Plymouth State University (visited 10/17/16)
If you want to study meteorology in a small school or brag that Robert Frost taught at your alma mater, this is a place for you to check out.
“I was surprised at how friendly the place is. It’s a hold-the-door sort of place,” said one of the students. It’s a homey atmosphere, the type of place where a professor will run a Stitch-and-Bitch on a Friday evening in a dorm and have 40 kids show up.
People describe Plymouth as a transformative place: “it’s almost a “do-over/start-over” place where students who maybe didn’t think that they were college material come and realize that they are. They can hit the reset button here. They can move into a future that a lot of them never imagined for themselves,” said one of the reps. A student agreed: “I’m a better student now. I’m actually doing my work and getting As and Bs.”
Students who haven’t found their voice yet often do well here. They have to engage in the process and understand what they’re learning because they apply it in a lot of classes. They’re responsible for it during group projects. “My biography does not preclude my destiny. If you’re not good at math, you know what? We have math classes here!” said another student. “No matter where they start, development happens,” said a rep.
Lazy doesn’t work here. Students are “gritty and willing to work hard. Most are not coming from affluence. They’re willing to work for things and want to take advantage of the opportunity because they know that not all kids get that,” said a rep. The kids here are “often on the cusp of finding their passion. We do really well with kids who have heart and spirit. They’re good kids. That doesn’t mean they don’t have their hot-mess moments, but they have heart.” That being said, they recognize that their graduation rates need some work.
There are several things in place to help PSU students succeed. One is the existence of first-year success coaches. They take the “GPS approach: think of it as a roadmap. We know the way and what’s ahead.” Students get a nudge/reminder via text, email, etc when something is coming up “or missed a turn.”
Plymouth has taken a deliberate stance towards “rebuilding the liberal arts.” They spend time asking themselves, How are they going to let students be transformative, to come out of school and be ready to take on challenges? The result is a redesigned core curriculum (starting the 2016-17 school year) revolving around 7 multi-disciplinary clusters:
- Education, Democracy, and Social Change
- Tourism, Environment, and Sustainable Development
- Justice and Security
- Innovation and Entrepreneurship
- Arts and Tech
- Health and Human Enrichment
- Exploration and Discovery
For a school this size, 50 majors and 60 minors is impressive. The largest enrolled departments are: business, CJ, Education, Envi Sci & Policy, and Health and Human Performance. Things to brag about include:
- Adventure Education
- The Allied Health majors: Athletic Training, nursing, and Social Work. A PT department is in the works. Students from all majors come together four times before graduation to work on a “virtual patient;” they have to come up with solutions for cases as a group.
- Theater Arts: Dramatic Writing, Acting, Musical Theater, and Design-Tech tracks
- DHL now only recruits at Arizona and Plymouth State. They love the kids’ authenticity and that many of them have been working since 15 or 16. Some of these kids have never been on an airplane, and they get to live in AZ for the first 18-24 months of their careers.
Class sizes for students on the panel ranged from 9 – 32. Their favorite classes were:
- Mind, Brain, and Evolution (psych). “It’s just fascinating.”
- Event Management: we learn how to market and run fund-raising events by raising money for a local event.
- Disney: Magic Kingdom or Evil Empire (FYS). The professor gave both sides of the arguments, we learned how to formulate arguments, etc.
- US Feminism (history). I decided to minor in women’s studies because of this. We didn’t learn the stereotypical things.
Over 40% of the 4,100 students come from outside NH, although 90% of the population is from New England and the Mid-Atlantic. There are some buses running to Logan, Concord, and Manchester. They’re seeing an increase in the international population including a lot from Sweden: “I think they come for the hockey and maybe soccer,” said the tour guide. There’s an athletic culture here: about 80% of students participate in some form of athletics, whether on one of the 24 DIII teams or in club/intramural sports.
96% of students live on or within 1 mile of campus. Housing is available all 4 years. A new Res Hall with 288 beds is opening fall of 2017. Freshmen are integrated into dorms; there’s no separate building. Weekends are less than busy, but there are certainly things to do. Skiing is popular (Cranbrook is only 20 minutes away). Before graduation, the students on the panel said that students have to:
- See a movie or go stargazing on Lynn Green while drinking hot chocolate.
- Take a selfie with Robert Frost (the statue on campus)
- Float the river!
- Learn to ski or snowboard. “There’s no point coming to school here if you aren’t going to do that!” Students often come here because they’re active and/or enjoy the environment and being outside. There’s an outdoor center where students can get equipment for free to get outside whether it’s on the lakes or mountains.
Admission is Rolling; their app is free (Common App costs $50). Students only need 1 letter and NO test scores: they won’t look at scores even if they’re sent in!