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Providence College

Providence College (visited 9/12/17) (Scroll down for my 2nd visit on 5/1/19)

Providence 5I appreciated that the admission reps and other people presenting information to the visiting counselors made efforts to help differentiate Providence from other solid, similarly-sized liberal arts schools. According to them, their 4 pillars make PC different:

  • Human Flourishing: learn to take of yourself now so you’re able to do it later!
  • Cultural Agility: help to see through your lens AND how to learn from those people around you. “Erase the fear. Help include people who might feel different or alienated.”
  • Contemplation and communication: “We do this in the Dominican tradition. We want people to be intentional about contemplation. Take the time to do it. Share that with others.”
  • Integrated learning: “learning is important, but it’s not all you do. How do you put everything together – the internship, the extra-curriculars – to build yourself and get where you want to be?

Providence outdoor seatingA large part – really, the cornerstone – of their core curriculum is Western Civ. This is a 4 semester, team-taught, interdisciplinary course of study pulling together Theology, Lit, History, Philosophy, “really, the entirety of western civilization.” Students take this every semester of their first 2 years. The first 3 semesters cover ancient, medieval, and modern times; in the 4th semester, students complete a colloquium to “bring knowledge into a contemporary topic.” They can choose classes such as Our Monsters, Ourselves (how do we define monsters?), Ethical Practices in Business, Sustainability and Profits, etc. This is a huge part of PC’s culture and community and is almost a rite of passage: students will sport T-shirts saying things like “Done with Civ.”

Providence quad 2This is a Roman Catholic institution, and 50 priests live on campus. This dictates much of what happens around campus from class work to student services. There are options in some aspects of how religion plays out on campus. For example, teachers could opt into having a crucifix in the classrooms but most did not. “Religion is not heavy-handed here” but it’s clearly around and available. Students must take 2 religion and 2 philosophy classes, one of which must be ethics-based, but Mass or chapel is not required. “It’s is more of a social event,” said one of the tour guides. “We have a post-mass bash.” Catholic policy does dictate other things: “We’re a Catholic school, and our Health Center follows Catholic guidelines. I’m not sure you want me to be more specific … students aren’t always happy about this, but there are referrals for outside things as needed.”

Providence hockey

Practice time for the hockey team!

Although diversity and inclusion are, on paper anyway, part of the Dominican tradition, people we talked agreed that the college was not as diverse as they’d like but it’s gotten a lot better in recent years. “It’s the #1 strategic goal. We’re 18% non-white. We’d like to get to 25%.” The LGBTQ community is “not a closeted presence” and seems to be well supported. “Our students are overwhelmingly involved in service, athletics, etc. That’s a major characteristic.” They’ve put a lot of money into athletic facilities: all of them are new within the last 10 years (most within 5). PC has been ranked as the #1 school for intramural involvement. This is also a big hockey school.

Providence business int

Interior of the Business Dept

Academic programs worth noting include:

  • Arts and Sciences: every person takes classes in this school regardless of major.
  • Providence 8Professional Studies is the smallest school and consists of Applied Programs such as Education (Secondary and Elementary/Special), Health Policy Management (one of the fastest growing majors), and Social Work.
    • The BSW is so strong that students can often start their MSW with advanced standing. “We’re the liberal arts in service to others.” This school gives them flexibility to pursue things like pre-med, MPH, hospital admin, etc.
  • Business: Students become proficient in writing, oral communication, civic engagement, and diversity. They offer 4 majors in a new building (opened in January 2017).
    • First-year advising workshops are offered every other week for the first semester covering career education, study abroad, the curriculum, etc. They bring in alumni and faculty to talk about what they do with the majors.
    • The Finance lab has 12 Bloomberg Terminals. They’re pushing for more people to get certified on these

Providence 1Admissions is test-optional: “It doesn’t drive the process. Almost 40% of applicants didn’t submit them last year,” said an admissions rep. “It will not affect merit awards” (given to about ¼ of the students). They recalculate transcripts based on a 4.0 unweighted scale looking only at academic subjects. Last year was the first time admissions didn’t pull students from the waitlist, and in fact, they’ve been slightly overenrolled. 31% came from the ED pool which they’d like to max out at 35%. “We’re talking about the people we want to bring to our community, be part of our family. They want to be here because they love the place!”

© 2017

Providence College (5/1/19)

“I’m so content. I’m where I’m supposed to be,” said our tour guide who was amazing. It’s hard to find one who is so forthcoming about the benefits as well as any potential drawbacks. She recognizes that this isn’t the place for everyone – but it’s really right for a lot of people!

This is a Dominican university with 45 Friars living on campus. Many of them teach, particularly theology, philosophy, or the required Civ core classes. Mass/chapel attendance isn’t required, but many students will attend one of those offered on campus. “Last Chance Mass is offered at 10pm on Sundays, and it’s usually standing-room only.”

The Business school is the only one that students must apply directly to get into, however students can minor in one of the subjects without applying to the program. The Business School is big on teamwork, building much of their teaching on “The Power of We” and experiential learning. Students all attend a First Year Advising Workshop taught by their advisor. This program brings in alumni, faculty, and others to give students a broad and deep understanding of what business is. They offer a fast-track program for those wanting to go into elite firms/Wall Street. They’re also very much about building students’ cultural agility. Students can study abroad, including short-term faculty-led abroad for 10ish days. Last year, trips went to Japan and Australia. “It wasn’t hard to go to Sydney in January,” said one student. International Business majors must intern abroad.

Education majors can also go abroad to Puerto Rico, Ecuador, and Italy without worrying about losing credits or time towards graduation.

Admissions is test-optional, and 36% of applicants do not submit scores. About 1/3 of the incoming classes are admitted under Early Decision. The admissions office recalculates GPAs to an unweighted one. Last year, only 21% of students got merit scholarships. “Less merit means more need-based aid – which means more access for students. We’re putting our resources into meeting as much demonstrated need as possible.”

© 2019

 

Fairfield University

Fairfield University (visited 10/11/16)

fairfield-statueStudents who are willing to explore or who have a professional mind-set but don’t want to be stuck on a single track are going to love Fairfield. “We do a great job with the undecided students helping them to find a path,” said the admissions rep.

Fairfield is a hidden gem. They take great care of their students in all realms, true to their Jesuit roots. As 1 of the US’s 28 Jesuit universities, there are 3 core values to Fairfield’s philosophies:

  • A liberal arts education: Jesuits are known for being educators and have a commitment to social justice. All students, regardless of area of study, will engage in core classes. They engage with people who have a range of interests.
  • fairfield-bell-tower

    The bell tower by the chapel

    Cura personalis: care for the whole person. They want students to think about where they’re going in mind, body, and spirit. Obviously, students are growing intellectually in the class but also outside of it. They’re using NYC, going to lectures, etc. Body – Healthy Living Floors, classes on meditation, using the rec center.

  • Men and Women for others: They want students be asking, ‘How are they able to give back?’ … and then following through. Many students take classes with Service Learning components (such as Non-profit Accounting, developmental psych, or Non-profit grant management) where things are built in. They look at how they can engage in the community using what they learn in the classes and at other community service.

fairfield-quad-1Clearly they’re doing something right. They have an impressive 89% retention rate from freshman to sophomore year (and they’re actively working to get that into the 90s). They hold two 2 orientations programs in June and August, and the FYE class taken in the first semester is an outreach from Orientation. The 3800 undergrads are happy on campus, and Fairfield works hard to make sure they graduate: 82% within 4-years, 84% within 6 (both of which are well above the national norms).

fairfield-chapel-statue

Sculpture in front of the chapel as seen through the bell tower.

About 2/3 of students self-report as Roman Catholic (which doesn’t necessarily mean practicing!). Things are there if you want them, including on and off campus retreats. During masses, music is often provided by students. All students must take 2 religion classes: the first, an overview, is required; the second is a choice.

fairfield-pond

The fountain in the pond on the edge of campus

This is a beautiful partially-wooded campus in a residential area, but there are things to do within a 10 minute walk. Sunny Daes is a favorite ice cream place, Archie Moore’s has wings, and Peppi’s Pizza (5 minutes off campus) has been ranked the #1 pizza. They’re also close to local farms for apple and pumpkin picking. For those looking for more action, a MetroNorth stop is close to campus; Grand Central is an hour away by train. Shuttles run all day every 30 minutes starting at 7am on weekdays, 11am on weekends. It’s a full-sized bus so there’s always room!

fairfield-dorms-4

Freshmen dorms in the center of campus

Most things on campus are within a 10-minute walk, with a few more minutes to reach some of the outlying corners. Housing is guaranteed all 4 years, but about half the seniors choose to live off campus. Dorms are fairly traditional for freshmen. Many sophomores are able to move into suites, and apartments and suites are available for upperclassmen.

fairfield-dorms-2

Some of the upperclassman suites in a “village” on the side of campus

A couple favorite traditions include Midnight Breakfasts and the senior tradition of going to the beach to watch a final sunrise with friends before graduation; Fairfield Beach is just a couple miles from campus, also making it a favorite place to hang out during good weather.

Most intro classes are capped at 30; chem is one of the few above this number (capped at 40). Students can choose from 44 majors, 16 interdisciplinary programs, and 12 4+1 programs:

  • fairfield-business-2

    The business school

    Business: Dolan is ranked as one of Bloomberg’s Top 50 Undergrad Business Schools. All business majors all get a broad basis before specializing. It’s not unusual for students to complete 2 or 3 internships. They’re close to several Fortune 500 companies in Stanford. They run startup competitions and Elevator-pitch competitions.

  • fairfield-new-construction

    Expansion of the Nursing and Health Sciences buildings; they’re very careful to leave the trees intact.

    Nursing: This is Fairfield’s only direct-admit program. Students can’t transition into nursing because classes start immediately in freshman year and clinicals start sophomore year. Students can study abroad for a semester in Brisbane or Ireland (where they’ll complete their surgical rotations) or in Nicaragua for a shorter experience, usually getting experience in clinics.

  • fairfield-mascot

    The mascot

    Engineering: incoming students can apply to a specific program or come in as undecided. Students can complete a 4+1 in Management of Technology to be ready to cross over into the business section and be ready to manage if they want.

  • Arts and Sciences: Among the many majors, students can choose: Irish Studies, Black Studies, Digital Journalism, Judaic Studies, and Behavioral Neuroscience.

Almost half (45%) of students spend at least a semester abroad; 70% graduate with some sort of international experience such as the short-term classes.

fairfield-garden

The student-run sustainable garden

Fairfield is Common App Exclusive, and admission is test-optional. Last year, 39% of students did not submit test scores. Interviews, which tend to be informal, are available through Thanksgiving, and can be done by admissions rep OR a senior. The top 10% of applicants are named Magis (“The More,” a very Jesuit term) Scholars. Students getting this tend to be those students who enhance lives around them, who push themselves hard, and tend to have a 31+ on the ACT.

© 2016

Beloit College

Beloit College (visited 4/15/15)

~Beloit cafe

Campus Cafe

The students at Beloit were some of the most open, forthcoming, articulate students I’ve met. I was hugely impressed with them and the school as a whole. They’re doing something very right there. It’s clearly earning its spot on the Colleges that Change Lives list!

~Beloit acad bldg 4Beloit is great for students who like to do more than one thing. The professors also demonstrate this range of interests. For example, a physics professor teaches “The Physics of Asian Sounds” and co-teaches a class with a Music professor on “Keeping it Real.” Students tend to be jacks-of-all-trades who want to do a lot and maybe need help focusing (in a good way). About half the students become involved in the arts in some way during their time here just because they enjoy it. The campus has a lot of facilities for performances including a thrust stage and 2 black box theaters.

~Beloit sci lab

Science Lab

The happiest students engage across the curriculum. “There are excited students who want to do this and excited faculty who want to work with them,” said one admissions rep. Faculty work with them to show how to fit things into their majors. “They help students move into the driver’s seat of their own education” by letting them articulate what they’re interested in and why. The ability to articulate their own narrative is important. A student put it this way: “We’re challenged in different ways at different times. Be ready to have your world turned upside down in a good way.”

~Beloit students quad

Quad

Students are collaborative, not competitive. Students are internally motivated, not grade-grubbers. They’ll ask “What did you think about the reading?” not “What did you get?” They want to know what they can do better. “They take the responsibility for their education,” said one professor. “They’ll ask, ‘What can I do differently next time?’ not ‘Why did you give me that grade?’”

~Beloit sci bldg interior

Science Building

Students here learn by doing and are expected to do something with what they learn in class. Beloit calls it Liberal Arts in Practice: “We want them to graduate with a resume, not just a transcript.” All students complete a significant project such as research or an internship – and Beloit makes it easy to do this. Students don’t even have to leave campus for real-world experience (although many still do):

~Beloit 1

Archaeology Museum in a converted chapel

  • There are 2 teaching museums on campus: Art and Anthropology/Archaeology (and there are 20 Indian Mounds on campus). Many students work here as researchers, curators, and educators since the museums only have 4 staff members
  • Students who like to make things happen are supported in the Entrepreneurship program CELEB.
  • There’s a fully functional campus TV station.

~Beloit student on quadThere’s a high degree of flexibility in the Curriculum. Rather than Core or Distribution Requirements, Beloit has 5 Domains (such as Creative Processes and Scientific Inquiry) and 3 Skills (Writing, Cultural Competency, and Quantitative Analysis) that they want graduates to have. There’s vast amount of choice involved; many of these can be fulfilled within a major.

~Beloit bridge“It just kind of worked out that no more than 10% of students in any given year are in a major. We don’t do that on purpose,” said an admissions rep. “Professors are hands-down the best here,” said one student. Some of the unusual majors or programs of note include:

  • 3-2 and 4-2 Engineering: Two to four students a year will take advantage of program. Many more come in saying they’re interested but change their minds. Students spend 3 or 4 years at Beloit earning a B.S. and then will earn a 2nd Bachelors or a Masters in Engineering from Columbia, RIP, Michigan, Wash U, or Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
  • Environmental Management and Forestry: this is a cooperative program with Duke. The accelerated program (3-2) is competitive; students can also start at Duke after the full 4 years at Beloit.
  • Critical Identities Studies
  • International Political Economy
  • Geology
  • Languages: Beloit offers classes in many languages beyond the “traditional” including Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, and even Hungarian. About 75% of students will study another language even without a language requirement. The Modern Languages major lets students combine more than one language.
  • Comparative Literature
  • Creative Writing: this is a full major, not an afterthought within the English Department
  • Health and Society
  • Anthropology: Rated the top undergrad program in the country and #2 for students who go on to get a PhD

~Beloit quad 4Favorite classes include:

  • Thinking Queerly: “It was about identity, and a really rigorous class. It pushed me in a unique way.”
  • Women, Race, and Class: “It was a wake-up call.”
  • Masculinities: “We did a lot of research.”
  • “Social Technology Entrepreneurship: “There were 6 professors and 4 students. Where else will that ever happen?”
  • Anthropology of Race and Identity

~Beloit frat houseAlthough there is only a 3-year residency requirement, 95% stay on campus all four years. Housing options include special interest and Gender Neutral housing. The alcohol policy is for students to be responsible and respectful. “There aren’t a lot of regulations here. It’s much more laid back so there’s no pressure to binge drink,” said one student. “People can reach out for help if they need it without fear of repercussions”.

~Beloit dorms

Dorms

Athletics are big but not overwhelming (they’re DIII). The Athletic Director (also the baseball coach) told a story about one of his players who was going to miss practice for the opening of his Senior Art Show. He felt bad about missing practice and proactively told the coach — who not only told him not to worry about it, but delayed the start of practice by about an hour to allow the rest of the team to support their teammate at the opening. “If we’re good, we’ll win without the extra practice.” Because they’re DIII, they don’t have much influence, if any, on admissions: “Admissions reps don’t show up to practice and tell us how to bunt. I don’t tell them who to admit.”

~Beloit quad 3Admissions is competitive, but applicants tend to be fairly self-selecting. They will recalculate GPA to a 4.0 unweighted scale. This year, they’re Test Optional for the first time. International students need to demonstrate skills with TOEFL or SAT/ACT.

Students love Beloit. The town is cute with lots to do. One student did say that “sometimes it can be a bit isolating. The good side is that it makes us a community, and there’s so much to do here that there’s no reason to leave anyway.” Some of the favorite traditions on campus are:

  • “Bizarro” held at the on-campus bar. Students dress up as someone else on campus.
  • Bell Run: “You can be naked on the residential side, but not the academic side. The bell sits just over the line on the academic side; students run across the “line” to ring the bell.”
  • The 2-day Folk and Blues Music Fest
  • Spring Day Carnival
  • Ultimate Frisbee Championships between faculty and students. “We also joke about whether “Old School” (faculty) will be any good this year.”

(c) 2015

Worcester Polytechnic Institute

~WPI bridgeWorcester Polytechnic Institute (visited 3/22/14) (Click HERE for pictures and notes from my visit on 7/28/19)

Like other Polytechnics, WPI offers strong STEM programs, but is hardly limited to these. Why come here rather than a different polytechnic or a larger university? The students enthusiastically said, “Interaction between disciplines!” The flexible curriculum means that it’s not uncommon for cross-disciplinary majors and minors. Sarah, a senior who spoke at the info session, is a robotics major and history minor. She came here because of the flexibility and for the humanities and arts component. One of our tour guides was a Biochem major and Spanish minor. The other tour guide was a Civil Engineer doing his BS/MS in Fire Protection.

~WPI projectsWPI prides itself on its curriculum that combines theory and practice, traditional classroom education with laboratory and hands-on experiences. Benefits include understanding global issues, developing teamwork skills, and communicating with others. Flexibility also comes into play in the distribution requirements. It’s recommended that students complete certain things, but how they get there is up to them. Students decide which classes to take and when (under the guidance of faculty advisors). Classes have “Recommended Backgrounds” but if they come in with that knowledge already (perhaps with AP or IB credit), they can skip the prereq.

~WPI engo lab

One of the many labs

The university’s non-punitive grading policy means that students earn grades of A, B, C, or No Record. Students retake classes to get rid of NRs so they actually learn the material. Additionally, there are no + or – in the grading system. A 92 and a 98 are both As. Students worry less about GPA, are more likely to work collaboratively, and are encouraged to take risks and challenge themselves. They help each other to learn as much as possible in labs, projects, or whatever they’re working on. Grades are heavily based on projects and presentations. Students can request a GPA when they graduate, but it’s not normally given out.

The school year is divided into four 7-week terms with an optional summer term; students take 3 classes per term. Forty-five classes are needed to graduate, but most students take 48. With that buffer, students take classes for fun or redo a class. One of the tour guides said that it did take some time to adjust to the quarter system but now she loves it.

~WPI campus centerThe educational program has several components:

  • Great Problems Seminar, a first-year project addressing real-world problems: How do you break down issues into solvable pieces? This is optional, but most students complete it.
  • Humanities and Arts is required, but has flexibility: students select courses in an area of interest culminating in a seminar or practicum.
  • The Interactive Project: students study the impact of science and technology on society, looking at the larger picture. Students work interdisciplinarily with people outside the major.
  • Major project.
  • Team projects, often sponsored by companies, non-profits, or government agencies such as Microsoft, Morgan Stanley, London’s Museum of Science, Puerto Rico Tourism, UNESCO, US Patent and Trademark Office, Coast Guard, Gillette, Fidelity Investments, EPA, eBay, Deutsche Bank, Namibia’s Desert Research Foundation, Thailand’s Bureau of the Royal Household, or Children’s Hospital Costa Rica. This is the equivalent of 3 courses completed full-time in one term or part time over 3 terms. 60% of students complete this off campus; 50% go overseas. Study-Abroad locations are vetted for safety, housing, and academic standards.~WPI bridge and bldg
    • One project involved accompanying faculty to start a new site.
    • One on-campus project was building a fountain. It sits flush with the ground; a sensor on a nearby roof reads wind speeds, and the height of the water adjusts based on the readings. Students like these sorts of projects and will do them for fun. The rep said, “You can build your own computer for all we care. That happens a lot . . . .”

~WPI quad 3Co-op programs are available but are underutilized compared to other universities. They usually last for 6-8 months, running through the summer and 1-2 terms. Students completing these usually come in with AP or IB credits. Even those students who don’t complete co-ops feel like they have solid resumes. They’re used to working in groups, in a tight time frame, and out of their comfort zone so employers like hiring them. Hundreds of career and grad-school recruiters come to campus every year. 90% of graduates are working in their chosen profession or in full-time Grad Programs (the rep said that “the career services person is stingy with that number”). Princeton Review ranks WPI’s career services 17th, and Payscale.com ranks WPI 15th for Return on Investment and 5th highest starting salaries among national universities.

~WPI quad 2Applicants must complete Pre-Calc in high school since WPI doesn’t offer that class. Admissions requires a math or science teacher rec in addition to the counselor letter. They are test-optional; students not wishing to submit scores submit something that shows organizational skills and commitment such as having completed extensive research, etc. Valedictorians, salutatorians, National Merit, National Achievement, and National Hispanic Recognition Finalists are guaranteed at least $20,000. They are need-blind for domestic applicants but need-aware for international students. 20% of the students come in as undecided (less than other schools).

First year housing is guaranteed. 97% of first-year students and 62% of total students live on campus (including on-campus apartments and suites). They had a wait-list of 24 students this year; they all got rooms. Many off-campus students live within 2-3 blocks (close enough for the school wireless). There are over 180 clubs including music and theater, community service, Greek life, art and lit, professional and honor societies, and ROTC (Army and Air Force at WPI, Navy at Holy Cross through the consortium). The T stop is a mile away; students can be in Boston in an hour.

WPI has developed the Insight Program as part of the First Year Experience. Every student gets assigned to a team during freshman orientation. The team gets a faculty advisor, resident advisors, and a peer advisor to help them be successful transitioning to college. 97% of freshmen return for sophomore year.

© 2014

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