It’s always impressive to hear a college president talk about his or her school, but Carmen Ambar may be the most impressive college president I have ever met. A graduate of Georgetown, Princeton and Columbia Law School, Ambar is an evangelist for the experience provided at women’s colleges. “If you have students and they don’t have a women’s college on their list, they are missing out,” she told a room full of college counselors. She raved about the personalized attention students receive at Cedar Crest College and other women’s colleges, and about the opportunities for leadership. She said that students are more likely to be high achievers, more likely to take risks and “more likely to have critical writing and thinking skills and cultural competence.”
Founded in 1867, Cedar Crest is a small community of about 1600 students, 500 of whom live on campus. With a student-to-faculty ratio of 11:1, students have the opportunity to work closely with professors, and professors here are very hands-on with students. I sat with professors from the English and Business departments at breakfast, and both spoke about their intense connection with Cedar Crest students and the work they are doing.
Professor Amy Faivre, Chair of the department of Biological Sciences, spoke to me about how having small lab classes with just a dozen or so students helps her give each student special attention. The video is below.
Cedar Crest is mostly a regional college, with most of the students coming from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and some from Connecticut. But the programs in nursing, nutrition, art therapy and criminal justice are strong, and the department chairs challenge professors to present their curriculum in a way that is relevant to women’s lives (for example, criminal justice, one of the largest programs, is designed to help women get positions in criminal justice field).
Cedar Crest approaches some disciplines in unique ways. For example, the school’s new media program allows students to study social media for non-profit organizations, and to explore cross-cultural psychology and stereotypes. Interesting programs include environmental conservation, arts management and art therapy. Cedar Crest encourages students to develop a social conscience through community service.
While it’s small and mostly regional, Cedar Crest offers very strong financial aid in addition to opportunities for leadership and relationships with professors.