Wisconsin Tour: Small City, Big Campus

Located in a capital city and with a total student population of about 44,000, it would seem a given that the University of Wisconsin at Madison would be a bit on the overwhelming side. That the first big thing we saw was a really big stadium reinforced our initial preconception, while also hardening an assumption that this Big Ten school would be as sports-crazed as they come. No question that Wisconsin is a huge school that loves its Badgers, but “overwhelming” only applies in the best sense of the word, as in rich in opportunity across multiple dimensions.

The campus is unmistakably an urban setting, but one that is better described as an overgrown town than a bustling city, directionally not unlike, say, another capital locale known as DC. The buildings tend toward low-slung rather than high-rise, the vibe is energetic but not crowded, and the sheer size of the footprint is casually remedied on wheels: students navigating here and there on bicycles, scooters and even skateboards. Big doesn’t have to mean unmanageable, and urban doesn’t necessarily render in shades of midtown Manhattan. Madison is a sweet spot.

As a large university, Wisconsin is ready for just about anyone, offering up some 130 majors and 60 certificates across eight schools and colleges: Business, Education, Engineering, Human Ecology (SOHE), Pharmacy, Nursing, College of Letters & Sciences and College of Agriculture & Life Sciences (CALS). It is possible to enter a specific college, or else as undeclared and then switch in later, apparently without much difficulty. Academic guidance begins the summer prior to freshman year, when students are assigned an advisor and supported by a program called Student Orientation Advising and Registration, or SOAR.

If you haven’t yet noticed, Wisconsin is particularly fond of acronyms, such as the Greater University Tutoring Service (GUTS) and Student Activity Center (SAC). Its First Year Interest Groups, or FIGs, invite cohorts of about 20 new students to take a set of three or four diverse but related classes centered on a particular theme and led by a single instructor. This introduces freshmen to a range of subject matter, provides a sustained opportunity to really get to know a group of fellow students and work closely with an instructor. They become part of their own little academic community that typically engages in field trips as well as classroom experiences.

Our relatively small and sedate info session snapped to attention with the arrival of our tour guide, Eric, a senior whose adrenaline level matched his evident excitement about graduating a few days hence. We were joined on our tour by three younger student-guides, who made conversation and answered questions as we went. Eric, meanwhile, was intent on entertaining us, peppering the usual patter about dorms, laundry, food, clubs and campus life in general with a bounty of one-liners such as: “We have more than 900 clubs at University of Wisconsin. You can go bowling, if that’s up your alley.”

Because we had so much ground to cover, we didn’t enter many buildings, but they looked pretty great from the outside. We did take seats in a typical classroom, but mainly just to get off our feet for a few minutes. Most memorable was our stop at a lakefront terrace, resplendent with an array of metal chairs painted in bright, Skittles-esque sunburst colors, and for which University of Wisconsin is famous. When the weather is warm the pavillion hosts concerts, open mic nights and food trucks. In the winter, when the lake freezes, it is a place for ice fishing and skating, among other wintry pursuits.

Our journey continued with an ascent up Bascom Hill, the big quad on campus. The suddenly upward trajectory of the terrain was striking because our drive from Chicago to Madison had been farmland beautiful but relentlessly flat. How was it that there seemed to be exactly one hill in all of Wisconsin, and it was at the heart of the Madison campus? The answer is glacial deposits, but all that really matters is that it creates an impressive effect, topped by the majestic Bascom Hall, the school’s primary administrative building. Directly in front sits a bronze statue of one of America’s most famous sons. “Anyone want to guess who this is?” Eric teased. The answer was so obvious that no one said a word. This was a moment made for Eric.

“I had one little kid guess Steve Jobs,” he ventured, to laughter. “And someone else said George W. Bush,” he continued, now doubled over, before relenting and telling us what we already knew: The statue was of Abraham Lincoln, whose Wisconsin troops trained on-campus during the Civil War. The toe of Abe’s left shoe glistened from the shine of endless undergraduates rubbing it for good luck before exams, one of those great college traditions.

Last stop for us was the Discovery Building, home of a public-private research partnership that opened in 2010 and whose ground floor is designed as a collaborative gathering and meeting place open not only to students but the local community, as well. The space evokes a traditional town center, complete with tree-lined walkways, lush with leaves that reportedly stay green year ‘round. The building’s windows open and close automatically to equalize the temperature. Cool.

From there, we headed back to State Street, a small but bustling row of shops including the campus bookstore, and restaurants such as Forage, which was packed with students choosing from an imaginative selection of grain bowls. Then it was time to depart this great, big campus nestled in an attractive, small city and head back to Chicago, a three-hour drive away.

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Beloit Tour: Keep an Eye on this Turtle

If it weren’t directly on the path between Chicago and Madison, we might have missed Beloit College, and that would have been a shame. Truth is, we hadn’t planned to visit because it is a small school that hadn’t registered much on the radar of our students. That will change now. No college is for everyone, of course, but Beloit should at least make the considered-set of a larger number of students.

Beloit profiles as small and quiet, with only about 1,200 undergraduates. On a late Monday afternoon it was hard to find anyone at all; even the campus coffee shop had already closed by five o’clock. We were told most students were back in their residential halls for the day. At a glance, the campus appeared quiescent. A closer look, however, revealed something more bubbling beneath the surface.

Beloit’s serenity is embodied in the beauty of its park-like setting, which despite recent additions like the show-stopping LEED-certified Sanger Science Center, lays claim to a 19th-century vibe that reverberates with its little-known ivy-league pedigree. Beloit was founded in 1847 by a group of Yale alums who thought the Wisconsin territory deserved its own place of higher learning. That same seriousness of purpose defines Beloit to this day.

Because we were just dropping by unannounced, we didn’t hit an info session or tag along on a student-led tour, but did enjoy an extended sit-down with an enthusiastic admissions counselor who told us everything we didn’t already know about this well-respected but not exactly high-profile school. By the time she finished, we were sold on it as a potentially perfect place for those who may not know what they want, but know it when they see it.

The mystery is why this Yale-descended gem, co-ed since 1895, is not thought of alongside other small-but-mighty schools, many of which are located in equally, if not more, obscure locations. If nothing else, none of those other ivy-style institutions is home to a series of 20 honest-to-goodness Native-American archeological sites right on campus. Known as “animal mounds,” each honors a particular creature and dates back as far as 400 AD. One mound is shaped like a turtle, and figures into the school’s coat of arms. Building on this spirit, Beloit is a top school for PhDs in anthropology. It also overperforms as one of the top 20 undergraduate schools whose alum go on to earn PhDs.

Beloit’s other surprises include its large percentage of international students, who somehow find their way from other parts unknown to this tiny college in Wisconsin. Global truly is local at Beloit, and an indelible thread of its academic fabric. As it happens, internationalism has been integral to Beloit’s mission from its inception and not surprisingly finds further expression in healthy participation in study abroad, which attracts 46% of students, more than most other schools.

The campus also is home to two public museums: the Logan is appropriately anthropological and the other, the Wright, is for art. Both not only house impressive collections but also double as classrooms. What some other schools now like to call “experiential” learning, is nothing new at Beloit; learning by doing has been in vogue here since the 1960s. Artifacts might be used as inspiration for creative writing classes, for instance, or re-curated to bring any number of subjects to life. Student creations may also be on display in the art museum, also perhaps themed along topical interests.

So much of Beloit’s being is steeped in history, which tends to mark it as one of those stark raving liberal-arts schools. This is amply refuted not only by the aforementioned science center, but also its center for entrepreneurship, known as CELEB, where students run their own businesses, from apparel to apps. Business is taught as an art, and arts as a business at Beloit, with the goal to help students to find a path in the real world within the context of their studies.

Beloit is known to foster a particularly close relationships between students and professors, one of whom is an enterprising sort known to walk his dogs around campus to invite conversations. He happens to be a business professor who hands out his card in hopes of recruiting new students as he goes. Yet another surprise is the school’s half dozen or so academic residencies, which bring luminaries from a spectrum of disciplines to campus each year.

Possibly the biggest surprise is yet to come later this year, when Beloit opens a 120K square-foot student union, recreation and physical conditioning facility in a former electric-power generating station just across the Rock River, which runs along the main campus. Dubbed “the Powerhouse,” it will also feature a lecture hall, theater, conference center, seminar rooms and work tables. It is envisioned as “a home for mental, physical, and social wellness on campus,” and billed as the first of its kind anywhere. It looks to be amazing.

Keep an eye on this turtle, Beloit. It moves faster than it looks.

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Northwestern Tour: Warm and Windy

Given its rigorous academics and selective admissions, one would not expect life at Northwestern University to be a day at the beach. Yet its campus boasts not one, but two sandy enclaves on the shores of Lake Michigan, punctuated by the Chicago skyline in the not so very distance. As lakes go, this one could easily be mistaken for an ocean, and on the rare day in May we visited, its sparkling streaks of turquoise and azure looked positively Caribbean. Running ruthlessly countertrend, the temperature hovered around 47, it was drizzling and, yes, Chicago windy. A gaggle of lonely sailboats rested uneasily but hopefully on the shore, waiting patiently for better days.

We checked in at the soaring, dazzling, glassy visitor center, only to learn from a cheerful young woman at the desk that our info session and tour had been cancelled. Damn. Well, then, could we have a pen, at least? We collect them from all the schools. No, no pens. “Oh, wait,” she said, her eyes brightening as she handed us a generic ballpoint, sans any insignia. “Take this, it is a pen from Northwestern!” Clever and resourceful, these Northwestern students.

As consolation, we were graciously offered a conversation with a patient and super-smart admissions counselor, who started by asking if we had any questions. Hm, not where we expected to begin, but maybe it says something about Northwestern that questions take priority over answers. Resisting the temptation to litigate why our tour had been deep-sixed, we instead inquired about double majors, the journalism program, and tried to get some insight into why some students get in and others don’t.

Like many of today’s best schools, Northwestern encourages mixing and matching academic pursuits, the more ostensibly disconnected the better. If there’s a thread, it’s forging links between arts and sciences. Northwestern’s Medill school is of course renowned for journalism, although like much of Northwestern’s reputation perhaps a bit tilted toward the graduate level. The university’s post-grad accent happened to be personified our host, herself a former graduate student. As for admissions criteria, it’s a mystery, apparently even to the admissions officers. If there’s a secret, they’re not sharing it.

So, what is it, exactly, that makes Northwestern what it is? One version of that answer is the university messaging, telegraphed as “AND is in our DNA” in a YouTube video: research and teaching; academics and athletics; college town and major city. The notion is meant to extend to the students themselves who combine and recombine areas of study. Is this modern-day philosophy somehow rooted in Northwestern’s origins? That’s a good question, the answer to which requires more research, itself another of the school’s hallmarks. The more telling answer, as usual, is found in a walk around campus, and in particular the places where students gather, such as the Norris University Center, where you can get some food while enjoying spectacular views of that gorgeous lake.

We always look for diversity when we visit campuses, which at Northwestern seemed most evident in a certain artistic, bohemian, and occasionally even eccentric streak in the student population. This influence may be down to the school’s famous theatre program. Did we mention that Stephen Colbert is a Northwestern grad? Northwestern mentions Stephen Colbert almost as often as UVA mentions Thomas Jefferson. True to form, the late-night host is described as both serious and funny, living the “and” theme.

The rest of Northwestern’s soul can be contemplated in a walk around its large-scale but compact (“and”) campus, which though in suburban Evanston, and a fair distance from Chicago, feels decidedly city-like. No shortage of greenery, lots of grassy stretches and imposing trees, but also plenty of pavement. The dominant architectural style, despite a few flashes of old-fashioned goth and futuristic walls of glass, can best be described as brutalist, that blocky, cement-happy motif popular in the American ‘70s and the former Soviet Union.

That sounds harsher than it actually is, but if you need classical brick, columns, cut stone or that Hogwarts feeling, you won’t quite find it here. The effect may have been cemented by the brutally raw spring day, and that some of us were shivering in our parkas in May, but certainly is not a metaphor for what is inarguably one of today’s most all-embracing and celebrated institutions of higher learning.

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‘Llamapalooza’ Helps Berkeley Students Relax

The Guardian: “On Friday, students flocked to UC Berkeley’s Memorial Glade for Llamapalooza, a human-llama social occasion on a sunny campus lawn. The eight animals were scattered throughout the crowd, munching grass while the adoring masses petted, fed and photographed them under the supervision of trained student volunteers. The semesterly event is intended to help Berkeley students relax before the tests. For many, it works. Ana Claire Mancia, a business major who graduates this year, launched Llamapalooza a year and a half ago. The Guardian was granted exclusive access to her final event as a student, as she sought to avoid the heavy press presence of previous semesters. ‘When you’re around a llama, you become very calm and at peace,’ she said.”

“Indeed, despite being surrounded by throngs of overexcited humans, the llamas themselves remained remarkably calm. Their drooping eyelashes created an impression of utter contentment as they helped themselves to large quantities of campus vegetation … Many students took pre-exam solace in the llamas’ fur, lauded as ‘quite fuzzy’ and ‘surprisingly soft’ … But interactions weren’t limited to petting. Mancia taught the Guardian what is known as a ‘llama greeting.’ The trick is to approach the animal nose-to-nose and ‘breathe the same air,’she said.”

“This easy rapport is why George Caldwell, who raises the llamas and brings them to campus, believes they are so well-suited to such visits. Thanks to a long history living among humans in South America, ‘these guys developed social skills that are just amazing,’ Caldwell says … Caldwell had been bringing the animals to Berkeley to de-stress the students for several years before Mancia launched Llamapalooza, but the event was somewhat under the radar. Llamapalooza changed that. Now, the event typically gets 5,000 RSVPs on Facebook, Mancia says, with one to two thousand students actually showing up.”

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JMU Tour: Sweet Smell of Success

Feels big! That was our first impression as our shuttle bus pulled up to the Festival Student Center in the Skyline area of the James Madison University campus. It also did not look like we imagined, based on the iconic, quaint bluestone buildings for which JMU is best known. These structures were huge, cement-and-glass, and a lighter shade of beige. This particular neck of campus — one of five distinct areas on JMU — dates back only to 2000, and as it turns out is home to the school’s impressive STEM curriculum. While the unapologetically 21st century architecture is a bit jarring at first, it nonetheless rises from a magnificent vantage point, amid vast expanses of lawnscape, dotted by students taking full advantage of all this warm Spring day had to offer.

Most spectacularly, the serene beauty of the Shenandoah Mountain glowed on the horizon, directly ahead. Slightly to the left, in the campus’s Ridge area, JMU’s gigantic stadium stood empty but somehow echoed with the energy of the school’s beloved Dukes, even in their absence. The older part of campus, aptly known as the Bluestone area, sits on the opposite side of the i84 thruway, connected overhead by a footbridge and below via a tunnel. In between is the Village area, populated by a cluster of low slung, mid-century modern dorms. Last but not least is the Lake area, which we didn’t visit, fronting — you guessed it — a lake.

Well regarded today as a public, research university, JMU began life in 1908 as the State Normal and Industrial School for Women, a teacher’s college. It underwent another slight name change before becoming Madison College in 1938 and James Madison University in 1977. Known as the father of the U.S. Constitution and the nation’s fourth president, James Madison wasn’t alive to see the school’s founding, but because his Montpelier home was nearby the school was named in his honor some 90 years after his death. Madison himself attended the College of New Jersey, now a smallish university called Princeton. He also helped Thomas Jefferson launch the University of Virginia. He stood 4’11”. Don’t you just hate overachievers?

That’s a brief history of JMU, but of course what matters more is its present and future. This was readily discernible during a brisk walk through the school’s impressive Engineering and Geoscience building, where computer banks, science labs and even a bicycle shop were visible through a series of plate glass windows. Back outside, we saw but did not enter the enormous University Recreation Center, which we were told offers every manner of exercise experience, including a 30-foot climbing wall. Our guide, a senior who was giving his last tour, could barely contain his excitement about everything JMU had to offer, and we hadn’t even crossed i84 to get to the other side of campus. After passing through the Village area just long enough to see a sample dorm room, we headed over to Bluestone, which is up a rather long, steep hill.

It was worth the exertion. This part of the JMU campus not only exudes the kind of classic, quadrangle ambiance of a venerable academic institution, but also puts on full display the spirit and vibe of the student body. If one word could sum it up it would be this: happy. Granted, it was a perfect Spring day, temperatures in the 70s, with a light breeze. Sunning on blankets, tossing frisbees, swinging on hammocks, taking selfies, playing with dogs. Our jovial tour guide was repeatedly greeted with hugs and even some kisses from fellow students. Our tour group was not immune from the spirit of the place. No hugs or kisses, but before our tour began, we were told that if anyone shouted J-M-U at us, the correct response was to bend a knee, cross our arms like a baseball umpire signaling “safe” and reply, “Duuuukes!” This happened three times during our tour.

Why are JMU students so happy? One answer might be the food: the school is ranked #5 for dining options by Princeton Review. A subtle tribute to Dolley Madison? Another could be the sports, which is a big draw. A more likely reason is that JMU gives its students the time and latitude to figure out exactly what it is they want to get out of their education, choosing from among the university’s eight colleges. There’s actually a class for students who can’t decide on their major! Opportunities to conduct research and engage in experiential learning begin freshman year, certainly yet another plus.

The ultimate explanation, however, may reside in a single building: The Student Success Center. Set in a former hospital, it houses administrative offices as well as every manner of service to help students with their studies, support their health, happiness and guide their potential career choices. It provides opportunities for collaborative exploration with professors and other students, entrepreneurship, and to hone academic skills. The overall idea is to navigate their journeys through the school and beyond. You can get Dunkin’ Donuts there, too.

Toward the end of our tour, a gaggle of beaming students stopped and stood with us as our guide explained the legend of JMU’s Kissing Rock, which is that any couple who stands on it will be together for life. They laughed as he joked about never going anywhere near the rock, and then clapped and cheered when he finished his well-crafted routine. One of the students yelled out, “Best tour guide, ever!” We’ve been on countless college tours, but have never seen as effusive, spontaneous, or genuine a display of camaraderie.

For such a large school (20,000 undergraduates), JMU makes a point of breaking it down into smaller pieces, and the culture seems to be a particularly caring, supportive one. Our tour guide, openly lamenting the impending end of his time there, was quite emotional about how JMU had opened his eyes and changed his life. “I am really going to miss this place,” he said, and then asked our group to pose with him for a picture.

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UVA Tour: It Takes an Academical Village

His name was invoked no less than four times during the first five minutes of our UVA tour. Thomas Jefferson is known for many things, and his legacy endures in manifold ways, yet it is astonishing that his vision of higher education is still standing so tall in Charlottesville after 200 years. Disenchanted by the limitations of his own alma mater, William & Mary, which had fallen into decline at the time, Jefferson sought both to expand the scope of study beyond ministry, law and medicine and tighten the relationship between student and teacher.

Ever the architect, Jefferson drew what he saw. It was a place where students lived downstairs from their teachers in a long quadrangle, set on a great lawn. At the head was not the steepled church common to most colleges at the time, but rather a great, domed library. At the foot, off in the distance, farmlands and a mountain range, suggesting an agrarian ideal as much as wide open, future possibilities. Jefferson termed his concept the “Academical Village” (apparently, he also liked to invent words). A few chosen students, as well as professors and even the university’s president, occupy it to this day. That the structure lacks indoor plumbing makes living there no less an honor.

It’s impossible not to feel Jefferson’s centuries-old influence while walking its “grounds,” which other schools would call a campus, but not UVA. It’s all about the grounds. Students enthusiastically buy into other curiosities of the founder’s chosen vocabulary, referring to themselves not as freshmen, sophomores, juniors or seniors, but as first-years, second-years, third-years and fourth-years. Jefferson thought this reinforced a commitment to lifelong learning.

Even more noteworthy is a tight embrace of Jefferson’s notion of self-governance. This was self-evident during our 90-minute tour of the grounds. Our guide declared at the outset that tours are conducted independent of the admissions office and that he was not paid or compensated in any way. The school had little to worry about, as his presentation was a nearly relentless rave review, which is in itself testament to the return on self-governance. The only lapse concerned the cafeteria food, which our guide compared to a warm glass of water on a hot day. “You’re going to drink it,” he said, “but you’re never going to crave it.” Clearly, our guide writes his own material.

He also confessed some sense of isolation during his first year or so, in part because the sheer size of the school made it challenging to find his peeps, but also that the academic rigor consumed his waking hours. Ironically, it seems axiomatic that the larger the school, the more alone you are, at least at first. Our outwardly extroverted guide said he made a conscious effort to remedy this simply by reaching out to others, and also joining clubs, of which there are some 600 at UVA.

The most profound evidence of Jefferson’s lasting legacy is in the academics itself. Jefferson wasn’t kidding about expanding the horizons of academic pursuit, originally offering an unprecedented total of eight schools: law, medicine, mathematics, chemistry, ancient languages, modern languages, natural philosophy, and moral philosophy — yet notably no divinity school. Today, it’s a total of eleven schools: arts & sciences, leadership/public policy, education, business, commerce, architecture, law, medicine, and nursing. UVA also runs the Wise College, a four-year liberal-arts school serving Appalachia.

If a single idea might pull these disparate disciplines into a coherent focus or philosophy, it would be Jefferson’s penchant for design, and the very modern idea of “design thinking,” or seeking solutions based on human need and behavior. It’s an approach that informed Jefferson’s design for the school itself, and is perhaps the best explanation for why it is one of America’s most renowned universities today.

If you visit, try to allow extra time for a self-tour.At the very least, do take the time to explore Jefferson’s famous serpentine walled gardens and step inside his breathtaking rotunda. While the guided tour was outstanding, it took us inside just one building: a quick lap around a very quiet library. Consistent with our guide’s one-star review of the food, we didn’t get to see a cafeteria, and if you’ve seen one dorm room you’ve pretty much seen them all. No great loss there. But to get a true sense of the school, it’s essential to see students in their natural habitat, at least at a student center or something like that. UVA really should open its doors a bit wider.

Consequently, our main impression is that most students walk the grounds alone, by themselves; we didn’t see many pairs, much less groups of students as is common on many other campuses.

While the University has grown considerably over the past two centuries, it is comforting that it has held fast, and proudly, to the principles on which it was founded, not unlike certain other products of Jefferson’s imagination. Yet, it must be noted that Jefferson was not the only U.S. president with a central role in realizing the UVA vision. James Madison, who was in office at the time, was on the school’s organizing board, along with former president James Monroe, who sold the land on which UVA was built. Chief Justice John Marshall was yet another distinguished UVA founding father. They all would certainly be amazed to see their university today, but just as surely would easily recognize the vibrant community of citizen-scholars they envisioned back in 1819.

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Women’s Colleges Report Applications Spike

Daily Hampshire Gazette: “Over the past several years, there has been a spike in the number of students applying to women’s colleges across the country … over the past five years, the total number of applications to Mount Holyoke College has jumped 23.6 percent, while Smith College has seen similar growth at around 25 percent, according to the colleges. However … highly selective colleges and universities have seen a general rise in applications in recent years … Contributing to Mount Holyoke’s success in this difficult moment are the sizable financial commitments the school has made — to financial aid packages, educational programming, and facilities. In addition to these attractions … there is something particular about the current moment that is contributing to the success of women’s colleges.”

“Many Mount Holyoke students are interested in social movements … and some of the most visible leaders of those movements — from #MeToo to climate activism — are women.” Other factors include “the emphasis colleges like Smith and Mount Holyoke have made in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM; the large networks of influential alumnae that they boast; and supportive environments on campus.”

“Hareem Khan, 19, said she had been impressed and inspired by the alumnae network of women in her home country of Pakistan. But the biggest reason for attending Mount Holyoke, she said, has to do with her identity as a woman of color. Almost a third of Mount Holyoke’s incoming student body are students of color from the United States, and 19 percent are international students. At Smith this past academic year, 32 percent of the student body were students of color and 14 percent were international students.”

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Stress Test: Colleges Teach How To Fail

Associated Press: “Bentley University has plenty of success stories among its faculty and alumni. But one recent evening, the school invited students to hear about the failures. Speaking to a crowded auditorium, one professor recounted the time he sank a $21 million company. Another recalled failing her college statistics course. One graduate described his past struggles with drug addiction. Each story reinforced the same message: Even successful people sometimes fail … Bentley, a private business school near Boston, joins a growing number of U.S. colleges trying to ease students’ anxieties around failure and teach them to cope with it. On many campuses, it’s meant to combat climbing rates of stress, depression and other problems that have been blamed on reduced resilience or grit among younger generations.”

“The University of California, Los Angeles, offers ‘grit coaching.’ The University of Minnesota recently hosted a ‘resilience resource fair.’ Dozens of schools now provide ‘Adulting 101’ workshops covering topics from finance to romance. As part of that work, more schools are also striving to normalize failure and create an environment where students can take risks and learn from setbacks.”

“Stanford University encourages its students to celebrate their failures through song, poetry and other creative outlets at an annual event called ‘Stanford, I Screwed Up!’ Smith College in Massachusetts and the University of Central Arkansas have both issued students ‘certificates of failure’ as part of broader programs on the topic. Colorado State University invites students to take a pledge to embrace failure and persist through it … A 2018 survey by the American College Health Association found that 22% of college students were diagnosed with anxiety or treated for it over the past year, up from 10% a decade before. The rate for depression rose from 10% to 17% in the same span, the survey found.”

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Candid Camera: Duke Student Records Campus Life

Duke Chronicle: “Imagine having a camera on your shoulder, recording all of your moments at Duke. Senior Jeffrey Wubbenhorst knows. Within his first two weeks on campus, Wubbenhorst had the inspiration to embark on an engineering project that is still following him today … Attached to Wubbenhorst’s backpack is a device—which his friend named Felix—that looks similar to a robotic Lego arm with a small GoPro camera affixed to it. The camera faces forward, capturing his everyday life, whether it’s exciting or mundane … Deciding what to record is arbitrary, he said, but he has noticed a recurring motif of free food. It’s fun to record life, just like people enjoy recording Snapchat stories, he noted.” He adds: “I also have some kind of understanding that life at Duke is not normal, and that not-normalcy should probably be preserved for posterity.”

“Building the device itself was not an easy process. Backpacks are not designed to have things stuck on the strap, so he explained that the biggest issue was figuring out how to keep the camera from shaking. After realizing PVC pipes moved too much, he turned to Legos. He said his first prototype was terrible, but the next was less terrible. It was a process of trying things out, stuff breaking and taking footage, he said. Whichever configuration gave the least shaky video was the final model he decided to use.”

“Wubbenhorst said he has been able to see himself grow up and change through the videos and through his interactions with the camera … He is now glad he continued it because it has helped him be recognized across campus and allowed him to meet more people, since the camera is a good conversation starter … Wubbenhorst is not sure if he will keep carrying the device around with him after he graduates, and it will likely depend on if his employer will allow it. However, he will continue to bring the camera for personal enjoyment.”

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Live & Learn: U Miami Re-imagines its Dorms

Miami Today: ‘When the University of Miami administration decided to replace its 50-year-old dorms with two sleek new clusters of mixed-use buildings, the focus changed. ‘This isn’t just housing; it’s an extension of the learning environment,’ said Jim Smart, UM’s executive director of Housing and Residential Life. Buildings in each cluster feature housing on the upper floors and classroom, office, recreational, study and meeting space on the lower floors.” Mr. Smart added: We’ve learned a lot over 50 years. We used to think of dorms as places just to sleep and study, but now we know a lot of learning, both formal and informal, goes on there. It’s really an extension of the classroom.”

“The first phase, which has no official name yet but is informally called Lakeside Village, comprises 12 acres with 25 interconnected buildings and a multitude of outdoor spaces including a grand courtyard, study spots, recreational spaces and outdoor terraces. Each of the seven-story main buildings, designed by Arquitectonica, will have five floors of student housing for 1,115 sophomores, juniors and seniors, with the ground floor and mezzanine level of the main structure serving as event and university office spaces … The second phase, Centennial Village, (for freshmen) begins with the demolition of Stanford Residential College and Hecht Residential College, both built in the late 1960s.”

“The freshman spaces were designed to draw students out of their rooms and encourage them to interact with others. ‘It’s better than a home away from home, Mr. Smart said. ‘The fact that staff and faculty live there, too, increases their interaction. We’ve added a lot of spaces that will make adjusting to college easier. We know that as they grow up more, they want more autonomy.” The university’s goals in transforming its residential component are to ‘be in a position to house as many people on campus as want to be here,’ Mr. Smart said.“We want them to have a positive experience during the course of their stay with us’.”

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