campus encounters

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Archive for the tag “Sustainable Agriculture and Food Production”

University of New Hampshire

University of New Hampshire (visited 10/17/16)


Students stretch out in the grass in front of the UNH sign and main building


Food trucks get tucked around campus

UNH should be on far more people’s radars. This is just an amazing school. I liked the vibe here; students were friendly, outgoing, outdoorsy (including just wanting to be out and about on campus), and smart. For a state school, it is not an overwhelming size, either physically or in population numbers. It’s beautiful with a mix of historic and new buildings, with facilities that offer a great deal to the students in the academic and social realms.


unh-2There’s something to be said for the liberal arts within a comprehensive research university. Students who are most successful here want to be challenged and stretch themselves in and out of the classroom. Students who like UVM should also seriously consider UNH. It won’t disappoint; they take care of students, and students want to stay. Freshman-to-sophomore retention (86%) and graduation rates (67% in 4 years, 79% 6-year) are above average.


Not an uncommon scene on campus: students were everywhere!

Last year, applications topped 20,000 for the first time with the out-of-state population growing. Part of this is demographic (there are fewer college-aged students in NH); the other part is reputation. In the admission process, they focus mainly on the transcript: have students taken the minimum (at least!) and done well (looking for mostly Bs or better)? The SAT/ACT is not crucial for admission, but comes more into play for merit awards. They only require 1 letter, preferably from the counselor. In terms of admissions, Nursing and OT are the most competitive to get into.



Shuttles get students around campus, but it’s also very walkable

A major distinction for UNH is its location and size. The physical campus size is manageable, but more than that, there are so many options accessible to campus. They’re only 30 minutes from the ocean and beaches, and the mountains and urban areas aren’t much further. Portsmouth, a medium-sized city, is 20 minutes away, and students can use UNH transportation to get there. There’s even an Amtrak stop on campus; students can be in Boston in an hour, or head up the coast into Maine to Portland or Freeport (home of LLBean!).



One of the dorms

Housing is guaranteed for 2 years. Of course there are lots of social options, as at any school of this size (13,000 undergrads at the Durham campus; there are about 1,000 more at the non-residential Manchester campus). Something the students appreciate is that “One thing doesn’t dominate campus: we have Greek life, we have football and hockey, etc – but none of those dominate the others. You don’t have to belong to a certain group or do a certain thing to belong here.” Only 10% of students go Greek. Hockey is one of the most popular sports.



One of the engineering labs

This is a great option for students who want engineering at a medium school. However, their excellent academic choices and resources go far beyond that. Started in 1866 as New Hampshire’s Land Grant institution, UNH has now also earned Sea and Space Grant designations and offers over 100 majors. It’s not surprising that the College of Life Sciences and Agriculture options are strong and varied, including EcoGastronomy, Sustainable agriculture and food systems, and Marine, Estuarine, and Freshwater Biology.


unh-hammockTheir sustainability efforts are amazing: they get almost ¼ of their food from local and/or organic sources, and they’re the first land-grant school to have an organic dairy farm, and they make their own ice cream on campus. They gave us scoops for dessert; not only did they have great flavor options, but it tasted better than most I’ve tried!

Discovery is their Core curriculum, comprised of 11 disciplines they need to take classes in, including a World Cultures class (which can be fulfilled with study abroad – they offer over 600 options) and a Capstone or “Integrative Understanding.” Research is defined broadly here: they call original projects (musical compositions or a business proposal) as “research.”

unh-loungeResources are strong across the board, but Ocean Engineering and Marine Biology have some unique resources at students’ disposal. UNH co-runs the Isle of Shoals Marine Lab with Cornell University. Students spend a great deal of time researching out there, particularly in the summer (they can live on the island!). The Ocean Engineering labs have 2 wave pools; the military even asks to use this for research. Computer Science students have labs to try to break into a variety of systems as part of CyberSecurity training.

© 2016

Green Mountain College

Green Mountain College (visited 4/16/14)

~Green Mtn bikes

~Green Mtn zen garden

Zen Garden

Green Mountain is the kind of college you would expect to find in Vermont – outdoorsy, environmentally conscious, maybe a bit quirky. They have a bike shop on campus, their on-campus coffee shop sells only local foods and fair trade goods, they have an outdoor kiln, there’s a Zen garden outside the library, and bathrooms are unisex.

~Green Mtn quad 2Known as the Environmental state college, the have a distinctive core curriculum called Environmental Liberal Arts (ELA) consisting of four Environmental-based classes in addition to the other required distributions. All freshmen take a 6-credit class called “Images of Nature” in the fall. In the spring they take a writing intensive class. “Delicate Balance” and “Dimensions of Nature” are the upper level ELA classes which can be completed at any time before graduation.

~Green Mtn solar

Solar panels and maze

People are great and definitely aren’t generic. However, lots of people also leave after freshmen year. We asked some students why, and they said that a lot of people come here thinking that it’s a party school and either realize that it’s too small, not what they want, or they bottom out because they party too much. One counselor asked, “So you don’t party now?” The student said, “I didn’t saw that. Let’s just say that I figured out the balance.”

~Green Mtn dining hall

Dining Hall

Most of the 825 students live on campus because there’s a 4-year residential requirement unless students meet an age requirement. Dorms are assigned by major or interests, and there are several Interest Floors. Currently, the campus isn’t completely wired for wifi, but they’re provided with Ethernet cords for the rooms.

~Green Mtn bulls

Campus farm

~Green Mtn Main 2People come for the stand-out majors like Adventure Education, Natural Resources Management, Renewable Energy and Ecological Design, and Sustainable Agriculture and Food Production. They have a working farm on campus, and 20% of the food used on campus is produced on the farm. Our tour-guide was a sophomore Envi Sci and Education major, and double majoring or interdisciplinary work is highly encouraged. They also encourage hands-on and practical applications to what students learn in the classroom. For example, the Green MAP (Mountain Adventure Program) is run by people in the outdoor adventures major. One program they run is the Wilderness Challenge, a pre-orientation program which several students participate in; options include kayaking, hiking, yoga, mountain biking, and more.

Check out their YouTube Video: GMC – Our Home!

© 2014

Sterling College

STERLING COLLEGE (visited 4/13/14)

~Sterling bldg 2

Main Street

If you didn’t know better, you’d pass by this college campus thinking it might have been a glorified summer camp or simply more pretty white wooden buildings lining the small main street of Craftsbury, population 1,300 (“we’re supposed to get cell service in about 6 months!”). They’re an hour from Burlington, 2.5 hours from Montreal, and 3 hours from Boston.



Sterling is one of the most unusual colleges I’ve ever visited; with only 120 students, this is 1 of 7 federally designated Work Colleges (others include Warren Wilson and Berea). They’re looking to grow to 150 students in the next 2 years. They do have an 85% acceptance rate which reflects the self-selecting population of the applicant pool. Cross-over colleges include College of the Atlantic, Green Mountain College, Warren Wilson, Evergreen State, and Prescott. Sterling is test optional; things like Work Ethic counts for much more than scores. Tim, the Director of Admission, said that the students here work harder than he did at Williams. We were all impressed that he was one of the two people taking us out on tour; dressed in corduroys and boots, he was tramping through the mud with the rest of us, clearly excited to be showing off all that the school has to offer.

~Sterling draft horse sign~Sterling where food comes fromThey do their best to accommodate special academic interests but the baseline educational experience is Ecological Stewardship. Tim called Sterling, “Boot Camp for Stewards.” It’s a vibrant community with an ethic of land use. Majors include Sustainable Agriculture and Sustainable Production (and in fact, 20% of the food used in the dining hall is grown on campus); Ecology (students work for the National Parks, Land Trust, Game and Wildlife), and Education (grads go on to work at the Farm School and other similar things). They have several minors, including Draft Horse Management and Climate Justice. The buildings are small, older, wooden buildings, many of which are being fitted for solar power while keeping the traditional feel to the buildings; you won’t find new modern LEED certified buildings here. They’re also working to transform everything to not use fossil fuels.



~Sterling dorm cat and lounge

Dorm lounge complete with resident cat

We talked to several students who came to Sterling from across the country: OR, NY, MA, PA, and NJ. Twenty percent of the students come from Vermont, 50% come from New England and New York, and 8% are international. The students said that they came because of the small community, the unique programs, and the opportunity to merge hands-on and intellectual work. One student was surprised that it’s so academic here. Many of the students are non-traditional students (although the average age is only 21), and several transfer or come back for a second degree. One woman on the panel was 29 and had already been working as an architect. She here because she was “blown away” by the ecology lens.

One of the students made the bread we ate at lunch!

One of the students made the bread we ate at lunch!

Students are expected to have an axe (not kidding!). All freshmen need to complete “Bounder” which is based on the Outward Bound Education. This fall class ends with a 4-day, 30-mile trek back to campus without tents or stoves. They’re taken out to the woods and dropped off with the group. “In December, you can get any kind of weather.” The kids said that it’s a really difficult experience – they’re glad they did it, but hope they never have to do it again! Over their time at Sterling, they can get certified in Wilderness First Responder, as well. A student at lunch said, “I learned so much about anatomy and physiology, and it only cost about $100 rather than $1000 if I did it somewhere else”.

Message boards like this are all over campus

Message boards like this are all over campus

All students must complete a one semester internship; before that, they do a “Work Search” class; afterwards, they do a reflection. A veteran on campus is about to gradate with an experience in Horse Therapy because of his internship; he plans on continuing this work with other veterans after graduation. There are 4 draft horses on campus which are used for everything from working the farm to pulling the carts with maple sap to the maple syrup hut. The campus farm is extensive, with all sorts of animals (currently, they have steers being raised on an old tennis court which the school acquired when they took over a resort that went bankrupt) as well as food. They’re building a new chicken building that looks like a little cabin.

© 2014

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