for their home baseball games.

We asked the student panelists what they would like to change:

  • Wagner dorm 2

    Harborview Dorm, one of the older dorms on campus (but with great views!)

    Update living situations. The towers were built in 1963 and haven’t been renovated.

  • The Science department has lots of potential, but it costs money. The faculty put time into getting grants to help bring students into research. Lab space is sufficient, but not huge.
  • Food is mediocre. It fluctuates. “But at least I didn’t get the Freshman 15.”
  • “Some of the codes are grandfathered in because buildings are so old. Our theater is in a gym. They’ve done a bunch, but acoustically it’s still a gym. Dance studios don’t have spring floors.”
Wagner dorms 4

More dorms

Academics are overall strong; they look to hire teachers, not researchers: “That’s fantastic if you brought in a million dollar grant or published a paper, but if you can’t teach, we don’t want you!” This isn’t to say that there isn’t research, because there is, but learning is put first and foremost. Research is easy and not hugely competitive. “You just need to be proactive. If you’re a science major, you have to have a research experience in junior year, and even psych majors have 2 experimental classes. It’s very easy to go to professors and get involved.”

Wagner 4Unusual programs include Biopsychology, Microbiology, and Behavioral Economics. Strong programs include:

  • Education: Students get at least 25 hours of experience in every Edu class.
  • Theater: “It’s competitive, but we have fun and are friendly.” They receive 500 apps for 32 spots. Admissions first clears students and invite approximately 275 to audition. About half audition in person (they try to tie this in with the spring show) and another 50 or so send in a video audition. The department puts on 4 productions a year and get a lot of community support.
  • Nursing: This is not direct entry; students complete the pre-reqs and take the T6 (basic skills – everyone takes this) As long as they pass, they’re in the program. Nursing students can do research. One did a project looking at whole/non-processed foods in Bodegas and helped provide incentives to put this type up front.
  • The Art, Art History, and Film Department is strong and active with trips and internships (Met, Morgan Library, Neue Galerie, Marvel Comics, Rachel Ray Show, Downtown Community TV, Tibetan Museum of Art, Staten Island Museum). Students are successful studio artists, grad school, entrepreneurs (including publishing), education management in museums, fashion designer
    • Film and Media Studies offers 3 tracks (civically engaged, artistic production, criticism) as well as a dual track in Art and Education.
      • They’re looking at Public Art and bringing in the social engagement.
      • Several interdisciplinary classes like “Illustration, Sleep, and Dreams (w/ psych), Connecting Families through Documentary Film (w/ Philosophy), Food and Fasting in the Old and New World (Art History/Anthro), Cities and perversities (Art History/French)
    • Wagner statueThe Chemistry Department is ACS certified (only 30% of schools get this). Gen Chem maxes out at 28 students taught by senior level professors. “Fabulous things come out of lunchroom conversations. I’m changing the world in the way that’s valued by the liberal arts community. We send a couple students per year, many women, off to become PhDs.”
    • Wagner has 1 of 3 planetariums in the city! (“It’s part of why I came here, and I haven’t even gone to it yet!” said a tour guide).
    • Physician Assistant: They invite 90 students to interview (they usually get about 200 applications) and can take 40. This 5-year program includes 3 study abroad experiences: a week in London (psych and some clinical work in a hospital, and they can go back and do psych rotation for 4 weeks); Guatamala in the 4th year (they complete clinical care in local mountain towns); and Belize in the 5th “It’s an unbelievably collaborative group and team-oriented in the classes. Older students mentor younger ones.” Tuition is a little higher for PA, but includes all study abroad trips and some of the summer costs. They complete 2 full years of clinical work (1 of 2 in the country to do this).
    • The Expanding Your Horizons program allows for short term travel abroad, usually linked to a class.

Wagner picnic areaWe asked the student panel about their favorite classes:

  • “The Education class part of my freshman LC. We talked about the law behind Special Ed. We did community service, and I was partnered with an amazing girl! I got to see a different perspective when we worked on daily living skills. It was fascinating to have those conversations.”
  • International Filmmaker: “We learned about the impact people have had. We got an inside look on European and other films.”
  • Musical Theater Performance. “The teacher was a Tony Award Winner. I have 2 teachers who are currently on Broadway. The pianist we work with plays for Hamilton sometimes!”

Students were surprised by:

  • How much professors wanted to reach out. “I studied abroad. I was home for 5 days and got a phone call wanting to know if I was back and if I wanted to get coffee.”
  • The community of people. I felt really welcomed. Even football people came up and talked. It was very different from high school.
  • I was in a philosophy class freshman year with people with diversity of views. I started out thinking “How could you think like that?” I was in a bubble from my little Catholic school but I saw other bubbles and why people believe what they believe.

© 2017

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