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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.

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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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Cal Poly Pomona

Cal Poly Pomona (visited 1/16/14)

The library and triangular main Admin building

The library and triangular main Admin building

California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (or Cal Poly Pomona), one of the 23 CSU campuses, has traditionally been both a regional campus and the “little brother” of the better known Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Because of the nature of the CSUs which serve specific areas in the state, they do tend to draw heavily from the local area. However, this seems to be changing due to increased national awareness of the university’s offerings and more aggressive marketing by the new Director of Enrollment. They’re seeing an increased number of out-of-state students at the transfer level; this is trickling down to the freshman level.

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Some of the planes built by students

~CPP 5During our visit, we met with Mario Cordova, an Admissions Representative. Applications have risen over the past four years from 20,000 to 32,000. Admitted students have about a 3.5 GPA and an 1100 on the CR and M sections of the SAT or a 26 on the SAT. Acceptance rates now hover around 50%, but Mr. Cordova said that this is a little deceiving since it fluctuates by major. Engineering is the most popular major, but other academic strengths include programs such as hospitality management, vet tech (CPP is 1 of 3 schools in the country where students can take the Vet Tech exam directly after graduating without additional training), architecture, sciences, and even music industry studies! About half of their impacted majors are in the engineering fields; the others are in architecture, some sciences including animal sciences and kinesiology, and a few in the social sciences. The architecture department needs more space; currently, they’re only taking a few students each year in order to provide them with appropriate studio work space.

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One of the original buildings dating back to when the property was a horse ranch

Mr. Cordova told us that their goal class is about 3,000. Currently, only 18% of students live on campus, and they’ve added 600 new beds over the last three years. Demand to live on campus isn’t overwhelming since they’re still pulling so many kids from the local area who don’t need to live on campus. First-year dorms are stereotypical dorms. Suites with 4 bedrooms and kitchenettes are newer and tend to house upperclassmen; these are located behind the bookstore. The Village is the off-campus apartment area. The traditional dining halls are in the dorms and utilized mostly by freshmen. There are a lot of fast-food options (sushi, subway, Qdoba, etc) in the Union which was busy as we came through to get lunch at about 12:45, but not overwhelming. We didn’t wait more than 5 minutes for food and we were able to get a table.

This get repainted several times a year by students intrepid enough to climb up the hill

This get repainted several times a year by students intrepid enough to climb up the hill

“You Hour” is held from 12:00 to 1:00 on Tuesdays and Thursday. No classes are held during this hour, and the quad was full of student groups advertising their activities, holding fund-raiser BBQs, and more. One of the BBQs was sponsored by Delta Alpha Beta, a Hispanic/multi-cultural frat. They do a lot of community service, especially with kids. We stopped to talk to the guys to ask them about their experiences. One of them does AF ROTC on the USC campus and enjoys being here but having access to the other campus. The boys told us that Greek Life at CPP was small and had been on the decline, but seems to be picking back up again.

~CPP acad bldg 3Although there seems to be a lot to do on campus, we were told that we hit a “busy time” when a lot of people were out and about, but the crowds we saw only represented a fraction of the students. There are certainly people who don’t feel like there’s enough of a social scene and transfer out. Another reason people give for transferring is that the quarter system is a little too intense for them. Some students aren’t fans of the local area; town is not always safe and there’s not much within walking distance.

CPP 4

The Japanese Garden

As we walked across campus, two students were helpful in helping us find the building we were looking for; they were both freshmen recruited athletes from California (the volleyball player was from Stockton; the baseball player was from Temecula). Both are happy with their choice and felt that they fit here and were getting good educational and athletic experiences. The school is starting to get recognized nationally, partly because they just won a DII basketball title. Later, we had lunch with a brother (senior) and sister (freshman) from the area who answered a lot of our questions. The sister was an architecture major and part of the Honors College and was loving her experiences so far; she felt part of the community already. The brother was a big fan of the Integrated General Education requirements; instead of separate, lecture-based classes, the IGE program brings together social sciences, humanities, writing requirements, and more into the program. He felt that this approach was more interesting and conducive to his learning style. He’s studying Industrial Engineering. A lot of people in that area tend to specialize in supply chain management, and graduations have gone on to work at major companies like UPS, Netflix, and Amazon. He’s a member of Hillel which he said has 20-25 active members, and Shabbat Dinners are a regular things. They’re always looking for regular donors since it costs about $300 per dinner.

© 2014

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