campus encounters

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Archive for the tag “nuclear engineering”

Virginia Commonwealth University

Virginia Commonwealth University (visited 3/13/17)

VCU 1

One of the dorms; much of campus sits on streets like this

Students looking for an urban campus with lots of diversity, school spirit, and big sports will do well here. However, they need to be willing to advocate for themselves.

This is a state school with 24,000 undergrads, 37% of whom are male and 89% coming from in-state. Gen Ed classes run 150-200 students in lecture halls, but the upper level major classes average 27 students. “It’s the students’ job to take advantage of the opportunities.” Classes are varied, as you’d expect from a school this size. A couple favorite classes were Cultural Text and Context about Egypt and Women in Global Politics.

VCU ped walkway

The pedestrian walkway part of central campus

Campus sits in the middle of Richmond with almost no “central campus” in the traditional sense. However, location means there’s plenty to do, and students have opportunities to connect to the community, get internships, and apply what they’ve learned. The James River is minutes away from campus with hiking and other activities. Richmond itself is centrally located, only 1.5 hours to Virginia Beach and a little more than 2 hours to DC.

VCU 2

One of the older buildings on campus

VCU is a relatively new institution, starting in 1968 when 2 colleges merged. The main campus sits on the site of one school; all the medical programs (including graduate schools) are on the other one a couple miles away. The do offer a Guaranteed Admissions Program for some honors students into several of the graduate health programs as long as they meet the minimum requirements. This is not binding so it’s ok if they change their mind. Applications for this have a hard November 15 deadline; students need a 1330 SAT or 29 ACT and a 3.5 unweighted GPA. Beyond that, they should have done something to stand out such as shadowing or volunteering.

Engineering and the Arts are big here:

  • Engineering has offerings in Biomedical, Chemical and Life Science, Electrical and Computer, and Mechanical and Nuclear.
  • VCU arts 1

    One of the art studios

    The Arts Department includes both visual ad performing arts.

    • Visual arts are very much studio-based. “It allows us to establish ourselves and experiment,” said a junior painting/printmaking major from Kansas. “I wanted to go somewhere where I had the resources of an entire university.” He loves the program and is very happy with his decision to come to VCU, but said the downfall is that they don’t get any help in establishing a design portfolio. “We’re on our own to figure that out.” There also aren’t really any internships easily available or at least advertised. “I looked online; I think this major is the only one with nothing listed for internship opportunities,” he told me.
    • Unusual offerings include Kinetic Imaging and Craft and Material Studies.
VCU plaza

The plaza outside the main dining commons (to the left). The library is the glass building on the right.

Humanities and Sciences, of course, is the biggest school. A few unusual offerings are Military Science and Leadership, Statistical Sciences and Operations Research, Kinesiology, and Forensic Science.

The smallest majors/schools are Social Work (35 freshman) and Life Sciences with 51 freshmen (this includes Bioinformatics, Envi Sci, and Integrative Life Sciences; biology and other sciences are in the Arts and Sciences division).

Students really like the diversity on campus. “Campus shows off the spectrum of people there. I’ve made friends from all over,” said one of the tour guides (we had 3).

VCU LLC 1

An LLC building

There are plenty of living opportunities such as LLCs and Global Living. There is no residency requirement, but 74% of freshmen do live on campus. Food gets good reviews from the students: “There’s so much food! They keep adding new options every year.” The dining hall sometimes runs what they call ‘Upper Cuts’ which serves “really, really great food!” according to one of the tour guides. It requires a second swipe on the meal plan. Restaurant Row, on one of the main streets running through campus, takes Rams Bucks. For students living off campus, it’s easy to find apartments and houses to rent near campus.

VCU dormAdmissions is rolling, and it takes about 4-6 weeks to get a decision after application is complete. They recommend that students include their SSN on the app to facilitate the link to FAFSA. This streamlines, the process, reduces mistakes, and allows them to get the package to students earlier. Students applying by Jan 15 will get an answer by April 1 at the latest. Test scores are optional for students with a 3.3 GPA at the time of application BUT are required for merit scholarships, the Honors College, Engineering majors, and for homeschooled applicants. If you want to get considered for automatic-consideration scholarships – apply by 11/15!!!

VCU stu cntrThe Honors College will look at writing on standardized tests; regular admissions does not. Priority deadline for freshman Honors Program is 2/1. The Guaranteed Admissions program falls under the honors college: if you’re admitted to GA, you’re admitted to HC, but not vice versa! The application for GA is on the Honors College website and is completely separate from the Common App.

© 2017

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Missouri University of Science and Technology

Missouri University of Science and Technology (visited 2/23-25)

MST civil engo student

A student working in the Civil Engineering lab

Missouri S&T is perfect for dedicated students who want hands-on experience at a medium-sized school and a job at graduation. In 2015-16, 1158 employers recruited on campus. “Students get the outcomes they want,” shown in top rankings for return on investment.

 

As one of 4 state universities (and the Land Grant school), MST is a top public research university and ranked #3 Best Engineering university after Colorado Mines and Georgia Tech beating out RPI, WPI, and MIT! Students are problem solvers; most students complete a Freeform lab where they have to figure out how to do the labs! “Math and science are our tools. You need to be capable. That doesn’t mean you love it or use it every day.” Non-engineering students take Business Calculus (except bio and chem majors who take engineering calc).

MST wave machine

Wave Machine lab

“Engineers know this is a top-notch school – but we’re hidden because we’re in Missouri,” said a student. Located about 1.5 hours from St. Louis, Rolla is a small city but there’s still plenty to do. One of the counselors asked about racial issues and the general climate in town. “This can be a difficult sell,” said a rep. “I understand the fear. It’s rural Missouri, but in a liberal bubble. That being said, it’s also a STEM school which makes it heavily male.” However, the women graduate at an 8% higher rate and can say why they’re doing what they’re doing … this was evident through multiple conversations with students over 3 days on campus. The gender ratio is going up. “You get used to it. It’s less pronounced at the beginning, but is more so as you get further into the major. The professors definitely know who the girls are!”

 

MST design center 2

The Design Center for Design Teams

“Students are excited to be here. These are serious students. College is on purpose. They’re not doing it to get away from home,” said a professor. A rep echoed that: “It’s a point of pride to have the highest GPA in the fraternity.” Everyone loves what they do. That goes for athletics, too: “There are lots of athletics, but no one is going pro. They know that. We don’t have the winningest football team, but we do have the smartest!”

 

Another rep said, “Our kids come from the top of their classes. They’ve been the ones helping others. The big challenge is getting them to ask for help when they need it.” A professor said something similar. “Most of them have never needed help before.” Student success is a high priority. If grades drop “beyond a percentage of the student’s normal grades,” the system alerts the faculty who talk to the students. They think this is partly responsible for retention rising to the high 80s.

MST civil engo int

The Civil and Architectural Engineering building

With 15 engineering programs, the College of Engineering and Computing draws the most students. In addition to the more common types of engineering, they offer:

 

  • Ceramic: One of the students wants to work on shuttle tiles for NASA
  • Petroleum: this is one of the highest paid degrees
  • Geological: Students are helping to develop grasses that absorb specific elements to help determine where mines are in minefields.
  • Mining
    • The experimental mine is about 10 minutes off campus.
    • Undergrads can earn a certificate in Explosives (Explosive Engineering is a graduate program)
  • Nuclear: There’s a working nuclear reactor on campus, 1 of 9 available to undergrads in the US.
  • Architectural: 1 of less than 25 in the country
  • Metallurgical
  • There are several engineering minors including Biomedical, Mineral Process, Automation, and Humanitarian Engineering and Science. These pair well with a major directly related to what they want to do.
MST mine 6

The experimental mine

Regardless of which engineering degree they choose (or being undecided), freshmen spend 3 semesters taking pre-req coursework and career exploration. The students we spoke to found this invaluable. One student didn’t change his mind, “but it confirmed what I thought I wanted.” Another student changed her major, and a third said that it helped her figure out what was out there.

 

Students tend to be well rounded. They want STEM but don’t want to give up on the other interests they have. This shows up in the minors and extra-curriculars they participate in. One engineering major we spoke to is double-minoring in 2 theater areas.

MST student hammockMST also offers liberal arts degrees (ranked in the top 10% for LA salaries) and looking to grow these. They’re starting a BS in History in addition to the existing BA. This includes the same Gen Ed courses as the sciences and without the BA language requirement. Students can get certified to teach (they have the #1 Secondary Teacher Education Program in MO) including a STEM Elementary Ed program and Program Lead the Way certification.

MST solar house 9

One of the solar houses

All students are required to complete an experiential learning experience. Almost 1000 students completed a co-op (semester+summer/8-9 months) or internship (summer OR semester/3-4 months) in 43 states and 3 international locations earning over $3200/month on average.

 

MST solar house design team

The 2017 Solar House team

Design teams (18 to choose from) count as Experiential Learning. “You need everyone on the team, and there are lots of ways to participate. It opens doors they haven’t considered. It builds a culture of research that’s infectious.” All teams do their own marketing and some fundraising, but there’s lots of corporate and alumni donations. Options include:

 

  • DrillBotics
  • Solar Car
  • Solar House
  • Mars Rover: won a national championship and competed in Poland.
  • Engineers without Borders: There are 4 Teams and 4-5 trips offered every year for ongoing water and sanitation projects.
  • MST steel bridge team 2

    The steel bridge team putting together their project

    Concrete canoe: this has to be filled with water and hold 3 people and still float/perform in races

  • Steel Bridge = 1/10 size
  • Solar House
    • First they submit a design. About 18 are selected to move on.
    • Second, a student-led team builds it on campus and ship it to the contest and without breaking. All must be 0-Net but often produce more energy than they use. Part of the contest is marketability. One house was made out of shipping containers with carpet made from recycled fishing nets. Students now live in the houses!
MST dorm room 1

One of the triple rooms in University Commons

Students must live in university housing until they complete 60 credits. This includes Greek housing (mostly off campus; 22% go Greek but not all live in housing) and the Christian Campus Houses (run by an off-campus entity). Thomas Jefferson Hall offers traditional dorm-style living with a dining hall attached. University Commons offers suite styles with an option for a triple room. These are cheaper and never required. “We found that lots of students came to us in trios from high school and wanted to room together. It’s just another option.” The Student Center is directly across the road with several food options.

 

MST frat house

One of the smaller frat houses sitting right next to campus; the large new ones are off campus

Safety is good. Students said they frequently walk around alone at night and never had an issue. Things are well lit, and no one ever heard of a blue light being used. Parking is available – but not always where they want it! Spots/lots are assigned based on seniority. One student we talked to just parked in town and found it as convenient. “I got 4 parking tickets over 3 years. At $10 a pop, it was cheaper than 1 year of paying to park on campus.” Parking stickers are $135.80 per year.

 

MST quad 1Admissions will take a risk on some kids who have low GPAs with high test scores (“they’re not following through with the work,” said a rep). They’ll bring 160 students into the Success Program and assign them a mentor to get them on track. For scholarship purposes, they only look at GPA through the end of junior year, but students can take the standardized tests through December if they need to increase the score. MST won’t superscore either exam but do not penalize for multiple testing. The Priority deadline is 12/1; based on available funds, they’ll look at apps through 2/1.

MST chem eng bldg

The Chemistry and Chemical Engineering building

New students attend 2 orientations: first, “Preview, Registration, and Orientation (PRO)” starting in February where students take their math placement, get academic advising, Financial Aid and parent info sessions, etc. Then they complete a full-week orientation where they’re assigned to a group of 20 to complete social and team projects. They have Reconnection 1 a few weeks into the year and Reconnection 2 right after midterms. They also have one of the best transfer programs in the country and are known as a model for this.

MST arch engo 1

Some of the Architectural Engineering projects

The big tradition revolves around St. Patrick’s Day; MST gives students 2 days off for “spring recess.” For weeks in advance, they have countdowns, chants on Fridays, etc. In the middle of the night, they’ll paint the street green “using some eco-friendly paint.” On the day, they carve shillelagh and act out mock killings of rubber snakes. They hold contests such as wearing the most green or who can put on the most St Pat’s sweatshirts. There’s a formal ball held that weekend. The official school colors are gold and silver – “it is a mining school!” – but the unofficial color is green because of St. Patrick, the patron saint of miners.

© 2017

 

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (visited 7/28/15)

RPI Troy

The city of Troy as seem from campus.

The armory

The armory

Located up the hill from downtown Troy, RPI is a beautiful campus with eclectic architecture ranging from a new glass performing arts center to an old armory. The university itself feels very separated from the city even though it’s mere blocks away from downtown. Troy itself doesn’t have a great reputation, but the university itself is in a nice, relatively safe neighborhood.

~RPI fishbowl

The “Fishbowl”

The university has a long-standing reputation for engineering. In fact, it was the first university to offer civil engineering in the English-speaking world. Don’t let this reputation fool you, though. “I was surprised at the students. I thought it would be full of engineering nerds, and it’s not that way at all!” said the tour guide. Unfortunately, that was one of the few times I could get him “off script” so I don’t feel that I have as good a grasp on what life is like on campus – other than students are active and very focused!

~RPI frat house

One of the Frat Houses

RPI has a 92% retention rate so they’re doing something right. Almost 1/3 of students affiliate with a Greek organization; Greek houses are located all over including downtown (although this can be a bit sketchy; Troy as a whole doesn’t have a great reputation – but the campus itself is in a nice, relatively safe neighborhood. Just be forewarned!). The university has one of the few student–run unions left, and they’re controlling an $80m budget. Clubs range from Cheese-lovers and Cheerleading to Quidditch and What is a Club? Club. The largest lecture hall on campus (in addition to holding a couple classes and sometimes exams) is where they show $1.50 movies every weekend.

~RPI 5A couple of RPI’s bragging points:

  • They have two Supercomputers: Amos and Watson, the supercomputer that beat jeopardy contestants. The only prerequisite to use this computer is to take the Intro to Computer Science class which most people take freshman year.
  • They have a complete virtual lab; students put on a black suit and become part of the game. They also host a gaming conference on campus.
~RPI dorm quad 2

The Dorm Quad

Students must live on campus freshman and sophomore year. The freshman quad has 7 buildings: 6 with doubles, 1 with triples and quads (2 rooms and a bath). Freshmen can’t have cars, but all students have access to the free public transportation, and the school runs shuttles to the Albany airport and the train station.

~RPI dorms 2

Upperclassmen housing

Co-ops are open to all students and are completed over a semester and a summer. During this time, students are not officially enrolled at RPI so they are not taking classes or paying tuition. Co-op students go wherever the company sends them; they’re paid and are sometimes given housing. Only about 30% of students complete this because many don’t’ have time to take a semester off from classes and still graduate on time. Those who do co-ops usually come in with credit or will take some extra classes here and there. Internships mostly are during the summer. Students can get paid OR get credit, but not both. About 70% will complete an internship. About 80% of students who do internships or co-ops end up getting a job with that company.

~RPI engo bldg 1

An Engineering building

Engineering is the largest school at the university with about 50% of each incoming class entering this division. Undecided students can have until the 3rd semester to declare one of the 11 specialties within this department. The school puts a strong emphasis on practicalities with a Professional Development sequence built into the curriculum. For example, some lectures discuss soft skills (presentations, communication, etc.) needed to be successful but are often glossed over in many engineering programs.

~RPI observatory

The Observatory

The Architecture school admits approximately 70-80 students a year. Applicants must submit a creative portfolio of drawing, painting, etc. They don’t want technical or CAD Drawings. Students can choose between the 5-year BArch program or the 4-year Building Science program. BArch students are ready to sit for the certification exam. Students wanting to study off campus can go abroad for a semester in China, India, or Italy, or they go to the CASE program in NYC.

~RPI arts bldg

The new arts building

Business is another small school accepting maybe 50 students per year. The only Bachelor’s degree they offer is in management Tech, but students can minor in subjects at any school as well as complete concentrations within the business school. Students coming out of this program boast an 89% success rate with start-ups.

~RPI playhouse

The RPI Playhouse

The department that most people don’t expect to find at a school like this is Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. They call this the “liberal arts school for the 21st Century.” All students have to take 8 courses (24 credit-hours) in this division. In fact, many students dual major with a major in HASS OR complete a co-terminal degree (BS and MS in 5 years). They’ll Students coming in with AP credits can use some of them towards this requirement. Like in other divisions, they place a strong focus on teamwork and collaboration. For students looking for the co-terminal degrees, RPI extends scholarships and Financial Aid for the 5th year by letting students retain undergrad status.

RPI offers several accelerated programs; students selected to participate in these programs may not double major, and those in the Med program must be US Citizens.

  • The Accelerated-Med program combines 3 years at RPI and 4 years at Albany Medical. Students accepted into this program do not need to take the MCATs. Students must apply as incoming freshmen to this highly competitive program: Only 30-40 students a year are selected from 600 applicants. They do run another program with Mt. Sinai which is less competitive; students can apply once they get to campus.
  • Accelerated Law students have several options: They may major in Business & Management OR in Science, Technology, & Law. Both of these are 3+3 programs starting at RPI and completed at Albany Law, Columbia Law, or Cornell Law (Business only).

© 2015

Oregon State University

Oregon State University (visited 7/16/13)

OSU nobel

Pauling’s Nobel prize for Chemistry

Oregon State sold us when they took us into their Special Archives and Research Facility on the top floor of the library to show us their Linus Pauling collection … and let us hold both his Chemistry and his Peace Nobel prizes. Pauling, who at 15 had earned enough high school credits to start at OSU (but was missing two required classes to technically graduate from high school), started taking classes. When he had to drop out in order to support his widowed mother and his siblings, the university offered to let him continue if he would teach introductory chemistry classes for them. Their generosity turned out well for OSU because they were given all of Pauling’s stuff(including both the Nobels) for their archives – which holds much more than this. They’re also known for their collections on the History of the Pacific, History of Science, and more. They’ll hire students as interns; the current curator is an alumnus who started as an intern and is now in his seventh year as a full-time employee.

Living Sculptures

Living Sculptures

OSU Waldo

Waldo Hall

The outskirts of OSU are not attractive (it looks like a stereotypical big state university), but the main part of campus is attractive and had a blend of old, renovated buildings and brand new facilities. There were five construction projects going on, including a new Business facility. Waldo Hall is one of the nicest of the old buildings; although it’s touted as having a “Harry Potter feel,” I don’t think it really does (although it’s beautiful – and supposedly haunted!). We passed by an amazing Living Sculpture called “Pomp and Circumstance” meant to convey a professor and several students. Completed several years ago out of birch, willow, and other branches, the willow branches have since started to regrow, making it a true living sculpture.

The engineering complex

The engineering complex

OSU engo bldn

The inside of one of the Engineering buildings

OSU’s Engineering department is perhaps the “flagship program” of the university. There are approximately 5000 engineering students (about 20% of the student body) with women and minorities making up about 20-25% of the program. Students start immediately Department, taking the basics for two years before specializing in one of 14 different areas. Their Nuclear Engineering program is one of 20 in the country, and Oregon State Troopers are stationed on campus because of the nuclear reactor. The Environmental Engineering program is a collaboration between agriculture and engineering. The Automotive Engineering program is amazing. Students form teams to create cars and race them in international competitions. Every student on the team has a chance to drive during the testing phase; the group decides who is the most skilled/fastest for the actual competition. They’ve won against hundreds of other universities, including Cornell and MIT. Outside of the classroom, there are 40 engineering-themed clubs and organizations that involve of hands-on collaboration and competition. Overall, 97% of the students who take the FE exam pass it; it isn’t required of all students because some don’t need it (the Biomedical students going on to med school wouldn’t take it, for example), but it is encouraged.

OSU 2OSU is a land, air, sea, and sun grant school (Cornell is the only other school in the country with all four designations), and they are considered the state’s research university. Several of their programs (such as forestry and marine sciences) demonstrate their commitment to and strength in these areas. They also have strong apparel and interior design programs complete with extensive textile labs; their business and education programs also earn high marks from faculty, students, and outside ranking agencies.

OSU baseballIt’s no surprise that sports are big here. The baseball team has made it to the College World Series, and football is a huge part of the culture here. Of the two students I spoke to, both said that their favorite school tradition is the way that students get tickets for games: they can camp out for 2 days before regular games and up to a week before the Civil War (aka the game between OSU and U of O).

OSU 1During lunch with some faculty members, I asked what the draw might be for students coming from the East Coast. They agreed that students come here for the lifestyle. Corvallis has 35,000 students and has lots to do (they noted that’s it’s a big foodie haven). Outdoorsy people love it because of the proximity to so much from the coast to the mountains.

OSU dorm

One of the dorms

OSU, along with several other schools on the West Coast, uses the “Insight Resume” as part of the application. There are six short-answer questions required ranging in topics from Community Service to Dealing With Adversity. They use this to look at students’ involvement, realistic self-assessments, commitment to activities over time, and more. Students must submit standardized test scores; these are used in the admissions process if the student is on the bubble for admissions, and they’re used for distribution of scholarship and invitation into the Honors Program. To be considered for scholarships, applications need to be submitted by February 1, although admissions itself is on a rolling basis. They do not award WUE.

OSU quad

The quad as seen from the top of the library

It was nice that the tour guides had to think about things they’d want to change about the school. One eventually mentioned that some of the roads could use repaving. However there’s not much driving allowed through the middle of campus (mostly delivery trucks come through). They like that parking is relatively easy: all parking is along the outskirts of campus and lots are big. Permits cost $200 a year. The school is expanding in many ways: they’ve hired 18 new faculty members, built a new business school, a new residence hall, and even a longhouse. There are currently 14 dorms (plus the new one opening soon), and students can apply for housing after they’ve been admitted. Roommates are selected through an “eharmony type of matching process” and can find their own. Campus is safe, with bike theft and minors in possession pretty much the extent of crime found on campus.

(c) 2013

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