St. Lawrence University (visited 7/27/15)
This place is simply amazing. Everything I saw about SLU (pronounced “slew,” just like St. Louis University), starting from the individual tour, indicated that they place personal attention on students. Campus is gorgeous, even in winter, but a friend who graduated from SLU said, “Those arctic winds, though . . .” My suggestion: buy some good boots and a warm jacket and just get over the location. There’s a lot of great stuff going on here.
Really . . . who wouldn’t want to study in a Chemistry building dedicated by Marie Curie?
Or go to the annual tradition of the Adirondack-style meal that’s served outside in canoes?
Perhaps you’d like to study on beanbags in the Chapel? Plan it right (aka at 5pm), and you can also hear the chimes playing things like Hey Jude, Happy Birthday, and The Flintstones theme song. Yes . . . they take requests! (The Chapel, which had been Universal Unitarian, now has non-denominational programs. Even the windows aren’t typical stained glass: they portray sports, language, Gandhi, protests, and social activism).
Students tend to love being at St. Lawrence. “I thought it would be all salmon shorts and Massachusetts prep. It’s so not,” said the tour guide. “I didn’t even want to come visit the place. I only did under duress. What changed my mind was Cole (an old brick building that looks like a little chapel and which used to be the library). I walked in and fell in love. That’s when I decided to come here. “
There’s a ton of activity on and around campus. You can only be bored if you’re actively trying to avoid everyone and everything. Clubs run the gamut from running a thrift store to belly-dancing to Quaker meetings. The Cheese Club is immensely popular and “the best $10 I ever spent,” said my guide. The campus Funk Band is “really good! They open for Springfest bands.” There are only 4 sororities (20% of females) and 2 frats (10% of males) with a delayed rush, but these help provide some of the social life around campus. Titus Weekend allows students to load up onto 15 busses and go skiing at one of the nearby ski resorts. The Outing Club, the 2nd oldest in the country (and which also has its own theme house), are active and host things every weekend, including the highly popular Peak Weekend which gets SLU students out onto each of the 45 peaks in the Adirondacks. All students can have cars on campus, and if they want to do something off campus, all they have to do is fill their car with SLU students and the university will reimburse for gas. Last year, they spent $20,000 on this program.
The campus is 98% residential (only 30-40 seniors move off each year) with options ranging from traditional halls to townhouses to 16 Theme Houses or Floors. Freshmen are housed in one of six dorms, two of which hold only freshmen. Regardless of their dorm, they are housed with their First Year Program peers. Sykes, an upperclassman dorm, is directly connected to the main dining hall. Kirk Douglass Hall, another upperclassmen dorm, opened in 2014 and provides suites and AC “which is helpful for about 2 weeks.” All dorms are cable-ready, and doors are accessed by a keypad. ID cards will get you into any dorm until 11pm.
There are plenty of campus food options ranging from buffet style to grab-and-go to cafes. There are a few crunch times, but mostly there’s not much if any wait. “I really like the food. There’s lots of variety – but yeah, I can get sick of it sometimes. I can get sick of mom’s food, too, though.” There’s even the 57 Pub for students 21+. SLU has “use-not-abuse and Good Samaritan policies.
The library is a funky building that looks completely out of place among the rest of the campus architecture. Their Silent Room, The Yellow Pipe Room, “is SO creatively named!” said the tour guide. There are two really note-worthy parts of this library, though: First is the Tree Room on the second floor which not only has actual trees growing in it (“when they get too big, they transplant them outside and put new, smaller ones in”) but also has what they call “Tree House Study Carrels” – actual double-decker study carrels with ladders leading up to the 2nd level. “It’s an art in terms of getting up there,” said the tour guide. The other noteworthy room is the Rare Manuscript collections. “It has a bunch of museum-worthy stuff!” like an original Whitman poem, several Lincoln documents, and “a manuscript from 1593 that I had to handle with gloves.”
SLU offers several unique academic programs including Canadian Studies (as a minor or in Combined-Major), Outdoor Studies (minor), International Economics/Languages combined major, Business in the Liberal Arts, Geology-Physics, and Native American Studies. My guide’s FYE, “Contemporary Issues in American Education,” took advantage of the school’s proximity to a Native American Nation; they went there to see how their school worked, to tutor, etc. Her largest class (Intro to Psych) had 31 students; the smallest had 6. The largest classes tend to be Intro to Bio and Intro to Chem with 70-75 students; these are broken into smaller labs and “Peer Pod” groups, “basically forced study groups,” said the tour guide.
For those wanting to expand horizons, SLU offers 24 international and 6 domestic Study Away programs. About 25% of students who go abroad will go more than once. They can even elect go abroad in the freshman year: Francophone Studies goes to Senegal, Quebec, and France. There’s also a Sustainability Semester. Part of what they do is grow food for campus. They can also go to the Adirondacks and live in a Yurt for a semester; no technology is allowed. For students wanting a shorter trip, there are study-travel classes. She got to go to Venice for free with 13 other students from the Public Sphere in Renaissance Venice class.