Blog - Category: fun

Alma College Reaches Peak Fun with Bagpipes & Nintendo


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.

Kalamazoo College Student is a Star at Rocket Contests


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.

Alma College Tailors Unique Activities for Students


There’s a million reasons why college is such an incredible experience. That’s partly because there’s usually a million things to do at college.

Where else, for instance, could you start your week taking in a vocal recital on a Sunday afternoon? And end it on Friday playing Kick Ball Slip & Slide?

What is Kick Ball Slip & Slide? Like the name suggests, it combines slip and slide and kickball, substituting bases for kiddie pools.

Or better yet, watch a video.

The two events are bookends of a typical week at Alma College. They’re taken randomly from the September calendar.

There’s always something going on at Alma because community is integral to everything they do – from Greeks to Geeks and Everything in Between.

To wit: Also that week are at least six fraternity mixers, chapel band concerts, a trip to an apple orchard, workshops about responsibly using credit cards, high tea, a trip to Grand Rapids’ world famous ArtPrize, visits from therapy dogs, a knockoff on the Dating Game, a dance competition, organized Magic the Gathering games, a trip to see the Detroit Tigers, organized Saturday dinner and movie night with kids.


And those are just activities available to all students that don’t include sports games, study sessions, free seminars and — one of the best parts of college — hanging out with your friends.

And we haven’t even mentioned classes. The point is that, now more than ever, there is something for everyone at colleges like Alma and Michigan’s top 15 independent colleges and universities.

The chock-a-block events don’t just keep students busy. They’re provided to build community. And that’s something Alma and the other independents take seriously.

Alma and other colleges don’t expect all students to take advantage of every activity. But they offer them to help students chart their path and form tight bonds with other students, as well as lifetime relationships with world-renowned faculty.

It’s one of many ways smaller schools like Alma are different than big state schools,where it’s easy to get lost in the crowd.

The schools are intentionally small, so students form tight bonds with other students and lifetime relationships with world-renowned faculty who are experts in their fields.

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

Be bold. Be different. Go independent.

Olivet College Marches to Own Beat on Gridiron


This football season, when the Olivet Comets hit the field, fans won’t be the only ones making noise.

For the first time in more than 30 years, the college’s marching band will as well.

Call it sweet harmony or simple good fortune, but the band was reformed as a part of a conscientious effort to increase the sense of community at the Michigan school, says director of bands Jeremy Duby.

“The marching band really is the center of student life and school spirit, and so it really adds a whole other atmosphere to the football game,” he recently told the Detroit Free Press.

“It’s a much bigger way for us to support our team and to get the entire community involved and make that game a community event every Saturday.”

The band is starting this year with 25 students and will play at all football games, campus events and a New Year’s Day parade in Paris, France. Duby predicts it grow to about 100 members within five years — and become an ingrained part of life at Olivet.

“This is a great part of the college experience,” says an Olivet College alum who was a member of the band in the 1970s.

The move is part of a trend among smaller colleges, including those at Michigan, to invest in athletic facilities, clubs and other extracurricular activities. That’s because big public universities don’t have a monopoly on sports — or fun.

Indeed, that’s one key difference between big universities and Michigan’s top 15 independent colleges and universities.

Class sizes are small enough so students not only know their professors, they form lifetime bonds. Professors pride themselves on working closely with students to help them forge their own path, buck conventional wisdom and find a new way.

It’s an experience that simply isn’t available at traditional universities. And despite what you may have heard, independents are often less expensive and boast higher four-year graduation rates than four-year institutions.

Be bold. Be different. Go independent.

Mad Max + Jet Ski = Awesome Invention for Calvin College Students

The magic of college is that it marries inspiration with application, encouraging the wildest imaginations and teaching skills to turn flights of fancy into reality.

Where else but college are students not only encouraged to dream of riding a snowmobile on water, but given the knowledge to make it happen?

That’s what’s happened to four Calvin College students whose senior engineering design project is getting buzz worldwide.

It’s called the Jet Blade. Think of it as Mad Max’s answer to a jet ski.

It’s part personal watercraft and part snowmobile. But it’s all awesome. And it’s something that has to be seen to believe.

The students — Zak DeVries, Nico Ourensma, Josh Vanderbyl, and Ryan DeMeester — took their love of outdoors and wedded it into an out-of-this-world idea that has attracted attention from websites worldwide and the Discovery Channel Canada.

The contraption has a 650 cc engine and two skis in front and one in back, giving the feel and control of a snowmobile.

“A traditional jet ski, when you’re riding it around, typically you’ll sit on it, like a Sea-Doo style, and those actually turn by having the jet in the rear, directing the watercraft in the direction it needs to go,” DeVries said.

“Ours is unique in the fact that the skis in the front actually do the turning of the vehicle, and the jet pump in the rear is stationary. So it gives you a really different feel when you’re riding it on the water.”

Not surprisingly, the project got an A. Now, the students have a Jet Blade website, and they’re looking for investors to bring a similar vehicle to market.

Who knows? Smaller dreams have changed the world, and Calvin College and the 14 other top independent colleges and universities in Michigan take pride in nourishing the tiniest dreams and cultivating them into greatness.

That’s because helping students fulfilling their paths and passion is what they do.

The schools emphasize community over crowds and a spirit of togetherness and cohesion that just doesn’t exist at big state schools.

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.

Ten Tips to Make the Most of Senior Year

Senior year can be so crazy busy that it’s easy to forget these are times to remember.

College essays and applications. Campus visits. SATs. Scholarships. Financial aid forms. No doubt: Preparing for college is a whirlwind.

It happens so quickly that sometimes you can lose perspective: These are fun times. Honestly. We’re not going to be that annoying uncle and assure you these are the best years of your life. Maybe they will be. Maybe not. But one thing’s for sure: You’ll remember them all your life, whether they’re lame or great.

So make ‘em great. Here are 10 tips to make the most of senior year and get ready for college.

Go to prom
Even if you don’t want to. Even if it violates every principle in every fiber of your body. What do you have to lose? If it’s lame, it’s probably not the first lame night of your life. If it’s wonderful, you may be surprised. One thing: You probably won’t regret it. Unless your name is Carrie and you can start fires with your thoughts. Then skip it for sure.

Expand your comfort zone
There’s a lot going on at your school. The debate team? Yeah, it exists. Choir? They sing songs! Attend an event or two that you haven’t so far in high school. Break your routine. Who knows? You may make some new pals or like the new experience.

Take pictures
You probably have tons of photos of your friends. Do you have photos of them together? Ones without one of them picking their nose? Take a video of yourself walking to class. Take one of the cafeteria and your locker. Put them in Dropbox. It sounds crazy, but you’ll want to look at them again one day.

Learn some basic skills
If you haven’t already, familiarize yourself with exotic products such as “laundry detergent,” “dryer sheets” and “microwave ovens.” Washing and folding laundry and heating food without starting a fire will come in handy at college.

Record your friends
Sure, it’s a little goofy. But use your iPhone to record your friends’ voices. Have them tell you a story. Ask where they see themselves in 10 years. Make them describe their lunch. You won’t regret it.

Establish a routine
Until now, life has been planned for you: Wake up. Eat. Get dressed. Go on bus. School. Practice. Home. Eat. Homework. TV. Sleep.

One of the awesome things about college is there is more free time. You have 3-4 classes per day. If you’re lucky, they don’t start until 10. That’s a lot of time to use as you wish, but it can create bad habits. Best now to get into the habits such as working out, regular study time and the like.

Say your peace but hold your tongue
Thank your favorite teacher. Tell them what they meant to you. Go beyond the obvious: What about that school secretary that let you slide when you were tardy? Or the janitor who helped open your locker as a freshman? Thank them too. But resist the temptation of telling teachers you don’t like what you really thought of their class. Any satisfaction from doing so is fleeting.

Write your future self a letter
Take a tip from Matthew McConaughey. Be a hero to your future self. Write yourself a letter. Mail it to your future self through websites such as and Your 10 years-in-the-future self would love to hear from you.

Make memories with your pals
Go on a senior trip. Visit a museum with them. Pull an all-nighter. Sleep in a car. Write a senior year bucket list of 10 items. Accomplish five of them.

Chart your own path
Be yourself. Do what you want. Be mindful of others but don’t be consumed about what they think. It’s an attitude that’s cherished at Michigan’s top 15 independent colleges and universities. The colleges are smaller and emphasize community over crowds. Often less expensive than public institutions, the independents boast higher four-year graduation rates and smaller class sizes for a truly unique and affordable experience.

Be bold. Be different. Go independent.

Coolest College Mascots Aren’t Just at Big Universities

It’s that time of year again, when media outlets work themselves into a tizzy listing the best, weirdest or lamest college mascots.

The lists often begin and end with well-known universities (Hello Duke Blue Devils) and throw in a few curveballs to keep them honest (Pleased to meet you, Scottsdale Community College Fighting Artichokes.)

But it’s not just big-name public universities that have fun with their sports and mascots. They’re just as beloved at independent colleges and universities as well. Let’s meet some Michigan favorites:

Dutch from Hope College
Ruggedly handsome. And what a hat! The mucho macho mascot of Hope College was created during the 2006-07 academic year for the school. Fun fact: His face is loosely modeled after a mailroom employee, Bob Bos. Founded by immigrants from the Netherlands, Hope College became known as the Flying Dutchmen since 1959 when its basketball team took a DC3 to a tournament. The women’s teams are known as the Flying Dutch. Of course.

Tommy Titan from the University of Detroit Mercy
Ever try running 3.1 miles in a warrior helmet and bracelets? It’s not easy. But it’s nothing for Tommy Titan, the beloved mascot from the University of Detroit Mercy who for 28 years has had a 5K run named in his honor every November. Top that off with all the excitement of representing #DetroitsCollegeTeam and having his own Facebook page, and life is pretty good for Tommy Titan.

Calvin Knight from Calvin College
He stands for chivalry, honor and integrity. Sure. That’s true now. But he originally stood for misunderstanding. Calvin College’s mascot, the Knights, emerged in the late 1920s when a reporter from the Grand Rapids Press heard the school was populated by “Calvinites.” Ugh. Bad pun. We know. Like their counterparts at Hope, Calvin students wanted a real mascot and got one after a Facebook campaign began in the mid-2000s. Calvin Knight debuted in February 2009.

Brit the Briton from Albion College
Albion College debuted this rugged fellow in the fall of 2011. The first mascot in 176 years at Albion, he was chosen, because he represents the college’s “longstanding tradition of dignity, discovery and professionalism.” He also looks smashing. Brit looks like he and Tommy Titan would be a formidable duo at tug o’ war.

Scotty from Alma College
He’s got a mustache that would make Yosemite Sam jealous and Scotty from Alma College is a whole lot easier to cheer for than the “Fighting Presbyterians.” It sounds like a joke, but that was Alma’s mascot until 1931. Hard to believe as it was, but students tired of shouting, “Go Fighting Presbyterians” at football games and the student newspaper launched a three-week contest for a replacement. The winner got $5. Cold hard cash. Last year, Scotty got a makeover before homecoming. He’s never looked better!

Buzz the Hornet from Kalamazoo College
Power of the press! Kalamazoo College’s mascot got its name from – you guessed it – a newspaper reporter, this time from the Kalamazoo Gazette who said thought the football team was “buzzing around enthusiastically and stinging the opponents.” A mascot was born in 1925. Before then, athletic teams were occasionally called the Orange and Black, or even the Kazooks!

Nelson from Aquinas College
Aquinas College is known as the Saints. Their mascot is Nelson, a Saint Bernard named after the college’s fourth president, Paul Nelson.

Charger from Hillsdale College
Hillsdale College students got tired of lacking a true mascot about 10 years ago and chose a horse over contenders such as a lightning bolt to represent their nickname, the Chargers.

Bruiser the Bulldog from Adrian College
There are 36 colleges across the nation who have a Bulldog as their mascot and 16 of those schools have live mascots. But not many mascots can say they have a mascot. Bruiser the Bulldog can. Adrian College‘s adorable pup Bruiser soaks up the limelight and tummy rubs at campus events, hockey games and football games. When the big dog on campus needs a break, a giant foam Bruiser mascot costume springs into action.

That’s just a start of the differences between big public institutions and Michigan’s top 15 independent colleges and universities, where students forge success by following their own path. The colleges are smaller and emphasize community over crowds. Often less expensive than public institutions, the independents boast higher four-year graduation rates and smaller class sizes for a truly unique and affordable experience.

Be bold. Be different. Go independent.

The new college sports: Dodge a Ball, Dodge a Zombie, Dodge a Rail


Ah, college. Time to hit the books, study hard, make friends and… RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!! ZOMBIES!!

No joke. Students get chased by the brain-hungry living dead at Hillsdale College in Michigan. And it’s awesome.
College is serious stuff, but it’s fun too and letting off steam is important. For years, intramural sports and other organized activities have done the trick. But with 40 million youths nationwide involved in athletics, colleges now are getting creative and expanding offerings.

Your Dad may have been satisfied with intramural basketball, but nowadays there’s so much more:

Zombie Runs
On Halloween, Hillsdale College students toed a starting line like any other 3K. Except they wore costumes. And carried flags. And were chased by zombies. Those who finished the race with all their flags avoided infection. Those who didn’t became zombies and the fun multiplied.

Serious Horseplay
Albion College calls it a “340-acre classroom experience … with leather seats.” The Nancy G. Held Equestrian Center allows students to board their own horses and hosts equestrian teams. But it’s also open to the entire campus and offers rides and instructions to all comers.

Wiffle Time
Wiffle ball has become a more hardcore since the days when anything past the shrubs was a ground-rule double. The University of Detroit Mercy hosts an intramural league featuring the iconic perforated plastic ball.

Dodge Ball
Alma College has a wiffle ball league as well. But it ups the ante with leagues for pickleball, kanjan and, the most sadistic schoolyard sport in history, dodge ball. Olivet College and Calvin College have dodge ball leagues as well, which is perfect for relieving finals’ week aggression.

Pong is King
Dodge ball is overtly aggressive. Its gentler cousin, ping pong, is merely passive aggressive. But make no doubt: The club games and intramural leagues at Calvin College, Hillsdale College and Albion College are legendary and ruthless.

There’s so much more
Michigan’s top 15 independent colleges and universities also offer traditional intramural sports from flag football and soccer to volleyball and ultimate Frisbee.

It’s all part of a dynamic, truly unique experience that allows students to forge success by following their own path. The colleges are smaller and emphasize community over crowds. And the independents boast higher four-year graduation rates and smaller class sizes for a truly unique and affordable experience.

Be bold. Be different. Go independent.

Ten Hacks for a Fabulous Dorm Room

The average dorm room looks like this:

Pretty boring, huh? And some colleges don’t make it easy to transform drab into dramatic, imposing a host of rules and restrictions on decorating. But with a little creativity and ingenuity, ugly cinder blocks can morph into something wonderful.


Here are 10 hacks to add sizzle and swagger – and maximize square footage – to even the blah-est dorm rooms.

1. Washi Tape Frames


For about $20, cheap posters look like works of art that can be easily removed at semester’s end.

2. Shoe Organizer Pantries


Organize snacks for late-night study sessions in the back of your door. You’ll never have to guess again when you’re running low on Twizzlers.

3. Chalk Paint Planners


Organize your week on easily creatable – and changeable – planners.

4. Move int Take a seat.


Add pillows to moving crates for homey touches. When you have to move again, the boxes are nearby.

5. Never look for a pen again


Use hot glue to attach magnets to old cans and affix them to mini fridges for an elegant, homey accent.

6. Go vertical


Empty, unused space is an enemy to every dorm. Get creative by adding shelves to closets, using every inch under the bed for storage.

7. Twinkle, Twinkle


Organize photos by hanging them on twinkle lights.

8. Laundry Basket Storage Shelves


Get extra space by ditching dresses for stacked laundry baskets affixed in closets.

9. Never look for your phone again


Keep it and other essentials handy with a cheap silverware tray that keeps everything you need within reach.

10. Create with Contact Paper


Contact paper isn’t just for lining shelves. It’s perfect for creating inexpensive and temporary flourishes to make your home away from home unique.

It isn’t always easy. But going the extra yard to express yourself is always worth it.

Michigan’s 15 independent colleges and universities prizes their freethinking students, allowing them to forge success by following their own path. The colleges are smaller and emphasize community over crowds.
Often less expensive than public institutions, the independents boast higher four-year graduation rates and smaller class sizes for a truly unique and affordable experience.

Be bold. Be different. Go independent.