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Howard University

Howard University (visited 9/13/16)

howard-long-walkHoward is set apart from other HBCUs because of its reputation; it’s not regional like many others. This is a diverse campus, geographically, socio-economically, religiously, etc. “One of the best quotes I’ve heard about Howard is, ‘You can find everything in the black world and its opposite here’,” said the admissions rep. This is a highly tolerant and accepting campus. There are lots of Muslims, lots of non-religious students, etc. LGBTQ students are comfortable here; they’re out and accepted. “People get called out on things if they’re being derogatory or exclusive. People will say, “You may get away with that at home, but it’s not going to fly here.”

howard-6“People are pushed to be better. There’s nothing you can’t do here,” said the admissions rep, also an alum. “Come here if you want to maximize your potential. Students are serious about fun AND serious about work.” She said that if students are not academically prepared or can’t handle the social scene, they won’t make it.

Founded on March 2,1867 to ensure that black students could come to the nation’s Capitol to get an education, Howard now has a long list of distinguished alumni including Thurgood Marshall, Toni Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston, politicians, actors, and plenty more. Today, the 7,000 undergrads come from 44 states/territories and 23 countries; the biggest feeder country is Nepal!

howard-view-of-dc

The view of the Capitol from campus

Students have formed state clubs and will often host students visiting from that area. “They’ll reach out to prospective and new students to help make the transition easier.” For example, the university does not run shuttles to the airport, but current students will make sure that new students know how to use the Metro or MARC systems to get to and from campus.

 

howard-greek-tree

One of the Greek Trees

Campus/extra-curricular life is busy. There are 19 DI sports; this is the only HBCU with Women’s Lacrosse (Hampton has Men’s). Debate is strong with an annual competition against Hampton, their big rival. They try to have it on the same weekend as the football game. The “Greek Letter Organizations” include honors and major-based (journalism, business, etc) groups as well as social. The Devine 9 were created in response to mainstream white Greek life. Five of those were created on Howard’s campus; members from all over come to campus to “see the birthplace” and visit their chapter’s “tree.” Each organization is assigned a tree that they have painted. Students can Pledge starting in sophomore year.

 

howard-fountain

One of the campus fountains

The biggest campus event is Homecoming in October drawing huge crowds of alumni and friends. Georgia Ave is blocked off for concerts and other fun. First Fridays are also hugely popular. Students looking to get off campus have no shortage of options: the Howard Theater and 930 Club host all sorts of concerts all year, and are within a 10 minute walk. Further afield are all the options available in DC, accessible via the metro stop only a couple blocks from campus.

 

howard-lower-quad

Lower Quad

There are 11 res halls; students are separated by gender for the first year (women by the Valley/lower quad, men by the football stadium) and then mixed. Freshmen are required to live on campus (with some concessions/ exceptions). Upperclassmen can usually live on campus if they want to, but they have the option to move off.

 

Academically, there is a lot to brag about ranging from their amazing Fine Arts programs to the sciences (and they start kids early! The Middle School for Math and Science – or (MC)2 – is right on campus). Howard is ranked #1 for graduating black students who go on to med school and PhDs in STEM fields. This is the only HBCU named as a Tier 1 research institution.

howard-business

The Business building

There are 70 undergrad majors in 6 schools. The top 5 majors are bio, psych, PoliSci, Media/Journalism/Film, and Chem. Among other notable programs are:

 

  • A 5-year BArch program allowing students to sit for their exam right after graduation.
  • Direct-Entry Nursing
  • A 6-year fast-track BS/MD Only 12-15 students get admitted every year and must have passed high-level math and sciences in high school. They complete the Bachelors in 2 years (including summers). Students must be accepted to the university first, then apply to the program by 3/1.
  • Several BFA programs in Interior Design, Fashion Design, Electronic Studio, Painting, Photography, Sculpture, Theater Tech, Musical Theater, Dance, Theater Administration, and Acting.
  • Supply Chain Management
  • Administration of Justice (combining Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminal Justice)
  • Several Engineering options (Chemical, Mechanical, Civil, Electrical, and Computer)
  • Physician Assistant
  • Radiation Therapy
  • Business students start right away; they have to wear business attire 2 days a week.
howard-bio-bldg

The biology department with greenhouses on the roof

Students in the Arts & Sciences, Business, and Communications schools can be invited into the Honors program in those areas. Applicants will be considered and invited as long as they declare a major coming in. If they aren’t invited upon entry, students can be invited to start as a sophomore. “The criteria is vague kind of on purpose because each year will be different,” said the rep. These programs open up honors classes and the opportunity for a faculty advisor for a thesis presented at symposiums at the end of the year.

 

howard-chapel

The campus chapel for students wanting to take advantage of its offerings

“The intellectual life here extends outside of the classroom.” For example:

  • The Freshman Class always reads a common text. Last year, it was Citizen by Claudia Rankin. She came and spent the day with the freshman.
  • All freshmen take a Freshman Seminar; they come together once a week for a lecture then once more for smaller section. During these times, they talk about the Common Text, adjusting to campus, and more.
  • The Freshman Leadership Academy focuses on Asian languages (particularly Mandarin). They meet as a cohort for the year and go abroad for 4-8 weeks during the summer after freshman year. After that, they serve as mentors to the new groups coming in.
  • Internships: most students do at least 1, but it’s rare to meet a student who hasn’t had one each year starting sophomore year. “It’s a very professional environment. They’ll go to class in suits because they have to leave for an internship right afterwards.” Students get great internships over the summers at places like Johnson & Johnson, Chase Bank headquarters, etc.
  • 12 schools in and around DC have articulation agreements for students looking to expand their academic options.
  • “Our kids are politically inclined. It’s part of the reason they want to come to DC. They’re always protesting something.”
  • To participate in Study Abroad, students must have sophomore or junior standing, 1 year of residency at Howard, and have at least a 3.0 GPA.
  • Student-led Alternative Spring Break is popular: Students have gone to Flint, Memphis, New Orleans, and other places to work on Anti-gun violence, Water stuff in Flint, tutoring, and housing. Some went to Haiti and Costa Rica (Engineers w/o borders).
  • Air Force ROTC is housed on Howard’s campus. Students wanting Army ROTC can do so at American University.

Howard only accepts the Common Application for admission. Accepted students generally have around a 3.5 unweighted GPA and 1150 SAT 1150 or 25 ACT (which tends to be higher than the national average for African-American students).

© 2016

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Immaculata University

Immaculata University (visited 7/22/16)

Immaculata dome 2My tour guide completely sold me on this school. She loves it and answered questions well without being insipid or gushing. She, herself, had no real interest in coming here and had assumed that she would go to her local in-state institution. As a high school senior, she came here to watch a friend play field hockey and never looked back. “The Dome is Home! We say that a lot, and I don’t think people realize how much it’s true until it’s almost gone.” As a senior, it’s starting to sink in how little time she has left!

Immaculata statue 2She feels welcomed here, and all types of diversity are important and celebrated. Although this is a Catholic institution, no one is pressured to do anything with the religion. Our tour guide was surprised about how much the nuns were involved on campus; “We’re even friends on Facebook.” There are at least 20 who are full-time faculty. Others are in the Ministry Office, theater, etc. As an IHM school, one of their tenets is hospitality. There are plenty of Catholics (50-60% of the study body), but also a lot of non-Catholics and even non-Christians.

Immaculata 3There are 600 beds on campus (And almost all rooms have sinks in them); 85% freshmen and just over 50% of all undergrads live on campus. IU just built new apartments for upperclassmen, bringing the numbers up. There are some Learning-Living Communities, but no separate Greek housing for the 5 sororities and 1 frat. I asked if this was indicative of the gender ratio, but it’s not (the university went co-ed in 2005, and the gender ratio evened out last year). “There just aren’t as many guys who want to join,” said the tour guide.

Immaculata 2“The students who won’t succeed here are the ones with an attitude or ego. Teamwork is a huge deal, and if people don’t want to work with others, they won’t last long.” This is also a dry campus; most people come in knowing this and being ok with that, but she found some who liked to complain about it and didn’t want to follow that rule. They ended transferring as well. “We provide a nurturing environment because the students here are the ones who want to interact. People need to get involved. That’s how they find their purpose and their voice. Students can be shy but they need to be proactive,” said an admissions rep.

Immaculata AT dept

Part of the Athletic Training department

There are ore than 100 degree programs offered, and the goal is to fit students into their major as soon as they’re ready. The most popular majors are Education, Psych, Music (with an emphasis on performance, music education, or music therapy), and Nursing; growing majors include Business and Exercise Science (they even have a hydrotherapy pool). The Allied Health concentrations are specialized and include such areas as Nuclear Medicine Technology, Cardiovascular Invasive Technology, Medical Dosimetry, Radiation or Respiratory Therapy, and Surgical Technology.

Immaculata acad bldg 4

One of the academic buildings

Most majors require an external experience; all recommend one. Our tour guide’s smallest class had 7 students (her Forensics class which was also her favorite). Her largest (writing) had 21 students. Students do take a religion class; our tour guide took “Exploring Yourself in God and Prayer” and found it really useful. “It was really introspective.”

They want to make sure that the 4-year graduation rate is attainable. Retention is nearly 85%, and graduation rates hover around 75%. They are taking steps to increase both, even though they’re already above the national average. Students are accountable for themselves, but everyone works as a support system. A new Center for Student Engagement should be up within 2 years.

Immaculata main

Back Campus

Immaculata rotunda

Inside the Rotunda

Back Campus, the big quad behind the main buildings, holds many of the campus-wide events such as the Block Party, Back-to-School Bash, and Movies on the Quad. Weekends are busy so students like sticking around. In addition to things on campus, trips to Baltimore Aquarium, Dooney Park, Hershey Park and more are offered regularly. Philly is about 50 minutes by car (all students can have cars on campus for $50 a year). The closest train is about 2 miles away in Malvern, but a SEPTA bus that stops on campus every hour. A favorite tradition is the Christmas tree in the rotunda. It’s decorated, people sing carols, sophomores get their pins and juniors get their class rings. It’s a huge deal.

Immaculata bball awards

The 3 National Championship awards

Immaculata sports are DIII, and the university is considered both the Birthplace of Modern Women’s Basketball and the start of NCASS divisions. The Mighty Macs movie was about the team in the ‘70s that won 3 consecutive national championships. They’re currently expanding the pool by either a centimeter or an inch (no one seems quite sure which it is!) to make it officially long enough for swim meets. Professors work with athletes to work around schedules: “they know you didn’t create your travel schedule, but it’s still on you to be responsible about it. You have to get a paper signed by you, your coach, and the teacher if you’re going to miss a class.”

Immaculata music

Setting up for a concert

Students come mostly from the mid-Atlantic, usually with between 12-15 states are represented. It’s free to apply to Immaculata online and applicants only need 1 rec (2 for nursing). Music requires an audition. There are some music scholarships ranging up to $5000, stackable with other merit scholarships.

© 2016

Gwynedd Mercy University

Gwynedd Mercy University (visited 7/19/16)

Gwynedd Mercy 1Here’s a fun fact about Gwynedd Mercy: Ian Fleming got the name for his protagonist, a real-life James Bond, who was the son of the owner of the land the university now sits on. James Bond (the real one) published a book on the birds of the West Indies; Fleming, living in Jamaica, saw the name on the cover and thought it sounded perfect.

Gwynedd Mercy bells

The bell tower

The Bond family mansion was eventually deeded to the Sisters of Mercy who founded the institution; with that comes the heritage of serving community. First-Year Experience classes require 20 hours of community service. Many students do this anyway, so it becomes part of the culture on campus, including Alternative Spring Breaks. About 38% self-identify as Catholic; another 30% don’t self-identify as any religion. The only religious obligation students must fulfill is 1 religion OR philosophy class.

Several years ago, Gwynedd Mercy created an institutional imperative to increase learning in different ways. One hallmark is their study abroad program since this has been shown to be beneficial for college students as an exploration of cultures, building life experiences, and considering various worldviews. GMU makes sure it’s intentional, getting students to think about the essential questions: Who are we, who are they, and how does it all fit together?

Gwynedd Mercy libraryThe Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences spoke to us about their program; I can see why students would be excited to take classes with her. She’s been at the school for 20+ years and is passionate about teaching and providing quality experiences for the students. “This place feels like home. It may be cliché, but I think students experience this, and faculty and staff do, too.”

Study trips travel all over for intensive 2-3 week experiences such as History and Culture of New Orleans; Irish History, Lit, and Culture; Business and Lit in Rome; and Healthcare in the Bateyes (Dominican Republic). The Ireland group visits Mercy International. “They’re immersed in Mercy from the day they get here, but it really hits home here.” GMU waives tuition for summer study abroad to encourage students to go on the trips. Students interested in the traditional study abroad (semester or year-long) get connected to nearby Arcadia University for their programs.

Gwynedd Mercy library intAnother distinctive program is “E-STEM” funded by an NSF grant. This research project (primarily through the Bio and Math departments) looks at whether they can increase students’ ethical awareness in science. Eligible students (academically talented with financial need) apply by writing an essay about ethical issues, a potential ethical solution, and short- and long-term outcomes. Recipients get either $3,000 or $8000 (most get 8) and become part of a LLC and the Honors College. Monthly activities include co-curricular and social events.

Gwynedd Mercy 3The college is suburban; they have access to the city without being in the middle of it. The Griffin Link Shuttle Service runs Thursday through Sunday; this gets them to Target, restaurants, theaters. They also have bike share and car share, and the train station is 2 minutes away. There are 4 malls within 15 minutes as well as lots of stores, eateries, theaters, etc.

Students are happy with the variety of things to do on campus. The 19 DIII teams draw high numbers of participants and fans. There are also a fair number of clubs including an equestrian team. The late-night lounge is a popular place to hang out. Students like the food, especially seafood night, the fried chicken, and mac-n-cheese. A couple favorite traditions are:

  • Finals breakfast at the end of Fall Semester. Professors serve breakfast from 9-12 and prizes are given out.
  • Griffin Madness (the Griffin is the mascot), a basketball pep rally. There are student-faculty games, wing eating contests, and more.

Gwynedd Mercy nursingRight now, the gender balance is skewed with males making up only 1/3 of the 2000 undergrads, primarily because the Nursing program is well-known, highly regarded, and popular (about 40% of students are in this major). However, they have some other amazing programs:

Gwynedd Mercy 8Our tour guide’s classes have ranged in size from 3-25. His favorite was Civil War History taken over the summer with a professor who did reenactments. They went to Gettysburg, and the guy would point out where “his” regiments were.

GMU’s rolling admissions will provide an answer in about 2 weeks. Most decisions are made in the admissions office, but some programs like nursing require the file to go to committee if a student is borderline. Now with Prior-Prior Year financial aid, they’re bumping up some of their deadlines, so check the website for information as this happens over the coming year.

Gwynedd Mercy statue 2The small community allows for hand-on, personalized attention. “This is a good place for shy students who want to blossom,” said the tour guide. “That was me. I’m totally different from who I was in high school.” As another example, students who have learning differences are easily accommodated. An admissions rep said, “we’re small and can be flexible. We’ll do anything we can for students to accommodate needs.” The same goes for students with allergies.

Only about 600 students live on campus; there’s been a big push to keep kids on campus on the weekend. Housing is guaranteed but students can move off. Three of the four dorms are interconnected with one centralized entranceway to all 3 buildings. The Health Center and mailboxes are in this building which is really smart! Cable is provided in dorms. The 4th dorm has apartments housing 4 or 5 people per unit. This has kept more of the upperclassmen on campus.

© 2016

 

 

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