campus encounters

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Archive for the tag “quarter system”

University of Denver

UNIVERSITY OF DENVER (visited 10/4/12)

DU~DU 7Before arriving on campus, I had never heard of a Green Ambulance, aka one that is Solar Powered. It was developed at DU (yes, they call themselves DU, not the other way around. We couldn’t find someone to tell us why) and now serves the campus community. People probably don’t think of DU as a college that’s developing new things, but a surprising amount of interesting stuff is being done here. However, after learning about the types of students they are attracting to campus, it wasn’t so surprising after all. DU is committed to drawing students who will actively engage in opportunities and will think outside the box. In the application and in the optional interviews (which can be done with any of a number people – faculty, staff, alumni), they look for evidence that students are motivated to learn, that they’re concerned about honesty and integrity, and are open to difference and new ideas.

The light-rail stop on campus

The light-rail stop on campus

DU debateI visited the University of Denver right after the first Presidential Debate, and there was clearly still a lot of residual energy surrounding that. We took the light-rail from downtown to the stop directly across the street from campus (students get to ride for free with their Student ID). This beautiful campus is located in a residential area of the city called (appropriately) University Place. There are malls nearby, and the first Chipotle ever opened is located only a couple blocks away. Downtown is seven miles away; a major technology corridor is six miles south (also on the light-rail line). Students use both areas for internships. Beyond that, students have access to all that this part of Colorado has to offer, including six ski areas within 90 miles.

~DU 6Denver is a medium sized school with just over 5,000 undergraduates, but they also have a sizable graduate population which includes their law school and PhD students. Less than 40% of the undergrad population is from Colorado; they draw students from every state and 61 countries with almost 10% of the population coming from abroad. The city of Denver is a major draw for people coming from out-of-state. It’s a major metropolitan area (one of the very few in the country that has every major sports team!), an amusement park within the city limits, and more – but also has the additional appeal of being so close to several smaller cities (Boulder, Colorado Springs, etc) as well as the Rockies and other outdoor opportunities.

~DU seatingDenver runs on the quarter system with three 10-week sessions and an optional 4th summer session. Because of this, students have a 6-week winter break from Thanksgiving to beginning of January which students find helpful if they want to get seasonal employment. Students complete a Common Curriculum comprised of a series of writing classes, arts and humanities, and social and natural sciences.

Denver has 13 schools with more than 100 areas of study including interdisciplinary and pre-professional programs. More unusual DU4majors include: Rhetoric and Professional Writing, Animation and Game Development, Real Estate and Construction Management, Astrophysics, and Cognitive Neuroscience. They have a full Music school, and the opera program is reportedly excellent. Students not majoring in music still have access to many classes in that school, but students must audition in order to major in music, and can only apply under the Regular Decision deadline. The Art school requires a portfolio, and Theater students who want scholarships must audition. Students interested in Business don’t apply to Daniels until freshman year for entrance into the school during the fall quarter of sophomore year; they are interviewed and submit a resume as part of the process. Special degree programs include 3+2 and 4+1 in Business, Education, and Social Work (in which students can study something different as undergrad), and in Art History, GIS, international studies, public policy, and engineering (in which students must major in that field as an undergraduate).

~DU gardenDenver prides itself on active, not passive, learning with average class sizes of 21. Our tour guide’s smallest and biggest classes have DU2been 17 and 120. Ninety-five percent of classes have fewer than 50 students; 82%% have fewer than 30. Every first-year student works with a faculty mentor. The five-year average retention rate is 88% (freshman to sophomore year). Professors teach 99.8% of the classes and are known for cutting edge contribution to research. Ninety percent of the full-time faculty hold the highest degree in their field and/or are active in their field such as the music professor playing in the symphony or the business professor who owns her own business. Sixty-five to seventy percent of students complete at least one internship before graduation. Over 200 students participate in research with faculty each year, and the school helps to pair up students with professors; students regularly publish and present their findings. About 1,250 students participate in 80 service-courses each year. DU is on the US President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll because of the amount of service they provide in the wider Denver area. They also want students to study abroad and have started the Cherrington Global Scholars program: If students have a 3.0 GPA, they can study abroad and not pay any more than they’d pay at DU. About 70% of students participate before graduation.

DU requires that students live on campus for the first two years; 95% of first-year students live on campus (the rest living with family inDU3 town). Dorms are comfortable and modern with cable, a micro-fridge, wireless, and other amenities coming standard. As is becoming more popular on campuses across the country, they have several Living Learning Communities available to First Year students who can choose from themes such as Creativity and Entrepreneurship, Environmental Sustainability, International, Social Justice, and Wellness. DU also provides Integrated Learning Programs which span all 4 years, the Honors Program, and the Pioneer Leadership Program. Students can minor in Leadership Studies which is becoming increasingly more popular.

~DU 11The Early Action and the Regular Decisions rounds are equally competitive. Applicants can use either the Common App or the Pioneer App (specific to DU). They take either the SAT or the ACT w/o writing, and they will SuperScore both tests. They require a counselor recommendation; additional letters are optional. AP scores, if available, can help the students (but to get credit, the student must have earned a 4 or 5 on the exam). Qualifications for scholarships and for the Honors program are evaluated during application process. Those being offered a spot in the Honors program usually have just under a 4.0 GPA and about a 32 ACT or the SAT equivalent. University scholarships can carry over to the 5th year.

~DU chapelCampus has lots of activities to participate in or to watch. DU has 17 DI athletic teams; the college has earned 28 team and 109 individual champions, 308 All-Americans, and 57 Olympians. Non-athletes actively support the teams; hockey is the most attended event. The Alpine Club is particularly popular. Its goal is to get people outdoors, so they have equipment for student use, offer rides, and get discounts at local places. Homecoming, Winter Carnival, and May Days are particularly popular traditions which draw large crowds.

(c) 2012

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Stanford University

STANFORD UNIVERSITY, Palo Alto, CA (visited on 7/20/12)

A typical walkway on the campus.

Stanford lawnWow. I’m a little awe-struck by this place, and I can see why people flock here and want to apply. It’s nothing short of spectacular. After Berkeley, I was thinking that this would be another one of those Big Name schools that didn’t care about talking to us. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Not only is this an absolutely gorgeous campus, but they’re very deliberate in their intentions and in their discussions with people. They provided a lovely lunch in the conference room in the visitor’s center, and most of the admissions counselors, along with several students, came to eat with us.

Stanford montag hallThis was a surprise for me: The official name of the university is Leland Stanford Junior University. It is located on the land owned by Stanford, Senior, a major landowner in the 1800s who made money through the gold rush and the railroads. When his only child (Junior) died in his teens, the parents still wanted to be able to provide some way to educate others. There were five tenets that they used to found the university. The tour guide said “we’ll let you guess which one is no longer in place.” The three I remember from the tour was that Stanford was set up to be coeducational, nonsectarian, and tuition-free.

Stanford acad bldg 2Herbert Hoover was reported “the first student” at Stanford, and he was in the first class. Rumor has it, though, that he camped out in the dorms early to get the best room, and then proclaimed himself the first student since he moved in first.

Stanford chapelAlthough Stanford is non-sectarian, they have a large, beautiful chapel on campus with extensive mosaics on the front that had to be redone several times (mainly because of earthquakes). There are also numbered plaques lining the walkway along the front: they have one for almost every graduating class; they started placing these after the first two classes placed graffiti – their graduating year – all over the sandstone. The students settled for the plaques instead when the admin offered. There are also time capsules on campus, including one placed by Stanford’s wife somewhere on campus.

Stanford acad bldgLast year, Stanford received just over 36,000 applications and accepted about 2,500 for a final freshman class of 1,700. (As a side-note, this is the 2nd largest land-owning college in the world. It’s a little mind-boggling that there is such a huge campus for fewer than 7,000 undergrads, although there’s a significant graduate population as well). Admission isn’t so much about whether the applicants can handle to work. The vast majority of them can handle it. It becomes more about what else the student can bring to the table. Stanford is looking for engagement, impact, and passion. If these pop out of the application, students have a chance. Seventy percent of applicants have a 4.0 GPA or better, and 95% are in the top 10% of their class. Test scores “are less important than you’d think but more important than you’d wish.” They don’t only accept people with the best scores, but a vast majority have scored 700+ on their tests.

Stanford fountain 2Housing is guaranteed all four years in dorms, fraternities/sororities, co-ops, townhouses, themed Living-Learning Communities, and other options. Approximately 95% of undergraduates live in university housing, and there are also several thousand grad students (just over half of the grad population) living on campus, as well. About a quarter of the students are involved in Greek Life.

Stanford statuesFreshmen cannot have cars on campus but lots of students have bikes, and the shuttles are extremely efficient. Stanford also offers free CalTrain for staff and reduced for students; the shuttles from the train stop (on the edge of campus) is amazing – they have lines of shuttles waiting at the station during busy times, each going to different parts of campus to get people around quickly. The shuttles also get students off campus to shopping and other areas, and zipcars are accessible on campus, as well.

Engineering is a big deal here (although what isn’t, I suppose). The other undergraduate departments are Humanities and Sciences, Education, and Earth Sciences. A few of the unusal majors are Geophysics, Energy Resources Engineering, Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity, and Symbolic Systems. The quarter system allows students to study things on a more intense level, and our tour guide really liked it because it allowed for more focus.

(c) 2012

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