Tuesday, July 23, 2013

PHACC Tour - Day 1

Yesterday I arrived in Philadelphia for the Philadelphia Area Catholic Colleges tour. I'll be spending the week visiting 11 Catholic Colleges in the area and today had the chance to visit the first three. I'm going to do my best to make posts every night, but with most of the days including 3 schools in a day, you never know if I'll be able to rise the occasion -- this schedule is ambitious!

Immaculata University
 Our first school of the tour was Immaculata University, a now co-ed (as of 2005) college with about 1,100 undergraduate students. The photo above is of the stained glass dome in the rotunda = gorgeous. A growing area of study here is Human Movement and Exercise Science - with offerings in Athletic Training, Physical Therapy, and Occupational Therapy. A brand new 'lab' facility for these majors is a keystone of the campus, giving students hands on access to learn the techniques used to rehab after surgery or injury. There is also a selective partnership with Thomas Jefferson University in downtown Philly where 5 students per year can have the chance to be accepted into a 3-3 PT program or 3-2 OT program. Best advice for students interested in this field - be sure that you like math and science, not just sports. Anatomy and Physiology are difficult topics and a strong high school foundation in math and science are key elements to being successful in the program. Other key thing to note about Immaculata -- tuition is fixed for students at their freshman year rate, so you can rest assured that the cost of attendance will not increase over time. Finally, I'm always a sucker for a good pun - check out the name of the Library cafe:

Cabrini College
Next up was Cabrini College, slightly larger than Immaculata with 1,300 undergraduate students. This 112 acre campus is known as a 'Cathedral of Trees' - a name that really suits this lovely campus. A liberal arts college with additional offerings in more specialized fields like business and education, Cabrini had a great energy about it. Their core curriculum, called "Justice Matters" integrates the school's focus on social justice. Enough said, I'm sold :). In all seriousness though, the commitment to diversity was really impressive (with huge strides made even in the past 3-4 years) and the strong job placement rate makes Cabrini an great option for students looking for a small school 30 minutes from an urban center. Cabrini also dominates in their Division III athletic conference, winning 6 conference championships of late and about 25-30% of students playing on a sports team (though, be warned, you won't find a football or baseball team). The Roman Catholic faith tradition is balanced by the more over arching idea that religious literacy is more important than ascribing to a particular religious dogma. The photo above is of the newly opened science building.

Gwynedd-Mercy College

Our last stop of the day was at Gwynedd-Mercy College. Similar in size to Cabrini in terms of enrollment, Gwynedd-Mercy is unique in that it offers both 2 and 4 year degrees (though the majority of majors are 4-year). Health Sciences are really what the school is known for, though they do offer majors in 3 other schools (Arts & Science, Business, and Education). There are unique offerings, like gerontology (aka working with the elderly and aging aka getting a job in about 3 seconds). Only about 40% of students live on campus, but I got the sense that students feel very connected to the campus and the individual attention they receive leads to a true community feel (something that isn't always found at schools where so many students commute/live off campus). Be warned, Health Sciences programs do fill up so don't delay in submitting your application. I also got a kick out of the nursing supply section in the bookstore - stethoscopes hanging across from the index cards - love it!

Lastly - while it was not mentioned explicitly on any campus, I was relieved to see evidence of LGBT friendly environments on two of the three campuses. As a former employee at a Catholic college, I can attest to the fact that many schools still have a long way to go in terms of addressing the needs of LGBT students. I was encouraged to see subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) indications that these colleges are places where all students can feel welcome.