campus encounters

"Get the first-hand scoop about colleges and universities"

Archive for the tag “psychology”

Point Park University

POINT PARK UNIVERSITY (visited 5/24/16)

point park signs

Signs lining the streets around the campus

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.

Point Park mascot

The school mascot

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.”

point park COPA

The performance center

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.”

Point Park bridge

A walkway connecting 2 academic buildings.

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.”

Point Park fountain wall

A plaza with a “water wall”

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.”

Point Park acad bldg

One of the Academic Buildings

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.

Point Park courtyard 1

One of the plazas on campus

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.

Point Park courtyard

Another plaza

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!”

© 2016

Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts

Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (visited 7/28/15)

Once known as North Adams State, this 1800-student college is nestled in the small but bustling town of North Adams in the Berkshires. The students rave about town: “There’s so much to do! Mass MoCA is free, the ice rink is free on Tuesdays, there are movies, pubs, restaurants. We saw Lady Gaga last week at Tanglewood [about 45 minutes away]. If we want to get out of town, there’s any outdoor activity you can think of.”

√MCLA acad bldg 1Campus architecture ranges from beautiful old houses to almost-ugly 60’s and 70s buildings to a brand-new environmentally friendly science center that has solar panels and a wind turbine on top. Many of the central buildings are connected or only steps apart. For example, one of the gyms and the theater are both attached to the student center. Campus is not huge: “You can get across it in about 5 minutes.”

√MCLA quadEnglish, Business, and Psychology are some of the biggest majors, and (not surprisingly given its history as a Normal College), Education is strong. They also have Arts Management, unusual for a school of this size. MCLA offers 2 “Jump Start” summer programs. The first is a week-long leadership initiative for approximately 30 students each year called LEAD (Leadership, Education, Action, and Development). The Second is STEM Academy which takes about 16-20 students.

√MCLA outdoor class

Outdoor classroom

The tour guide could not say enough about the teachers. “I know it sounds really cliché, but they do care.” This is one thing that really surprised her about MCLA. She had been told in high school that college professors wouldn’t care about how she did, and yet the do. She went on to say that even the librarians care about the students. One of the traditions she loves is that at the end of each semester during finals, they order food for students and will go through the library to tell them that the food has arrived so the kids can take a break.

New tower dorms

New tower dorms

Townhouses on campus

Townhouses on campus

MCLA has a 3-year on-campus residency requirement, and 95% of traditional aged students live on campus. Dorms range from traditional hall-style double rooms to suites and townhouses, both of which have singles and double bedrooms and which can be coed by suite. Townhouses have full kitchens and house only upperclassmen (MCLA defines this as sophomore and up). The new towers have suites which will usually have 4 doubles and a single.

√MCLA gates

The infamous gates

Another popular tradition/superstition revolves around the gates. At the beginning of the year, freshman will enter the gates from the main road, meet the president and their peers, and then have a party. The seniors will walk out of the gates at graduation. Rumor has it that walking between the gates before then means they won’t graduate – at least on time. “I know someone who walked through them accidentally. He graduated a semester late. I like to think it’s because it wasn’t intentional . . . otherwise he’d never get out of here!”

√MCLA sci cntr 2

Science Center

The tour guide’s largest class was Intro to Bio with 45 students. “We met for 2 hours twice a week. Usually we’d have a lecture for half and a lab for half.” Her smallest, College Writing 2, had 8 “which is weird because that’s a core class.” Her favorite has been Behavioral Analysis because the professor would tell them real stories from the field.

In terms of admissions, MCLA is a state school so they generally have to follow the Department of Education regulations which include 4 units of math, one of which has to be taken in the senior year. “We have a tiny bit of wiggle room to admit a few students to don’t immediately meet the requirements but who we think will be successful,” said a rep. Usually this is saved for out-of-state students who may have graduated under other requirements. They will superscore both the ACT and the SAT.

√MCLA walkwayVery few students come from out-of-state: probably only about 10% come from outside of MA or the Capital Region of NY (technically OOS, but only an hour away – closer than Boston). These students make up about another 10% of the student body. Transportation can be a little bit of an issue, but certainly doable. “We have a student from Colorado who just grabs a ride with a friend to Albany and gets a plane from there.” There’s also a bus that will stop at Williams College only a few miles down the road. Amtrak also goes through Pittsfield which is about 25-30 miles away.

“Students who are looking for a small liberal-arts, New England campus in a great cultural center and who have a sense of community service or activism will do really well here,” said the rep.

(c) 2015

Vassar College

VASSAR COLLEGE (visited 7/25/13)

Vassar 2I was less than impressed with the mediocre tour and presentation at Vassar than I expected to be; I guess they figure that they don’t have to try too hard to attract students. Our tour guide, a senior Film and Psych major from Connecticut, was sweet and knowledgeable about the school, but the tour was a canned, rushed presentation that didn’t allow his personality to come through. I tried to take notes and get pictures, and I was constantly running to catch up with the group (and I’m a quick walker) because he was moving us along so fast. I stayed for only about 20 minutes of the admissions info session (in my defense, I did have to leave to get to the next college in time for my appointment which had been moved up at the last minute), but the information presented was both a repetition of what we got on the tour and not delivered well. I was a little discouraged that I didn’t leave with a better impression of campus.

Vassar 1Vassar 6However, I was impressed that the students on the tour were from all over and interested in a diversity of things (one was interested in both music and econ, for example). Vassar definitely attracts these types of students; so many tours I’ve been on have only attracted relatively regional prospective students. Antonio (the tour guide) described the current Vassar students as open and cooperative, but did say that people who are super-focused on only one thing wouldn’t do well here. There is a very low transfer rate which indicates that students are both self-selecting and that the admissions people are good about selecting students for admission. Currently, 44% of the student population is male (the college went coed in 1969 and the population is inching upwards toward the 50% mark) and 35% self-identify as students of color (although there wasn’t a single non-white student visiting that morning). They have an active ALANA (African, Latin American, Native American) center on campus that sponsors many events throughout the year.

A co-op dorm

A co-op dorm

Almost all students (about 98%) live on campus for all four years, not surprising given the fact that once they hit junior year, students are guaranteed a single room, and seniors live in townhouses and apartments where they can cook and clean for themselves. Freshmen live in doubles and triples, but they aren’t “forced triples.” Those are larger rooms (often corner rooms) built as triples. Although many of the dorms are older buildings (including some of the original college buildings), the interiors have been renovated. The largest dorm has 300 students in it. Interestingly, bathrooms are gender neutral. Freshmen are put into Fellow Groups with 10-12 other students. Fellows are like RAs but have no disciplinary function and sign confidentiality waivers. There are also Faculty Fellows in dorm apartments.

Statue of Matthew Vassar

Statue of Matthew Vassar

The college was founded in the 1800s by Matthew Vassar, a brewer. It remained technically single-sex until 1969, but did allow some vets returning from WWII to take classes; their degrees were granted by the SUNY system because technically the males couldn’t matriculate at Vassar despite taking the classes and finishing the requirements for their degrees. Around the turn of the century, Rockefeller (who had an estate nearby), provided $10,000 for the “first academic building.” He didn’t like that there was no “academic building” even though the classes were housed in the main building. The stipulation for the donation was that the building was completed on time and under budget – and he wanted his change back. The school did finish the building both on time and under budget, and gave him a check for a dollar and change which he cashed the next day. The building now houses the PoliSci department among other things.

A typical classroom

A typical classroom

Many of the classrooms are set up in a round-table format. Our tour guide’s favorite classes have been TV History and Criticism and Social Psychology. The admissions rep who gave the info session was an alumnus; his favorite classes were about carbon (looking at everything from coal to diamonds) and one on prisons. The average class size is 17 with most capped at 30 with very few exceptions: only 2 classes (Intro to Art History being one) have 50 students. Vassar students only need to complete 3 core requirements: a freshmen writing class, a quantitative analysis class (psych can count for this), and a language requirement (which is the only one students can test out of). Their psychology department is strong, particularly in child/developmental psychology. In the daycare on campus, they have an observation lab with 2-way mirrors and cameras so students in both psychology and education can observe how children play. Professors are accessible and want to teach and be involved on campus; 70% living on or directly next to campus. The tour guide said that he only had one instance in which a professor didn’t respond quickly to an email.

Vassar 3Vassar arts bldgI had dinner on the evening of my tour with a friend who is currently teaching in the Anthropology department at Vassar; she lives in a campus-owned apartment which is about a 5 minute walk to her office – and that’s less than five minutes to her classroom and lab. She took me through the building that has the Anthro department (along with many others including Econ). It was a labyrinth of half-levels, short halls, and interesting twists and turns. She said it took forever to figure out the most efficient way to get through the building, and she has a lot of empathy for new students who are trying to figure out where there classes are when Room 2 is around the corner from Room 35. Many of the buildings are beautiful and old (although not all are as difficult to get around!). One of the turreted buildings houses the geology department and a Natural History Museum along with an art gallery that’s older than the Met. Arts are strong and active on campus. The theater department puts on 6-10 productions a year; there are 30-35 additional student-run productions. Students don’t have to be a music or theater major to be involved in these areas.

Vassar dormVassar treeCampus is pretty and safe. Security patrols all the time and the only time our tour guide has ever heard of anyone using the blue lights is when a curious parent pushed it. There are a few things to do directly off campus – some stores, bars, coffee shops, and a plethora of Thai restaurants. Downtown Poughkeepsie is not far away with other options of things to do. Anyone can have cars on campus (about ¼ of the students have one), but parking is way out of the way. There are shuttles every half hour as well as a town bus stop on campus; students ride free with their ID. I tried to get the tour guide to talk more about extra-curricular life on campus, but got very little information before he went back on script to tell us about the buildings we were walking by. He did tell us that each dorm hosts two off-campus events a year such as Paintball, Halloween events, or theme parties (one included people dressing up like Gatsby). These are open to everyone. There are also a variety of clubs and organizations, and they have 12 women’s and 11 men’s DIII sports teams, including an equestrian team. Their crew team has been downgraded to a club sport recently.

Vassar Library

Vassar Library

The Library might be the most impressive structure on campus; it was built specifically as a library, not converted from something else, and they’ve purposefully made sure that it was not open 24-hour a day because they want students to have some balance. The focal point is the Tiffany window depicting the first woman to receive a PhD in Padua in the 1600s. She’s in pink (the rosy dawn of women’s education) and gray. They have since darkened their colors to burgundy and gray because they were “getting laughed off the sports fields.” They do have a chapel on campus that offers a variety of services, but there is no religious requirement (and the school is no longer affiliated with any denomination). There is currently quite a bit of religious diversity and a variety of student-run religious groups.

(c) 2013

Post Navigation