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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

 

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University of Pittsburgh

University of Pittsburgh (visited 11/7/15) Pitt sign 2

~Pitt Cath int

The main floor of the Cathedral

~Pitt Cath of Lrng 2

Cathedral of Learning

I was expecting a bit more of a campus feel from Pitt, but the university is very much incorporated into the city. The “crowning glory” is the Cathedral of Learning, a 42-story tower that looms over much of the area; the story is that when the university moved to its currently location, they wanted everyone in the city to know where it was … hence the tower. It was constructed in 1936-37, and contains classrooms, offices, and Nationality Rooms; all of them reflect the country at the time except for two: the French room (built in Napoleonic style), and the Early American room (as a side note, it’s supposedly haunted). The main room has large vaulted ceilings (very Harry Potteresque); it’s normally filled with tables and gets used as a meeting and studying area; during the holidays, it gets decked out, and banquets and dinners are often held in here. They also bring therapy dogs into this area on Tuesdays.

Pitt main street

The main street from one of the pedestrian bridges connecting academic buildings.

A dorm cluster

A dorm cluster

This is a public university but is not part of Pennsylvania’s university systems (Penn State & affiliates or the Penn. System of Higher Education). Originally opening in a log cabin in 1787, it’s now coed and home to more than 18,000 undergraduates – “but it feels small. I recognize a lot of people,” said our tour guide. It’s a relatively compact campus, taking about 10 minutes to walk from one end to the other. It’s easy to walk to off-campus areas, and public transportation is free for students. The college also runs shuttles to the airport, student athletic games, and more.

Dorm towers

Dorm towers

This is the first year that more than 50% of students have come from out-of-state. Students are guaranteed housing for 3 years. Rent in town is cheap (a friend of the tour guide pays $300 a month) and housing is easy to find. Eight of the freshmen halls are traditional dorms; the last one has suites. Sophomores are usually in suites and juniors tend to get campus apartments. Only about 9% of the student are Greek-affiliated “but it’s going up.” Rush is delayed and there are no sorority houses, but groups can live together in dorms if they want.

More dorms

More dorms

Part of the Biology complex (which includes neuroscience)

Part of the Biology complex (which includes neuroscience)

“The academic culture here is really collaborative. It’s not cutthroat. People are nice. They’re happy to be here,” said the tour guide. He couldn’t be happier with his education and the opportunities presented to him. He’s an Art History and PoliSci double major and isn’t having problems completing the requirements or getting to know professors who “are really accessible: I had one hold extra office hours at Dunkin’ Donuts down the street.” Almost all the faculty are full-time; the 6% of faculty who are adjuncts are professionals in their field, such as a police officer teaching forensics, etc.

~Pitt students

The Pitt Chapel with CMU - the building with columns - right behind it.

The Pitt Chapel with CMU – the building with columns – right behind it.

All students must have a major and a minor (or a double major). If they aren’t finding classes they’re interested in (hard to imagine with the number offered), they can cross-register at one of nine area schools including Carnegie Mellon (literally across the street) or Carlow, about half a mile away. One of his friends took Bag-piping at CMU. Pitt also teams up with CMU to offer ROTC (Army and AF at Pitt, Navy at Case Western).

One of the special programs that Pitt offers is OCC (“Outside the Classroom Curriculum”) to help students engage in a variety of extra-curricular programming and events. There are 10 goal areas including wellness, career prep, and Pitt Pride; students get a $5000 scholarship every SEMESTER after they complete this!

The World Series Home Plate

The World Series Home Plate

Sports are a big deal here (and Pitt owns the home plate from the 1970 Pirates v. Cubs game, on display in one of the buildings). We visited on a game day; lots of schools buses were shuttling students to and from the stadium, kids were decked out in Pitt gear (including face paint), and there was a general sense of festivity in the air. Students pay $25 for a season football pass to Pitt football games, but most sports do draw out a lot of fans. Temple, Penn State, and Notre Dame are their big rivals. The major league sports in town give students deals if they want to professional sports: There are $7 nights for the Pirates, and the Penguins cost $27 for a “random seat – you could be in the nose bleed section or up against the glass,” said the tour guide.

Conflict Cafe

Conflict Cafe

For students wanting more than sports, Pittsburgh doesn’t disappoint. Town-gown relations are good, and lots of places cater to the large college population in town. For example, our tour guide got $25 tickets to Wicked. Pittsburgh has any kind of entertainment you want – museums, music, movies, food, etc. In the park across the street from campus, Conflict Kitchen has set up shop: it only serves food from countries that the US is in conflict with. They were serving Iraqi food when I visited.

The Pitt Mascot

The Pitt Mascot

Students interested in the schools of Nursing, Engineering, Business, and Arts & Sciences enter those directly. Students interested in the other schools (Social Work, Education, Info Sciences, Pharmacy, Health and Rehabilitation Sciences) must complete prerequisites and begin their major in the junior year if they qualify. A few noteworthy majors included Applied Developmental Psychology, Urban StudiesMathematical Biology, History and Philosophy of ScienceEcology and Evolution, and Linguistics. Unusual minors include either Polymer or Petroleum Engineering, Aerobics, and Aquatics.

Campus is a contrast of old and new buildings.

Campus is a contrast of old and new buildings.

Applicants who visit Pitt (take a tour or attend a visit day) can get their application fee waived.

© 2015

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