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Archive for the tag “Sustainability Studies”

Forman University (take 2)

Furman University (visited 2/24/20) (Click here to see the post from 3/2013)

Furman fountains 4“If you’re looking for strong academics on a safe campus in a growing city, this is it.” With a 92% retention rate, they’re doing something very right.

It had been almost exactly 7 years since I’d last been to Furman, and I’m glad I got a refresher course! I remembered the beautiful campus, particularly the fountains, the bell tower, and the environmental center, but it’s always good to see what’s new and be reminded of all the other things going on around campus.

Furman 5One of the things we heard the most about – mostly because it’s pervasive in the culture there – is the Furman Advantage. They promise several things:

  • Excellent academic instruction and a high level of academic rigor. “We’re considered kind of hard,” said one of the reps. A Gallup poll revealed that 78% of alums (vs. 42% of national sample) and 68% of current students strongly agree that they were/are challenged academically at Furman. “We use the challenge and support model. We want them to be agents and make decisions so we’re figuring out the sweet spot of challenging them while supporting them without enabling them.”
  • Furman tree 1

    They’re very proud of their trees on campus!

    A variety of engaged-learning experiences appropriate for students’ interests and development. “It seems obvious that freshman are different from seniors,” said a Dean, “and yet, they’re often treated the same. They aren’t here. We train the professors in this.”

  • A team of mentors to support students as they navigate their integrated and individualized 4-year pathway. They’ve been deliberate in how this breaks down year-to-year: In the 1st year, “they should be exploring/discovering;” In the 2nd: examine and decide, 3rd: connect and refine; 4th: synthesize and initiate.
  • Intentional reflection to help students deepen learning and better understand their own skills, values, and next steps. “They should have the experience, think about the experience, and then have the next experience. Students are so concerned about checking boxes that they don’t stop to think about what they’ve done, where they’re going, and how those interconnect.”
  • Meaningful connection to career opportunities and professional development. “This is where we need to step up our game.”
Furman students 2

Fountains are everywhere.

They’re spearheading a Pathways program, currently in its infancy. The “trial run” is going well so far. In Pathways, students complete 4 courses over 2 years for a total of 4 credits. The first year focuses on Exploration and Discovery: class basics, critically evaluating sources, academic integrity, how to read a syllabus, how to email a professor, choices and bystander intervention, and more. Students currently in the program report feeling more connected and having a sense of belonging, a higher satisfaction with advising, and higher levels of accepting themselves even when things fail or go badly. The plan for the fall of 2020 is to have 15 cohorts of 15 each: “A class of 15 is critical of success. They aren’t thinking, ‘I’m not the only one.’” They’re hoping that the faculty will vote to make this a graduation requirement starting in Fall 2021.

Furman fountain 3

The chapel as seen from the library. Although they had historical affiliations, they’re no longer religiously based. 

“We’re trying to create an eco-system here. We should all be thinking about what’s next, about career exploration and preparation.” They’re working with departments “because that’s where students live in the last couple years” to help them reflect on values and strengths, expose students to potential career paths, have students reflect on experiences and how they connect with future plans, encourage students to articulate plans and narrative to others. They’re working hard to increase the number of students in Engaged Learning, including:

  • MayX Study Away programs. They’ve increased need-based scholarships to help students go on these.
  • Summer undergrad research: Last year they funded 203 students on campus; they saw a 22% increase in Summer Fellows applications. “Everyone who sent in a good application with a faculty who also sent in a good application were funded,” said the woman in charge of the program.
  • They’re building out an Entrepreneurship Office that “gives students great opportunities while staying committed to the liberal arts.”

Furman ScienceThey have strong pre-health, health sciences, and similar programs. The science building is impressive with some great labs! There’s an Institute for Advancement of Community Health and Office of Pre-Professional Advising to help with shadowing/internships, applications, and more. They set up the students to do what they want to do. “We recommend shadowing before internships because you may end up hating it.”

  • They have the only Medical-Legal Partnership in the state; this connects health care providers with legal aid attorneys. They can refer patients with health-harming legal issues to the MLP team where attorneys will represent them for no charge.
  • They offer both a BA and BS in Public Health (a capstone experience in public health practice or research is required) and a BA/BS in Health Sciences. Students need to apply to get into Public Health (that and Business are the only majors requiring an application).
  • There’s a Biomedical Sciences track within the Bio major.
  • Medicine, Health, and Culture
  • MS in Community Engaged Medicine uses intensive classroom, community, and clinical study to prepare its students for today’s complex world of health care.
  • They offer an Early Admissions program with USC-Greenville; they’ll take up to 5 Furman Juniors so they don’t have to stress about med school applications during senior year. They also offer Direct Entry to up to 5 incoming freshmen. To remain eligible, they must meet curricular criteria and grades as well as participate in clinicals and a sophomore assessment.

Furman analytic labMost of their majors are fairly typical with a couple exceptions: Greek, Music Theory, Integrative Biology, and a full range of Bachelors of Music options (including Organ performance and Music Education). What’s more impressive is the interdisciplinary minor selection, including Poverty Studies, Science Education, and African American and Diaspora Cultures.

We asked the students on the panel what their favorite classes were and why:

  • Abnormal Psych: “It touches on how all profs are at Furman. She had intro meetings with all students and really wanted to know why we were in the class and how to personalize it.”
  • One had two favorites: Afro-Am Drama and Slave Narrative to Slave Novels: “This was the capstone in the minor. It was really tough but great to develop a voice and writing style, to combine critical thinking with critical theory. It was a great inter-disciplinary class.”
  • The Business Block: “It was a full semester of 4 classes with the same people. I don’t know any other college that does the same thing. We worked really hard with the people around us and it was a real world example of what I want to get into. I got to observe a company and look at financials and operations.”
  • Furman apts

    Some of the senior apartments

    History of Economic Thought: “It’s different from most. It was more theoretical and philosophical. We talked through the prevailing ideas in Eastern and Western traditions. The professor went so fast, I’d walk out of there saying, “I can’t believe I just took 5 pages of notes.” I got into the Scottish Tradition which is a totally random niche and it inspired me to study abroad in Scotland.”

  • Research Methods in Bio: “We learned how to look at stats and what’s reliable. We did a semester-long research project. I looked at leaching of estrogen from soil into plants to see if fertilizers and other things made a difference and were disrupting our systems.”
  • American Foreign Policy in Brussels with a Furman program. “We were taught by the lead envoy for the US to NATO. How many people can say they took a class like that?”
Furman eni housing

One of the Greenbelt cabins

This is a highly residential campus. They’ve built even more upperclassman apartments (these are amazing with nice-sized kitchens and bedrooms with double beds); it’s like living in a real apartment community. They have a nice freshman quad as well as other pockets of dorms. There’s a special Engaged Living LLC which “isn’t well advertised,” said the tour guide who had lived there. “You have to apply to live there, but most people don’t know what it is. I wanted to be in Lakeside so I applied.” There are also some AMAZING sustainable living LLCs in the Greenbelt Community next to the Environmental Education center. This is comprised of 4 cabins housing a total of 22 students and are not open to first-year students. Students are selected after an application process (it’s competitive) and can be in any major as long as they have an interest in a sustainable lifestyle. They take 2 classes while they’re living there as part of this, and there’s a community garden that they work in which helps to supply the dining hall with locally sourced, organic produce. Many of them also participate in the Community Conservation Corps which helps to weatherize homes for local families at or below the poverty level.

Furman dorms 2

Some of the underclassmen dorms

“You can wear a lot of hats here.” There’s a big divide in participation in Greek Life – a little less than 30% of males are in fraternities, but more than 55% of females join a sorority. Students insist, though, that Greek life isn’t the end-all. Greek Village is actually a dorm. “Living there was the best and worst decision I’ve ever made!” said the tour guide. “Living on the hall with random music at 3am ….” There are some frat houses for juniors and seniors off campus; there are no sorority houses. “Because of the inclusive nature, it just expands friend groups,” said one student. Another, who is not affiliated, said that there are plenty of structures for those who chose not to join. “I found the same sort of social outlet from club soccer and Outdoor Club.”

Furman footballIt’s highly unusual to find DI sports at a school this size. Sports are incredibly strong, but they’re students first. “Most students aren’t going pro; they need to be prepared for their lives. This is four years of transformative experiences that will prepare them for the next 40 years of their professional lives,” said the athletic director. They do have a full scholarship football program.

Furman DH

The dining hall

Furman is trying to become a more national/international (currently about 60% of students come from NC, SC, and GA) and more selective. They currently have almost 2550 students but are looking to decrease enrollment to 2400-2500 with a target freshmen class of 625-650. “We probably won’t go to 2400 for 3 or 4 years.” They’re doing the best they can to eliminate the financial aid gap; currently they meet about 85% of need (which includes self-help like work-study and loans). They have a $680m endowment which helps them provide a great deal of grant and scholarship aid, but they still some work ahead of them.

© 2020

Wells College

Wells College (visited 3/6/20)

Wells sycamore

The famous Sycamore tree with Cayuga Lake in the background

There’s a lot to be said for location! This attractive school full of brick buildings sits on a hill overlooking Cayuga Lake (which students can scuba dive in after being certified in the school pool). Many of the buildings are historic (including Henry Wells’ mansion which is now a dorm), but they’ve done well structurally to upgrade the buildings. For students wanting personal attention in and out of classes, a beautiful location (“We can watch sunsets across the lake – they’re to die for!” said the tour guide), a walkable town and campus, and rich school traditions, give this college a look.

Wells 2

One of the original buildings

Wells is small (hovering around 450 full-time undergrads), but they pack a lot of punch and live up to the “small but mighty” idea. Here, small doesn’t mean limited opportunities: there are plenty of academic and social options on campus as well as at the nearby Ivy League and selective liberal arts colleges. Wells was started as Cornell University’s sister school: Ezra Cornell and Henry Wells (also the founder of Wells Fargo) were good friends; they almost built their colleges on the same land. Today, students take advantage of this relationship with cross-registration options with Cornell and Ithaca College, both within 35-40 minutes to the south of Wells. Shuttles run to the city of Ithaca fairly regularly, as well as to Auburn, about 20 minutes to the north.

Wells stained glass aurora 2

One of the stained glass pieces around campus – this one is of Aurora, the name of the town

They’re holding steady with enrollment, but are trying to work around the national decrease in college-aged students. They went coed in 2005 and are still about 2/3 women. “We didn’t let go of our mission,” said the rep, a recent Wells grad. “There’s an ingrained sense of women’s empowerment. It’s in our traditions. Men here tend to be more open minded.” The rep told me that the administration has changed a bit, and they listen to the students. “Students have a voice. In this day and age, actually hearing students is important. They take that seriously and have implemented a lot of change.”

Academically, they’re changing with the times, restructuring programs for what students need and want. They offer some things that usually you can’t find unless you’re in a huge school.

  • Wells sci atrium

    Science Building atrium

    They offer a full major in Sustainability and a minor in Sustainable Food Systems, both of which are fairly unusual (although I’ve noticed this is becoming more of a thing in the last couple years). Often, this is found embedded within Environmental Studies instead of a separate stand-alone major. Students often mix/match the major (or minor) with business, EnviSci, PoliSci, or another major. Students implement a lot of what they learn on campus providing practical, hands-on opportunities where they’re making a real difference. “The students take a lot of pride in our recycling programs among others.” They have a fabulous new Sustainability Center.

  • Wells study nook

    A study nook in one of the academic buildings

    They offer a minor in First Nations and Indigenous Studies! This is unusual for most schools particularly one this small – but for a school sitting right in the middle of the Iroquois Confederacy, it makes some sense.

  • Book Arts Center: They have 1 of 6 original printing presses in the US, according to the tour guide. The diplomas are made on site (“Students don’t get to make their own diploma, but it’s still pretty cool!”)
  • They’ve combined Economics and Management in a single major; students can choose to concentrate in one of these within the major, but must take classes in both.
  • Health Sciences is big here. They offer minors in Holistic Health Services, Health Care Management. They also have strong pre-professional programs, and they offer a 3+4 PharmD with Binghamton (this cuts out 1 year), a 4+1+2 Nursing (this is something I hadn’t heard of – students get a BA/BS from Wells, and then get a BS in Nursing and a Nurse Practitioner Masters from the University of Rochester)
  • Wells bridge 2“We have a great Education department and NYS certification goes anywhere.” Students can complete the Inclusive Childhood Education (dual certified in Elementary and Spcial Ed) or Secondary Education They offer a minor in Education (this doesn’t lead to certification, but is a good basis if thinking about graduate studies in education or those interested in policy or other areas) and a 4+1 Program with the University of Rochester.
  • They’re looking at including LGBTQ Studies as a major in addition to the Women and Gender Studies that they already offer.
Wells DH

The dining hall

Students have to complete 2 internships; one of these can be on campus, and being a TA for a class can count. They keep strong ties with alumni, allowing for increased access to research and internships. “They’re very involved and donate a lot of money and time,” said the rep.

Gen Ed classes can be as large as 50 students, but usually aren’t that big. My tour guide’s classes ranged from 10-30 students. The Honor Code is taken very seriously here; students don’t have to take their exams in the classrooms. Teachers give out their phone numbers and invite students over for dinner, including Thanksgiving. “The right students for Wells will be those who are comfortable with the size. You’re going to be held accountable. This is a tight-knit community. We kind of have to be, given our size,” said the tour guide who is from New York City.

Wells diversity cntr

Part of the Diversity Center

I asked her what she thought Wells did well in terms of diversity – and what they still needed to work on. “Residentially, it’s diverse. I’m comfortable in the dorms because there are a lot of people like me, but also a lot of different types of people so there’s something for everyone. The commuters … they tend to be very white, but that’s reflective of the community, not the college.” About 40% of students self-identify as Students of Color. The LGBTQ community is well accepted, and she felt that there was fairly decent religious and political diversity, although she thought that people on far ends of those spectrums may have trouble finding a community at Wells.

Wells 6The college is proactive in making sure that they’re accessible and are becoming as diverse as possible, including socio-economic diversity. They made the application (available on Common App and from their website) free in order to lower barriers. They require only two letters of rec which can be from a coach, teacher, counselor, etc. They’re SAT/ACT optional, including for scholarships. Essays can actually be anything, even a video!

Wells carriage

A picture in the library one of the original horse-drawn carriages

Traditions are strong here. One of the most unusual is that seniors arrive to graduation in horse-drawn carriages! Others include:

  • Candlelight ceremony on the first night of orientation; seniors get a champagne breakfast.
  • All students are Odd or Even based on graduation year. They have competitions and spirit games throughout the year. Men and women will form teams for dance-offs, sporting events, etc.
  • Wells Minerva

    Minerva!

    The statue of Minerva has lived through 3 fires; now she’s a symbol of good luck and will get dressed up. Seniors kiss her toes before graduation.

  • Tea Time – this started as a formal thing where people got dressed up; now it’s a Wednesday afternoon study break usually in the Café (which, by the way, is entirely student run, including the hiring).
Wells library int 1

Part of the library

To end, there are a couple final cool facts about Wells:

  • There are no 90 degree angles in the library. It’s one of the most interesting looking college libraries I’ve seen. Students can reserve study carrels and will often decorate them; the Honor code was evident walking through the building and seeing that students left books and personal belongings in the carrels without worrying about them being taken.
  • The creator of the American Girl dolls is a Wells alum.

© 2020

Goshen College

Goshen College (visited 11/20/19)

Goshen quadGoshen is a hidden gem. If you’re looking for an “interesting, eclectic place,” this might be for you! It’s a warm and welcoming community with a socially and environmentally aware mindset and a globally-focused curriculum. Students are happy and engaged; academics are rigorous but not overwhelming; the social life is active – all on a beautiful, brick-filled campus. Fun fact: new college Presidents get dunked in the fountain in front of the library.

Goshen convoGlobal awareness and competency is a key part of life on Goshen’s campus. All students complete at least one Study-Service Term (SST) abroad, although there are alternatives for students who are unable to go. For example, nursing students can go to Nepal as part of their program without losing clinical hours. The programs focus less on the popular Western cultures and emphasize both cultural immersion and service. This has been ranked at the #4 best study abroad program in the nation. Not surprisingly, a lot of students will do a service year after graduating.

Goshen arborAlthough campus is cut in half by the railroad, it’s accessible and very walkable. There are also lots of bikes and long boards around (and the Trail along the canal right off campus that even gets plowed!). The have a Native Landscape Garden running alongside the train tracks; an annual Burn is done in the spring by students in the Sustainability Major.

Goshen quad 2“Walking through campus, it was a feeling I could only describe as peace,” said the tour guide. “It may sound cheesy, but that’s what we’ve got.” It’s a fairly residential campus, but not entirely. Students must live on campus until they earn 90 credits or are 22 years old. About 30% of students true commuters (living at home with family) with maybe 45% total living off campus. That being said, campus is active: we visited campus from about 5-7:30pm, and students were out and about around campus. The dining hall was full. People were taking advantage of spaces. The tour guide said that there’s a lot to do on and around campus – a couple things worth mentioning were Slip-n-Slide kickball and Bad Karaoke Breakfast Bash.

The city of Goshen has a population of 32,000 which helps support lots of things to do. “Night life in downtown is really good,” said the tour guide. The students we ate dinner with said that there was a lot to do and that First Fridays in town were popular. Many business owners are alumni who didn’t leave town. They support the students with discounts, hiring them, etc, and the college supports them in return through placing orders (t-shirts, etc). There’s also an interurban trolley between Elkhart and Goshen for students wanting to go a little further afield without too much effort.

Goshen chapel

The campus chapel (also used by the community)

Although this is a Mennonite school, they are open and welcoming to people of all or no faith. The rep said that they have students from 41 Christian and 12 world religions on campus. Students of any level or denomination of faith will be comfortable here. Acceptance is the primary goal: “It’s an interesting, eclectic place.” For some people, this would be too much in terms of individual differentness. “Here it doesn’t matter. We’re do inclusiveness on purpose.” The rep, who grew up in nearby Angola and got her Masters here at Goshen, told me that some local churches have stopped giving scholarships to students if attended Goshen because of the colleges inclusiveness towards the LGBTQ community (who are very safe and welcomed on campus).

Goshen concert hall

The concert hall

Their Mennonite numbers have been dwindling from about 48% to 28% over the years, reflective of the general population in the church. They’ve been popular with students from similar denominations such as Quaker. Students do need to earn 12 convocation credits per term. Convos can be whatever the students want them to be: it could be students presenting about their SST experiences, an author speaking, etc. “Sometimes they’ll offer it for campus events like bbqs, sports, or theater performances,” said the tour guide. “These aren’t faith-based. You can also get credit by going to chapel, but there are enough other options that you can completely fulfill it without ever doing something religious.” As Mennonite institution, they do house the Mennonite Historical Library, one of the largest collections of primary source material. “You can do genealogy there.”

I’m really impressed with the range and quality of academics offered here:

© 2019

Dickinson College

Dickinson College (visited 5/16/17)

Dickinson city sign“We’re global, international, and sustainable. We’re a very green school, 12th on the Greenest School List,” said the admissions rep giving the info session. A Sustainability major was added last year, several campus buildings are certified on the 3 LEED levels, and they own/operate a certified organic farm about 10 minutes away from the main campus. Students work and do research on the farm. Some students are doing work on toads: they’re building an eco-system and a pond to attract a specific species. Others produce biofuel, grow much of the produce for the dining hall, or work on composting 600-800 pounds of waste from campus and around town. “Students will camp there for classes,” said the tour guide. Students can apply to be an apprentice there after graduation and live full-time on the farm.

Dickinson 1Another of Dickinson’s draws is the Global perspective. “We’ve been doing the global thing for a long time. We were doing it when it wasn’t fashionable. It goes back to Benjamin Rush when we were just starting,” said the rep. Over 1/3 of the faculty have international experiences. The Global Mosaics research program allows students to do interdisciplinary, international work. The college requires that students complete 3 semesters of a language; there are 13 offered to choose from (including Hebrew, Greek, Russian, Portuguese, and Chinese). Language classes got high praise from the tour guides: “We’ll do things like spend a day in the campus art gallery. We’re learning and using real-life language skills.”

Dickinson statueThe Study Abroad program has a nationally strong reputation. There are 15 Dickinson Centers (faculty chair the 2 domestic (NYC and DC) and 13 international centers including England, Australia, Japan, Beijing, and Bologna) and 24+ partner programs. “We’re not in Antarctica yet…” Students can and will study abroad in English, but many also in another language.

Dickinson townhouses

Some of the townhouses, an option for upperclassmen

Town-gown relations are good. Campus is only a couple blocks from downtown Carlisle, so there is a lot within walking distance including 35 restaurants. The college hosts a community orchestra in which local people participate. “We’re too small to have one on our own.” Getting around town is easy, and the school runs shuttles to the train and airport (Harrisburg, BWI, and others at breaks).

Dickinson 9

More housing options

Dickinson has remained financially stable through economic ups and down. They intend on staying a small school (about 2400 students), even though their incoming class is about 10-15 students higher than usual. Traditional dorms serve most of the first and second year students. Upperclassmen can live in houses and apartments owned by the campus. There’s also a range of Special Interest Houses which include language and cultural houses, the Tree House (sustainable living – they’ll have competitions to see how little energy they can use/who can take the shortest shower), Greek Housing, The Dog House (they’ll foster/raise/train puppies to be guide dogs or support animals), etc.

Dickinson lab 2One of our tour guides was a junior from Chattanooga; she came for the International Business program which is well-known and well-regarded. Social Innovation & Leadership, Biochemistry & Microbiology, Econ, Law & Policy, and PoliSci also get high praise. Classes, not surprisingly, are small (capped at 35 but rarely that big) and “real world.” The phrase “Broader Picture” got used a lot in relation to academics. When I asked about the students’ favorite classes, both cited those where they could use what they learned in practical ways. One of the tour guides raved about her Calculus class (maybe a first for me!): “We actually used it for calculating the amount of DNA there is in cells. Another guide talked about interpreting in clinics in town for her Spanish for Health class.

Dickinson planetariumThe physics department runs a Plasma Lab which can only be used in the summer because power has to be shut down around campus in order to use it! There’s also a planetarium used for more than science classes: the Astronomy Club uses it, the college runs “Star Nights,” and even the Greek Myth class will use it!

The Innovation Competition is a way to fund novel ideals or projects around campus. Teams of 3-5 students must be interdisciplinary (representing majors in at least 2 of the 3 schools) and the idea must be sustainable. Recently, an idea that won the $2000 prize was a Coffee Cart attached to a bike called “The Peddler.” They sell fresh ground and French press coffee.

Dickinson original mascot

The original “Triton”/ mermaid on display in the library

As with any school, there are a myriad of traditions, including the ubiquitous “Don’t step on the seal or else…” and the popular, symbolic walking onto campus (in this case through a building) and then back out at graduation. Senior week before graduation is full of traditions and fun for the seniors, including a beer garden on the quad and a bowling trip. The mascot, The Triton, has it’s own history and pranks revolving around it. The founder had asked a local merchant to make a Triton for the top of the cupola, but they got a mermaid. For decades, this would be stolen by seniors who bargained with professors before giving it back. The original is now on display in the library.

© 2017

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.

© 2016

Albion College

Albion College (visited 1/30/15) (click HERE to see notes from my 2nd visit on 3/25/19)

~Albion acad bldg 4~Albion bellI didn’t get a formal tour of Albion, but talked to an admissions rep for about 45 minutes before walking around campus on my own during the chilly dusk of a Friday evening. The campus was quiet, not surprising given the weather and time. Classes were done for the day and students weren’t heading to dinner or out to events yet. However, I talked to the students working at the student center and in the library and ended up getting a lot of interesting information from them.

~Albion rotundaSolid students who want a small campus, small classes, interesting classmates, and a chance to get involved will do well here.

~Albion sci cntrKids here are “everyday kids. They’re very normal.” There are the jocks to the theatre geeks to the nerds. “I like the mix of kids. I have friends from Nepal, Italy, Metro Detroit, the UP. This is the first time in years that we haven’t had at least 1 gay student pledge the frat,” said the junior econ major working in the library. “I took this shift because I love the quiet. I can get my work done and enjoy the rest of my weekend.”

~Albion courtyardThe Union Board (student group that organizes events) is active. “There’s never NOT something going on whether it’s Frisbee golf, movies, speakers, whatever. There’s a 4-hour Laser Tag game later tonight that I’m going to go to after the library closes.” About 60% of students participate in sports, and a cappella is also very popular. One of the favorite traditions is the Anchor Splash, a Synchronized Swimming competition put on by the Delta Gamma Sorority. The money goes to charity. It’s “hysterical to watch these burley football guys in tutus! They get really competitive.”

~Albion patioThere’s nothing going on in town (the population is less than 10,000 people). “There’s a good taco joint and a good bar. The movie theatre is free for students. Otherwise . . . not so much.” Jackson, a larger town, is 15 minutes away and the college runs shuttles to Ann Arbor and to the airports. There’s a train station in town that will take them to Chicago. Freshmen can have cars on campus, but a lot of people don’t bother leaving campus because so much is offered. They even have a convenience store.

Albion is small (1400 students) so it’s easy to get to know everyone, “but you aren’t always tripping over the same people.” Students who leave tend to go to bigger schools or “are the one who never leave their room or aren’t getting playing time on the team.” The biggest division seems to be between the athletes and non-athletes, “but even that isn’t a big deal.”

~Albion main dorm

Largest dorm on campus

All first year students live in Wesley Hall, a traditional-style dorm that holds 550 students. There are other options for older students including frat houses and two apartment-style complexes. Students are not stuck in traditional dorms for 4 years. Wifi on campus “can be spotty.” The food gets mixed reviews ranging from “great” to me getting a blank stare before being told that the new food vendor, while it has helped some, “doesn’t really make things that college students tend to want.” The other student said it was “ok but not spectacular.” Frat houses have their own food arrangements such as a cook so that helps. Greek life is huge with about 2/3 of the students affiliating with a group. “It’s not like the big schools, though. We all hang out together.” He’s in both the Panhellenic and Intra-frat councils.

~Albion chapel 3

Chapel

Albion still has a very loose religious affiliation but it’s not really all that noticeable. Students do have to take one theology or philosophy class as part of their distribution requirements, but there are plenty of options and no one is pushing an agenda or belief system. Catholicism has the largest number of self-reporting students, and Hillel is one of the more active groups on campus.

In academics, Albion offers 6 Centers of Distinction:

  • Teaching is automatic entry once students declare the major. Others require a short essay.
  • Honors classes are not just harder; they’re more discussion based. Teachers actually bid on the classes. Students take 1 honors class per term and have to write a Thesis. It gets published and is assigned an ID number so they are officially published and can put it on a resume. This COD is becoming more competitive to get into.
  • Health Care: this is a 4-year guided program for students interested in any aspect of health care, including vet. This is also becoming more competitive. Pre-med is a large major; 92% go onto med school.
  • Leadership in Public Policy and Service
  • Business and Management
  • Sustainability and the Environment
~Albion sci atrium

Science atrium

One student said that the relationships with the professors were the best thing about the college. The largest classes (like Bio or Chem 101) can have upwards of 50-70 students. One student said that he tended to have 35-40 in his first year accounting classes but most have around 20. Sciences tend to be very strong, especially Neuroscience, Environmental Sciences, Geological Sciences, Pre-Engineering, and Sustainability Studies. Professors come to teach here from the larger universities; they say that the science equipment rivals anything the big schools have. Other noteworthy majors include Law, Justice, and Society; Economics and Management; and Ethnic Studies.

~Albion library seating

seating in the library

Job placements trump a lot of other places. 94% of graduates are in full-time work or post-grad upon graduation – and that’s tracking over 16 years! The alumni network is strong both internships as well as post-graduation job placement. Students are encouraged to do research in a variety of areas, not just the sciences. “One of my friends is working on a project about how hip-hop is reviving Detroit.” During the students’ time on campus, Albion also provides an excellent academic support system and have been highly ranked for their support of students on the spectrum.

Applying to the university is free; they’re a Common App exclusive school. They will superscore both the SAT and ACT. They offer a $5,000 scholarship for students who don’t live in MI, OH, or IL; this is stackable with other merit scholarships that a student qualifies for. All scholarships are automatic consideration except the Distinguished Scholars program. Students who qualify for this competition get invited to campus and will receive $1,000 just for attending. DS awards range from $15,000-$23,500. For most students at Albion, the final cost of attendance averages only a few thousand more than UM or MSU.

They have a Nature Center on campus and a River running through the south end. There are wetlands where students can do research. A student farm grows mostly vegetables; it doesn’t produce a lot, but the dining hall will use what they do grow. Students also conduct soil testing and other research there. Students interested can also live in the Environmental House, a 2-minute walk from campus. There is also a large equestrian center owned by Albion. 

(c) 2015

Otterbein University

Otterbein University (visited 4/17/12)

Otterbein 1One of my former students had gone to Otterbein and had a great experience, so I was particularly excited about getting to see her alma mater. As a particularly big fan of small liberal arts schools, I was hoping for great things. I knew very little about the school other than they were on the quarter system, the student had good things to say about it, and a few things that I had read on the website (and let’s face it – one website starts looking a lot like every other website after a while).

The bus pulled up to the Equestrian Center for the first part of our tour; this was a good move on their part since it highlighted a unique program at the very beginning. The Center was extensive and new; after being able to meet the representatives for our regions and a brief welcome from the President of the college (and being able to help ourselves to some very tasty cookies!), we got a tour of the riding rink and the barns where we also got to play with some of the horses, many of which looked expectantly for peppermints, the new treat of choice. Students in the Equine Studies program have priority for space in the barn for their horses, but other students can board horses as space allows. The university also owns many of the horses, most of which were donated from a variety of sources – rescues, ex-race horses, etc. Equine Science is a selective program; this year, they had about 70 applications for 22 new spots.

Theater is the most selective program on campus, accepting 16 students out of the approximately 400 who apply for the BFA in acting. We talked to several students who had auditioned for a spot in the acting program but didn’t make it; however, they liked OU so much that they came anyway and are majoring in another area of theater such as Design & Technology, Musical Theater, and Theater Management, or they’ve gone into communications, another very strong program with concentrations in areas such as broadcasting and journalism. Business is the largest major; popular concentrations include accounting, economics, finance, human resource management, and international business. Education and Nursing are both strong, popular programs, and students have high levels of success on the respective Board exams. The university is instituting several new programs this year; Sustainability Studies, Zoo/Conservation Science, and Public Administration are new and unusual, and the Arts department allows students to concentrate in areas usually only found in much larger universities (Computer Art, Sculpture, and Printmaking).

Otterbein 2Several of the schools I visited in Ohio had some sort of claim to fame about being among the first to accept or educate women and/or blacks . . . Otterbein is no different. Their claim is that they opened their doors in 1847 and were the first to have equal graduation requirements for men and women. (Oberlin, on the other hand, was the first coeducational college in theory – meaning it took them several years to actually accept female students — as well as being the first to accept and graduate black students, but apparently they didn’t have the same requirements for the degree as the men did). Depending on their wording, I guess a lot of colleges can be the “first” to have done very similar things.

Otterbein continues to lead the way in several regards. The Association of American Colleges and Universities awarded a large grant to Otterbein and four other colleges (including Tufts and Georgetown) to develop an integrative curriculum which will serve as models for other institutions. Students tend to be very happy at Otterbein; the university continues to earn high marks on the National Survey of Student Engagement. As is becoming more and more popular on campuses, they have a First Year Experience; I feel like it’s more uncommon to find a school without some sort of FYE. Otterbein has revamped their curriculum to address multidisciplinary perspectives and points of intersections. They have opened a new Living-Learning Community revolving around leadership. They are big on immersive learning (ie, travel tours) and experiential learning through internships, community service, global perspectives, and original research. They have switched over this year from quarters to semesters with an added 3-week January term to allow for more time and flexibility for immersion learning.

In terms of applications, they work on a Rolling Admissions basis, providing answers in two to three weeks. They accept the Common App, and the transcript is one of the most highly weighted parts of the application. The average GPA of accepted students hovers around a 3.4-3.5 with ACT scores in the mid-20s.

I enjoyed seeing Otterbein and learning more about the programs; it’s an attractive campus and they’re clearly putting effort into making the education worthwhile for the students. I was disappointed that their tour guides were not better trained; I heard from all the counselors (we were split into about 8 tour groups) that the tours were among the worst they had encountered. Most of the guides were freshmen, and while I think most of us had had good experiences with tours led by freshmen on other campuses, most of these students didn’t really seem to know what they were doing or how to answer questions. It can be very difficult to separate the experience on the tour from the quality of the school, so I hope this is fixed before it becomes a detriment for potential students and families visiting.

(c) 2012

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