campus encounters

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Archive for the tag “music conservatory”

Eastman School of Music

Eastman School of Music (visited 10/19/15)

~Eastman exterior

Exterior – you might recognize this from The Amazing Spiderman 2!

Eastman is technically part of the University of Rochester, but is located downtown, about a mile and half from the River campus. It also has its own admission requirements (and provides its own financial aid, as well). However, students can take classes at the River Campus (they can even complete a minor there) and Eastman students can take advantage of any of the social and athletic opportunities, as well.

~Eastman main hallway

The main hallway in the main building

Eastman is mostly housed in an old, large building with a newer modern building across the hall (among other things, this houses offices, the bookstore, and the Sibley Music Library – the 2nd largest music library in the world after Oxford). The dorm tower and quad located across the street. Students are guaranteed a single room after freshman year.

~Eastman Kodak theater

Kodak Theater

The main building is a 3-story building (4 if you include the basement) with classrooms, concert halls, and practice rooms. Kilbourne Hall is one of the oldest, built in 1924, and has been maintained to look the way it was when it was built. It holds chamber groups and senior recitals as well as other small concerts. The Kodak Theater (previously the Eastman Theater before the renovations) is their major theater; it used to be a silent movie theater. The renovations brought the back wall in away and created a space for a lobby and a café as well as box seating within the theater. Hatch Hall is acoustically adjustable and acoustically isolated. The curtains in the walls can be adjusted based on whatever is happening in the theater: “a solo oboist is very different from a drum ensemble. Same with the isolation. When you have the number of concerts that we have on campus every year, that’s crucial. You can have a drum ensemble here and a Verdi opera happening next door and you’d never know.” (There are also a couple other recital spaces including an Organ Recital Hall).

~Eastman theater 2

Hatch Hall

Theaters are wired with high-tech recording devices as well as skyping and other technology. All performances are recorded and kept in the Sibley Library. The technology also allows them to connect to master classes and other musicians around with world without ever getting on a plane.

~Eastman Miller bldg

Miller Building which houses the Sibley Music Library

The annex is a practice building that is open from 7am to 11pm. There is no practicing allowed in the dorms. Low brass, piano, bass and harp players have their own locked practice rooms due to the size of the instruments. For others, it’s first-come, first-served. There are rush times for rooms “but you learn quickly when this is and work around it.”

Students will practice 3-8 hours a day. Kids were walking around with Eastman sweatshirts that said: Eat. Sleep. Music. They aren’t lying. “I wish I knew that before I came; I think it’s one of the things that surprised me the most. What took me a month to prepare in high school takes me a week here,” said the tour guide.

~Eastman staircaseIn terms of admissions, “the best thing I did was take private lessons with one of the professors here.” On the application, they can put down their first and second choice for their faculty member. “Do your research: if you aren’t happy with your faculty member, that can make or break your time here.” Selectivity depends on the instrument and how much space each faculty member has. “One faculty might be graduating 6 seniors, another none, even for the same instrument.” The most popular instruments must send in pre-audition screening CDs; if the faculty like it, they will be invited to the on-site audition. This audition matters; they have to pass that before the admissions office looks at transcripts and other things. “Good grades won’t get you in but bad grades can keep you out.”

Performance is the biggest major on campus, but Composition, Conducting, and Music Education are also popular. All classes that the students need are offered at Eastman, but they can choose to take the education classes on the River Campus if they’d like. Education majors must gain proficiency through 4th grade level for all orchestra instruments. However, not all Eastman students continue on into music: lots of people actually go onto law or medical school. “We do pretty well getting in; I think they recognize the level of commitment needed to play at this level, and they know we’re dedicated and will get the work done.”

The tour guide wanted people to know that “this isn’t a sterile, boring, cold conservatory. It’s a welcoming place. There’s a robust social life and a lot of stuff going on right on the block.” Students also go skiing in Bristol, apple picking, hiking. They also take advantage of things on River Campus such as clubs, sports, and Greek Life. “There’s a tremendous amount of respect because we know what it takes to get in here.” The competition is with themselves, not with others. “We want to make ourselves and our professors proud. We help each other out and will give each other honest, helpful feedback.”

© 2015

SUNY Potsdam

SUNY Potsdam (visited 7/27/15)

Potsdam 3This is a solid school located about a mile from Clarkson and about 15 minutes from SUNY Canton and St. Lawrence University. “We may only have 4,000 students on campus, but you have about 15,000 college students in a 15-minute radius. There’s stuff going on,” said the tour guide. Potsdam is a bustling town with plenty to do within about a 10-minute walk from campus. Town-Gown relations are good. The first Saturday after freshmen move in, all the stores downtown open late. There are concerts, good deals at restaurants, huge checkers games, and more. All students can have cars on campus for a $112 fee, but the college will also run the Bear Bus to Albany, Syracuse, and NYC for breaks.

~Potsdam quad


The most notable “hook” at Potsdam is its Crane School of Music. Students must be admitted by Potsdam through the regular application process AND be accepted into Crane through auditions. Many students will audition on campus, but they know that not everyone can get there. Most international students and those living across the country will send in a DVD, but they also hold auditions in New York City which is much easier to travel to. They also hold scholarship auditions in October; it’s also a great chance to visit campus and meet with the music faculty.

~Potsdam 1The campus is attractive and walkable. A main road divides the academic and the residential sides. Many of the academic buildings are connected “which is great in the winter when you want to keep warm.” In the middle is a large, well-used quad.

Student lounge

Student lounge

There are only 3 lecture halls on campus. The tour guide’s largest class was Intro to Biology with 150 students; his smallest was a PoliSci elective with 6. He’s found all the professors to be very encouraging and willing to go out of their way to help – and that’s not limited to the school year. He’s been talking to and emailing a professor throughout the summer. There are also plenty of tutors available. He described how a tutor for one class came in on the second day and introduced herself early in the term so they knew who they could come to for help.

~Potsdam art studio 2

Ceramics Studio

Unusual majors include Interdisciplinary Natural Science, Music Business, Archaeological Studies, and Business Economics. Some unusual minors include Biological Anthropology, Wilderness Education, Nutrition, Jazz Studies, and Therapeutic Education.

~Potsdam 2There are several Joint-Degree programs:

~Potsdam restroomThere’s a residency requirement for freshmen and sophomores. The Freshmen Quad has 2 FYE dorms; some freshmen are housed in the 3rd dorm because of space issues. They are typical doubles that are coed by floor. There are suites for upperclassmen that fit up to 8 people as well as Townhouses. Food is available somewhere on campus from 7am to 1am. The dining hall will show movies on the weekends and often have an associated activity to go along with it such as “make your own minion” with Despicable Me or Superhero Sundae with The Avengers. Becky’s Place is an on-campus place to eat that’s a bit more fancy.

Students don’t have to look far to find things to do. Greek life is pretty big here; students can rush starting second semester. There are plenty of active clubs, including a Step Team, Rugby, Law Enforcement and Tactics Club, Stitch-n-Bitch, and Japanese drumming. The Harry Potter Club hosts Quidditch games, and another club runs Cardboard Duct-tape Boat races. The river is about 2 miles away and is a popular kayaking spot. The Outdoor Club and other groups run frequent trips to the mountains for hiking and skiing. There are 3 big skiing centers are within an hour of campus. There are 400 artistic things on campus every year such as dance, music performances, art shows, and theater; students can submit art for consideration for display at the professional art gallery on campus.

© 2015

Lawrence University

Lawrence University (visited 4/17/15)

~Lawrence backpack“Lawrence takes the weirdest, quirkiest, most awkward people and puts them all in one place. Go with it,” said one student.

~Lawrence SLUG and river

The “SLUG”

I loved Lawrence. Students were open, straight-forward, and interested in lots of things – and therefore were interesting people. Students sat with us at breakfast and provided great information that didn’t come up in the more formal presentations. One student was active with the Sustainable Life Undergrad Garden (“SLUG”); another rowed on the crew team. A third told us that he wasn’t sure he wanted to come to Lawrence. “What convinced me was the conversations in the cafe. People are smart, and that doesn’t end in the classroom. They want deep, meaningful conversations and want to know what others think.”

~Lawrence underpassPeople are extremely open and accepting here. This is a great place for LGBTQ students or who just want be themselves without judgment. Interestingly, though, religion isn’t talked about much. Students talk about just about everything else: politics, race, sexuality. The yearly Campus Climate survey data supports that students of faith sometimes feel left out; the administration is aware that this is an area of growth. However, there are student-run religious groups and a Religious Studies major so there’s a space for these discussions to happen.

~Lawrence chapel ext 2Lawrence is a College That Changes Lives. I asked the student panelists how it has changed their lives:

  • It forced me to learn how to deal with people I don’t necessarily agree with. I can manage difficult relationships. That’s a good skill. It’s shaped me to be prepared for the world as it is.
  • I’m from a tiny town and fortunate to be here. I’m engaging with diversity, going to eye-opening speakers, taking part of great conversations.
  • The opportunities – there are so many ways we can engage with each other.
  • The conversations are different. My friends at big schools don’t talk late into the night about big-picture, real-world problems trying to figure things out. It’s life changing.
  • Lawrence’s mantra is teaching you how to think differently. I used to roll my eyes, but I’ve looked back on papers, and I thought, ‘Wow, I was WAY less smart!’ I’m a better thinker now.
  • I was a leader in high school in terms of being able to do things I was told to do, but here, I’m a leader in terms of pursuing my own interests.
  • There’s so much passion here. It’s why there are so many groups and so many individual studies. We want to learn things and bring other people along for the ride.

~Lawrence ampitheaterOne counselor asked, “What frustrates you?”

  • Sometimes the people. It’s a small school. Usually that’s great, but sometimes we push each other’s buttons.
  • There’s so much on campus and people get stretched thin.
  • High and low is the size of the school. Now it feels a little too small. I wish I could have lived in an apartment and had a bit of independence.
  • The bugs . . . but we aren’t supposed to mention them!
  • The winter but Lawrence handles it well.

Someone asked, “What surprised you?”

  • How many smart people there are.
  • The talent. You’re always finding out new things. There’s a girl in my house who yodels. How cool is that?! Next thing you know, there’s someone there with a fiddle.
  • The Academic and Social Honor Codes. People take them so seriously.
  • The campus has a fully functioning cinema including free popcorn.
~Lawrence acad lounge

Student lounge overlooking the Fox River

~Lawrence quad 1Campus is a manageable size with the Fox River running along one side (although much of the sports complex is on the opposite side of the river, hockey being the only exception; the rink 4 miles away). The Club Sailing and Crew teams practice on the river, and the on-campus gym has an erg loft for rowers. They have 22 DIII sports and Club fencing that competes on DI level (against Notre Dame, Ohio State, Northwestern, etc). About 25% of students participate in sports. Basketball, soccer, hockey, and volleyball draw the most fans.

Students hanging out outside a dorm

Students hanging out outside a dorm

~Lawrence Gaming House

Gaming House

Housing is mostly clustered together, and except for one upperclassman-only dorm, has a mix of majors, years, etc. They have 2 floors of Gender-Neutral housing, substance-free housing, and group houses. Groups such as Gaming, Swing Dancing, and Multicultural clubs, must be in existence for 3 or more years before applying for a house. Clubs are generally highly active, and there’s more to do on campus than time to do it in. Favorite traditions include the 50 Hours of Trivia and Stealing the Rock.

Greek Life attracts 20% of students. Three students spoke about Greek life. One got a scholarship from the frat he ended up joining; at the dinner for scholarship recipients, he was blown away by how much it wasn’t about the social aspect but more about philanthropy and helping each other with school. The 2nd person said, “Each one is different and provides a different sort of support system.” The 3rd wasn’t even thinking about joining a frat when he came to college. “I didn’t think it was for me but all my friends were joining. It’s inclusive. Events are open to all of campus.” Rush is delayed to winter term so students have the fall to establish themselves.

~Lawrence sci bldg

Side of the science building

Classes range from 40 (Biological Anthro) and 60 (Intro to Biology) to 2 (Independent Study) and 8 (Sr. Experience and Statistics). Students call professors by their first names. Favorite Classes include:

  • Topics in Middle East and India Through Ethnomusicology
  • Geology
  • Intro to Drawing: “I draw like a 5 year old, but that’s ok at Lawrence!”
  • Computer Science: “So hard and so good!”
  • Gender in Cinema: “We watched Clueless and Top Gun. We queered up that movie so bad! We talked for 2 hours about the relationships in that movie.”
  • Magic, Witchcraft, and Religion – uses HP to learn about Medieval Witchcraft
  • Defining Frenchness

Notable majors include: Linguistics, Neuroscience, Cognitive Science, Biomedical Ethics, Chinese, and Innovation & Entrepreneurship.

~Lawrence Con building

Conservatory with a food truck – makes for easy lunches between rehearsals

Lawrence has an excellent music conservatory. Classes in “The Con” are open to all students regardless of major. Productions are inclusive and mostly based on ability: if you can do it, you can get in. We asked if there was a divide between the Con and other students; most agreed that if there was any divide at all, it was between the Conservatory and Athletics. In an effort to keep that at bay, they hold “Flip-flop Weekend” when those 2 groups go to the other one’s activities.

There’s only one application regardless of whether a student applies to the Conservatory or not. Con students apply ONLY regular decision and go through the audition process then without a pre-screening. If a student can’t attend an on-campus or one of the 12 regional auditions, they can send in a video. They’ll get the decision for admission to Lawrence and the Conservatory at the same time. If a student applies for a dual-degree program, they’ll still be looked at academically for the university if they aren’t eligible for the Con.

Appleton is a great small college town; town-gown relations are good. The airport is 10 minutes away making it easy for the international students and others who need to fly to and from school to get there and back home.

(c) 2015

SUNY Purchase

SUNY Purchase (visited 8/12/14)

~SUNY Purchase acad bldgSUNY Purchase is located on a large campus (about 500 acres – including the first multi-racial cemetery in the area that sits in the middle of campus) about 30 miles north of New York City. It’s in a suburban community only a few miles from the interstate and the Westchester Airport (which was obvious during our tour when several planes flew so closely overhead that they guide had to stop talking until the noise subsided). The university opened in 1968, designed to be the “artistic” campus of the SUNY system. Governor Rockefeller chose the location to allow students to access the resources of the NY Metro area. The school runs a free shuttle service to White Plains (20 minutes away) that runs every hour from 7 am to midnight (2 am on weekends). From there, they can catch MetroNorth into New York City (30 minutes away on an express train). Students are allowed to bring cars; parking only costs $20 and parking areas are assigned based on the student’s earned credits.

~SUNY Purchase music library

Music Library

About 1/3 of the students major in the arts (theater, music, dance, film, or the fine arts). However, the school is designed for students who don’t ONLY want that conservatory or Art/Design experience. They offer a BA, BS, or BFA/BMus degree. Students majoring in the arts can choose the level of involvement they want: the BA and BS degrees will give them much more flexibility to take electives outside of the major, whereas the BFA requires about 2/3 of the coursework to be in the major. Adding that to the required distribution requirements (about ¼ of their coursework) means that they have little flexibility to take electives or add a minor or another major without taking extra time. There’s also a more selective admissions process. For example, only 20 students are admitted to the theatre BFA program a year and work as a cohort in productions and classes. However, many more students can get involved in productions open to the BA students interested in theater and performance.

“Purchase is a small place. There are 4,200 students here. You’re not going to be a number. The largest lecture hall you’ll ever be in holds 70 students. If you want to~SUNY Purchase patio be a number, go to Buffalo,” said Jon, the Admissions Rep giving the info session. Our tour guides both said that their largest classes had 30 students; the smallest had 8 and 12. The only graduate students are in the arts, so undergraduates in other areas are doing research with the faculty. They have a very limited number of grad students teaching classes for non-majors.

Students have all the resources of the SUNY system at their disposal. There are standard state-wide gen-ed requirements throughout the SUNY system, so students can transfer those classes easily if they’d like to take anything at another campus over the summer. Students can also take advantage of study-abroad options or other special programs through any campus.

SUNY Purchase art studio

An Art Studio

A science building

A science building

Some of their unusual majors include Media Society and The Arts, New Media (a tech-based arts major: one students used webcams to film a “24 hour sunrise”), Arts Management (for those interested in the business aspect of art), and Language and Culture (students can study Hausa, Hebrew, or Chinese as well as the more common European languages). Many students complete internships for credit under the direction of a faculty member. Students are assigned work to be turned into the professor in addition to whatever is assigned to them on the job.

Applicants NOT interested in the performing arts can use either the SUNY App or the Common App. However, performing arts applicants can only use the SUNY app. Admissions is selective; they accept about 1/3 of applicants not looking to go into any of the arts majors. The acceptance rate in the arts depends on department and the student’s focus. (“Bassoon players have a much easier time than violinists!” said the rep). Admitted students tend to have about an 87 average and 1100 SAT. Scholarships are automatically granted to non-performing arts applicants; recipients tend to have a 90+ average and 1200+ SAT. In the arts, scholarships are awarded through the particular department/area based on academic and talent combined.

~SUNY Purchase dorm room

A triple-style dorm room

About 65% of students live on campus; space is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. Fort Awesome (dorms are named by students – other dorms include Big House, Far House, and Outback) is the newest dorm and houses upperclassmen. This is the only dorm with wifi; the others are all equipped with Ethernet hook-ups, “but you can buy a router from the Tech Office if you want,” said the tour guide. The first floor has classes and art space. Dorm rooms for freshmen are converted triples (basically double-sized rooms with a third person added) because of increased numbers of freshmen and transfers. There are some Learning Community Floors with double rooms (and the RA will be in that major). There are also 4-, 6- and 8- person suites scattered throughout the dorms. The 8-person suite has its own bathroom. The others have a common room but share the bathroom down the hall. There are a couple food options on campus. There’s the more traditional all-you-can-eat dining hall; the tour guides said that Sundae Friday, Wing Wednesday, and Stir-fry Thursday are popular. The Hub is campus food court where meals are done on the ABC plan (meaning they choose something from each category: Main meal, a side, and a drink). Meals don’t roll week to week; “If you have meals left by Friday, students start using up the points at the campus store so you don’t lose them by Sunday,” said the tour guide.

Traditions that the students are particularly excited about are Zombie Prom and Culture Shock (a weekend art festival). There is no Greek life on campus. Students are not bored on campus. There are always events, activities, and clubs doing things. The Cheese Club got mentioned a couple times (and apparently is so popular that there’s a waiting list – never heard of that for a club before!). The founder was a film major and got interested in cheese made from camel’s milk which led her to research camels which led to her senior projects about different products from camels.

Everyone does a Senior Project (check out this YouTube video on it), a serious academic work in an area of their choosing. Since this is a full-year project, students sign up for a 3-credit class both terms, and usually do the preliminary plans, including choosing an advisor, in their junior year.

© 2014

University of Memphis

UNIVERSITY OF MEMPHIS (visited 4/23/13)

One of the many tigers statues from campus placed prominently in front of the new Union.

One of the many tigers statues from campus placed prominently in front of the new Union.

For a medium-sized, urban, public school, this was surprisingly attractive (and safe! They’re ranked as the #1 safest metro school in TN [they’re proud that they beat Vandy] and Campus Security patrols campus and a two-block radius around campus, which is where much of the off-campus housing is). The campus is designated as a Level-2 Arboretum with more than 60 types of trees, and there’s lots of open space on campus. Prominent in the middle of campus is the impressive new 3-story union which opened in 2010. The middle is open with grand staircases all the way up to the top floor, and much of the social life goes on there. Not only are there various offices, but they have several food options, both to-go (such as Dunkin Donuts) and their own sit-down restaurant fashioned like a Chili’s that’s open for lunch (the nachos are a big thing there). There’s a full-sized theater on the second floor that shows recent movies and gives out free popcorn and soda. The Post Office is here – something that surprised me (and I’ve never seen on another campus) is that students have to rent a PO Box if they want one, even if they’re residential students!

An academic building

An academic building

I visited on a Tuesday morning; because there was only 1 family and I visiting that morning, the admissions staff sent me out on my own with two tour guides so I could really pick their brains. One of the tour guides came to Memphis for the nursing program and the Greek life; it didn’t hurt that her parents both came here. The other one was from Memphis, had gone to another school first, and then transferred back. He couldn’t be happier. Both are currently commuter students, but say that they don’t see this as any disadvantage at all. There are lots of ways to get involved, and because there are so many people who commute, they’re not left out of campus life. There are plenty of places to study and hang out between classes, so it’s easy – and because they’re so involved, they’re on campus most of the day by choice. Off-campus housing is easy to get either through the Greek system or the rentals (which are plentiful right off campus). The tour guides said that the Greek kids tend to be the most involved in campus live in general. Girls rush the second week of classes, the guys are summer recruits: “it tends to be a lot of who you know.”

The lounge and kitchen area of the Honors Dorm

The lounge and kitchen area of the Honors Dorm

Currently, only 3000 of the 16000 undergrads live on campus. The university is trying to get more residential students as well as deal with the “parking convenience” issue (there is parking, but it’s sometimes far away which the students say can be difficult and requires that they get to campus earlier to give them time to park and walk to class). They’ve recently built Honors Dorms which are fabulous! The rooms are traditional doubles, but the bathrooms, although located in the hall, are private (you can close and lock the doors); each bathroom is a complete unit (sink, toilet, shower). In the rooms, the “dressers” are two stackable components of two drawers each that can either be separated and go under the bed or stacked to be a more traditional dresser. The halls are set up in circles, and there are kitchens and lounges on each floor. It’s a clean, comfortable set-up.

Memphis quadI asked the tour guides about diversity on campus; it’s clear from just walking around campus that there’s a lot of racial diversity that reflects the nature of Memphis, but they said that there’s a lot of political and religious diversity as well. They have “Religion Row” which houses buildings dedicated to all sorts of different religions, so everyone has a home. I also asked them what sort of student tends to fit in and which tend to leave. Neither one of the guides knew more than a couple people who have left; they said that the students who don’t fit in tend to be close-minded or they don’t like the city. They also agreed that students who transfer tend to go to smaller schools.

Memphis 1They have carts that they use to take people on part of the tour. This was fun, but not entirely necessary since the campus isn’t that big. However, despite that fact, they do run shuttles around campus fairly continuously – but this seems to be a response more to the commuter population and people needing to park farther away sometimes. There’s even an app that tells student where each shuttle is, which the students find particularly useful in bad weather.

The lobby of the library

The lobby of the library

They have quite a few majors and academic programs to brag about. They’re #1 in the state for nursing, and their other med programs such as Pre-Dental and Pre-Med are also strong; Memphis has a lot of hospitals (many of which are close to the university) which provides a vast range of clinical experiences for students, so they graduate with a lot of different types of hands-on experience rather than just 1 or 2. Their Business program is solid (and they have particularly strong links to FedEx so students do a lot of internships with them, as well). There’s a music conservatory which requires an audition for admittance. Psychology is their most popular major and gets the most funding (and the psych lecture hall is the biggest on campus with 450 seats, although most classes cap at 300 with break-out sessions). The ROTC program is large, and they’ve just started an Asian Studies Program, as well. As a college, they’re ranked #7 in the country for internship experience (as defined as participation as part of a credit-baring course), and their job-placement rate is high because so many of their students graduate with real-life, practical experience.

The Administration building where Admissions is located

The Administration building where Admissions is located

To be considered for admission, they use the following formula: (GPA x 30) + ACT score. If the student has a 95, the rest of the application will be looked at. The only time they will look at letters is if they’re denied and people feel that the application needs to be reviewed. They don’t superscore either the SAT or the ACT, and applicants need at least a subscore of 16 in English on the ACT. There are several scholarships available, and Non-Resident scholarships are stackable with the other scholarships which are dependent on GPA and ACT scores (23 ACT and a 3.0 gets you $8000 a year; 25ACT and a 3.25 = $11,000; 30ACT and 3.25 = $13,000). Two of their scholarships need separate applications and the deadline is moving up next year, probably to 12/1. The TOEFL is required of all international students, even those graduating from a US high school.

(c) 2013

Baldwin Wallace University

Baldwin-Wallace College (visited 4/19/12) (now BW University)

“Ok, before we go into the lab, we have a couple rules. First, leave all food and drink outside. Second, do not lick anything in the lab. Everyone good?” Really, you can’t beat a biology professor with a good sense of humor!


The main Conservatory building on campus.

First impressions mean a lot even though we’re told not to judge a book by its cover. BWC made an excellent first impression with its beautiful old stone buildings, immaculate grounds, and tulips and daffodils blooming everywhere. The good news is that the substance of the college did not disappoint! The people at BWC were the only ones on the seven-college counselor-tour who showed off what made them distinct from other schools instead of giving the typical spiel/song-and-dance. A couple other schools gave lip-service to the idea of “we’re not going to tell you that we have great faculty, study abroad options, and research opportunities, because every place you go is going to tell you that” . . . and then they proceeded to tell us about those things. BWC didn’t. Instead, we got to spend time in a lab to interact with students doing independent research, check out innovations in their athletic center and the majors associated with it (such as athletic training, exercise science, sports management and health promotion and management), and then tour their Music Conservatory and learn about programs there. I didn’t even know that they HAD a conservatory; neither did my sister who is a musician, so it’s clearly one of their best-kept secrets! The students go on to do impressive things including performing on Broadway. Seniors graduating with a Musical Theater major participate in a showcase every spring in New York City in front of several directors and producers. This happened about a week before our visit, and within a span of five days, all 13 graduating seniors had signed with agents. (As a comparison, I heard that Michigan had two at that same point in time). An audition is required for entrance into the Conservatory (accredited by the National Association of Music Schools) which offers emphases in performance, pedagogy, jazz, conducting, theory, composing, and sacred music in addition to the unusual major of Music Therapy. (Students also have to be proficient enough on at least one instrument to gain acceptance into the Conservatory if they want to major in Music Therapy).

BWC3Baldwin Wallace actively looks ahead to jobs that experts predict will be available for students in 5-10 years, and then creates majors and learning opportunities for students in order to prepare them. They created 14 new degree programs in the last four years or so. The Physician Assistant program is 1 of 6 in Ohio; they’re a year away from accreditation for a 3-2 program. They excel in Health Sciences and Allied Health majors. They utilize the nearby Cleveland hospitals, some of which are ranked in the top 10 nationally, and they work with industry professionals to develop the new degrees. Their Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing utilizes Concept-based learning; only a couple other programs in NM and NC do this. The Health Sciences are producing impressive results; this year, two students (a junior and a senior) interned with the top pediatric neurosurgeon in the country.

Other majors of note include Digital Media and Design (combining artistry/creativity and technology), their Software engineering degree starting this fall (the only one in the state), Health Care Management, Public Health (which started this fall; 29 students are already enrolled), and Recreation Sport Sciences.

BWC4One of their major goals across all majors is to create a practice-based education. Most of the faculty members come to BW from the fields in which they teach allowing them to provide practical, real examples of how the theory and knowledge they teach translates into the real world. Almost every student completes some sort of “experiential education” experience through internships, study abroad, and other types of programs. The school has 52 articulated agreements for study abroad with options for others if students find a different program they’re interested in. Students must complete a minor here in order to broaden their educational field.

Although this is a Methodist-affiliated college, it does not feel at all religious. Although we didn’t get a full tour of the school, I’m not sure they even have a chapel; if they do, it’s not obvious in the main part of campus. However, the current president is only one of two in the history of the institution who is a non-Methodist, non-pastor president; he was also only one of two college Presidents on the tour to take the time to talk to us (Otterbein’s president was the other).

BWC is a Test Optional school; applicants have the option to turn in graded paper instead of test scores. They are also committed to affordability; there have been very small tuition increases in the last several years, the lowest in their peer-group. The entire bill comes to $35,000 a year including all the fees (tech, health, etc.), although the tuition at the conservatory is higher than the rest of campus because of the private lessons. The best thing – and the first time I’ve heard of a school doing this – has to do with the Meal Plan: students only get charged for what they use. If they don’t use it, BWC will give it back!

This incoming freshmen class (fall of 2012) can sign up for a 4-year graduation guarantee. BWC has been intentional about getting students out in four years, and they’re putting their money where their mouth is. They have a mapped-out four-year plan so students can stay on track. It is a completely voluntary program and basically requires that the students do common sense things such as meet with their advisor regularly and declare a major within two years as well as attend seminars and sign a waiver that will release information to the parents (if they drop a course, if they aren’t doing well in class, etc). If they do everything they need to do but can’t graduate within 4 years, the 5th year’s tuition is free.


One of the dorms with a sand volleyball court in front.

Students must live on campus for freshmen and sophomores years unless they are within a certain radius of campus and living with family. About 80% of freshman and sophomores live on campus and about 2/3 of the total undergraduates are on campus – that’s almost 2,000 residents on campus. Freshman can have cars on campus.

I was left with the good impressions of BW that I started with and I would definitely recommend it to my students. It has the typical smallish-college feel but with a lot of options and innovative programs that allows students to take advantage of a lot. The campus is comfortable and students are friendly. A former student of one of the counselors had joined us at lunch so we got yet another student’s perspective; he loves the college and all that he can do there.

(c) 2012

Oberlin College

Oberlin College (visited 4/14/12)

Oberlin 4On the Sunday morning after I toured Oberlin, I was sitting in the local coffee shop to get breakfast and check email before getting on the road. When I arrived at 9 am, a handful of students were already there with laptops and books. By the time I left at 10, the place was packed, mostly with college students. Computers and books were everywhere, and the students were focused on their work – on a Sunday morning! Maybe I should check out more coffee shops in college towns, but I don’t think this is something you’ll see every day. There were all types of kids in there, which is typical of Oberlin – in that Oberlin students aren’t typical. They are hard workers, though.

Oberlin 2Typical for my travels through Ohio (which seems to have a disproportionate number of colleges in the middle of towns in the middle of nowhere. . .), I suddenly was in the town of Oberlin – and then in the middle of the Oberlin College campus. Buildings there are as impressive and as varied as the students seem to be. There doesn’t seem to be much rhyme or reason to the architecture: there was gothic, Spanish, “Radiator Deco” (the façade did really look like a radiator). The campus sprawls around most of the Tappan Square (home to a couple of albino squirrels, the unofficial mascot of the college). The campus is mostly attractive, but other than the part of campus directly around Tappan Square, there is not the feel of a separate campus, per se. However, the town of Oberlin is about the size of a postage stamp, so it’s hardly necessary to have a separate campus. The tour guide told me that the movie theater in town is currently closed for renovations . . . so they can add a 2nd screen. When I asked her what she’d like to change about the college, she told me that she wishes that the students could get into Cleveland more easily and more often.

albino squirrel 3Oberlin, in addition to being a highly selective liberal arts school, might be better known for its Music Conservatory; the two parts of campus blend beautifully. The admissions counselor described the music talent on the entire campus as “not-so-hot to quite fancy.” The students are described as “Liberal Arts students with a music bent and Music Students with an academic bent.” Oberlin offers a 5-year dual-degree program in which students can earn both a Bachelors of Music and a Bachelors of Arts/Science. Non-music majors can and often do take classes in the Conservatory, including private lessons which cost $7.50/30-minute lesson which is a steal!

I visited during Admitted Student weekend as well as the Multi-Cultural Recruitment weekend. One of the math professors was on hand in the admissions office to talk with prospective students; she told me about a Freshman Seminar in which they read both non-fiction and fiction (A Beautiful Mind, Proof, several others). It’s the sort of class I wish I had access to. I also had a chance to talk to one of the directors of admission; unfortunately, the NC rep was not in since the reps rotate on Saturdays.

Oberlin 1Housing and dining on campus got high marks from the students I spoke with. Dining options are plentiful, ranging from two large dining halls to several food co-ops, including a kosher co-op. Housing options include First Year Experience and Special Interest Housing, including Co-ops, language houses, and Social/Justice housing. The co-ops, particularly when food was involved, were very popular; about 1/3 of the students eat at one of those on a fairly regular basis. As members of co-ops, they have to put in about four hours a week towards keeping it running and to eat there for the reduced rate, but if the student is on work-study, this can count towards their hour allotment. In addition to this kind of work, students complete a lot of community service. They tend to be passionate and excited about something, whether it’s academics, community service, or a club; whatever they decide to do, they pursue with a passion.

Students tend to jump into academics in the same way. Although they have several classes with more than 80 students (mostly at the introductory level), this doesn’t deter the students; they know that the size drops quickly as they move past introductory levels, but the students are also the type to actively seek help, form study groups, or in other ways make sure that they make the most of the classes, even without individual attention. Research is very popular among students, and they seek chances to do this both with professors and independently; they often come up with interesting, interdisciplinary work such as combining physics and music. Oberlin also has implemented giving grants of up to $30K to students to pursue Entrepreneurial enterprises.

Oberlin 3More interesting – and something unique to Oberlin (at least I haven’t run into it) – is the Experimental College or “ExCo.” This provides an opportunity for students to learn from each other in areas not offered by traditional classes such as Korean or a martial art. Students can earn up to 5 credits in this way. Students also have to complete at least three Winter Terms on campus. Many students will do internships, participate in study abroad trips, put on productions, work on research, or complete other types of experiences that are not always so accessible during the regular semester. It’s not uncommon for students to complete all four Winter Terms simply because they’re interested in what they’re doing. The college provides other hands-on and unique experiences for students, as well, such as opening up the large telescope twice a month for anyone who wants to come check things out. They have an active theater department that puts on more shows than most other schools I’ve visited; students do not need to be a theater major to participate in shows, and they have enough interest across the student body for every production – in fact, many of the shows are proposed by the students because they look for more opportunities.

The last thing to mention is their art-rental program. Every term, the museum decides which artwork it will not be displaying and then offers those pieces to the students for $5 a term – including Picassos and Warhols. Students camp out for chances to rent the art of their choice. In the 60 years they have done this, not a single piece of art has been lost or damaged.

(c) 2012

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