Blog - Category: Academics

Hillsdale College Proud to Go Its Own Way

HillsdaleStatuesWinter

Quick: Name a college with statues of not only Abraham Lincoln but also Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher.

Or one with free online courses that teach the U.S. Constitution? That refuses to accept federal funding.

It can only be one: Hillsdale College, the so-called “shining city on the hill” for political conservatives, who unabashedly revere the founding fathers and don’t apologize for a core curriculum that revolves around books by so-called Dead White Men.

Tucked away in central Michigan, the school is attracting attention yet again in the first few weeks of President Donald J. Trump’s administration. The New York Times and others are shining a light on the Michigan jewel in part because it underscores the debate within conservative intellectual circles about what to make of Trump.

Proudly different, Hillsdale attracts students from throughout the country because it provides world-class education at a bargain. Even though it eschews federal money — making students ineligible for Pell grants — 95 percent of its students received grants of more than $17,000 this year, dramatically lowering its advertised $35,000 cost of tuition, room and board.

The education is without parallel. Unlike other schools that seem ashamed of teaching liberal arts, Hillsdale embraces it. For two years, students study the classics, taking more than a dozen mandatory classes on topics from western heritage, American heritage, biology and chemistry.

The classes help students forge tight bonds with faculty and administrators. Heck, the New York Times noted the school president, Larry P. Arnn, “has been known to swoop down on hapless victims in the cafeteria and pose the core question of the Classics: “What is The Good?”

Is it for everyone? Perhaps not. But what makes Hillsdale awesome is that, in this day of trying to please everyone, it’s proudly unique and charts its own path.

That’s something of a specialty at Hillsdale College and Michigan’s 15 independent colleges and universities.

Proudly small, their students don’t get lost in the crowd like those at big state schools. And unlike public universities, students actually graduate in four years, not only saving a year of tuition but also giving them an extra year of earnings in their careers.

They have a deep and committed network of alumni who help after graduation. It’s an experience that simply isn’t available at traditional universities.

Be bold. Be different. Go independent.

Calvin College’s Big Idea: Build a Better Window, Save the World

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Consider the humble window.

Pretty boring, huh? Only good for looking through and daydreaming, right?

Now consider life without them.

Not so boring anymore. Existence would be a lot more grueling — and expensive. Add in a looming global energy crisis, and suddenly research into better windows is more vital. That’s why what’s happening at Calvin College is so exciting.

The school is partnering with a Grand Rapids firm, Mackinac Technologies Inc., to bring to market a product that vastly improves energy efficiency. The polymer pane that bends is custom fit to existing windows, reducing building energy loss by as much as 60 percent.

“We are providing the testing and analysis to show that the coatings are effective at reducing the heat loss through windows,” Renard Tubergen, an associate professor of engineering at Calvin, told the Grand Rapids Business Journal.

He’s recruited students to participate in the research, along with Richard DeJong, an emeritus professor at Calvin.

The partnership isn’t unique at Calvin or Michigan’s 15 top independent colleges and universities. All are award-winning academic institutions. And all know there’s life outside the lecture hall.

Think big enough. Dream outlandishly. Who knows? You could change the world.

Aided by federal grants, the Calvin-Mackinac partnership could one day help do just that. Highly durable and transparent, the product they’re working on could save one quad of energy if fully implemented throughout the United States.

One quad is the equivalent of 8 billion gallons of gasoline. The United States used 95 quads all of last year. So theoretically, the product could help cut the nation’s energy usage by more than 1 percent — an enormous amount.

Suddenly, the humble window isn’t so humble anymore.

That’s the sort of bold, brash thinking that typifies Calvin and the rest of Michigan’s independent colleges and universities. Daring doers, their faculty encourage students to think differently and chart their own path.

With low class sizes and an encouraging network of alumni, the colleges have a sense of community that simply doesn’t exist at big state schools.

And despite what you may have heard, independents are often less expensive and boast higher four-year graduation rates that big universities.

Be bold. Be different. Go independent.

Alma College Reaches Peak Fun with Bagpipes & Nintendo

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Somewhere, in that rare, elusive air between nerd and cool is peak awesome. Call it alchemy or old-fashioned magic, but sometimes, mixing radically different mediums captures pop perfection.

It happened with Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Pop Tarts. And it happened again at the end of football season at Alma College, when — prepare yourselves — bagpipes met old-school Nintendo.

The Alma College Pipe Band and Winter Guard joined the school’s legendary Kiltie Marching Band for their annual indoor concert. This year’s concert featured themes from Super Mario Brothers, the Legend of Zelda and other 64-bit hits. It was retro wonderful. Princess Peach even made an appearance. And bagpipes. Lots of bagpipes.

A little background: Bagpipes are a big deal at Alma. They’re played when first-year students step on campus and walk through a gauntlet of faculty members at Welcoming Convocation. They’re played at sports games and college traditions like Burns Dinners and Tartan Day.

And Nintendo? Well, duh.

“I chose this music because it was always with me growing up” says band director David Zurbe. “The more video games I played, the more that I realized what impressive music it was. This music needs to be heard by everyone, and I am excited about how fantastic the musicians are doing with it.”

Making it even better: Students performed in full costume.

Offbeat selections aren’t usual for the band. In 2014, it performed a selection of Van Halen hits.

Is it wacky? Maybe a little. More importantly: Why not? It’s pretty darn amazing and a full heart container of fun.

That’s the way they roll at Alma College and Michigan’s 15 independent colleges and universities, where taking chances, mixing stuff up and letting ideas take wing is a way of life.

Purposefully smaller, the colleges offer a vastly different experience than big public schools. Class sizes are small. Award-winning professors actually teach classes, get to know students and help them chart their own path to rewarding careers.

Often less expensive than public institutions, the independents boast higher four-year graduation rates for a truly unique and affordable experience.

Be bold. Be different. Go independent.

Aquinas College Tackles Apocalypse (and Antibiotics)

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Close your eyes and picture it. An apocalypse brought on by commonplace infections. There is no antidote. Three-hundred million die.

It’s not “The Walking Dead.” It’s Planet Earth, year 2050, if nothing is done to prevent the spread of microbes immune from medication that once treated them. It’s a scenario known as “antimicrobial resistance” and it’s one of the planet’s biggest threats.

Fortunately, the students at Aquinas College are on the case. The school recently was selected to join the Small World Initiative, a venture launched by Yale University in 2012 that enlists worldwide students to ward off the threat.

The students join those at 109 colleges who will take part in hands-on training and search for leads to new antibiotics.

“Our biology faculty are excited to be a part of this innovative program which will give our students more opportunities to engage in authentic research,” said Jennifer Hess, Ph.D., associate professor of biology at Aquinas College.

Starting in 2017, students in introductory biology will collect soil samples, isolate bacteria and test it against microorganisms. They’ll compare findings with students worldwide.

And who knows? They may just help stave off a catastrophe. If not, they’ll learn about the scientific method and likely become more interested in careers in science.

“Students are going to really get to see the scientific process in action,” Hess told MLive.

“We think by students taking ownership of this research it will help them stay more engaged in the scientific field.”

Marrying the best of academic traditions with hands-on learning — while tackling big problems and trying to make the world better. That’s the cornerstone of the experience at Aquinas and Michigan’s 15 independent colleges and universities.

Unlike big state schools, classes are taught by award-winning faculty, not teaching assistants. Class sizes are small, allowing students to form lifelong bonds with award-winning expert as well as a nurturing network of alumni who help after graduation.

All the schools emphasize community over crowds and help students forge their own paths.

And despite what you may have heard, independents are often less expensive and boast higher four-year graduation rates that big universities.

Be bold. Be different. Go independent.

Kalamazoo College Student is a Star at Rocket Contests

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By day, Emma Kristal majors in psychology and biology at Kalamazoo College.

By night, she’s a Rocket Queen.

Her super-power: Making awesome, high-powered rockets that consistently blow away the competition at national and international competitions.

Kristal’s most recent triumph was winning individual and team gold medals with the USA World Space Modeling team in the Space Modeling Championships in Lviv, Ukraine. Her hobby has taken her to Serbia, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Austria and other countries.

“Most of the competitions are in Eastern Europe because that’s where most of the competitors are from other than the U.K. and China,” said the junior from Royal Oak, Michigan.

“We’re the fiercest competitors on the field, but afterward, we can still sit down and play cards together. I’m making connections with people from all over the world. Sometimes I can scroll through my newsfeed (on Facebook) and not see a single thing in English.”

She holds 10 records. One of her rockets is on display at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. And she’s recognized as one of the best in an event called the S2P Precision Fragile Payload, in which participants launch rockets 300 meters in 60 seconds without cracking an egg inside them.

Not too shabby for someone who attends a school that’s known as a liberal arts college and doesn’t have a rocketry program. Nor does Kristal plan to make a career out of rocketry.

That’s a testament to Kalamazoo College and Michigan’s 15 independent colleges and universities. All provide world-class educations. And all help students forge their own paths — even if it ventures into space.

“My dad is an emergency room doctor and when we asked his colleagues where I should attend college, they all said K. Honestly, we thought (Kalamazoo College) put something in the water to make them all rave about it,” she told the school.

The independents pride themselves on attracting different students. Ones unafraid of trying new things, venturing outside comfort zones and finding passions that don’t necessarily show up on transcripts.

Purposefully different than big state schools, the independents emphasize community over crowds. Classes are taught by award-winning faculty rather than TAs, allowing students to forge tight bonds with professors.

And despite what you may have heard, independents are often less expensive and boast higher four-year graduation rates that big universities.

Be bold. Be different. Go independent.

Michigan independents fastest way to four-year degree for community college students

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Congratulations. You have an associate degree. All that hard work has paid off.

Now what?

If you’re like many, you’re ready for more after community college. After all, a four-year degree is the best ticket to prosperity, with pay averaging $400 per week more than those with two-year degrees, according to federal statistics. Within 10 years, the gap is closer to $25,000 per year.

And Michigan’s 15 independent colleges and universities are the fastest way to a four-year degree. That’s because they make it easier to transfer and most of their students actually graduate in four years rather than five or more at big state schools.

“Students often think transferring from community college is far more difficult than it really is,” one admissions officer said. “It’s even easier at Michigan independent colleges and universities.”

Time was, transferring was difficult, in large part because credits wouldn’t transfer, wasting time and money. Not anymore.

Not only do Michigan independent colleges and universities have admissions staffers specially trained to work with community college transfer students, recent state law has taken the guesswork — and subjectivity — out of the process.

The state Legislature passed laws in 2012 to make more community college core classes transferrable at four-year institutions statewide, a system known as the Michigan Transfer Agreement.

Transfer students to Michigan independents hit the ground running. On average, the percentage of students who graduate from independents in four years is nearly double that of public institutions, not only saving them a year of tuition but giving them an extra year of earnings in their careers.

And speaking of cost, the independents are among the most affordable in the Midwest. That’s because more than 93 percent of students receive financial aid, lowering advertised tuition and bringing actual costs on par with many public universities.

That means our education is not only priceless. It’s affordable too — one of many differences with traditional universities.

Unlike big state schools, class sizes are small and taught by incredible faculty who help students forge their own path. They have a deep and committed network of alumni who help after graduation. It’s an experience that simply isn’t available at traditional universities.

Be bold. Be different. Go independent.

Michigan Independent Colleges Make it Easy to Transfer from Community Colleges

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Community colleges are hot. Nationwide, some 7.3 million students attend them and, all told, they comprise nearly half of all undergraduates in the United States, according to the American Association of Community Colleges.

Too often, though, they’re a final destination instead of a starting point. That’s in part due to misperceptions that credits are difficult to transfer to four-year colleges to obtain a bachelor degree.

Like a lot of stereotypes, it’s far from the truth, especially at Michigan’s top 15 colleges and independents.

Some of the best schools in Michigan, the independents are also some of the most welcoming to community college students, with specially trained admissions counselors who make what can be an intimidating transition a smooth one.

The difference between an associate and bachelor is huge. Start with pay: It’s $400 per week higher, on average, for those with bachelor degrees, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

And that’s just on average. The gap grows wider as careers progress. Within 10 years, the difference between an associate and bachelor pay grows to $25,000 per year on average.

And the Michigan independent colleges make it easier than ever to transfer. With that in mind, here are a few tips to consider.

  1. Plan ahead. Know which courses transfer for full credit. Check guides such as the ones operated by the Michigan Transfer Network or the Michigan Department of Education.
  2. Call ahead. Hook up with a counselor at one of the Michigan Colleges Alliance member colleges and universities.  If you are early in your community college career, they can offer advice on classes to take, which to avoid and how to ease transfers.
  3. Get ahead. Meet regularly with advisers, keep them informed of transfer plans and make sure they are in touch their counterparts at transfer institutions. They get paid whether you use them or not. Use them.

No doubt. Transferring is a big endeavor. But it’s well worth it and will change your life for the better.

That’s because Michigan’s top 15 independent colleges are national leaders in education that help students chart a path to rewarding careers.

With low class sizes and award-winning faculty, the schools are proud that students forge lifelong bonds with professors.

Often less expensive than public institutions, the independents boast higher four-year graduation rates for a truly unique and affordable experience.

Be bold. Be different. Go independent.

Passion Propels Siena Heights University Prof to Map City Architecture

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Passion isn’t just a vogue buzzword at Siena Heights University and Michigan’s top 15 independent colleges and universities.

It’s a way of life, infusing everything from cafeteria menus that don’t taste like dorm food to professors whose love of their fields is absolutely contagious.

So when Siena Heights broke for summer, art history professor Peter Barr didn’t hit the beach. He hit his backyard, walking the streets of Adrian and cataloguing its rich architectural history for a website, adrianarchitecture.org, that offers “walking tours” of its downtown.

A quintessential small Midwestern college town, Adrian offers a periscope through a century of style. Homes built from the 1850s to 1960s are lovingly preserved and showcase more than a dozen architectural styles, from Greek revival to Colonial revival.

“It’s compact, remarkably well preserved and wonderfully serene, away from the hubbub,” Barr told told The Adrian Daily Telegram.

His website offers incredibly rich descriptions of all architectural styles and city history, along with photos, essays and other information about dozens of houses. Even for those with only a passing interest in architecture, it’s easy to lose track of time perusing the site.

“If you want information on a building, you have to come to archives and look in four, five places for all the information,” Jan Richardi, archivist at the Lenawee County Historical Society Museum, told The Telegram.

“Peter’s information is so comprehensive.”

Barr got interested in the town’s history after beginning to teach at Siena Heights 19 years ago. It’s since become a passion — and of course he’s involved his students who helped him research the homes and neighborhoods.

Such close collaboration is a hallmark of Siena Heights and Michigan’s other top 15 independent colleges and universities. Students don’t merely sit in lecture halls. They work closely with award-winning faculty, who help students find their own passion and chart their own path.

It’s a sense of community and cohesion that simply isn’t available at big state schools.

And despite what you may have heard, independents are often less expensive and boast higher four-year graduation rates that big universities.

Be bold. Be different. Go independent.

Hope College’s Love Professor Launches Marriage Study

Love

It’s a question as old as love itself: Ever fallen in love with someone you shouldn’t have?

That’s a mystery that’s haunted poets and inspired killer pop songs for time immemorial. Now, it’s getting the full academic treatment, courtesy of Hope College Assistant Psychology Professor Carrie Bredow.

She’s no stranger to love research. In years past, she’s studied the market value of the singles’ pool and science of first hookups. Now, she’s spent nearly two years studying the “fundamental disconnect” between what we say we want in a spouse and what we get.

“We’re trying to go beyond what they say that they want,” Bredow told MLive.

“Maybe it’s because part of what is guiding our behavior is unconscious. What we’re most interested in is whether they can actually predict future behavior.”

Bredow and her students are developing and testing questions that measure people’s unconscious preferences for spouses — rather than what they say they want. So far, the results are “exciting” and have the potential to predict how relationships will work, she said.

The work follows her study last year, “Chasing Prince Charming” that found that unrealistic expectations may make people delay marriage.

She’s hoping to expand the project for 10-20 years to get a better glimpse into how relationships evolve and what happens after, as the song says, fools fall in love.

Is it fun? Sure. But it’s another kind of marriage — mixing real-world and serious academics — that sets Hope College and Michigan’s 15 independent colleges and universities apart.

Students are a vital part of Bredow’s research, which is common among Michigan’s independents. Class sizes are small, allowing students to form lifelong bonds with award-winning expert as well as a nurturing network of alumni who help after graduation.

All the schools emphasize community over crowds and help students forge their own paths.

It’s an experience that simply doesn’t exist at big state schools.

And despite what you may have heard, independents are often less expensive and boast higher four-year graduation rates that big universities.

Be bold. Be different. Go independent.

Marygrove College Offers New Program to Improve Police Relations

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These are tense times. Snipers are killing police. Unarmed motorists are dying at the hands of police. Common ground between law enforcement and African Americans can seem elusive.

The answer, as it always does, begins with education. And as they always have, Michigan’s 15 independent colleges and universities are stepping forward to lead the dialogue toward solutions.

This week, Marygrove College announced a new online bachelor of arts in criminal justice degree. What makes it unique is its approach.

Rather than focusing on punishment, it emphasizes what’s known as restorative justice, an approach that focuses on the needs of both victims and offenders and how crime affects community.

“In this time of crisis, where there is distrust between law enforcement and the community,” Marygrove College Provost Sally Welch recently told Hometown Life, “our institution is prepared to help bring about peace and reconciliation through its online bachelor of arts degree in criminal justice based on Restorative Justice principles.”

The program is aimed at working criminal justice professions and accepting applications for fall semester that starts Sept. 6.

The program’s intent is broader than simply preparing students for careers. It does that spectacularly. But its goal is to also change the mindset that perpetuates distrust between police and communities, taking a holistic approach to crime rather than simply locking people up.

Victim-centered, restorative justice gives victims and offenders the opportunity to take steps to repair harm to communities. Because crime isn’t simply an attack on individuals. It’s an affront to communities.

And community is at the core of Marygrove College and the other Michigan independents. Their mission is to lift all boats, preparing students for awesome careers and preparing them to help the world at large.

Community infuses everything about the independents. Unlike big schools, class sizes are small and taught by incredibly faculty who help students forge their own path.

Students form lifelong bonds with professors, as well as an impassioned, caring network of alumni who help after graduation.

And despite what you may have heard, independents are often less expensive and boast higher four-year graduation rates that big state schools.

Be bold. Be different. Go independent.