Friday, August 23, 2013

Thanks VCU!

Student Gym Facility
Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to visit Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia. VCU is a large public university in the heart of Richmond. Known for their top quality art program, they also offer a wide variety of majors in business, engineering, and the liberal arts. My impression of VCU included a few surprises. First, I didn't realize how large the school was, as I typically think about large colleges being set in small town land grant settings. However, this school with 23,000 students somehow fits into the city of Richmond, right alongside the Crape Myrtles. The school was also shockingly diverse. The South has an admittedly spotty history with race relations and diversity, but only at Lawrence University in Wisconsin have I noticed so many groups of students that were not divided by race or ethnicity but instead walking, talking, and socializing together. New York students who want to attend a college with a meaningful number of students of color, should put VCU on their list. There was also a very strong sense of humble authenticity on campus - meaning the students did not exude privilege or superiority. They were excited to be in college (I was there right after freshman move-in) and ready to work hard. Another appealing feature about VCU for NYC students is that fact that it is in a city. Not to say that there are not drawbacks to city living, and VCU is certainly not immune to all of the traditional issues that face colleges in urban settings (including town/gown relations, crime, constraints on space, etc). However, for a student leaving the 5 boroughs, I think they would find Richmond to be an acceptable place to spend four years full of gorgeous architecture, great restaurants, quaint shops, and enough to see and explore to stay busy when they are not in class. The last thing to take note of: tuition. Because VCU is a public school, even as an out of state student the full sticker price of tuition and room and board will come in only about $5,000 more than the full price of a SUNY. Not cheap, but not $60,000 a year either.
Glass Blowing!
Glaze Samples in the Ceramics Studio!
 Our tour consisted of things like an extended visit to the Nuclear Engineering lab, a glimpse of probably the most impressive student gym facility I've ever seen (rock wall, check. SALT WATER pool, check, brand new cardio equipment, check . . .), and top notch art studios.  I haven't even mentioned the Division I sports and high levels of school spirit.

Thank you to VCU for hosting me on campus. I also had the opportunity to stay at The Jefferson Hotel, a true Americna gem. I can't resist posting a picture of the amazing lobby!