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Archive for the tag “study abroad stipend”

Connecticut College

Connecticut College (visited 10/13/16)

conn-college-studentsConn draws curious students who are go-getters; to be successful here, students need to want to engage, take initiative, and follow through on ideas. They go above and beyond academically, seeking out connections between disciplines and creating context for what they’re learning.

Admissions is selective and test-optional, but demonstrated interest is important. They want to make sure that students will thrive in this very particular learning environment. Interviews are recommended, preferably on campus, but alumni interviews are an option for students who may not be able to get to campus in time to interview.

conn-college-quadConn is gorgeous, just up the road from the Coast Guard Academy and not far from the water. Campus is long and relatively narrow with buildings (mostly made of stone) largely organized around a couple quads. Even early (by college standards!), students were walking places, some with yoga mats, some off to classes. It was a little too early and cool for students to be congregating outside, but the students I encountered were together, having conversations, and seeming to be very comfortable in their surroundings.

conn-college-cafe

A cafe, one of the many meeting/study spots on campus.

There are a couple things that contribute to this level of comfort and camaraderie. First, most students (98%) live on campus, and dorms are called ‘houses.’ “We do think of them that way.” Students really know each other, and because they aren’t leaving on the weekends, they’re involved and engaged with each other outside the classroom – both academically and socially. Additionally, the admissions rep thinks that close-knit feelings also stem from the First Year Seminar. These writing-intensive classes, taught only in the first semester, are capped at 15 students and taught by faculty advisors from across departments. About 35 interdisciplinary topics are offered ranging from Epidemics, Sports Psychology, From the Holy Land to Disneyland, and Bioluminescence and Disease. Students forge a common bond with 14 other students who are interested in a variety of things.

conn-college-2There are three general areas that make Conn distinctive from many other liberal arts schools:

  1. This year, they’ve instituted a new core curriculum called “Connections” which very much aligns with the types of students that Conn attracts and retains. Students still engage in the liberal arts, but in a more focused and interdisciplinary way.
    1. conn-college-quad-2The former distribution requirements are now grouped in one of 5 Pathways: Public Policy, Sustainability, Interrogating Liberal Arts, Global Capitalism, Arts and Tech.
    2. They will be increasing the number of Pathways over the next three years, hopefully ending with 40 choices, including Education and Human Rights.
    3. This change was a student-based initiative; students wanted their education to be more interdisciplinary and focused.
    4. One requirement is 2 semesters of a single language; students can test into higher level, but can’t test out of the language requirement.
  2. conn-college-chapel-2Academic Centers: The 5 Centers have distinct themes. About 20% of the students will opt to join; entrance requires an additional application. These are designed to help students take passions to the next level by taking classes within the center and completing an independently designed project (funded by the center or career services). Students will graduate with a certificate.
    1. International Studies and the Liberal Arts: This is the most competitive. Students must continue past the required 2 semesters of a language, must study abroad, and must do a project abroad between junior and senior year.
      1. A double major in Islamic Studies and Dance is now studying in France and will go back to study the hip-hop culture there.
      2. An International Studies major with minor in Arabic has studied in Jordan and will also go back to do her project.
    2. Arts and Technology: This is the most quickly growing center.
      1. One student created audio-based video games because his visually impaired brother wanted to be able to play games, too.
      2. A Psych major is looking at how people could overcome their fear of heights using virtual reality.
    3. Community Action and Public Policy: This focuses on social activism and social outreach.
      1. A Government major, while studying in Buenos Aires, saw a lot of school dropouts. She did a study on options for them, then went back to implement strategies to keep them in school or provide other paths.
      2. Other students are working at Boston Hospital, on the housing crisis in NYC, and in the RI Dept of Health.
    4. conn-college-sprout-garden-2

      The student-run sustainable garden

      Center for the Environment: Conn was the second college to have an Envi Sci Dept, so this is a huge part of who they are as a school, but this center is not just for science related topics. Students see something and want to take action. One student is looking at environmental impacts of the fashion industry.

    5. Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity: This is the newest Center, looking at topics such as globalization, historical traumas (ie genocide), comparative histories of race, effects of race and gender on education and the workplace, etc.
  3. conn-college-athletic-cntr

    The athletic Center

    Career Center: Every student is guaranteed a $3,000 stipend for an internship between junior and senior years. This guarantees that they have access to internships that might otherwise be cost-prohibited, particularly if they need to pay room and board in a major city. Almost 20% intern abroad. Over 80% of students do use this stipend.

    1. Students are all assigned 3 advisors right as freshmen: a faculty advisor (who teaches one of the student’s first semester classes), a staff advisor (from the career center), and a peer advisor. Students will meet with all of these during the first semester to ensure that they’re adjusting well and are on track.

The majors and minors here are phenomenal, bringing a great deal of flexibility to meet students’ interests, but also providing multi-disciplinary and global approaches to their students, offering majors such as Global Islamic, German, Slavic, Italian, and Hispanic Studies. They have a particularly strong arts program (dance is phenomenal, as is fine arts). Sciences offer more than the usual choices for a school this size, such as Botany and Behavioral Neuroscience.

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Gwynedd Mercy University

Gwynedd Mercy University (visited 7/19/16)

Gwynedd Mercy 1Here’s a fun fact about Gwynedd Mercy: Ian Fleming got the name for his protagonist, a real-life James Bond, who was the son of the owner of the land the university now sits on. James Bond (the real one) published a book on the birds of the West Indies; Fleming, living in Jamaica, saw the name on the cover and thought it sounded perfect.

Gwynedd Mercy bells

The bell tower

The Bond family mansion was eventually deeded to the Sisters of Mercy who founded the institution; with that comes the heritage of serving community. First-Year Experience classes require 20 hours of community service. Many students do this anyway, so it becomes part of the culture on campus, including Alternative Spring Breaks. About 38% self-identify as Catholic; another 30% don’t self-identify as any religion. The only religious obligation students must fulfill is 1 religion OR philosophy class.

Several years ago, Gwynedd Mercy created an institutional imperative to increase learning in different ways. One hallmark is their study abroad program since this has been shown to be beneficial for college students as an exploration of cultures, building life experiences, and considering various worldviews. GMU makes sure it’s intentional, getting students to think about the essential questions: Who are we, who are they, and how does it all fit together?

Gwynedd Mercy libraryThe Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences spoke to us about their program; I can see why students would be excited to take classes with her. She’s been at the school for 20+ years and is passionate about teaching and providing quality experiences for the students. “This place feels like home. It may be cliché, but I think students experience this, and faculty and staff do, too.”

Study trips travel all over for intensive 2-3 week experiences such as History and Culture of New Orleans; Irish History, Lit, and Culture; Business and Lit in Rome; and Healthcare in the Bateyes (Dominican Republic). The Ireland group visits Mercy International. “They’re immersed in Mercy from the day they get here, but it really hits home here.” GMU waives tuition for summer study abroad to encourage students to go on the trips. Students interested in the traditional study abroad (semester or year-long) get connected to nearby Arcadia University for their programs.

Gwynedd Mercy library intAnother distinctive program is “E-STEM” funded by an NSF grant. This research project (primarily through the Bio and Math departments) looks at whether they can increase students’ ethical awareness in science. Eligible students (academically talented with financial need) apply by writing an essay about ethical issues, a potential ethical solution, and short- and long-term outcomes. Recipients get either $3,000 or $8000 (most get 8) and become part of a LLC and the Honors College. Monthly activities include co-curricular and social events.

Gwynedd Mercy 3The college is suburban; they have access to the city without being in the middle of it. The Griffin Link Shuttle Service runs Thursday through Sunday; this gets them to Target, restaurants, theaters. They also have bike share and car share, and the train station is 2 minutes away. There are 4 malls within 15 minutes as well as lots of stores, eateries, theaters, etc.

Students are happy with the variety of things to do on campus. The 19 DIII teams draw high numbers of participants and fans. There are also a fair number of clubs including an equestrian team. The late-night lounge is a popular place to hang out. Students like the food, especially seafood night, the fried chicken, and mac-n-cheese. A couple favorite traditions are:

  • Finals breakfast at the end of Fall Semester. Professors serve breakfast from 9-12 and prizes are given out.
  • Griffin Madness (the Griffin is the mascot), a basketball pep rally. There are student-faculty games, wing eating contests, and more.

Gwynedd Mercy nursingRight now, the gender balance is skewed with males making up only 1/3 of the 2000 undergrads, primarily because the Nursing program is well-known, highly regarded, and popular (about 40% of students are in this major). However, they have some other amazing programs:

Gwynedd Mercy 8Our tour guide’s classes have ranged in size from 3-25. His favorite was Civil War History taken over the summer with a professor who did reenactments. They went to Gettysburg, and the guy would point out where “his” regiments were.

GMU’s rolling admissions will provide an answer in about 2 weeks. Most decisions are made in the admissions office, but some programs like nursing require the file to go to committee if a student is borderline. Now with Prior-Prior Year financial aid, they’re bumping up some of their deadlines, so check the website for information as this happens over the coming year.

Gwynedd Mercy statue 2The small community allows for hand-on, personalized attention. “This is a good place for shy students who want to blossom,” said the tour guide. “That was me. I’m totally different from who I was in high school.” As another example, students who have learning differences are easily accommodated. An admissions rep said, “we’re small and can be flexible. We’ll do anything we can for students to accommodate needs.” The same goes for students with allergies.

Only about 600 students live on campus; there’s been a big push to keep kids on campus on the weekend. Housing is guaranteed but students can move off. Three of the four dorms are interconnected with one centralized entranceway to all 3 buildings. The Health Center and mailboxes are in this building which is really smart! Cable is provided in dorms. The 4th dorm has apartments housing 4 or 5 people per unit. This has kept more of the upperclassmen on campus.

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Chatham University

Chatham University (visited 5/26/16)

~Chatham sign and chapelChatham is a hidden gem of a school located in a beautiful residential part of western Pittsburgh. Until recently, this was a women’s college; in the 2015-16 school year, they brought in their first males to the freshman class. “The upperclassmen tended to be more upset about this. I knew coming in that it was a distinct possibility that they would go coed so I was ready for it,” said our tour guide, a rising-senior nursing student staffing the front desk.

~Chatham dorm 1

One of the Residence Halls

All residence halls (they aren’t called dorms) are converted mansions. Most of them have some sort of theme such as Sustainable Living or Global Scholars. Partly in keeping with their Women’s College heritage and partly because they’re still heavily skewed in terms of gender, there are all-female dorms available. Upperclassmen have the option of living in 3-person apartments just off campus on Fifth Avenue that are open to upperclassmen. Our tour guide lives there and loves that it’s given her an added level of independence. She’s still in campus housing but gets a taste of being on her own.

~Chatham Mellon House 3

The back of the Mellon summer residence house.

There are other historical, beautiful buildings on campus in addition to the residence halls. The Mellon House was Andrew Mellon’s summer residence, complete with an indoor pool and a bowling alley in the basement (the Pool area has since been converted to the Board Room.) The first floor has all the original rooms, including fireplaces, and “is a great place to study. There are usually very few people here so it’s quiet.” The university also incorporates as much of the old into the new, when possible. The science center renovated an old academic building and the added around it in order to keep some of the history and original flavor.

~Chatham Statue 2Chatham sets students up for success, starting with providing each student with a free MacBook plus 1 free replacement while they’re at Chatham. Additionally, students all get a $1,200 study abroad voucher which can be used for anything from a 1-week study-trip associated with a class to a full year of study abroad. “It doesn’t cover everything, but at the very least, it pays for the airfare!” said the tour guide.

~Chatham pond 2Classes, of course, are small: our tour guide’s largest class has had 31 students “which is larger than normal. The professor let extra students into the class.” Her smallest class, Anatomy Lab 2, had 10 students.

~Chatham dormsSustainability is a big part of campus and mission. They’re proud of the fact that one of their most famous alumna is Rachel Carson (author of Silver Spring). Their newest addition to the school, the Eden Hall Campus, is located about 45 minutes north of Pittsburgh. Housing the Falk School of Sustainability, it opened in 2010. Students can earn a BSUS or MSUS (Bachelor/ Master of Sustainability), and MA in Food Studies, or a combined MBA with either of the Master’s degrees. Many of the Sustainability undergraduates live on the Eden Hall Campus, and the food grown there is used in the dining hall of both campuses, which is pretty cool. However, it’s not just these students who work on sustainability projects. A team of 3 Chatham chemistry students just won the $5000 CleanTech University Prize at Carnegie Mellon for their work on a new compressor lubricant for HVAC systems.

~Chatham sci bldg

The science building: the old section is on the left with the new, modern portion built around it.

Health Sciences are worth noting. Most impressive is that they have a cadaver lab on campus! This is really unusual for a school this size, and it gives their undergrads a real leg-up when it comes to medical or graduate school. Two unusual majors in the health sciences are Integrative Health Studies and Interdisciplinary Health Science (with a concentration in Bio, Exercise Science, or Psychology). Nursing is particularly strong. Their Pathways to Nursing Major pairs students up with UPMC Shadyside School of Nursing. Our tour guide is in this program. She did her first year of classes on campus, spent 2 years split between the two campuses, and will finish her clinicals and classes at Chatham for her senior year. She loves the experiences she has, and she wouldn’t do this any other way. “I love Chatham and being part of the community, but I also love meeting all the other people at Shadyside. Even when I’m there, I know I am coming home to Chatham in the evenings and have all my friends here.”

~Chatham coffee shop

The student-run coffee shop

The Business program is also strong. We spoke with a business professor who was in the hall of one of the academic buildings; she was a delight to talk to – very enthusiastic and helpful. I can only imagine what she’s like in the classroom! She told us about the Center for Women Entrepreneurs on campus as well as the variety of programs. For such a small campus, there’s a wide range of business degrees including Social Services Administration, Arts Management, Management Info Systems, International Business, and Healthcare and Business Management in addition to the more common majors (general business, accounting, general management, etc).

~Chatham stairsMore importantly, students have the opportunity to participate in an Integrated Degree Program in the health sciences, business, sustainability, and the arts. The GPA requirement is higher in the health sciences (3.5) compared to the others (3.25). There are also specific ACT or SAT minimums and required prep work in high school classes. Collaborative programs with other universities allow students to complete degrees in Music Education, Teacher Training, and Physics (all with Carnegie Mellon), 3+4 law degrees with Duquesne (PA) or Stetson University (FL), and 4+1 Bachelors/Masters programs in various management programs, also at Carnegie Mellon.

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