Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Beauty and Greatness of Our Colleges

Now is the time that many high school seniors are making, along with their family members, difficult decisions as to which college/university to matriculate at.

It is a time of some stress, serious decision-making, but also a time, hopefully, about excitement for the future in terms of new experiences and a wonderful higher education.

Now is also the time of second visits to campuses for accepted students and the beauty of spring season is surrounding us.

Last weekend,  I was at my husband's undergraduate alma mater, Lafayette College, which is located on a big hill (aren't many colleges, it seems) in Easton, PA, which is about an hour from Philly and from NYC.

My alma mater (4 degrees worth)  is Brown University and I met my husband there when he was a PhD student in physics and I was an undergraduate -- yes, he is smart! And, speaking of smart, another set of rankings, posted in Forbes, has Lafayette in the top 25 colleges with the smartest students, at number 22, along with many of the usual suspects -- Harvard, MIT, Stanford, U. of Chicago, etc. Forbes' own ranking with nice photos of college campuses can be accessed here.

Lafayette College is unique because it combines liberal arts with excellent courses in engineering and science with faculty working closely with students -- hard to be absent from a class when the faculty know you and my husband still stays in touch with a former physics faculty member  of his who lives in Easton but has retired.

There has been a lot of discussion lately as well as press regarding college choices -- in terms of cost, quality of education, and even the value of life-long networks. I blogged a while back about Zac Bissonnette's book, Debt-Free U. The incoming President of Lafayette, which was established in 1826, is Dr. Alison Byerly, and she will be its first female President. She wrote a great recent column in InsideHigherEd.

I believe that the value of a residential college campus experience and education is huge  besides the courses, research experiences, and extracurriculars, including sports and community service,  that one can engage in there are numerous opportunities for leadership. The 4 year undergraduate experience is special and US educational institutions are renowned for this (and with college admissions becoming ever so competitive given the introduction of the Common App and the increase in the volume of international applications) something to truly appreciate. As I noted previously, it is remarkable how many liberal arts colleges have produced true leaders --including several Ivy League university presidents!

The photos below were taken at Lafayette College this past weekend, which has just this month hosted such world leaders as Tony Blar, Jane Goodall, and, yesterday, former President Jimmy Carter. I enjoy art and architecture and appreciate beautiful environments, which I hope that I have captured, in part, below.

The photo above was taken at Lafayette Colleges' Kirby Library, which was noted as one of the most beautiful libraries in the world, and I agree! A TEDx conference was taking place on the first floor featured below The photo above the Kirby library is of the Skillman Library, another  beautiful building..
We also attended a crew regatta off campus and saw Lafayette compete against Lehigh -- great fun.My college room-mate at Brown, Teresa Davila, was on the varsity crew team and I helped to start the women's track and cross country teams with Linda Tanner.
We finished the day by attending a banquet in Marquis Hall at which students who participate in crew  and their coaches were recognized.
And, as UMass Amherst, where I teach, is celebrating its 150th birthday this year with numerous events, let me leave you with a link to the new book by Professors Max Page and Marla Miller, members of the architecture and history faculty, Beauty, Cravings, Virtue: A Celebration of the Architectural Legacy of the University of Massachusetts Amherst.