Located in the suburb of Waltham, about 10 miles outside of Boston, Brandeis University has both liberal arts and research university components. With about 3,500 undergraduates, Brandeis offers strong academics in a wide range of fields on a park-like residential campus.
Relatively youthful for New England universities, Brandeis was founded in 1948 in response to quotas that limited the number of Jewish students at many institutions of higher education at the time. Despite these roots, Brandeis is not religiously affiliated, and only about half of the current undergraduate population identifies as Jewish. From its founding, Brandeis has welcomed students from all faiths, including women who were likewise excluded from many universities and colleges. Today the Brandeis student body includes members of 20 world religions. Brandeis’ founding members were progressive thinkers dedicated to causes of social justice, including Albert Einstein, Louis Brandeis, Leonard Bernstein, Eleanor Roosevelt and Abraham Maslow. Albert Einstein declined to have the university named after him and the university today is named after Louis Brandeis, the first Jewish Supreme Court Justice. Consistent with these roots, Brandeis University has a long history of dedication to issues of social justice and putting academic ideas of social justice into practice, a strong focus that is maintained today. In the 2014-2015 academic year Brandeis students logged over 60,000 hours of community service at approximately 20 programs, and students may be awarded grants of up to $3,500 for unpaid volunteer work during the summer.
Brandeis offers a wide range of liberal arts areas of study and undergraduates can take graduate courses at the International Business School and be active in the Spingold Theatre, a graduate theatre. The arts are a particular strength at Brandeis, which is home to New England’s largest contemporary art collection at its Rose Art Museum. More than 300 Brandeis students and alumni showcase their music, dance, theater, film and artwork annually at the week-long Bernstein Festival of the Creative Arts.
Brandeis competes in the UAA (University Athletic Association), a competitive athletic league that includes Carnegie Mellon, Case Western, Emory, NYU, The University of Chicago, The University of Rochester and Washington University in St. Louis. There are 19 varsity sport teams at Brandeis, and over 20 intramural sports teams available to students. Brandeis has more than 280 student-run clubs for students to join.
Some fun facts about Brandeis: One of its two main dining halls was renovated last year and its second one is currently being renovated. Students can enjoy food at Louie’s kosher deli and can buy coffee on campus from nearly every popular coffee franchise (Dunkin Donuts, Peet’s, two Starbucks). Brandeis’ oldest building on campus is The Castle, now a sophomore residential quad. A truly quirky amalgam of many castle architectural plans, some hallways dead end unpredictably and some spaces are only accessible by a fire escape. Each year a murder mystery is hosted at The Castle. Also, The Castle is home to Chum’s, a coffee house thought to be the inspiration for Central Perk on Friends (the producers of the TV show “Friends” are Brandeis alumni).
My tour guide, Nora, describes Brandeis students as community minded students who will “always hold the door open for you.” She chose Brandeis for its non-competitive, non-cut throat student body, saying “At Brandeis if someone asks you how you did on an exam it is because they know you studied hard for it and they are hoping that you did well.”
Jennifer visited Brandeis in July, 2015. You can see all of her photos here.