Survivor Maryland

The Washington Post: “It’s ‘Survivor Maryland,’ the wildest, realest reality show you’ve never heard of: a low-budget, junior-varsity take on the popular CBS competition show “Survivor.” Instead of being marooned for several weeks on an island, the players undergo challenges and tribal turmoil during an entire semester at the University of Maryland … The craze began with Austin Trupp, 25, a “Survivor” superfan who started watching the show as a Rockville high schooler with a passion for strategy games and social politics.”

“Trupp started putting the show together the summer after his freshman year. He recruited a cast of 21 hypercompetitive friends and filmed through the fall of 2012, quickly settling on a formula reminiscent of the original — contestants split into tribes that compete in “challenges” testing their teamwork, resourcefulness and athletic ability, with players gradually eliminated via ‘tribal council’ votes. The winner is the last person standing, selected by a jury of eliminated contestants … Six years and five seasons later, ‘Survivor Maryland’ is notorious. Some of its episodes on YouTube have more than 15,000 views. It’s amassed an avid following that includes former showrunners and contestants from the CBS show.”

“More than a dozen spinoffs have replicated Trupp’s concept at other colleges, including Ohio State University, the University of Virginia and the University of Michigan. They vary in form and length, and certainly in following, but they’re all trying to replicate the ‘Survivor Maryland’ magic.

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American Wonk: Cool Cat on Campus

The Washington Post: “Who knows what the black and white cat was thinking when it arrived on American University’s campus … Whatever the case, this cat — known as Wonk Cat, or the Wonk Cat, if you prefer — has settled in at American, in Northwest Washington. It has become a film star, and it is the subject of tweets from the university’s president. It has a special cat dorm room, set up near a campus building. Here at American, Wonk Cat has found a home.”

“For Stephanie DeStefano, American’s grounds operations manager, this tale of a tail began in the fall, when she noticed piles of cat food in planting beds on campus.” She comments: “It wasn’t long before I had the pleasure of meeting Wonk Cat, who the students had already adopted and named. I have no idea where she came from. Or, actually, if it’s a she or a he.”

“Wonk Cat is not the only cat on American’s campus. A second feline was relocated to the grounds during the winter. That transfer cat, Max, is not exactly pals with Wonk Cat yet, but perhaps we should give this more time … American is not the only animal-friendly campus. Websites for Texas A&M University and the University of West Florida mention cats.” Alice Bershtein, a rising junior at American, comments: “College is a very stressful experience and kind of makes you feel alone. There’s something about animal companionship that is so soothing and reaffirming. I feel like the Wonk Cat kind of serves that purpose.”

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How Hogwarts Inspires New Campus Buildings

Los Angeles Times: “Expensive dormitories, in particular, have begun to exhibit an incurious … nostalgia, with Yale and USC, among other schools, leaning hard on the kind of Gothic Revival excess that first became popular a full century ago … one key source of this renewed interest in the Gothic Revival is — cue the John Williams score — Hogwarts, the boarding school for wizards that stands at the heart of the book series by J.K. Rowling.”

“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, the first book in the series, was published in 1997. The film version of that novel appeared in 2001. This year’s crop of college freshmen was born between those two cultural milestones, which means a huge number grew up reading the Potter books or watching the movies or both. Many of them have an expectation (or perhaps a hope) that going off to college means going off to a campus that resembles the Hollywood version of Hogwarts, full of peaked roofs, gargoyles, stone floors, stained glass and huge dining halls warmed by multiple fireplaces.”

At both Yale and USC, “the Hogwarts feel is strongest, by far, in the dining halls, giant rooms with long wooden tables, peaked ceilings and stained glass. It feels almost as if you’ve wandered onto a set for one of the Potter movies, filmed at Alnwick Castle in Northumberland and Gloucester Cathedral, among many other locations.”

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The Freshman 15: Fact or Fiction?

The Washington Post: “Do most freshmen really gain 15 pounds during their first year as undergrads? Research tells us no. Several studies have looked at the freshman 15 phenomenon and found that while weight gain is common during freshman year, 15 pounds is more than the average. The actual weight gain of freshmen varies greatly among different studies, with an overall average of 7½ pounds. A meta-analysis of studies examining the freshman 15 phenomenon found that although nearly two-thirds of students gain weight as freshmen, fewer than 10 percent gain 15 pounds or more.”

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Freshman Friends: A Key To Coping in College

Quartz: “A 2008 poll conducted by the Associated Press and mtvU found that 40% of college students said they felt stress regularly—and almost one in five seriously considered dropping out of school. With those high stress levels in mind, the researchers, including Stanford economics professor Matthew Jackson and former Stanford doctoral candidate Desmond Ong, put nearly 200 Stanford freshmen—who had recently moved into first-year dorms—through a battery of personality tests and questionnaires.”

“Their goal was to determine which students occupied central roles in these different networks—notably groups based on trust, fun, and excitement. The researchers found that individuals were more particular about whom they included in their trust networks compared to groups related to fun and excitement. In those selective trust networks, freshmen were more likely to include highly empathic students. In contrast, when students wanted to feel positive and have fun, they were more likely to seek out dorm mates high in happiness.”

“Just as you need the right outfit for a particular occasion, college freshmen need certain friends for certain situations. When you need a dose of fun, engaging with a positive and happy friend can lift your mood. But that friend may not be the best person to go to when you need someone to confide in. An empathic friend, on the other hand, may be just the right person for helping you through difficult and challenging times.”

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Harvey Mudd: STEM ‘Boot Camp’

Business Insider: “Located in Claremont, California is an 829-person liberal arts college that might go unnoticed to the uninitiated. It’s not a member of the Ivy League, nor does it have the celebrity of Stanford University, its neighbor to the north. In fact, if you’re not familiar with the Claremont Consortium, you’ve probably never heard of the school. Harvey Mudd College is a STEM powerhouse. It routinely shows up on lists that rank the best value colleges and, based on median salary, its graduates out-earn those from Harvard and Stanford about 10 years into their careers.”

“Mudd embraces its academic rigor and describes its core curriculum as a ‘boot camp in the STEM disciplines — math, physics, chemistry, biology, computer science, and engineering — as well as classes in writing and critical inquiry’ that it says ‘gives students a broad scientific foundation and the skills to think and to solve problems across disciplines’.”

“Every entering student must take a computer science class, a rare requirement for a liberal arts college. But Mudders must also graduate with a strong liberal-arts background, taking just as many courses in the humanities as they must in core introductory courses in the sciences.”

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Cornell Tech: Campus of the Future?

The Wall Street Journal: “Conceived by the Bloomberg administration, Cornell Tech was envisioned as a $2 billion, 12-acre campus devoted to the marriage of academia and business in the hopes of engendering a new class of tech-savvy biz kids. Phase One was officially completed on Sept. 13, with the first three buildings (costing $700 million) up and running for some 300 students and (to date) three corporate giants—Citigroup, Two Sigma Investments and Ferrero, an Italian chocolate company.”

“The new campus buildings and their land-sculpted surrounds set a new bar for architecture. Priorities have been upended. While expensive new campus structures usually make bold visual statements, at Cornell Tech sustainability and landscape, not ambitious form making, lead the way.” For example: “At four stories and 160,000 square feet, the Bloomberg Center—designed by Thom Mayne of Morphosis—is wrapped in an animating metal screen scalloped in soup-lid-size scales that turn a golden or lagoon-ish green hue depending on how they catch the light. It helps to cool and minimize waste at a building that aims to achieve the new holy grail of energy usage: net-zero.”

“Beneath the prow are a cluster of built-in outdoor seats and tables. A path sweeps past the other two buildings—a dorm and office-cum-incubator—into an open plaza and lawn with a seemingly endless array of seating arrangements and table options. The buzz potential is palpable … Beneath the lawn and plaza, there’s a rain-harvesting tank and 80 geothermal wells. Gardens perform bio-filtration services; pavers absorb overflow … When the campus is completed by 2043, there will be 2,000 students and 10 buildings. Cornell Tech puts the island at the heart of where ideas in business and architecture are headed.”

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Toward a Car-Free Campus

The New York Times: “More universities are beginning to consider where transportation is headed as they wrestle with parking woes, often one of the thorniest issues on campus. Over the last 20 years, many campuses have shifted their emphasis to manage the demand, rather than build more garages, out of a desire to reduce their carbon footprint, put valuable land to higher uses and avoid construction costs that can run $20,000 to $30,000 a space … Increasingly, campuses are … charging more for the most convenient spaces, running shuttles, subsidizing public transit passes, and adding bike and car-sharing services.”

“Some universities are building mixed-use garages, which can be a more efficient use of land and help ensure maximal use of spaces. Northwestern University, in Evanston, Ill., has built two mixed-use garages in recent years, as part of a plan to move parking to the periphery of campus and free up more interior land for green space. A 1,125-space garage at the north end of campus houses an entrepreneurship incubator known as the Garage, as well as a speech and hearing clinic open to the community.”

Alan K. Cubbage, Northwestern’s vice president for university relations, comments: “We believe that it doesn’t really make sense to have space that is just for cars. You want to use the space in a thoughtful way.”

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Food For Thought: Campus Cuisine Updated

The Wall Street Journal: “College students across the U.S. are making some precise demands of school chefs and dining halls. For a generation animated by a desire to make a difference and raised to believe personal wellness is paramount, a meaningful academic experience begins with minding what you eat.”

“That’s inspired the University of Houston to spend $6,500 to build two hydroponic grow towers, vertical gardens that use nutrient-rich waters to cultivate cilantro and oregano indoors, without soil. The University of California, Los Angeles has installed aeroponic grow towers that grow plants with just mist. Thyme, butter lettuce and microgreens are flourishing in the breeze on the roof of UCLA’s Bruin Plate dining hall.”

“When Virginia Tech students demanded more free-trade coffee in 2008, dining-services head Ted Faulkner booked a trip to Nicaragua, where he helped pick beans at an organic, bird-friendly coffee estate that now supplies the school. A churrascaria, a gelateria and a sushi bar are among Virginia Tech’s other campus dining options.”

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St. John’s College: ‘Old School’ is New Again

Quartz: “Consider St. John’s College, America’s third-oldest institution of higher education, founded in 1696. With fewer than 700 students between two campuses in Annapolis and Santa Fe, St. John’s is a bit under the radar. But it’s emerged as one of the most distinctive colleges in the country by maintaining a strict focus on the classics of the Western canon … a big part of that distinction is due to a strict adherence to its own curated curriculum and teaching methods, know simply as “the Program” implemented back in 1937.”

“Four years of literature, language, philosophy, political science and economy, and math. Three years of laboratory science, and two of music. That’s it. No contemporary social studies. No accounting. No computer classes. No distinct majors or minors … Another unique feature of St. John’s is a resistance to placing texts in a political, social or historic context for discussion. Context is viewed as ideology, something that St. John’s believes distorts true education and the ability to form one’s own opinion. This is crucial to the school’s philosophy; by freeing texts from context, St. John’s claims it frees students’ minds to ponder the multiple possibilities and meanings that are actually in the text.”

“Clearly St. John’s is not for everyone. First, you need to be a voracious reader to cover the Program texts at a brisk pace. You also need the capacity for and love of writing because St. John’s requires a lot of it. It helps to feel comfortable speaking in public, since so much of St. John’s learning occurs out loud around a table with your classmates and tutors … In recent years, Forbes ranked the Santa Fe campus as the “Most Rigorous” in the US (with Annapolis ranked eighth, odd given the same Program), way ahead of the big Ivies like Harvard (17th), Princeton (20th), Yale (23rd), and Stanford (25th). The school’s tutors are often cited as among the best teachers in the country.”

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