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Archive for the tag “Sisters of Mercy college”

University of Saint Joseph (CT)

University of St. Joseph’s (visited 5/30/19)

USJ quad 1I’m glad I took the time to stop at St. Joseph’s on my way to the University of Hartford. In some ways, USJ gets overlooked, but it was a pleasant surprise and will hopefully grow beyond its regional status (it’s about 90% in-state students). Although it’s a smaller school, students at USJ can expand their options through the Greater Hartford Higher Education Consortium (with U Hartford, Trinity, CCSU, and UConn Hartford) to take courses not offered on the home campus as well as to utilize study abroad programs and other resources.

USJ missionOpen since the early 1930s, they just went coed in 2018; they’re already about 1/3 male which is amazing one year into admitting men. “We’re still holding onto the idea of women’s empowerment, though. Just because we went coed doesn’t mean we lost that identity.” This includes a Women’s Leadership Center founded in 2016. They added 5 men’s teams this year (and Jim Calhoun, formerly a UConn coach, is the men’s Basketball coach!) with more to come. “I expect them to mirror the women’s teams.” They’re DIII and compete in the GNAC.

USJ chapel 2This is a Sisters of Mercy (Catholic) institution with 3 Sisters employed on campus. “In many ways, they’re the female version of the Jesuits,” said the rep I spoke to, and the university promotes the values of education and caring for others, tenets of the founding group. A large portion of the student body self-identifies as Catholic and there’s an active campus ministry, but they’re less focused on the practice than on exploring Catholicism and celebrating ethnicity and culture. The two on-campus weekly masses (Wednesday evening and Sunday afternoon) are open to the public. Attendance isn’t mandatory, but students must take two religion classes – one on exploring religion and the other is open-ended to explore a particular religion or philosophy].

USJ 3Campus is beautiful with cohesive architecture and a large quad. About half of the 1000 undergrads live on campus in 4 traditional and 2 suite-style dorms reserved for upperclassmen. They have no immediate plans to build more dorms “but not unimaginable if we continue to grow. We’re at 95% capacity in terms of beds.” They’re looking to expand their geographic region now that they’ve gone coed. Housing grants are available to encourage students to live on campus.

The biggest lecture hall on campus seats 40 with average class sizes of 14. Although graduate students outnumber the undergrads (not surprising with their Education, Pharmacy, PA, and other programs), undergrad classes have no grad TAs. “Most grad students are professionals who are taking evening or online classes,” said the rep. They’ve done a great job focusing on providing quality undergraduate education and programs, many of which lead into a grad program if the students want.

  • USJ 1Business is growing;
    • Digital Media and Mass Communication was just started with 2 areas of focus: Spanish Media and Sports Media.
    • The Sports Management and Promotion major looks at both sides and requires 2 internships, one with an on-campus team (management side) and one outside (including ESPN which is right down the street in Bristol, about 25 minutes away).
  • The Math Department has expanded beyond traditional math to include Computer and Data Science and Actuarial Science. “Connecticut is the insurance capital of the world with companies like MassMutual, Traveler’s, Hartford, Cigna, and Aetna. Students get snatched up. They take the CPA exam and are ready to be hired.”
  • USJ athenaeumNursing is Direct Entry (applicants need a 3.0 and 1070 with B+ in Chem and Alg2). If they don’t meet that but are close, they’ll come in as pre-nursing. These students have their grades monitored by the nursing staff but take exactly the same classes. “No one knows who’s who. There’s no difference other than the monitoring.” The labs have 6 automated mannequins, including one that gives birth to twins. Labs are capped at 14. In Sophomore year, they work at the nursing home across the street. In Junior and Senior years, clinicals are completed at the local hospitals. They often offer a Sisters of Mercy trip to Guyana so nursing students can work at the hospital there. Non-nursing majors can join the trip and participate in more of the cultural activities.
  • Education: “I used to teach in town, and if we saw a kid coming out of USJ, we wanted that kid over those from other institutions because we knew the training here was better.” There are 2 on-campus schools: one K-Adult special needs, and the other is more of a day-care (infant-PK). As soon as students start education classes (usually sophomore year), they’re in one of those settings immediately getting experience from day. Special Education is technically the only education degree at the undergrad major – but licensure for Elementary and Secondary levels (reciprocal in almost 40 states) is available.
  • The Pharmacy school opened 10 years ago. They just graduated 52 students. 3+3 program.
  • The Physician Assistant program offers both direct entry (3+2) and a grad-only program. Direct-entry students major in Health Sciences as undergrads. This is popular with athletes because it works well with their practice schedules. USJ students who apply to the PA school get priority (but not guaranteed).

USJ 6The USJ alumni network is broad, and the connections the university has in the region means that the name carries weight. Salaries of USJ graduates are often higher than others in Connecticut. Career center helps alumni as well. A vast majority of the faculty have worked in professional or research fields so they have huge connections. Over 90% of students get involved in research, internships, and service projects. “This is a highly service-oriented community. All clubs are required to participate in a service-based activity, a requirement that was enacted by the student government itself.”

USJ quad 2They’ve seen a large interest in growing the on-campus student activities. They’ve just upped the fee as part of the tuition in order to expand what happens on campus. It’s all student-run with a facilitator. Students who are looking to get off campus utilize the local area of West Hartford, “a destination for restaurants and shopping. You can get around really easily without a car,” said the tour guide. The USJ Student ID doubles as a bus pass. Not only does this get students around town, but “you can hop on a city bus to Hartford and transfer to the New Haven MetroNorth station for free. From there, it’s $6 into NYC.”

Admissions is “Score Alternative” – only students interested in the health sciences or the Honors program need to submit test scores. During admissions, a 3.5 GPA and 1220 SAT will flag applicants to be sent to the Honors Committee who makes the final determination for an offer. This provides a half-tuition scholarship right off the bat. Honors Classes swap out the Gen Ed classes.

There’s plenty of scholarship and grant money available including a Visit Scholarship ($1000 for freshman year) and the Mercy Values Scholarship where students write an essay on one of the 7 values and explain how they embody it and will live that on campus. This ranges from $1000 -10,000.

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Mercyhurst University

Mercyhurst University (visited 3/18/19)

Mercyhurst M and Main

The main entrance

Sometimes visiting a college without knowing much about it first is the best way to approach this. This is definitely the case here. I loved driving onto campus under the metal arch and up the drive leading to the stunning main, original building. This has the feel of a strong faith-based community – there’s no question that this is a religious institution with the statues and the chapel – but I never got the heavy-handed feeling that some other religious institutions have. It just had a sense of calm and purpose permeating much of what goes on.

Mercyhurst chapel 1

The main chapel

The Sisters of Mercy (the first non-cloistered order) started Mercyhurst with 23 female students in 1926 (they went coed in 1969 with the addition of a men’s crew team). Their 2 major tenets include health care and education. If people needed help, they got it. They took care of soldiers on both sides of the Civil War, for example. Someone described them as being on the liberal edge of Catholicism, telling me that it was the Campus Ministry that started the LGBTQ group years ago. “They see the problem, not the details of who the person is. They want people to feel welcome and at home. If you want to be here, they want you to be here. Students seem respectful of people’s opinions and people can say what they feel.” The tour guide agreed: “It’s a supportive environment where you can be yourself.”

Mercyhurst lab

One of the cybersecurity labs

This is still something of a regional school with many students coming from a two-hour radius. Much of this is program driven: the academics have strong reputations, and the university has specialized majors such as Interior Architecture and Design, archaeology/anthropology (including concentrations in Bioanthropology and Bioarchaeology), and Applied Forensic Sciences (with concentrations in Criminalistics/Forensic Bio, Forensic Anthropology, and Forensic Chemistry). They’ve developed majors that enable students to train for jobs that industries need, and have done a great job of being future-focused by creating programs in data science, cybersecurity, and Business and Competitive Intelligence.

Mercyhurst Applied Politics

Institute for Applied Politics polling room

They have created specialized institutes as well, including one for Ethics and Society and one for Applied Politics (Students can work here to conduct public opinion polls on a variety of things, including politics and environmental issues).

Mercyhurst offers a strong Learning Support program as well as Institute for high-functioning students on the spectrum. I met with representatives from both programs and ate lunch with 3 of them. They’re wonderful and clearly love what they do!

  • Mercyhurst nontrad apts

    Some of the non-traditional apartments where students in AIM can choose to live

    LDP (Learning Difference Program) offers two levels of academic support.

    • Students with a current documented disability will be able to get accommodations such as extended time for testing, Assistive technology, etc. For extended time, students get a form that indicates which accommodation they’ve been approved for; they have that signed by the professor and comes back to the office for scheduling at least 5 days before the test date.
    • The Academic Advantage Program is a fee-based program with about 10 openings for the coming year. “Sometimes it’s hard for kids coming from a high school with a real reach-around program. This service focuses much more on organization and executive functioning to make sure they’re getting things done on time and then making sure that they seek out the content help somewhere else. They need to be advocating for themselves.” Students get weekly check-ins with academic counselors who will help create a document to track what they have due, create a weekly time management calendar, and other things to help students stay on track. They’ll also track grades through an early alert programs. Counselors can help students get tutoring.
    • Freshmen also have the option to participate in the PASS summer program; 12-15 students each summer move in at the end of July and take a 3-week, 3-credit class. It counts for the REACH (see below), and it alleviates the fall course load. They can move into their dorm room to get settled early. They also have workshops so they know what the accommodations look like.
  • The Autism Institute at Mercyhurst (AIM) provides support for students on the Spectrum; they support the students’ adjustment to college and provide social and other support to make sure they’re successful. There is specialized housing available, but this is optional. Students can choose to live there or in other available dorms.
Mercyhurst 1

The library and an academic building connected by an overhead walkway

The Core Curriculum is called REACH in which they take 10 classes in 10 disciplines, 2 in each of the following areas: Reason & Faith, Expression and Creativity, Analytical Thought, Contexts & Systems, and Humans in Connection. Freshman also take two semesters of Intro to Mercyhurst classes which purposefully mixes students of different majors and different geographic areas so they interact with people they might not have. These classes help to ensure that students know where resources are on campus.

Mercyhurst sky roof

The “sky ceiling” in one of the academic buildings.

The university has recently revamped their academic calendar to incorporate “mini-terms” into their semesters. This effectively splits the semester into 2 8-week sections, and students can go on “mini-semester travel.” They also have a campus in Dungarvan, Ireland “that’s really an extension of our campus.” Freshmen can go if they’re in the honors program (but this option is not always available every year). Depending on the major, they might be able to take some of the requirements for the major. About 25% of students will study abroad.

Mercyhurst reading room

One of the reading rooms

They do have a 4-year residency requirement. “People aren’t leaving en masse on the weekends. They’re here and doing things.” Freshmen are not allowed to have cars on campus, but all students get passes for public transportation. There’s a lot to do in Erie including an indoor water park, mini-golf, theaters, Target, etc. “There’s cool local music downtown,” said the tour guide. Presque Isle (about a 15 minute drive; the bus line also goes there) is a popular spot with walking trails and beaches; sometimes the college hosts events there. “Erie is like Buffalo, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh,” said the admission rep. “We’re trying to come back from being primarily an industrial city so things are getting revitalized.” Gannon University is also in Erie, so a lot of places cater to college students.

Mercyhurst motto

The college motto

A couple fun campus traditions mentioned by several people are:

  • The Sister Damien Spirit Bell is a fixture at hockey games. The tour guide told me that she was such a supporter of the Mercyhurst teams (and about 30% of students are athletes) that “she would tell the opposing team that they’d go to hell if they beat her boys.” The bell is still rung at athletic (“and personal”) victories. They have 3 DI sports (men’s and women’s ice hockey and men’s crew). All other sports are DII.
  • The new President (well, sort of new – he’s in his 4th year) established Hurst Day. On a random fall day, he cancels classes with a big scavenger hunt (based on the history of campus, etc), games, activities, competitions, and a big dinner.
Mercyhurst quad

The quad

Improvements are student-focused (such as the new sophomore res hall being built). “Things aren’t done blindly on campus; it’s done on purpose.” They just opened a bar on campus in Mid-March. It’s run by the cafeteria so food can be bought with their card; they need cash for alcohol which is served with a 2 drink limit “for student safety,” said the rep. The tour guide said, “It’s great. It’s been open 3 days and I’ve been there twice.”

Mercyhurst birds 2

Artwork by one of the art professors (also a Mercyhurst alum)

Admissions is fully test optional; those who don’t send scores are still eligible for Honors Programs, scholarships, and any major. They’ll superscore both the SAT and ACT if sent, and admissions will counsel students if they aren’t sure if they should send in scores. “We’re not super selective. We work well with students who aren’t your traditional A student or who needs more hands-on.” They have a 15-to-finish initiative: they work with students to take at least that many credits per semester so they’re on track to graduate. “But it’s not just random credits. We have advisors who make sure they are taking the RIGHT 15 credits.”

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