POINT PARK UNIVERSITY (visited 5/24/16)
Point Park is a small, very urban university set right in the heart of Downtown Pittsburgh. The modern, well-maintained buildings are clustered mostly within about 4 blocks, although there are a couple outliers located another block or two away from the main part of campus. There are several plazas (including one with a “water-wall,” a fountain running down the side of the building) that were well utilized by students. Students and people from town were using the areas to socialize, read, and study. Security is good; all buildings require a swiped ID card or signing in with a security guard.
This is still a regional school; about ¾ of the 2500 undergrads are from Pennsylvania. Just over 1000 live on campus in 5 dorms and an apartment building (reserved for upperclassmen). We spoke with 5 grad students who were sitting on one of the patios during a break from class. Two had done their undergrad work here, as well. When we asked them if we should send students here, they enthusiastically said, “YES!!” Students are happy on campus: “there are tons of activities, and of course, Pittsburgh has lots to do, too.”
Students who do well here are quirky and artsy, even those not in COPA. Students really must want an urban environment. One of the students we talked to was from “really rural Western New York.” I asked her about her transition to PPU: “My first year was tough. I’m not going to sugarcoat it. There are lots of parties here, but I got it figured out. I had to adjust to the urban environment, too, but I made that choice. I wanted to come here. I wouldn’t have done it any other way. I grew up here.”
Graduation rates hover around the national average. “A lot of people leave because it’s TOO urban. They thought they wanted a city campus, but they don’t quite get what it’s really like until they get here. There’s no traditional campus, and they want that AND a city.”
I had always pictured Point Park as a performing arts school, and it is best known for these programs, but it is so much more than that! It has a surprising number of “academic” majors (in the students’ words). “A lot of the professors are have worked for a long time in the field they’re teaching. They really know what they’re talking about. They make it real.”
A few non-performing arts majors worth noting include several in their School of Communication: Broadcast Production and Media Management, Photojournalism, Environmental Journalism, and Public Relations and Advertising. “They’re putting in new media outlets. I didn’t even know that they had a School of Business, but it’s going strong with Economics and Finance, Human Resource Technology, and Sports, Arts, and Entertainment Management among other more traditional programs. The College of Arts and Sciences is robust. Psychology may be the one of the strongest programs, but they offer some really unusual programs such as Funeral Service, Global Cultural Studies, Engineering Technology (specializing in Civil, Electrical, or Mechanical), and Intelligence and National Security.
COPA, the Conservatory of Performing Arts, does remain the “flagship” college of Point Park, offering majors within 3 main areas: Dance, Theater, and Cinema Arts. Some of the more unusual programs include Dance Pedagogy, Theater Production (with concentrations in Technical Design/Management, Stage Management, or Design), Screenwriting (they also offer an MFA in this), Animation and Visual Effects, and Cinema Production.
Applicants to COPA have to be admitted to Point Park AND to COPA. Students must have a complete application on file before scheduling an interview, but should not wait have their acceptance or that could also delay the audition and admission process to COPA.
One of the students summed up Point Park this way: “It’s completely worth it!”