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Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College

Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College (visited 6/13/17)

SMWC 1The students who attend SMWC love it here… but it is a self-selecting sort of place. “People who come here pretty much know what they’re in for,” said the tour guide. For the student who is looking for small and Catholic – and possibly an equestrian program – this is the school. Most of campus is pretty with attractive buildings and amazing landscaping (making parts feel very wooded – go figure!); however parts of it raise eyebrows such as the weeds on the tennis courts. “You can tell we don’t have a team,” said the tour guide.

SMWC statues

Some of the statues around campus.

This liberal arts college sits 10 minutes outside of Terra Haute which is very much a college town (Indiana State and Rose-Hulman are both here). “We’re trying hard to keep kids here on the weekends. We have a great student-life staff,” said an admissions rep. There are things to do, but it’s not a bustling campus, and nothing is walkable from campus. “I would rank the craziness factor at about a 3,” said the tour guide. “There’s definitely a social life and I’ve made lots of friends, but events end early. But that means that I can also get my work done. It’s kind of the best of both worlds.” Anyone can have cars and there are currently no shuttles offered to students to help get around town. It’s also a dry campus.

SMWC dorm room

One of the dorm rooms; many are suite-style and some even have balconies!

SMWC is growing with the largest incoming class to date entering this fall. This is also their 3rd year of being coed. “In real numbers, that’s about 40 guys out of about 380-400,” said the rep. They’re actively trying to change perceptions about the school (particularly in terms of them accepting men), and they’ve added golf last year with Cross Country and Equestrian (Western Hunt Seat) starting this fall (2017). In 2018, they’ll add soccer. Our tour guide didn’t pick the college because it was all-female, “but I ended up loving it!” However, she thinks that going coed is also a positive change for the school.

SMWC chapel ext

The chapel; the dining hall is in the building attached at the left

They can currently accommodate 400 students in the dorm (there’s only 1), but there are two floors in another building that can be renovated to re-use as dorm rooms as the need arises. About 240 will live on campus this fall. The single dorm building also houses security, the chapel, some departmental offices, mailboxes, and a place for breakfast to be served. Lunch and dinner are across campus in the building attached to the convent. “Meals are good! I’d rank food as about an 8. The community can eat brunch here on the weekends. We get that as part of our meal plan.”

SMWC shell chapel

The interior of the Shell Chapel

Campus is very clearly Catholic, although mass is never required and the only religious requirement is 1 philosophy or religion class. There are statues (including a walkway with the Stations of the Cross), a large chapel, a small chapel, a churchyard where many of the nuns are buried, a grotto, etc around campus. Campus was founded by the Sisters of Providence from France, and many still live on campus, “but it’s like a retirement home. They don’t teach, but will sometimes come in to do guest lectures on campus,” said the tour guide. This order is very liberal, and they’re often seen protesting the death penalty and other social justice issues. The nuns run an alpaca farm and use the wool in fair-trade goods. Students and community members can take spinning classes.

SMWC horses

Some of the horses on campus with the barns in the background

Classes average 11 students with an option for online classes for undergraduates. Their strongest program might revolve around the extensive equestrian center. They offer Equine Studies, Equine Training and Instruction, and Equine Business Management as majors with Equine Assisted Therapy and Equine Science as minors. Students in the equestrian programs/majors are assigned a horse which they must take care of as part of their grade. The school also gets a number of yearlings that students train as part of a class.

SMWC grotto

The campus grotto

Other notable programs include Music Therapy, Professional Writing, Human Resource Management, 3+1 Leadership Development program (pairing any major with a Masters in LD), Healthcare Administration, and Nursing. Music is coming back; it had been gone for awhile because of budget cuts.

SMWC staircase

The main stairwell in the dorm

One of the favorite traditions is the Ring Ceremony. Juniors get class rings towards the end of the year during a formal ceremony after a dinner where they’re wearing their caps and gowns. This ring is presented to them by an alum, and they can choose who gives it to them. At this point, they wear it with the letters facing towards themselves. At the end of senior year, they have the Oak Leaf Ceremony where they wear oak leaf crowns (“I’m not sure if this will change now that we’re coed,” said the tour guide) and they turn their rings around to “face the world.”

In addition to regular merit scholarships, they offer a competitive, full-tuition scholarship. Students write essays for the first round; from these, admissions will select students to interview; 4 get the scholarship.

© 2017

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Queens University of Charlotte

Queens University of Charlotte (visited 3/30/17)

Queens quad 3“We get kids who might fly under the radar, but we get the stand-outs, as well,” said a rep. “Maybe they haven’t blossomed yet. Students get a lot of opportunities here.” A parent told one of the reps (who relayed the story): “my daughter will become a leader for life here. I think the reality of Queens is ahead of its reputation.”

Queens hammock 2Queens plays up the idea of ‘Yes, AND’ – students can do several things without having to choose. Students have the best of both worlds: a small school (about 1500 undergrads) located 2 miles from the heart of Charlotte, a major city. Students complete meaningful internships and community service in whatever industry or service they’re interested in, during the school year, right down the road. Queens requires students to complete internships and will give credit for 2 of them, although students can do as many as they want.

Queens fountain 3The school is deliberate in its mission and how it gets manifested into the academics. General education requirements are organized in learning communities. “This is one of the most unique aspects of Queens,” said the Dean of University Programs. They’ve been implanting it for a couple years and getting data in now. It’s interdisciplinary, giving students skills needed for the workplace and understanding who they are as learners.

  • Queens CS LCThe 4 years are organized progressively: Explore, Express, Engage, and Synthesis. Students are presented with complex problems, must integrate learning, build communication fluency, link global and local contexts, and understand the well-being of communities.
  • Students engage in a core issue from multiple perspectives, taking 2 courses from 4+ options within a theme. Assignments cross both perspectives. There’s intentional group work at every level; teachers work together to model what they want students to do. Themes might include:
    • The New South: Politics of the New South (PoliSci), Lit & Film of the New South (Languages), Intro to Stats, New South (Math), Landscape of Identity (English) — How is place and identity interwoven?
    • The Challenge of Global Migration: Fabric of a Nation: Refugees in the US (History), Politics of Responses to Global Migration (PoliSci), Economics of Immigration (Business), Creating Transcultural Identities (English)
    • Urban Jungle, Infections & Zombies, Quest for Identity, Familial Identities, Human Journey, Art of Storytelling, Challenges for Journeys, Culture & Media, Global Migration, Gender, Image-making
    • Pursuit of Happiness: The Happiness Project, The Pursuit of Happiness: An Economy of Well-Being, Six Questions of Socrates, Peace is Every Step

Queens statueFavorite classes of students on the panel were:

  • Principles of Management (2 students chose this): “There were 25 people in it. The culture is great. It’s discussion based. People can say whatever they want without worrying about being judged. The professor, the CEO of Sun Alliance, created such a welcoming environment.”
  • Cognitive Psych: “ I love the prof. It was probably the hardest in terms of how strict she is and what she demands. It combined psych and bio which I love.”
  • Intro to Creative Writing: “The Professor was amazing! It opened my eyes to so many methods of writing that I hadn’t even heard of. Not everyone was a major, but we were a community. I was excited to go to class.”
  • Media Design and Art: “We travelled to Germany and Switzerland for 2 weeks.”

Queens stu cntr 1Some other special academic things to point out are:

  • They have a direct-entry Nursing program; applicants need a 24 ACT/1150 SAT and a 3.5 unweighted GPA across academic classes. As long as they maintain a minimum GPA in the program, they can continue. 98% pass the NCLEX on the 1st or 2nd
  • Study Abroad: They’re ranked 7th nationally for most students studying abroad through the John Belk International Program (J-BIP):
  • Faculty Led courses: students take on-campus courses with travel components.
  • Semester or year abroad
  • Summer Business and International Studies: 4 weeks in France or Shanghai
  • Language immersion programs.
  • They have 5 NC Professors of the Year (Chapel Hill has 7 and is a much larger school).
  • Queens labA few programs of note include:
  • Queens bell tower 2A couple of their majors are shifting focus:
    • Environmental Studies is becoming Sustainability Studies
    • Religion is becoming Interfaith Studies.

Queens moved to its current campus in 1914; it’s full of beautiful brick buildings and green spaces. They went coed in 1979 (and are still heavily female). Almost half of their students come from NC; 8 % are international (155 students from 50 countries). About 1/3 of students self-identify as multi-cultural. Students tend towards the liberal side, but it’s not an overly political campus.

Students have to live on campus until they earn 90 credits; 70% of students live in the dorms. Campus is fairly active, but “closer to the holidays when it’s cold, more people seem to go home on the weekends,” said one of the tour guides. The food is pretty good: there are fewer choices, maybe, but the quality is pretty high. “Parking isn’t great on campus. You have to circle a bit, but there’s a lot of street parking.” There’s good public transportation including a street car and light rail.

Queens RexFor a school this size, they have a surprisingly strong DII athletic program (the only 2 teams not on the NCAA roster are Rugby and Triathalon), and they have a “Threepeat” Swim Team National Championship team. “DII tends to be more regional as well as more personal with a community feel,” said the Athletic Director. “We have the academics of DIII and Athletics of DI.” The major sports complex is located a couple miles off campus; shuttles run back and forth all day. Field Hockey, Soccer, Softball, and tennis all practice and play here. “If you want to be nationally competitive, our facilities are top-notch.”

Queens athletic center

One student said that she would change the fan-base and school spirit: “It feels so small at the games. It’s hard to get people out to support the teams. It definitely doesn’t have that large-school DI feel.” Also, as DII teams, they’re not fully funded programs. All sports have a certain number of scholarships. They work with admissions to help spread these out with academic scholarships.

Admissions recalculates GPA of core classes and superscores both the ACT and SAT. Their most competitive scholarship is the full-tuition Presidential Award which requires an additional application. These students tend to have a 4.0 recalculated GPA and a 30 ACT. The numbers (GPA and scores) count for 40% of the decision; the rest are all the extras. Scholarship interviewers do not have access to the applicants’ grades: if they’re at the interview stage, they’ve already been vetted academically by Admissions.

© 2017

Saint Leo University

Saint Leo University (visited 2/9/16)

St Leo treeThis is a stunning campus: clean, well-landscaped, and with new/renovated buildings that seem to have been planned out and meant to go together. There’s plenty of open space with a lake on the edge of campus. Students seem genuinely happy here: they’re interacting with each other and using all sorts of spaces available to them.

St Leo chapel int

Interior of the Chapel

Located in the small town of Saint Leo, this is a religious school with definite Catholic overtones. “Students are spiritual. There’s a sense of faith, but it’s not forced.” Students do have to take 2 religion classes but there’s enough variety to satisfy everyone. The campus chapel hosts masses which they open to the public; student attendance is not mandatory. Monks and nuns still live on campus and some of them even run a local garage to pay for electricity, etc

St Leo tea in library

The coffee and tea table in the library

The Core Values of the school (Respect, Excellence, Personal Development, Integrity, Community, and Responsible Stewardship) are heavily integrated into the curriculum and in other ways across campus. For example, the new Business building incorporated wood from the trees cut down to create space for the building. The library has coffee and tea out all the time for the students; the area was neat and well kept up. A couple students were helping themselves and picking up after themselves to keep it in good shape for the next person.

St Leo quad 3This is a residential campus with lots of open space. All freshmen and students need the unlimited meal plan. Once students move into a building with a kitchen (and most upperclassmen end up with their own rooms), they can drop down to the 5 or 10 meals a week plan. One of the dorms has an amazing lounge (open to all students) with a huge fish tank designed by Tanked (take a look for it on the Discovery Chanel!), a game room (including SkeetBall and pinball), plenty of tvs, and even sleep pods!

St Leo fishtanks

The fish tank

The 2,370 students come from almost every state and 66 countries drawing heavily from the Caribbean and South America. It’s almost evenly split gender-wise (with slightly more females than males). Tuition, Room, and Board run $30,700 making it a great deal.

St Leo activities

Monthly activity calendar

I talked to several students in the dining hall who said they all were really happy with the school: “Tell your students to come here!” said one student, and others nodded in agreement. They did make sure to say that social life revolves around campus. The town of St. Leo has very little to do, but Dade City is a 5-10 minute drive. Another said, “Bring a car or you’re out of luck!” Orlando is an hour or so away (and Orientation includes a trip to Disney or Epcot). Greek life is present but not huge. Freshmen can’t rush until they earn a certain number of credits. Bingo is a big deal on campus. “They give away insane prizes like GoPro, X Boxes, etc. People get really hyped up for this. Sometimes it’s even themed, like people will come in costume for Halloween.” Sports are DIII (playing in the Sunshine Sate Conference). Rivals depend on the sport: UT is big because of proximity.

St Leo business classrm

One of the classrooms in the business building

Business (including Sport Business, Health Care Management, and International Tourism & Hospitality Management), Criminal Justice, Education, Social Work, and Computer Science are their flagship programs. Students can choose specialties not often found at schools this size such as Criminalistics or Homeland Security within Criminal Justice or Advanced Literary Study, Dramaturgy, or Professional Writing within the English Department. They offer a Multimedia Management major; students learn management of social media, shoot commercials, etc. They have two 3+1 programs: marketing or management undergraduate with an MBA, and a computer science bachelors with a Masters in Cyber Security. Students in the Honors Program are automatically eligible for these programs (others have to apply).

Students all get a laptop or iPad. If they transfer out, they have to return it, but if they graduate, they can keep it.

Applying is free if done online, and they’re test-optional if the student has a 3.0+ GPA in high school. International students must prove English proficiency either by attending an English-speaking high school for all 4 years, by earning a 450 CR on the SAT (or equivalent ACT), or submitting a TOEFL score; St. Leo does offer a Bridge Program if students need to meet proficiency.

© 2016

Juniata College

Juniata College (visited 11/20/14)

~Juniata students 2With all the small, selective liberal arts colleges around, it’s refreshing to find one that goes out of its way to illustrate what distinguishes them from other, equally nice, selective schools. At Juniata, they offer students a Program of Emphasis rather than traditional majors. Sixty-five POEs are already created which is robust for a population this size. “A designated POE walks and talks like a regular major,” said an admissions reps. However, somewhere between 25% and 33% of students will write their own by creating both long- and short-term goals. When students say that they “write their POE,” it’s a deliberate verb. They control the breadth and depth of their experience. One example is a recent graduate interested in digital production and African Studies. She got an internship in an NGO in Uganda help women with AIDS be independent and take care of their children. She is now working full time to get a business up and running and is the Digital Manager of their tv station.

~Juniata dogsThere’s a strong sense of values at Juniata including Pacifism, Service, Community (both in term of people and the place), and Nonconformity. As one of 7 First Brethren Colleges left, students tend to be “conscientious non-submitters.” They choose their own path. There’s a history of service and learning and they have a Peace Chapel designed by Maya Lin (Vietnam Memorial). There’s a real sense of individualism. No orthodoxy means that there is space for students to explore. The school is intentional about meeting students where they are, supporting them, and moving them to places they didn’t even know about. “We live our mission.”

~Juniata dorms

Dorms

In the Provost’s welcome, she spoke about her own recent move to the college: “I got a generous. warm welcome. That matters if we want to convey Juniata to you. People make this place their career. What matters to me as a parent and professional is the personal experience.” They engage a personal education to help students develop skills and values. Someone is always reaching out to the freshmen: How’s it going? How are classes? How’s the separation from the family?

~Juniata 6It quickly became very clear why Juniata is a CTCL school. At the panel, I asked students how it had changed their lives:

  • It gave me opportunities to do things I never imagined. I’m astounded by the research here. I’m interested in theater, and I could audition even as a biology POE. I even went to Dublin for a Theater program.
  • I’m a German and Chem major who wants to go to Med school. They’re willing to help me figure out where things fit as long as I’m willing to work.
  • I developed my critical thinking skills, recognized my biases, and can converse in a more informed manner
  • I was quiet and shy. Now my professors would tell me to shut up if they could. I’m involved in a lot on and off campus. I’m confident as a student and a person.
  • It gave me my independence and set higher goals than I would have for myself. I’m looking abroad for job opportunities.

~Juniata nobel prizeSome unique POEs include: Environmental Geology; Philosophy, Politics, and Economics; Professional Writing (Publishing or Digital Writing); and Integrated Media Arts. Last year, 7 students from IMA were hired by Penn State over Penn State Grads. Students majoring in Physics or Engineering Physics can complete a 3+2 program with Penn State, Columbia, Wash U, or Clarkson. The National Society of Physics Outstanding Student Award was given to a Juniata student 16 years in a row, and Bill Philips, Nobel Prize winner, donated the replica of his medal (given at the same time as his original award) to the college.

~Juniata field station 1

Drawing of the Field Station

The Raystown Field Station, located 20 minutes away, provides environmental research opportunities for students. 18 students can live on-site in the 2 dorms. The fall semester focuses on field ecology and environment; the spring semester focuses on organismal ecology. The application includes an essay bout about their comfort level with coed living and why they want to go.

Juniata has a 4-year graduation guarantee: if they don’t graduate in 4 years because they weren’t able to complete their program, they can come back for free. They’ve had this on the books for 5 or 6 years and never had a single student need to take advantage of this. One reason is because all students have 2 advisors. Jamie White, a physics professor, said that Juniata does things that others would say is inefficient: “The Double Advising system – if you think about it, it’s really stupid! It’s twice the work that needs to happen!” However it’s just one more way Juniata can claim ‘Education with a Personal Touch.’

~Juniata 2Research is a big buzz-word at colleges, but Juniata seems to be following through. It’s expected that faculty include students when they write grants. Natural sciences funding has been most robust, it’s not exclusively in that area. Research is credit-bearing; students aren’t just given mundane tasks. Students design their own project, answer their own questions, work directly with professors. At a conference, students presenting research on genomics were asked what year of grad school they were in.

~Juniata quad

Main quad

80% of students have internships. Every intern gets coaching and can share what they did and learned. “Some of the best internships are the ones you hate. You’ve just learned a whole lot!” In the Innovations for Industry class, students team up and get assigned an outside client for a semester. One student who took the class before (they can take it up to 3 times) is assigned as Project Lead. A student is currently working on a gaming app for exercise.

~Juniata choir

One of the Choirs performing in the Student Center

Students are just as engaged outside the classroom. “If you’re bored . . . what are you missing? The biggest mistake I made freshman year was not reading announcements,” said one student. The music scene is strong despite no music POE. “Science students don’t have to give up the clarinet or can travel with the choir to Costa Rica or Budapest.” About 1/3 of students participate in a varsity sport; about half participate in some sort of athletics (club, etc). Volleyball and Football are the best attended sports, especially in games against Susquehanna, their main rival. When they need to get off campus, there’s plenty to do: art gallery, cafes, movie theater, bowling alley, kayaking, swimming.

Several well-loved traditions include:

  • Mountain Day: Classes get cancelled for a day in the fall. There’s a BBQ at the lake, they play tug-of-war, play on inflatables, etc.
  • Madrigal: a formal dinner in the winter. They get dressed up, get served by profs, sing. Each table gets assigned parts, and students will sleep in tents on the quad so they can be first in line to buy tickets for the tables that gets the “5 Golden Rings” part.
  • Storming of the Arch: The rugby team guards the arch and freshmen try to run through. There are stories about what they get if they make it through, but no one has succeeded yet.
  • LobsterFest: students get steak and lobster on the quad
  • Mr. Juniata: a major fundraiser (it costs a can of food or $1 to get in) and the audience votes for the winner.
  • Physics Phun Night: “We blow up things and set things on fire.”

(c) 2013

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