campus encounters

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Archive for the tag “STEM program”

Carnegie Mellon University

Carnegie Mellon University (visited 11/7/15 and 5/25/16)

~CMU signCMU has a wonderful reputation for Computer Science and other STEM fields … but did you know that they also are highly ranked for Dance? It’s also 1 of 2 schools in the country to offer a degree in Bagpipe Performance. They take their Scottish heritage very seriously here! The official color is plaid, but “that’s hard to accessorize” so people wear maroon, gray, and white. The official mascot is a tartan, but unofficially, it’s the Scottie dog.

~CMU quad students

Students on the quad

In many ways, this is a nicer campus than the University of Pittsburgh in terms of it being an actual campus (rather than Pitt’s more urban feel). There is lots of activity on the campus between classes, and students tend to be a bit on the quirky side. When walking around on our own, we talked to a few students, two of whom were Computer Science majors, one from Seattle and one from Florida. “It’s the #1 program in the country,” said one when we asked why she chose Carnegie Mellon. Neither had much to say about the university itself which in some ways is telling.

~CMU walkway

The CS buildings with the raised walkway.

Students here are smart and motivated. Many of the kids here sailed through high school. They don’t know what it’s like to spend 4 or 5 hours a night doing work. “I’m stunned by the volume of people using the tutorial services and study sessions. Almost all the freshmen classes have them, and beyond that, any class that historically has been a sticking point will have them.” About 2/3 of classes have fewer than 20 students. The only class not taught by a full professor is English 101; these sections are led by PhD candidates in order to keep them small.

About 40% of students have a minor and 10% double major. The School of Humanities and Social Sciences is the most diverse and most flexible with 60 options for majors. Students can wait until the end of sophomore year to declare their major. Science and Engineering students don’t declare until end of the first year.

CMU dramaGenerally, double majoring in any BFA (drama, music, art) area will be difficult because of the number of credits in the arts required for the degree. The drama department actively discourages double majoring because they really want the students to focus on their major. Music, however, seems to be more accommodating. However, the BXA Intercollege Degree Program does allow students to combine a BFA and others. Students sacrifice a bit of depth in the original field, and participating in this program requires students to make connections and intersections between the 2 chosen fields. This program really is for those who want to investigate how the 2 inform each other. For example, students have combined Psych and Music or Chem and Ceramics. The students must be admitted to both the academic and the fine arts departments.

~CMU outdoor classroom

CMU’s outdoor classroom

Another notable interdisciplinary program is IDeAte (Integrative Design, Arts & Technology Network). The coursework students complete is equivalent to a minor in areas like Educational Technology, Game Design, Intelligent Environments, and Sound Media Design. They put together an interdisciplinary team and then apply creativity and teamwork to technology.

Many of CMU’s programs tend towards the interdisciplinary, even if they aren’t specifically stated as such. For example, their Business programs are more quantitative than most. “Quantitative analysis is our wheel house. What does the data tell us to do?” Students earn a Bachelor of Science so “it’s hard core.” Because of this focus, “I took math classes alongside engineers,” said one of the students. They’re learning from each other rather than students in different majors being separated out.

~CMU quad 1However, when students apply, they get accepted by a college, not just to the university. Students can transfer between schools as long as there is space and they qualify, but it’s more difficult into the more competitive schools. Econ, CS, and Engineering tend to over-enroll. For example, they got 7000 apps for 350 spots in CS.

The BArch program also requires that students demonstrate that they really want to be there. The application ask a lot of questions to get at whether students have a realistic view of what the profession is really like. “Architects look like science students – lots of math and science, but with an artistic portfolio.” The program is 5 years (required for the credential) with an additional 2-year apprenticeship before taking the exam. CMU highly recommends completing a pre-college architecture program.

~CMU acad bldg 4If CMU can’t admit a student to their first choice major, what’s listed as the second choice can determine admission. “There are some combos we know are historically going to mean that students will be unhappy. We look for genuine interest in the 2nd choice and evidence that they really will be happy in that major,” said the Dean of Admission.

According to the Dean, Cornell is their big competitor (“They do what we do but on a grander scale”), but they also compete with MIT for straight STEM programs, followed by Princeton, RPI, and Penn. Surprisingly, the top feeder state is CA (with 2 times as many Californians as any other state), followed by NY, PA, and NJ.

~CMU athleticsEarly Decision accounts for 20-25% of incoming classes. Demonstrated interest can factor into regular decisions, but it plays much more of a roll in the waitlist process. They only pulled 12 kids off waitlist this year, but they do all financial aid packages in March so even waitlisted students know what they’re going to get. This is the first year they’ve met full financial need. “We like to make a solid commitment, but right now it has to be year-to-year. It’s been challenging.” There is no financial assistance for international students, but there may soon be merit awards for them.

~CMU food truckThere’s a wide variety of housing options included themed living, single-gender (both male and female), and gender-inclusive housing. There is no centralized dining hall. Instead, venders come in. “It keeps people from going to the same place over and over and getting bored.”

© 2016

Case Western Reserve University

CASE WESTERN RESERVE (visited 4/11 and 1/13)

~CWR bikes and quadOne of the admissions reps described Case Western students this way: “Every place says that their kids are nice. . . . it’s bizarre here.” So nice, in fact, that students regularly take up the Million Minute Community Service Challenge.

~CWR 5Students are also very competitive, very smart, and very demanding on themselves. Many double or even triple major. “Our kids are focused but not so set in their one path that they aren’t willing to try other things.” However, about 2/3 do end up graduating in the division in which they entered, although not necessarily the same major. Nursing is the exception to this with about 95% continuing.

CWR students

Students collaborating in a Business School lounge.

Students can be creative and innovative here: they design, fail, break things, and try again. The school isn’t setting kids up to fail. Often, this is the first time they’re with a lot of people who were in the top of their classes in high school but learn quickly that this is ok.

~CWR dorms and track

New residential area surrounding some of the athletic facilities

This is a big campus for 4500 undergraduates (about ¼ of whom are from Ohio); there are actually more graduate and professional students than undergrads, but CWR is actively increasing research opportunities for undergrads who can start as early as the first year. Case actively looks for ways to “expand” campus by encouraging students to utilize all the wonderful things at their doorstep in the city of Cleveland. Campus borders University Circle, a renowned cultural, artistic, medical, and educational center.

Case’s SAGES program (Seminar Approach to General Education and Scholarship) includes 5 semester-long, writing-intensive seminars. These classes, limited to 17 students, include 3 interdisciplinary classes over the first two years, 1 class in the student’s major, and a capstone project. Students can no longer test out of their writing requirement based on AP scores, and faculty say that this helps with writing skills. The content and sequence is “integrated and intentional. Students are well-coached and well-practiced in skills employers want.”

~CWR 7The first seminar (taken in the first year) focuses on skill building by providing extensive feedback about writing, speaking, engagement, etc. Students have several options meant to engage them in life of the mind. The built-in “Fourth Hour” includes events scheduled in the institutions around the Circle (Art museum, Natural History museum, etc) so that students take advantage of the region’s cultural capital. Before the end of sophomore year, students also complete 2 University Seminars meant to extend knowledge by exploring topics at a more sophisticated level. They produce longer writing projects and oral presentations showing a more advanced analysis. The Seminar in Major allows them to become facile in disciplinary knowledge and the modes of communication in that discipline. Finally, the Capstone allows them to define a problem or ask a question, then find a solution or answer. It could be an experiment, an artistic creation, an extensive research project, etc. Both written and oral presentations are required.

~CWR 6About 2/3 of the students are in the Science and Engineering departments. Biomedical Engineering draws the most students followed by Mechanical Engineering. Systems and Control Eng., Engineering Physics, Civil Engineering, and Polymer Science and Engineering are the “small but mighty” departments. In the Sciences, the Gerontological Studies, History and Philosophy of Science, and Evolutionary Biology programs are worth noting.

~CWR Applied SSTheir Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences departments are smaller but still strong; these departments will feel much more like a small Liberal Arts college with discussion courses. There are several Collaborative Programs that link CWR with other schools and programs throughout the city. Their music department is a bit unusual in that they teach musicology and music history but not theory or performance: students looking for those can cross-register at the Cleveland Institute of Music and neither can complete degrees without the other. They do the same with the Cleveland Institute of Art: students at either school interested in Art Education complete part of their degrees at the other school. All CWR students can take up to 4 credits per term at either the CIA (Art) or CIM (music).

~CWR business 3

Business School

The Business School is booming and housed in a modern, well-designed building. Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Organizational Leadership, International Business, and Supply Chain Management are particularly worth taking a look at.

~CWR nursing

Nursing building

The nursing program is particularly strong and is named as one of the top 15 in the country. This is a direct-entry program with classes starting in the first semester – and clinicals starting in week 3! Students complete 1600 clinical hours before graduation, almost 2 times the national average. If that weren’t impressive enough, students can also study abroad through articulation agreements with programs in China, Cameroon, and Alaska (yes, they know that this isn’t abroad – but students say that it sometimes feels that way in the small villages they’re placed in!). One student from Pittsburgh did her capstone in Hong Kong where she audited classes and studied increasing obesity in high schoolers. Also unusual is that students in the program can double major. One student from Cincinnati is also getting a degree in PoliSci.

Applications have increased more than 200% in the last 8 years; international apps are up from 500 to over 4000. Applicants get ranked in 22 academic, leadership, and extra-curricular categories. They currently admit about 42% of applicants. Students who visited campus, went to the HS visit, or did an alumni interview are twice as likely to be admitted. “We can still take kids with a 1200 SAT. We don’t want to have it harder to do that.” They have a single-door admission except for music (audition requirement) and art (portfolio requirement).

~CWR north Res VillageFreshmen are housed in 4 residential communities helping Case with their excellent 93% retention rate. There are also residential complexes for 2nd year and for upperclass students. Their Graduating Senior Experience program is one of the few I’ve run into. Almost 1/3 of students are Greek-affiliated (and many live in Greek Housing). 20% of students stay on campus to take classes, do research, or just take advantage of other opportunities during the summer. The college-owned Squire Valleevue Farm is about 8 miles from main campus. Aquatic Biology is offered in May Term so students can go into the streams for hands-on learning. There’s also a ceramics area out there.

© 2015

University of Maryland, Baltimore County

University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) (visited on 12/9/13)

UMBC 1 I visited campus on a snowy, overcast day, but that didn’t dampen the activity on campus. Roads and UMBC 2sidewalks were cleared, and people were outside. I was impressed with the sense of camaraderie exhibited by the students. People were talking and laughing, greeting each other as they passed, making plans for activities. Very few students were plugged into music as they walked around.

~UMBC bldgs 3The campus is well planned out (not surprising considering that it’s about 50 years old). I expected a more traditional campus with large green spaces; it is located in the suburbs, after all. Coming in from the parking lot, the campus struck me as a bit sterile, but this impression changed quickly. There is a pond and fountain and some areas of open space. It is a lovely campus which is clearly well-thought out in terms of how it was developed.

UMBC 3

Info Tech and Engineering building

Biological Sciences building

Biological Sciences building

UMBC’s stellar reputation in STEM fields unfairly overshadows their other opportunities; they offer 44 majors, 41 minors, and 20 certificate programs. The university is ranked with Yale, Notre Dame, and Berkeley for teaching quality, and it’s been listed as a best value in education (it’s public). Experiential Learning (including funding undergrad research through publication and presentation) is part of their mission, and the Shriver Center helps students set up internships, co-ops, and service learning. President Hrabowski sits on President Obama’s council for education, has done TED Talks, and was listed on Time’s 100 Most Influential People of 2012. He’ll eat with students in the dining hall or talk as they pass by on campus. Our tour guide said when he sees people with books, he’ll ask what they’re reading, and he remembers things like when they’re taking tests; weeks later might ask how the exam went.

~UMBC trips poster

Poster advertising trips offered to students.

Students can get into downtown Baltimore in 15 minutes and into DC in about 45 minutes. The College Park Metro Stop is about 30 minutes away (as is the flagship campus of the UMD system), or students can take the MARC train into DC (which recently started running from Baltimore to DC on the weekends, as well). BWI (airport) is about 10 minutes away and Penn Station (Amtrak) is about 20 minutes away.

The University System of Maryland Inter-Institutional Registration Program allows students to cross-register at institutions such as University of Maryland College Park (30 minutes away), University of Baltimore (20 minutes), Bowie State (30 minutes), Towson State (30 minutes), and University of Maryland at Baltimore (15 minutes). Enrolled, degree-seeking students with sophomore and higher standing can take classes at other UM schools and receive credit at their home institution. No spots get reserved for students from other schools, so it’s first-come, first-served. Students must meet whatever prerequisites are in place and pay any additional class-specific fees.

One of the dining commons

One of the dining commons

~UMBC mascot

Mascot

Students get highly involved in campus. Sports and school-spirit seem to be big here; many students were wearing athletic and Retriever gear (the mascot is a Chesapeake Bay Retriever; students rub the nose of the Retriever statue in front of the Athletic Center for luck). The school takes the success of their athletes seriously and has an Academic Center for Student Athletes in the athletic center; the center is open to all students and there’s plenty of space for all sorts of fitness activities (including both an indoor and an outdoor pool). There are lots of other ways to get involved beyond sports. During Welcome Week, organizations set up tables in the quad so that students know what’s going on and get join groups. The university purposefully sets up “Free Hour” during which no classes are scheduled, giving everyone, including commuter students, the chance to be part of clubs and other activities on campus. There is no Greek Housing but Greek Life is active; students can rush after getting a semester of credit. One of the students’ favorite events is Quad Mania, a sort of Spring-fling event.

UMC 5About 4000 of the 9,500 full-time undergraduates live on campus. All dorms are suites, and facilities are new (a benefit of a newer university). Freshman suites are set up with two bedrooms sharing a bath; upperclassman suites usually also have a common area with a small kitchenette area. There are multiple options, including Living Learning Communities within the Res halls and several apartments on campus. All students living on campus must have a meal plan, but with multiple dining options, they can buy what suits their needs and their living arrangements. Students in the apartments will often buy the 5-meals-a-week plan (the least); freshmen almost always buy the 18-a-week (the most). There are many off-campus housing options, and the Off-Campus Student Services Department in the Commons keeps a listing of apartments as well as helping with roommate matching. The busses serving the university stop at five or six different apartment complexes nearby so transportation is easy. The Res Hall even smelled good.

Admissions is selective with successful applications having mostly As and Bs, but they will look at the trend through high school. Both the ACT and SAT are superscored. They have several Scholars Programs for qualified students: Center for Women in Tech (CWIT), Humanities, Linehan Artist (must audition), Meyerhoff Scholars, Sherman Teacher Education, Sondheim Public Affairs. Additionally, approximately 125 students a year are accepted into the Honors College which gives students the added benefits of Applied Learning Experiences, an Honors Community, and honors-specific classes. Successful applicants tend to have at least a 3.5 and a 2100 SAT or 31 ACT. Our tour guide was in the Honors Program; one of her favorite classes, The Anthropology of Food, was part of this program (and was her smallest class with 17 students; her largest was an Intro to Chem class with about 200).

(c) 2014

Montana Tech

Montana Tech mirrors Colorado School of Mines for engineering. It is specifically a STEM institution with 3000 students. Their mission is to help students from wherever they are; if they come in with less math than they need, they will provide the resources and help for students to catch up and have a decent amount of success with this: students who come in ready with only College Algebra rather than Calculus have a 60% success rate in their engineering program. Job placement is high with a 96% career placement over 10 years (with 99% of alum responding).

They offer programs on two campuses: a two-year degree campus (which offers programs like metals fabrication) and a four-year campus with programs like mining and lots of engineering programs like environmental, petroleum, geophysical. These last two programs are also the two most recent doctoral degree programs. The university is located in Butte, a mining town. It’s described as blue-collar, historical, friendly, and proud. Students are primarily from Montana (80%); 8% of the population are international. Surprisingly, the gender imbalance is not as pronounced as might be expected given the type of school: only 59% of the students are male. There are also no fraternities or sororities.

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