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Archive for the tag “Neuroscience”

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

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Emmanuel College

Emmanuel College (visited 9/12/17)

Emmanuel quad

The quad with the skyline of Boston in the background

“This is a small school, but there’s something for everyone.” As part of the Colleges of the Fenway, Emmanuel students have access to 5 other schools, and its campus is located right in between Wheelock and Simmons. “It feels a lot bigger because of the consortium,” said the tour guide. “Students from other schools are walking through campus because we’re right in the middle of things.” As part of the consortium, students can take classes (including travel courses!) and even complete full minors at another school. Intramurals are held against teams from other COF schools; students have access to libraries, some clubs and activities, and some dining halls although “We have the best food on the Fenway! It’s a 12,” said one of the tour guides. The other one agreed: “A lot of it is organic, and meals are made fresh right in front of us.”

Emmanuel chapel

The Chapel

This is a Catholic institution with 40% of the students self-identifying as Catholic, but “the Catholicism isn’t heavy-handed,” said one of the students. Mass is never required, but students do need to take 2 religion classes as part of their distribution requirements. With so many choices to fulfill this including “What is Religion?” and “Women in Religion,” there’s something for everyone. There are several priests and nuns still involved on campus, including the President (a nun) and several teachers (“Father John is cool!”).

Emmanuel lounge and quadThe Sisters founded the school as a women’s college in 1919. They went coed in 2001 and are still 73% female, but have tripled their overall population since going coed. Part of this also comes from a deal made with Merck Pharmaceuticals made about the same time as when they went coed – the college leased space to the company for a research lab which makes Emmanuel the only college in the country with a pharmaceutical lab.

Emmanuel 1Campus is attractive and easy to navigate (it is small and can’t grow because of its location in Boston). Housing is guaranteed all 4 years. 88% of first-year students live on campus with 70% staying on all 4 years. “This is not a suitcase school.” Students get involved in a great of service on and beyond campus. Saints Giving Back is a popular club; one of their big projects is providing meals for families with kids in the hospital.

Emmanuel tables“Students are just nice here. This is a door-holding school” While students seem to think that there’s room for some growth in diversity, they also say that “there’s lots of open dialogue.” Students are willing to engage in dialogue with each other and come out in droves to the speakers brought to college (Shawn King recently came).

Classes are capped at 35 but average 21. One tour guide’s largest class was 30 in Freshman Writing. His smallest was 13 in a higher-level psych class. Although on the surface, their majors seem fairly standard and straightforward, they offer a great deal of interesting concentrations within those majors:

© 2017

Hendrix College

Hendrix College (visited 3/27/17)

Hendrix bellHendrix sits right on the edge of Conway, about 30 minutes from Little Rock (they run shuttles to the airport before and after breaks). The town is large enough to provide opportunities but small enough to get around easily. There are 3 colleges in Conway; UCA is more visible because it’s bigger. Fun fact: Conway has more roundabouts than traffic lights. Campus is gorgeous (and even has a Creek Reserve): “Our facilities are exceptional; the people are more so.” This isn’t surprising as a school on the Colleges that Change Lives list!

Over breakfast on our Counselor visit Day, we were greeted by President Tsutsui (prounounced “suitsuey”). “How many people have been to Arkansas before? Not bad! Thanks for wanting to come back!” He went on to talk about the Top 5 questions he gets asked (as well as his answers to them) about Hendrix:

  • Hendrix quad 2

    Students outside enjoying the weather in one of the many open spaces on campus

    “Was it founded by Jimi Hendrix?”

    • Nope, but Bishop Hendrix of MO gave as much money as Jimi Hendrix so he might as well have!
  • “Wow, Arkansas, huh??”
    • There isn’t a single 17-year-old who wakes up and says, ‘I want to go to school in Arkansas, including people in this state!’ But it’s beautiful. It’s green. There are some of the friendliest, most curious people you’d ever want to meet. It’s not the saccharine, deep-south sweet. People here have time for each other. People who care about each other means something. This is a one-phone-call state. There’s someone on this campus who can pick up the phone and call anyone to arrange internships, an interview for a project, etc.
  • Hendrix class hallway

    One of the classroom buildings; classes are on the upper level with a hallway looking over faculty offices on the left. 

    “What’s that Odyssey Program all about?”

    • Students learn to take risks and craft personally meaningful learning experiences outside the classroom. They learn which paths may not be such a good fit. They prepare through research, skill building, leadership. Not all of these are unique, but here it’s not cookie-cutter. Students take charge and responsibility. We give them the power AND RESOURCES to create something that is meaningful.
  • “So what are your big plans for Hendrix?”
    • A clear student-centered mission that delivers on the rigorous Liberal Arts education that celebrates and encourages differences. There won’t be a business or engineering school or an online or graduate school. We aren’t going to grow. We want people to know each other. We’re adding a new center for teaching and learning (creative work), enhanced career services, expanded multi-cultural centers, more growth in diversity, some construction (dorms), new music/film/visual arts facilities.
  • “What makes Hendrix different than other colleges out there?”
    • It can’t be distilled down. We’re authentic and grounded. Students and alumni are smart and are good people. Staff want to be here. Watch the staff in the cafeteria. They know the students’ names. They give hugs. They ask how breaks went.

Hendrix 15Hendrix is a bubble. Compared to much of Arkansas, it’s pretty liberal, but “compared to the coastal areas, it’s much less so!” It’s a good halfway point. “Football has diversified us. There are a number of evangelicals on the team which makes us look more like America as a whole,” said one of the admission reps. “It’s not about us and them, it’s about interacting person-to-person,” said the President. He told a story about 2 students becoming good friends: “She was the first Muslim I ever met; I was the first scary-rural-American she met.”

Hendrix dorm

One of the dorms

This is a mostly residential campus with almost 90% of the 1,300 students living on campus. Campus feels vibrant with students everywhere. SOAR runs trips every weekend: ice skating, movies, etc. There are also tons of festivals around town: Toad Suck Daze Festival got rave reviews from several people, especially catching toads in the creeks to race! Students are never short of activities on campus or around town.

Food is excellent; they’re highly ranked on several lists. It’s all locally run, not a corporation. Students can – and do! – bring in recipes from home, and they get a cake on their birthday. They periodically bring out food carts: gyros, soft pretzels, etc. Tuesday Talks are held in the dining hall, bringing in people to talk about what jobs they do and how they got there.

Hendrix tunnel 1

A pedestrian tunnel with music and lights; if you know the secret code to tap the sensors, you can make it play specific songs — you need 2 people, 1 at each end!

Odyssey is their signature program, started in 2005. All students participate, not just the few who can fit it in. It’s integrated, connected to the classroom, and goes on the transcript (Research and Internships). They provide over $400,000 in support (not including study abroad). Students start with a course called Engaged Citizens and then must complete at least 3 of the 6 categories (a handful graduate each year having completed all 6):

  • Artistic Creativity: opportunities are spread across spectrum to produce something. There has to be a publicly-viewed product at the end.
  • Hendrix art 2

    Their art complex is extensive with 3 buildings. They offer everything ranging from ceramics to sculpture to woodworking

    Undergraduate Research: disciplinarily based. One professor does research on ants (social organization, etc). Students can get Odyssey credit if they do a public presentation such as a conference (even on campus).

  • Global Awareness: study abroad but can be domestic (did Somali community work)
  • Service to the World: at least 30 hours of volunteer or civic engagement (work on a campaign, animal shelter)
  • Professional and Leadership Development: They have a partnership with Heifer International (headquartered in AR) for leadership, global awareness,
  • Special projects:

“The secret sauce is reflection,” said the Odyssey Director. “You can’t just do the thing. You have to THINK about the thing. We have a lot of failed internships … they completed it fine, but it turns out that this isn’t what they want to do! If you have to present it, you have to think about it first.”

Hendrix gazebo“I’m struck by how earnest students are here and how hard working. It’s a great combination. They aren’t just falling back on being smart. They’re engaged… not that that’s 100% true across the board, but I don’t really find negative experiences with kids not wanting to be here,” said one of the professors. Academics are good across the board, but pre-Med and sciences seem to be particularly good here, including majors in Chemical Physics, Molecular Biology, Health Science, and Neuroscience. “I’ve been challenged almost too much,” said a student. There’s a 3+2 program with physics (at Hendrix) and engineering at WashU, Vanderbilt, and Columbia. can get their . “If they aren’t 100% sure they want to do engineering, it’s a great place to start. Often they think they want engineering and don’t,” said a physics professor.

Hendrix 16Students on the panel were asked about their favorite academic experience:

  • I was in an 8:15 class. People were late or overslept a lot, one in particular. One day, the professor had us call the student on speaker phone and told him we’d wait until he got to class.
  • Zoology: “We had literally thousands of things to memorize. All bio majors have to take it, usually in sophomore year. I just about quit college. I spent hours in the lab. I would sleep there. I eked out a C and am proud of that. The next summer, I found that I could identify all the shells on the beach during a family vacation. I thought I got nothing out of the class, but realized that I remembered so much.
  • Advanced Cell Bio: “The lab was the most challenging thing I’ve done. We had to think critically and design our own lab. We also learned how to read scientific journals.”
  • “I spent a semester in Oxford studying Tolkien and Lewis.”
  • “The school takes the advising process seriously.” The first year advising is sort of random to mix it up a little. They get training. Teach an Explorations class.

Hendrix quad 1What makes this a place to be unique:

  • I came out of my shell. Now it’s cool to tell people I write fiction.
  • This campus has spaces where things can happen. “I’m a queer person of color and I’m here. Like any campus there are issues, but there’s a willingness to check themselves, to realize they aren’t ready to talk about it, to want to learn. There are also a ton of alternative spaces on campus where students can be who they are. They may not be that visible, but they’re there. You can also occupy multiple spaces at once.”

 

© 2017

 

 

 

Holy Family University

Holy Family University (visited 7/20/16)

Holy Family 1Holy Family, with its 1400 full-time undergraduates, is still very much a commuter school. They had been almost exclusively commuter before 2005 except for athletes and international students. Today, still only about 300 students live on campus. However, Residence Halls are all new or renovated since 2005, and the university has worked hard to provide weekend activities such as trips and events on campus, so most residential students do stay on the weekends. Haunted Weekend is a big draw: they have a dance (with prizes for costumes), paintball, and more. There is a train station nearby, so downtown is accessible for off campus fun.

HFU has the lowest net cost of any private school in the Philly area, and Monday Magazine has named it a Value All-Star.

Holy Family nursingNursing is the largest major followed by Education (they offer Early Childhood, Middle, and Secondary certifications as well as Special Education). Some of their Business tracks are unusual, including Digital Forensics, Business Intelligence, and Fire Science and Public Safety Administration. Some of their sciences are unusual as well, including Neuroscience, Psychology for Business, and Medical Technology. Students can elect to complete a 4+1 MBA, a 4+1 Masters in Criminal Justice, or a 4+2 in Counseling Psych.

Holy Family businessThe Business building is brand new (and the only one that looks really new; other buildings are mostly yellow brick, and while they’re maintained, they look dated and not much like a college). Located on the edge of campus at the bottom of the hill, it almost doesn’t feel like it’s part of campus. The new building provides lots of new classroom and other learning spaces.

Holy Family gazeboThe tour guide’s class sizes ranged from 8-15 for the smallest, and 20-25 for the largest. “I know some classes go up to about 32, but those aren’t that common.” 80% of students have some sort of field experience before graduation, and the school promises a 100% internship placement rate – if students qualify, according to an admissions rep.

General Ed classes are pretty standard. First Year Experience students need to attend at least five 20-minutes lectures during Common Hour. It would be a club presentation, a visiting lecturer, etc. This is to help students participate in campus life.

Holy Family stu cntrHFU’s sports are DII in the Central Atlantic Colligate Conference. The athletic center is someone new and is one of the bigger buildings on campus. It has all the standard things you’d expect but no bells or whistles (no rock-climbing wall or fancy track, for example).

© 2016

Albion College

Albion College (visited 1/30/15) (click HERE to see notes from my 2nd visit on 3/25/19)

~Albion acad bldg 4~Albion bellI didn’t get a formal tour of Albion, but talked to an admissions rep for about 45 minutes before walking around campus on my own during the chilly dusk of a Friday evening. The campus was quiet, not surprising given the weather and time. Classes were done for the day and students weren’t heading to dinner or out to events yet. However, I talked to the students working at the student center and in the library and ended up getting a lot of interesting information from them.

~Albion rotundaSolid students who want a small campus, small classes, interesting classmates, and a chance to get involved will do well here.

~Albion sci cntrKids here are “everyday kids. They’re very normal.” There are the jocks to the theatre geeks to the nerds. “I like the mix of kids. I have friends from Nepal, Italy, Metro Detroit, the UP. This is the first time in years that we haven’t had at least 1 gay student pledge the frat,” said the junior econ major working in the library. “I took this shift because I love the quiet. I can get my work done and enjoy the rest of my weekend.”

~Albion courtyardThe Union Board (student group that organizes events) is active. “There’s never NOT something going on whether it’s Frisbee golf, movies, speakers, whatever. There’s a 4-hour Laser Tag game later tonight that I’m going to go to after the library closes.” About 60% of students participate in sports, and a cappella is also very popular. One of the favorite traditions is the Anchor Splash, a Synchronized Swimming competition put on by the Delta Gamma Sorority. The money goes to charity. It’s “hysterical to watch these burley football guys in tutus! They get really competitive.”

~Albion patioThere’s nothing going on in town (the population is less than 10,000 people). “There’s a good taco joint and a good bar. The movie theatre is free for students. Otherwise . . . not so much.” Jackson, a larger town, is 15 minutes away and the college runs shuttles to Ann Arbor and to the airports. There’s a train station in town that will take them to Chicago. Freshmen can have cars on campus, but a lot of people don’t bother leaving campus because so much is offered. They even have a convenience store.

Albion is small (1400 students) so it’s easy to get to know everyone, “but you aren’t always tripping over the same people.” Students who leave tend to go to bigger schools or “are the one who never leave their room or aren’t getting playing time on the team.” The biggest division seems to be between the athletes and non-athletes, “but even that isn’t a big deal.”

~Albion main dorm

Largest dorm on campus

All first year students live in Wesley Hall, a traditional-style dorm that holds 550 students. There are other options for older students including frat houses and two apartment-style complexes. Students are not stuck in traditional dorms for 4 years. Wifi on campus “can be spotty.” The food gets mixed reviews ranging from “great” to me getting a blank stare before being told that the new food vendor, while it has helped some, “doesn’t really make things that college students tend to want.” The other student said it was “ok but not spectacular.” Frat houses have their own food arrangements such as a cook so that helps. Greek life is huge with about 2/3 of the students affiliating with a group. “It’s not like the big schools, though. We all hang out together.” He’s in both the Panhellenic and Intra-frat councils.

~Albion chapel 3

Chapel

Albion still has a very loose religious affiliation but it’s not really all that noticeable. Students do have to take one theology or philosophy class as part of their distribution requirements, but there are plenty of options and no one is pushing an agenda or belief system. Catholicism has the largest number of self-reporting students, and Hillel is one of the more active groups on campus.

In academics, Albion offers 6 Centers of Distinction:

  • Teaching is automatic entry once students declare the major. Others require a short essay.
  • Honors classes are not just harder; they’re more discussion based. Teachers actually bid on the classes. Students take 1 honors class per term and have to write a Thesis. It gets published and is assigned an ID number so they are officially published and can put it on a resume. This COD is becoming more competitive to get into.
  • Health Care: this is a 4-year guided program for students interested in any aspect of health care, including vet. This is also becoming more competitive. Pre-med is a large major; 92% go onto med school.
  • Leadership in Public Policy and Service
  • Business and Management
  • Sustainability and the Environment
~Albion sci atrium

Science atrium

One student said that the relationships with the professors were the best thing about the college. The largest classes (like Bio or Chem 101) can have upwards of 50-70 students. One student said that he tended to have 35-40 in his first year accounting classes but most have around 20. Sciences tend to be very strong, especially Neuroscience, Environmental Sciences, Geological Sciences, Pre-Engineering, and Sustainability Studies. Professors come to teach here from the larger universities; they say that the science equipment rivals anything the big schools have. Other noteworthy majors include Law, Justice, and Society; Economics and Management; and Ethnic Studies.

~Albion library seating

seating in the library

Job placements trump a lot of other places. 94% of graduates are in full-time work or post-grad upon graduation – and that’s tracking over 16 years! The alumni network is strong both internships as well as post-graduation job placement. Students are encouraged to do research in a variety of areas, not just the sciences. “One of my friends is working on a project about how hip-hop is reviving Detroit.” During the students’ time on campus, Albion also provides an excellent academic support system and have been highly ranked for their support of students on the spectrum.

Applying to the university is free; they’re a Common App exclusive school. They will superscore both the SAT and ACT. They offer a $5,000 scholarship for students who don’t live in MI, OH, or IL; this is stackable with other merit scholarships that a student qualifies for. All scholarships are automatic consideration except the Distinguished Scholars program. Students who qualify for this competition get invited to campus and will receive $1,000 just for attending. DS awards range from $15,000-$23,500. For most students at Albion, the final cost of attendance averages only a few thousand more than UM or MSU.

They have a Nature Center on campus and a River running through the south end. There are wetlands where students can do research. A student farm grows mostly vegetables; it doesn’t produce a lot, but the dining hall will use what they do grow. Students also conduct soil testing and other research there. Students interested can also live in the Environmental House, a 2-minute walk from campus. There is also a large equestrian center owned by Albion. 

(c) 2015

Lycoming College

Lycoming College (visited 11/20/14)

~Lycoming 4NSSE (National Survey of Student Engagement) data about Lycoming (“Lyco”) is highly positive and it’s easy to see why. Their new President (going on his 18th month) is working wonders. He actively seeks partnerships to increase high-impact, real-life learning experiences for students through alumni such as the Hollywood Director looking to make a movie in Williamsport or the director of an archaeological site in Pueblo. A professor just got a Carnegie grant to extend student-accessible research into the Humanities.

~Lycoming concerts

Posters advertising concerts that have been on campus

The college is financially solid and has increased their financial aid by 50% (about $7 million). Valedictorians and Salutatorians get $23,000 a year and can “upgrade with an interview.” They just established a “Third Century Scholarship” (they just celebrated their bicentennial in 2012). Test-optional students are eligible for scholarships: three people will review the two graded writing samples submitted in lieu of scores.

~Lycoming quad 3

One view of the quad

The main part of campus is an actual quad surrounded by a couple dorms, the campus center, and academic buildings. The quad is full during warmer weather; students can use the wifi out there and the power outlets located on the base of the lampposts. Weekends are busy; “I have friends who live nearby who never go home,” said Emily. There’s a large turnout for most sports, and athletes support other teams during their off-season. There are big-name concerts on campus like Maroon 5 and Scotty McCreary. The school runs a lot of off-campus trips such as free Broadway plays (students camp out for those), Gettysburg, ice skating, sky diving, etc.

~Lycoming dorm

One of the freshmen dorms

About 95% of students live on campus. The only all-female dorm is on the quad; others are coed by wing. The college owns 20 houses right off campus, housing about 5 students per building. Housing is chosen by lottery based on both seniority and GPA, so there are times that a student in a higher year (but with a low GPA) might be selecting housing at about the same time as a person one year down with a high GPA.

~Lycoming quad

Another view of the quad

Almost 1/3 of the students are Greek-affiliated. Students cannot rush first semester; they need at least a 2.5 GPA at Lycoming before becoming eligible. There are no specific Greek Houses, but many members will live together on a hall. National chapter dues can cost up to $600 a term; local only cost about $160. “I can afford that out of my own pocket,” said one student.

All classes are scheduled on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Labs meet either Tuesday or Thursday; Scholars Lectures are held on Tuesdays. We visited on a Thursday morning and saw few students; I would have liked to have seen the campus “in action” – classes, students were engaging with each other, etc. The few students we saw in the morning were definitely still waking up! However, the dining hall was full when we got there around 11:45.

~Lycoming grill menu

Grill specials for the week.

We ate lunch in the dining hall, open 7:00-7:00; the late-night area with a grill, pizza place, and smoothie bar opens when the dining hall closes. Meals are good. “I might wait 10-15 minutes for food during the worst of the rush times, but I try to avoid them,” said Emily, our tour guide. They had an extensive salad bar (split into two areas to help with access) and plenty of options for hot food. “I miss eating at the caf,” said an Admissions rep. “They have really good Buffalo Chicken Pizza!” Other students’ favorite meals are the chicken nuggets and wings. They’re always incorporating new meals, and even had a cooking competition once. The winning meal was made at the dining hall for the students.

Our tour guide was a Psych major/Neuroscience minor who wants to be a clinical psychologist. One of the admissions reps is a recent grad who came to Lycoming from California because of the archaeology major, one of top 5 in the country. She loved it and raved about her Archaeology Prof who hosted brunch every Sunday for the students in the major. “My second choice school was UC Davis. After financial aid, it was cheaper here.

Lycoming womens dorm

The all-female dorm on the quad

A few more unusual majors are Actuarial Math, Archaeology and Culture of the Ancient Near East and Mediterranean, Criminology (complete with a Cadaver Lab), and Corporate Communication. Interesting minors include: world politics, neuroscience, multiculturalism, history of philosophy, quantitative economics, and social and economic justice. Students can complete certificates in: 128- or 150-hour Accounting Program, Managerial Economics, Commercial Design, and Sculpture among others.

Sciences are strong (and women make up about half of the students in the sciences!). They have a Planetarium and several astronomy minors. About 50% of science majors will go on to the health fields; we talked to a student continuing on to a Physician’s Assistant degree. She said that working in the cadaver lab gave her a leg-up. In the Microbiology class, students work with bacteria and have even identified new strains. A current student will publish her findings before graduation. She named it “Lycobacillus Colbertis” (she’s hoping to get on his show). We talked to an art major whose favorite class was Dino-biology. He’s incorporating a lot of this into his artwork. “I’ve loved dinosaurs since I was about 5!” They take fieldtrips to nearby Fossil Land and will do digs on the side of the road. “You wouldn’t think we’d find much, but we do!”

Lycoming art studio

The Arts studio

The Fine Arts building used to be the gym; the original floor is still being used in the main studio, and ceramics is in the basement where the pool was. Senior Art majors participate in a year-long capstone which is juried by outside artists. If they don’t get a piece into the final show, they don’t graduate. That’s only happened to 1 person “who didn’t put the effort in,” said the art professor we spoke to. “That being said, you may submit 20 pieces and only get 1 selected – or all 20.” There is also a music program on campus; music classes are in the chapel.

~Lycoming Cost of an F

A board in one of the dorms about “The Cost of an F”

May Term is an optional 4-week term when students can complete 1 class, often study-trips. Our tour guide is registered for “Being Irish,” a psych class which will be held in Ireland.

All freshman and first semester transfers get “Early Assessments” which are like mid-terms but given more frequently. This let them and advisors know how they’re doing early and often. The Dean also sends an email to parents of freshmen every week.

© 2014

Trinity College

Trinity College (visited 3/20/2014)

~Trinity quad 1I was impressed with the friendliness of students at Trinity and their willingness to chat with us. The students we spoke with and saw around campus were happy with the school. Trinity’s attractive campus is about the size you’d expect for a New England campus with 2,300 undergrads (10% of whom are from abroad). Much of the campus is clustered around an extensive quad.

A senior from Anchorage (an English/Econ double major, Urban Planning minor) led our info session. She provided a lot of information, but little that was new or that couldn’t be found on the website. However, I appreciated that there was the attempt to illustrate what made them distinct from similar institutions. The three points she highlighted were:~Trinity main bldg

  • Personal attention and relationships with faculty.
  • Academic flexibility. There’s no core curriculum (which seems to contradict to the requirement that they take 5 distribution classes, 1 each in math, natural sciences, humanities, fine arts, social sciences). Students typically declare their major in the sophomore year and can design their own major if they choose. Students take about 9 classes a year and need 36 to graduate. About a third of these are in the major.
  • Their location in the capital city of Hartford. They’re minutes away from internships, cultural excursions, and fun stuff on the weekend.

~Trinity quadFreshman retention is high, thanks in part to programs geared towards helping students transition to college. First, they offer Quest, an optional pre-orientation 4- or 10-day backpacking trip on the Appalachian Trail in groups of 6-10 freshmen and 2 upperclassmen. Second, the First Year Program allows students to pick from about 50 First Year Seminars (they list their top 5 choices). These are interdisciplinary, include an upperclassman mentor, and often reflect teacher’s interests beyond what they would normally teach. For example, one of the most popular is “History of Mafia in America,” taught by an Italian professor.

Trinity bldg and chapelClasses and programs are often interdisciplinary and take advantage of learning out of the classroom. Trinity now offers Urban Studies, Guided Studies, a Comprehensive Neuroscience program developed into a 5-year Masters, a Human Rights major, and a fully accredited engineering program. New minors include legal studies and marine studies. Students interested in science can shadow professors in a lab by second semester of freshman year. Inter-Arts includes theater and dance, creative writing, studio arts, etc. Students complete a creative colloquium in the second semester.

Students have multiple opportunities to study somewhere other than Trinity’s campus including Study Away programs in the US such as the Theater and Dance program in Manhattan or the Maritime and Conservation Sciences (Seamester). Their Study Abroad is in the country’s top 10 because of the ease of transferring credits and the financial aid that follows the student. They offer three “layers” of study abroad:

  • First: Trinity in Rome. Students live in a school-owned Monastery; the nuns cook dinner. Trinity faculty members teach the classes.
  • Second: affiliated sites. They have close relationship with sites such as Trinidad, Paris, Shanghai, and more; often they have staff to help with transition.
  • Third: students can enroll in one of over 90 pre-approved programs. Previous Trinity students have gone there; the program is up to the school’s standards.

The average class size is 18, “which is inflated because of intro classes of 30-35,” said our tour guide, a music and dance double major from Bethlehem, PA. “I would consider 40 to be huge. My largest class was an econ class of about 30.” Since sophomore year, none of her classes have been bigger than 10.

Trinity housingAll first-year students live together. Although housing isn’t guaranteed after first year, 90% of students live on campus. Most students also stick around on weekends. “It’s definitely not a suitcase school,” our tour guide said. She lives in a townhouse with 8 single bedrooms. There are Cultural Houses (one example is the Tree House, a sustainable living option). The Mill, an Arts Collective, has a theater, art gallery, and recording studio. There are Greek houses (18% of students are affiliated with a Greek organization but not all of them live in Greek housing); Greek events are open to everyone and often involve free food.

~Trinity chapel interiorAlthough there is a Chapel on campus (which had been under the auspices of the Episcopalian Diocese), the college no longer has a religious affiliation. There’s a strong presence of many religions as well as religious leaders on campus (Catholic masses, an active Hillel house, etc). The Chapel is used for several traditions and group meetings on campus. For example, new students all sign the Matriculation Book in the chapel. They also have a tradition involving a Lemon Squeezer. The President makes lemonade and they all drink together. The class deemed “most worthy” gets a lemon squeezer which has been stolen by people who think they’re more worthy.

Located right in the city of Hartford, students have access to amazing internships, especially in the fields of medicine and politics. Students teach, tutor, and coach across the street in the “Learning Corridor” (a Montessori, magnet middle and high schools) or at the Boys & Girls club. There are plenty of good restaurants, an art museum with free student nights, and more. The SGA funds a shuttle during evenings and weekends, and students can get dropped off downtown or at the mall. For longer trips or if they need to go somewhere when the shuttles aren’t running, they can rent zipcars. The campus boasts the first student-run, non-profit movie theater in the country, showing 1-2 movies a day ranging from Blockbusters to Indies, Documentaries to Festivals.

The university gets about 7000 applicants for 450 spots. They want people who challenge themselves but who “aren’t drowning in APs.” They’re committed to meeting 100% of demonstrated need. Most students graduate with less than $19,000 in loans. Merit based scholarships are granted based on the admissions application.

© 2014

University of Vermont

University of Vermont (visited 4/15/14)

~UVM mascotIn case you were wondering, UVM comes from the Latin Universitas Viridis Montis, or University of the Green Mountains.

~UVM 2Located in Burlington, UVM is the state’s flagship, land-grant university. With almost 10,000 undergraduates and 1,800 graduate students (about ¼ of whom are in the medical school), students say that it’s the “perfect size.” Although this is the flagship state university, 65% of students are not from Vermont; “There just aren’t that many students in Vermont,” said the tour guide. There’s a lot of diversity, openness, acceptance, and safe spaces around campus. In fact, it’s the first college in the country to have written into its bylaws that it wasn’t adhering to a particular religious sect – and was also the first school to all women and African Americans full membership status in Phi Beta Kappa.

~UVM sci cntr interior 3

Stairs in the Science Center

“UVM fits any student,” said one of the students we talked to. “It’s inclusive.” In additional to more traditional types of Gen-Ed requirements, the school has a Diversity Requirement. Students must take 1 D1 (Diversity 1) class which covers Race/Racism in the US. They can either then complete one more D1 class or a D2 class which is “Human and Societal Diversity.”

~UVM Sci Cntr interior

Atrium of the Science Center

Some of the more unusual majors are Holocaust Studies, Community Entrepreneurship, Community and International Development, Molecular Genetics, Sustainable Landscape Horticulture, and Neuroscience. Athletic Training, Nursing, and Exercise Science are competitive and some of the most popular majors; nursing is restricted by capacity. They have a 5-year Engineering program with St. Mikes. It’s more difficult to transfer into Engineering or Nursing/health sciences if students don’t declare them coming in, but not impossible. Students completing an Animal Science major have an opportunity to gain early admission to the Tufts University Vet School. People in these departments can still study abroad and minor outside the department which is a bit unusual.

The science center is one of the newest buildings on campus. They made use of local woods for the flooring which changes color to imitate changing landscapes (designed with student input). The building has “awesome lab spaces,” according to our tour guide, including hydraulics, soil, and more. They even have a wind tunnel!

~UVM museum

Museum

Their business program puts a great deal of focus on current themes in the business world such as global issues and entrepreneurship. Our tour guide also raved about the strong theater and music programs. They have three main stage events every year, and students are involved in the technical aspect as well. Their art department is impressive, and the university owns the largest art collection in the state (but is that saying much?).

~UVM statue 3Students can be admitted to the Honors Program as a freshman or apply for sophomore admission with a certain GPA and recs from professors. Students in the program live in the newest housing on campus, and the seminars for the first 4 semesters are held in this building. Our tour guide said that her Pursuit of Knowledge was a nice break from Engineering, and the seminars are interesting. She took Discovering a Sense of Place: Transcendentalism. During Junior year, they take a thesis prep course to get ready for their senior thesis.

~UVM theater

Theater Building

~UVM sculptureStudents must live on campus for the first two years. 70% of juniors and seniors move off, but they don’t have to. The tour guides said that there’s way more to do on campus than there’s time to do it all. They laughed when they told us about “The Bored Calendar” which lists all the activities on and around campus. Students complete quite a bit of community service right in Burlington, a city all the students raved about. “We’re in a city on a lake surrounded by mountains.” Church Street is a pedestrian area, well utilized by students and townies alike. When they get sick of the local area, they can hop on the Megabus which goes to both NY and Boston.

Internships and career development are big. The host several career fairs every year with lots of out-of-state employers coming to each. One of the admissions reps said that “Career success is everyone’s job on campus.” Within 6 months of graduation, 20% of alumni are in grad school and 80% are employed.

© 2014

Middlebury College

Middlebury College (visited 4/14/14)

The director of admissions described Middlebury as a “quaint, quintessential small new England Liberal Arts College – but we’re not content just to be that.” They’re working to expand both programs and buildings and programs. For example, they’re expanding their relationship with the Prose Foundation for students interested in STEM programs. They also have new study abroad offerings in India and Cameroon with more being added all the time.

They are currently downsizing because they have actually overenrolled over the last few years and are hovering just under 2,500 students. This year, they brought in 575 new freshmen and 85 new in February. Middlebury’s mid-year enrollment has been around a lot longer than other schools who have recently started up the trend, and it remains popular here; the term “Febs” is a common word in the vernacular to refer to these students. Middlebury provides as good an orientation for them as for those starting in the fall, and the Febs cohort becomes close. Because many of them also graduate mid-year, they hold a “Ski Bowl graduation” (and they’re also welcome to walk in the spring).

This year, apps were down by about 10% but overall have doubled in the last 10 years. Their main overlaps include Bowdoin, Williams, Brown, and Dartmouth. One of the admissions reps said that size is the difference; it offsets the location. Most students live on campus; they can apply to move off during junior or senior year, but usually don’t. They have Social Houses (their version of Learning Living Communities) in which students can propose the themes. All students are on the all-you-can-eat meal plan, so they can come and go as they want. The tour guide said that this was great for when they want a cup of coffee or a snack between classes. Two of the dining halls serve all three meals; one only serves breakfast and lunch.

They have a strong honor code, but this has come under scrutiny lately.

Most of the buildings are impressive, and made of gray stone. Campus is sprawling and well-maintained with large grassy areas, occasional sculptures, and some trees that students are happy to put to use for hanging their hammocks.  There are lots of bikes on campus which I imagine are useful; the campus is certainly walkable, but also fairly large for the size of the student body.  Several students were out and about; many seemed a bit preppy.

Middlebury offers the full range of majors that you would expect at a liberal arts institution with a few unusual additions including Neuroscience; languages such as Hebrew, Arabic, and Japanese (not surprising since they’re known for their language instruction); History of Art and Architecture (including concentrations in Museum Studies, Architecture and the Environment, and Architectural Studies); and Film and Media Culture. They have a strong involvement in the arts, but many more people participate than will major in theater, music, and dance. Several students participate in the Potomac Theater Project. They have to audition to participate as an actor or technician, but if they they’re accepted, they spend 6-8 weeks in NYC during the summer to work with equity actors. Mostly juniors and seniors go, but sometimes sophomores are accepted.

© 2014

 

Denison University

Denison University (visited 4/13/12)

I drove into town expecting this to feel very much the same was as many of the other small Ohio towns I had been driving into. Instead, I was met with a quaint, very clean, very walkable couple blocks of “downtown” with almost a New England town feel. Traffic was light enough for me to cruise slowly down main street looking for a coffee shop and/or a place to pick up a sandwich; turns out I could do both in the same place. I took my stuff to go and drove around the block to the entrance to campus, at which point I had to wind my way up a large hill. Suddenly, I crested the hill and was on campus with imposing brick buildings and more winding roads forking off in a variety of directions.

Denison 3The campus makes the university feel like it has a much larger population than it has; the 2,000ish students have access to a huge variety of resources (and as a new person coming on campus, I was hugely grateful for the very well-marked signs getting people around campus!). Most buildings are large brick structures which contributed to what I would describe as traditional-looking. I particularly liked that the college deliberately arranged the academic departments: classes for the department and the corresponding faculty offices occupy the same hallways so that classes, labs, and most importantly, the professors are easily accessible. The campus itself is set up around several Quads; academics and some residential units are mixed together (although this is not completely the case). For example, there’s an art quad way down the hill by the entrance to the university with dorms for upper-classmen so they can live close to the majority of their classes if they choose to do so; however, there is a nice mix of where people live so it does not have a feeling of segregation by major (self-imposed or otherwise).

Denison 2Perhaps the coolest housing option I’ve seen so far is their “Homestead” which is an off-campus cooperative, alternative-energy housing option (and animals are allowed in this housing option). This is a student-run house which holds 12 students at a time who want to learn more about sustainability. Freshmen are housed in traditional-style dorms: double rooms with smallish bathrooms down the hall. However, the bathrooms have actual shower stalls with doors that close rather than shower curtains which is nicer than some other dorm bathrooms that I’ve seen. Only two dorms have more than 200 students; four housing options hold six students each. The university is in the process of building new apartments for seniors; all students are required to live on campus, but they make an effort to “reward” the upperclassmen with better housing that almost phases them into the real world. The apartments have kitchens and the residents are not required to have meal plans. There are two dining halls on campus which make it easy to get meals regardless of where students live or where they are for classes.

Denison 1My tour guide described Denison as a bit of hippy campus, although it didn’t entirely come across that way as an observer. Students are definitely independent and go-getters, but also looked a bit preppy; overall, the students I saw walking around campus were a little more dressed up than students at many other campuses I’ve been on. People on campus engaged with each other, saying hi and addressing each other by name (this went for the professor-student interactions I witnessed as well). Students and faculty were all over campus for the duration of my time there, not just during the passing-times between classes. All of this backed up the community feel that the tour guide talked about. One of the things that she particularly liked about campus was the large nature preserve contiguous with campus that students use to hike, do environmental research, and even go camping in. She appreciated two other areas about the college that she felt were worth mentioning: one was that no class is bigger than 32, and she has had many classes with fewer than 10 students. The second was that she got to take Homeric Greek which she didn’t even consider until college and realized it was an option (they also teach Portuguese, French, Spanish, German, Chinese, Japanese, and Arabic on a regular basis and some other languages as requested). Certificate Programs in some unusual areas such as Neuroscience, Queer Studies, Astronomy, and Geophysics are offered. Students interested in the Public Service, Political Science, or Government can join the Lugar Scholars Program (named for a State Senator who graduated from Denison in the 50s); the two tracks allow students to focus on American Politics or International Affairs.

(c) 2012

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