Contrasting Campuses

I visited two small Southern California private colleges today – both within an hour of Los Angeles.  First, I visited Chapman University, and then Whittier College.

There is no better way to learn about college campuses than to visit!  While the two schools I visited today may look on paper, and online, to be similar, the feeling I got from the students and the look of these campuses could not have been further apart.

Located in the tiny hamlet of Orange, California, Chapman’s full-time enrollment is just over 6,000 students.  The students happily tell you that Disneyland is 15 minutes away and the beach, only 20.  While students are not required to live on campus, 90% of the freshmen live in the dorms, and 37% of all students live on campus.

The most popular major at Chapman is Business Administration.  The second most popular major is Cinematography/Film Production, and Communications and Sports Medicine are other very strong majors.  Art majors are required to put on an exhibit of their own work some time in their junior or senior year.

There is no core curriculum at Chapman, nor are there teaching assistants.  Students talk about how accessible their professors are, both in and out of the classroom.  Chapman’s tutoring center offers free help for students who need it, and those who catch on quickly can earn extra money by being tutors themselves.

About 35% of the students join one of the 6 sororities and 7 fraternities.  About 35% of students study abroad at some point during their 4 years at Chapman, and students proudly claim that Chapman started the Semester at Sea program in the 1960’s.

Chapman’s Wilkinson Hall, built in 1904, is home to the Experimental Economics department (which is ranked higher than Harvard’s!), and is on the National Historic Register.  Most of the rest of the buildings, including the dorms, are significantly newer and the campus has a very modern feel.

Whittier College’s most famous alumnus, of course, is President Richard Nixon, who graduated in 1934.

With just 1,600 full-time students, you wouldn’t think that this small school could engender such strong school spirit – but it does.  “Fear the Poet!” say the students as they cheer on their Division III sports teams.  The largest classroom on campus holds just 70 students, and the average class size is 15-20 students.  There are no teaching assistants at Whittier College.  Business is the largest major on campus; a list of academic programs is here.  The Whittier Scholars program allows students to design their own major, with guidance from faculty.

About a third of the students are from California, and there is a large international student population at Whittier.  Theatre is one of the largest programs, and the art department is situated on the original wood floor of the original school gymnasium, with antiquated basketball hoops hung at either end.  While the quaintness of this arrangement is fitting for the artistic types, the dorm rooms could also be labeled “quaint” – meaning they look like they haven’t been spruced up in a few decades.  The spectacular new gym was just completed in 2011 and the library is less than 10 years old, and wired for all of the students’ electronic study needs.

For more information on these and other campuses I’ve visited in California, please visit the “Campuses I’ve Visited” page.

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