New England College (visited 10/19/16)
“Show up. Be prepared. Engage. Take responsibility. Be a self-advocate. Come with an open mind. We can give you the skills; what you do with it is your choice.”
A few things make NEC stand out from other small liberal arts schools:
It’s amazingly diverse (the most diverse in NH). “We celebrate it; it’s part of our core environment.” The diversity comes in all forms: gender, sexual orientation, race, veteran status, socio-economic status, whatever. More than 40% of the undergraduates self-report as underrepresented students and more than ¾ of the students come from outside New Hampshire.
- For students interested in politics, this is the place to be. “We’re the Super Bowl of Politics. Our kids meet the next President of the US. All the candidates come through here. There are town hall meetings, kids introduce them, meet them, end up working for them.”
- The have a pedagogy of engaged learning. “Our way is to roll our sleeves up and do it; let’s get out there and apply it!” Wednesday afternoons there are no classes so kids can get out and do things. They go all over NH.
- NEC’s core values center on civics and the natural environment. How do we develop new citizens to make a difference in their local, national, world environments? They ask people to weave in civics and natural environment.
This residential, beautiful campus is home to about 1500 undergrads from 29 states and 19 countries, including 5 new Americans from the refugee centers in Concord and Manchester. Applying is free, and admissions is rolling and test-optional. Admissions wants to see what they’ve done and what they want to achieve. “We’re small; we know the kids we’re working with.” Academically, students fall within a wide range, coming in with 2.0-4.0 GPAs, although average is a 2.8. “NEC is a special place; we’re willing to take a chance and work with the students from ‘less than stellar’ backgrounds.”
The small, caring community provides opportunities for students who are willing to work for it and take advantage of them; those who want to engage in the community will do well here. “It’s hard to describe the typical NEC kid,” said a faculty member. “It’s perfect for the place for students who may need encouragement and for those ready to fly.” In addition to tutoring and advising, they have a fee-for-service ($4500 yearly) mentoring program, a 1-on-1 service for time management, skill-building, organization, etc. Students do not need a documented need for this; anyone can sign up; they get about 40 freshman, dropping to about half that for sophomore year.
There are 4 Academic Divisions offering 32 majors all grounded in the liberal arts tradition. New business and performing arts buildings will open in 2018. A few programs worth noting are:
- Outdoor Education: Students in this program take education classes and academic classes to back up the outdoor educations: for example, for rock climbing, they’ll learn physics and geology. One graduate is running a program in Norway, and got her Masters (after learning Norwegian) there. Another is an Asst. Dir. of a wilderness program in Montana.
- Computer Information Science: “this is as experiential as you can be with a CIS degree”
Theater Education: one of the few in NH, and they have to also take all the Special Ed classes to be dual certified.
- Theatre: phenomenal.
- They’ve sent a large number of graduates to Inside the Actor’s Studio.
- While I was there, they were preparing to put on “Fortinbras” (tagline: “I’m not here to finish their story. They were here to start mine.”)
- Theater students put on a Haunted Trail for the community
- Integrated Studies in Philosophy and Literature: One of the tour guides took “Humanity of the Inhumane” looking at philosophy, ethics, read Clockwork Orange, etc.
- The study-away program (Amazon rainforest, Belize, New Orleans, Rome, Cairo, Costa Rica, Ireland) is free of charge: “This isn’t just for people with resources.”
- Juniors with 3.0 or higher can apply to be in an accelerated program to take 3 classes that count for both undergrad and the Master’s.
Henniker is very small (population 2500-3000); there’s a very small main street with a pizza place, a bank, and a pharmacy. The owner of the local Chinese restaurant will cook traditional food for students. “What we do really well now is to embrace that we’re in the country. We used to try to say that we were close to Boston – and certainly we’re close enough for a Red Sox game or whatever – but you aren’t going to do it every day.” Concord is only 20 minutes away, and shuttles run on the weekend. There are miles of trails right here where students can run, hike, bike. A local farmer lets them use an area for bonfires. Students get a free ski pass (rentals are $10): Sunapee is 20 minutes away, Loon is 1.5 hours, and Pat’s Peak is 2 miles away. A popular annual event is night skiing there when the school rents out Pat’s Peak for 4 hours. Kids will often come to class with ski boots on, either coming directly from skiing or heading out right after class.
As an unwritten rule: if students represent NEC in athletics, at conferences or programs at schools, etc, it’s an excused absence from class. Their students run ropes courses for orientations, including local public schools and Keene State. 40-50% of students play on one of the 17 DIII team including a championship rugby team. Men’s wrestling is new this year; women’s volleyball will start fall of 2017. Lots of Swedes come here for hockey, and Indian students play cricket on the little league baseball field. The men’s soccer team hosts the local Age 8-9 league; the kids got to line up and walk in with the team.