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Gannon University

Gannon University (visited 3/18/19)

Gannon archThis is more urban than I had expected it to be, but it still has enough of a campus feel to make students feel like they have “a place.” Campus is about 2 blocks wide and 5 or so long. “You can walk across campus in 2 Spotify songs!” said the tour guide. Having the size of a campus described that way was a first for me – and I think that sums up Gannon in a lot of ways!

Gannon student cntrErie is the only port city in Pennsylvania. They get a lot of traffic from Routes 90 and 70, but it’s not a major city. Costs are reasonable, and the city opens up lots of options for social life including “funky brew pubs and lots of cool museums,” said the tour guide. The rep said, “The city and the college grew up together in the 1920s, and now we’re adults and we help each other out. We’re a weird city! It’s cool to be in Erie as a young person. This is an international place. 18% of the population isn’t from here. That’s also reflected in our student population. In the time it takes you to walk across campus, you’ll hear 5 or 6 languages.”

Gannon upperclass housingStudents are typically involved in 5 or 6 things on and off campus. The tour guide told me that “student like Greek Life. It’s there but not overarching. Many groups are volunteer based, and often dues are donated to community organizations. You join knowing you’re going to be involved. There are no rowdy parties because we’re in a residential neighborhood.” They discourage rushing Freshman year because there are so many other opportunities to take advantage of. “Greek Life isn’t the umbrella. It’s just one thing UNDER the umbrella of our entire experience.”

Gannon 2Gannon is a 5 minute walk to Presque Isle bay on Lake Erie. “The freshwater and marine biology students and the crew team don’t mind the lake access!” said an admissions rep. In addition to having access to the lake for their crew team, they have an amazing interior turf field on campus. They take athletics seriously and have strong (DII) teams: “We can put ourselves on par with the lower 20% of DI schools.” They offer women’s wrestling (the 1st in the state and still 1 of only 3 in PA). Football, baseball, lacrosse, women’s soccer, and volleyball tend to pull in the most crowds, but they also offer water polo, competitive cheer (co-ed and all female) and competitive dance teams. Inner-tube water polo is the most popular intramural “and it is hilarious! They’re bouncing all over the place,” said the tour guide.

Gannon chapel 2This is the only university in Pennsylvania run by the Catholic diocese. It’s named after its founder who saw an influx of homeless newspaper boys so “he rounded them up to give them an education.” Catholicism is still a part of the identity with about 50% of students self-identifying as Catholic. There are very few things around campus to indicate that this is a relisious institution (there are a few small crucifixes around, but no statues, the chapel is not obvious, etc). The tour guide said that the religious aspect “not in your face. It’s there if you want it, but really easy to ignore it if you don’t.” She’s not Catholic and hasn’t felt isolated, pressured, or anything else. Students do have to take two theology classes of their choice; nothing is scripted, and mass/chapel attendance is never required.

Gannon atriumThere are about 4000 students on campus, 1000 of whom are grad students. Many of these are Gannon undergraduates who move right into grad programs. “A lot of our engineers are torn between here and RIT for graduate school. We’re not unhappy about being in that league.” The average class has 19 students; the largest classes will cap at 60ish because the largest lecture halls aren’t really bigger than that but those classes are rare. Professors are known by their first names. “It’s peer to peer. Students are walking their dogs, having coffee with them, babysitting their kids.”

Gannon performance lab 1One of the coolest things I saw on my tour was the Human Performance Lab. The tour guide said she normally doesn’t get to take people in there, so she was excited to show it off. She was raving about the director of the program who happened to be in there working out on the treadmills. “Come on in! I’m just killing time before the next group comes in!” He showed off the amazing technology and machines in there, and also had the tour guide chime in about some of her labs that she did in the room. This is absolutely an incredible facility that a lot of undergraduates do not have access to and most universities.

Gannon library“Gannon is riding the sweet spot of becoming a top-tier university without being elitist.” There’s no shortage of offerings for students, and Gannon provides strong job training without losing the ethos of who they are as a personalized, liberal arts institution.

Gannon stained glassAdmissions is rolling but “most students apply in the fall.” They will superscore both the SAT and ACT. Tuition is affordable, and they’re generous with scholarships. “The top price anyone will see is $48K with the highest tuition for health sciences, engineering, and CompSci because of the labs, but there are scholarships for those, too.” Some other scholarships include:

  • Diversity Service and Leadership (diverse racial backgrounds; $1000 for just applying as a student of color; if you visit and write an essay, you get an additional $2000)
  • Schuster Memorial Music/Patron of the Arts. Some stipulations apply such as a commitment to community service in the arts
  • MUN Scholarships (up to $3,000)
  • Full Tuition (students must apply by 12/15). The top 10% of applicants get invited to be in a full-tuition program. Those who choose will come to campus to give a presentation (could be everything from Irish Dancing, bringing in models they built, etc).

Athletes can be recruited with scholarships, as well, since they’re DII.

© 2019

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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

 

 

Bellarmine University

BELLARMINE UNIVERSITY (visit 9/16/14)

~Bellarmine statue 2Bellarmine (pronounced “Bell-are-min”) is a medium-sized (2,500 undergrads) Catholic university in a residential neighborhood of Louisville, Kentucky. Although originally an all-male institution, they merged with the all-female Ursiline College in the 1960s. Today, the student body is almost 2/3 women, due in part to the nursing program.

Both the campus and the students were impressive. The students we spoke to were articulate and weren’t “scripted” – the spoke openly about their experiences, giving personal examples of their life on campus rather than just mindlessly spouting information given to them by the admissions office. One of our tour guides, a psych major, said that one of her favorite classes had been Intro to Acting. “If it hadn’t been for that class, I wouldn’t be here talking to you now.”

~Bellarmine students 2Lauren, one of the Admissions Reps, presented the info session to us (a group of counselors); she prefaced it by saying that she was going to do the presentation as she would have if we were a bunch of prospective students so we would get a sense of what our students would hear. Early in the presentation, she said, “The question you need to be asking yourself is, ‘Can you see yourself succeeding here as a student?’” which is a wonderful way for students to approach the search process.

~Bellarmine ampitheaterThe Catholic heritage is clearly part of the university but isn’t overbearing. Many of the values are woven into aspects of campus like the full day of service that all students do during Orientation. One of our tour guides self-identified as Catholic, the other as a non-denominational Christian. Both enjoy the feeling on campus. The religion is there for those who want it. A small campus chapel holds Catholic masses and other Christian services, none of which are mandatory. Students do have to take 2 theology classes (1 in world religions and 1 elective) during their time here, which they see as very reasonable.

~Bellarmine sci centerStudents also have to take 2 lab science classes; in addition to the bio, chem, and other more traditional classes, they can fulfill this with classes like Human Health and Disease, Astronomy, or Gross Anatomy (Bellarmine is 1 of only 8 undergraduate institutions that offer this class!). As a freshman, my tour guide had to reassemble organs in the Cadaver Lab. Bellarmine has a contract with the local zoo; the university gets the animals when they die in order to provide study opportunities for the students (including once getting a giraffe which a professor was going to use to study decomposition, until they realized that they had placed it too close to the air-vents on the roof!). One of the physics professors works with a super-collider (CERN). Upperclassmen help analyze the data.

Nursing, Clinical Lab Sciences, and Respiratory Care Therapy majors make up almost 1/3 of the student population. Nursing, a direct-entry program (assuming criteria is met), counts for about 20% of students, and students speak very highly of the program.

Not surprisingly, their Theology program is strong, as is Math (including Actuarial Science), Poli Sci, Kinesiology, Digital Arts and Technology (with an emphasis in music, art, and communications), Computer Engineering, foreign languages, and Arts Management.

~Bellarmine library inside

Inside of the Library

One of the biggest draws for students is the interaction they have with professors. The largest classroom on campus has 70 seats; the average class size is 20. “We’re setting them up for success,” said an Admissions rep. Students do get to know professors well. In exit interviews, the vast majority say they would make the same decision to do it all over again; when asked where they would like to see money spent, many of them said they would put money towards increasing salary of professors!

All dorm rooms have AC, carpet, a microwave and fridge, and are cable-ready. About ¾ of freshmen life on campus, including in 1 of 4 learning communities: STEM, Honors, Social Engagement, and Health Sciences (called Galileo). About 50% of the entire undergrad population lives on campus. There are a lot of hills on campus – one of the students said that it’s hard to gain the Freshman 15 because of this. In fact, they also give a “hybrid tour” to prospective students using both walking and trolleys because of the hills! Freshmen can have cars on campus, but there are bike rentals and buses for people who don’t have them, so cars aren’t necessary.

~Bellarmine soccerLouisville one of 20 largest cities in the country. It’s been named as one of the top cities for entrepreneurship, a top food city, and a great 20-something city. There’s lots going on, but students don’t often look to Louisville for entertainment since there’s plenty to do on campus. Sports are mostly DIII except for the lacrosse team (DI). Knights Nation is a group dedicated to celebrating the Knights at different games. One well-loved tradition is wearing Halloween costumes to basketball games. There are 90+ other clubs, as well, including a breakdancing club, a Pokemon League, and a Whovian Society. The Daily Knight newsletter will announce upcoming events.

The application is free and is moving to all-online. Currently there is no Common App option. The Honors program requires a 28+ ACT and 3.4 GPA, but they are moving this year to an application-based process. Most students receive scholarships of some sort. The average merit award is around $21,000; comprehensive packages average around $29,000. They do give 5 full-tuition scholarships each year; to be considered for one of these, applicants must submit an essay by 12/1. Competitive students have a 30+ ACT or 1330 SAT and a 3.4 unweighted GPA. Faculty read and invite students to come compete for the scholarship.

© 2014

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