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Widener University (Take 2)

Widener Old Main 2

Old Main, the original building when this was Pennsylvania Military College

Widener University (visited 2/25/19)

(Click HERE to see notes and pictures from my previous visit on 11/20/15)

What makes students a good fit for Widener?

  • “We’re told by co-op employers that our students have grit and no sense of entitlement. There’s a drive that pushes them.”
  • “Kids come in with so much on their plate – but they keep going. They’re all passionate about something. They’re resourceful and innovative. They want to try new things and to connect.”
  • “We’re a smallish campus and a family style environment. People aren’t anonymous. You know the groundskeeper, the president, the person serving you in the dining hall, the student next to you in class.”
  • “We’re plugged in here. We’ll do wellness checks.”
Widener mascot

One of the Pride mascots (female, male, and cub)

“Student success is at the core of everything we do,” said an admissions rep. This ranges from a 3-year residency requirement (“data points say that students are more successful if they live on campus”) to experiential education “which is harder to find than you think!” Some students have never engaged in diverse environments, dealt with communities struggling with hunger insecurity, etc. They work with students to appreciate civic engagement for what it is and deal with it as career preparation. Students deal with privilege and power on a variety of levels.

Widener 1Widener uses their location to their advantage; some people worry about safety in that area, but “No one talks about all the rich things that happen in terms of service. All major cities have stuff. If you go to a rural campus, there are rural issues. If you go to an urban campus, there are urban issues. We talk to kids about being savvy about where you are. Because of all the lights, it’s like Yankee Stadium in the middle of a game. There are more than 100 cameras. There are tons of ways to keep campus safe.”

Widener hospitality cooking lab

One of the Hospitality lab/classrooms – the top slides back to expose stovetops

Widener students are 20% more likely to participate in research, internships, and high impact practices through Civic Engagement, hands-on education, Co-ops, and more. In the Philly region, Drexel and Widener are co-op powerhouses with two significant differences:

Widener tv studio 1

One of the student-run tv studios in the communications department

Although I had visited Widener several years earlier, I was glad to revisit and see many of the departments I hadn’t before; they did an amazing job getting us the academic facilities and talking to professors who were passionate and clearly care about the students. I can see why students do so well here! A professor told us that “one of our competitors on the accreditation team said, ‘We say we care; you guys really care’.”

“This is the place where you have dinner at the President’s House. You get that up close and personal. More than 1000 students have dinner there every year: she invites sports teams, Bonner’s Program, etc. The dogs come out and the pool is open.”

Widener computer forensics

One of the Computer Forensics labs

We asked the students on the panel, “Why should we send students here? What’s appealing?”

  • “During a revisitation day, two science professors sought me out. I’m 1 of 7 biochem
  • “It’s the only school in the area that goes to the European Simulation. It’s one of the most life changing things I’ve done.”
  • “Family and Growth. I’ve seen myself grow compared to my friends at other colleges. You can create your own legacy and leave your mark.”
  • “I run track and miss random classes for meets, but it’s easy to work with professors to make sure I keep up.”
  • “They’ll work with you to match you with internships because professors have connections. They have no problem helping out and linking students with their contacts.”
  • “I came for the accelerated PT program. I’ll starts grad classes in senior year to shave off a year of my graduate studies, but I keep my scholarship as a senior.”
Widener geology lab

A geology lab

With 3,000 full-time undergrads and 3,000 graduate students, Widener provides what many larger schools offer while giving students a smaller college feel and personal attention with an average of 25 students per class. “It’s a blessing and a curse because we’re put in with larger institutions, so we get hit with rankings.”

Student panelists said that their favorite classes were:

  • Genetics: “my research prof teaches it. She’s helped with med school, MCATs, shaping me as a person. This taught me resilience.”
  • “I don’t have a specific favorite, but I’ve taken 4 classes with one professor. He embodies the involvement faculty have =. He checks in with how I’m doing. He knows I ski.”
  • Constitutional Law: “The Prof engages without PowerPoints for 3 hours. I’m learning the same things as Villanova Law students.”
  • “I had one professor in fall of freshman year who helped me find my internship. We got close because I was always missing his class for meets so I was working a lot with him.”
  • Business Law: “I want to go into that. I took it with a professor who’s a lawyer. I learned things I could apply in the field.”
  • Environmental Engineering: “I had the professor for 3 classes and did research with her.”
Widener nursing 1

The nursing building

The largest major is nursing: about 200 of the incoming 750-800 freshmen declare that major. Overall, they have strong Health programs (especially PT) and are starting OTD and PA programs. They accepted 16 into next year’s PT accelerated 3+3 cohort: to be offered a spot, students need 570 math SAT (1200 composite) or 24 math ACT (24 composite). If they don’t meet that but are admissible to Widener, they’re offered a 4+3. PT students work in a pro-bono clinic and complete in-patient, out-patient, and 1 choice internship; some do sports, pediatrics, even abroad (currently in Belize or Italy; Costa Rica and China are potential future possibilities).

Widener library 1

The library

All majors can study abroad: “going abroad should not delay your education.” Students can also study away in the US. “There’s a diversity of options without even leaving the North America: HBCUs, sea grants, French-speaking in Quebec, Spanish speaking in PR.” Widener owns property in Costa Rica, often used for short-term abroad programs, research projects, etc.

Over 90% of students live on campus in a variety of options including gender-neutral. Housing is guaranteed all 4 years and required for 3 unless they live with family within 25 miles. All students can have cars; permits are $230/year. There are 2 nearby train stations (Chester and Swarthmore) and buses to get around town.

NCAA athletes (23 DIII teams) make up 25-30% of the freshman class. “Academics and graduating are the most important. That being said, we hate losing more than we love winning.” Just over half of the athletes made the honor roll, and athletes are the highest retaining cohort.

Widener has been named among the top 150 most affordable colleges (out of 1700 researched by LendEDU) for freshmen with financial need. The “Average Joe” gets about $26,000 in merit aid.

© 2019

 

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Widener University

Widener signWidener University (visited 11/20/15)

(Click HERE to see information from my 2nd visit on 3/25/19)

~Widener 1Widener is a gem hidden in plain sight. Located blocks off of Route 95 in Chester, this is a surprisingly attractive campus with modern buildings and lots of green space. Students are energetic and seem to enjoy being together. Campus had a vibrant feel even at 8:30 am when I arrived on campus: people were out and about, congregating in the student center, and otherwise utilizing spaces around campus. Even the security guard helping visiting counselors with parking was smiling and talkative. I got the feeling that people really wanted to be here.

Widener NursingOne of my former students is currently a freshman in the 3+3 Physical Therapy Guaranteed-Seat program (they also have 4+3 Guaranteed Seat and the traditional 4+3 route) and couldn’t be happier. She raves about the activities on campus ranging from sports to clubs to the typical weekend events. Off-campus, there’s a mall 1 exit down the highway and plenty of other things around town. “Shuttles and public transportation are super easy to use, and my roommate also has a car.” Parking is generally pretty easy, but can be more difficult during the school day because of the number of commuters (about 20% of students), “but after about 2pm and on weekends, there’s never a problem.”

~Widener dorm quad

The Freshman dorm quad: “which is weird since it has 6 buildings,” said our guide.

They’ve brought in their largest freshman class this year of almost 850 students but will probably try to keep this closer to 800 for the next couple years. Freshmen and sophomores are expected to live on campus (unless they’re living at home). Housing is guaranteed for four years; juniors and seniors can move off only but about 20% end up leaving. Dorms generally get good reviews from students. “My room this year is pretty small, but I’m in the dorm with the most kids in it, so rooms are smaller. It’s still livable, though, and the dorm I’m going into next year is AMAZING,” said one student. Options include all the usual styles: traditional, suites, apartments, and Greek housing.

~Widener mascot 2

The Mascot Statue (the male lion is to the right). The baby’s name is Legacy.

Greek life is fairly popular here as are varsity sports, but “there’s no pressure to join. There are lots of options. Everyone finds their own niche.” Rush happens in the spring because students need a 2.5 GPA to qualify; athletes also need to maintain a 2.5 GPA to remain eligible to play. Widener changed their mascot to the Pride Pack recently (the tour guides couldn’t remember exactly, but said within the last 10 years or so).

~Widener library 2

Library

Campus is set up well and with the students in mind. The commuters have a large lounge in the student center with lockers. The library has a lounge on the 2nd floor with a fridge and microwave for students; “this is really convenient for commuters and during exams when you don’t necessary want to leave to go eat.” There’s an interfaith chapel located right in the student center, integrating it into the rest of student activities.

~Widener benchThe largest classes are capped at 60 (the capacity of the largest lecture hall on campus) and are usually for introductory engineering and nursing classes. Most of the Gen Ed classes are capped around 30. The 2 tour guides’ smallest classes were both 12 (Criminal Justice and Public Speaking).

Widener engo car

Student-built in the Engineering department

The engineering department is extensive for a school this size, offering Chemical, Civil, Mechanical, Electrical, and Biomedical degrees. Dual degrees are offered, combining biomedical with chemical, electrical, and mechanical engineering; chemical engineering and chemistry; or electrical or mechanical engineering and physics.

Widener communications bldg

Communications Building

Almost all majors require some sort of internship, co-op, or clinical hours. With downtown Philadelphia less than 20 minutes away, there’s no shortage of opportunities, but students don’t necessarily even have to leave campus: for example, there’s a Marriott-owned Restaurant on campus that is run by the Hospitality Management students.

The on-campus observatory includes a telescope that runs through the science building is 5 stories tall and structured in such a way that it never actually touches the floor – there’s a minimum of a couple inches all around it: “if the building happened to fall, the telescope would still be structurally intact.” They open this to students and the public for sessions run by a professor with student help.

~Widener Old Main 2

Memorial Field and Old Main

The large quad is called Memorial Field (and the original building sits on one side). The Eagles used to practice here, 6 US Presidents have walked across it, and the tour guide said that the movie Invincible was filmed here, but according to IMDB, “The summer training camp scenes were filmed at Central High School in North Philadelphia. The surrounding buildings and field were fixed up to give the appearance of the Eagles real training camp location in 1976, Widener University” (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0445990/?ref_=nv_sr_1) … you can decide which source you believe!

© 2015

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