campus encounters

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New England College

New England College (visited 10/19/16)

nec-bell-tower

The bell tower set among the rocks and trees of campus

“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:

  • nec-dining-hall

    The dining hall with flags of international students

    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.”
  • nec-sign-2The 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.
nec-1

Some of the dorms

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.”

 

nec-student-painting

A student painting along the river as leaves fall from the trees

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.

 

nec-new-acad-bldg

The new academic building

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”
  • nec-stage

    Building the set for FortinbrasTheater Education: one of the few in NH, and they have to also take all the Special Ed classes to be dual certified.

    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.
nec-town

View of the main street from campus

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.

 

nec-reading-room

The library reading room

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.

 

© 2016

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Paul Smith’s College

Paul Smith’s College (visited 7/15/15)

Want to go somewhere where you can minor in Maple Syrup (they run a Certified Organic operation) . . . or maybe Craft Beer where you can learn the science behind it and how to market it?

How about a place where you can kayak to a rock outcropping in the lake to do your homework . . . and still get wifi?

Maybe joining a Woodsmen’s Team is more your style? (And yes, women can participate. Check out this YouTube video!)

If so – check this place out!!

~Paul Smiths lakefrontAll told, this is one of the more unique schools I’ve visited (think Sterling College in Vermont but bigger and more focused on forestry rather than a working farm). Paul Smith’s tagline is “The College of the Adirondacks – and it truly is. They’re sitting right in the middle of the state park on the edge of a lake. The college owns most of the land around three public-access lakes for a total of 14,200 acres plus the Visitors Interpretive Center up the road. The UN has named the area a Biosphere Reserve.

Paul Smiths canoe storage

Kayak and canoe racks

Although the college sits in the middle of almost nowhere (the 1,000 students at PS doubles the local population during the school year), students aren’t isolated – although if you love being in nature, you’ll be in heaven here. The school runs multiple shuttles from Friday to Sunday to Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, and beyond. Also, students can bring up to 3 vehicles to campus – for example, a car, a 4-wheeler, and a kayak; the school provides plenty of space to store all these things.

Additionally, students can bring “up to 2 weapons for hunting,” said the rep. “The first thing they do when they arrive on campus is check in with Security and lock these up in the armory. The last thing they do before leaving campus is stop at Security and check them out. We always know it’s the first day of deer season because at least half the students are missing from classes.”

~Paul Smiths logs

Logs that the Woodsmen’s team practices on

Athletic offerings reflect various student interests. They have 7 DIII varsity sports (soccer, basketball, volleyball, cross-country, rugby, and skiing): “Rubgy is very popular!” There are many, many intramurals, club sports, and recreational activities including Skiing/ Snowboarding, fly-fishing, whitewater kayaking, rock climbing, snowshoe softball, inner-tube water polo, duathlons, scuba diving, bowling, and an emergency wilderness response team. They even have a draft horse team! They flood the tennis courts in the winter so students can ice skate. The saline swimming pool is used for recreation and training for water sports – and there’s a fake burling log that the Woodman’s team uses to practice.

~Paul Smiths dorm 3

One of the dorm options

~Paul Smiths honors dorm

Blum house

Dorm options are varied including a yurt where students can live for a semester! Overlook is one of the newest buildings on campus; the suites/apartments here have 4 single rooms, 2 baths, and a common area. Blum House is directly next to the lake; students need to apply to live here and must have a 3.0+ GPA, no disciplinary problems, and agree to substance-free living. Freshmen are housed in one of 2 dorms, and transfers are housed together. “They’re in a different place in life; it makes sense to let them bond.”

~Paul Smiths dining hall 2

Dining Hall

Students really like the food at the dining hall. The director plans all sorts of great activities such as Late Night Open Mic and Night at the Oscars (formal wear encouraged). There’s a pub for the 21+ students. The bookstore sells a lot more than books since they recognize that it’s hard for students to get what they need locally. They carry the culinary and other specialized stuff that students might need, there’s a notary on staff, etc.

Academically, Paul Smith’s is split into two divisions: the School of Natural Resource Management and Ecology and the School of Commercial, Applied, and Liberal Arts. There’s a Dean for both divisions with open door policies. “We’re very casual here.” There’s only 1 lecture hall on campus. Intro to Bio tends to be the biggest class: “I think we had 167 students once,” said the rep.

In the NRM/E school, some cool majors include:

  • Arboriculture and Landscape Management
  • Surveying Technology
  • Forest Technology
    • Forestry students help manage the school’s forest through timber sales, looking ecologically to see about infestations, what’s helping and hurting.
  • Parks, Rec, and Facilities Management
  • Ecological Restoration: they look at what’s impacting ecology and how to change it. Students have access to the Adirondack Water Institute where they do Shoreline restoration and look for invasive species. Students can get scuba certified.

Many students work for the Adirondack Park Agency during their time at college, and there’s 94% placement rate after graduation (not just for APA) but doing everything from research and advocacy to law and communications.

~Paul Smiths culinaryIn the CALA school, students can study:

  • Hotel, Resort, and Tourism Management
  • Food Service and Beverage Management
  • Rec, Adventure Ed, and Leisure Management
  • Baking/Pastry or Culinary Arts
    • There are 6 professional kitchens and 1 baking lab.

There are two on-campus restaurants and a bakery, all staffed by students. The St. Regis is a farm to fork café. Students do rotations in the back and front of house. The second is The Palm at Paul Smith’s which is based on The Palm in New York City which is co-owned by an alum who wanted to give students hands-on experience. Both are open to the public for lunch, dinner, and/or cocktail hour.

Alumni tend to be committed to the school. They come back so often that the school maintains a campground just for them. Although they do have some favorite traditions such as Smitty Fest, “There aren’t traditions here so much as there’s a way of life,” said the rep.

© 2015

Colgate University

Colgate University (visited 7/24/15)

~Colgate 7The first thing that I noticed (other than the hilly campus!) was the very consistent campus architecture. It’s beautiful and well maintained. At the base of the hill sits Taylor Lake, a man-made pond supposedly in the shape of a 4-leaf clover (although we couldn’t see it). Campus is safe: our tour guide never heard of anyone using the Blue Light system for actual security issues. One student fell on it accidentally, and one got scared when a deer popped out of the woods.

~Colgate quadThe student body seems very preppy – and also book smart. One of the tour guide’s favorite traditions involves a symbolic “transfer of knowledge”: professors walk up the hill with torches at the beginning of each year; at graduation, the seniors carry the torches down the hill. Colgate students grab opportunities. Our tour guide got a free trip to Oxford in his freshman year for a debate tournament.

Sculptures outside the science center

Sculptures outside the science center

Classes, not surprisingly, are small. The average class size is 19. Our tour guide had about 30 in some of his intro classes. His smallest class (Intro to Philosophy) had 7 students. Unusual majors include: Astrogeophysics, Native American Studies, Greek, and several Environmental Studies concentrations including: E. Biology, E. Economics, E. Geography, and E. Geology. Unusual minors include Applied Math, LGBTQ Studies, Jewish Studies, and Mathematical Systems Biology. The science department has a Visualization Lab “which is like a hybrid between a planetarium and IMAX.” They can show the night sky anytime in history, anywhere in the world. The sciences tend to be relatively strong here: 70-80% get into med school on the first application, almost twice the national average.

West Hall

West Hall

Dorms are coed, some by floor, some by room. The Freshman Quad has 6 dorms; West Hall was actually built by students back in the 1800s when there was a physical labor requirement. Almost 1/3 of students are involved in Greek Life (rush doesn’t happen until sophomore year). Roughly 60% of affiliated students live in Greek housing located down on Broad Street. “They’re owned by the university so they’re bound by all the rules on campus.” The dining hall is open 24/7. Freshman and sophomore meal plans are unlimited so they can get coffee or a snack without wasting a meal.

Student Center

Student Center

A student lounge

A student lounge

There’s plenty to do on campus. They bring in lots of big-name speakers like the Clintons or the Prime Minister of Israel (the tour guide didn’t know if it was the current PM or not . . .). Dancefest, a twice-yearly event, showcases the 30+ dance and music groups including the all-whistling a cappella group. Sports are popular, and there are also a lot of club teams dedicated to the less popular sports that don’t necessarily have an outlet otherwise such as Fencing, Curling, Western or English/Hunt Equestrian, Rugby, and Figure Skating.

~Colgate 6The town of Hamilton is a small, cute town with a few things to do. “We’re not going to go hungry,” said the tour guide, but if you’re looking for hopping city night-life, this isn’t the place. Shuttles run around campus and town four times an hour from 7am – 1am (3am on weekends). Syracuse is less than an hour away, and there are plenty of outdoor events like skiing, snowboarding, rock climbing, and kayaking available, many of which are free to students through the Outdoor Club and other college organizations. There’s a long-distance bus stop on campus so it’s easy to get to other cities (including 2 buses a day to NYC). They also run shuttles to the Amtrak and the Syracuse airport (a round-trip shuttle to the airport costs $20).

ALANA Center

ALANA Center

Multiculturalism and diversity is big here. The ALANA cultural center has a full kitchen, offices, and meeting/class spaces; they hold brown bag lunches almost every week. There are multiple groups dedicated to a variety of religious, political, and cultural identities.

© 2015

Texas Christian University

Texas Christian University (visited 3/3/15)

~TCU main sign~TCU flowersOne of the big question a lot of us on the Counselor tour had was, how Christian is TCU? The general consensus was: as much as you want it to be. The school is insistent that students figure it out for themselves and be respectful of others. “We have really interesting conversations about God,” said one of the tour guides. Students are required to complete 1 theology class as part of their distribution requirements, but the choices range from Religion in the Arts to The Afterlife in Roman/Greek Traditions (taught by a German professor). One student on the panel wishes that the university were more Christian. “It’s in the name; no one is hiding that it’s part of who we are, but there’s 1 cross on campus. I’ve actively looked.”

~TCU main quad~TCU fountainThe campus is attractive with nice architecture and wonderful landscaping; daffodils were already popping up in early March, despite the chilly weather and dreary skies. Many of the buildings are made of yellow brick, and they’re making an effort to keep consistent to the general feeling as new construction goes up. The campus is located in Fort Worth, a city described by a student as a “booming suburbia.” It has a definite residential, family feel; students and younger professionals tend to like living here. “Dallas feels more business-like than here,” said one professors. Students can take easy advantage of the city with free bus rides with their TCU ID; they also have access to bike shares. However, there’s lots to do directly off campus, as well. Students get discounts at many places in town including free lunches at some places on Fridays. 35 places off-campus will take Flex Bucks.

~TCU dorm hallway

A dorm hallway

TCU has a two-year residency requirement but currently can’t meet demand for juniors and seniors. However, they’re committed to rectifying that and are building a new res hall per year for a decade; 4 new ones are up already. Students are happy that they’re working on the residential issues.

~TCU plaza 2Greek life is a huge part of campus life with almost half of students affiliating (it’s a higher percentage of women than men affiliating – about 55% and 40% respectively – which almost matches up with the general gender mix on campus). One student wishes that she knew how much Greek life was part of campus before she came here. She said that sometimes it feels like much more than half of the students belong to one of the Greek organizations. There is a bit of Greek housing, but many end up living together in regular dorms.

~TCU studentsStudents love the academics here, but “you need to want to learn. They can facilitate the learning, but can’t do it for you.” Favorite classes include:

  • Literature and Civilization: they spoke with a woman from Rwanda
  • Speech Pathology (she’s had her own clients for 2 years now).

~TCU main bldgAs with any university, there are a number of colleges to choose from including:

  • Business
  • Liberal Arts (notable programs: Geography, Criminal Justice, and Hispanic Studies). Students wanting to take classes in Aerospace Studies or Military Science can do so through the Air Force or Army ROTC (respectively).
  • Communications including Communication Studies, Film-TV-Digital Media, and Journalism.
  • Fine Arts: Art, Dance, Music, Theater, Interior Design and Merchandising, and Arts Administration
  • Education
  • Science and Engineering including Physics and Astronomy, Engineering, Computer Science, and the School of Geology, Energy, and the Environment.
  • TCU Honors volleyball

    Sand Volleyball Court

    The Honors College provides small classes and specialized housing (complete with a sand volleyball court!). Honors students have the opportunity to attend a special orientation and have access to Honors Study Abroad trips.~TCU mascot

~TCU mascot statue

Football stadium

Football stadium

Sports are a big deal here. Super Frog the Horned Frog is the beloved mascot (and listed in the top-10 weirdest mascots!); students rub the nose of the Horned Frog statue for luck before exams, and the university even owns a real horned frog. It’s housed at the FW Zoo because it’s an endangered species. TCU’s teams are DI; in addition to the common teams, there are women’s Equestrian and Rifle teams, and men’s DIA football. TCU ranks #1 in the country for attendance at women’s soccer and men’s baseball games. Their big rival is Baylor. Intramurals and club sports are a big part of life on campus, as well. They offer bowling, ice hockey, gymnastics, rugby, and water polo in addition to many other sports. There’s even an outdoor pool with kayaks and canoes available for students.

© 2015

Pacific University

Pacific University (visited 7/15/13)

Pacific theater

Theater building

I was more impressed with Pacific than I thought I’d be. The campus is beautiful, and they’re clearly a student-centered institution. Two professors (David DeMoss, Dir of Arts and Humanites, and Sarah Phillips, Sociology professor) talked to us; both were engaging and personable. “I wanted to be somewhere where I could teach. I value the messiness of learning and the time spent sitting and talking with students,” said Dr. DeMoss. He went on to say that the Pacific kids were some of the kindest and most honest students he’s met; Dr. Phillips agreed.

Pacific library

Interior of the library

The school’s specialty is letting students pursue what they’re interested in and teach them what they need to know to be successful. For example, all pre-health students take an Intro to Health Professions class to help them figure out early if that’s really what they want (and a Career Component is 1 of 4 requirements that all students have to complete to graduate). Students who succeed are those who are willing to: 1) work. It’s not a cakewalk. If they’re not ready for hard work, this isn’t the place for them. 2) consider an alternative and are not “married to their prejudices.” They may leave with the same ideas, but they’ve had to think about them and choose them rather than just inheriting them. 3) get into extra-curricular activities right away. It’s ok to be quiet and shy but they have to be curious.

Pacific Univ CntrThey have a few programs worth noting: They offer a 3-3 law program with Case Western Reserve in Ohio; Exercise Science is big; the English department offers a track in Creative Writing as well as an Editing and Publishing minor; Philosophy has an Ethics, Society, and Law track; they offer an indigenous studies as well as a peace and social justice minor; they have an accredited Bachelor’s degree in Social Work and are working on getting a Music Therapy program within the next couple years; finally, they have an Applied Theater major which I’ve never heard of before.

PacificIn their first semester, every student takes a First Year Seminar which usually has humanities-based content with a serious academic college-level bent. This is a 4-credit class with 16-20 students (plus an upper-level student mentor) who all live on the same floor, meant to help get students involved in social life. Our tour guide’s favorite class was “Global Sociology of HIV/AIDS.” Classes average about 19 students with the largest classroom space on campus holding 85.

Pacific apts

Some of the newest apartments on campus

This is a largely residential campus of about 1600 undergraduates (they also have a sizable graduate population; they have the oldest – and one of only three – Optometry Graduate program on the west coast). Our tour guide didn’t like that the town isn’t so lively (although campus is), but said that there are good gown/town relations, and several places in town give discounts to the students. She goes to Portland maybe every 4-6 weeks; they can grab a on the corner by campus; the ride to the MAX line takes 15 minutes. From there, they can get downtown in less than 45 minutes (airport is about an hour); the trip costs $2.40 total. Pacific also has 4 zip cars which cost $60 a day to rent.

Pacific indoor turf

Indoor turf in Pacific’s gym

Pacific takes the Common App and it’s free to apply if they contact their admissions rep who waive the fee for them. Students need a 3.0 in prep classes and a 1000 CR&M SAT score or 21 ACT. Those who fall under these benchmarks go to a faculty Review Committee. There are several scholarships in areas like music and theater; students don’t have to major in these areas, but they do need to participate in ensembles, plays, etc. Pacific also holds a competition in February called Pace Setters in which students compete for more scholarship money. They get $2000 for competing, and can get up to $5000. If they matriculate, they get some of their travel money reimbursed. They also have a lot of support – financial and on-campus – for First Gen and low-income students.

Pacific street

One of the streets leading off campus with cafes and shops

Located halfway between Portland and the coast, Pacific was founded in 1849 along the Oregon Trail for children orphaned on the trail. There are several old, historic buildings, including a Carnegie Library. The Cuppola of one of the original buildings still has the bell in it; this is where students “sign, shake, and ring” during orientation and right before graduation, marking the start and end of their time at Pacific: they sign the book, shake the President’s hand, and ring the bell. Although there are older, historic buildings, they’ve also done a lot of building and updating: they have a new eco-friendly upper-division dorm, and they’re working on renovating one first-year dorm, and knocking down and rebuilding another one.

Pacific 2Pacific has a high percentage of Hawaiian (and more generally Pacific Islander) students. One of the major events that students mentioned looking forward to every year was the Luau that’s thrown every year. Sports are also relatively popular, and they have a lot of options, including Rugby as a club sport. Technically, Rugby is a men’s sport but since they don’t yet have a women’s team (they’re working on that), about four or five women will practice with them (but can’t yet compete). Students can take advantage of a lot of outdoor activities, much of which is organized through “Outback,” their outdoors activities group.

Pacific mascot

A picture of the original mascot

We learned some fun facts about their mascot, Boxer. In the 1920s, a group of students studied in China and brought back a Chinese statue for the university as a “thank you” for sending them. As a joke, people started stealing it and moving it around to random places on campus. This because a tradition to see who could steal and move it. Eventually, students named it Boxer after the Boxing Day Rebellion, and it stuck. Today, all that’s left is its tail and one leg; an alumnae had the leg in his attic and donated it back to the university.

(Another interesting bit of trivia is that Tommy Thayer, the lead guitarist for Kiss, is on their Board.)

© 2013

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