A couple days ago I wrote about sending my Educational Adviser Drew Dumas on a study tour of tertiary education institutions so that he can better inform Kiwi and Samoan students about the full range of opportunities available to them in the United States. In that post, we covered five of the colleges and universities that he visited in beautiful and dynamic Upstate New York – Union College, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Skidmore College, Hamilton College, and Colgate University.
Today I’ve asked Drew to share summaries of the five other great institutions that he visited in New York – Syracuse University, Ithaca College, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Rochester Institute of Technology, and University of Rochester. Whether because of their championship sports teams or cutting edge research programs, a few of those names are probably already familiar to you. Our goal is to highlight schools with different academic strengths and campus cultures, and Drew’s trip certainly covered a diverse landscape. Back to you, Drew …
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Syracuse University is the largest of the 10 schools I visited, with 18,000 students on campus. Despite that size, the University maintains an average class size of 25 students across its more than 200 academic programs. While there are a plethora of highly ranked degrees at ‘Cuse, some of the most renowned include communications and media studies, entrepreneurship, accounting, and visual and performing arts. In addition to a stunningly beautiful campus and a wealth of academic resources for students, Syracuse offers one-on-one support, assigning a student mentor to every new international enrollee, which makes the transition smoother, quicker, and more comfortable.
Syracuse proudly emphasizes its sporting culture. The Orange (the team name) compete at the NCAA Division I level in 20 varsity sports, mostly in the Atlantic Coast conference. The basketball team is an annual powerhouse, and students and fans pack the Carrier Dome (the largest domed stadium of any university in America) in their tens of thousands for each game. Beyond athletics, students have the opportunity to participate in an extensive Greek life, one of the 29 research centers belonging to the school, or some of the hundreds of clubs and organizations on offer.
Ithaca College began as a conservatory of music, and though it has grown to encompass more than 100 different degrees, the music program remains a very high-caliber option for potential students. The College sits on a hillside overlooking the Finger Lakes of northern New York, close to the Ivy League’s Cornell University. Among Ithaca’s highly ranked academic programs are communications, performing arts, business, sciences, and health sciences. The College is also testing a new program in documentary film studies and production, one of the first in the nation.
For two years running, the American Institute for Economic Research has ranked Ithaca, New York, as the best college town in America among cities under 250,000 residents. The town has also been named one of the “12 Hippest Hometowns for Vegetarians” and America’s “Most Enlightened Town.” Students enjoy the many cafes, restaurants, pubs, and clubs, where the spirit of collegiate camaraderie permeates. Many of the College’s campus organizations take students on regular excursions, to see some of the 100 waterfalls in the area or hit the ski slopes in the winter. And students are never out of touch with the world around them, because the Ithacan is annually voted one of the best student newspapers in America.
The Hobart and William Smith Colleges count as one institution. Hobart was originally a men’s college, and William Smith was a women’s college. Today, the two schools technically remain gender distinct, but classes, administration, and residential living are for the most part coeducational. Course options take an interdisciplinary approach, with no core course requirements. Instead, students are expected to achieve 8 diverse goals intended to help form a well-rounded individual. In addition, students are required to study both a major and at least a minor, meaning that students must challenge themselves to grow and expand.
The Colleges are known for their innovative teaching programs, and the class experience is quite intimate. The class-size limit is 40 students, and the average is about 17. There is a significant emphasis on building an international community, and students are continually encouraged to study abroad. When they aren’t studying or traveling, students have the extensive, picturesque grounds to enjoy, 22 varsity sports to play, and a very active and supportive campus life in which to participate. A large majority of the student body is involved in one or more student organizations.
The Rochester Institute of Technology is the second largest of the 10 institutions on this list, but it has the largest undergraduate population, at 15,000 students. The Institute excels in a diversity of fields and nationally ranked high in a variety of programs including video game design, several STEM subjects, business and accounting, and imaging sciences (where it leads the nation). The Institute (also known as RIT) fosters an emphasis on career preparedness, and students are commonly involved in co-op or internship programs beginning very early on in their student experience.
One of the greatest draws at RIT is the diversity, cutting edge nature, and extent of its research potential. The Institute is scouting the outer edge of science fiction in its Center for Computational Relativity and Gravitation, Center for Advancing Cyber Infrastructure, and Center for Detectors, among several other large research operations. RIT also boasts many exhibition spaces for fine arts students to utilize, and is home to The Sentinel, the largest sculpture on any American campus. RIT is the home of the National Technical Institute of the Deaf, the first and largest such institution for those who are deaf or hard of hearing.
The University of Rochester is a large liberal arts and research school situated within the city of Rochester. The institution houses the very highly lauded Eastman School of Music and Simon School of Business. Academic programs are strong across the board. Perhaps because of its location in a city built around science and technology, students in the sciences enjoy a particularly excellent curriculum. Among the strongest fields is optics, where the University has been leading groundbreaking research since 1929. More than one-fourth of all the scientists working on the replacement for the Hubble Telescope are Rochester alumni and faculty.
The University of Rochester has a long commitment to enrolling a diverse student body. More than 20% of the 2013 incoming freshmen class is international, and the school plans to increase that number further. Rochester shifted admissions to be “test-flexible” to accomplish that goal, meaning that an applicant’s secondary school transcript may be sufficient for admittance, depending on the educational system from which the student comes. This practice leads to a student body which is not only representative of a multitude of cultures, but includes those brilliant scholars who might be passed over by institutions which place more importance on standardized tests.
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If you would like more information about Syracuse, Ithaca, Hobart and William Smith, RIT, or Rochester, including about campus atmosphere or other intangibles, please feel free to email Drew at DumasAG@state.gov. Having been to the schools, he’s a great source for direct, current information.
In the next installment of this series, I’ll steer back into the Ivy League, to the University of Pennsylvania. Located in vibrant Philadelphia, Penn is one of the oldest and most esteemed schools in America. Thereafter, I have a few thoughts about post-Penn possibilities, but I’d rather hear from you about what particular schools or categories interest you most at this point in our survey. Please let Drew or me know.