Posts Tagged ‘unusual colleges’

Wave Goodbye to Ho-Hum Housing: Enter Wofford College and The Village

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

Most college students can’t wait to ditch their 8×8 college dorm rooms for off-campus housing.  But at Wofford College, senior students are happily turning to an unusual housing option: apartment-style. We haven’t heard of students being excited about living on campus …until now! Laura Corbin, the Director of News Services, tells all!

The Village Housing at Wofford College: apartment-style living for senior students

Courtesy of Wofford College

So, what is The Village at Wofford College?
The Village is a complex of apartment-style housing in a neighborhood setting at Wofford College.  Each apartment has four bedrooms, two full baths, a common living room, full kitchen and dining area, and each unit comes with a porch or patio complete with its own rocking chairs.

The apartments are arranged in a variety of buildings – single-story one-apartment houses up to two-story apartments with four apartments.  The styles and colors of the buildings vary, providing a break from traditional row after row of look-alike apartment buildings.

Our readers are definitely not thrilled with the thoughts of 8×8 dorms.  What are the perks of living in The Village?
The Village is filled with perks.  Aside from apartments that mimic what students will see as they move out into the world on their own, The Village provides for opportunities for students to gather in commons areas – such as the amphitheater where outdoor concerts are held, the bocce ball courts, the beach volleyball courts or the basketball courts.  The Village also is next door to the campus tennis courts.  In addition, the full kitchens give students the chance to cook their own meals, and host their fellow students as well as faculty for meals and social activities.

The Village Housing at Wofford College

Courtesy of Wofford College

Why keep Wofford College senior students on campus?
Keeping senior students on campus does a number of things.  First, it’s an opportunity to bring the senior class back together, again to foster that collegiality.  They have been “mixed together” with sophomores and juniors after having spent their first year together in freshmen residence halls.

Coming back as seniors gives them a chance to enjoy their final year of college together.  Also, having the seniors together in The Village provides a great transition out into the world.  The apartment-style housing gives the sense of more independence, and allows the seniors to prepare for even more of that when they graduate and move on with their lives, probably living in apartments of their own.

Did we see something about front porch rocking chairs and borrow-a-bike program?  Now that’s just cool.  What else does The Village offer its residents?
Yes, each apartment comes with its own rocking chairs on its front porches, encouraging students to sit outside and chat, wave and talk with each other as they walk to their own apartments, and just chill out.  The camps also has a borrow-a-bike program.  In addition to the bocce, basketball and volleyball, The Village also has open green spaces for cookouts, Frisbee throwing and other outdoor activities.  A Village laundry center also has study and meeting spaces.

Wofford College's Phase 5 of the ever-expanding The Village housing!

Courtesy of Wofford College

Anything else we should know?
Absolutely!  The Village is expanding, opening Phase V this fall.  This phase features room for 80 students in loft-style apartments on the upper two floors of a three-story building that will anchor The Village area.

The facility will feature the Grand Galleria, an open-air eating and gathering space that will allow easy access and encourage flow into and through the building.  It also will include a deli/market for The Village students to do their grocery shopping for fresh food preparation.

There will be other meeting spaces, high-technology classrooms, and the Center for Professional Excellence, which houses Wofford’s Career Services, Success Initiative and other programs aimed at providing students with necessary skills to move into their careers or graduate programs.

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Respect My Authority: Interdisciplinary South Park Class at McDaniel College

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

Need another reason why college is different from high school? In college,  you can find a class for just about any subject – including South Park! Such is the case at McDaniel College where students had the chance to take part in this unusual college class that combines philosophy and sociology!

Special thanks to Dr. Sara Raley and Mr. Josh Baron, the brains behind this surprising meaty class at McDaniel College, for sharing their views. And like Cartman, we’re left saying, “kewl.”

Who knew that South Park and the Underpants Gnomes could teach about Marx's theories of worker alienation?

Most people wouldn’t see South Park and think “college class!” How in the world did this come about?
I (Dr. Sara Raley) started using South Park clips in some of my classes as a way to engage students while underscoring points about various social issues. When we examine a tough issue like racism using the humor of South Park to highlight the extremes of the issue, it loosens students up to talk about these topics more freely. Every time that I used a clip in class, I would talk about how I wanted to do a whole class on South Park. One of my students mentioned that there was another faculty member on campus who frequently referenced South Park in his classes and suggested I get in touch with him. It turns out that this faculty member, Josh Baron, had also toyed with the idea of doing a whole class on issues raised in South Park. When we met we found that between the two of us, there were many topics that we could cover from both a philosophical standpoint (Josh’s discipline) and sociological perspective (my discipline), and our class was born.

My College Guide noted that this was an interdisciplinary course. What are the subjects that students cover?
Josh is a philosopher and I am a sociologist. The topics we cover include: social constructions of gender and their role in media and television, racial and ethnic stereotypes and their impact on social interactions, capitalism and question of morality and corporations, Facebook and the nature of friendship, and many more. The class really strives to discuss not just broad social issues, but also specific examples and phenomena relevant to students today.

Are there textbooks or other readings? What are some of the books that students have read in relation to the South Park episodes?
In lieu of a textbook, which would be difficult to find, Josh and I use a combination of historical texts found online, journal articles, and our own personal research. So, in addition to excerpts from the writings of philosophers and sociologists like Plato and Marx, students read academic journals that are themselves interdisciplinary. Please visit our course website for more details.

McDaniel College: Home of the South Park class!

eddie.welker / eddie welker

Has student viewpoint ever shifted after reading the supplemental text?
That’s a good question. We don’t ask them directly if they change their minds after reading the articles we give them, but we definitely present them with new perspectives that challenge the way they see the world. On one of the first days of class, Josh does an exercise connected with the “Make Love, Not Warcraft” episode where the students have to prove they exist. We also have students come up to us after class and talk about how their opinion on subjects like gay marriage shift after discussing it in class in connection with the episode, “Follow That Egg.”

What have been some of the surprising things that this unusual class has discovered after watching South Park? Any big revelations in there?
Perhaps the biggest surprise, at least to the students, is that the creators of South Park actually have some intelligent cultural commentary to offer. It seems silly to ask students to take a cartoon seriously, but when they do, we see that we can have open discussions about topics that are often too controversial to discuss honestly in a conventional academic environment. The humor helps to lighten the mood on topics that can be emotionally charged like racism and homophobia. That is not to say that we use South Park to make light of serious topics, but rather the reverse: we use the non-threatening medium of South Park to convey how serious and deeply ingrained in our culture these issues are.

What has been your favorite episodes to share with the class so far? What has been the most difficult episode to discuss as a group?
My favorite episode to share with the class is probably “Gnomes,” which is about these gnomes that are stealing people’s underpants in the pursuit of profit. We connect this episode to Marx’s notions of worker alienation.  What better way to make Marx memorable in the minds of undergraduates then to have them associate his ideas with underpants gnomes? I also just find it hilarious that we now have a cadre of students who might think of the underpants gnomes when they think of Marx. Josh’s is “Something Wall-Mart This Way Comes,” which portrays the impact a new Wal-Mart has on the town and its residents. Even though the South Park adults just decide to shop at True Value instead, the episode raises a whole host of issues about corporations and social responsibility. The episode that is the most difficult episode to discuss as a group is probably “Starvin Marvin” where we discuss poverty on a global scale and really challenge students to think about their individual responsibilities to alleviate the sufferings of others.

What does Eric Cartman teach us about society?

databhi ♪♫ / Giuseppe Zizza

So – what does Cartman teach us about society?
Let’s face it, Cartman’s a jerk. But at the same time, there is at least one moment in one episode when all of us can relate to Cartman in some dark way.  Sometimes Cartman says the things that people are thinking but know it’s inappropriate to say out loud. Again, he really opens up the door for Josh and I to discuss and address all perspectives, even those perspectives people may be reluctant to admit that they have. Without Cartman, our discussions might not be as lively or as honest.

Anything you want to add that our readers should know?
For countless years humor has been used to make profound social commentary. Contemporaneous shows with South Park such as Saturday Night Live, Chappelle’s Show, and The Daily Show all bring to light deep and complex social issues using humor and a fresh perspective. Although reasoned arguments and research provide the evidence for needed social change, sometimes the greatest motivation to think more about the absurdity of some deeply held social or personal beliefs comes from a good laugh; even if it is at our own expense.

Who We Are: Information you can trust. For 20 years My College Guide has produced an annual magazine chock full of free college info for high-achieving high school sophomores. Check out our participating colleges. If you’re a student, enter for a chance to win an Apple iPad or iPhone or cash!

College Graduation: Pomp, Circumstance, and Unusual Traditions

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

My College Guide has mentioned unusual college traditions and superstitions before…but with all the exciting talk about college graduations all over the web — we thought you might be surprised to hear that many college commencement ceremonies are definitely not what you would expect!  Take a peek at some of the fun and unique traditions surrounding college graduation – and some of the fun events that you have to look forward in the future!

 Colleges with a large student body, like at Texas A&M University, decorate their mortarboards so friends and family can pick them out in the crowd!

sarowen / Sarah

For some colleges, it is all about the graduation gowns: they’ve gone green!  No, we aren’t talking about the color — colleges like the University of New Hampshire and Saint Michael’s College are wearing earth-friendly recycled graduation gowns created from plastic bottles.

The College of Charleston has a different take on caps and gowns: they just don’t wear them!  Spring graduates wear white — dinner jackets for the men and dresses for the women, while December College of Charleston graduates attire themselves in black tuxes or dresses.  No formal dress required at the University of California Davis – students go with the creative flow, decorating their mortarboards as they see fit, even wearing flowers and leis from friends and family.

Some colleges give a nod at their heritage, like Covenant College which includes bagpipes at their graduation ceremony.  While others, like Connecticut College, honor the college seal.  For almost twenty years, Conn College graduates have received an Eastern White Pine sapling, wrapped in blue and white ribbon, Conn College’s school colors, and green, that they will carry with them as they walk.

Saint Mary of the Woods College doesn’t receive a sapling but a crown of leaves.  The intertwined leaves are a symbol of success and a “well-rooted foundation” and are handed to graduates while at the Faculty – Senior Reception, traditionally held the week before graduation.  At Williams College, graduates hope for success as all eyes focus on a watch, or rather, the dropping of a watch from the top of the college chapel spire, a fall of 80 feet!   This Williams College tradition dates back to 1916 – if the watch breaks, the class will be lucky in life!

Columbia University graduates throw or wave items related to their college major.

Mira (on the wall) / Mira John

The University of South Florida new graduates, like many college grads, sing the USF Alma Mater at the end of the graduation ceremony.  Goshen College graduates sign their names in the college book, a 100 year tradition!  Oglethorpe University graduating seniors also sign a book – but not before gaining exclusive access to the Lutpon Hall Clock Tower and ringing the bells!  The College of William and Mary seniors line up to ring the Wren Building Bell after their last class.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology students have a different tradition – before graduating, MIT undergraduates wear their class ring, or Brass Rat, flipped around, so only the seal, motto, and skyline is visible.  When graduating, the ring is turned, to proudly display the graduation date!   Meredith College and Indiana University are a couple of other colleges that share this common college ring tradition.

Wondering about any new college traditions?  It might just involve Twitter!  Colleges like East Carolina University, Hampton University, and the University of Pennsylvania encouraged the Class of 2010 graduates to follow along or update their Twitter status during the ceremony – it’s a trend that is sure to catch on!

It’s a Trap! No, Just Ole Miss Students Voting

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

lukeamotion/Luke Pickard

Colleges sometimes have really unusual college mascots – or, possibly even more unusual — no mascot at all!  That’s the  case with the University of Mississippi.  Ole Miss retired Colonel Rebel, their controversial southern gentleman mascot, back in 2003 — and haven’t had one since!

But a mascot is in the future for Ole Miss students.  Tuesday, February 23, 2010, University of Mississippi students voted online as to whether or not they wanted a voice in choosing the new mascot – or if they wanted to leave it in the hands of college officials.  The result? UM students voted yes — well, 2,510 students voted yes with only 856 voting no.

Students selected to serve on the Student Mascot Advisory Committee will begin developing a new mascot, keeping the school colors (red and blue), and the name “Ole Miss Rebels” which only leaves the question – what (or who) should be the next University of Mississippi mascot?

Students, alumni, and the Twittersphere in general have been tweeting all sorts of hilarious mascot suggestions but the favorite by far is currently none other than Admiral Ackbar – yes, you read that right: the Admiral Ackbar of Star Wars fame!  The Mon Calamari and his catch-phrase “it’s a trap” has been appearing everywhere: on his website, Facebook page, Twitter account, and is suddenly one of the high ranking search terms on Google!

What do you think?  Will Lucas Arts permit Admiral Ackbar to become the new Old Miss Mascot or do you think that Ole Miss students should move on?  Do you have a better idea?  Share it in the comments section below!

Want a Unique Academic Experience? Try One of These Schools.

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

Timothy Hursley

At most colleges, you need to complete two full years of general education requirements and then focus on your major requirements. You take between three and five courses at a time, and are graded on a scale from A to F. But some unique liberal arts colleges are bucking the trend, establishing innovative academic programs that help students to discover and engage with their passions. If you don’t want a run-of-the-mill academic experience, take a look at these unique schools.

Colorado College. This small school in gorgeous Colorado Springs offers the unique Block Plan, which allows students to focus on one course at a time for a three-and-a-half week period (though some intensive courses require multiple “blocks”). This innovative structure gives students the opportunity to plunge into their studies, engaging in field trips and independent projects along with several hours a day of classroom instruction and discussion. There are rarely any lectures: the average course size is just 16 students. After the intense block course is over, students have 4-and-a-half day weekends, in which they can either relax on campus or take advantage of one of the school’s many adventure excursions, such as hiking or mountain biking.

St. John’s College. This small school has two campuses: one in Anapolis, Maryland, and another in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The lecturers are folks you may have heard of: Plato, Aristotle, and Freud, to name just a few. Rather than spotlighting individual professors’ courses, the entire school follows a Great Books curriculum, in which all students spend the first two years reading, discussing, and engaging with the same books and other media, ranging from the ancient to the modern. There are no lectures; instead, students are given the chance to debate ideas and philosophies on equal ground with their instructors. And you won’t find any textbooks teaching you how to interpret the texts: here, the classic books, and your fellow students and professors, are your only guides.

Brown University. Brown is part of the Ivy League, but has vetoed the competitive academic atmosphere of its counterparts in favor of a more flexible curriculum, focused on the students’ interests. At the school, there are no general education requirements; students are allowed to enroll in any courses they choose, including classes at the nearby Rhode Island School of Design. There’s also no need to worry about grades for courses outside of your concentration: students may elect to take courses for “satisfactory” or “no credit,” which means that the fear of not performing up to par won’t stop them from trying something new.

Reed College. At Reed College, in Portland, Oregon, students work with professors in 10-to-1 ratios, typically in roundtable conference style. Though they receive grades at the end of courses, they aren’t mailed to the students, and few are aware of their GPAs—discussion and engagement with the courses are far more important than exam scores. The rigorous academic program concludes with a year-long senior thesis, which can be anything from a scientific project to a novel-length book, which students will then defend before faculty members. Reed also offers a unique program called Paideia, which allows anyone—faculty, students, and janitors alike—to create their own weeklong courses, which have included esoteric subjects like Underwater Basket Weaving and Garden Gnome Construction.