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Archive for the tag “Medieval Studies”

Smith College (Take 2)

Smith College (visited 5/30/19) (Click HERE to see pictures and information from my previous on 10/15/12)

Smith 2“We’re educating women of promise for lives of distinction.”

Smith 10Smith is the only women’s college with an open curriculum. There are no required classes other than 1 writing intensive class and those needed to complete the major. One student said, “It’s not about what you don’t have to take. It’s about exploring the richness of what’s out there and embracing interests.” Students take responsibility for their education, and are intentionally advised to use it intentionally to pull together extra-curricular interests, study abroad, and internships. “When we look at the classes students choose, many of them would have completed a core, but they did it on their own. They’re curious and want to learn. Everyone in the class wants to be there,” said one of the reps. One student said, “My classes definitely aren’t dull here!” Another said, “I feel like I have to bring my A game every day because otherwise I’ll be disappointing my classmates.”

Smith 5

Architecture is eclectic!

Over 40% of Smithies major in STEM fields. However, “we’re strong across the curriculum. We’re the first women’s college, and still 1 of only 2 [the other being Sweet Briar] to establish an accredited engineering program.” A student said that she does not feel like a second class citizen in the engineering classes; she’s definitely developed confidence here.

Smith 9Smith is a member of the active 5-College Consortium, the 2nd oldest in the country after the Claremonts. They share 2000 faculty, 5300 courses, resources. Students can take classes and join clubs. Smith can join UMass Marching Band “which maybe makes up for Smith not having a football team.” Figure skaters can continue skating at UMass. There are some special programs available through the Consortium, including Native American and Indigenous Studies; Culture, Health, and Science; Digital Humanities; and Buddhist Studies. On the Smith campus, they offer some unusual majors like Medieval Studies, Astronomy, Portuguese and Brazilian Studies, and Statistical and Data Science.

Smith house 2

One of the Houses

Students don’t live in dorms but in mixed-year houses ranging in size from 12-100 students (all of which have a piano). It’s a vital part of being at Smith. “It’s often the first information alumni share,” said a rep. “Houses are places to live, not just sleep. They graduate by houses.” Houses are all self-governing and provide another level of leadership development. “Leadership becomes a habit.” They are piloting Affinity Housing for 2019-20. This is a student-driven initiative; there will be one focusing on African-American culture; the other is more generally for students of color (which make up 1/3 of the student population). “This is a PWI. We’re not unlike other campuses in this regard but we’re committed to taking steps for inclusion.”

Smith student center 2

The new student center. All new construction is built based on the architecture of the time it was built

They are also working hard to shift how we talk about women’s colleges. “They’re still relevant. We talk about them in terms of what they don’t have or what they’re not. Let’s address that.” She went on to talk about a lot of the myths or “problems” that they hear about women’s colleges:

  • It’s not the real world… “Like Harvard is the real world??”
  • There’s no male perspective … “The whole world is the male perspective.”
  • There’s no fun … “They can still do what they want. The beer-drinking frat party is around. You just have to take a bus to it!”
  • Who wants the drama of all girls!/It’s all lesbians … “We don’t engage with the lesbian thing. Get over it.”
Smith botanical 1

Part of the campus botanical gardens

Here’s really want women’s colleges are:

  • Intentional communities where women are at the center.
  • Not equal opportunity but EVERY opportunity.
  • Lead from ahead and push from behind. “We surround them with bold people who can encourage them to be bolder.”
  • Empowerment is not having to compromise any part of who you are. You can choose to go – or NOT go – to UMass. You don’t have to apologize for being smart. You’re expected to hold your own. You don’t have to apologize for having a point of view.

Smith 6Smith provides extensive research opportunities. About 1/3 of faculty-published research has student co-authors. Praxis provides a $3000 stipend to all students for internships. Students have worked everywhere from a California cricket farm, ABC in London, with a doula in a maternity hospital in Mexico, and the Smithsonian in DC.

Smith 12Admissions is test-optional except for international citizens who must submit test scores. If the scores are reported (self-reported on the application or sent officially), they will consider it. However, it’s weighted “very low in the process. It’s one piece of information. If you think they reflect you as a student, send it – but there’s no red flag if scores aren’t there.”

© 2019


Georgetown University

Georgetown University (visited 1/4/17)


The Front Lawn

In case you were wondering, Hoyas aren’t real things. When the university started, Georgetown students were required to study both Latin and Greek. At that point, the students were known as “Stonewalls” (because they would sit on the stone walls to watch matches on what is now the quad by the main gates) and they would chant “Hoya Saxa!” or “What rocks!” They’ve taken on the bulldog as their mascot, and a real dog, Jack, lives on campus. Students can sign up to walk and help train him.


The clock tower which gets the hands stolen in an annual tradition.

As the oldest Catholic and Jesuit university in the country, Georgetown was also the first to welcome students of all religious faiths. Bishop John Carroll founded the school (in what was then Georgetown, MD) because all the other existing institutions had been Protestant-based. Much of the campus is comprised of historical buildings. 14 US Presidents (ranging from Washington to Obama) have spoken from the steps of the original building; while most steps have been replaced, the top step has not because of the historical significance. There’s also a tradition surrounding the clock tower on another of the old buildings: somehow, a person or people scale the building, steal the clock tower hands, and send them to someone they’d like to speak on campus. They were sent to Bill Clinton who came and the Pope who blessed them and sent them back with his apologies for not being able to make it.


georgetown-chapel-and-benchesThe Jesuit experience on campus is what you make it. The tour guide said, “It’s like a radio dial: turn it up; turn it off. Whatever.” The admissions rep said, “We ask that you just be respectful of the role religion may play in the lives of your peers.” Their the first Jesuit school to employ full-time clergy of other faiths including a Rabbi and Imam. Students must take 2 theology/ philosophy classes including “The Problem of God,” a course taught by 30 different professors. Another popular class is “Philosophy of Dogs”: “I don’t know what they study, but it sounds cool,” said the tour guide.

georgetown-statueGeorgetown is classified as a medium-sized research institution with 6400 undergrads. However, only 1% of classes have more than 100 students, and 99% are taught by faculty. Our tour guide’s smallest classes have had 12 students (she had 3 this size); the largest was her Principles of Macroeconomics class with 300. She was surprised at how much talking was expected in class. “I just didn’t expect that at a school this size.”

georgetown-1Applicants must apply to one of 4 schools: Georgetown College, Nursing and Health Studies, Foreign Service, Business. There is no advantage to applying to one over the other; all the admissions officers read applications. The rep giving the presentation recommended that students “think about what’s most in line with your interests and apply to that school. There are no walls within these schools, and 10% of students will internally transfer once here. People share dorms, classes, and core classes. You’ll have access to everything regardless of your college.” The 4 colleges are:

  • georgetown-original-bldg

    The original building; the top step of these stairs is of historical significance; 14 presidents have spoken from there.

    Georgetown College: this enrolls about 50% of the undergraduates.

    • Half of those students major in Humanities and Social Sciences. Unusual majors include: Medieval Studies, Political Economy, and American Musical Culture.
      • Law School Early Assurance: Students apply in the junior year for acceptance without the LSAT. There are no specific pre-requisites because there’s no pre-law program. They look to see that students are doing well and challenging themselves.
    • Sciences, offering majors like Biology of Global Health, Biological Physics, and Neurobiology.
      • The Early Assurance Program allows students at the end of sophomore year to apply to the Med School without taking MCAT. They must have completed Organic Chem and at least 1 more pre-med class.
    • Languages and Linguistics, including majors in Comparative Lit and Linguistics as well as in 10 languages. Instruction is available in many additional languages.
  • Nursing and Health Studies: Nursing uses the med center right behind the main campus.
  • Foreign Service: They have famous and distinguished faculty, including Madeline Albright: “Her class is no walk in the park, but the students love it!” Many of the majors “look like double majors – that’s on purpose,” said the rep. All students in this school must take language classes and 4 semesters of econ, micro and macro. A couple majors of note are Regional and Comparative Studies, Science Technology & International Affairs, and International Political Economy.
  • Business: many students will double major or minor.

georgetown-6Despite having to apply to a particular college, students can’t declare a major until the end of sophomore year “with the exception of hard sciences and pre-med,” said the tour guide. She said that a lot of people do generally know what they want to do, but there are always people who change their minds, and she feels that most people take classes with a bit more of an open mind knowing that they haven’t declared yet.

georgetown-archesIncoming freshmen can apply to participate in a variety of special seminars and scholars programs including the Freshman Ignatius Seminar offered during the first semester. There are about a dozen choices, one of which is taught by the college President (a PhD in Philosophy): Contributing to (In)Justice. This was the tour guide’s favorite class.

The majority of students complete 2-3 internships, both over the summer and during the year. More than half the students will study abroad through direct matriculation (enrolling at the other institution) or at the Georgetown Villa in Florence (complete with private chef): 30 students go with faculty and are taught in English.

Georgetown makes a big deal about the 3 communities to which students belong:

  • This is a compact, urban campus but with a traditional feel. Students can walk across it in 10 minutes.
    • georgetown-apts-and-river

      Balconies of the Village Apartments overlooking the Potomac River

      Students must live on campus for 3 years: 1st and 2nd years and then either 3rd or 4th with 87% living on campus at any given time. Those who life off-campus live right in the Georgetown area.

      • There are several brightly colored townhouses right outside the main gates; many of these are Living-Learning Communities.
      • There are lots of options on campus, including 4-9 person apartments that had been housing for Jesuits until a new residence was recently built.
      • Village A is an apartment complex overlooking the Potomac and Kennedy Center.
    • georgetown-townhouses

      Townhouses across from the main gate where students can live

      The residential campus builds close-knit relationships and active, varied clubs including GUAC: the Georgetown University Avocado Club

    • People do embrace the “men and women for others” motto of the Jesuits. Not only do they do a lot of service on and around campus, but graduates join the Peace Corps and Teach for American in record numbers.
  • Georgetown Community: This is about 12 square blocks with M and Wisconsin at the center. There’s a lot to do within walking distance of campus.
  • Freshmen orientation takes students on a scavenger hunt around the city, and classes often utilize resources such as museums, federal agencies, and more. There is no metro stop on campus; the Rosslyn stop is ¾ of a mile across the river, and the Foggy Bottom Stop (at GW) is about 1.5 miles – both walkable, but shuttles will take students there and other places in the area.

Building on these communities works: retention from first to second years is at 97%, and 93% of students graduate within 4 years.


Dorms with some athletic fields beyond them.

In terms of admissions, Georgetown doesn’t take the Common App. There’s a main app and a supplement; submitting the main part will also activate an alumni interview info (no interviews are done on campus). The transcript is the most important piece. They do strongly recommend that applicants send in 3 SAT Subject Tests, but understand that this may be a financial hardship. They are not a score-choice school; the entire testing history is required.


If students apply Early Action, they may not apply Early Decision elsewhere. EA applicants are either admitted or deferred, and the admission rate under EA (13%) is similar to RD (16%). Georgetown is need-blind and will meet 100% of demonstrated need with a $6000 cap on self-help aid (loans and work-study).

Students are happy with the facilities and activities on campus;

  • georgetown-dance-studio

    One of several dance studios available for classes, clubs, and general use

    Sports, of course, are a big deal. Everything is on campus except for basketball; those games are at Verizon Center downtown to provide enough space. Students pay $125 per season for basketball tickets.

  • There are a variety of dance teams, and Georgetown hosts the largest student dance performance in the world with 500 people participating.
  • The Outdoor pre-orientation program is popular, as is the Outdoor club which gets kids out of the city for activities.
  • There’s a farmer’s market on good-weather Wednesdays with lots of ethnic food offered
  • georgetown-intl-center

    The InterCultural Center; the farmer’s market is held out front

    The Corp (Students of Georgetown, Inc) is the largest student-run group of business in the country: they run 3 cafes, Hilltop, and more. This gives students experience with all aspects of business and customer service.

  • There are plenty of food options typical to a university of this size. The tour guide told us that there’s never much of a wait for food. “Chicken Tender Thursday is super poplar. People without a meal plan try to get others to swipe them in!”

© 2017

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