Siena College

General – Siena College is a Catholic college of about 3100 undergraduates in Loudonville, New York, a suburb of Albany. Most of the buildings are low-rise brick buildings.

An unusual architectural feature is the Grotto (pictured below), modeled after the Lourdes shrine.

Student Body – Most students come from New York City or upstate New York.
Academics – Classes are small with the maximum class size capped at 35 students and no teaching assistants. About a dozen friars teach or advise clubs.
About 39% of students are in the AACSB-accredited business where students can become Bloomberg-certified and have an opportunity to invest a portion of the school’s endowment.
The school has a small, relatively-new nursing program with opportunities to be in a hospital setting starting in the sophomore year. 
There is a BA/MD program with Albany Medical College.
Extracurricular activities – Siena is a NCAA Division I school with men’s basketball and hockey being the most popular spectator sports.
There are over 125 organization, but if you are interested in starting a new club, you can.
While Siena does not have traditional Greek life, it does have one coed national-base business fraternity.
There are a lot of volunteer opportunities at Siena, including a Bonner Service Leaders program.

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

RPI, established in 1864, has about 6300 undergraduate students on a 275-acre campus in Troy, NY.

Schools – RPI has 5 schools:
Architecture School
  1. Architecture – The Architecture school has two programs: a five-year B.Arch. and a B.S. in Building Science. Architecture classes are located in one building and there are less than 70 freshmen studying in the Architecture school. 
  2. Engineering – Engineering is the largest school and has about half of all undergrads in 11 majors. The first three semesters are the same for all engineering majors, so students can be undeclared engineering to start. The school encourages project-based, collaborative learning. A capstone is required for all engineers.
  3. Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences – This school houses a number of interdisciplinary majors including Cognitive Science; Electronic Media, Arts and Communication; Electronic Arts, and the most popular major at this school, Games and Simulation Arts and Sciences. The school recently started a music major (technical or performance).
  4. Business – This is the smallest school with about 50 – 55 freshmen. This is an AACSB accredited school with strength in technical entrepreneurship. The school has a business incubator.
  5. Science – This is the second largest school and it houses RPI’s largest department, Computer Science.
All majors have a 24-credit humanities requirement.
The Arch – Students must participate in the Arch. They take their first semester junior classes in the summer after their sophomore year. In the fall or spring semester of their junior year they must spend a semester doing an internship, a co-op, a research project, civic engagement or study abroad.
Research – About 700 students participate in undergraduate research each year, as early as the second semester. RPI is a leader in Alzheimer’s research.
Accelerated Programs – Students can gain a Bachelors and a Master’s degree in 5 years, with financial aid carrying into the 5th year. The Bachelors and Master’s can be in different disciplines. Students apply for this opportunity when they are an RPI Junior. No GRE exam is needed.
There are also BS/MD, BS/JD, BS/MBA and BS/Ph.D. programs.
Admissions – RPI has ED I, ED II, and Regular Decision. They accept a number of different application forms, including the Common App. Students should have an A/A- average, a challenging curriculum with three years of science including Biology, Chemistry and Lab-Physics, as well as four years of math with pre-calculus (calculus recommended). Students need to submit SAT or ACT scores. RPI prefers that a STEM teacher write the academic recommendation letter. A creative portfolio is required for architecture, music and electronic arts majors and is recommended for game and simulation arts and science (GSAS) and electronic, media, arts & communications (EMAC) majors.
RPI gives credit for a 4 or 5 in AP courses and can students can receive up to 32 credits for AP courses.
Extracurricular activities – RPI has over 200 clubs and activities. The skiing/snowboarding club is the largest club with skiing/snowboarding 30 minutes from campus. It is easy to start a new club.
There is Greek life at RPI and students can “rush” at any time.
There are two NCAA Division I Ice Hockey teams, 21 NCAA Division III sports teams, as well as intramural and club sports. A multipurpose stadium seats 5000.
The student union building is fully run by students.
Student Union
Housing, Food and Transportation – Students are required to live on campus the first two years. There are freshmen-only buildings and there is themed housing (e.g., leadership housing). There are singles, doubles and triples. There is Greek housing both on and off campus.
There are four main dining halls. Students can have all-you can-eat buffet dining or use their Flex Dollars to buy food in cafes, in the Student Union, in the marketplaces or off-site.
Freshmen cannot have cars on campus. There is a free shuttle on campus, as well as a free local bus.
Financial Aid – No separate application is needed for merit aid. US Citizens, US Permanent Residents and Canadian citizens who submit the FAFSA and CSS Profile are considered for need-based aid.

Bard College

What makes Bard College different?

Freshmen Academics – All freshmen come to Bard for three weeks in August to take the Language and Thinking Program, an introduction to liberal arts and sciences focusing on writing. They take a two-semester seminar entitled “What is Freedom? Ancient and Modern.” During the January break, freshmen take a 2.5 week Citizen Science class in which they learn lab experimentation, computer-based strategies, and problem-based learning.

Begin in Berlin – Students can spend their first year in Bard’s campus in Berlin. Students who spend their first year in Berlin take Citizen Science during January of their sophomore year.

Distribution Requirements – There are distribution requirements in ten categories.

Classes – The majority of classes are small, arranged around a table and are discussion-based.

Moderation – To declare a major, students go through a moderation process in the second half of their sophomore year. Students prepare two moderation papers assessing their work in their first two years and identifying their goals and study plan for the remaining two years. These are reviewed by three faculty members.

Senior Project – All students work on an original, year-long Senior Project. Students start preparing for this project as a junior.

Trustee Leader Scholar Program – Students can start and staff community programs to address social issues on the local, regional, national or international level. These are financed by the college.

Freshman Residential Life – Each of the four community houses has a faculty member living on campus and helping to develop house programs.

College Architecture – Each building has its own unique style.

Applying – Students can apply using the Common App or they can use the Bard Entrance Examination, an online essay application.  
General information:
Bard College is a liberal arts and sciences college of just under 2000 undergraduates in a park-like campus of about 1000 acres in the Hudson Valley, about 90 minutes from New York City by car. 

In addition to study abroad in Berlin, students have an opportunity to study abroad in places like Kyrgyzstan, Hungary, Paris, Ecuador, Cairo, Japan, the Netherlands, and South Korea. A third of students study abroad.
Research opportunities, in addition to the senior project are available, especially in math, science, neuroscience, and the environment. These include a one-semester research opportunity available at Rockefeller University in New York City for advanced science students.
There are 3+2 and 4+1 opportunities for dual Bachelors and Masters degrees at Bard, as well as a number of US (e.g., Duke, Columbia, Dartmouth) and international universities.
There are over 150 clubs on campus. Athletic teams compete in NCAA Division III Liberty League.  There are club and intramural sports, as well as hiking and cross country skiing trails on campus. The 69,000 square foot athletic center includes a pool, squash courts, a gym and more.
The Bard shuttle bus takes students to nearby small towns and to train stations.
There is no merit aid without need at Bard.

Binghamton University

New York State does not have a flagship university. Instead, it has four University Centers. Last week, I visited one of these University Centers, Binghamton University. Binghamton University is a research university that boasts “excellence and value.” It has about 13,600 undergraduate students.
Location – Binghamton University is in upstate New York. The main campus is located on Vestal Parkway in Binghamton. Vestal Parkway has lots of chain stores and restaurants.
In addition to the main campus, there is a building in downtown Binghamton that houses the College of Community and Public Affairs. There has been a resurgence in downtown Binghamton in the last five years.
A new pharmacy building will be finished this summer in nearby Johnson City. The School of Nursing will be moving to Johnson City in about two years.
Both downtown Binghamton and Johnson City are about a 7 or 8 minute drive from the main campus.
Housing, Transportation and Food – Binghamton has residential communities on campus, with a faculty member living in each residential community. Each residential community has its own culture, traditions, student government, and quad. Students can live in a learning community. Each learning community has a theme (e.g.,health and wellness, nursing).
There are different styles of housing and there is no freshmen-only housing. Housing is available all four years although many students move off-campus for their junior and senior years.
The meal plan is a pay-for-what-you-eat plan. There are no all-you-can-eat offerings.
There are blue buses, driven by Binghamton students that take students around campus and nearby, including the other two campuses, off-campus housing, and shopping areas. There is a bike-share available on campus. Freshmen cannot have a car on campus. 
Education – Binghamton offers 130 academic programs in six schools. The six schools are:
  1. College of Community and Public Affairs
  2. Decker School of Nursing
  3. Harpur College of Art and Sciences
  4. School of Management
  5. School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences
  6. Thomas J Watson School of Engineering and Applied Science.
Students can double and sometimes triple major and still graduate in four years. The majors can be in different schools. There are over 50 accelerated bachelor/masters degrees available.
There are honors programs including the Freshman Research Immersion Program, two Scholars Program, and the Summer Scholars and Artists Fellowships.
The Freshman Research Immersion Program has 300 freshmen. In the Fall of the Freshman year they take a research methods seminar; in the Spring of the Freshman year they take a Research Stream Lab Course where they develop a research proposal; and in the Fall of the Sophomore year they conduct research.
Close to a third of students will be involved in research with faculty before they graduate.
There is an effective career and professional development center on campus. There are job and internship fairs in the Fall and Spring. There are also employer visits hosted in New York City, Washington, DC and other cities. 73% of students will have an internship.
About a quarter of students study abroad.
We did a deep dive into the School of Management and learned that the school focused on experiential learning. There were case competitions where students pitched to major companies, hands-on courses where students worked with faculty and client companies, 22 business student organizations, an entrepreneurship living community, an opportunity to invest some of the university’s money, as well as many internship opportunities.
Extra-curricular – Binghamton is a NCAA Division I school with 21 athletic teams, but it does not have NCAA Division I Football.
There are over 300 student organizations. There were several theaters and an art museum.
When I visited, the campus was setting up for Spring Fling. Spring Fling includes a great band, amusement park rides and carnival-type food.
There is even a bowling alley.
Admissions – Admission is by school. Currently the Engineering and Nursing schools are the hardest undergraduate schools to get into and the Management school is the next hardest. You can only select one school on your application.
Students need a minimum SAT Math score of 670 to get accepted into an engineering or computer science major. The hardest undergraduate major to get accepted to is Computer Science
Binghamton accepts the Common App. They are trying to increase enrollment of out-of-state students. The mid-50% of accepted students have rigorous high school classes, an unweighted high school GPA of 3-4 – 3.9, and an ACT score of 29-31 (not superscored) or an SAT Math score between 650 – 720 and an SAT EBRW score of 630-710. About 75% of students apply Early Action.
The school offers credit for AP classes taken in high school, if the student received a score of 3, 4 or 5.
Cost – The price for an out-of-state student is similar to the price for Rutgers University. Merit aid of up to $12K per year is available for out-of-state students.

Marist College (Poughkeepsie, NY)

This fall, I visited Marist College to get an update on the information I shared in my December 2012 blog post. In addition to learning more about the college, I got to see a stunning campus.
Focus – Marist seemed very focused on hands-on practical skills, internships, and jobs after graduation for all majors. Examples of this include:
  • On-site fashion show for fashion majors.
  • Fashion students are paired with designers during New York Fashion Week.
  • History majors intern at the nearby FDR House and Library.
  • Those interested in the environment can make use of the river laboratory, the aquatic pontoon boat, and many intern at the nearby Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies.
  • Students in the School of Social & Behavioral Sciences are required to have a semester long fieldwork assignment. There are over 100 approved fieldwork opportunities in the Hudson Valley.
  • Bloomberg tools are used in the School of Management.
These are in addition to the special programs described in my earlier post which included semester-long internships in New York City and Washington D.C., a partnership with IBM, students investing the Marist endowment, freshman year in Florence, and the branch campus in Florence.
Academics – Class size is capped at 35 students so students don’t need to worry about being in large, impersonal lecture hall classes.
Clubs – All clubs must do community service and Campus Ministry is the largest club.
Housing – Marist is building additional housing for juniors and seniors on the North side of the campus, as well as additional dining and athletic facilities. Housing is guaranteed for all freshmen and sophomores. There is no Greek housing.
Other new building – A new studio art facility will be opening in the Fall of 2018.

Union College

Union College in Schnectady, NY is unusual in many ways, including:
  1. Being a small college with majors in the liberal arts, sciences and engineering.
  2. Having three 10-week semesters each year as well as two 3-week semesters during the winter break. Students generally take 3 classes during each 10-week semester; engineering students need to take 4 classes during some 10-week semesters. Students can relax, take a class, work, have an internship or study abroad during the two three-week semesters, which is also the winter break.
  3. Having interdisciplinary majors. This is like a double major, but it focuses on the relationship of the two majors and the senior thesis/project combines the two majors.
  4. Seniors do a thesis or project which is presented/displayed at the Steinmetz symposium in late May.
  5. Everyone (i.e., students and staff) is assigned randomly to a Minerva house. Each Minerva house offers events open to the entire student body and is run by its own elected student board. The first floor of the building has a full kitchen which students use and places to hang out. Upperclassmen can choose to live in their assigned Minerva house.
  6. First years (aka freshmen) have separate housing and dining.
  7. Students can join a fraternity or sorority in their sophomore year and can live in Greek housing starting in their junior year.
  8. Some classes are jointly taught by professors in two departments. For example, we saw a class jointly taught by a biology professor and an art professor on drawing organisms.
  9. Students in the Scholars program (Union College’s Honors program), do research in their sophomore year, in addition to in their senior year.
  10. A new Integrated Science and Engineering Complex is being built to foster collaboration and to integrate teaching, research, labs and offices. A new addition is scheduled to be complete in the Summer of 2018 and renovations to existing facilities are scheduled to be complete in the Summer of 2019.
  11. Eight students have a post-graduation opportunity to be a Minerva fellow. They receive an all-expenses paid fellowship for a “Peace Corps-like activity” for 9 months, and then they return to campus to mentor the next group of Minerva fellows. Minerva fellows create an entrepreneurial project to improve an international community in a sustainable way.